Science Tuesday: Caffeinated Bees, A Lost Chapter of Gilgamesh, and The Sun Has A Hole.

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

Scientists discover new species of dwarf lemur: A new dwarf lemur species has been found in Madagascar. Andy Sabin’s dwarf lemur, more formally known as Cheirogaleus andysabini, is named for the New York philanthropist. The tiny lemur has a white underside and dark rings circling its eyes, according to findings published in Primate Conservation.

Burrowing owls at plague hotspot avoid disease, research finds: Western burrowing owls living alongside small mammals that are susceptible to plague aren’t infected with the bacteria that cause the disease, and neither are the fleas feeding on the owls, according to researchers at Boise State University. They speculate that the fleas may stay on owls and thus never feed on infected mammals, with the owls’ presence potentially helping slow the spread of disease.

Ancient tablet reveals lost chapter of “Epic of Gilgamesh”: A new chapter in the ancient “Epic of Gilgamesh” has been found within a set of clay tablets the Sulaymaniyah Museum in Iraq bought from a smuggler. The tablet describes in more detail a forest for the gods and also provides fresh insight into the tales’ heroes’ inner conflict. The 20 new lines have been fully translated, and the tablet is on display at the museum.

Moon’s faults influenced by Earth’s pull: The gravitational pull of the Earth is tugging open faults on the moon, scientists say. Images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show 14 cliffs caused by faults that are believed to have formed as the moon’s hot interior cooled and shrank, researchers said. “There is a pattern in the orientations of the thousands of faults, and it suggests something else is influencing their formation, something that’s also acting on a global scale. That something is the Earth’s gravitational pull,” said planetary scientist Thomas Watters, lead author of the study published in Geology.

Researchers develop robot that could help space station astronauts: A robot that could literally lend a hand to astronauts aboard the International Space Station is being developed by scientists at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, along with the University of Bremen. The BesMan AILA robot has two arms, each equipped with a hand and articulated fingers. Researchers say the robot could help do the more menial tasks around the space station in order to free the astronauts for more specialized tasks.

Robots with hands freak me out.

Supercoiled DNA reveals wider spectrum of shapes, researchers find: DNA twists itself into more than just the widely recognized double helix shape, researchers say. Scientists looked closely at snippets of supercoiled DNA. “Some of the circles had sharp bends, some were figure eights, and others looked like handcuffs or racquets or even sewing needles. Some looked like rods because they were so coiled,” said biochemist Rossitza Irobalieva, lead author of the study published in Nature Communications.

Brain activity profiles unique to individuals, study suggests: One’s brain activity can be almost as identifiable as a fingerprint, according to findings published in Nature Neuroscience. Researchers mapped the brain activity of 126 subjects several times under different conditions to get a profile of each participant, and they were able to identify the individual by their brain scan most of the time. “What was most exciting to me was that these profiles are so stable and reliable, in the same person, no matter if it’s today or tomorrow and no matter what your brain is doing when we’re scanning you,” said Emily Finn, study co-author.

Researchers to begin study of “in womb” stem cell therapy for bone disorder: The Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London are scheduled to initiate a stem cell trial for osteogenesis imperfecta in January. The 30-patient trial involves the injection of stem cells into babies in utero.

Hubble sees strange structure in Jupiter’s shrinking Red Spot: A detailed map produced by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the Great Red Spot in Jupiter’s atmosphere is shrinking and a strange structure has been seen within it. The spot, a massive storm that has hovered over Jupiter’s equatorial region for about 300 years, is about half the size it was 100 years ago, but scientists say the rate of shrinkage recently slowed. With the new Hubble observations, researchers have also discovered a bizarre wispy structure, but they don’t know what it is or how it came to be there.

Pebbles indicate Mars once held extensive river system, study finds: The shape of pebbles found on Mars indicates the Red Planet once had an extensive river system, according to a new study published in Nature Communications. Scientists created a mathematical model to help determine how much mass a rock loses over time due to erosion as it rolls downstream. They concluded that the Martian pebbles had been rolling around for a long time, moving about 30 miles, or about 48 kilometers. Researchers say the technique could be used to measure river-borne rocks on Earth and other planets as well.

Pair of experiments show genetic testing can be performed in zero gravity: Genetics tests can be performed in zero gravity, researchers discovered in experiments aboard NASA’s reduced-gravity aircraft. In the first experiment, the scientists tested three methods to transfer liquid samples from one vessel to another, determining that the best technique involves using a tiny plunger inside a pipette that moves the liquid without allowing air to get in. The researchers also tested a MiniON, a genetic sequencer, which successfully sequenced DNA in the zero-gravity environment.

Fossilized eggshells reveal clues about dinosaur metabolism: Dinosaur body temperatures varied widely, according to a study of ancient eggshells. Scientists analyzed the fossilized eggshells of a titanosaur sauropod and an oviraptorid, finding a wide range of metabolic rates. “Combined with other data, it’s consistent with them having some kind of intermediary metabolism. This suggests that maybe they were warm blooded, but hadn’t developed the high level of temperature regulation seen in mammals and birds today. They were kind of part way to evolving endothermy,” said Robert Eagle, author of the study published in Nature Communications.

Fungi in milkweed soil may help butterflies with parasite: Certain fungi in the soil around milkweed plants may help monarch butterflies battle a certain parasite, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy B. Monarchs infected with Ophryocystis elektroscirrha seek out specific milkweed plants that contain the toxic steroid cardenolide, and now researchers have linked arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to the amount of cardenolide a plant has.

Analysis suggests bias safeguards not in place for many animal studies: Many animal research studies may contain biases, according to a survey of more than 2,500 journal articles. Simple safeguards to avoid biases are often not used by researchers in animal studies, making their findings look more promising than they are, the analysis by the Center for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh suggests.

MRSA bacteria may be passed between humans and their pets: Recent research found that people with the superbug methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus pass it to their pets. Those pets, in turn, may serve as a reservoir and pass the bacteria back to humans. More studies are planned to determine exactly how pets acquire MRSA from their owners.

I’m SO GLAD I have so many pets! >.<

Well-preserved fossil of furry little mammal that lived with dinosaurs found: A small, furry rat-like creature lived alongside dinosaurs about 125 million years ago, according to analysis of an extremely well-preserved mammal fossil found in Spain. The remains of Spinolestes xenarthrosus include a complete skeleton, along with cellular level fur, spines like those of a hedgehog, and liver and lung soft tissues. Scientists say the fossil gives them the best view yet of mammals that lived with dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, according to a study published in Nature.

Nest of baby giant hadrosaurs fossils found in Gobi Desert: A nest of baby giant hadrosaur fossils has been found in the Gobi Desert’s Nemegt Formation in Mongolia. The rare find includes the embryonic remains of three or four Saurolophus angustirostris babies along with eggshell fragments. The fossils are described in a study published in PLOS ONE.

Ancient teeth found in China shed light on migration of early humans: Scientists are learning more about Homo sapiens’ migration from Africa thanks to the discovery of 47 fossilized human teeth in a southern China cave. The teeth are between 80,000 and 120,000 years old. “This finding suggests that Homo sapiens is present in Asia much earlier than the classic, recent ‘Out of Africa’ hypothesis was suggesting: 50,000 years ago,” said paleontologist Maria Martinon-Torres, an author of the study published in Nature.

Ancient giant sea scorpion remains found in Iowa impact crater: Pieces of a giant sea scorpion that lived about 460 million years ago have been found within an impact crater in Iowa. Fossils of Pentecopterus decorahensis were found well-preserved, pressed between layers of rock, according to findings published in BMC Evolutionary Biology. Researchers say the giant sea scorpion reached lengths of about 5.7 feet, or 1.7 meters, and featured hind limbs shaped like paddles.

Dark Coalsack nebula blots out portion of Milky Way in new image: The vast darkness of the Coalsack nebula obscures a portion of the Milky Way in a new image taken by the European Southern Observatory. The Coalsack nebula, unlike its more brightly glowing brethren, is dark because the dust is coated in frozen water and particles that block visible light almost completely, but ESO researchers say that will one day come to an end. “As the stray material in the Coalsack coalesces under the mutual attraction of gravity, stars will eventually light up, and the coal ‘nuggets’ in the Coalsack will ‘combust,’ almost as if touched by a flame,” they said.

People in high-stress jobs have increased stroke risk, study suggests: High-stress jobs may increase one’s stroke risk, according to a new study. Researchers examined six previous studies between three and 17 years long and involving about 140,000 participants, and found that those with high-stress jobs were 22% more likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t. The findings were reported in Neurology.

Massive coronal hole in sun seen in NASA image: There’s a massive hole in the sun and its magnetic field visible in a new ultraviolet wavelength image taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Coronal holes most often occur during less active points in the sun’s 11-year cycle and cause geomagnetic storms. The current hole is about the width of 50 Earths and has touched off a geomagnetic storm that’s resulted in several auroras on Earth visible farther south than usual, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists.

Climate-driven lava pulses have little effect on sea-floor hill formation: Faulting action and regular magma eruptions form hills along the sea floor, not climate-driven lava pulses as previous studies have suggested, according to a new analysis published in Science. The new study tested the climate hypothesis with three different models, and researchers said none showed that climate made any significant difference in the hills’ formation. “We’re not contradicting the idea that the modulations exist. We’re contradicting the idea that it leads to the sea floor landscapes,” said Jean-Arthur Olive, author of the latest study.

Renovations uncover Jefferson-designed chemical lab at U. of Virginia: A chemical lab designed by Thomas Jefferson has been discovered in the Rotunda of the University of Virginia during renovations there. The 19th century science classroom, located behind a wall, features a chemical hearth, two fireboxes and five workstations, and officials say it may have been sealed off after the chemistry lab was relocated to another area of the Rotunda. “This may be the oldest intact example of early chemical education in this country,” said the school’s Brian Hogg.

This is awesome!

Bees can become hooked on caffeine, study finds: Honeybees seem to have a weakness for caffeine, a fact some flowers capitalize on to keep the insects coming back for more, a new study suggests. Researchers raised concerns, however, that bees who fixated on plants containing caffeine are more likely to ignore nectar from uncaffeinated flowers. “We saw that if they just had one, three-hour exposure to the caffeinated nectar on the first day, they would come back [to the empty feeder] for many more days, and more often within each day,” said Margaret Couvillon, lead author of the study published in Current Biology.

Fossils of ancient massive shark found in Texas: The 300 million-year-old fossils of a massive shark have been found in Texas. The shark measured about 26 feet, or about 8 meters, long. The shark, which lived during the Carboniferous period, was described at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference in Dallas.

Supposed dinosaur species actually juvenile T. rex, study suggests: Fossils long considered to be from a smaller cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex are actually from a juvenile T. rex, according to findings presented at the Society of Vertebrate Paelontology. A dinosaur skull found in the 1940s was first described as being in the tyrannosaur family, then was re-evaluated in the 1980s as a separate and smaller creature. However, scientists have used 3D computer reconstruction to allow for a more detailed analysis, leading to the conclusion that the skull belonged to a juvenile T. rex.

Seals are effective hunters thanks to shape of whiskers: A seal’s whiskers help it catch prey by sensing external vibrations that help it determine the prey’s shape, size and trajectory, according to a new study published in Smart Materials and Structures. The whiskers have a particular wavy shape that helps them detect prey without being influenced by their own movements, making seals especially effective hunters, researchers say. Scientists constructed large plastic whiskers and tested them underwater to reach their conclusions.

US record for most time in space broken by Scott Kelly: Astronaut Scott Kelly has broken the US record for spending the most time in space. Friday was Kelly’s 383rd day in space, and he’s got quite a few more days to go before he returns to Earth from the International Space Station on March 2. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka is the world record holder for time spent is space: 879 days.

Researchers use robot replicas to study Galapagos lava lizards: Researchers used robot lizards to help them learn more about the evolutionary behaviors of different species of lava lizards that live on the Galapagos Islands. Microlophus grayii reacted in the same way to the robot that resembled it and the robot that resembled Microlophus indefatigabilis, while M. indefatigabilis responded most to the robot that acted most like itself. The findings are described in Animal Behavior.

Data Science Machine can predict human behavior, study suggests: An algorithm is better at predicting human behavior than humans, according to a new study set to be presented at the IEEE Data Science and Advanced Analytics conference this week. Researchers at MIT have developed the Data Science Machine, which seeks out patterns and relevant variables to predict an outcome. In three tests, the machine’s predictions were more accurate than 615 of 906 human teams, researchers said.

Trove of fossils found in Bahamas offers clues about extinctions: An underwater fossil site in the Bahamas is giving researchers clues about what caused extensive extinctions during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests. About 39 of the more than 90 species found among the fossils went extinct, and more than 56% of those died out after humans arrived on the island of Abaco, suggesting that human involvement was the greatest factor. About 44% died out due to climate changes, researchers said.

Dogs likely originated in Central Asia, DNA study suggests: Dogs likely originated in Central Asia about 15,000 years ago, according to a new DNA study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers looked at a diverse group of more than 4,500 canines from 38 countries, including free-ranging dogs. Three sources of DNA from the purebred and street dog subjects worldwide were analyzed.

Drought in Mexico reveals colonial-era church in reservoir: A drought in southern Mexico has revealed the remains of a colonial-era church sunken within a reservoir. The Temple of Santiago, which was abandoned in the mid-1770s due to plagues, was swallowed by the reservoir in the state of Chiapas when a dam in the area was completed in 1966. This is the second time that falling water levels have revealed the church. In 2002, the water receded so much that people could actually walk inside the mid-16th-century building.

Some of Earth’s bacteria could survive in Europa’s salty ocean, researchers say: Some strains of terrestrial bacteria could likely survive in the salty, sulfate-filled oceans of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, a new study suggests. Scientists tested Bacillus pumilus, Halomonas halodurans and Salinibacter ruber in varying concentrations of sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium sulfate and magnesium sulfate, and found that each could adapt. Salinibacter ruber took a specific liking to magnesium sulfate, which is particularly abundant on Europa.

Asteroid to pass close to Earth on Halloween, NASA says: An asteroid will pass about 310,000 miles, or 490,000 kilometers, from Earth on Oct. 31, according to NASA scientists. It will be the closest an asteroid has come to Earth since 2006. NASA scientists just spotted the asteroid about two weeks ago because it is “on an extremely eccentric and a high inclination orbit,” they said, but they said it won’t hit the planet.

400M-year-old mineral grains may hold clues to earliest life on Earth: Life may have existed on Earth about 300 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists found a “chemo-fossil” made up of a particular concoction of carbon isotopes, or “the gooey remains of biotic life or anything more complicated,” said Mark Harrison, the study’s co-author, when they examined zircon mineral grains dating to Earth’s early days.

Hearts age differently in men, women: The hearts of men and women age differently, a long-term study suggests. The muscle around the left ventricle gets bigger and thicker in men, but remains the same size or becomes smaller in women. “Our results are a striking demonstration of the concept that heart disease may have different pathophysiology in men and women, and of the need for tailored treatments that address such important biologic differences,” said Joao Lima, author of the study published online in Radiology.


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Worldbuilding ENFIELDS and Gearing Up for #NaNo

Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! I totally forgot that yesterday was Update day, and with all the posting I’ve done in the past week (the return of Custom Pony of the Week AND Science Tuesday!), you’re probably sick of me. Be prepared, because I have another custom this weekend, and plan to post Science Tuesday again next week ;)

I spent most of the past week world building Enfields. I had a wonderful dream with lush scenery that’s stuck with me so much that I just know that’s the world I’m using. Jungles and mountains and rivers and lots of green and pink and purple. I have yet to name my MC – or any of the other characters – but I’m coming up with a lot of creatures to populate my world. Since enfields are fox/hawk hybrids, I’m mashing together other animals to see what sticks. The angler adder is my favorite so far: it’s a venomous snake with an angler fish’s lure poking out of its forehead to attract prey. It likes to eat enfields.

There’s also a dragon. Cause, you know, dragons.

I finished reading SHRIKE by Emmie Mears this week, and I tell you what: she does not shy away from the body count! I loved it <3 I started SHARPE’S TIGER by Bernard Cornwell (holy 36 page long first chapter!), and I’m listening to HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie. I’m also knee-deep in CPing for two people.

NaNoWriMo is coming up, and if I can get a bit more world building finished for Enfields I think I’m going to give it a try. I haven’t had success with NaNo the past two times I tried it (first with Book of Souls, then with the boring YA version of StO), but I used to be ML and won six years in a row. Either way, it’ll be super fun to go to write-ins again, and I need to get the first draft of Enfields written at some point. Might as well use the energy of NaNo to do it. This will definitely be one of those books where the first draft will be really rough. StO’s first draft was a breeze and pretty damn solid. Enfields will be a hot mess :)

That’s ok. I really like re-writing books *coughsFieEoincoughs*

Mononoke ten feet up in the tree (Ripley is hiding behind her)
Mononoke ten feet up in the tree (Ripley is hiding behind her)

In a bit of chicken news: we had to move the coop because the ladies figured out how to use it to climb the fence and hide up in the trees in the neighbor’s yard. THAT WAS FUN. We managed to get them down without injuring them (or us), and moved the coop to the side of the house where they can jump on the roof instead (we watched them try to figure it out last night. I don’t think they’ll be able to make it). Hopefully we’ll get some eggs next month – they’re getting big! And they definitely aren’t roosters this time.

Have a wonderful weekend, Aledans, and make sure you pop back in on Sunday for a Toothless custom!

Science Tuesday: DNA.LAND, Pluto’s Blue Skies, and a Floating Island of Pain

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Science Tuesday post *coughMAYcough* but now that StO is done and I’m world building Enfields, I have time to read through all my science news emails. So here’s all the science news from October (so far).

Ceres’ bright spots, pyramid-shaped mountain focus of colorful new maps: Colorful new maps of Ceres charted by the Dawn space probe have been unveiled at the European Planetary Science Conference in France. The maps highlight the dwarf planet’s topography and composition, as well as a pyramid-shaped mountain and the Occator crater, where many mysterious bright spots can be found. Dawn scientists are also discussing three bursts of energetic electrons that have them puzzled.

Analysis suggests bones from Bronze Age Britain belonged to mummies: People who lived in Bronze Age Britain may have mummified their dead, according to a review of ancient bones. “The results demonstrate that Bronze Age populations throughout Britain practiced mummification on a proportion of their dead, although the criteria for selection are not yet certain,” researchers wrote in the study published online in Antiquity.

Worms could be answer to world’s plastic waste problem: Mealworms could be key to solving the global problem of what to do with plastic waste, which takes a very long time to biodegrade. A pair of companion studies indicate that mealworms can safely and efficiently eat Styrofoam and plastic, breaking them down in their guts and turning them into “biodegraded fragments that look similar to tiny rabbit droppings” that could be safely used in agriculture, researchers said. The plastic doesn’t seem to adversely affect the worms.

Higher sea levels, stronger storms raise NYC’s flood risk: Increasing sea levels and more powerful storms are placing New York City at a higher risk of flooding than it faced a century ago, researchers say. Flooding events such as Superstorm Sandy should occur only once in 3,000 years but have become more likely to occur once every 100 years, says researcher Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University.

Study links specific genetic variations with reduced risk of malaria: Researchers with Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute and Center for Human Genetics found that genetic variation near glycophorins was associated with a 40% reduction in risk of severe malaria. The study team analyzed the DNA of 25,552 African children, 5,633 of whom had severe malaria. The findings were reported in the journal Nature.

Venus, asteroids among 5 missions chosen for development by NASA: Venus, asteroids and near-Earth objects are the focus of five missions NASA has selected to move forward for development in the Discovery program. The five teams, four of which are headed by women, will receive $3 million each to help them come up with concept designs and analyses before the space agency chooses which mission or missions will receive full funding next September. The chosen mission or missions could take off as soon as 2020.

Volcanoes, asteroid may have killed dinosaurs: Researchers studying ancient lava flows in India say volcanic eruptions, combined with an asteroid strike, caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs some 66 million years ago, according to a report in the journal Science. Lead author Paul Renne, a geochronologist at the Berkeley Geochronology Center, says the lava flow from the Deccan Traps would be large “enough to cover the entire Earth to a depth of something like a meter or so. It’s really big.”

Photos of Pluto moon Charon reveal large valleys: New high-resolution photographs of Pluto’s moon Charon has revealed interesting characteristics on its surface, including a large valley that crosses much of its crust. New Horizons scientists speculate the cracking could have been caused by frozen water that reached the surface of the moon.

Limb-enhancing genes in snakes appear to affect only genital growth: Genes that direct the growth of limbs may also play a role in the development of genitals, especially in snakes, according to new research from the University of Georgia. Researchers found limb-enhancing genes in the genomes of three species of snakes that, when placed in mice, affected the genitals but not the limbs.

Researchers find New Zealand fish jumps out of water to hunt prey: Researchers in New Zealand have discovered that the banded kokopu fish leaps from the water to hunt prey on riverbanks. Researchers became curious after finding terrestrial insects in the stomachs of the fish once thought to eat only whatever prey fell in the water, but experiments showed the fish leave the water to eat wax moth larvae left on the bank.

Study review finds 2 antidepressants ineffective for teens: A reanalysis of data from a 2001 industry-funded study found the antidepressant paroxetine is neither effective nor safe for adolescents with depression. The report in BMJ also concluded that imipramine is not effective for treating depression in teens and is linked to a higher incidence of cardiovascular events. Family physician Ken Schellhase, M.D., commented that the new report shows physicians should be cautious of industry-funded research.

Beaver-like mammal thrived after asteroid wiped out dinosaurs: The remains of a newly found species is giving researchers clues about how mammals survived and thrived after the asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs, a study in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society reports. The large, beaver-like herbivore was part of a group of mammals known as multituberculates, which lived during the Jurassic along with dinosaurs. “Then the asteroid hit … and suddenly — in geological terms — this [group of animals] started to proliferate and get bigger,” said lead researcher Stephen Brusatte.

Ancient massive tsunami caused by volcano’s collapse, study suggests: A volcano erupted and collapsed on the island of Fogo about 73,000 years ago, resulting in a huge tsunami that overtook neighboring Santiago Island, according to findings published in Science Advances. Researchers found evidence that massive marine-type boulders on Santiago Island were pushed 650 feet, or about 200 meters, above sea level by a huge wave caused by the volcano’s collapse. Further, the researchers say a similar event could happen again.

Woolly mammoth remains found in Mich. soybean field: A Michigan farmer has found the remains of a woolly mammoth in his soybean field. Paleontologists called in to excavate the ancient creature have recovered the pelvis, skull, two tusks, both shoulder blades, and several vertebrae and ribs. “We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it,” said dig leader Daniel Fisher.

Study looks at methods blue whales use to eat krill: Blue whales may not be the indiscriminate eaters they were once thought to be, according to a study published in Science. Researchers say the whales have a method for feeding on krill to get the maximum amount of food while conserving energy when the food source is scarce. “For blue whales, one of our main questions has been: ‘How do they eat efficiently to support that massive body size?’ Now we know that optimizing their feeding behavior is another specialization that makes the most of the food available,” said study author Elliott Hazen.

Crows gather around dead brethren to assess threats: Crows that gather around dead comrades aren’t grieving, but are likely trying to determine if there is a threat they should avoid in the future, according to a study published in Animal Behavior. The two-year study used taxidermied crows held by masked volunteers to gauge the reaction of living crows in the area. Researchers found that the crows would make an alert sound if a volunteer was holding a dead crow, but paid no attention if the volunteer was holding nothing.

Scientists develop self-propelled powder to stop bleeding: A self-propelled, gas-generating calcium carbonate powder, which could deliver clotting agents into internal bleeding sites, has been developed by researchers with the University of British Columbia. The study team revealed that the powder was effective at stopping bleeding in animal models with traumatic injuries. The findings were reported in the journal Science Advances.

2 antifungal treatments to be tested against white-nose syndrome: University of California researchers are testing two new ways to combat white-nose syndrome, the deadly fungal disease that has killed over 5.7 million bats in the US since it surfaced in 2006. An antifungal bacterium and chitosan, an antifungal substance made from insect exoskeletons, will be tested in wild bat colonies.

Hog-nosed rat found in Indonesia is new species of mammal: A rodent with big ears, a pointed face and a flat, pig-like nose found in Indonesia is a new mammal species, according to findings published in the Journal of Mammalogy. Dubbed the hog-nosed rat, Hyorhinomys stuempkei was discovered in a remote mountain forest on Sulawesi Island. “To Australians, Hyorhinomys is a bit like a rat version of a bandicoot, with long hind limbs, huge ears and a long, pointed face perfect for slurping up invertebrate prey,” said Kevin Rowe, a researcher at Museum Victoria.

Large animals returning to Chernobyl exclusion zone: Wildlife is returning to the exclusion zone surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, scientists say in findings published in Current Biology. Researchers have conducted a census of animals using aerial surveys and measured the amount of radioactivity in animal tracks left in snow, but did not specifically look at the health effects on the animals. The study looked only at large mammals like elk, wild boar, roe deer and wolves, which have especially thrived with no competition from human hunters in the area.

Carnivorous pitcher plant dines on ants with help from raindrops: Raindrops help the carnivorous pitcher plant gobble up ants, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows. A high-speed camera captured images of raindrops hitting the plant’s leaves, which vibrate, quickly turning the leaf into a springboard and propelling ants crawling on them into the digestive juices in the pitcher, where they drown. “Having a fast movement in a plant is unusual in itself, but having a fast movement that doesn’t require the plant to invest any energy — it just requires it to build the structure — that’s something quite surprising,” said study author Ulrike Bauer.

Scientists develop new mathematical model to weigh stars: University of Southampton scientists have developed a new way to measure stars’ mass using fluidynamics within a pulsar. Researchers created a mathematical model that uses the frequency and magnitude of an arrhythmia in young pulsars’ rotating electromagnetic radiation beams. Their findings are outlined in Science Advances.

Arthur B. McDonald, Takaaki Kajita win Nobel Physics Prize for work with neutrinos: Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo and Arthur McDonald of Canada’s Queen’s University have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work with neutrinos. Kajita and McDonald each worked on teams in the late 1990s that demonstrated that neutrinos do, indeed, have mass. “This year’s prize is about changes in identity among some of the most abundant inhabitants in the universe,” the Nobel committee said in announcing the prize.

Not enough carbon deposits on Mars to account for missing atmosphere: There aren’t enough deposits of carbon on the surface of Mars to have trapped much of the Red Planet’s missing atmosphere, new research suggests. The researchers used data from several Mars missions to estimate how much carbon would be needed for a thick atmosphere. “Even if you combine all known carbon reservoirs together, it is still nowhere near enough to sequester the thick atmosphere that has been proposed for the time when there were rivers flowing on the Martian surface,” said Bethany Ehlmann, co-author of a study published in Geology.

Epic storm in Carolinas produced 11 trillion gallons of rain: The torrential rains that soaked the Carolinas from Oct. 1 through Oct. 5 and caused widespread flooding totaled about 11 trillion gallons, or about 42 trillion liters, an amount NASA said last December parched California needed to end its drought. South Carolina alone recorded 26 inches of rain, mostly in the central and coastal regions, and 16 deaths have been attributed to the flooding.

Oh, hey, I experienced something in Science Tuesday first hand! Our house stayed dry, but my yard is still wet.

Ants link themselves into rafts to survive S.C. floods: Ants are saving themselves from the massive flooding in South Carolina by tightly linking themselves together into rafts, according to observers. The insects’ collective behavior seen in South Carolina is consistent with recent studies. The ants’ rafting behavior is used to protect their queen.

Gene duplication helps spiders develop knees, study suggests: Gene duplication appears to be what gives spiders their knees, according to a new DNA study published online in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The researchers studied the Dachshund gene, which plays a role in limb development, to try to find out why some arachnids had longer legs than others. They didn’t find a difference between the two spider species for their original study, but noticed the gene had been copied in each spider. They went on to study gene expression in spider embryos to find out when and where the duplicated gene was activated.

Homo naledi walked upright, climbed trees, research indicates: The newly discovered human ancestor Homo naledi was adept at walking upright and climbing, and possibly at using tools, according to findings by two research teams published in Nature Communications. One team examined H. naledi’s foot bones and found that they were very much like those in a modern human foot. The other team studied bones from a right hand, and learned that H. naledi was adept at climbing, with a strong thumb and wrist that could have wielded tools, though no tools were found at the South African cave site, where the fossils were discovered.

New examination of Hubble photos shows light from first stars in universe: New analysis of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed faint light from stars formed shortly after the Big Bang, and researchers say this light may come from the first galaxies ever created. The photos were taken by Hubble from 2002 to 2012, showing a vast expanse of more recent stars with seemingly empty patches in areas, which on further examination gave off a faint light. Scientists separated that light from stars and galaxies that formed later using information from the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey and the Cosmic Assembly Near-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey.

3 researchers win Nobel for work on drugs treating parasitic diseases: The Nobel Prize for Medicine has been awarded to three scientists for work that led to new drugs to fight parasitic diseases. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura were awarded half of the prize for their discovery of avermectin, which led to treatments for river blindness and elephantiasis. The other half of the prize was given to Tu Youyou, who discovered artemisinin, a drug used to treat malaria. “These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” the Nobel panel said.

Study to explore communication at the end of life: Lisa Smartt, whose Final Words Project is a collection of final messages collected by relatives and other survivors, will take part in a study at Bryn Athyn College to record and analyze communication by patients in the final weeks of hospice care. The researchers want to examine how communication changes at the end of life, and make the dying process less scary and mysterious for medical practitioners and family.

Fast-moving waves in dust around young star baffle scientists: Strange rippling structures have been spotted by researchers studying a disk of dust around young star AU Microscopii. The scientists reviewed earlier images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and determined that the structures are moving away from the star at high speeds, but just what they are and what’s causing them are still a mystery. “One explanation for the strange structure links them to the star’s flares. AU Mic is a star with high flaring activity — it often lets off huge and sudden bursts of energy from on or near its surface,” said Steward Observatory’s Glenn Schneider, co-author of a study published in Nature.

Trio of DNA researchers awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their groundbreaking work with DNA. Lindahl’s work focused on how cells repair damage to DNA in general, while Modrich discovered ways cells fix DNA replication mistakes when they divide. Sancar’s work mapped the way cells fix DNA damaged by ultraviolet light.

Early evidence of hunter-gatherers in Scotland dug up by pigs: Some of the earliest evidence of hunter-gatherers on the island of Islay in Scotland has been uncovered by foraging pigs released in the area to help clear away bracken. The pigs dug up an array of approximately 12,000-year-old tools, according to findings published in British Archaeology. Archaeologists examined the area and located layers of artifacts from various time periods.

Comprehensive bird family tree created: Scientists have created a comprehensive avian family tree using genome data from 198 species of birds alive today, according to a study in Nature. Researchers focused on the Neoave group, which covers almost all birds, except for some such as chickens, ostriches and ducks. “Any attempt to understand their biology at a broad scale requires an understanding of this deep historical context,” said study co-author Jacob Berv. “It’s critical to every area of bird biology. How they act, where they live, what they look like, how they communicate: it’s all linked to how they evolved in relation to each other.”

Warming sea temperatures resulting in global coral bleaching event: Coral around the world is bleaching due to warming ocean temperatures and could result in a massive loss of coral, particularly in US tropical regions such as Hawaii and possibly continuing through 2016, experts said. “This is only the third time we’ve seen what we would refer to as a global bleaching event, an event that causes mass bleaching in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic-Caribbean basin,” said Mark Eakin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cancer exacerbated by antioxidants, mouse study finds: Taking antioxidants may exacerbate the spread of cancer, according to a new study. Researchers in Sweden found that mice engineered to be susceptible to melanoma developed more tumors in their lymph nodes when given the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine than those that hadn’t had the antioxidant. The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.

Portion of rat brain reconstructed in computer: A group of 82 neuroscientists have built a portion of a rat’s brain in a computer. The reconstruction is the work of the controversial Blue Brain Project, which hopes to complete a rat brain and move on to a human brain one day. The computerized brain section, culled from various cell data, responded like living tissue when brain activity was simulated, according to the lengthy report published in Cell.

Evidence that long-lived lakes once existed on Mars found: Mars once had long-lived freshwater lakes within Gale Crater, increasing the chance that life existed there billions of years ago, according to a new study in Science. Researchers poured over photos the rover Curiosity took throughout its journey to Mount Sharp and found lots of evidence of rivers, lakes and deltas. “If life had evolved on Mars, you now have a habitat which is perpetually wet that would allow microbes to be sustained. Those environments would have existed probably for millions, if not tens of millions of years throughout the rocks that we see,” said John Grotzinger, lead author of the study.

New image reveals Pluto has blue skies: The latest image from New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto shows that the dwarf planet has blue skies much like Earth does. Scientists say tholins, complex organic molecules in the atmosphere, create the blue color, even though the tholins are likely red or gray. “That striking blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles. A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles. On Earth, those particles are very tiny nitrogen molecules,” said Carly Howett, a mission team member.

Genome of 4,500-year-old African man offers clues about migration: DNA from a 4,500-year-old skull found in a cave in Ethiopia is giving scientists clues about migration to and from Africa when compared with modern African DNA, according to findings published in Science. Researchers were able to reconstruct the man’s genome, which revealed that his ancestors had never moved from Africa. When compared with modern African genomes, scientists found that the genetic makeup of Africa changed about 1,500 years after the man’s death.

Gene that suppresses cancer cells abundant in elephants: Elephants have multiple copies of a gene that suppresses cancer cells, according to a pair of independent studies. Elephants boast 20 copies of the p53 gene, compared with the single copy that exists in humans and other mammals. The gene reacts to DNA damage in cells, either repairing them or killing them off.

Researchers look for link between colony collapse disorder, bee parasite: Scientists are looking to see if there is any link between a parasitic fly that plagues bees and colony collapse disorder. Apocephalus borealis leaves its eggs in bees’ stomachs, which causes the bees to abandon their hives, flying erratically until they die, much the same way they abandon their hives in colony collapse disorder. While no link has yet been found, experts say any additional stress on already taxed bees is troubling.

Common mouthwash component in gel form may stave off infections in newborns: A gel containing a high concentration of the antibacterial chlorhexidine, an ingredient common in mouthwash, may help newborns in developing countries fight sometimes fatal infections. GlaxoSmithKline, which developed the gel, is seeking approval from the European Medicines Agency for use on umbilical cords on newborns in developing nations. The company hopes to distribute the gel at a not-for-profit price if it wins the agency’s approval.

DNA.LAND aims to make use of already gathered genome information: Researchers have established DNA.LAND, a project that hopes to persuade people who have had genetic studies done by consumer companies to share their genome information. “Millions of people have access to their genomes, and many more millions will join them in the near future. Can you get to the point that instead of paying for each study from scratch, we can use the crowd to collect and repurpose this data?” said Yaniv Erlich, a computational geneticist and one of DNA.LAND’s founders.

Test could help determine if antibiotics are necessary: A diagnostic test that uses the genetic signature of a patient’s immune response to infection could help reduce antibiotic resistance. The tool, which is set to be described at a Food and Drug Administration workshop this week, is being developed by scientists at the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine in North Carolina. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics even though they don’t know if an infection is bacterial or viral, but the new test would help them know if antibiotics are called for.

Injection could protect people from Lyme disease: Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have developed a vaccine that neutralizes Lyme bacteria within the gut of the feeding tick before the pathogen can enter the host animal’s system. Initial tests showed people developed antibodies after vaccination, and human trials are planned. The goal is a seasonal injection that would protect against a disease that for now cannot be prevented in humans.


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Speak the Ocean is Done! (Which Means: Query Time!)

Happy HAPPY Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m happy to say we didn’t float away in last weekend’s flood, although we weren’t able to leave the neighborhood for a couple days. It made for a soggy birthday, but the chickens loved the rain – it brought up all the worms and they had a feast!

It rained so much even the cats learned to use umbrellas.
It rained so much even the cats learned to use umbrellas.

In even happier news that you might have already guessed from the title: SPEAK THE OCEAN is done! Wooooooo! Erie’s aged up so I can label it Adult instead of NA, and I’ve fixed every crutch word I could find. The last several scenes still make me cry, so I haven’t edited the heart out of it. It’s as ready to query as it’ll ever be, so once my agent list is ready I’m going to send out the first batch!

I’m sick of mermaids.

It’s Enfield time!

I still have a bunch of world building to finish before I can start writing. And I have to figure out what happens in the middle of the book to get from point A to point Z, but I’ll finally have time to devote to it without feeling like I’m procrastinating StO.

While I’m world building Enfields, I may work on re-writing the beginning of Nameless as well. I tinkered with it a bit the past couple of weeks, but didn’t get much done because StO was looming that entire time.

But first I’m celebrating with a glass of wine!

Have a wonderful weekend, Aledan Merfolk! I’m heading to see The Martian since I was rained in last weekend. I can’t wait! I also *gasp* have a custom pony to feature this weekend. In fact, I have TWO! Check back on Sunday for those beauties :)

Changing the Fabric of Fie Eoin’s Culture

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! The past week has been a mind-boggling whirlwind for me. I thought my foot was broken (it’s not – just a burst blood vessel and shoes that rub against it, making it worse), we’ve had three different sets of people come to our house for various upkeep reasons, with another two sets yet to come, and we threw a dinner party on Saturday. One of my coworkers gave us her extra tickets to a Beck concert last spring, so we repaid her with homemade polish-style ribs, pierogies, and sauerkraut (and “Becka Margaritas” which are regular margaritas with an inappropriate amount of tequila. They didn’t go with the polish food, but no one seemed to mind ;P). The female-half of the guests got to play with my ponies and make up, while the male-half talked politics. The female-half had much more fun ;)

The spread for last weekend's dinner party
The spread for last weekend’s dinner party

Last week I mentioned that autumn always turns my thoughts to Fie Eoin, and I did indeed spend most of the past week working on that instead of Speak the Ocean. One offhand comment from Kindra made me realize that I need a god who embodies negativity/chaos. So I’ve changed the pantheon, and thus the entire fabric of Fie Eoin’s culture. Which means I have to re-write the entire damn thing…again. It’s a good thing I love this book so much, because I’m kind of sick of rewriting it.

But Kindra! Whee! It’s hard to get into her heart to write her properly, but I do love it so much when it clicks. And I’ve missed her the past two years.

I have to finish StO first, though. No more playing with Kindra and Gar and Monk until I’ve finished aging Erie up. I got the first two chapters back from a CP, and I’m headed in the right direction, so I just have to keep going. I’m trying to be ready to query by the 15th, so I need to bust my butt and finally get this thing done. Then I can play with Kindra, or with the new character from the Enfields book. I have lots of good ideas for that one, I just have to figure out where everything goes.

Have a good weekend, Aledans. We’re prepping for Hurricane Joaquin and a foot of rain here, as well as my birthday (and the Warrior’s Ceremony in FE’s world). And hey, maybe we’ll have a cut scene on Sunday to celebrate :)

A New Season, A New ‘Do, A New Attitude

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! Yesterday was officially the first day of pumpkin spice season Autumn, and to celebrate I decided it was time for a big change in my life. It’s been a year since I cut my hair, and it was looooong (for me). I hate my hair touching my neck, and it was well past my shoulders at that point, so I went to the salon and told my hairdresser to chop it all off and dye some of it magenta (like Erie!)

Before - look at that lion mane!
Before – look at that lion mane!

He looked HORRIFIED.

And then he talked me into doing copper highlights instead of magenta anything. He claimed it would match my skin tone, but I think really he was just scared that Hubs (who is also his client, and spends more money there than I do) would freak out. And he’s right – Hubs would have shit a brick if I came home with short, magenta hair. I didn’t really care, because mermaid hair, but my hairdresser asked if I trusted him and I said “of course” and then he turned me away from the mirror and got to work.

He put in strips of copper, which gives my whole head a sort of copper tone, but you can definitely see the stripes on the top, which is super funky and I love it. He left the front a little longer (he didn’t want to cut off all that hair, but I felt like a lion with a mane and told him it had to go), and shortened the back up quite a bit. He also did a bit of an asymmetrical cut, so one side is a little bit longer than the other (although you can’t tell in the photos), and the back is cut at a very shallow diagonal. It’s weird and I like it. Hubs loves it. And the hairdresser is super smart, because it’ll be long enough to bug me again soon, so I’ll be back to spend money again soon. Outsmarted once again!

After - you can almost tell that one side is longer.
After – you can almost tell that one side is longer.

Speaking of mermaid hair…I’ve been working on aging Erie up. It’s going pretty well so far, I think. I’m still waiting on CP feedback, but she definitely sounds older. But with fall I always miss Fie Eoin, and I spent much of that haircut yesterday rewriting the first couple scenes of NAMELESS in my head. Which makes me want to write them on paper. And it just so happens that the first fifty pages of Nameless is sitting on the desk next to me gathering dust…

I think we all know what I’ll be doing today.

I’ve read/listened to a bunch of books lately that I haven’t told you guys about. First was THE FOLD by Peter Clines – excellent sci-fi with an interesting premise and really exciting ending (I’m now listening to 14, which is a sort of prequel). Then THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh – the setting was gorgeously done, but it’s a cliff hanger! I will definitely read the second one. QUEEN OF SHADOWS by Sarah J Maas – probably the best of her Assassin books so far. I will ship Chaol/Celaena forever and you can’t make me stop. And SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay – not my usual fare because there’s no fantasy element, but it was so well done that I read almost the entire thing in one day and then re-read the ending the next day. For a YA it had a lot of very adult elements. I was surprised at the number of F-bombs.

So there you have it, Aledans. This summer was rough, but I’ve cut out everything that was weighing me down and it’s time to make autumn awesome. I hope you have a wonderful first fall weekend, and I’ll see you next week!

Pleasantly Surprised

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I woke up an hour and a half early this morning, so I’m a zombie today. Good thing I like brains (no really, fried brains is one of the tastiest foods I’ve ever eaten). Too bad there’s no place that I know of in Charleston that sells them :/

I think my next character will have to like all the offal that I do, just so I can gross people out by writing about it.

In current-character news: I finally figured out how to age Erie up (I hope). I re-wrote her first chapter, and now I’m working on the second. Then I’ll go through and change all the bits that I need to in the rest of it, especially since I dropped a minor character, and a fight scene, and the description of the Mer scales. I definitely need to find a place to add that description back in.

I have to say, it felt damn good to have a pen in my hand again. I’ve been doing all my editing straight onto the computer and I missed handwriting new words. And the writing! Wow. I was pleasantly surprised with how much better it was. I learned a lot writing and editing StO. I’m terrified to go back and look at FE now.

But hey, it won’t be the first time I’ve completely rewritten FE.

Or even the fourth time.


The baby chickens are growing fast and adorably ridiculous as always. They’ve learned how to hop/fly onto the patio furniture and the giant (empty) pots in the backyard. They eat constantly and are always underfoot now, begging for food.

My dad had a couple really rough days because his white blood cell count was so low, but his new bone marrow has started kicking in and making new blood cells for him, so he’s felt much better the past couple days. Hopefully he’ll be out of the hospital early next week, so fingers crossed everyone!

Have a wonderful weekend, Aledans!