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Posted by Alton Parrish.
The discovery of a giant planet orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance has astronomers puzzled over how such a strange system came to be.
Weighing in at 11 times Jupiter’s mass and orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance, planet HD 106906 b is unlike anything in our own Solar System and throws a wrench in planet formation theories.
This is an artist’s conception of a young planet in a distant orbit around its host star. The star still harbors a debris disk, remnant material from star and planet formation, interior to the planet’s orbit (similar to the HD106906 system).
“This system is especially fascinating because no model of either planet or star formation fully explains what we see,” said Vanessa Bailey, who led the research. Bailey is a fifth-year graduate student in the UA’s Department of Astronomy.
It is thought that planets close to their stars, like Earth, coalesce from small asteroid-like bodies born in the primordial disk of dust and gas that surrounds a forming star. However, this process acts too slowly to grow giant planets far from their star. Another proposed mechanism is that giant planets can form from a fast, direct collapse of disk material. However, primordial disks rarely contain enough mass in their outer reaches to allow a planet like HD 106906 b to form. Several alternative hypotheses have been put forward, including formation like a mini binary star system.
“A binary star system can be formed when two adjacent clumps of gas collapse more or less independently to form stars, and these stars are close enough to each other to exert a mutual gravitation attraction and bind them together in an orbit,” Bailey explained. “It is possible that in the case of the HD 106906 system the star and planet collapsed independently from clumps of gas, but for some reason the planet’s progenitor clump was starved for material and never grew large enough to ignite and become a star.”
According to Bailey, one problem with this scenario is that the mass ratio of the two stars in a binary system is typically no more than 10-to-1.
“In our case, the mass ratio is more than 100-to-1,” she explained. “This extreme mass ratio is not predicted from binary star formation theories – just like planet formation theory predicts that we cannot form planets so far from the host star.”
This system is also of particular interest because researchers can still detect the remnant “debris disk” of material left over from planet and star formation.
“Systems like this one, where we have additional information about the environment in which the planet resides, have the potential to help us disentangle the various formation models,” Bailey added. “Future observations of the planet’s orbital motion and the primary star’s debris disk may help answer that question.”
At only 13 million years old, this young planet still glows from the residual heat of its formation. Because at 2,700 Fahrenheit (about 1,500 degrees Celsius) the planet is much cooler than its host star, it emits most of its energy as infrared rather than visible light. Earth, by comparison, formed 4.5 billion years ago and is thus about 350 times older than HD 106906 b.
Credit: Vanessa Bailey
Direct imaging observations require exquisitely sharp images, akin to those delivered by the Hubble Space Telescope. To reach this resolution from the ground requires a technology called Adaptive Optics, or AO. The team used the new Magellan Adaptive Optics (MagAO) system and Clio2 thermal infrared camera – both technologies developed at the UA – mounted on the 6.5 meter-diameter Magellan telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile to take the discovery image.
UA astronomy professor and MagAO principal investigator Laird Close said: “MagAO was able to utilize its special Adaptive Secondary Mirror, with 585 actuators, each moving 1,000 times a second, to remove the blurring of the atmosphere. The atmospheric correction enabled the detection of the weak heat emitted from this exotic exoplanet without confusion from the hotter parent star.”
“Clio was optimized for thermal infrared wavelengths, where giant planets are brightest compared to their host stars, meaning planets are most easily imaged at these wavelengths,” explained UA astronomy professor and Clio principal investigator Philip Hinz, who directs the UA Center for Astronomical Adaptive Optics.
The team was able to confirm that the planet is moving together with its host star by examining Hubble Space Telescope data taken eight years prior for another research program. Using the FIRE spectrograph, also installed at the Magellan telescope, the team confirmed the planetary nature of the companion. “Images tell us an object is there and some information about its properties but only a spectrum gives us detailed information about its nature and composition,” explained co-investigator Megan Reiter, a graduate student in the UA Department of Astronomy. “Such detailed information is rarely available for directly imaged exoplanets, making HD 106906 b a valuable target for future study.”
“Every new directly detected planet pushes our understanding of how and where planets can form,” said co-investigator Tiffany Meshkat, a graduate student at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. “This planet discovery is particularly exciting because it is in orbit so far from its parent star. This leads to many intriguing questions about its formation history and composition. Discoveries like HD 106906 b provide us with a deeper understanding of the diversity of other planetary systems.”
The research paper, “HD 106906 b: A Planetary-mass Companion Outside a Massive Debris Disk,” has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and will appear in a future issue. An online version is available for download at http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.1265 .
MagAO’s development was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation program, and its Telescope System Instrumentation Program and an Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation Award.
The members of the discovery team are Vanessa Bailey (UA), Tiffany Meshkat (Leiden Observatory [LO]), Megan Reiter (UA), Katie Morzinski (UA), Jared Males (UA), Kate Y. L. Su (UA), Philip M. Hinz (UA), Matthew Kenworthy (LO), Daniel Stark (UA), Eric Mamajek (University of Rochester), Runa Briguglio (Arcetri Observatory [AO]), Laird M. Close (UA), Katherine B. Follette (UA), Alfio Puglisi (AO), Timothy Rodigas (UA, Carnegie Institute of Washington [CIW]), Alycia J. Weinberger (CIW), and Marco Xompero (AO).
Posted by Alton Parrish.
Regional climate changes can be very rapid. A German-British team of geoscientists now reports that such a rapid climate change occurred in different regions with a time difference of 120 years. Investigation in the westGerman Eifel region and in southern Norway demonstrated that at the end of the last glaciation about 12,240 years before present climate became warmer, first recognized in the Eifel region and 120 years later in southern Norway. Nonetheless, the warming was equally rapid in both regions.
The team around Christine Lane (Oxford University) and Achim Brauer from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences reports in the latest volume of “Geology” (vol 41, no 12, p. 1251) that within the younger Dryas, the last about 1100-year long cold phase at the end of the last ice age, a rapid warming first was measured in the Eifel region. Sediment cores from the Meerfelder Maar lake depict a typical deposition pattern, which was also found in the sediments of Lake Krakenes in southern Norway, but with a time lag of 120 years.
The ash of the Katla volcanic eruption thus was deposited at the same time in the Eifel and in Norway. The sediments of the Eifel maar lake depict the rapid warming 100 years before the volcanic ash, while it is seen in the southern Norwegian lake sediment 20 years after the volcanic eruption. The same warming, but with a 120 difference in timing between the about 1200 km distant locations? Achim Brauer:
“We can explain this difference with the shift of hemispheric wind systems. Climate changed in both regions very rapid, but the polar front, that is the atmospheric boundary layer between cold polar air and the warmer air of the mid-latitudes, required more than 100 years to retreat from its glacial position at about the location of the Eifel at 50° N to its southern Norwegian position at 62° N.”
Hence, the study provides evidence for a rapid change that slowly moved northwards. The result of this studyhas some implications on the understanding of both past and future climate change. The assumption of an everywhere and always synchronously changing climate must be questioned and climate models have to better consider such regional aspects.
By Alton Parrish.
Comet ISON comes in from the bottom right and moves out toward the upper right, getting fainter and fainter, in this time-lapse image from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The image of the sun at the center is from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Image Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/SDO/GSFC
Comet ISON, which began its journey from the Oort Cloud some 3 million years ago, made its closest approach to the sun on Nov. 28, 2013. The comet was visible in instruments on NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, via images called coronagraphs.
Whether that spot of light was merely a cloud of dust that once was a comet, or if it still had a nucleus – a small ball of its original, icy material – intact, is still unclear. It seems likely that as of Dec. 1, there was no nucleus left. By monitoring its changes in brightness over time, scientists can estimate whether there’s a nucleus or not, but our best chance at knowing for sure will be if the Hubble Space Telescope makes observations later in December 2013.
Regardless of its fate, Comet ISON did not disappoint researchers. Over the last year, observatories around the world and in space gathered one of the largest sets of comet observations of all time, which should provide fodder for study for years to come. The number of space-based, ground-based, and amateur observations were unprecedented, with twelve NASA space-based assets observing over the past year.
Posted by Alton Parrish.
Credit: Alan Covey
Credit: Department of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History
Many scholars think the Wari established strong centralized control — economic, political, cultural and military– like their Inca successors to govern the majority of the far-flung populations living across the central Andes. But the Dartmouth study suggests that while the Wari had significant administrative power, they did not successfully transition most colonies into directly ruled provinces.
This is the distribution of Wari pottery identified through survey, with three-hour walking intervals from Pikillacta and Tankarpata.
Credit: Department of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History
From the highest volcano to the deepest canyon, from impact craters to ancient river beds and lava flows, this showcase of images from ESA’s Mars Express takes you on an unforgettable journey across the Red Planet.
Mars Express was launched on 2 June 2003 and arrived at Mars six-and-a-half months later. It has since orbited the planet nearly 12 500 times, providing scientists with unprecedented images and data collected by its suite of scientific instruments.
The images in this movie were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera and the video was released by the DLR German Aerospace Center as part of the ten years of Mars Express celebrations in June 2013. Themusic has been created by Stephan Elgner of DLR’s Mars Express planetary cartography team. DLR developed and is operating the stereo camera.
Posted by Alton Parrish.
Credit: Center for Optical Quantum Technologies (ZOQ)
Quantum matter waves themselves are an intriguing state of atomic Rubidium clouds, based on a quantum mechanical effect predicted by Einstein and Bose as early as 1924 and observed for the first time in a ground-breaking experiment in 1995, which was later awarded with the Nobel prize.
Building on that experiment and developing it further, the team of scientists used infrared laser beams to force the atoms into a motion along triangular pathways, creating quantum matter waves that act as if they were magnets, like the ones you stick on your fridge. Speaking of cold, these atoms are about a trillion times colder than outer space.
“The experimental challenges are extraordinary”, says lead experimental author Julian Struck. “For the atoms to move along the right trajectories, it is absolutely crucial that the laser beams are precisely stabilized. Otherwise, the motion of the atoms would be completely chaotic.”
When a matter wave moves clockwise around a given triangle, as depicted in the illustration, the neighboring triangles are surrounded by counterclockwise motion. The resulting orientation at each triangle corresponds to a magnet pointing in North or South direction. These elementary magnets form domains and are in competition with each other, depicted in red and blue.
Lead theoretical author Robert Höppner explains: “We had to use a supercomputing facility such as the one at Juelich for our computer simulations of the experiment. Otherwise the complexity of the problem cannot be tackled. This allowed us to visualize the triangular magnets created by the condensate of atoms, and we learned about the subtle domain structure and how they respond in a magnetic field.”
The results of this study have been published in the November issue of Nature Physics, where an illustrationof the magnetic phases from the computer simulation is featured on the cover.
By National Geographic.
Archaeologists Robin Coningham (left) and Kosh Prasad Acharya direct excavations within the Maya Devi Temple, uncovering a series of ancient temples contemporary with the Buddha. Thai monks meditate.
Credit: Ira Block/National Geographic
Pioneering excavations within the sacred Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, Nepal, a UNESCO World Heritage site long identified as the birthplace of the Buddha, uncovered the remains of a previously unknown sixth-century B.C. timber structure under a series of brick temples. Laid out on the same design as those above it, the timber structure contains an open space in the center that links to the nativity story of the Buddha himself.
Until now, the earliest archaeological evidence of Buddhist structures at Lumbini dated no earlier than the third century B.C., the time of the patronage of the Emperor Asoka, who promoted the spread of Buddhism from present-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh.
“Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition,” said archaeologist Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University, U.K., who co-led the investigation. Some scholars, he said, have maintained that the Buddha was born in the third century B.C. “We thought ‘why not go back to archaeology to try to answer some of the questions about his birth?’ Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century B.C.”
Early Buddhism revealed
The international team of archaeologists, led by Coningham and Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust in Nepal, say the discovery contributes to a greater understanding of the early development of Buddhism as well as the spiritual importance of Lumbini. Their peer-reviewed findings are reported in the December 2013 issue of the international journal Antiquity. The research is partly supported by the National Geographic Society.
To determine the dates of the timber shrine and a previously unknown early brick structure above it, fragments of charcoal and grains of sand were tested using a combination of radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence techniques. Geoarchaeological research also confirmed the presence of ancient tree roots within the temple’s central void.
“UNESCO is very proud to be associated with this important discovery at one of the most holy places for one of the world’s oldest religions,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who urged “more archaeological research, intensified conservation work and strengthened site management” to ensure Lumbini’s protection.
“These discoveries are very important to better understand the birthplace of the Buddha,” said Ram Kumar Shrestha, Nepal’s minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation. “The government of Nepal will spare no effort to preserve this significant site.”
Buddhist tradition records that Queen Maya Devi, the mother of the Buddha, gave birth to him while holding on to the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden, midway between the kingdoms of her husband and parents. Coningham and his colleagues postulate that the open space in the center of the most ancient, timber shrine may have accommodated a tree. Brick temples built later above the timber shrine also were arranged around the central space, which was unroofed.
Four main Buddhist sites
Lumbini is one of the key sites associated with the life of the Buddha; others are Bodh Gaya, where he became a Buddha or enlightened one; Sarnath, where he first preached; and Kusinagara, where he passed away. At his passing at the age of 80, the Buddha is recorded as having recommended that all Buddhists visit “Lumbini.” The shrine was still popular in the middle of the first millennium A.D. and was recorded by Chinese pilgrims as having a shrine beside a tree.
The Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini remains a living shrine; the archaeologists worked alongside meditating monks, nuns and pilgrims.
In the scientific paper in Antiquity, the authors write: “The sequence (of archaeological remains) at Lumbini is a microcosm for the development of Buddhism from a localized cult to a global religion.”
Lost and overgrown in the jungles of Nepal in the medieval period, ancient Lumbini was rediscovered in 1896 and identified as the birthplace of the Buddha on account of the presence of a third-century B.C. sandstone pillar. The pillar, which still stands, bears an inscription documenting a visit by Emperor Asoka to the site of the Buddha’s birth as well as the site’s name — Lumbini.
Despite the rediscovery of the key Buddhist sites, their earliest levels were buried deep or destroyed by later construction, leaving evidence of the very earliest stages of Buddhism inaccessible to archaeological investigation, until now.
Half a billion people around the world are Buddhists, and many hundreds of thousands make a pilgrimage to Lumbini each year. The archaeological investigation there was funded by the government of Japan in partnership with the government of Nepal, under a UNESCO project aimed at strengthening the conservation and management of Lumbini. Along with the National Geographic Society, the research also was supported by Durham University and Stirling University.
Coningham and Acharya were joined on the Antiquity paper by coauthors K.M. Strickland, C.E. Davis, M.J. Manuel, I. A. Simpson, K. Gilliland, J. Tremblay, T.C. Kinnaird and D.C.W. Sanderson.
A documentary on Coningham’s exploration of the Buddha’s life, “Buried Secrets of the Buddha,” will premiere in February internationally on National Geographic Channel.
Spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006, Cambrian Innovation is commercializing a portfolio of environmental solutions based on newly discovered electrically active microbes. By harnessing the power of bio-electricity and advances in electrochemistry, Cambrian Innovation’s products help industrial, agricultural and government customers save money while recovering clean water and clean energy from wastewater streams.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), engineers and co-founders Matt Silver and Justin Buck are bringing their research from the lab to the market. One system, called EcoVolt, generates methane gas from the wastewater by leveraging what is called “electromethanogenesis.” It’s a newly discoveredprocess for producing methane.
“NSF funding of Cambrian Innovation’s research demonstrates our strong interest in supporting small business innovation that leads to novel and greener technological solutions to societal challenges,” says NSF program director Prakash Balan.
The EcoVolt system sends wastewater through a bio-electrochemical reactor. As water filters through it, special bacteria in the reactor eat the organic waste in the water and release electrons as a byproduct. Those electrons travel through a circuit to generate methane, or CH4.
A wireless signal allows the process to be monitored remotely. This very high quality methane is then piped out to an engine, where it’s burned with a small amount of natural gas. It then generates heat and energy. In addition, sensor systems built by Cambrian Innovation can also monitor pollutants, such as fertilizer run-off.
By University of Granada.
One of the problems major burn victims have is that, using the current protocols for artificial skin, they need to wait various weeks in order for it to be grown, using healthy skin from the own patient.
Spanish scientists, from the Tissue Engineering Research Group, from the Dept. of Histology at the University of Granada, have managed, for the first time, to grow artificial skin from stem cells of umbilical cord. Their study, published in the prestigious journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, shows the ability of Wharton jelly mesenschymal stem cells to turn to oral-mucosa or skin-regeneration epithelia.
Credit: University of Granada
To grow the artificial skin, the researchers have used, in addition this new type of epithelia covering, a biomaterial made of fibrin and agarose, already designed and developed by the University of Granada research team. The work has been carried out in the laboratories of the Faculty of Medicine, alongside the Experimental Unit of the Granada “Virgen de las Nieves” University Hospital Complex.
Prior studies from this same research team, which received recognition in the World Congress on Tissue Engineering, held a few months ago in Seoul (S. Korea), already pointed to the possibility that Wharton stem cells could be turned into epithelia cells. This current work is the confirmation of those initial studies and its application to two regeneration structures: skin and oral mucosa, increasingly needed in injuries in these parts of the body.
One of the problems major-burn victims currently have is that, in order to apply the current techniques of artificial skin, a number of weeks are needed. That is because the skin needs to be grown from parts of the patient’s healthy sin. “Creating this new type of skin using stem cells, which can be stored in tissue banks, means that it can be used instantly when injuries are caused, and which would bring the application of artificial skin forward many weeks”, as explained by Antonio Campos, Professor of Histology at the University of Granada and one of the authors of this study.
To carry out this research, in addition to the researchers from the Dept. of Histology at the University ofGranada (Ingrid Garzón, Miguel González Andrades, Mª Carmen Sánchez Quevedo, Miguel Alaminos and Antonio Campos), researchers from the Dept. of Cellular Biology at the University of Granada (Ramón Carmona), from the University of Valencia (Carmen Carda) and from the University of Florianopolis, Brazil (Juliano Miyake) have also been involved.
This article can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23817131
By Alton Parrish.
Classical scholars from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” made an unusually large find of seals in an ancient sanctuary in Turkey. They discovered more than 600 stamp seals and cylinder seals at the sacred site of the storm and weather god Jupiter Dolichenus, 100 of which in the current year alone.
Photo: Forschungsstelle Asia Mino
“The amazingly large number proves how important seals and amulets were for the worshipping of the god to whom they were consecrated as votive offerings”, according to Classical scholar Prof. Winter. Many pieces show scenes of adoration. “Thus, they provide a surprisingly vivid and detailed insight into the faith of the time.” The stamp seals and cylinder seals as well as scarabs, made of glass, stone and quartz ceramics, were mostly crafted in a high-quality manner. Following the restoration work, the finds were handed over to the relevant museum in Gaziantep in Turkey.
Photo: Forschungsstelle Asia Minor
Different themes can be found on the seals and amulets: the spectrum ranges from geometric ornamentsand astral symbols to elaborate depictions of animals and people. This includes, for example, praying men in front of divine symbols. Another popular theme was a royal hero fighting animals and hybrid creatures. “Even those images that do not depict a deity express strong personal piety: with their seals, people consecrated an object to their god which was closely associated with their own identity”, said Blömer. People wore the amulets found with the seals in everyday life. “Strung on chains, they were supposed to fend off bad luck”, explained the archaeologist.
Up to now, the researchers were able to identify late Babylonian, local Syrian Achaemenid and Levantine seals.
Photo: Forschungsstelle Asia Minor
During this year’s excavations at the Turkish mountain Dülük Baba Tepesi, Prof. Winter’s team worked in an area of over 500 square metres. “The results are already extending our knowledge of all periods in this holy place’s long history. It covers the time span from the early place of worship of the Iron Age and the sacred site of the Roman era, famous throughout the empire, to the long phase of utilisation as a Christian monastery, which existed until well into the time of the crusaders”, explained Prof. Winter.
After this year’s excavation season had ended, work at the touristic development continued. “We were able to complete a visitors’ path leading to central areas within the excavation site, with signposts in three languages.” Furthermore, according to the researchers, numerous protective and precautionary measures are required in order to secure the remains of the sanctuary permanently. An initial large protective shelter has already been erected this year.
Photo: Julia Holtkötter
In 2012, the research team announced an archaeological park which is to make the outstanding temple complex and the local medieval monastery ruins of Mar Solomon accessible to the public at large. For that purpose, the ruins had already been preserved and encased with a special fleece material, according to the scholars.
Supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, DFG), the University ofMünster’s Asia Minor Research Centre has been doing excavation work at the main sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus under the direction of Prof. Winter since 2001. The international group consisting of archaeologists, historians, architects, conservators, archaeozoologists, geoinformation scientists and excavation workers uncovered foundations of the archaic and the Roman sanctuary, as well as of the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon, which had previously only been known from written sources. The Cluster of Excellence’s project B2-20, “Media Representation and Religious ‘Market’: Syriac Cults in the Western Imperium Romanum”, is interlinked with the excavations.
On Tuesday, 19 November, as part of the public lecture series “Holy Places. Origins and transformations – political interests – memory cultures” of the Cluster of Excellence and the Centre for the History and Culture of the Eastern Mediterranean (Centrum für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Mittelmeerraums, GKM), the sacred site of Jupiter Dolichenus will be the topic of a lecture by Prof. Winter. The classical scholar will discuss the transformation and consistency of the religious site. The lecture will be held at 6.15 p.m. in lecture theatre F2 of the Fürstenberghaus at Domplatz 20-22 in Münster. (ska/vvm
By The American Heart Association.
A study of 27 healthy adults showed – for the first time – that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee significantly improved blood flow in a finger, which is a measure of how well the inner lining of the body’s smaller blood vessels work. Specifically, participants who drank a cup of caffeinated coffee had a 30 percent increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period compared to those who drank decaffeinated coffee.
“This gives us a clue about how coffee may help improve cardiovascular health,” said Masato Tsutsui, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher and a cardiologist and professor in the pharmacology department at the University ofthe Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan.
The study adds to a growing body of research about coffee, the most widely consumed beverage worldwide. Previous studies showed that drinking coffee is linked to lower risks of dying from heart disease and stroke, and that high doses of caffeine may improve the function of larger arteries.
Study participants were people who did not regularly drink coffee, ranging in age from 22 to 30. On one day, each participant drank one five-ounce cup of either regular or decaffeinated coffee. Then researchers measured finger blood flow with laser Doppler flowmetry, a non-invasive technique for gauging blood circulation on a microscopic level. Two days later, the experiment was repeated with the other type of coffee. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew when they were drinking caffeinated coffee.
The researchers noted blood pressure, heart rate, and vascular resistance levels. They also took blood samples to analyze levels of caffeine and to rule out the role of hormones on blood vessel function.
Compared to decaf, caffeinated coffee slightly raised participants’ blood pressure and improved vessel inner lining function. Heart rate levels were the same between the two groups.
It’s still unclear how caffeine actually works to improve small blood vessel function, although Tsutsui suggests that caffeine may help open blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
“If we know how the positive effects of coffee work, it could lead to a new treatment strategy for cardiovascular disease in the future,” said Tsutsui.
By University of Urbana-Champaign.
He will share some of his findings at the meeting, “Ancient DNA: The First Three Decades,” at The Royal Society in London on Nov. 18 and 19.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer
He and a group of collaborators from the Tsimshian Nation on the northwest coast of British Columbia, for example, recently found a direct ancestral link between ancient human remains in the Prince Rupert Island area and the native peoples living in the region today. That study looked at changes in the mitochondrial genome, which children inherit only from their mothers.
Other studies from Malhi’s lab analyze changes in the Y chromosome or the protein-coding regions of the genome.
“The best opportunity to infer the evolutionary history of Native Americans and to assess the effects of European colonization is to analyze genomes of ancient Native Americans and those of their living descendants,” Malhi said.
“I think what makes my lab unique is that we focus not only on the initial peopling of the Americas but also what happened after the initial peopling. How did these groups move to new environments and adapt to their local settings over 15,000 years?”
While continuing his work in British Columbia, Malhi also is setting up study sites in California, Guatemala,Mexico and Illinois.
“What’s interesting about the northwest coast and California is that these communities were complex hunter-gatherer societies, whereas in Mexico and Guatemala, it’s more communities that transitioned to farming and then experienced the effects of European colonization,” he said.
Genomic studies can fill in the blanks on studies that seek to tell the story of life in the Americas before and after European colonization, Malhi said. Researchers may draw the wrong conclusions about human history when looking only at artifacts and language, he said.
By Alton Parrish.
Scientists encounter big challenges when reconstructing atmospheric compositions in the Earth’s geological past because of the lack of useable sample material. One of the few organic materials that may preserve reliable data of the Earth’s geological history over millions of years are fossil resins (e.g. amber). “Compared to other organic matter, amber has the advantage that it remains chemically and isotopically almost unchanged over long periods of geological time,” explains Ralf Tappert from the Institute of Mineralogy and Petrography at the University of Innsbruck.
Selection of amber samples from the Eocene from Bitterfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, approx. 35 million years old.
Atmospheric oxygen between 10 and 15 percent
The research team analyzed a total of 538 amber samples from from well-known amber deposits worldwide, with the oldest samples being approximately 220 million years old and recovered from the Dolomites in Italy. The team also compared fossil amber with modern resins to test the validity of the data. The results of this comprehensive study suggest that atmospheric oxygen during most of the past 220 million years was considerably lower than today’s 21 percent.
Modern resins were also used for the study: Here fresh resin, the raw material for amber, is oozing out of the trunk of an Araucaria tree (Araucaria cunninghamii) in Adelaide Botanical Garden, Australia.
Effects on climate and environment
The researchers also relate this low atmospheric oxygen to climatic developments in the Earth’s history. “We found that particularly low oxygen levels coincided with intervals of elevated global temperatures and highcarbon dioxide concentrations,” explains Tappert. The mineralogist suggests that oxygen may influencecarbon dioxide levels and, under certain circumstances, might even accelerate the influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Oxygen may not be the cause of gigantism
According to the results of the study, oxygen may indirectly influence the climate. This in turn may also affect the evolution of life on Earth. A well-known example are dinosaurs: Many theories about animal gigantism offer high levels of atmospheric oxygen as an explanation. Tappert now suggests to reconsider these theories: “We do not want to negate the influence of oxygen for the evolution of life in general with our study, but the gigantism of dinosaurs cannot be explained by those theories.” The research team highly recommends conducting further studies and intends to analyze even older plant resins.
By Alton Parrish.
Chili peppers may have been used to make spicy beverages thousands of years ago in Mexico, according to new research published November 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Terry Powis at Kennesaw State University and colleagues from other institutions.
Credit: Roberto Lopez and Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta
In this study, the authors used chemical extractions to reveal the presence of Capsicum residues in pottery samples from a site in southern Mexico. Some of these pottery vessels were over 2000 years old, dating from 400 BC to 300 AD.
They found Capsicum residue in multiple types of jars and vessels, which suggests that those cultures may have been using chili peppers for many different culinary purposes. For instance, Capsicum was found in a vessel called a sprouted jar, which is used for pouring a liquid into another container. The authors suggest that chili peppers may have been used to prepare spicy beverages or dining condiments.
By Alton Parrish.
The Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) Extinction, 65 million years ago, was probably triggered by the impact of a 12-kilometer-diameter asteroid in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The planet-wide effects of Chicxulub eliminated about 70% of all living species, including the dinosaurs.
Tons of cosmic material fall on the Earth every day, but nearly all disintegrates and burns during passage through the atmosphere. However, when objects larger than approximately 45 meters in diameter strike, the atmosphere cannot fully screen us. Even NEOs which do not make it all the way to the ground can cause destruction through the production of a damaging fireball and shock wave. The most famous example occurred in 1908, when 2,000 square kilometers of Siberian forest were destroyed by a multi-megaton impact called the Tunguska Event.
The Fraunhofer scientists use what is known as a target chamber to bombard stone blocks used to approximate asteroids with a high-velocity mini projectile. The aim is to analyze with as much precision as possible how the material reacts. High-speed cameras document the experiment by taking up to 30,000pictures per second. As in the crash testing of vehicles, the Fraunhofer researchers are interested in quantifying the force of the collision. Data are adjusted to account for actual scale and are imported continuously into computer simulations.
In the long term, NEOShield project leader Professor Harris would like to see the defense techniques that are the subject of this research tested in international space missions: »This kind of test mission is bound to throw up a few surprises, and will teach us a great deal.«
Incidentally, Harris reckons that averting an oncoming asteroid from its collision course by means of a huge explosion – just like in a Hollywood film – could in fact be an option in an emergency. Time would have to bepressing though, or the object concerned at least a kilometer in diameter.
If a threatening NEO passes close by the Earth in the decades prior to a potential impact, it will have to pass through a keyhole during that close encounter in order to subsequently impact Earth. If this scenario is seen to be developing sufficiently in advance of the potential impact, a shepherding mission can be launched to guide the NEO around the keyhole thereby avoiding potential impact. If, however, there is no close encounter with Earth between the discovery of a potential impact and the date of impact, then the NEO is on a direct impact path and a full deflection campaign (e.g., primary deflection plus shepherding) must be mounted to avoid the impact.
Primary deflection and shepherding requirements cannot be met with any single existing deflection technique. Available instantaneous force (IF) concepts (kinetic impact and nuclear explosion) can provide considerable total impulse, thereby meeting the primary deflection needs, but will result in a large uncertainty in the velocity change imparted to the NEO (up to 500% uncertainty).
Continuous force (CF) deflection methods, such as a gravity tractor, can provide only limited total impulse, but that impulse can be provided with high precision resulting in a well-determined (even a pre-determined) final NEO orbit, thereby being ideal for shepherding operations.
It is therefore the application of an instantaneous deflection followed potentially by a continuous force deflection which is necessary to assure a successful deflection, i.e. a primary deflection followed by a shepherding operation. These two deflection concepts, however, require two quite different mission designs, the deflection requiring an intercept trajectory, and shepherding requiring a full rendezvous with the NEO.
However, the requirement for two distinct missions in a deflection campaign is not limited to obtaining the magnitude and precision of the NEO deflection per se. There is also a requirement for a precise NEO orbit determination both before and after the deflection maneuvers. Furthermore, there is a high value in being able to observe and confirm the primary deflection by the shepherding spacecraft from a stand-off/observing location
By Alton Parrish.
Scientists at A*STAR have discovered an enzyme, Wip1 phosphatase, as a potential target to weed out the progression of cancer. Although studies in the past have revealed that this enzyme plays a critical role in regulating the budding of tumours, scientists have for the first time unearthed a mechanism for its mode of action.
The team discovered that Wip1 phosphatase is a key factor that causes point mutations to sprout in human cancers. These types of mutations stem from errors that are made during DNA replication in the body, causing one base-pair in the DNA sequence to be altered.
These mutations can cause cancers to take root, or to become resilient to treatment. By using drugs to inhibit the action of Wip1 phosphatase, cancer growth can be stunted and tumours can be cured without developing resistance. This is a ground-breaking finding that sheds light on how mutations in cancer can potentially be wiped out with drugs, allowing cancers to be treated and eliminated effectively, preventing relapses of tumour growth.
Dr Dmitry Bulavin said, “Our work on Wip1 phosphatase for over a decade has now revealed several key features of this molecule. Our current findings strongly support the use of an anti-Wip1 drug for cancer treatment in order to reduce a high frequency of mutations in the genome, which is one of the main drivers of tumour relapses.”
Prof Hong Wan Jin, Executive Director of IMCB, said, “Dmitry has been the pioneering driver in the mechanistic study of Wip1 phosphatase, and this discovery is monumental in providing novel understanding on the role of Wip1 in cancer at the genomic and systems levels. I am confident that his team at IMCB can further their work in cancer research to offer new approaches for potential drugs
The research findings described in this media release can be found in the 14 October online issue of Cancer Cell, under the title, “Wip1 controls global heterochromatin silencing via ATM/BRCA1-dependent DNA methylation” by Doria Filipponi1, Julius Muller1, Alexander Emelyanov1 and Dmitry V. Bulavin1,#
Posted by Alton Parrish.
While tracking white-lipped peccaries and gathering environmental data in forests that link Brazil’s Pantanal and Cerrado biomes, a team of researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and a local partner NGO, Instituto Quinta do Sol, discovered ancient cave drawings made by hunter-gatherer societies thousands of years ago.
Credit: Liana Joseph/WCS
Credit: Alexine Keuroghlian/WCS
The discovery was made on Brazil’s Cerrado plateau in 2009, when Keuroghlian and her team were conducting surveys of white-lipped peccaries, herd-forming pig-like animals that travel long distances and are environmental indicators of healthy forests. The peccaries are vulnerable to human activities, such as deforestation and hunting, and are disappearing from large swaths of their former range from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. While following signals from radio-collared white-lipped peccaries and the foraging trails of peccary herds, the team encountered a series of prominent sandstone formations with caves containing drawings of animals and geometric figures.
This is a drawing of an assortment of animals. A team of researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and a local partner NGO, Instituto Quinta do Sol, discovered ancient cave drawings made by hunter-gatherer societies thousands of years ago while conducting a survey for white-lipped peccaries in Brazil.
Credit: Alexine Keuroghlian/WCS
“These discoveries of cave drawings emphasize the importance of protecting the Cerrado and Pantanal ecosystems, both for their cultural and natural heritage,” said Dr. Julie Kunen, Director of WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean Program and an expert on Mayan archeology. “We hope to partner with local landowners to protect these cave sites, as well as the forests that surround them, so that the cultural heritage and wildlife depicted in the drawings are preserved for future generations.
Super-Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the eastern Philippines as the strongest tropical cyclone of the year, and today, Nov. 8, is exiting the country and moving into the South China Sea. NASA’s Aqua satellite captured visible and infrared data of Hiayan after it made landfall near Leyete, identifying the extent of its power.
Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
NASA’s TRMM satellite data on Nov. 8 at 00:19 UTC showed Haiyan had a well-defined eye surrounded by a symmetric area of moderate rain (green ring with a blue center) with several rainbands wrapping in from the south (green arcs) while crossing the island of Leyte in the central Philippines.
Image Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce
As Super-Typhoon Haiyan moved over the central Philippines on Nov. 8 at 05:10 UTC/12:10 a.m. EDT, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a visible image. The image showed that Haiyan maintained its structure as it moved over the east central Philippines. As the center moved through the eastern Visayas, large, thick bands of thunderstorms spiraled into the center from the northeast. Hiayan’s clouds extended over the entire country from the Cagayan Valley in the north to the Soccsksargen region in the south.The AIRS instrument that also flies aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured infrared imagery of Super-Typhoon Haiyan exiting the western Philippines. The coldest cloud top temperaetures and most powerful thunderstorms with heavy rainfall potential covered the Visayas, Bicol, National Capital, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Northern Mindanao, and Mimaropa regions.
By Nov. 8 at 0900 UTC/4 a.m. EDT/5 p.m. Philippines local time, Haiyan’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 145 knots/167 mph/268.5 kph, still making it a powerful Category 5 tropical cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. It was moving through Western Visayas and was 214 nautical miles south-southeast of Manila. It is moving quickly to the west at 22 knots/25.3 mph/40.74 kph, which will reduce flooding potential.
The AIRS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this infrared, false-colored image of Super-Typhoon Haiyan exiting the western Philippines on Nov. 8 at 04:59 UTC. Purple indicates coldest, most powerful thunderstorms with heavy rainfall potential.
Image Credit: NASA JPL/Ed Olsen
Many warnings are still in effect today, Nov. 8, as Hiayan continues to exit the western Philippines.
Public storm warning signals have been raised in large areas of the country. In Luzon, Signal #1 was in effect for: Metro Manila, Bataan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines provinces, Albay, Sorsogon. Signal #2 is in effect for: Lubang Island, Batangas, Marinduque, rest of Palawan, Burias Island, Masbate and Ticao Island; Signal #3 in effect for the rest of Mindoro provinces, Romblon, rest of northern Palawan including Puerto Princesa City; and Signal #4 is in effect for: extreme northern Palawan, Calamian Group of Islands, southern Occidental and Oriental Mindoro.
In Visayas, Signal #1 remained in effect for: Samar provinces, Leyte provinces, Camotes island, Bohol and Siquijor; while Signal #2 is up for: Negros provinces, Cebu, Biliran Island; and there is no Signal #3, but there is a Signal #4 for Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo and Guimaras.
In Mindanao, a Signal #1 remained in effect for the Camiguin, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat; and a Signal #2 is up for: Siargao. According to PAGASA, the Philippine authority on meteorology, flashfloods and mudslides are possible in areas under signal #2, 3 and 4. In addition, storm surges of up to 21 feet/~7 meters are possible under a Signal #2.
CNN reported on Nov. 9 that Hiayan left power outages, flooded streets, downed trees, damaged buildings and many canceled flights.
The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said it was the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year.
Hiayan is forecast to move through the South China Sea and make a final landfall as a strong typhoon in central Vietnam in a couple of days.
Posted by Alton Parrish.
A scanning mirror (right) redirects green laser light onto a tiled holographic plate (top) to produce high-quality three-dimensional images.
Credit: A*STAR Data Storage Institute
The researchers patterned the plates, made of a liquid-crystal material on a silicon substrate, with a computer-generated hologram. Conventionally, holograms are recorded by scattering a laser beam off a real object. “Holograms can also be mathematically calculated,” explains Lum. “This avoids problems, such as vibrations, associated with the conventional recording method that may reduce the quality of the final reconstructed image.”
Each plate, also called a spatial light modulator (SLM), consisted of an array of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels — 1.3 million in total. Simply stacking the plates to increase the total number of pixels, however, created ‘optical gaps’ between them. As a workaround, the researchers tiled 24 SLMs into an 8 by 3 array on two perpendicular mounting plates separated by an optical beam splitter. They then utilized a scanning mirror to direct the laser light from the combined SLM array to several predetermined positions, just as if they had all been stacked seamlessly together (see image).
The team demonstrated that by shining green laser light onto this composite holographic plate, they could create three-dimensional objects that replayed at a rate of 60 frames per second in a 10 by 3-inch (25 by 7.5-centimeter) display window.
This relatively simple approach for increasing the pixel count of holograms should help researchers develop three-dimensional holographic displays that are much more realistic than those commercially available at present. “Our next step is to improve this ‘tiling’ approach to further scale up the number of pixels of the hologram, which will lead to a larger holographic image,” says Lum.
Contacts and sources:
By University of San Diego.
So when do we have time to sleep or work if we spend every waking minute being exposed to myriad media? The answer is that media delivered is not a measure of attention or comprehension of that media.
While such a high rate of multiple-stream media traffic sounds overwhelming, the idea of us suffering sensory overload is not as dire as some may think, says Short, who is also lead scientist for SDSC’sCenter for Large-Scale Data Systems Research (CLDS) as well as a CTM Visiting Researcher.
“While machines can always overload us, it’s more a question of, how can we design these systems to produce meaningful value? That’s the critical challenge as we speed further into the age of digitally-based information,” according to Short.
The record level of U.S. media consumption focuses on media consumed in and out of the home, excluding workplace media, between 2008 and 2015. It defines “media” according to 30 categories (e.g. television, social media, computer gaming). Information reported in the study was canvassed from several hundred data sources, including media measurement firms such as Nielsen, Arbitron, ComScore, investor and analyst firms, government sources, and foundation and research publications. Some highlights of the How Much Media? (HMM) report:
Mobile messaging hours, which in 2012 accounted for approximately 9 percent of voice call hours, will double to more than 18 percent of voice hours, a year-over-year growth rate of more than 27 percent.
The HMM report also includes data on Americans’ media consumption dating back to the 1960s. During those decades, the supply of digital media measured in bytes has grown at compounded rates ranging between 6 and 30 percent each year. Growth in consumptive time, however, has been increasing at compounded rates ranging between 3 to 5 percent each year. The upshot: supply is driven by rapidly advancing device capacities and faster networks. Growth in consumptive time, however, is destined to continue its slow but steady increase. Constrained by human physical limits, including the length of a day, growth in consumptive time will never exceed a few percent per year.
The “How Much Media?” research program was sponsored by an industry consortium including Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Seagate Technology and Verizon Wireless. Lucy Hood, president and chief operations officer of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and Josette Bonte, CTM chief strategy officer and director of research, contributed industry guidance and program support.