Science Tuesday: New Species of Human, “God’s Hand”, and Ebola May Be Mutating.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m recovering from a nasty bout of the flu that left me with laryngitis today, but Science stops for no one. Today’s science news list may be a bit space-heavy because I’ve been listening to the audiobook of THE MARTIAN while sick. It makes my little scientist heart happy because the science is so spot on in the book. I very highly recommend it. Now on to the actual science news!

Photos show passing asteroid has its own moon: The asteroid that passed close to Earth on Monday was accompanied by its own moon, according to NASA. Asteroid 2004 BL86 is the nearest asteroid this large to pass close to Earth until 2027, giving scientists a unique view of the celestial object with its surprising moon following behind. “We should be getting some great radar images of this asteroid. Radar would be the key to study the asteroid’s surface, give an idea of its shape, whether it has rocks and that kind of stuff on it,” said Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office.

Scientists decode rain’s earthy scent: When raindrops hit the right kind of soil at just the right velocity, they produce a unique, earthy scent, and a pair of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have figured out why. The falling drop of water traps tiny air bubbles that pick up molecules in the soil, which are then released back into the air when the bubbles pop. “The sweet spot has to do with the velocity of the droplet and the qualities of the soil,” said Cullen Buie, co-author of the study published in Nature Communications.

Researchers turn thirst off, on in mice brains: Scientists have found a way to switch thirst on and off in mice. They used optogenetics to identify two distinct sets of neurons that, when stimulated with a laser, would either cause the mice to drink even if they weren’t thirsty or stop them from drinking, according to the study published in Nature. The researchers say that learning what causes feelings of thirst in the brain may help scientists better understand disorders in which people drink too much or too little.

Study: Telomere extension reverses aging in cultured human cells: A new technique uses modified ribonucleic acid to increase telomere length by about 10%, reversing the internal clock of cultured cells, according to a study in The FASEB Journal. The findings can be applied to regenerative medicine and cellular studies, according to researchers.

Snakes have been around much longer than once thought: Snakes have been around millions of years longer than previously thought, according to an examination of four of the oldest-known fossils, the oldest of which dates back 167 million years. Previously, the oldest snake fossil was 102 million years old, but Eophis underwoodi beats that by 65 million years, followed by Portugalophis lignites and Diablophis gilmorei, both 155 million years old, and Parviraptor estesi at 144 million. The fossils were described in a study published in Nature Communications.

Jawbone fossil may be new species of early human, scientists say: A jawbone with large teeth still attached found by fishermen off the coast of Taiwan may be a new species of ancient human that lived as recently as 10,000 years ago, says a study published in Nature Communications. Scientists speculate that the big-toothed human, dubbed Penghu 1, may have lived alongside Homo sapiens. “The available evidence at least does not exclude the possibility that they survived until the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, and it is tempting to speculate about their possible contact,” said Yousuke Kaifu, co-author of the study.

Medical supplies found on remains of Blackbeard’s pirate ship: Archaeologists have found medical equipment among other artifacts aboard the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the notorious pirate Blackbeard. The ship ran aground in 1718, and researchers say the medical equipment indicates Blackbeard went to great effort to keep his crew healthy. “Treating the sick and injured of a sea-bound community on shipboard was challenging in the best of times,” said archaeologist Linda Carnes-McNaughton, who described the finds in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

Kepler finds ancient solar system born in early universe: A small solar system of five planets smaller than Earth formed not long after the birth of the universe has been discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. “By the time the Earth formed, the planets in this system were already older than our planet is today. This discovery may now help to pinpoint the beginning of what we might call the ‘era of planet formation,’ ” said Tiago Campante, who led the research described in the Astrophysical Journal.

Giant asteroid may once have held flowing water, study suggests: Images of the giant asteroid Vesta suggest that it once held liquid water. “Nobody expected to find evidence of water on Vesta. The surface is very cold and there is no atmosphere, so any water on the surface evaporates. However, Vesta is proving to be a very interesting and complex planetary body,” said Jennifer Scully, lead author of the study. Images sent from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft indicate curved gullies similar to debris-flow channels found on Earth when water moves dirt and rocks, leading researchers to think water may have once flowed on the asteroid.

New images give scientists better view of Ceres as Dawn orbiter nears: As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft moves closer to Ceres, it is recording the best images of the dwarf planet yet taken, a vast improvement over images snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004, as well as those Dawn itself took earlier this month. The images are grainy, but they are providing scientists with a lot of new information ahead of Dawn’s March entry into orbit. “This is just starting to illuminate the fact that Ceres is one of these unique bodies that has astrobiological potential … and it’s just continued to become more intriguing as we’ve been marching inexorably closer,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator.

Scientists demystify metal explosions: The explosive reaction between alkali metals and water has been demystified by scientists in the Czech Republic and Germany, who suggest the reaction is caused by positive charges repelling each other. Researchers used computer simulations and video taken by an ultra-high-speed camera to capture the explosive moment when the metal hits water. “If you want to have an explosive reaction … you need a lot of contact between the reactants. And this is exactly what we don’t have here,” said Pavel Jungwirth, an author of the study published in Nature Chemistry.

Skull found in Israel may shed light on human migration from Africa: Clues about the migration of modern humans might be gleaned from an ancient skull found in a cave in Israel. “This is the first evidence that shows indeed there was a large wave of migrants out of East Africa, crossing the Sahara and the Nubian desert and inhabiting the eastern Mediterranean region 55,000 years ago. So it is really a key skull in understanding modern human evolution,” said Tel Aviv University’s Israel Hershkovitz, an author of the study published in Nature.

Tattoo found on 5,300-year-old ice man mummy: An additional tattoo has been found on the skin of the mummified 5,300-year-old ice man known as Otzi, according to researchers documenting the markings. Like his 60 other tattoos, the new one found on his ribcage is made up of black lines, and researchers suspect the tattoos may have had some therapeutic use. Otzi was found in the Italian Alps in 1991.

Long-necked dinosaur may have influenced China’s dragon mythology, researchers say: The remains of a dinosaur with a neck half as long as its body is a new species, according to a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, and it may have inspired much of ancient China’s dragon mythology. “There is one theory that the Chinese got an inspiration for the dragon by looking at a dinosaur skeleton in the ground. They stumbled upon a long-necked creature like this and they didn’t know what it was,” said Tetsuto Miyashita, who studied the remains of a dinosaur, called Qijianglong, or “Dragon of Qijiang,” referencing the place it was found. Researchers say Qijianglong lived about 160 million years ago.

Researchers to examine northern lights with space probe: A space probe launched Wednesday by NASA and Utah State University will study the northern lights. “The successful launch of the Auroral Spatial Structures Probe will enable scientists and satellite operators to better understand the energy processes during auroral activity in the thermosphere and its effects on satellites as they orbit Earth,” said principal investigator Charles Swenson, director for the university’s Center for Space Engineering. The large main probe also released six small probes in midflight to make a network of measurements, the scientists said.

Cometary globule “God’s Hand” seen in detail by ESO telescope: The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope has captured a detailed image of the cosmic cloud of gas and dust known as “God’s Hand,” or CG4. The cometary globule, called such because the cloud appears to have a head and a tail like a comet, is about 1,300 light-years away from Earth in the Puppis constellation. The image is part of the ESO’s “Cosmic Gems” initiative, which uses images taken with ESO telescopes for education and outreach.

Bubbles of radioactive nickle may have made holes in Cassiopeia A, researchers say: Expanding bubbles of radioactive nickle may be responsible for holes seen in the supernova Cassiopeia A, which exploded 340 years ago 11,000 light-years from Earth, according to a study. Researchers say their bubble theory could also account for large rings seen in the outer regions of Cassiopeia A, and their next step is to search for iron deposits left behind by the exploding bubbles. “We’re like the bomb squad. A bomb’s gone off and I want to understand how that bomb exploded. … The first thing I’m going to say is: Where did the debris go?” said Dan Milisavljevic, the study’s co-author.

Early Paleo-Indians hunted large game with spear-throwers, study finds: Paleo-Indians, long considered one of the first American peoples, used spear-throwers to propel their spear heads at big game, according to a study of microscopic fractures on spear points. It’s long been assumed that the Paleo-Indians used spear-throwers, but until now, there had been no empirical evidence to support that theory. “If the spear-thrower originated in the Old World, then it only made sense that it must have shown up with early [North American] colonists,” said Karl Hutchings, author of the study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Study: Isolated starlings prefer to view photos of other starlings: Lonely starlings in captivity prefer to stare at photos of other starlings versus landscapes or other creatures, according to a study published online in Animal Cognition. Researchers isolated starlings for four days in separate cages with large-screen monitors that would show either a life-size photo of an unknown starling, a suburban landscape or monkeys, depending on which sensor the starling poked with its beak. The starlings more frequently triggered the sensor to bring up the other starling’s photo, suggesting a natural yearning for social interaction, researchers said.

Scientists: Ebola virus may be mutating: Scientists at the Pasteur Institute in France have warned that strains of the Ebola virus in Guinea have mutated and they are investigating whether the changes have made it more contagious. There have been several cases in which the patients showed no symptoms, according to a Pasteur geneticist.

Civil War submarine starting to reveal its secrets after 150 years: Scientists are finally getting a look at the hull of a Civil War submarine that sank after taking down a Union ship off the coast of Charleston, S.C., 150 years ago. The hand-cranked Confederate sub H.L. Hunley was raised 15 years ago, but the hull was encased in concretion that scientists have been working to dislodge. About 70% of the hull has been uncovered, and researchers are just starting to uncover clues about what may have caused the submarine to sink.

Baird’s beaked whales form complex relationships, study finds: Baird’s beaked whales have a complex social structure in which they prefer the company of specific individuals within their community, according to researchers who have identified individual whales by the patterns of scars on their bodies. The creatures, also known as giant bottlenose whales, are difficult to study, researchers say, because they rarely spend time on the surface. The study was published in Marine Mammal Science.

Scientists twist light into Mobius strips: Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Germany have created a Mobius shape with light, according to a study published in Science. Peter Banzer and his colleagues followed up on predictions by Isaac Freund and took two polarized green laser beams and scattered them off a gold bead smaller than the wavelength of light, giving it a Mobius-like structure by introducing a polarization pattern with three or five twists.

Long period of frequent droughts linked to ancient city’s demise: The Mesoamerican city Cantona, east of today’s Mexico City, was abandoned about 1,000 years ago due to frequent long-term droughts, research suggests. Scientists looked at the climate before and after Cantona’s decline, studying sediment cores and samples taken from a lake not far from the site. “In a sense the area became important because of the increased frequency of drought. But when the droughts continued on such a scale, the subsistence base for the whole area changed and people just had to leave,” said Roger Byrne, an author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

3D map reveals ancient ice layers in Greenland: Using information from airborne radar and ice cores, scientists have created a detailed 3D map of Greenland’s ice sheet, including the island’s oldest ice from the Eemian Period, 115,000 to 130,000 years ago. Scientists hope to find clues about future climate changes by studying those of the ancient past.


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Science Tuesday: Badass Snails, A Wormhole in the Milkyway, and Un-cooking an Egg.

Happy Wednesday, Aledan Merfolk! I was so busy working on my new FE short story yesterday that I kept forgetting about Science Tuesday, but there were so many cool science things that happened I couldn’t let it wait until next week. Let’s get to the sciencey goodness!

Oldest gospel ever found may have been hidden within papyrus mummy mask: Papyrus used to make a mummy mask may contain the oldest copy of a gospel ever found, dating back to the first century before the year 90, researchers say. Mummy masks, created for ordinary people, were often made from linen or papyrus that had previously been written on, so researchers used a technique to unglue the masks to reveal the writings. “We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” said Craig Evans, a member of the research team.

Astronomers see live burst of cosmic radio waves for first time: A giant burst of cosmic radio waves has been seen live for the first time by astronomers using the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, giving scientists new clues about what might cause the brief but spectacular events. Data from the Parkes Telescope sighting suggest that the waves are circularly polarized, meaning they vibrate in two planes, a finding that scientists say they are having trouble interpreting. Astronomers want to catch sight of more bursts in the hope of linking them to something specific, like a galaxy or a region of intergalactic space.

Snail stuns fish with toxic spray of insulin before eating them: The geographic cone snail sprays its prey with a toxic cloud that contains insulin, causing the fish’s blood sugar levels to drop and putting them into a stupor, according to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Once its prey is in a sugar coma, the snail releases a sort of net that drags the fish into its mouth, where it releases another set of toxins to ensure the fish is completely paralyzed. The process helps the slow-moving snail capture its much swifter prey.

Fruit, trees are chimps’ favorite topic of conversation, study suggests: Wild chimpanzees use sophisticated vocalizations to communicate about their favorite fruits and the trees that bear them, according to a study published in Animal Behavior. “Chimpanzees definitely have a very complex communication system that includes a variety of vocalizations, but also facial expressions and gestures,” said Ammie Kalan, leader of the project that listened in on the chimps. Researchers have spent more than 750 hours observing the chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast’s Tai Forest to analyze their food calls.

Scientists get glimpse inside ancient burned scroll with 3D X-ray technique: Researchers have used a 3D X-ray technique sometimes used in breast scans to see the ink left within a fragile, rolled-up scroll burned in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The scroll is part of a classical library in Herculaneum, which was buried in the ancient volcanic blast, and previous efforts to unroll the scrolls and read their contents were abandoned because the unwinding process damaged or destroyed them. To view the raised ink, researchers used X-ray phase-contrast tomography, which shows the letters in relief, a study published in Nature Communications says.

Meteorites may have brought nitrogen to newborn Earth: Just after Earth was formed, meteorites may have brought it nitrogen, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. The isotopic composition of the nitrogen of two meteorites was similar to the gas found in Earth’s atmosphere, researchers found. “This mineral shows us that there was another type of nitrogen in the early solar system billions of years ago, and this molecule was probably responsible for making the building blocks of life and bringing the nitrogen of our atmosphere to Earth,” said Dennis Harries, lead author of the study.

Galactic dust found in ocean sediment offers clues about supernovae: Buried within sediment deep in the ocean are bits of debris from supernovae that have fallen to Earth, giving researchers a glimpse into the galactic explosions with some unexpected results. “We’ve analyzed galactic dust from the last 25 million years that has settled on the ocean and found there is much less of the heavy elements such as plutonium and uranium than we expected,” said Australian National University’s Anton Wallner, who led the research published in Nature Communications.

Archaeologists surprised to find remains of 15th-century settlement near castle: Researchers excavating the grounds of an Irish castle, hoping to uncover remnants of a lost 17th century town, stumbled upon the remains of an earlier settlement dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. “Up to now, we knew there was a substantial 17th century settlement in the fields around Dunluce. What we are now beginning to uncover are traces of earlier and extensive late medieval settlement activity, which are equally as important as the remains of the 17th century Dunluce Town,” said Northern Ireland’s environment minister, Mark Durkan.

Bones of 5 individuals found in Alexander-era tomb in Greece: The skeletal remains of at least five individuals have been found in a massive tomb in Greece that dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. The tomb has yielded many amazing finds, including a facade with two marble sphinxes, another chamber featuring two large statues of young women and a mosaic of Persephone’s abduction by Hades. According to Greek officials, the bones belong to an older woman, two men, another adult and a newborn child of undetermined gender.

Blood type could determine potential health risks: Several studies found connections between blood type and health issues. One study revealed that those with type A blood have a 5% higher risk for heart disease than those with blood type O, while those with type B blood had an 11% increased risk and type A/B had 23% increased risk. Another study showed that people with type A/B blood are more likely to have cognitive problems, while those with type A blood have a 20% greater chance of getting stomach cancer and those with type O had a higher risk of developing ulcers.

Robot programmed with worm’s neural sensors moves independently: A robot made of Legos was independently controlled by software inspired by a common worm’s nervous system, which responded to outside stimulus with sensors, researchers said. It’s the first breakthrough for the Open Worm Project, which brings together programmers and scientists in an experiment to emulate a worm’s neural wiring within a virtual environment. “We know we have the correct number of neurons, we have them connected together in roughly the same way that the animal has, and they’re organized in the same way in that there are some neurons that give out information and other neurons that receive information,” said Stephen Larson, the project’s coordinator.

A wormhole in the Milky Way is possible, study suggests: If dark matter is taken into consideration, a wormhole could exist at the center of the Milky Way’s dark matter halo, according to a study published in the Annals of Physics. The research team’s conclusions depend on the Navarro-Frenk-White density profile and the Universal Rotation Curve model, two specific scenarios for the behavior of dark matter. “We’re not claiming that our galaxy is definitely a wormhole, but simply that, according to theoretical models, this hypothesis is a possibility,” said Paolo Salucci, one of the study’s authors.

Fishermen catch a rare frilled shark near Australia: A rare frilled shark has been caught by fishermen in Australia. Frilled sharks are among the oldest sharks in existence and are named for the six pairs of ruffled gill slits that adorn the creature, which looks more like an eel than a shark. The species dates back 80 million years.

Dogs, badgers on early Europeans’ menu more than 3,000 years ago: Early Europeans fed on such creatures as dogs, wild cats, foxes and badgers until about 3,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence found in a cave in Spain that dates back between 3,100 and 7,200 years. “This evidence includes cut marks, bone breakage, signs of culinary processing and human tooth marks,” said Patricia Martin of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution.

New island springs up during volcanic eruption near Tonga: An island has sprung up near Tonga, the result of a volcanic eruption that has been going on for a month in the South Pacific Ocean near the archipelago. “It’s quite an exciting sight, you get to see the birth of an island. Visually it was quite spectacular, but there was no big sound coming with it, no boom. It was a bit eerie,” said Nico Fournier, a New Zealand volcanologist who ventured close to the new island Saturday. He noted that the island will likely disappear after a few months once the volcano stops erupting.

Leaky blood vessels may play role in Alzheimer’s, study suggests: The brain’s protective barrier becomes more prone to leaks as a person ages, starting at the hippocampus, which might promote development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study in the journal Neuron that examined images of the brains of 64 people of different ages. “To prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s, we may need to come up with ways to reseal the blood-brain barrier and prevent the brain from being flooded with toxic chemicals in the blood,” said researcher Dr. Berislav Zlokovic.

Tutankhamun’s burial mask damaged by hasty repair: The golden burial mask of pharaoh Tutankhamun was damaged when the blue and gold braided beard was knocked off then glued back on with epoxy, according to officials with the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where the artifact is on display. The mask was damaged sometime last year and workers hastily reattached the beard with an inappropriate adhesive, leaving scratch marks and a visible gap between the face and the beard. “The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material,” said a conservator.

Lasers help reveal information about super-Earth, icy planet cores: Scientists blasted a dense form of silica with lasers to simulate the extreme pressures and temperatures found at the cores of super-Earths and icy giants to find clues about what goes on inside them, according to a study published in Science. The results suggest that super-Earth exoplanets may have molten rock at their cores that generate magnetic fields, while the centers of icy planets like Neptune and Uranus have solid, rocky cores. “By looking at matter at high pressures and temperatures, we provide insight to people trying to understand the structure and evolution of planets,” said physicist Marius Millot, lead author of the study.

Water just bounces off metal surface developed by physicists: U.S. physicists have developed a metal surface that repels water so well, droplets just bounce away, according to findings reported in the Journal of Applied Physics. Scientists etched a series of tightly arranged parallel grooves covered in complex nanostructures into the metal using lasers, giving it its remarkable repellent behavior. “The structures created by our laser on the metals are intrinsically part of the material surface,” said Chunlei Guo, the study’s senior author.

Australopithecus’ hands capable of making tools, study suggests: Tool-making may have begun a half million years earlier than previously thought and may not have been exclusive to the genus Homo, according to research published online by Science. The study suggests that Australopithecus africanus had hand characteristics that would have made making tools possible. Researchers at the University of Kent compared hand bones of several different species spanning many millions of years to reach their findings.

Researchers surprised to find fish living underneath ice in Antarctica: Fish and other aquatic creatures have been found living deep beneath thick Antarctic ice, sealed in a small wedge of seawater far from sunlight, according to researchers who didn’t expect to find anything but microbes. Scientists bore a hole into the Ross Ice Shelf, and sent a specialized robot to investigate the depths. “I’ve worked in this area for my whole career. You get the picture of these areas having very little food, being desolate, not supporting much life,” said glacial geologist Ross Powell.

Fecal transplant cures Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis in mice: University of Utah researchers have found that fecal transplants appear to reverse autoimmune diseases of the bowel such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease in mice. The transplant of fecal material in mice via a tube into the stomach restored the balance of intestinal flora and normalized the intestines’ function. The study appeared in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.

Quasar’s dimming may mean black hole stopped consuming matter, astronomers say: Scientists have observed the dimming of a quasar, suggesting something’s happened to change the diet of the supermassive black hole at its core, according to research. Black holes power the extremely bright galaxies surrounding them, so the dimming may indicate the black hole has stopped consuming matter, giving astronomers more clues about the life cycles of the mysterious quasars. “This is like a dimmer switch. The power source just went dim. Because the life cycle of a quasar is one of the big unknowns, catching one as it changes, within a human lifetime, is amazing,” said Stephanie LaMassa, one of the researchers.

Researchers find way to slow speed of light: The speed of light may not be as constant as once thought, according to research at the University of Glasgow. Scientists sent a pair of photons toward a detector, putting one through either a Bessel or Gaussian filter, which changed the photon’s shape into the corresponding beam. While it was expected that both beams would arrive at the detector at the same time, the reshaped beam arrived slightly after the unaltered beam.

Researchers hunt for “Don Quixote” author’s remains in Spanish chapel: A team of archaeologists and anthropologists are combing through graves at a small chapel in Madrid, hoping to find the remains of “Don Quixote” author Miguel de Cervantes. Researchers know that Cervantes was buried at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in 1616, but the exact location of his burial site within the grounds is unknown. Scientists have narrowed down the possibilities to three sites in the chapel’s crypt.

Genghis Khan, others have long genetic legacy, study suggests: Mongol ruler Genghis Khan’s genetic legacy is not the only lineage to stretch so far, according to research. Scientists have identified 10 other men who have lineages that reach into today’s population, including Qing Dynasty ruler Giocangga. “Lots of men have lots of sons, by chance. But what normally doesn’t happen is the sons have a high probability of having lots of sons themselves. You have to have a reinforcing effect,” said geneticist Mark Jobling, a study leader.

Study: Jellyfish sense currents, actively swim against them: Ocean currents can be sensed by jellyfish, which then actively swim against it, according to a study published in Current Biology. Researchers have yet to discover exactly how the jellyfish sense the current changes, but they hope the findings will shed light on how and why jellyfish bloom. “With this knowledge of their behavior we can start to have some predictive capability for bloom dynamics,” said Graeme Hays, the lead researcher.

Stem cells may treat severe burns without the need for skin grafts: Researchers at the University of Miami are conducting a study on the use of stem cells as treatment for severe burns. The research will use mesenchymal stem cells collected from the patient’s bone marrow, which will then be injected underneath a thin coating into the wound to regenerate the outer and inner skin layers. The treatment will be administered every two weeks to second-degree burn victims.

Scientists return solid egg whites to clear, liquid state: Researchers have figured out a way to return hard-boiled egg whites to something akin to their original form, according to a study published in ChemBioChem. Scientists at the University of California at Irvine used a vortex fluid device to disentangle the strands of protein that become the solid egg white when boiled. The researchers say that it’s the separation of the tangled proteins that could have wide-ranging applications in such areas as food processing and cancer research.


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StO Draft Three is Done!

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I finished the third draft of StO this week, and I’m doing a read-through to make sure I didn’t screw anything up before I send it to my next round of CPs. I’m fairly sure the plot is solid, and the characterization in the beginning is much stronger, so I’m hoping this round of CPs can help me really pump up the emotion. After I fix their edits I’ll send it to my grammar/sentence structure CPs for the final polish, and then…query time! I’m really hoping to be back in the trenches by June, that way I can hang out on the beach with a margarita to keep my mind off it ;)

I’m trying to decide what to work on next, and I think I’ll probably end up going back to Fie Eoin for Pike’s Revenge. I’m not ready to work on Nameless again, but I miss home. I can only stay away for so long before I need to get back. Plus, Karigan is my favorite character to write!

In the meantime I’m working on a short backstory for Finn which I plan to post as an FEF soon.

AtlantiaI also started reading Atlantia by Ally Condie, which is not a mermaid book. I don’t know why I assumed it was a mermaid book (maybe because of all the talk of “below” and “above” and “sirens”), but there are no mermaids in it so far. It’s still good, just not what I was expecting. Either way it’s the first book I’ve read since I finished Gone Girl a month ago. Yes, it took an entire month for my brain to get back to reading after that mind-screw.

Speaking of mermaids and such, have you seen this week’s Custom of the Week? It’s a freaking amazing seapony custom that’s so detailed and bright! I’ll have another awesome custom this weekend that fans of Spirited Away should love :)

Have a great weekend, Aledans!

Science Tuesday: A Warp in Space-Time, Our Solar System Has More Planets, and the Evolution of the Color Blue

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! It’s Science Newsday and we have a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it!

Easter Island culture in decline before Europeans arrived, study suggests: After examining obsidian tools at archaeological sites on Easter Island, researchers say environmental factors may have played a role in the decline of the indigenous Rapa Nui culture long before Europeans came in 1722. Researchers gleaned information about climate and soil history that indicated increases and declines in land use. “It is clear that people were reacting to regional environmental variation on the island before they were devastated by the introduction of European diseases and other historic processes,” said anthropologist Thegn Ladefoged, co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Images reveal chaotic origins of Andromeda, researchers say: Images of the Andromeda galaxy taken by the Keck Telescope in Hawaii and the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed its chaotic history, according to a study presented at an American Astronomical Society meeting. The study indicates that Andromeda’s younger stars move in a relatively ordered way with similar velocities around the galaxy’s center, while older stars move in a more disordered fashion with varying velocities. Researchers say one explanation would be that thick, clumpy gas formed Andromeda’s disc, and that its oldest stars were created during this time.

Record-breaking X-ray flare detected at Milky Way’s central black hole: A massive X-ray flare erupted from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way in September 2013, according to astronomers, who say it was the largest ever seen in that region. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory spotted the flare, 400 times brighter than the region’s normal level of radiation. A second flare was spotted in October 2014, according to findings presented at an American Astronomical Society meeting.

Tiny fossil may be common ancestor to both bony, cartilaginous fish: A tiny, 415 million-year-old fish skull is giving researchers clues about the origins of all jawed vertebrates, according to a study published in Nature. Janusiscus schultzei has characteristics of bony fish and cartilaginous fish. Researchers say the fish is likely a common ancestor of the two groups of fish and may help them learn more about what the earliest common ancestor looked like.

New insecticide-resistant mosquito found in Mali: A new hybrid mosquito resistant to insecticides has been discovered in Mali. Anopheles gambiae, considered the biggest culprit in the spread of malaria in West Africa, has been mating with Anophele coluzzii, creating the hybrid and raising fears that malaria infections, which has been declining in recent years, could increase. “Growing resistance has been observed for some time. Recently it has reached a level at some localities in Africa where it is resulting in the failure of the nets to provide meaningful control, and it is my opinion that this will increase,” said medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, lead researcher of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Groove in human brains set us apart from other primates, study finds: An asymmetrical groove that runs deeper along the right side of the human brain than the left sets humans apart from chimps, whose brains don’t have this feature, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The purpose of this groove is still unknown. “Asymmetrical brain landmarks may be key features to understand what is so specific in our species. We think that [this asymmetry] is related to either speech or social cognition, which are both abilities for which humans outperform other primates,” said researcher Francois Leroy.

Astronomers measure distant binary pulsar just before it vanishes: Astronomers measured a distant binary pulsar system just before it blinked out of sight, hidden by its own sort of invisibility cloak, according to research published in the Astrophysical Journal. One of the closely orbiting neutron stars of the J1906+0746 system has a wobbling axis and gives off a beam of radio waves every 144 milliseconds, causing such extreme gravitational interactions that it creates a warp in space-time, briefly glimpsed by scientists. “By precisely tracking the motion of the pulsar, we were able to measure the gravitational interaction between the two highly compact stars with extreme precision,” said researcher Ingrid Stairs.

This sounds like some crazy Doctor Who science going on!

Mich. neighbors find mastodon bones during backyard excavation: A pair of Michigan neighbors excavating one’s backyard turned up 42 mastodon bones, including leg, hip and shoulder bones, dating back 10,000 to 14,000 years. Paleontologists helped the neighbors dig up the fossils and believe the remains are those of a 37-year-old male mastodon that may have been butchered by ancient humans because of tool marks found on the bones. Daniel LaPoint Jr. and Eric Witzke each plan to keep a few of the bones to preserve the memory of their find.

Humans in Americas long before dogs, study suggests: Humans appear to have been in the Americans thousands of years before dogs showed up about 10,000 years ago, according to a study published online in the Journal of Human Evolution. Researchers studied DNA from ancient dog remains, and their findings suggest not only the canines’ late arrival but also a greater diversity among ancient dogs, whose long relationship with humans can help scientists learn more about human migration. “They can be a powerful tool when you’re looking at how human populations have moved around over time,” said biologist Kelsey Witt, lead study author.

Study: Tools likely the first topic of conversation between early humans: Early humans likely talked about tools when they started having verbal conversations between 2.5 million and 1.8 million years ago, a study published in Nature Communications suggests. “We suggest that the use of tools drove the evolution of language, and it seems likely that ‘words’ for things other than current emotional states would have been very useful for learning to knap,” said Thomas Morgan, lead study author. Researchers tested five ways to convey to students how Oldowan stone-knapping tools were used and found that verbal communication was the most successful.

Shark born in tank with only females does have a dad, study finds: The mystery behind the birth of a brownbanded bamboo shark born in 2012 in a tank containing only three adult females has been solved. The female sharks were acquired by the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco in 2007 from the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., where they had been kept with male sharks. Scientists studied various scenarios before determining that the mother shark had stored the father’s sperm for years, according to findings published in the Journal of Fish Biology.

Naps key to helping babies form memories, study finds: Napping may help babies form memories, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers studied infants between 6- and 12-months old, looking at the purpose and timing of naps, using furry puppets to test the babies’ memories of their interactions with them and when napping took place. Babies who napped after encountering the puppets showed signs of recall 24 hours later more quickly than babies who did not nap right after the encounter.

NASA investigating ammonia alarm on space station: An alarm signaling a potential ammonia leak forced American astronauts on the International Space Station twice to seal themselves in the Russian portion of the orbiting science center. NASA assures that the crew is safe and that the U.S. portion of the station is clear of ammonia. The astronauts and crew on the ground are investigating the cause for the alarms and say there is no hard evidence of an ammonia leak.

NuSTAR captures image of black hole consuming gas from galaxy collision: A giant black hole gobbling up the remnants of a distant pair of colliding galaxies has been observed by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array space telescope. An image released by NASA shows a black hole consuming gas and dust from the merging galaxies, known collectively as Arp 299. “We want to understand the mechanisms that trigger the black holes to turn on and start consuming the gas,” said NASA’s Andrew Ptak, lead researcher of the study, which has been accepted by the Astrophysical Journal for publication.

Study suggests zebra striping has to do with temperature: Zebras developed stripes to adapt to temperature changes in the climate, not to deter predators or pests, a study suggests. “In contrast to recent findings, we found no evidence that striping may have evolved to escape predators or avoid biting flies. Instead, we found that temperature successfully predicts a substantial amount of the stripe pattern variation observed in plains zebra,” the researchers write in a study published this week in the Royal Society Open Science. The scientists say they don’t yet know the cause of the temperature-stripe correlation.

Sulfate-eating microbe found in aquifer deep beneath ocean: An exotic microbe has been found in Earth’s undersea aquifer, according to researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Hawaii. The new species of sulfate-eating microbe was discovered off the coast of Washington at the edge of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. “One of the surprises of this effort was the discovery of a microorganism that is unique and thriving in a place seemingly inhospitable to life,” said lead author Alberto Robador. The study was published in Frontiers in Microbiology.

Researchers identify hand ax crafted from bone in China: A hand ax crafted from bone, rather than stone, by ancient humans in what is now China has been identified by paleontologists at the China Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing. The tool was made from the lower part of a stegodon jaw and may have been used to dig out edible roots, according to the study published in Quaternary International. Researchers estimate the hand ax is about 170,000 years old.

Ancient scorpion species may have walked out of ocean on feet: A species of scorpion that most likely lived in water more than 430 million years ago has been discovered with feet that would have allowed it to venture onto land, suggesting the creatures emerged onto land earlier than previously thought. Eramoscorpius brucensis stands out from other ancient species of scorpion because “they could have walked on their feet, which is really important because it meant that they could have supported their own weight,” instead of being buoyed by water, said Janet Waddington, leader of the study published in Biology Letters.

First contracting human muscles grown by researchers: Duke University researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts in response stimuli, which can be used to determine which drug would work best for each person. Increasing myogenic precursors, or cells that have yet to develop into muscle tissue, by more than 1,000 before being placed in 3D scaffolds led to the formation of myobundles that contract in response to electrical pulses. The study appeared in the journal eLife.

Renowned researchers pen letter to outline benefits, pitfalls of AI: Renowned scientists and technology leaders including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have issued a warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence. The group signed a letter that touts the many benefits of AI, and outlines the many risks. “Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls. Our AI systems must do what we want them to do,” they said in the letter, published online by the Future of Life Institute.

Because we don’t need a real life Battlestar Galactica.

ESA’s lost Mars lander Beagle 2 spotted by NASA orbiter: NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the European Space Agency’s missing Beagle-2 lander, lost since it landed on the red planet on Christmas in 2003. “This finding makes the case that Beagle-2 was more of a success than we previously knew and undoubtedly an important step in Europe’s continuing exploration of Mars,” said David Parker, chief executive of the U.K. Space Agency. “These images are consistent with the Beagle-2 having successfully landed on Mars but then only partially deploying itself,” he said.

Study: Planets started forming before meteorites existed in early universe: Meteorites did not play a major role in the formation of the early universe, as previously thought, but instead were a byproduct of the event, according to a study published in Nature. Scientists ran computer simulations on the early formation of the solar system that showed that planets were already forming by the time meteorites began banging around creating chondrules, droplets of molten rock thought to be key in planet formation. “This tells us that meteorites aren’t actually representative of the material that formed planets — they’re these smaller fractions of material that are the byproduct of planet formation,” said author Brandon Johnson.

Ancient tool suggests Neanderthals were more advanced than once thought: An ancient bone tool found in France had many uses and dates back to the Neanderthal era, suggesting the closest ancestor of humans was more intelligent that previously thought. “It proves that Neanderthals were able to understand the mechanical properties of bone and knew how to use it to make tools, abilities usually attributed to our species, Homo sapiens,” said anthropologist Luc Doyon, an excavation participant.

Magnetic pull helps sea turtles return to their birth beaches, study suggests: Unique magnetic signatures help female sea turtles return to the beaches where they hatched to lay eggs, according to a study published in Current Biology. Researchers say magnetic particles found in sea turtles’ brains help them locate the unique magnetic signature of the beaches where they were born, helping them return there to nest after traveling the world’s oceans. “Our results provide evidence that turtles imprint on the unique magnetic field of their natal beach as hatchlings and then use this information to return as adults,” said J. Roger Brothers, co-author of the study.

Deeply submerged grounding zone in Antarctica may hold clues to glacial melting: Scientists have drilled deep into the grounding zone, a submerged area of Antarctica underneath the Ross Ice Shelf, hoping to find clues about the long-term stability of glaciers. What they found were pebbles sitting on top of sandy mud, which could indicate that the ice is melting more quickly. “From the looks of it, there’s been quite a change in the environment,” said glaciologist Ross Powell.

Additional planets may exist in solar system, study suggests: There may be at least two planets hiding beyond Neptune and dwarf-planet Pluto, according to a study of extreme trans-Neptunian objects, which circle the sun at huge distances in elliptical paths. “This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNOs, and we consider that the most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto,” said Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, lead author of a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters.

Awww, our little solar system family may be getting bigger soon!

After long journey, New Horizons starting to collect Pluto data: NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has begun collecting data in its first science phase after a nearly 10-year journey to Pluto. Instruments aboard the craft started measuring dust and charged particles this week, and a long-range lens will start taking photos of the dwarf planet in a few days. New Horizons will get its closest view July 14, giving scientists the clearest view yet of Pluto.

Reptile fossils found in China a rare example of ancient parenting: An aquatic reptile from the Early Cretaceous period was caring for six offspring when they all died, a rare fossilized example of parental care, according to a study of the skeletons found on a farm in China. “Although it is possible that the individuals were all swept together during or soon after the event that killed them, it is [felt] that this specimen more likely represents an instance of postnatal parental care,” researchers wrote in the study published in Geosciences Journal. The fossils of the philydrosaurus and its young were donated in 2010 to the Jinzhou Museum of Paleontology.

DNA gives researchers new data on pair of extinct giant kangaroos: Scientists have extracted DNA from a pair of extinct giant kangaroos that died about 45,000 years ago. Short pieces of DNA were taken from a giant short-faced kangaroo and a giant wallaby, whose remains were found in a Tasmanian cave. “The ancient DNA reveals that extinct giant wallabies are very close relatives of large living kangaroos, such as the red and western grey kangaroos,” said Bastien Llamas, lead author of the study.

Evolution of the Color Blue: To compound the mystery, the colors red, black, and white are mentioned many times in the ancient manuscripts, and in the later one, like the bible and the Koran, green and yellow are mentioned as well. In fact, biblical Red is described in many of its hues (“argaman”-dark red, just like Homer’s sea, “shani”-pink, “siqrah”-deep red). And so is Green: olive green, grass green. but not a hint of blue.  So what gives?


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On A Roll Again!

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m happy to say that I’ve finally made it back into writer-brain, and I’ve finished just over half of Draft Three of StO this week! I’m currently writing a brand new Erie scene, and I’m really liking the changes I’ve made for her. She sounds more mature in this draft, and has actual goals beyond just doing whatever she can to survive (although that’s obviously goal #1). Finn’s still good ol’ Finnegan – he needed toning down on the misogynistic dickishness, but not a complete makeover like Erie did. The first half of the novel needed mostly characterization work, so now the real editing begins *cracks knuckles* Time to get out the axe and delete some scenes!

onelastsong_600x900I spent last night at a fancy dinner to celebrate SK Fall’s (re)release ONE LAST SONG, which is dark and twisty and I love it. We spent the night talking about writing and sex scenes and how amazing the food was at The Oridinary. I seriously ate so much I had a stomachache for a couple hours. A completely worth-it stomachache. There’s nothing better than good food and great conversation with best friends <3

If you missed it earlier this week, both Custom of the Week and Science Tuesday are back for the year. And I have the most amazing custom for you guy this weekend. It’s a seapony and I think you’ll love it just as much as I do!

And one last note, I’ve joined the new social-media site Tsu (because who doesn’t need more to keep up with?). There’s quite a nice little  writer community on there already, so if you want to check it out here’s an invite:

That’s it for this week, Aledans. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of ONE LAST SONG, and remember to stop by this weekend for the awesome seapony custom. Hopefully by the next update I’ll be nearly-done with this draft of StO! Have a great weekend!

Science Tuesday: Egyptian Queen Discovered, Black-hole Collision Course, and Beethoven’s Arrhythmic Compositions.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! Are you ready for 2015’s first dose of awesome science news? Let’s see what the new year has in store for us.

NASA works to fix aging rover’s memory problems: The rover Opportunity is starting to have memory problems after more than 10 years of exploring Mars, NASA scientists say, but researchers think they’ve found a way around the problem. Opportunity’s seventh bank of memory is having a problem, storing data instead in its random-access memory, which is wiped whenever the rover is switched off at night or rebooted. This can be a problem if it hasn’t sent the information to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Scientists plan to modify the rover’s software to think it only has six banks of flash memory, thereby skipping the troublesome seventh.

Study finds ancient coyotes sported larger jaws than modern cousins: Coyotes’ ancient ancestors had larger jaws than their modern cousins, allowing them to take down larger prey, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. Canis latrans likely dined on the young of large animals such as llamas, camels and horses as they roamed North America during the Pleistocene epoch, but the jaws began to shrink as prey size started getting smaller about 11,500 years ago and as the coyotes faced competition from larger predators.

Newly discovered frog species gives birth to tadpoles: A new fanged frog species has been identified in Indonesia, but what makes it unique is that its babies are born as tadpoles, skipping the egg process altogether, according to research published in PLOS ONE. The tiny Limnonectes larvaepartus is the only one of 6,455 species of frog known to give birth directly to tadpoles. “Reproduction in most frogs could not be more different from human reproduction. In this case, what is most interesting, ironically, is that the reproductive mode is more similar to our own,” said study author Jimmy McGuire, a herpetologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Stem cells help researchers learn how dementia affects neurons: Through the use of stem cells, Belgian researchers have produced a sort of “dementia in a dish” to look into how the disorder develops and affects neurons. They found that induced pluripotent stem cells derived from skin cells of dementia patients were not able to generate cortical neurons, cells affected by frontotemporal dementia. The iPSCs have defective progranulin genes that alter the Wnt signaling pathway, which plays a vital role in neuronal development, researchers found. The study appeared in Stem Cell Reports.

Anglo-Saxon coins buried for 900 years found on U.K. farmland: A trove of near-mint-condition silver Anglo-Saxon coins buried for more than 900 years has been unearthed from farmland in Buckinghamshire, England. “This is one of the largest hoards of Anglo-Saxon coins ever found in Britain. When they have been properly identified and dated, we may be able to guess why such a great treasure was buried,” said a Bucks County Museum spokesman. If a coroner rules the $1.52 million coins are treasure under the Treasure Act, a museum will be able to purchase them, with the proceeds going to the farm owner and the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club member who found the coins with a metal detector.

Tomb of previously unknown queen found in Egypt: The tomb of a previously unknown Fifth Dynasty queen has been found by archaeologists in Egypt in the funeral complex of Pharaoh Neferefre, who ruled 4,500 years ago. Archaeologists also found writings that identify her as Khentakawess III as well as reliefs on the tomb’s inner walls that say she is “the mother of the king” and “the wife of the king.”

Researchers use special heating chamber to learn about Venus: Scientists in Germany are using a super-hot heating chamber to help them learn more about the surface of Venus, which in mass and size is similar to Earth, but has surface temperatures that can melt lead. Researchers at the DLR Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin, using data collected about rocks on Venus, cooked basalt, anorthosite and hematite in a heating chamber that matched Venus’ scorching temperatures. The results suggest that Venus once had continents and oceans, researchers say.

Study: Fat cells produce antimicrobials to fight infections: Fat cells just beneath human skin may be the body’s first line of defense against bacterial infection and may also fight infections by producing antimicrobial compounds, according to a study published in Science. Researchers exposed mice to a staph bacteria resistant to antibiotics through a cut and found that the fat cells just under the wound site would thicken and produce cathelicidin, an antimicrobial compound, suggesting that the fat cells sensed the bacteria’s presence and reacted accordingly. “That was totally unexpected. It was not known that [fat cells] could produce antimicrobials,” said Richard Gallo of the University of California at San Diego and co-author of the study.

Event that spawned life on Earth was delayed due to volcanic iron, study finds: Subsea volcanoes on early Earth littered the oceans with a level of iron that poisoned oxygen-producing cyanobacteria, staving off the Great Oxidation Event by about half a billion years, according to research published in Nature Geoscience. Scientists at the University of Tubingen exposed modern-day microbes to the levels of iron found in ancient sediments, which caused the cyanobacteria to reduce the volume of oxygen they produced by up to 70%. The results help to explain the long period of time between the first appearance of cyanobacteria about 3 billion years ago and the Great Oxidation Event that spawned life about 2.5 billion years ago.

Massive alien planets might be home to ancient oceans, researchers say: Super-Earth planets may be home to long-lived oceans, according to findings presented at an American Astronomical Society meeting. Researchers used computer models to show how planets up to five times more massive than Earth could harbor ancient oceans, potentially allowing the development of life. “When people consider whether a planet is in the habitable zone, they think about its distance from the star and its temperature. However, they should also think about oceans, and look at super-Earths to find a good sailing or surfing destination,” said lead study author Laura Schaefer.

Greek palindrome inscribed on ancient amulet found in Cyprus: A 1,500-year-old double-sided amulet with a palindromic inscription was discovered in Cyprus. One side depicts several images, including a mummy in a boat, while the other side has an inscription that reads the same backward and forward in Greek. It translates to the non-palindromic, “Iahweh is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.”

New images of “Pillars of Creation” taken by Hubble telescope: The Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 25th year in service by capturing a new image of the “Pillars of Creation,” about 7,000 light-years away from the sun in the Eagle Nebula. “It allows us to demonstrate how far Hubble has come in 25 years of observation,” said astronomer Paul Scowen, who was on the team 20 years ago when Hubble captured its first image of the Pillars. The latest image, taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, which was installed in 2009, offers a sharper view of the Pillars’ glowing oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur.

Astronomers look ahead in search for Earth-like planets: NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has spotted eight new Earth-like planets in the “Goldilocks” habitable zone of the universe. As they join the hundreds of planets detected by Kepler, astronomers are speculating what to do next as they continue searching for worlds like our own. Scientists shared their findings and ideas at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Kepler will get some help in 2017 when the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is launched, tasked with finding Goldilocks planets closer to Earth.

June will be one second longer than usual: An extra second will be added to the clock just after 23:59:59 on June 30, according to Universal Time officials at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service. Leap seconds, introduced in 1972 to make up for Earth’s speed variations, are occasionally added either at the end of December or June to correct tiny desynchronizations between International Atomic Time, or the weighted average of some 200 atomic clocks around the world, and Universal Time, based on Earth’s rotation. The last time a leap second was added was at the end of June in 2012.

Fossil find could help determine if Utahraptors hunted in packs: A trove of dinosaur fossils found in a block of sandstone in Utah may help scientists determine if predatory dinosaurs known as Utahraptors hunted in packs or alone. The remains of at least six Utahraptors have been found together, along with those of an herbivore in the sandstone block that may at one time might have been quicksand during the Cretaceous period. “We believe it’s going to be the first example of dinosaurs trapped in quicksand en masse in the fossil record,” said Utah state paleontologist James Kirkland, who is leading the excavation effort.

Human enzyme CD39 shows promise against sepsis: A study in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has found that the human membrane-bound enzyme CD39 acted against sepsis in an experiment on mice by clearing the bloodstream of high levels of adenosine triphosphate, leading to an improved survival rate. The enzyme also reduced organ damage, inflammation, immune cell apoptosis and bacterial load.

Time capsule placed by Samuel Adams, Paul Revere opened in Boston: Five newspapers, 23 coins, a George Washington medal, a colonial records replica and a silver plaque were taken this week from a time capsule placed underneath the Massachusetts State House’s cornerstone in 1795. The contents of the box were originally placed there by then-Gov. Samuel Adams and Revolutionary War figures Paul Revere and William Scollay, along with more items added in 1855 when the building’s foundation needed repairs.

Pair of black holes on collision course in remote galaxy, researchers say: A pair of supermassive black holes in a distant galaxy are on what appears to be a collision course, according to research published in Nature. Astronomers say the collision could occur about a million years from now, releasing a massive amount of energy into gravitational waves. The black holes circle each other at a range of about 180 billion miles, or about 290 billion kilometers, in the galaxy PG 1302-102, researchers say.

Early Chinese kingdom may have been devastated by rapid formation of desert: The rapid transformation from a verdant landscape to desert may have destroyed the first known kingdom in China about 4,200 years ago, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to earlier research, Hongshan may have been the first-known Chinese kingdom, established about 6,500 years ago. Today scientists, who are trying to establish the importance of Hongshan, suggest that the rapid change in landscape devastated the Hongshan culture, spurring a move to the rest of China and influencing the rise of other civilizations.

New antibiotic shows promise in treating drug-resistant bacteria: An antibiotic isolated from New England dirt has successfully treated mice infected with drug-resistant staphylococci bacteria, which typically leads to death in 90% of the animals that contract it, according to a study in Nature. Teixobactin might be the first major drug breakthrough in more than 25 years, according to researchers, though it has yet to be tested on humans. “It should be used, if it gets successfully developed, as broadly as possible, because it is exceptionally well-protected from resistance development,” said NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals co-founder Kim Lewis, a study author.

Pharaoh, gods depicted in wall relief found in Egyptian quarry: A wall relief depicting an unknown pharaoh and the gods Thoth and Amun-Ra has been found in a sandstone quarry in Egypt. Researchers are having trouble identifying the pharaoh because of the poor condition of the stela, which they suggest dates back to around the Third Intermediate Period between 1070 B.C. and 664 B.C. “The team is currently trying to retrieve more information, but the area of the figure and title of the pharaoh is eroded by wind and sand, not to mention a natural fracture in the rock,” said Gebel el Silsila Survey Project Director Maria Nilsson.

Study: Jupiter’s core eroding faster than previously thought: The rock and ice core of Jupiter may be eroding faster than previously thought, according to research by the RMIT University in Australia. Researcher Hugh Wilson used a quantum-mechanical model to ascertain how elements of Jupiter’s core spread out into the gas giant’s fluid outer layer and found that the disbursement occurred at twice the rate previously calculated. Wilson noted that when Juno, the spacecraft on its way to study Jupiter, arrives in 2016 it might find “a partially eroded husk of the planet’s original core.”

Bats improve chances of finding food by eavesdropping on each other: Bats eavesdrop on each other to improve their chances of finding prey, according to a study published in Current Biology. “When you sit in a dark cinema theater and someone opens a bag of chips, everyone in the theater knows that someone is eating chips and approximately where that someone is. Bats work similarly,” said Yossi Yovel, the lead researcher.

Researchers hear arrhythmia in Beethoven’s compositions: Scientists think the rhythms of Beethoven’s music may indicate an arrhythmia in the composer’s heartbeat, according to research published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. A cardiologist, a specialist in internal medicine and a musicologist joined forces to study Beethoven’s work as a “musical electrocardiogram,” noting distinctive rhythmic shifts that could be indicative of arrhythmia. “When your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns. We think we hear some of those same patterns in his music,” said internal medicine specialist Joel Howell, a study co-author.

Researchers identify neurons responsible for proprioception, touch: Researchers have identified a group of neurons in the brain responsible for the sense of touch and proprioception. The discovery could lead to the development of prostheses that can receive tactile input and actively sense the surroundings. The findings were published in the journal Neuron.

SpaceX rocket launches Dragon cargo ship, but lands hard in return test: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., sending its Dragon cargo ship on a supply run to the International Space Station, but had problems landing on an ocean platform in a test of the company’s plans to eventually return rockets to their launch sites. “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time,” CEO Elon Musk wrote of the test on Twitter. He later said that the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid, which it needed to maneuver its steerable fins, and that more fluid would be added for subsequent attempts.

Ancient fossils in Scotland belong to new species of marine reptile: Fossils found on Scotland’s Isle of Skye belong to a new species of marine reptile that lived around 170 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, researchers say. Dearcmhara fed on fish and other reptiles as it navigated the warm waters around Scotland, according to paleontologists who have studied fragments of skulls, vertebrae, teeth and an upper arm bone found on Skye over the past half-century. The findings are described in the Scottish Journal of Geology.


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Getting Back to the Normal Routine

Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! It’s a balmy 26F in Charleston today, which kind of makes me want to punch things. I didn’t move a thousand miles south to deal with this kind of weather! Of course, if I were back home in MI the wind chill would be below zero, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Poor Hubs comes home from a conference in Florida today, where he’s been enjoying warmer weather, and I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he gets out of the car ;)

I think I’ll spend the day in Key West with Finn and Erie to stay warm. I’m slowly getting back into my writer headspace by reading up to the point in Draft Three where I had to stop for the Holidays. Coming back to it with fresh eyes after a few weeks away was probably a good thing, and I’m pleased with the changes I’ve made so far. There’s still plenty to do, though, and I want to get it done by the end of the month.

Since things are getting back to normal around here, I’ll be posting the first Custom of the Week this Sunday, and Science Tuesdays will be back next week! I hope you have an awesome, productive and/or relaxing (whichever you need) weekend, Aledans!

Hops extremely muddy, and extremely happy to get back to the normal routine at the dog park.
Hops extremely muddy, and extremely happy to get back to the normal routine at the dog park.