The First Day of Spring!

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! Yesterday I saw the first wisteria bloom of the season, and the Aledans here will know what that means: it’s officially spring! Wisteria is the Mother Goddess Aleda’s flower, and blooms when she is reborn into the world (well, into the world in Fie Eoin). Today it was too rainy to see anymore wisteria, but that’s ok because the rain will wash away all the pollen that’s been turning the world green this week. Although that was a pretty appropriate color for St Patrick’s Day.

Today I’m reading through the FE Short for a final time, and deciding on a title that’s better than just “Ocean”. Then I’m hitting “send” on the submission for Women in Practical Armor! I need to do it this week, because next week I’ll be preparing for family to visit and I know I’ll forget all about Ocean and miss the deadline.

StO’s been put on the backburner for now, because I’m just too damn busy and I’m in my reading brain rather than my writing one. I’m also still waiting on the last edit letter for this round (I know my CP finished reading earlier this week, but she stayed up until 4am (!!!) so she needs some time to put her brain back together before I get the notes :D). I did write a new scene last Thursday on my day off from CPing, but I have another new one I need to get to at some point. Probably after family visits. The CP project I’m currently working on will be done before family visits, so I’ll have a week and a half off from CP duties to relax and hang out with family :)

I’m still reading HENNA HOUSE, although I’m nearly finished with it (it’s soooo good. Totally different from what I’ve been reading for the past couple of years, and such a welcome change), and still listening to THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI (that’s taking longer since I only listen while doing chores and getting ready for bed). They are both such beautiful books with richly detailed worlds. Definitely check them out.

Unfortunately there won’t be a Custom of the Week for the next three weeks, since I’m busy every weekend, but I’ll definitely get up Science Tuesday next week, if not the week after (probably not the week after). Have a happy first day of spring tomorrow (officially, not just in FE) and I’ll see you in a few weeks after family has gone home and things are back to normal in my world!

Science Tuesday: Pre-Clovis Tool Found in Oregon, 170-Year Old Beer Smells Like Goat, and Ganymede’s Ocean.

[Photo of agate scrapper by the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History]

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I’ve been enjoying Dogfish Head Brewery’s Ancient Ales lately, but I don’t think I’d try a 170-year old beer that smelled like goat. Would you? Read below to find out more about that beer, as well as all the other fun science news from the past week!

Bird thought to be extinct found in Myanmar: The Jerdon’s babbler, a bird in Myanmar thought to have been extinct for decades, has turned up in a grassland area of the country near the site of a now-abandoned agricultural research facility. Wildlife Conservation Society researchers were investigating the area when they heard and recorded a distinctive bird call. When they played it back, one of the birds came in response, and over the next few days, more of the birds were discovered in the area.

Artificial spider silk created with genetically altered E. Coli: Scientists have fashioned a material similar to spider silk by splicing spider genes into E. coli. The modified bacteria produce artificial silk that is more elastic than the real thing, but isn’t as strong. The process was described in Advanced Materials.

Multiple views of a supernova seen by astronomers: Astronomers have been able to witness the same supernova multiple times because of light rays from a unique galaxy cluster that allowed the Hubble Space Telescope to see multiple images of the star explosion, according to a description of the event published in Science. The four cosmic images of the supernova are arranged in a pattern known as an Einstein cross, allowing astronomers to see, for the first time, the same event at slightly different moments more than once.

Snowflakes aren’t symmetrical, according to cutting-edge camera: Snowflakes are even more complex than previously thought, according to high-speed 3D images taken by a new camera developed to help improve weather-related travel warnings. Images show that not only are snowflakes different from each other, individual snowflakes aren’t symmetrical, as previously thought. The images will help meteorologists get more precise information about precipitation to make better predictions about road conditions, researchers say.

Researchers use muons to locate melted nuclear fuel at Fukushima plant: A team of scientists, including researchers from Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, conducted an experiment last month at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The team used a method that employed particles called muons to search for nuclear fuel that melted inside the plant’s three reactors during the nuclear accident in 2011. “If we can learn at least whether nuclear fuel remains in the reactor’s inner pressure vessel, that will be an important discovery,” said Fumihiko Takasaki, a professor at the research organization.

Ancient tool found at Ore. dig site raises questions: A tiny stone tool found in the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in Oregon may help determine that the ancient site is the oldest area of human occupation in the American Northwest. The tool, a scraper created from orange agate, dates back about 15,800 years. The tool was found under a layer of volcanic ash, causing some to think it may have come from a higher site, so more study is needed.

Iron Age Celtic prince found buried with chariot in France: An elaborate Iron Age tomb found in northwestern France belongs to a Celtic prince, who was buried with his chariot and other unique artifacts, officials with the National Archaeological Research Institute say. “This exceptional tomb contains unique funerary artifacts, which are fitting for one of the highest elite of the end of the first Iron Age,” the institute said in a release. Excavation, which began in October, is schedule to wrap up this month.

Paralyzed stroke patients use robotic gloves to regain hand movement: Scientists at Britain’s University of Hertfordshire have developed robotic gloves fitted with leaf springs and sensors to help paralyzed stroke patients regain hand and arm function. Users play games with the gloves as part of their therapy regimen, and health care providers can monitor their progress remotely. The prototype gloves have been tested on patients and are ready for commercial production, according to the inventors.

Mars Opportunity examines strange rocks as it nears marathon milestone: Some strange rocks have been found by Mars rover Opportunity as it nears Marathon Valley. The rover will examine the rocks more closely before moving on and after NASA scientists have confirmed that a software upgrade is performing as they expect. When Opportunity reaches the valley, it will have traveled the distance equivalent to a marathon in its 11-year journey, giving the valley its name.

Astronomers find new star clusters at edge of Milky Way: New star clusters are taking shape on the edge of the Milky Way, according to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The find has puzzled scientists because stars usually form near the center of the galaxy, not in its outer edges. Astronomers in Brazil, who made the discovery, speculate that either supernovas hurled dust and gas to the outer edges of the Milky Way, or the material came from outside.

Plane begins global journey on solar power alone: Solar Impulse 2, a plane that flies on solar power alone, took off from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday on what may be a historic journey around the world. The plane plans to stop in Oman, India, Myanmar, China and multiple sites in the U.S., then on to Europe or North Africa before it makes it back to Abu Dhabi sometime in July or August, according to Solar Impulse officials. The global journey is meant to showcase green technology, officials said.

Scientists confirm: 170-year-old beer smells really bad: Scientists in Finland ran several tests on beer discovered in an 1840s shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. Among their discoveries? The 170-year-old beer smells “of autolyzed yeast, dimethyl sulfide, Bakelite, burnt rubber, over-ripe cheese, and goat, with phenolic and sulfury notes.”

Spelunkers find Alexander-era coins, jewelry in Israeli cave: Spelunkers exploring a cave in northern Israel found a cache of ancient coins and jewelry dating back to Alexander the Great and leading archaeologists to find further artifacts hidden there. “The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs following his death,” according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. After the initial discovery, archaeologists found pottery and other items dating back between 3,000 and 6,000 years.

Modern sponges may be descended from tiny, 600M-year-old fossil: A tiny fossil dating back 600 million years may be the ancestor to today’s sponges, according to findings reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Eocyathispongia qiania, about the size of the head of a pin, has cells that resemble those of modern sponges, researchers say.

Short-circuit stalls NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity: NASA’s Curiosity rover may have experienced a short circuit in its rock-boring drill arm, causing it to freeze up Feb. 27 after putting some powder it had drilled into its body. “The most likely cause is an intermittent short in the percussion mechanism of the drill. After further analysis to confirm that diagnosis, we will be analyzing how to adjust for that in future drilling,” said Jim Erickson, project manager. Now that NASA scientists think they’ve discovered the problem, they say the Mars rover may have use of its arm again sometime this week.

Heart-on-a-chip helps scientists test cardiac drugs: Bioengineers at the University of California at Berkeley think they are on track to eliminating the need to test new heart medicines on animals, thanks to a new technique that combines human cells with computer chips. The so-called “organ-on-a-chip” could not only speed the time to release of life-saving drugs, but also significantly cut the cost of development, scientists say.

Study indicates ancient historian may be right about establishment of Armenia: The claim of a fifth-century historian — who said he studied ancient Babylonian records to determine that the date of Armenia’s establishment was 2492 B.C. — might be credible thanks to a new study of Armenian genomes. Researchers with the Sanger Institute in the U.K. looked at the genomes of 173 native Armenians and those from Lebanon and found a mixture of populations that came to be between 3000 and 2000 B.C., around the time Movses Khorenatsi said Armenia was established. The findings were posted on bioRxiv last month ahead of a journal publication.

Thousands of 16th-, 17th-century skeletons found at London railroad site: Possibly as many as 3,000 skeletons may be recovered from what was once Bedlam cemetery dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the site of what will soon be London’s Crossrail project. Many of the remains are of people thought to have died during the bubonic plague outbreak that hit London in 1665 as well as from other causes. A team of archaeologists is working to remove remains and artifacts from the site before Crossrail construction can resume.

Dental DNA helps find origins of slaves buried on Caribbean island: A DNA analysis of ancient teeth belonging to a trio of slaves buried on the Caribbean island of St. Martin between 1660 and 1680 have placed the slaves’ origins to specific areas of Africa, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Two of the slaves were traced back to what is now Nigeria and Ghana, while the third most likely came from Cameroon, the scientists said. The DNA gave researchers information not available through records.

Cellular crystals help chameleons change colors: Chameleons rapidly switch around crystals within special skin cells to change their colors, according to a study published in Nature Communications. The study looked at panther chameleons and found the crystals inside cells known as iridophores. “They split the iridophores into two layers, one that is specialized for color change … and one to reduce the amount of energy absorbed by the animal,” said Michel Milinkovitch, the study’s senior author.

Scientists target neurons to hack the memories of mice: Researchers at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution in Paris, France, have succeeded in altering the short-term memory of mice by using electrodes to disrupt neurons associated with place recall. In experiments, the researchers were able to artificially induce place memory by stimulating reward centers of the brain in mice as their neurons were responding to real memories of an experimental arena.

Study: Narcissism in children due to excessive parental praise: Narcissism in children may be the result of parents offering a child too much praise, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam followed 565 children ages 7 to 12 for 18 months and found a small link between growing narcissistic behavior and the amount of praise a parent bestowed, suggesting that older theories about negative parenting causing the behavior may be incorrect.

Evidence of hydrothermal activity found on Enceladus: Scientists have found the first evidence of hydrothermal activity outside of earth on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s icy moons, raising the chance for alien life to be found, according to a study published in Nature. Using data collected over the past 10 years by the Cassini space probe, scientists believe the plumes of dust released by the vapor spewing from Enceladus is silica, which could only have formed under specific circumstances, indicated the presence of hydrothermal activity. “Unless there is something really bizarre happening, we think our interpretation is solid,” said Sean Hsu, an author of the study.

Report raises risk of massive Calif. quake in the next 30 years to 7%: The chance of a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 or higher striking California within the next 30 years has increased to 7%, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the report’s lead author Ned Field.

Study suggests 1610 is the best start date of the Anthropocene epoch: A push to set the date for the beginning of the new geologic epoch, named for mankind’s influence on Earth, is gaining steam. A group of researchers suggests the Anthropocene epoch began in 1610, when Europeans arrived in the Americas, according to a study published in Nature. “We look for these golden spikes — a real point in time when you can show in a record when the whole Earth has changed,” said study co-author Mark Maslin.

Eagle talons were used as adornments by Neanderthals, study suggests: Neanderthals used eagle talons as jewelry, a study published in PLOS ONE suggests. Talons dating back 130,000 years were found in Croatia more than 100 years ago, and an analysis has found marks on them that indicate they were used as ornamentation.

Blue blood pigment helps Antarctic octopus handle wide temperature changes: Antarctic octopi have blue pigments in their blood that helps them deal with freezing water as well as temperature fluctuations caused by climate change, a study published in Frontiers in Zoology reports. “This is the first study providing clear evidence that the octopods’ blue blood pigment, haemocyanin, undergoes functional changes to improve the supply of oxygen to tissue at sub-zero temperatures,” said Michael Oellermann, lead author of the study.

Clones of ancient trees helping to revitalize world’s forests: A program that clones ancient trees is using its saplings to revitalize forests throughout the U.S. and other countries. The nonprofit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Michigan uses tissue samples from venerable trees around the world to create trees that are genetically identical to the original. So far, more than 150 species of trees have been preserved by the cloning process, officials say.

Scientists create self-powering data device that gets its energy from birds in flight: Researchers at Northern Arizona University have created a prototype for a device used for collecting data on birds and other flying animals that relies on the animals themselves for power. The bio-logging device, which is mounted on the animal’s back, harnesses energy from the piezoelectric power generated by the animal’s flapping wings. “As long as the animal is in motion, we can generate power from their movement,” said graduate researcher Ryan Shipley.

Star ring at edge of Milky Way may actually be part of galaxy: A ring of stars surrounding the Milky Way may, in reality, be part of it, increasing the galaxy’s size by 50%, according to a study published in the Astrophysical Journal. Researchers examined the edge of the galaxy using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. “It looks to me like maybe these patterns are following the spiral structure of the Milky Way, so they may be related,” said study co-author Heidi Newberg.

NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission heads into space: NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday night. Four spacecraft detached from the Atlas rocket and will align themselves in the form of a pyramid to study magnetic explosions caused by high-speed particles from the sun hitting Earth’s magnetic field.

Subsurface ocean on Ganymede detected by Hubble: The Hubble Space Telescope has provided evidence that a subsurface ocean exists on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Scientists used data collected by Hubble about Ganymede’s aurora belts that are controlled by the moon’s magnetic fields to construct computer models that would explain the phenomenon. Only a huge subsurface, salt-water ocean could create that scenario, researchers say.

Researchers hope marine database cuts back on redundant identification of species: Many marine species thought to be new really aren’t, and researchers with the World Register of Marine Species, or WoRMS, are compiling a database to help mitigate the misidentifications. So far, WoRMS has found 190,400 species that have been misidentified as new since 2008.

Ideas about hibernation challenged by warm dormant bats: Two species of bats have been found hibernating in caves considered too warm for the practice, a find that challenges long-held assumptions about hibernation. Not only do the two species of mouse-tailed bats hibernate in the warm climes of Israel’s Great Rift Valley caves, they are doing so with warm body temperatures, researchers say. “These bats exhibited dramatic metabolic depression at warm body temperatures in the hottest caves in the desert,” said Noga Kronfeld-Schor, co-author of a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

Study: Onion extract helps reduce blood glucose levels: Research presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society found that onion bulb extract combined with metformin significantly reduced blood glucose and cholesterol levels. “Onion is cheap and available and has been used as a nutritional supplement. It has the potential for use in treating patients with diabetes,” said lead scientist Anthony Ojieh.

Ring indicates early encounters between Viking, Islamic civilizations: A ring found in the grave of a ninth-century woman at the site of a Viking trading center called Birka in what is now Sweden is evidence of contact between Vikings and an ancient Islamic civilization. The ring was first found in the 1800s and an Arabic inscription reads “for Allah” or “to Allah,” according to research published in Scanning. Researchers studied the ring with a scanning electron microscope and found that what was once thought to be amethyst is actually colored glass, an exotic item when the ring was made.

Receipt demonstrates ancient Egyptians’ heavy tax burden: An ancient receipt written on a piece of pottery is evidence of the heavy taxes levied on Egyptians, and in this case heavy is literal. The receipt calls for a total tax payment of 90 talents, a currency unit at the time, and was paid for in coins, weighing approximately 220 pounds, or about 100 kilograms, according to researchers translating several ancient texts at Montreal’s McGill University Library and Archives. The findings are set to be published in the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.

Micronesian coral burial pyramids older than once thought, study suggests: Ancient burial pyramids made of living coral in Micronesia may be older than once believed, according to a study published in Science Advances. “The results of this study lend support to oral histories and other archaeological work on Kosrae suggesting an earlier construction, occupation and use of Leluh,” said coral expert and lead study author Zoe Richards. Uranium-thorium dating suggests that the pyramids might have been built in the 1300s.

Super-thin, flexible material changes colors on demand: University of California at Berkeley engineers have developed an extremely thin and flexible material that can change colors on a whim. “This is the first time anybody has made a flexible chameleon-like skin that can change color simply by flexing it,” said research team member Connie Chang-Hasnain. The material is described in a paper published in Optica.


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A Month of CPing and Historical Fiction

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m so tired today, both because of the time change and because I stayed up late CPing. I had planned to finish today (technically I did, since it was after midnight), but late last night I got to a plot twist that was so good I didn’t even see it coming until the MC spelled it out. It was THAT GOOD. Seriously – someday you’ll see this book on shelves and you’ll remember me typing in all caps telling you to buy it, because you need this book in your life.

Since I’ve been CPing for literally the past month straight I’m taking today off to work on StO. Then tomorrow I’m starting a new CP project that’s due in two weeks, which is perfect because I’ll be getting another CP project in two weeks! I think all my critique partners conspire to send their stuff to me at the same time. Or, you know, fate, since I’m still waiting on one person to send back the third draft of StO :)

HennaHouseI’m a busy little CP bee right now. But that’s ok, because I have three people tied up editing StO and Ocean (who needs an actual title), so it’s not like I’m the only one buzzing around someone else’s words. I’m also reading HENNA HOUSE by Nomi Eve and listening to the audiobook of THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker. My brain was casting around for a bit, not sure what it wanted to read, but it turns out it wanted early twentieth century characters from the Middle East. Who knew? Sorry SFF and YA, I’m back to my original love of Historical Fiction.

GolemJinniI’m going to be around sporadically for the rest of the month because of concerts and family visits, but I do have a Custom of the Week for you this Sunday. And Science Tuesday will continue posting every week, because two-week old science news is no fun. Have a wonderful weekend, Aledans, and I hope the weather where you live is just as spring-y as it has been here!

Science Tuesday: The “Living Buddha”, New Metamaterials, and the City of the Monkey God.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I took a couple weeks off from social media, but I’m back with all the sciencey news goodness you could ever want. Two week’s worth of it – so let’s get started!

Rising ocean acidity threatens shellfish, study suggests: The changing acidity of the oceans may soon affect the shellfish market, a study suggests. The oceans are becoming more acidic, and some shellfish larvae, which aren’t yet protected by strong shells, have begun dying as a result, according to researchers. “We looked at all the coasts around the United States. There are more places vulnerable than we previously thought. That said, every region has a unique set of factors that makes it vulnerable. Understanding what makes you vulnerable is useful to guide how you will adapt,” said Julia Ekstrom, the study’s lead author.

Large number of opsins gives dragonflies diverse color vision, study finds: Dragonflies’ large eyes have 11 to 30 types of light-sensitive opsins, giving them extremely diverse color vision, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers looked at 12 species of dragonfly. “It’s likely that they have better color discrimination than humans,” said Ryo Futahashi, one of the study’s authors.

Researchers trace fungi, plants’ symbiotic partnership in genome study: Fungi, and the plants that grow above or around them, have a symbiotic relationship that goes back millions of years, according to a study of 49 fungal genomes. The mycorrhizal fungi have evolved what researchers call a toolkit of genes for symbiosis to provide the plants with minerals while extracting sugars from the plants. The findings were published in Nature Genetics.

New virus found in blood of man who died after tick bite: A new tick-borne virus has been identified in the U.S., according to a report in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The Bourbon virus, named for the Kansas county where a man died last spring after contracting the virus, is a member of the thogotovirus family. Researchers studying the man’s blood used advanced molecular detection to confirm the presence of the previously unknown pathogen.

Monk’s mummified remains found inside ancient Buddha statue: The mummified remains of a monk who died around 1100 have been found encased in a Chinese statue of the Buddha. Researchers put the statue into a CT scanner and took samples of the mummy with an endoscope, which found scraps of inscribed paper in the spaces that once held organs. Scientists suggest the monk may have been practicing a form of self-mummification to achieve status as a “living Buddha.”

Babies given peanut butter less likely to develop allergy, study suggests: Peanut allergies might be avoided or eased by giving infants small amounts of peanut butter, according to a new study. Researchers say babies at risk for peanut allergies that are exposed to peanut butter aren’t as likely to develop the allergy as those babies who avoid peanuts in infancy. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Repeated bouts of plague in Europe may have come from gerbils in Asia: Asian gerbils, rather than European rats, were responsible for periodic outbreaks of bubonic plague from the mid-1300s to the early 1800s, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports. Previously, researchers believed that once the initial germs came from Asia, they remained on local rodents to repeatedly infect Europeans during that period. Study co-author Nils Stenseth said the weather conditions in Europe weren’t right for a large rat population in the years of the outbreaks.

Bacterial life found at deepest point of Mariana Trench: Tiny bacteria flourish in the deepest recesses of the Mariana Trench, particularly heterotrophs, which are unable to create their own food and must find sustenance in their surroundings, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The microbes were discovered in Challenger Deep, the lowest part of the Mariana Trench, where they most likely dine on material that drifts down from above or is released from landslides, scientists suggest.

Chromosomes shortened in lower ranking hyenas, study suggests: Hyena chromosomes become shortened as a result of stress, a study published online in Biology Letters suggests. A DNA study of African savanna hyenas lowest in the pack’s pecking order found that the stress of having to search longer and harder for food shrinks their telomeres, setting off a chain reaction that can end in cell death.

Numbers of rare Amur leopard on the rise, survey finds: The Amur leopard population appears to be on the rebound, with their numbers jumping to about 69, up from 30 found in 2007, according to a count of the rare felines. “Such a strong rebound in Amur leopard numbers is further proof that even the most critically endangered big cats can recover if we protect their habitat and work together on conservation efforts,” said Barney Long of the World Wildlife Fund.

Eyes stay lubricated with help from lashes, study suggests: Lengthy lashes help keep mammals’ eyes lubricated, according to a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Researchers studied an array of creatures and found that eyelashes are consistently one-third the length of the width of the eye, the perfect size to redirect airflow around the orb, keeping evaporation at bay.

Giant black hole 12 billion times the size of the sun discovered: A black hole 12 billion times larger than our sun has been found, causing scientists to question common theories about how these celestial objects grow. “Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory,” said Fuyan Bian of Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The black hole came into being about 900 million years after the Big Bang, researchers estimate.

Study tracks how much Saharan dust travels by wind to the Amazon: The wind-borne journey of tons of dust from the Sahara desert to the Amazon basin has been tracked by NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation satellite, showing just how much of it is carried across the Atlantic each year. According to data, 28.8 million tons, or 26 metric tons, of Saharan dust travels to the Amazon annually, helping to fertilize the rainforest with phosphorus.

Scientists detail wounds that caused ancient pharaoh’s death: Scientists have forensically reconstructed how an early king of the Abydos Dynasty died in battle about 3,600 years ago. Pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay’s remains were found last year in a tomb 300 miles, or 483 kilometers, from Cairo. “The king’s skeleton has 18 wounds that penetrated to the bone. The trauma includes major cuts to his feet, ankles, and lower back. Multiple blows to Senebkay’s skull show the distinctive size and curvature of battle axes used during Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period,” said Josef Wegner, who led the expedition.

Human head transplant could be proposed this year: A controversial plan to transplant a human head onto a donor body by 2017 could be announced at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons conference in June. Sergio Canavero is trying to gather support for his idea, which has raised questions of ethics within the scientific community. “If people don’t want it in the U.S. or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else,” he said.

Baby woolly rhino found frozen in Russia, scientists say: The remains of an ancient baby woolly rhinoceros, which paleontologists have dubbed Sasha, have been found preserved in permafrost in Russia’s Sakha Republic, and scientists are anxious to study it. “Woolly rhinos are less studied than mammoths. We are hoping Sasha the rhino will give us a lot of answers to questions of how they grew and developed, what conditions they lived in, and which of the modern day animals is the closest to them,” said Albert Protopopov, who runs the Mammoth Fauna Department at the Sakha Republic Academy of Sciences. Researchers will first look for DNA in the well-preserved carcass.

Study finds Cope’s rule might be true for marine animals: Marine animals have evolved over time to be larger, which supports Cope’s rule, according to researchers from Stanford University. Scientists studied fossil records from as far back as 542 million years ago, and found that, over all, the size of marine mammals has increased 150%. “For a long time, people have had this hypothesis that there’s not much directional trend in evolution, that random events and random drift can produce increasing size or complexity. That model just isn’t compatible with the trends we see,” said lead study author Noel Heim.

Researchers describe 2 new species of peacock spiders: Scientists have identified two new species of peacock spiders in Australia. Maratus jactatus looks similar to other peacock spider species, with blue and red stripes adorning its abdomen, while Maratus sceletus “looks dramatically different [from] all other peacock spiders known to date, making me think that this group is perhaps much more diverse than we had thought,” said entomologist Jurgen Otto, co-author of the report in Peckhamia.

Ancient reptile’s bite more powerful than Tyrannosaur’s, scientists say: An ancient ancestor of the caiman that lived in what is now the Amazon 8 million years ago had a bite much stronger than that of a Tyrannosaurus rex, according to findings published online in PLOS ONE. Paleontologists determined that the prehistoric reptile Purussaurus brasiliensis’ skull and teeth were better structured to snap up prey than T.rex. “The Purussaurus and the Tyrannosaurus lived in different ages but there is no doubt that the Purussaurus would have won a fight between the two of them,” said study co-author Aline Ghilardi.

Bright spots seen on Ceres: Bright spots seen on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres in photos taken by the approaching Dawn space probe are puzzling scientists. “Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations,” said Dawn Mission principal investigator Chris Russell. The probe is getting closer to Ceres, and will eventually be able to give researchers more information about the dwarf planet.

Woman’s grave found close to Richard III burial site: A woman’s bones were found in an elaborate burial site not far from the site where King Richard III’s remains were found within the ruins of a medieval monastery in England. The remains were found in a lead coffin that itself was encased in limestone. Researchers had been expecting to find the remains of friars or knights alongside those of the king, but were surprised to find the graves of four women, including the one in the lead coffin.

Study of DNA in parchment helps track ancient animal breeding: Researchers have used next-generation DNA sequencing on historical parchment to help determine how animals were selectively bred during the 17th and 18th centuries. The hide of various animals were used in the creation of parchment during this period. “The genome change in sheep is a big deal in this period. A lot of England’s wealth is built around the wool trade, and in terms of breeding, this is where it’s happening. So [this work] opens up a tantalizing window as to what a more concentrated analysis might reveal,” said Daniel Bradley, one of the researchers.

Sight may trump smell for hungry cats: The results of a small study suggest that cats may rely more on their sight than on their sense of smell for finding food. “Up until now we really thought that the sense of smell would dominate how cats view their world, but we are now reconsidering this and also the implications of how we manage them,” said lead researcher Evy Mayes. The findings were reported in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Sunlight a useful tool for great white sharks during attacks, study finds: Great white sharks may hide themselves in the sun’s glare while hunting prey, according to a study published in The American Naturalist. Scientists watched as sharks approached prey, noticing that they came from whatever direction the sun was, appearing to cloak themselves in the glare. If the sun was obscured, the sharks didn’t use a specific angle of attack, again suggesting that they used sunlight to their advantage, researchers said.

Clean-up method uses iron balls to attract, capture uranium: Tiny balls of iron can capture uranium within liquid, then be picked up by a magnet, a method that can be helpful in cleaning up radioactive spills or at nuclear power plants, according to research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The method was developed by Tongji University’s Lan Ling and Wei-xian Zhang, who are environmental engineers.

Researchers capture image of light as both wave and particle: Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have developed a technique to photograph light acting as a wave and a particle. “This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics — and its paradoxical nature — directly. Being able to image and control quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale like this opens up a new route towards quantum computing,” said research team leader Fabrizio Carbone.

Recently discovered galaxy too young to be so dusty, researchers say: Scientists have found a young dusty galaxy in the cluster Abel 1689 that they say shouldn’t exist. The dim galaxy, called A1689-zD1, is too young to have so much dust, which is typically seen in much larger and brighter galaxies, researchers say. The findings were published in Nature.

Photographs show micro-bacteria exist: High-powered microscopes have revealed the existence of micro-bacteria and likely show life at its tiniest, according to research published in Nature Communications. This is the first photographic proof of their existence, following years of scientific debate. “These newly described ultra-small bacteria are an example of a subset of the microbial life on earth that we know almost nothing about. They’re enigmatic,” said Jill Banfield, an author of the study.

Forests’ CO2 absorption may be hurt by insects, researchers say: As the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases, trees should increase their photosynthesis, turning forests into a vital carbon sink. But there’s a catch, researchers say: Increased CO2 also means less protein in plant leaves, which drives leaf-eating insects to consume far more greenery. Increased insect activity could reduce forests’ additional carbon uptake by as much as 50%, studies show.

Impacts on early Earth may have brought about rain of iron, study suggests: A vaporized form of iron may have rained on early Earth after the planet was hit by objects from space, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. Researchers collided small samples of aluminum and iron at super speeds. The collisions resulted in the iron eventually turning to vapor at a pressure much lower than they expected, suggesting that when meteors hit early Earth, they similarly caused iron to vaporize and later rain over a wide area.

Archaeologists find remains of 200 people in medieval mass grave in Paris: The skeletons of 200 people have been found in a mass grave underneath a Paris supermarket in what was once a medieval cemetery. “The fact that so many people were buried together, that the grave is this large, tends to show us that there was a major mortality crisis. The crisis may have resulted from an epidemic, famine or extreme fever,” said Isabelle Abadie, the lead archaeologist at the dig. Further tests are planned to discover what caused their deaths.

Study: Mass migration from east may be root of modern European languages: There were two major migrations across Europe, the second of which brought the languages that would later become the modern form of European and English speech, according to a DNA study published in Nature. “First there are early hunter-gatherers, then come farmers, then farmers mix with hunter-gatherers — then comes a new population from the east, which is the major migration,” said geneticist Iosif Lazaridis, a study co-author. The second wave was found to have come from what is today Russia and Ukraine about 4,500 years ago.

Microbes can be used to clean fracking wastewater, study finds: A study conducted by University of Colorado Boulder scientists found that microbes can be used to clean hydrocarbon-rich wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing. The microbes can consume the hydrocarbons and generate electric current that eliminates salt from the wastewater, according to the study published in Environmental Science Water Research & Technology. “If we can … reuse the water, the companies don’t need to buy new water, and they could even make money from selling it to other users like farmers,” said Zhiyong Jason Ren, co-author of the study.

New technique gives researchers 3D view of virus: A new technique has allowed researchers to create a 3D image of a virus, according to a report in Physical Review Letters. Physicists took information from a 2D diffraction pattern to create a 3D look at a mimivirus that shows not only what the virus looks like on the outside, but also its internal structure. The researchers say the technique can be used to learn more about potentially dangerous viruses like flu, herpes and HIV.

Jawbone found in Ethiopia pushes back human lineage: The discovery of a fossilized jawbone that dates back 2.8 million years has pushed back the origins of the genus Homo, according to a study published in Science. The jawbone, which holds five teeth, is likely a new species of the genus, and was found in Ethiopia. However, “we are awaiting more material before definitively naming a new species,” said lead researcher Brian Villmoare.

Archaeologists believe they’ve found the City of the Monkey God: Archaeologists believe they’ve discovered a long-rumored city referred to by names including City of the Monkey God in an undisclosed location within the Honduran rainforest. The site remained undiscovered until scientists used laser-mapping tools to find its untouched remains.

3D technique used to measure weight of Stegosaurus: A new 3D scanning technique was used to estimate the living weight of Sophie, a Stegosaurus stenops skeleton housed at the Natural History Museum of London, according to a report published in Biology Letters. The weight was estimated to be 3,527 pounds, or 1.6 metric tons, which is the same as the estimate of its weight using traditional methods, leading researchers to conclude that their initial estimate is accurate.

Mars could help answer questions about Earth’s Little Ice Age: Drilling a borehole into Mars could provide clues about what may have caused the Little Ice Age that enveloped Earth from 1300 to 1870, a study in Icarus reports. Scientists have long debated whether the Little Ice Age was the result of a change in solar activity or due to volcanoes. Study author Ralph Lorenz said that if Mars shows signs of an ice age, then it would support the theory that a drop in solar activity was to blame for Earth’s lengthy cold snap.

Answer to puzzling sun question may be found in dark matter, scientists say: Scientists are looking to mysterious dark matter to help them solve a mystery about the sun. About 10 years ago, researchers discovered a discrepancy in the amount of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in the sun and they’ve been puzzling over it ever since. Now physicists wonder if asymmetric dark-matter particles could be involved, and if they are, “we should be on the cusp of seeing it very soon,” said astroparticle physicist Aaron Vincent, lead author of the study published in Physical Review Letters.

New metamaterials have scientists abuzz at conference: An array of metamaterials have scientists buzzing at the American Physical Society’s March Meeting. Among the items touted at the meeting are a lattice of metamaterial that can make whatever is underneath it unable to be felt; a programmable sponge-like material that can be stiff, soft or somewhere in between depending on the user’s needs; and tiny ceramics that can return to their original size after being squashed.

Synthetic molecule could stop cancer cell proliferation: Scientists at Bielefeld University in Germany have developed a synthetic molecule that appears to interfere with the proliferation of cancer by binding to DNA and blocking replication. The molecule has two copper ions at one end that are drawn to the DNA phosphates. The molecules outperformed a common chemotherapy drug when tested on cancer cells. The study appeared in the journal Inorganic Chemistry.


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Science Tuesday: Contacts with Zoom, Ant Colony Toilets, and a New Species of Sea Dragon

(Image of Ruby Red Seadragon by Josefin Stiller , Nerida G. Wilson , Greg W. Rouse [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! We have a full platter of science news for the week, so let’s get right to it!

Strange haze in upper Mars atmosphere has scientists scratching their heads: Scientists are stumped by a haze that appeared twice in the southern Mars atmosphere in 2012, lasting for days each time. An amateur astronomer first noticed the plume that was later confirmed by a team of international scientists, who speculate that the haze could be a large cloud or a particularly bright aurora, but “it raises more questions than answers,” noted European Space Agency planetary scientist Antonio Garcia Munoz, co-author of a paper on the plume published in Nature. He points out that if either explanation is correct, it would mean current theories about Mars’ upper atmosphere are incorrect.

Satellite images show new deltas forming off La. coast: Two new deltas have formed in Louisiana, protruding into the Gulf of Mexico, satellite images have revealed. Louisiana has been slowly losing land, and the discovery of the new deltas is offering clues on how to slow land loss. “We are looking carefully at the Wax Lake and Atchafalaya deltas as models for building new land and preserving some of our coastal marshlands,” said Harry Roberts, a coastal studies researcher.

National Park Service map shows patterns of sound across the U.S.: The eastern U.S. is louder than the West, according to a sound map created by the National Park Service that uses computer algorithms to assess the loudness of a summer day across the country. The map, released Monday during the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, includes natural as well as man-made sounds and could be useful to urban planners, biologists and the Park Service itself as it works to preserve “natural quiet.” A second version of the map shows the U.S. soundscape without human sounds, with the West still quieter than the East.

Research absolves humans in extinction of Alaskan mastodons: Humans weren’t responsible for the extinction of the Alaskan mastodon, according to research that puts the creatures in the region much earlier. “For at the least the story of the mastodon, we now know for what we call Beringia — Alaska, parts of Yukon and over into northeastern Asia — they were wiped out in those areas for things that had nothing to do with humans, because they all died out before there were humans there,” said Pat Druckenmiller, a co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Druckenmiller and his colleagues re-examined about 40 fossil specimens and redated them to about 120,000 years ago.

Tuscany cemetery offers clues to 1850s cholera epidemic, researchers say: Skeletons found in the cemetery of the Badia Pozzeveri church near Lucca in Tuscany are offering archaeologists clues about the cholera epidemic that killed thousands of people in the 1850s. “To our knowledge, these are the best-preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found,” said Clark Spencer Larsen, an archaeologist at Ohio State University who reported on his team’s findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The scientists are searching the soil where the skeletons were buried in search of cholera DNA to compare it with today’s strain to see how it has evolved.

Advanced contacts include telescopic zoom feature: A team of scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has developed an innovative set of contact lenses that includes a telephoto-like feature that enables users to zoom in on faraway objects. The wearer can, with specialized glasses, toggle between normal and magnified viewing modes by blinking, and researchers say the lenses could be good for people who have macular degeneration.

Space-age technology helping curb zoonotic diseases: With the help of satellites, researchers are learning to predict high-transmission areas for certain zoonotic diseases including schistosomiasis and chikungunya virus. The satellites garner information such as where and how species involved in transmission move. Combining this information with data on human populations is being used to predict and ultimately reduce disease transmission.

Study: There was enough nitrogen 3.2B years ago to sustain life: There was plenty of nitrogen around 3.2 billion years ago to sustain many basic lifeforms such as bacteria or viruses, suggesting that life came to be on Earth about a billion years earlier than previously thought, according to a study published in Nature. Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Johannesburg studied rocks between 2.75 billion and 3.2 billion years old, finding abundant nitrogen, an essential gene building block.

Latest images of Ceres enthrall, baffle NASA scientists: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is drawing ever nearer to Ceres, giving scientists more tantalizing images of the dwarf planet. “As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser. We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled,” said Dawn mission principal investigator Chris Russell. Dawn is expected to enter orbit around Ceres on March 6.

Acidity of Earth’s oceans seen in satellite data maps: The acidity of ocean water can be seen in maps created using satellite images, indicating a rise in carbon dioxide absorbed by the seawater. Scientists at the University of Exeter in the U.K. used satellite data to create global maps charting areas of ocean acidity. “We are pioneering these techniques so that we can monitor large areas of the Earth’s oceans, allowing us to quickly and easily identify those areas most at risk from the increasing acidification,” said Jamie Shutler, leader of the study published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Divers find ancient gold coins off the coast of Israel: About 2,000 gold coins dating back about 1,000 years have been found by amateur scuba divers in an ancient harbor off the coast of Israel, raising the possibility of an ancient shipwreck somewhere in the vicinity. “There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat, which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected. Perhaps the treasure of coins was meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid [Kingdom] military garrison, which was stationed in Caesarea and protected the city,” said Israel Antiquities Authority official Kobi Sharvit.

New species of ichthyosaur discovered in museum storage room: A new species of ichthyosaur has been identified from a long-forgotten fossil in the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery in the U.K. For 30 years, the fossil was thought to be a plaster copy until a paleontologist spotted it was the real thing, according findings published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The 189-million-year-old species has been named Ichthyosaurus anningae.

Ant colonies have designated waste areas, study finds: Ants have designated places in their colonies where their waste is kept, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. Researchers dyed food for black garden ants red and blue, resulting in feces that also retained those colors, and found that the feces accumulated in the corners of the colony, away from the living space. Why the ants keep their waste inside the colony as opposed to moving it outside remains unclear, the scientists say.

Giant bed of manganese nodules found deep in Atlantic Ocean: An extensive bed of round manganese nodules of varying sizes has been found along the Atlantic seafloor between South America and Africa. Researchers on a German ship had dragged a mesh net to gather marine life several hundred miles off the coast of Barbados when they brought up balls of manganese ore instead. Although manganese nodules are not unheard of on the ocean floor, this patch is the largest ever found in the Atlantic, according to scientists.

Some raindrops surpass terminal velocity in race to the ground, study suggests: Some raindrops outstrip others, moving faster than terminal velocity, according to a study in Geophysical Research Letters. The study, which builds on earlier research by the same scientists, measured the speeds of 1.5 million raindrops as they passed through laser beams during six storms in South Carolina. “Occasionally, smaller drops fall more than 10 times faster than expected. On average, small drops move about 30 percent faster than expected, but it depends on rain type and strength,” said researcher Alexander Kostinski.

Smaller moons seen orbiting Pluto and Charon in New Horizons images: The New Horizons spacecraft has captured images of Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra as they orbit the dwarf planet and its other moon Charon. New Horizons will continue observing the smaller moons’ orbits through March 6, when the spacecraft will take a break to downlink data before starting observations again April 5.

Genetic technique may protect against HIV infection, study suggests: Researchers have successfully protected monkeys from HIV infection by using non-life-threatening viruses to change the creatures’ genomes to produce antibody-like molecules that neutralize HIV, according to a study published in Nature. Since traditional kinds of vaccines have been ineffective in protecting against HIV infection, researchers say this technique could be developed as a kind of vaccine for HIV. Scientists say more study is needed before testing can be done with humans.

Neanderthals interbred with ancient Asians at 2 points in history, studies suggest: Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of Asians twice in ancient history, according to a pair of studies published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. The studies approached the same question from different directions, but came to the same conclusion, looking at why Asians have more Neanderthal DNA than Europeans. According to the studies, ancient Asians must have come in contact with Neanderthals a second time after splitting off from Europeans.

Marine animals a lot larger today than ancient counterparts, study finds: Marine animals are about 150 times larger on average today than their ancient ancestors of the Cambrian period, a study published in Science suggests. Researchers compared the measurements of animals from more than 17,000 genera over a 542 million-year time span. Today’s smallest creatures are a tenth the size of their ancient counterparts, but the largest, whales, are more than 100,000 times bigger than their ancestors. “Classes of animals that were already big … tended to persist longer and diversify more than classes that were, on average, smaller,” said paleontologist Noel Heim, co-author of the study.

Study: Bottlenose dolphins moved to the Mediterranean at end of last ice age: Bottlenose dolphins came to the Mediterranean Sea about 18,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, according to a study published in Evolutionary Biology. Before that, the Mediterranean would have been too salty for many sea creatures to live in. But as ice age glaciers melted, it became less salty and fish and other marine life moved in, followed by hungry bottlenose dolphins, researchers say.

Toxins cocktail helps bees fight off parasites, study suggests: Bees given a concoction of toxins, including nicotine and caffeine, were better able to ward off infection by intestinal parasites, researchers have found. The toxins, taken from plants that use the substances to discourage predators, helped reduce parasite infection levels by up to 81% in the bees and one day may help farmers and gardeners improve their bees’ health. “Having bees consume these protective chemicals could be a natural treatment of the future,” said evolutionary ecologist Lynn Adler, lead author of the study published in the Royal Society’s Proceedings B journal.

Scientists measure strength of winds surrounding a black hole: NASA and European Space Agency scientists say they have calculated the size, shape and speed of winds that ring black holes, helping them understand how they affect their galaxies. Researchers looked at winds surrounding black hole PDS-456 in a galaxy 2 billion light-years from Earth, and found that the gusts contain more energy per second than a trillion suns, blowing strongly enough to stop star formation. “Now we know quasar winds significantly contribute to mass loss in a galaxy, driving out its supply of gas, which is fuel for star formation,” said Emanuele Nardini, lead author of the study published in Science.

Skin damage continues long after sun exposure, study suggests: Damage to skin from sun exposure may continue long after coming inside, and melanin, long thought to help protect skin from the damaging effects, may play a role, according to research. The study, published in Science, found that melanin is broken apart by a reaction to two enzymes forming a high energy molecule that damages cells long after sun exposure. While melanin can protect people from short-term damage, “it also causes some of it. It was an interesting finding, but it felt kind of heretical,” said Douglas Brash, author of the study.

Ice may exist hidden in Martian hills, ESA observations suggest: The Phlegra Montes in Mars’ northern hemisphere may be hiding deposits of ice, observations by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express suggest. The hills were covered by glaciers hundreds of millions of years ago, geological evidence suggests, and researchers think ice could be hidden not far beneath their surface.

Search for alien life on Europa begins with NASA workshop: Ideas on how best to search for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa were discussed at a workshop last week at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Funding has been allocated in the 2016 budget request for NASA’s mission to Europa, which scientists believe holds the best chance for harboring life, but what kind of life and whether we’d be able to recognize it are questions the workshop hoped to help answer. “Europa is clearly such a prime target for astrobiology that having a workshop like this to try and figure out all the ways in which we could possibly sample its ocean … [is] critically important,” said astrobiologist Kevin Hand, who attended the meeting.

Dark matter may have played a role in mass extinction events, study suggests: The cataclysmic events that cause mass extinctions on Earth about every 30 million years may be the result of the planet’s interaction with dark matter, according to findings reported online in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Previously, researchers have noticed that mass extinctions seem to happen when our solar system passes through the plane of the Milky Way, suggesting that the gas and dust encountered may trigger comet collisions or geological upheaval. The study suggests that passing through dark matter may have the same effect.

Modern cities’ growth mirrors that of ancient ones, study finds: There are many similarities between the growth of modern cities and ancient ones, according to archaeological data gathered by researchers, who suggest that social behaviors play a big role in developing urban spaces. Researchers used data collected on the pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico to make their initial comparisons and hope to test it on other ancient sites and cultures. “It implies that some of the most robust patterns in modern urban systems derive from processes that have been part of human societies all along,” said anthropologist Scott Ortman, a co-author of the study published in Science Advances.

Thunderstorms drawn to large cities more than rural sites, study finds: Large cities have more thunderstorms than rural areas, according to research published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. Researchers studied radar data collected between 1997 and 2013 and hope their findings can help cities prepare for these events. “City planners, meteorologists and citizens who live in or near large urban areas should be aware of the increased risk,” said study lead author Alex Haberlie. “These storms can produce dangerous weather hazards, including lightning, hail, strong winds and flash floods, often with little or no warning.”

New species of seadragon found: A third species of seadragon has been discovered, the first new species of the sea creature found in 150 years. Scientists analyzing tissue samples found a DNA sequence that was unlike other seadragons and requested the full specimen, and knew they were seeing something brand new. “If we can overlook such a charismatic new species for so long, we definitely have many more exciting discoveries awaiting us in the oceans,” said study co-author Nerida Wilson.

Skeletons of embracing couple discovered in Greece: Archaeologists excavating the Alepotrypa Cave in Greece found 5,800-year-old skeletons of a man and woman embracing. The cave has been called a “Neolithic Pompeii,” and is one of the largest burial sites of that period. Researchers found two other Neolithic double burials as well as a Mycenaean ossuary dating back 3,300 years holding bone fragments of several individuals, as well as numerous artifacts.


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I Re-read Nameless for Shits and Giggles. It’s More Shit than Giggles.

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! It’s been a busy week around here, mostly because my instrument at work has been acting wonky for the past two weeks. I finally figured out why yesterday afternoon: my dumbass switched two of the three columns and connected them to the wrong place. Whee! I’ve reconnected them to the correct places and now I’m waiting for my instrument to normalize again.

My instrument (HP 6890 ECD)
My instrument – a HP 6890 ECD

In writing news: I got my critiques back for the FE short story, and the plot seems to be pretty solid so I’m mostly working on making the words pretty now. I really suck at pretty words, so I have two new CPs to help me :) When this draft is finished I’m sending it to a final person (who’s read FE and has some idea of the world), and then I’ll be sending it in to the anthology and crossing my fingers!

Since I’ve been hanging out in FE world lately I decided to read Nameless for shits and giggles last weekend. HAHAHAHAHA! *cries* It turns out I learned a lot writing and editing StO last year. Nameless is going to need the first 2/3 re-written…again. The last third is solid, at least. And the plot is still good, it’s just the writing that sucks. I’m so glad I spent a whole year sending that abomination out to agents.

I need a drink.

Good thing Sunday is National Margarita Day! I tried to find a margarita-themed custom pony, but could only find drawings. In my searching I did find a few awesome customs to feature though – I’m just waiting on the OK from the customizers. Hopefully one of them will get back to me before Sunday so I can post CPotW this week!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Aledans :)

Science Tuesday: The Big Bang Is Bunk, The Dark Side Of The Moon, and Dino LSD.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! There was lots of science news in the past week, so let’s get right to it!

Researchers find evidence of dark matter at center of Milky Way: A team of researchers say they’ve shown that dark matter exists at the center of the Milky Way, according to a study published online in Nature Physics. They studied data about the movement of stars at the galaxy’s center to see how that varied with those distanced from the center, then figured out how fast those stars would be moving if only normal matter was pulling on them. The researchers found that two speeds didn’t line up, suggesting that dark matter plays a role.

Stars at center of strange nebula on course to merge and explode: A pair of white dwarf stars locked in a tight orbit with each other have been seen at the center of an unusually shaped nebula, according to a report in Nature. “When we looked at this object’s central star with [the European Southern Observatory’s] Very Large Telescope, we found not just one but a pair of stars at the heart of this strangely lopsided, glowing cloud,” said Henri Boffin, an author of the paper. Eventually the stars will merge and explode, the scientists say.

Armstrong’s souvenirs from moon landing on display at Smithsonian: Items meant to be left on the moon as excess baggage were kept by Neil Armstrong after the historic Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 as personal mementos that his widow found after his death in 2012 and turned over to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “What many of the astronauts did once things were surplus and basically not required for science or other missions … certain items that astronauts have managed to keep as sort of personal momenta. Control handles, or something like that,” said Apollo collection curator Allan Needell. Among the items now on display at the gallery are a camera used to film the landing and spacewalk, and a waist tether.

Researchers use microbes to create fuel from sunlight: A team of researchers has developed a system that uses microbes to convert solar energy into fuel, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team of Harvard scientists put Ralstonia eutropha into a jar, encouraging the bacteria to consume hydrogen, creating a “bionic leaf” that produced isopropanol, which can be used a fuel. “Imagine a system that can be created in a glass of water to produce new and useful chemicals. Efficiency will be our primary goal for the bionic leaf,” said study co-author Pamela Silver.

Study: Flame retardant chemicals found in livers of bald eagles in Mich.: Bald eagles in Michigan have high levels of flame retardant chemicals in their systems that researchers think came from eating contaminated fish or by other environmental means. The chemicals, which are no longer used, are still everywhere, said study leader Nil Basu. “They build up in the food chains so that top predators — such as bald eagles — accumulate high levels,” Basu said. While the bald eagle population is stable, other birds have shown signs of impaired reproduction, odd behavior and disruption of hormones, according to the study published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

Archivist finds early version of Magna Carta in U.K. county’s scrapbook: An early draft of the Magna Carta has been found in a Victorian-era scrapbook along with the Charter of the Forest during a search of the Kent County Council archives. The pair of documents date back to about 1300, and the city of Sandwich, where the scrapbook was found, has no plans to sell them. Though damaged, the Magna Carta could be worth up to £10 million, or $15.2 million, one expert estimates.

15th-century skull drilled for potent bone powder, study suggests: The mystery surrounding holes drilled into the skull of a 15th-century Italian martyr may have been solved, according to researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy. The scientists say the 16 holes in the skull were drilled to collect bone powder to treat diseases such as paralysis, epilepsy and stroke. Skull bone powder from martyred individuals who died a violent death was considered to be highly effective in treating those diseases during the Late Middle Ages, according to the study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Study: New quantum correction suggests universe wasn’t formed from Big Bang: By applying quantum correction terms to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, physicists have created a model in which the universe has always existed, accounting for dark matter and dark energy as well. “The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there,” said Ahmed Farag Ali, co-author of the study published in Physics Letters B. That singularity can be resolved by the new model, which suggests that there is no beginning Big Bang and no end.

You know, just to completely blow your mind.

Young, inexperienced bees may contribute to colony collapse: Bees stressed because they started foraging when they were too young are a major factor in colony collapse, an international problem that threatens pollination of crops, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We found the bees that started foraging when they were younger, survived a fewer number of days, completed far fewer successful foraging trips and they also took longer on each foraging trip,” noted study co-author Andrew Barron, an entomologist. Ultimately, the researchers found, the young bees would not be able to support the colony, leading to its collapse.

Wasps use virus to force ladybugs to guard larvae, study finds: Parasitic wasps may utilize a virus to infect the brains of ladybugs, causing them to stand guard over a wasp larva while it gestates, according to research. The Dinocampus coccinellae plants an egg inside a ladybug, the larva emerges from its belly three weeks later, weaving a cocoon underneath the beetle, leaving it alive, but paralyzed. It guards the larva until it becomes an adult about a week later. Researchers found an RNA virus that the wasp injects into the ladybug along with the egg, according to the study published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Pufferfish coat their young with layer of toxins, study finds: Female pufferfish may quickly abandon their offspring, but they don’t leave them undefended, according to a study published in Toxicon. When the female lays her eggs, she also slathers them in tetrodotoxin, and the remnants of the poison stick to the young pufferfish, who aren’t yet able to puff themselves or have enough of their own toxins built up after they hatch. The coating is just enough to ward off potential predators, researchers say.

16th-century mining pollution found in Andes ice cap: An ice cap in the Peruvian Andes holds traces of air pollution left by 16th-century Spanish silver mines, pre-dating the Industrial Revolution, researchers say. “Our study demonstrates that since the colonial time, mining and metallurgic activities performed by the Spanish did also have an impact on very distant areas,” said Paolo Gabrielli, author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Women over 65 may benefit from moderate drinking, study suggests: Women aged 65 or older who drink moderately are more likely to live longer than those who don’t drink alcohol, but researchers stress that the health benefits of drinking are modest. The study, published in BMJ, looked at adults aged 50 and older and found that drinking didn’t have any impact on lifespan for women between 50 and 64, or for men aged 65 and up, though men aged 50 to 64 lived longer than those of that age group who never drank.

Cheers to that!

Lunar orbiter helps map the other side of the moon: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been mapping the moon since 2009, and now scientists can see what the far side looks like. “It lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar Man in the Moon on the near side. Instead, craters of all sizes crowd together over the entire far side. The far side is also home to one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken basin,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA: Sea ice declining despite gains in Antarctic: Increases in Antarctic sea ice in recent years do not offset the decline of sea ice in the Arctic, according to NASA. “When I give public lectures or talk with random people interested in the topic, often somebody will say something in the order of ‘well, the ice is decreasing in the Arctic but it’s increasing in the Antarctic, so don’t they cancel out?’ The answer is no, they don’t cancel out,’ ” said NASA climate scientist Claire Parkinson, who charted Arctic and Antarctic sea ice trends in a study published in the Journal of Climate. The study indicates that the losses of ice in the Arctic outweigh the small gains being made in the Antarctic.

Frozen Zoo saves genetic material from endangered species, sparks debate: Scientists are debating the best use of what’s known as the Frozen Zoo, a collection of genetic material gathered from more than 1,000 endangered or already extinct species or subspecies. The Frozen Zoo’s work is hailed for its value as a genetic archive that’s helped move forward studies of artificial insemination, cloning, in vitro fertilization and stem cell technology, but critics wonder how far that kind of research should go to reestablish struggling species.

Specially tagged amino acid may give doctors view of brain cancer growth: Doctors may be able to detect the growth of brain cancer tumors with great accuracy by injecting a specially tagged amino acid into patients, scientists say. Scans pick up the tagged amino acid glutamine, which the cancerous cells feed on, delineating the tumor, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Ancient fungus may have had hallucinogenic effect on dinosaurs: Dinosaurs may have ingested a hallucinogenic fungus that was an ancient precursor to LSD, according to a study published in Paleodiversity. Researchers found the 100 million-year-old fungus encased in amber in Myanmar. “This is an important discovery that helps us understand the timeline of grass development, which now forms the basis of the human food supply in such crops as corn, rice or wheat. But it also shows that this parasitic fungus may have been around almost as long as the grasses themselves, as both a toxin and natural hallucinogen,” said study author George Poinar Jr.

Dogs can distinguish between happy, angry human faces, study suggests: Dogs may be able to tell the difference between happy and angry human faces, researchers say. Scientists trained volunteer dogs to tell the difference between images of people making either happy or angry faces, with the canines getting the differences right more often that what would be expected with random chance. “With our study … we think we can now confidently conclude that at least some dogs can discriminate human facial expressions,” Corsin Muller, author of the study published in Current Biology.

I love when scientists “discover” things that dog owners already know ;)

NASA offers preview of possible submarine mission to Titan’s seas: NASA hopes to one day study the methane and ethane waters of Saturn’s moon Titan using a robotic submarine. Scientists recently displayed a video of a robotic submarine concept at the Innovative Advanced Concepts Symposium. The video shows a submersible studying the depths of Kracken Mare, Titan’s largest sea.

Rare exoplanet is densest, largest ever observed, researchers say: The largest and densest exoplanet discovered so far was spotted by two independent groups of astronomers in Heidelberg, Germany. Kepler-432b is 2,850 light-years from Earth and circles its red-giant star in small but elongated orbit that results in extreme temperature fluctuations. Researchers say Kepler-432b’s star is gradually expanding and will likely consume the exoplanet within 200 million years, according to research published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Hydrogen cloud will reach Milky Way in 30M years, researchers say: A massive hydrogen cloud is zipping its way toward the Milky Way, likely carrying extragalactic material, according to preliminary data. The Smith Cloud, a streak of hydrogen that resembles a comet, is about 40,000 light-years away and on track to crash into one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms in about 30 million years, researchers say. The Smith Cloud reinforces the idea that the space between galaxies is filled with “funny little clouds that seem to have a life of their own,” said Jay Lockman of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He presented the findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting.

We may not be looking for the right signs of alien life, scientists say: Scientists are suggesting the presence of a “shadow biosphere” made up of forms of life that don’t have the biochemical makeup we’re used to looking for, according to a discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. “Life did not choose DNA or RNA out of chemical necessity. There may have been many alternative paths to the evolution of life,” said Arizona State University’s John Chaput, a biochemist. California Institute of Technology geobiologist Victoria Orphan said that by only looking for the kinds of life we’re familiar with, we might be missing other organisms.

Lost civilizations found in remote areas thanks to drones, satellites: Remote sensing technology, such as drone flights and satellite imaging, have helped find well-hidden ancient civilizations, according to information presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Scientists have recently been able to learn about previously unknown civilizations in remote areas of the Sahara desert and the Amazon rainforest. “These new technologies have just opened up these regions to us,” said archaeologist David Mattingly, who is studying the Garamantes culture found using satellite images of the Sahara.

Changes in dissection techniques seen in hospital graveyard skeletons: Scientists have tracked changes in dissection practices by looking skeletons excavated from hospital graveyards and those stored by medical museums and universities. Jenna Dittmar of the University of Cambridge described early dissection techniques from between 1650 and 1900 in a talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. She gleaned how tools evolved by studying cut marks left on the bones.