Princess Mononoke Laid Her First (and Fifth) Egg!


Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! Last week I talked about our Lovey Chicken who had started letting us pet her and was close to laying her first egg. Guess what? On Saturday, Princess Mononoke laid her first egg! And she’s laid one every day since! She ran around the yard for hours Saturday morning, being noisy as hell because she didn’t know what was happening. The other hen, Ripley, ran into the coop and got the nest all ready, and then Mona went in there and did her thing while Rip cried for her outside. When Mona came back out there was a half-sized egg waiting for us in the coop! Yay Mononoke!


RipleyRipley’s started squatting too, so I’m hoping she’ll start laying this weekend. She’s an “Easter Egg” chicken, so the eggs she lays should be green and blue! I can’t wait to see one in person :)

In other good news: I’m four scenes away from finishing The Fair Man! I’ve been sprinting every night with my CP Mike, which has given me the drive to write for basically three weeks straight. I’m starting to burn out, but I’m so close to the end, and in all the really good emotional parts, so I’m going to finish before I collapse in a tear-filled heap and then read a couple books. Last night I killed the bad guy, and I’ll be honest: it was brutal. I’m a little disturbed by my own writing. Who knew I had that in my head?

I missed Science Tuesday this week because I was waiting for the furniture store to deliver the correct bed to us (you may remember that they sold us the wrong bed at first), but that means we finally have a complete (and correct) bedroom set! It’s so comfy I almost couldn’t drag myself out of it this morning.


Next week’s Science Tuesday will have two weeks of science news, including the amazing probability of a new Ninth Planet (I vote we name her Artemis/Diana: she’s cold and distant). And this weekend I have another custom pony for you! Have a great weekend, Aledans!

Custom of the Week: The Goblin King

This past week has been a tough one, as you all know, with the loss of more than one beloved celebrity to cancer. When the news hit on Monday that the iconic David Bowie had passed away, someone on the pony forums asked to see customs people had made of his characters, and I just loved this Labyrinth-inspired custom too much not to share.


His eyes, his hair, even the pendant he wears around his neck is perfect. RIP David Bowie.

If you have a pony that you would like featured as a Custom of the Week, please email me:


A Long Week and a Lovey Chicken

Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! This has been a long, emotion-filled week, so we’re going to keep this update short and sweet.

I finished reading FANTASY MEDLEY 3, and really enjoyed each of the short stories (the third one was confusing through most of it, but man that ending!). I definitely recommend buying a copy and checking the stories out yourself – you’re bound to like at least one of them. Now I’m reading QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, although I’ve been so tired this week that I haven’t even finished the first chapter. I’ve been going to bed early instead.

The writing was going great until I got to the current scene and stalled. Not because I know what happens, but because I do, and it’s so utterly horrible that I don’t want to write it. But I need to, because if I don’t, I can’t write the scene where the bad guy gets what’s coming to him. And whoaboy does he have it coming, especially after this scene.

On the chicken front: Mononoke has started letting us pet her! In fact, she tried to jump into Hub’s arms the other day when he was petting her. We think she’s close to laying her first egg, because she’s been acting different lately. If you go anywhere near her she hunkers down with her wings out and wants some love. She even let Hops the dog sniff her up the other day before turning around and looking at her like “Hey! Your nose is cold.”

Princess Mononoke (black and white) and Ripley (brown/grey) through the window.

I hope you have a restful weekend, Aledans. I’ll see you Sunday for Custom Pony of the Week, and Tuesday for Science News!

Science Tuesday: Four New Elements, Dancing Dinosaurs, and 3-D Glasses for Praying Mantises

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! Science was a busy little bee this week, so let’s get straight to the news!

[Photo: Praying Mantis with custom 3-D glasses, Newcastle University]

Four new elements added to periodic table: The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has filled out the seventh line of the periodic table by adding four new elements. A team of scientists in Japan has been credited with the discovery of element 113, called ununtrium. Elements 115 (ununpentium), 117 (ununseptium) and 118 (ununoctium) were credited to a joint team of Russian and American scientists.

Ancient skeleton found in Scotland may have been 16th-century pirate’s: A skeleton found last year beneath an Edinburgh playground belonged to a 16th-century pirate and not to a person from the Bronze Age, as had been thought, according to the City of Edinburgh Council. “Thanks to carbon dating techniques, archaeologists now know that the skeleton was likely to have been a murder victim — and quite possibly a pirate,” said Culture Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council Richard Lewis. Officials say the man, likely in his 50s, was hung at a gallows not far from the grave site.

Species’ speediest tongues belong to smallest chameleons: The smallest species of chameleon have the quickest tongues, which can lash out at up to 264 times gravity’s force to gobble up any prey that comes close enough, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. The smaller chameleons can whip out their tongues five times faster than their bigger cousins, researchers say. “They get such high performance because the muscles are loading energy into elastic tissues before they actually project the tongue,” said Christopher Anderson, the study’s author.

Scientists stop deadly fungus in Majorcan midwife toads: A deadly fungus that’s been killing toads, frogs, salamanders and newts around the world has been wiped out in Majorcan midwife toads in Majorca, Spain, the first time it’s been stopped in a wild population, according to findings published in Biology Letters. Chytrid fungus, or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is thought to have driven many amphibian populations to extinction. “This is proof of principle that you can go out there and mitigate infections and that the method doesn’t need to be that complex,” said study co-author Trenton Garner.

Marmosets can distinguish between low, high notes like humans do: Marmosets can discern between high and low pitches just as humans do, raising questions about when the ability to perceive pitch evolved, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Until now we didn’t think any animal species, including monkeys, perceived it the way we do. Now we know that marmosets, and likely other primate ancestors, do,” said Xiaoqin Wang, a study author.

Bog orchids woo mosquitoes by emitting human-like odor: Bog orchids give off an odor similar to that of the human body to attract tiger mosquitoes, say researchers at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology’s annual meeting. Tests are ongoing, but scientists say the flowers may be trying to lure the mosquitoes, which are drawn to the smell, even though the insects aren’t particularly good pollinators.

tretchable device can track heart rate using nanoparticles: Researchers at Seoul National University have developed a stretchable electronic device that could monitor heart rate continuously and accurately using gold nanoparticles. The device, which provides signal amplification and long-term memory storage, is made up of ECG sensors and amplifiers.

Teeth indicate giant apes died out due to insufficient food supply: Dwindling food supply likely led to the extinction of giant apes more than 100,000 years ago, according to a study of the massive creatures’ teeth published in Quaternary International. Gigantopithecus blacki, which weighed between 440 and 1,100 pounds, or 200 and 499 kilograms, was vegetarian, and researchers say its size and metabolism made survival difficult as the environment evolved. “When during the Pleistocene era more and more forested areas turned into savanna landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply for the giant ape,” said Herve Bocherens, the study’s author.

Black hole emits pair of massive gas waves: A black hole at the center of a nearby galaxy has burped out two massive waves of gas, something researchers are calling an example of feedback between the black hole and its galaxy, according to findings reported at the American Astronomical Society meeting. “We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large,” said study co-author Marie Machacek. “But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form. This shows that black holes can create, not just destroy.”

Ancient farmhouse, monastery found in central Israel: Archaeologists have uncovered a 2,700-year-old farmhouse in central Israel, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Artifacts found in the area suggest grain was grown and processed on the site. Not far away, researchers also found a monastery that dates back about 1,500 years.

New biomaterial can catalyze hydrogen formation: Using a bacterial virus, researchers have developed a biomaterial that can catalyze hydrogen formation, which could one day lead to more environmentally friendly biofuel production. “Essentially, we have taken a virus’s ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas,” said study leader Trevor Douglas.

Dogs may be transmitting Guinea worm to humans in Chad: The painful Guinea worm infection occurs when the worms grow and reproduce within the human intestine and then migrate to the legs, where the sometimes almost 3-foot-long parasites take months to exit the skin. The infection was close to being eradicated in Chad, one of just four countries with cases last year, but hundreds of cases were noted in dogs there. Researchers are working with ferrets to find out how the parasite interacts with nonhuman hosts, and health officials in Chad are implementing prevention strategies, such as tethering dogs and burying potentially contaminated fish entrails.

Parasitic wasp larvae manipulate host to crave carbs: Parasitic wasp Cotesia nr. phobetri causes its host, the Grammia incorrupta caterpillar, to chow down on a carbohydrate-heavy diet, according to a new study. The wasps put their eggs into the caterpillars, and the larvae cause the caterpillars, which normally eat equal parts carbs and protein, to crave higher amounts of the carbs, which better serves the parasites and compromises the immune response of the host.

Planet with long period found circling Kepler-56, scientists say: A third planet appears to be orbiting the star Kepler-56, according to findings reported at the American Astronomical Society meeting. The planet, observed using radial velocity data gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope, has almost six times the mass of Jupiter and a period of approximately three Earth years.

Eta Carinae binary star is rare, but not unique, astronomers say: The massive Eta Carinae binary star isn’t the only one of its kind, according to findings presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Scientists have found five so-called twins to the giant binary star using archived images from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. “Eta Carinae is not unique … It happens in nature. However, it’s very, very rare. This is the first time we can quantitatively say just how rare Eta Carinae is,” said NASA’s Rubab Khan.

Sense of smell important for sharks to navigate, study suggests: Sharks may navigate the ocean by using their sense of smell, a new study published in PLOS ONE suggests. Scientists followed wild leopard sharks, some of which had their noses blocked, after relocating them some distance from their favorite habitat, and noted how the ones with blocked noses seemed lost while the unblocked sharks headed straight back to their stomping grounds. Researchers acknowledge that sharks use many cues to navigate, but they say their work shows how smell plays a significant role.

Crows gather around dead comrades to learn about threats, study finds: Crows notice and react whenever they see a dead crow, assessing the potential danger to themselves and scolding any humans or possible predators nearby, a new study suggests. Researchers say the birds’ interactions with their dead comrades help them “to assess danger and trigger anti-predator behaviors,” the study published in Animal Behavior reads. Scientists noted the birds had an indifferent response when the corpse was a bird other than a crow.

Science weighs in on North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test: Science can tell us many things about North Korea’s claim that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Experts can say that the earthquake that occurred in the area around the time of the explosion was not a natural quake, that the blast seemed to be nuclear and originated from the nation’s nuclear testing site. Experts also say that the test was likely not successful, but that they can’t rule out that it was a hydrogen bomb.

Malaria drug shows promise as Ebola treatment; survivors’ blood doesn’t: A malaria drug has shown promise in treating the Ebola virus, lowering a patient’s risk of dying by one third, according to a new study. A separate study has found, however, that treating Ebola with the blood of survivors is not likely to improve a patient’s survival chances. “After two years of the largest Ebola epidemic, and despite several promising therapeutic candidates, we still lack good evidence that any of these drugs work,” said Dr. Iza Ciglenecki, an author of the malaria drug study.

Gout tied to greater risk of atrial fibrillation, study finds: UK research found gout was associated with greater risk of atrial fibrillation, according to a study in the journal Rheumatology. Researchers said the association could be related to hyperuricemia because evidence suggests uric acid may help in the atrial remodeling process that increases the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Ancient grooves may be evidence of dinosaur mating rituals: Four sites found in Colorado exhibit fossilized grooves that may have been made by dinosaurs doing a bird-like mating dance more than 100 million years ago, according to findings published in Scientific Reports. Scientists say the gouges could have been made by theropods performing a mating ritual common to modern birds. “These are the first sites with evidence of dinosaur mating display rituals ever discovered, and the first physical evidence of courtship behavior,” said Martin Lockley, a co-author of the study.

Researchers find H. pylori in Otzi the Iceman’s gut: The bacterium Helicobacter pylori has been found in the gut of Otzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old mummy found in the Alps 25 years ago, giving researchers more clues about the microbe’s long history with humans. Scientists analyzed the mummy’s stomach DNA in search of that particular microbe. “It’s a really huge amount of data, in our case it was originally hundreds of gigabytes. We had to separate the Helicobacter bacteria from other bacteria, and this was like searching for a needle in a haystack,” said Thomas Rattei, author of the study published in Science.

Neanderthals linked to allergies in humans, studies suggest: Neanderthals may have passed genetic variants on to humans that make them susceptible to environmental allergies, but interbreeding with humans also may have helped humans adapt as they began to settle in Europe, a pair of new studies in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggest. “Interbreeding with archaic humans does indeed have functional implications for modern humans … the most obvious consequences have been in shaping our adaptation to our environment — improving how we resist pathogens and metabolize novel foods,” said Janet Kelso, an author of one of the studies.

Excess water causes mold to grow on space station plants: Mold has killed or sickened four zinnia plants aboard the International Space Station, NASA says. It’s believed that excessive water caused the mold, which has been bagged and frozen so it can be returned to Earth and studied later. Three healthy plants are left in the experiment that’s now being tended to by astronaut Scott Kelly.

Microbial seed coatings show promise in crop production experiments: Scientists with agricultural firms Novozymes and Monsanto’s BioAg Alliance have coated seeds with microbes and planted them to see if it would help the crops grow bigger and stronger. Five out of 2,000 microbial coatings used on the seeds produced promising results, with corn harvests increased by four to five bushels an acre and soy harvests boosted by 1.5 bushels an acre, researchers said. Findings were released this week.

Roman sanitation system may have hurt, rather than helped, public health: Roman sanitation systems may not have been as effective for public health as once believed, a new study suggests. Researchers looking at fossilized feces found an increased incidence of intestinal parasites after the Romans came into the area. The findings were published online in the American Journal of Parasitology.

Insulin-producing cells developed from skin cells: Scientists with the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California at San Francisco have developed insulin-producing cells from human skin cells, bypassing a pluripotent state. The research was supported by groups including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Ice flow visible in new images of Pluto: An ice flow on Pluto can be seen in new high-resolution images released by NASA. The images are a composite of photos taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and the Ralph Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera during the New Horizons spacecraft’s close encounter with the dwarf planet on July 14. The latest images are so detailed they show the direction of the ice flow and patterns of terrain that indicate areas of thermal convection.

Retooled Kepler mission finds more than 100 new planets: The revamped Kepler mission has confirmed more than 100 new planets so far, according to data presented at the American Astronomical Society conference last week. The mission has also identified more than 200 potential planets that are yet to be confirmed. “It’s probing different types of planets [than the original Kepler mission]. We’re focusing on stars that are much brighter, stars that are nearer by, stars that are more easy to understand and observe from the Earth. The idea here is to find the best systems, the most interesting systems,” said NASA’s Tom Barclay.

Hydrogen reaches new state under extreme pressure, study suggests: A new state of hydrogen has been created by putting the element under extreme pressures, according to a study published in Nature. Researchers created phase V hydrogen by placing a small quantity of the element under 384 gigapascals, or about 55.6 million pounds per square inch, of pressure. “This paper does not claim a metallic state, but claims that it is a precursor to the metallic state due to similarities between what we see experimentally and what is predicted theoretically for solid metallic hydrogen,” said Ross Howie, a study author.

Wreckage found off Alaskan coast may be from 1871 whaling ship disaster: What appears to be the wreckage of two whaling ships lost in the 1871 disaster that trapped 33 vessels in ice off Alaska’s coast has been found, thanks to a combination of new technology and ice shrinkage caused by climate changes. Researchers with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Maritime Heritage Program detected the magnetic signatures of the two shipwrecks by using the latest sonar and underwater sensing devices. Scientists haven’t definitively confirmed that the wreckage is from the 1871 disaster, but they say there is a lot of evidence to support the conclusion.

Researchers find fossils of giant ocean-dwelling crocodile: The fossilized remains of what appears to be the largest crocodile that ever lived in the sea have been found in the desert of Tunisia, according to findings published in Cretaceous Research. Though not quite as large as the biggest freshwater crocodile ever found, Machimosaurus rex was more than 30 feet, or 9 meters, long and weighed about three tons, or about 2.7 metric tons. The fossils, which included a skull and other bones, were found in rock that dated back 120 million years.

Researchers learn about mantises’ brains by giving them tiny 3D glasses: Researchers made tiny 3D glasses for praying mantises and showed them movies depicting prey to learn more about how the insect’s minuscule brain works. Scientists say learning more about how the mantises’ brains make sophisticated depth calculations could help researchers create better algorithms for computer 3D depth perception. “Of course all of this data and observations is to understand how their brains work — and then how our own brains work — and then map this technology for robotics,” said Ghaith Tarawneh, an author of the study published in Scientific Reports.

Number of bacteria roughly equals amount of cells in human man, study suggests: An average human man has about the same number of bacteria as cells, according to new calculations. Earlier research suggested that bacteria outnumbered cells by a 10-to-1 or higher ratio.

Researchers develop technique to convert stem cells into primary cell types: Researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said they were able to generate all of the three primary cell types from human induced pluripotent stem cells, making it possible to produce human tissues that can be used for patient transplant or drug testing. Researchers developed the technique while examining whether stem cells can be used in the production of pancreatic beta cells intended for patients with diabetes.


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Custom of the Week: Ember the Dragonpony

Happy Sunday, Aledan Merfolk! Like most of you, when I see the name Ember attached to a pony I think of a little blue or purple baby pony, but today’s Ember is definitely not a filly! She’s a full-grown, fire-breathing dragonpony!

Ember the Dragonpony, by Darkhorse Collectibles

I love the scales and wings! Click on the photo to check out more angles at the FB page.

If you have a pony that you would like featured as a Custom of the Week, please email me:

Hello 2016! It’s Nice to Meet You

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! As you can see, things are back to normal on the blog, with Custom Pony of the Week and Science Tuesday both back in full force. Time to get back to updating you as well, especially since I have a lot to update.

The epic Christmas family travel tour went well, aside from alllllllllll the hours we spent in the car. We slept on 7 different beds in 14 days (including our own beds), and my body didn’t appreciate that. Today I had to go in for a “deep tissue massage” which was really just a woman grinding her elbow into my muscles and then telling me to move them for fifteen minutes. It’s not easy to move already-painful muscles while someone’s elbow is lodged an inch into them. I have to go back on Monday for more torture.

BookshelfWhen we returned from traveling, we moved our entire master bedroom into the guest bedroom in preparation for our new bedroom set, which would be absolutely amazing if they hadn’t sold us the wrong bed. The actual bed we were trying to purchase won’t be ready until mid-Feb, so we’re sleeping on the wrong bed for the time being (the new mattress, however, is AMAZING. Go get a Tempurpedic, seriously). The rest of the set, which was correct, looks awesome and has so much storage, so I’m very happy with that. Once we get the correct bed everything in that room will be perfect (including the new bookshelf!)

On the writing front: I completed Nephele Tempest’s December Writing Challenge by writing 29/31 days in December! I didn’t always write a lot, but I did write all but two days, even with all the travel. And now that I’m back to work and things are normalizing I’ve been doing writing sprints every night with my awesome CP Mike, and getting almost NaNo-wordcounts. Last night I shot my MC! It was fun :)

FantasyMedley3My only resolution this year was to read more books for fun, because I only read a measly 24 last year (I did a TON of CPing last year though, and I started a bunch of books that I haven’t finished yet). So far I’ve finished SHIP FEVER by Andrea Barrett, which wasn’t my usual fare for reading, but was a Christmas present from my sister. All of the short stories in the book had something to do with science, and the first story was about Mendel! (I love me some Mendel) The stories were vastly different, but I really enjoyed it. Now I’m reading FANTASY MEDLEY 3, of which I’ve finished GODDESS AT THE CROSSROADS by Kevin Hearne (an Iron Druid short story with talking doggies and Shakespeare! Go read it!), and moved on to the next one, which features a demon in Detroit! Fun!

I hope the beginning of 2016 has been treating you well, Aledans. I’ll see you on Sunday for another beautiful custom pony, and on Tuesday for all the science news you can fit in one post! Have a great weekend :D

Science Tuesday: A Ninja Shark, 3-D Printers, and an Atom in Two Places at Once.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I promised yesterday that Science Tuesday would be back, and so it is! And since Science doesn’t take holidays, there’s a lot to read. Enjoy :)

Metal-starved star with orbiting rocky planet discovered: A star with extremely low levels of heavy elements has been discovered with a rocky Neptune-sized planet orbiting it, according to findings set to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. HD175607, spied by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, is a yellowish dwarf located around 147 light-years from Earth, and scientists say it has the least metal of any star of its kind yet found with an orbiting planet. The discovery could mean that there are more Earth-like planets out there, since stars with lower concentrations of metals tend to have rocky, Neptune-sized or smaller planets surrounding them, astronomers say.

Sense of smell linked to TBI, brain diseases: Testing one’s sense of smell may one day be a way of detecting myriad problems in the brain, from traumatic brain injury to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Several studies are underway that link problems with a person’s sense of smell with various conditions and may lead to scratch-and-sniff-type tests that could diagnose problems early.

Global researchers work to create bomb-detecting sensors: Researchers around the world are working to develop sensors that can suss out chemicals used in making bombs, like those used in the recent Paris attacks. The scientists are focusing on triacetone triperoxide, an explosive easily made with chemicals found in hardware stores and pharmacies. Researchers say sensors could one day be more reliable at detecting explosives than bomb-sniffing dogs.

Puff adders can hide their scent from threats: Puff adders can hide their scent from threats, making them virtually invisible, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Scientists used specially trained dogs and meerkats to sniff out puff adders’ scent from a selection of odors presented to them, and while they had no trouble finding other snake-scented cloths, they could not discern those scented with puff adder. How the puff adder can camouflage its scent isn’t yet known, though researchers speculate it has something to do with the snake being an ambush hunter.

Whole-DNA study traces origins of the Irish: Ancient people from the Middle East and what’s now Eastern Europe are the early ancestors of the Irish, according to a whole-genome analysis. Scientists used DNA from a 5,000-year-old woman found near Belfast and a trio of men between 3,000 and 4,000 years old buried on an offshore Irish island. “It is clear that this project has demonstrated what a powerful tool ancient DNA analysis can provide in answering questions which have long perplexed academics regarding the origins of the Irish,” said Eileen Murphy, co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New species of lantern shark has ninja-like qualities: A new species of lanternshark, dubbed the ninja lanternshark, has been discovered in the deep ocean waters off Central America. The bioluminescent creature glows due to photophores, but it has fewer of them than other lanternsharks do and uses them as camouflage. The Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation published the findings.

2,000-year-old Florida cypress may live on through cloning: Preservationists hope to give new life to an ancient Florida cypress by cloning it. Climbers will ascend the 2,000-year-old Lady Liberty cypress in Seminole County’s Big Tree Park to gather new growth to use as fodder for cloning. The nonprofit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, which aims to preserve forests with clones of the oldest and largest trees, is behind the project.

Lasers, satellite data show drought’s effect on Calif. trees: Laser-imaging technology combined with satellite data has shown new detail of years of drought on nearly 900 million trees in California. “We’ve never before had this kind of in-depth individual tree-level analysis done in California,” said Ashley Conrad-Saydah of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency. The information could help analyze which areas are most susceptible to wildfires or storm damage.

New video shows Pluto in a rainbow of colors: A NASA video shows Pluto in a rainbow of colors and has helped scientists learn more about the dwarf planet. The video was shot by the New Horizons space probe’s infrared imaging spectrometer, then translated by NASA scientists into the colors. “The discovery of water ice on Pluto was made using the data in this movie,” noted NASA’s Alex Parker.

Syrian architectural prize destroyed by ISIS to rise again thanks to 3D tech: Syria’s 2,000-year-old Arch of the Temple of Bel, recently almost destroyed by ISIS, will get a second life thanks to a giant 3D printer. The 48-foot-by-23-foot reproduction to be displayed next year in London and New York is made possible by 3D camera documentation of at-risk sites in the Middle East carried out by the Institute for Digital Archaeology.

Mystery of disappearing electrons may be solved: A band of invisible meteor dust drifting to Earth may be behind the disappearance of electrons in the high atmosphere that’s had scientists baffled since the 1960s, according to findings presented at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting. Electrons are produced high above Earth when the sun’s ultraviolet rays interact with atmospheric nitric oxide, but a big drop has been noted in the amount of electrons about 53 miles, or about 85 kilometers, above the Earth at night. Researchers call this the “D-region ledge” and suggest it’s created when meteor dust absorbs electrons because the sun’s ultraviolet rays aren’t as strong at night.

Jellyfish Nebula and strange pulsar may have come from same supernova: The Jellyfish Nebula and a mysterious pulsar that appears to reside within it may have formed at the same time during an ancient supernova, according to observations made at the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The pulsar, called CXOU J061705.3+222127, appears to exist within the southern region of the nebula, and NASA researchers say the X-ray radiation surrounding it is further indication that it is a pulsar.

Researchers map out western US areas with most plague risk: Small outbreaks of the plague that have been occurring in the western US tend to happen in rainy areas at elevations less than 1.2 miles, or 1.93 kilometers, with a significant deer mice population and boasting a large number of buildings and roads, say researchers mapping the outbreaks. Scientists say two regions appear to have the most outbreaks. One runs from southern Colorado to northern New Mexico and Arizona; the other includes areas of California, western Nevada and southern Oregon. About seven cases of plague occur each year, according to findings published online in PeerJ.

Mathematical probability can determine direction of animals’ stripes: Mathematical probability can define the directionality of an animal’s stripes, according to a new study published in Cell Systems. Researchers built a model that suggests pattern orientation is determined in the womb, depending on how much of one substance or another is produced. “We can describe what happens in stripe formation using this simple mathematical equation, but I don’t think we know the nitty-gritty details of exactly what molecules or cells are mapping the formation of stripes,” said Tom Hiscock, lead study author.

Mirroring pupil size may raise trust level, study suggests: Humans can match their pupil size with others, and that synchronization can influence social decisions, a new study in Psychological Science suggests. Researchers who tracked pupil size in volunteers during an investment game found that participants tended to share their money with partners who mirrored their pupil size.

Blood thinners safe to take before major cancer operation: Researchers followed about 2,000 patients who took blood thinners before major cancer surgery and almost 5,000 patients who did not, and found that a dose of the drug resulted in a decreased risk of blood clots. There was no increase in the risk of major bleeding or blood transfusion, according to the study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Atom ball in 2 places at once to break quantum record: A ball of atoms has set a new quantum record for being in two places at the same time, researchers at Stanford University say. Scientists used lasers to shoot a cloud of rubidium atoms in the same quantum state up a chamber 10 meters, or 32.8 feet, high to create a Bose-Einstein condensate. The atom ball existed in two separate states about 54 centimeters, or about 21 inches, apart for about a second, breaking the old record of about 1 centimeter, or about 0.4 inches, for a quarter of a second.

O.O What?

Bones found in China suggest new species of human lived 10,500 years ago: Bones found in China suggest that humans lived alongside a newly discovered species of archaic human as recently as 10,500 years ago, interbreeding and, possibly, cannibalizing them, researchers say. The femur bone of a hominin found in a cave shows signs of butchering and burning in a fire used to cook meat. DNA testing is necessary to substantiate the claims, but the burning of the bones and the climate have made that difficult for now.

Geographer proposes ancient volcanic landscape helped boost human intelligence: Geographer Michael Medler of Western Washington University recently proposed a theory that ancient humans’ use of heat and fire to cook their food expanded human intelligence, and that volcanic and thermal factors in their environment aided them. For his study, Medler mapped ancient lava flow sites in the African Rift Valley and compared them with the places where ancient hominin fossils have been found in the region. Many were at the edges of the lava flow sites, he noted.

Intelligence, mortality linked in series of studies: A person’s level of intelligence may be related to how long that person will live, say researchers analyzing decades of data. Just why this link exists is unclear, but one study suggested that a person with an average IQ of 100 was less likely to be alive at 76 than someone with an IQ of 115.

Interstellar gas “bones” may help map structure of Milky Way: Slender tendrils of interstellar gas hundreds of light-years long found along the Milky Way’s spiral arms may be “bones” that could help map the structure of the galaxy, according to research published in the Astrophysical Journal. While the bones alone may not be useful, “they provide a way to pin down the locations of spiral arms,” said Catherine Zucker, study co-author. Researchers say their study is a proof of concept and plan to look more closely at the structures.

Endangered white rhino species may be saved by stem cell research: Scientists are hoping to save severely endangered northern white rhinoceroses by creating fertilized rhino embryos using stem cells. There are only three northern white rhinos left in the world, and all have reproductive issues, so researchers hope to collect sperm and egg cells from them and combine them with induced pluripotent stem cells to make fertilized embryos that can be carried by southern white rhinos as surrogates. Researchers face a daunting challenge because no in vitro fertilization of any kind of rhino has ever been successfully completed.

3.2 billion-year-old microbes found in South African tidal sediments: Microbes from 3.2 billion years ago have been found in South African tidal sediments, suggesting that life existed close to the surface then, even though the surface was scorching hot thanks to ultraviolet radiation and no ozone layer. Earth was then much like Mars is now, so researchers say this could mean life could have existed even on the Red Planet’s harsh surface.

Ants’ roles within colony can be changed chemically, study suggests: Researchers changed the caste roles of Florida carpenter ants by giving them chemical compounds to affect their epigenetic makeup, the process that determines which genes are turned off and on, according to findings published in Science. “These are long-term, permanent changes that occur when we inject the brain with these chemicals,” said epigeneticist Shelley Berger, an author of the study. The size difference between the larger guard ants and the smaller foragers wasn’t affected.

New image highlights crack-filled crater near Mars’ north pole: A crater near Mars’ north pole is filled with frosty cracks, which can be seen in a new image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. The cracks have been caused by cycles of freezes and thaws occurring over thousands of years.

New technique produces hardy ceramics from 3D printer: Ceramics with complex shapes can be quickly created in 3D printers, thanks to a new method developed by HRL Laboratories researchers. The scientists use a special resin with carbon, oxygen and silicon, and they say the new technique could result in multiple applications, from large jet engine components to small microsensors. “We are at the discovery phase. It will take at least five years for an application to be commercialized,” said Tobias Schaedler, co-author of the study published in Science.

Video shows neurons working in worm’s brain: Neurons in a worm’s brain can be seen lighting up as it moves in a video released by researchers. The neurons can be seen firing in real time as the worm goes about its activities. “By studying how the brain works in a simple animal like the worm … we hope to gain insights into how collections of neurons work that are universal for all brains, even humans,” said Andrew Leifer, author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Neurons tied to inability to feel pleasure detected in rats: Researchers have located neurons in a rat’s brain linked to its ability to feel pleasure, according to a study published in Science. When scientists stimulated the medial prefrontal cortex with light, the rats showed signs of anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure linked to depression and schizophrenia. “Experimental elevations in excitability of parts of the prefrontal cortex, as can occur in depression and schizophrenia, control the extent to which major basic rewards and drives are compelling in behavior,” said neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth, a study author.

Cancer cells can’t simultaneously invade, multiply: Cancer cells can’t invade other cells and multiply at the same time, a finding that could change how cancer is treated, according to a study published in Developmental Cell. Researchers studying the inner workings of the transparent worm Caenorhabditis elegans found that in order for a cancer to invade cells, those cells have to stop dividing, but the cancer has to stop growing in order to spread to other cells. “Our study suggests that we need to figure out how to target these nondividing cells, too, as these are the ones that are invasive,” said study author David Matus.

Breast cancer drug has potential against other cancers: The oral breast-cancer drug palbociclib, which inhibits the division of tumor cells, may have broader application against other types of cancers when used with other anti-cancer therapies, according to research and a literature review in JAMA Oncology.


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