Science Tuesday (on a Wednesday): Crazy Ants, Fish-Faces, and Crocodiles Can Climb Trees

This week’s science news is a day late, but it’s worth it! Enjoy.

Scientists to map out genome of King Richard III: Researchers plan to sequence the genome of King Richard III, whose remains were found last year in a Leicester, England, parking lot. “Sequencing the genome of Richard III is a hugely important project that will help to teach us not only about him, but ferment discussion about how our DNA informs our sense of identity, our past and our future,” said University of Leicester geneticist Turi King. The sequencing will help scientists learn more about the monarch’s ancestry and health issues, which included a curved spine due to scoliosis and intestinal parasites.

Bottle gourds bobbed to South America on ocean currents, study suggests: The bottle gourd, a plant with many uses, is believed to have floated from Africa to South American shores thousands of years ago, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. A multidisciplinary research team studied ancient ocean currents as well as the gourds’ DNA to see if the plant’s travels within a single year were plausible. Computer models did, indeed, suggest that a gourd could successfully make the trip, seeds intact, well within a year’s time.

Ants feed tree they live in, study suggests: Ants not only offer protection for the Humboldtia brunonis tree in India, they also feed it, according to a report in Functional Ecology. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science added a radioactive isotope to sugar fed to whitefooted house ants, which act as protectors to the tree they call home, as well as to another species of ant that lives in the tree but does not provide any protection. When they studied the tree’s tissue, researchers found traces of the sugar, indicating it received sustenance from both species.

Some crocodile species can climb trees, research suggests: Some species of crocodile have the ability to climb trees, researchers say. “Climbing a steep hill or steep branch is mechanically similar, assuming the branch is wide enough to walk on. Still, the ability to climb vertically is a measure of crocodiles’ spectacular agility on land,” according to a report published in Herpetology Notes. The American crocodile, Nile crocodile, Australian freshwater crocodile and Central African slender-snouted crocodile all climb trees, but with varying ability, according to their size, the researchers said.

This is really surprising, especially since some parts of the Everglades use nothing more than a steep incline to keep visitors safe.

Abundance of well-preserved fossils found in Canada: A wealth of well-preserved fossils has been found in Kootenay National Park in Canada. The site is within the Burgess Shale, an ancient rock formation that has yielded many fossil discoveries since 1909, the largest of which is in Yoho National Park. “The rate at which we are finding animals — many of which are new — is astonishing, and there is a high possibility that we’ll eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho National Park site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world,” said invertebrate paleontologist Jean-Bernard Caron of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, lead author of the study.

New glasses help surgeons see cancer cells: New technology may help surgeons visualize the distinction between normal tissue and cancer cells with the help of a contrast agent. The new technology, dubbed “cancer goggles,” is still in the testing phase, but its creator, Dr. Samuel Achilefu, director of the Optical Radiology Lab at Washington University in St. Louis, thinks the technology could have many applications. The tool will be tested by veterinarians surgically removing cancer from dogs at the University of Missouri veterinary school, and human testing will follow.

Scientists create fusion reaction with lasers: Scientists used lasers to create a fusion reaction, in which more energy was put out than was put into the fuel. The experiment has recharged hopes of using fusion as a nuclear energy source. National Ignition Facility researchers shot 192 laser beams at a small hohlraum that held a fuel target, producing the brief reaction, according to the study published in Nature. About 17 kilojoules of energy were produced, said lead physicist Omar Hurricane of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Study: 12,000-year-old remains of child shed light on origin of Native Americans: The 12,000-year-old remains of a child found in Montana have linked Native Americans to the first people who populated what is now the Lower 48 states and South America, according to a study published in the journal Nature. “We found the genome of this boy is more closely related to Native Americans today than to any other peoples anywhere else,” said study leader Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen. Scientists compared the boy’s DNA with ancient as well as current genomes, and estimated that a majority of Native Americans today are descended from the boy’s family.

415M-year-old fish key in development of the face, study suggests: A small, ancient fish is giving researchers insight into how faces evolved, according to a report in Nature. The Romundina, which lived about 415 million years ago, is one of the first fish to have jaws, but it also had features that were present in jawless fish, which allowed researchers to show the steps taken as the face evolved. “When you look at Romundina, it’s like looking at yourself in the mirror, but with a 415 million-year-old image. It’s like in a science-fiction movie. You look at the mirror, but it’s not you. It’s your ancestor,” said Uppsala University’s Vincent Dupret, a member of the research team.

Mammoth tusk found at Seattle construction site: Plumbing contractors in Seattle this week unearthed the tusk of a mammoth. Paleontologists say the fossil belongs to the Columbian mammoth, the Washington state fossil. Researchers are working to remove the Ice Age-era mammoth’s tusk so it could be displayed at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in time for Dino Day, which is March 8.

Remaining fetal cells in mothers may aid in stroke recovery: Fetal cells remain in mothers long after pregnancy and appear to act like stem cells by regenerating stroke-damaged tissue, according to a study on mice that was presented at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference. However, while these cells may protect women from diseases, it could also cause autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, which are common in women especially during childbearing years, lead investigator Louise McCullough said.

Geneticists map out timeline of how human populations mixed: Geneticists are deciphering how human populations mixed over the past 4,000 years in an effort to provide new information to historians. The researchers have developed a way to affix a date on major blending events by identifying chromosomal segments using statistics gathered from samples of genomes from throughout the world, according to research published in Science. “We are among the first to try to date ancestry events, and we have more ability to determine the source populations,” said Oxford University’s Simon Myers, who is leading the research team.

Mesozoic-era ichthyosaur had live births on land, study suggests: The fossil remains of a 248 million-year-old ichthyosaur have revealed that the Mesozoic-era reptile died while giving birth with two offspring still inside it, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. Scientists were surprised to note that the birth was occurring on land, which goes against a long-held belief that the sea creatures delivered their young in water. Researchers noted that the young were coming out head first, which is associated with land animals; marine animals are born tail first.

Southeastern fire ants threatened by invasive “crazy” cousins: So-called “crazy ants” are invading the southern United States, neutralizing the venom of the area’s native fire ants, research published in the journal Science suggests. Fire ants defend themselves by releasing venom deadly to most other ants or insects that threaten them, but the crazy ants combat that by secreting a substance that detoxifies the venom. “As this plays out, unless something new and different happens, crazy ants are going to displace fire ants from much of the southeastern U.S. and become the new ecologically dominant invasive ant species,” said University of Texas at Austin researcher Ed LeBrun, who led the study.

As long as they don’t bite like fire ants I can totally get behind this invasive species.

Detailed map of Ganymede unveiled: A map of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede has been created, giving scientists one of the most detailed surveys ever created of the solar system’s largest moon. “We’ve been over every single square of Ganymede in detail to create the best product we can, but there are still some gaps where we couldn’t see it very well,” said Geoffrey Collins of Wheaton College, who began the project in 2000. Data collected by Voyagers I and II in the late 1970s, and Galileo, which circled Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, was used to create the map, which can be seen on the U.S. Geological Survey website.

Bonobos show ability to keep a beat, research suggests: The bonobo can match a tempo, researchers reported, a finding that could help scientists establish how musical ability evolved in humans. Researchers at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida set a rhythm of about 280 beats per minute that was picked up and synchronized by bonobos on their own drum.

NASA: “Jelly doughnut” on Mars is a rock Opportunity drove over: A mysterious white object with a crimson center that was photographed by the Mars rover Opportunity in December is a rock, according to NASA officials. The object, which resembles a jelly doughnut, became the subject of intense speculation after it suddenly appeared in before-and-after photos taken by the rover. NASA scientists reject the supposition that the object is some sort of Martian fungus, saying it is a rock that Opportunity drove over.

Human lungs grown in Texas lab: Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have grown human lungs in a lab, raising hopes to one day address donor shortages. Researchers combined the shell of a damaged lung with viable cells from another lung and submerged them in nutrient-rich liquid, growing an engineered lung. Scientists say it will be at least 12 years before the engineered lungs could be ready for transplant trials.

Ocean-floor “carpet” seen as way to capture wave power: Just 11 square feet of engineered “carpet” on the ocean floor would be enough to power two U.S. households. That’s the calculation of mechanical engineers at the University of California at Berkeley. The researchers believe the system they’re designing can mimic the wave-energy absorbing nature of ocean-floor mud and transmit that power to shore to generate electricity.

Beluga whales infected with cat parasites: Parasites known to infect cats have been discovered in Arctic beluga whales. Toxoplasma gondii can cause people to go blind. Scientists have issued a health advisory for those in the Western Arctic region who eat beluga meat. “Ice is a significant ecological barrier and it influences the way in which pathogens can be transmitted in nature and your risk of exposure. What we’re finding with the changes ongoing in the Arctic is that we’re getting new pathogens emerging to cause diseases in the region that haven’t been there before,” said Michael Grigg, a molecular parasitologist.

Early animals may have lived on little oxygen, study suggests: Early animals, such as sponges, may have survived on very little oxygen, suggesting that animals may have brought increased oxygen to the oceans instead of the other way around, researchers say. Scientists at the University of Southern Denmark tested breadcrumb sponges, gradually removing oxygen from their environment. They found that the creatures survived until the end of the study and suggested that early animals could have done the same. “There are still many researchers who contend that animals could not have arisen until oxygen levels became relatively high. Our results challenge that,” said researcher Daniel Mills.

Genetic differences may help explain children’s risk for obesity: In two U.K. studies published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers found that genes played an important role in predicting children’s predisposition for obesity. Data from a large sample of twins showed that infants with a greater appetite at 3 months weighed an average of almost two pounds more than their twin at age 15 months. The second study involving 10-year-olds found that higher genetic obesity-risk scores were associated with greater body mass index and larger waistlines.

Biomarker for depression could help identify teens at risk: A recently discovered biomarker for clinical depression could help identify teen boys who are most at risk, according to neuropsychology researchers. The scientists found that boys with higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, along with symptoms of depression are 14 times more likely to see their depression worsen compared with teens with neither trait. “Depression is a terrible illness. We now have a very real way of identifying those teenage boys most likely to develop clinical depression,” said lead researcher Ian Goodyer.


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Dear February: I Like You (and a #WriteMotivation Update)

The first new green of the season! Feb 2nd.

The first new green of the season! Feb 2nd.

Dear February, I like you. You’ve been awesome so far, and I hope you remain awesome. I haven’t felt so good about my writing in a long time. Where 2012 and 2013 were full of doubt and disappointment, things seem to be falling into place this month. I’m writing a book that I absolutely adore, that my CPs have all enjoyed so far. The voice of the MC is strong and so much fun to write, and I’ve been steadily writing it every day. It’s not NaNo-madness writing either; it’s good writing. Writing that I won’t have to throw away when it comes to editing (not all of it, at least). Juliana said it sounded “confident” and I almost cried at work. I’m still in the midst of a StO honeymoon, and I’m nearing the first plot point, which is when it really starts to get exciting. I can’t wait!

I also found out yesterday that NAMELESS made it through the Bouncer round of Cupid’s Blind Speed Dating, which means I’m going to the agent round next week! Which is really funny, because with all the StO love going on right now I’d kind of forgotten about Nameless and the contest. I’m curious to see if Nameless gets any agent love, but if not that’s ok. I’ll console myself with StO :)

For #WriteMotivation this month I only made a few goals, and so far I’m doing pretty good:

  1. Continue writing Speak the Ocean. This hasn’t been a problem so far – I’m writing daily!
  2. Map out StO. Nearly finished! I just have to add some of the middle parts.
  3. Re-name the Apollo crew. Yeah…nope.

Re-naming the Apollo crew may not happen, because my mind is so far away from Poe and his friends that I just don’t care at this moment. All I care about right now is Finn and Erie and Jen and Sergio and Maddy and Huron, and how their stories are all coming together into what is possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever written (sorry Kindra).

So instead of extending this update any further, I’m going to go write :) I hope your February is just as fabulous as mine!

Science Tuesday: A New Giant Jellyfish and the Oldest Star in the Universe.

Happy Tuesday, Aledans! There was some really cool science news this past week, so let’s get right to it.

Archaeologists excavate ancient step pyramid in Egypt: A 4,600-year-old step pyramid in southern Egypt, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza, has been found. The step pyramid, once as high as 43 feet, or 13 meters, now stands about 16 feet, or 5 meters, tall due to pillaging and weather exposure, according to archaeologists, who presented their initial excavation results at a Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities symposium. There are seven of these step pyramids, which have no internal chambers, scattered throughout Egypt and their purpose remains a mystery.

Study: Dinosaur fossils in China well preserved due to volcanic ash: Ash from volcanic eruptions about 130 million years ago may have helped preserve the fossil remains of feathered dinosaurs in China, according to research out of Nanjing University. Researchers found layers of carbon on the Jehol fossil bones, which suggests the soft tissue was charred, and the dinosaurs’ limbs were flexed in a way that suggests they had been trapped in volcanic ash, according to the study published in Nature Communications.

Big moons may not be needed to sustain life on alien planets, study suggests: A moon like the Earth’s may not be necessary for other planets to sustain life, according to a study presented at the American Geophysical Union’s meeting in December. “If the Earth did not have a moon, its obliquity — and, therefore, its climate — would vary, indeed, substantially more than it does at present. But it’s nowhere near as bad as was predicted based on previous models,” said Ames Research Center’s Jack Lissauer, who made the presentation. Lissauer and his team ran several computer simulations to determine how a moonless Earth’s axial tilt would change over billions of years.

Study: Bumblebees can adjust to high-altitude pressure: Alpine bumblebees can handle pressure conditions in altitudes as high as 9,000 meters, or 5.6 miles, when they use broader strokes to beat their wings, according to a study in Biology Letters. Zoologists studied the bees in laboratory conditions simulating high altitudes. “They’re essentially sweeping their wings through a wider arc, which means they’re pushing down more air molecules,” said study co-author Michael Dillon of the University of Wyoming.

New bird flu strain poses possible pandemic threat: A study published in The Lancet has found that the new H10N8 bird flu strain in China is a genetic reassortment of other strains of bird flu, including the H9N2 virus and the H7N9 strain. The new flu strain contains characteristics that suggest its ability to replicate easily and become virulent or resistant to drugs. “Although we cannot predict whether an H10N8 epidemic will occur, our findings suggest that the virus is a potential threat to people,” the researchers wrote.

First coral reef found off southern coast of Greenland: A cold-water coral reef has been discovered off the southwestern coast of Greenland, the first ever found in the region, according to scientists. This is the first instance of a reef off Greenland, though cold-water corals have been found before, researchers reported in the journal ICES Insight. In another surprise to scientists, the reef is made up of Lophelia pertusa, a stone coral not commonly found in the area.

Proposal seeks to remove first fish from endangered list: The Oregon chub, a minnow only found in the backwaters of Oregon, is making a comeback after 21 years and may be the first fish to be removed from the U.S. endangered species list. Before it can become final, the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to go through a 60-day period of public comment. The agency says the fish will need to monitored for several years to verify that the population is still growing.

Giant Ice Age creatures died off as Arctic wildflowers declined, study suggests: The disappearance of wildflowers in the ancient Arctic may have led to the extinction of such creatures as the woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros, researchers say. The animals started dying out when the flowers gave way to less nutritional grasses and shrubs during the Ice Age, according to scientists who studied DNA found in Arctic permafrost sediments and remains of the creatures. The findings, reported in the journal Nature, goes against the popular theory that human migration into the Arctic caused the extinction of the big animals due to hunting.

New antibody prevents blood clots without increased bleeding risk: A study published in Science Translational Medicine has shown that a newly developed antibody called 3F7 prevented blood clots without causing major bleeding in rabbits hooked up to a type of heart-lung device. The injectable antibody was designed to specifically block factor XII activity, a protein involved in blood clotting, and could serve as a safer alternative to heparin. Researchers are planning to test the efficacy of the antibody in human trials.

Young universe warmed up more slowly than once thought, study suggests: The warming of the early universe by black holes and their companion stars occurred more slowly than once thought, which could make the events more detectable by astronomers today, according to a study published in the journal Nature. Researchers discovered that the X-rays released when one of a pair of companion stars exploded and created a black hole were high-energy, rather than the low-energy X-rays previously thought to warm the budding universe. The high-energy X-rays took longer to warm up the hydrogen gas that filled the universe, scientists found when they recalculated the heating of the hydrogen.

Remains of Native American village found at Miami construction site: The remains of an ancient village of the Tequesta tribe have been found at the construction site of a condominium and office development in Miami, putting the project in limbo. A team of archaeologists hired to do a historical study of the site found thousands of holes bored into the limestone where pine posts were used as framing for Tequesta buildings. “We got to the point in recent months where we realized this wasn’t an isolated circle or structure but a whole complex of buildings. In some ways, I would say it’s probably the best-preserved prehistoric town plan in eastern North America,” said Bob Carr, whose company is conducting the archaeological study.

Remains of new jellyfish discovered by family on Tasmania beach: The carcass of a 5-foot, or 1.5-meter, jellyfish found by a family walking on a beach in Tasmania is a new species that the scientific community has known about but has yet to classify. It is part of the Lion’s Mane group, according to researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Researchers are keen to find out more about the new species as well as why a recent influx of jellyfish are showing up in Tasmanian waters.

Earth’s magnetic field helps salmon navigate during migration, study finds: Salmon navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field as they migrate thousands of miles, according to a study in Current Biology. Putting salmon hatchlings that had yet to make a migration into buckets, scientists changed the magnetic fields around the buckets to see how the fish would respond. “It’s like they have a map. They know something about where they are based on what field they are in,” Oregon State University’s Nathan Putman, lead author of the study.

Advanced bionic hand restores sensation of touch: European scientists have developed a bionic hand that transmits the sensation of touch. Dennis Sørensen, who lost his hand in a fireworks accident, was blindfolded and wearing earplugs, yet he could distinguish between round and square or soft and hard objects. The hand, developed at the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Italian Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, uses ultrathin electrodes implanted in nerves in Sørensen’s residual limb.

Team develops highly conductive graphene nanoribbons: Graphene nanoribbons created by physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology can conduct electricity much better than was expected, according to findings published in Nature. The new graphene nanoribbons differ from other forms by having no rough edges, says research team leader Walt de Heer, allowing electrons to move 10 times more swiftly than theory says they should. The results could have implications in the development of high-end electronics.

800,000-year-old footprints found in England: Human footprints more than 800,000 years old have been discovered in Happisburgh, England, the oldest prints found outside Africa, writes British Museum Curator Nicholas Ashton. Studies of the impressions indicate that the prints were left by about five people, possibly of the Homo antecessor species, also known as “Pioneer Man.” By analyzing overhead photos, researchers could see heels, arches and, in at least one print, toes.

Astronomers identify universe’s oldest star: A star created from the supernova of a first-generation star appears to be the oldest of its kind in the universe, according to astronomers. SMSS J031300.362670839.3, as it’s called, has almost no iron in its chemical signature, according to a report in Nature. There was no iron in the first generation of stars that resulted from the Big Bang, but “as soon as we’ve got a little bit of iron in the universe, that enables much smaller stars to form and that’s what we’re seeing in this finding — one of those stars from the second generation,” said the study’s lead author Stefan Keller of the Australian National University.

Small, distant galaxy from early days of universe found: A small galaxy rich with stars and dating back to about 650 million years after the Big Bang has been found using the Hubble Space Telescope in conjunction with a cluster of galaxies that act as a zoom lens, astronomers say. Dubbed Abell 2744_Y1, the galaxy is smaller than the Milky Way, which is about 30 times its size. It is the first remote galaxy found using the gravitational lensing method, according to research scheduled to appear in Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters.

Study: Dimetrodons developed serrated teeth in response to food-source changes: The ancient predator dimetrodon of the early Permian period developed serrated teeth as changes in food sources evolved, according to a study published online in Nature Communication. “By looking at the variety of tooth shapes, we’re actually able to pick out differences in the ecology and the roles different species of dimetrodon played,” said lead author Kirstin Brink of the University of Toronto. She and paleontologist Robert Reisz studied the fossil remains of the creatures, which predated dinosaurs, and found that the older fossils had smooth teeth that evolved into serrated ones in later species.

Thickness of cerebral cortex tied to intelligence in gene study: The thickness of the cerebral cortex may have an impact on a person’s intelligence, according to a study that identifies a gene associated with intellectual ability. Researchers at King’s College London studied teenagers’ DNA and brain scans, finding that those with a certain gene variant had a thinner left-side cortex and didn’t do as well on intelligence tests. “The genetic variation we identified is linked to synaptic plasticity — how neurons communicate. … This may help us understand what happens at a neuronal level in certain forms of intellectual impairments,” said study leader Sylvane Desrivieres.


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My Speak the Ocean Honeymoon (and a #WriteMotivation Update)

Happy Thursday, Aledans! It’s a #WriteMotivation month again, so let’s get right to the goals.

  1. Continue writing Speak the Ocean. This hasn’t been a problem so far – I’m writing daily!
  2. Map out StO. Nearly finished! I just have to add some of the middle parts.
  3. Re-name the Apollo crew. Yeah…nope. Nothing yet.

I’m LOVING the new version of StO. I figured out the ending a couple days ago and I’ve finished writing the first two chapters already. So far I’ve gotten big thumbs-up from my CPs, but some of them have yet to read the mermaid smut I sent them yesterday, so we’ll see how that goes. Some of my CPs may not be as kinky as me ;)

Either way, I’m in love with this book. We’re still in that honeymoon period after first committing to each other, and all I want to do is write. Seriously, I put off playing WoW last night so I could finish Chapter Two. I love Finn’s character (he’s a lot like Lane from the Rebecca Stories, my favorite boy to write), and I’m really enjoying the fact that I aged the new version up. So far my biggest problem has been figuring out how mermaids mate, and writing it in a way that doesn’t sound squicky (cause, uh, they don’t have legs. But like I said: so far big thumbs up!). My boy and mermaid haven’t met yet, so right now all the sexy fun times are still within the same species ;)

I’ll be throwing some teasers up on my Facebook Page and Google+ as I write, if you’re interested.

And because I mentioned a few weeks ago I was looking for a new song, and because I found a new soundtrack for StO, have my new song: (I haven’t actually watched the video, I’m just going based on the music)


Science Tuesday: No Event Horizon, Neanderthals Gave Us Diabetes, and Underwater Fairy Rings.

Hawking study shakes up long-held beliefs about black holes: Black holes may not behave the way science thinks they do, and may not have event horizons, according to a study by celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking. “The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes, in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape,” Hawking said in his report. Instead, black holes have “apparent horizons,” which only trap matter and energy temporarily, later reemerging as radiation.

Archaeologists uncover evidence of 300,000-year-old hearth in Israeli cave: A hearth found in a cave in Israel has provided archaeologists with clues about the use of fire about 300,000 years ago, according to a report in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Researchers found the hearth full of ash and charred bone as well as evidence of stone tools nearby likely used in the butchering of animals, suggesting the use of the fire as a central gathering place. “They also tell us something about the impressive levels of social and cognitive development of humans living some 300,000 years ago,” said the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Ruth Shahack-Gross.

Polar bears shifting to land-based diet as Arctic ice melts, study suggests: The melting sea ice in the Arctic has forced polar bears to move to a more land-based diet, according to a study. “We found they were eating more of what is available on the land,” said vertebrate biologist Linda Gormezano of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the study’s co-author. Polar bears normally rely on marine mammals such as seals for food, but appear to be eating more snow geese, caribou and eggs that they find on land, according to the study.

Personal sub takes flight underwater for $1.7M: The DeepFlight Super Falcon, a two-seat, winged submersible built by Hawkes Ocean Technologies, can take passengers on a unique trip under the sea. “It is like an airplane with wings upside down. It is like flying in the air, but we are flying underwater,” said founder and Chief Technical Officer Graham Hawkes. The 21-foot personal sub can reach depths of about 394 feet, or 120 meters, and is available for purchase for $1.7 million, which includes pilot and operations training.

Video shows wild beaver, thought to be extinct in England for 800 years: Night-vision footage shot by a retired environmental scientist suggests that wild beavers may not be extinct in England after all. Wild beavers were killed off more than 800 years ago in England and there have been plans to reintroduce them there, but the video suggests they may have come back on their own. Tom Buckley filmed the beaver gnawing on trees in the town of Ottery Saint Mary, leaving locals and scientists scratching their heads about where it came from.

Skull found on school grounds may belong to new species of extinct sperm whale: A whale skull found embedded in a boulder at a private school in Southern California may belong to a new species of an extinct sperm whale, according to paleontologist Howell Thomas of the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. Thomas was alerted to the fossil’s existence by a 7th-grade science teacher who noticed the skull and other fossils on boulders left by the school’s builders about 80 years ago. The museum will take the boulder next week for cleaning and analysis.

Black Death bacteria may have felled the Roman Empire: Sequenced DNA from two skeletons buried in 6th-century Germany suggests that a virulent plague that struck the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Justinian in 541 A.D. came from a strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that caused the Black Death, which struck Europe in 1348. Scientists mapped the entire genome of Y. pestis with DNA found in the skeletons’ teeth, according to a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, which warns that it could emerge again. Study leader Hendrik Poinar of the McMaster University in Canada said that Y. pestis may not have been the sole cause of both plagues, but is more likely “part of the larger story.”

Interplanetary dust carries water generated by solar wind, study finds: Water formed by solar wind on interplanetary dust “may well have acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life,” says astromaterials scientist Hope Ishii, co-author of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. University of Hawaii researchers were originally looking for helium implanted by solar wind in the rims of minerals within the dust particles and were surprised to find water. The study suggests that solar wind can, indeed, generate water, a subject that has been hotly debated for years.

Study: Subduction zones move vast amounts of water into Earth’s mantle: Vast amounts of water are transported deep into the Earth’s mantle by subduction zones, according to a study in Geology. The tectonic plates rub together creating a kind of conveyor belt that ferries water into the mantle over billions of years. “We found that fault zones that form in the deep oceanic trench offshore Northern Japan persist to depths of up to 150 kilometers [roughly 93 miles]. These hydrated fault zones can carry large amounts of water, suggesting that subduction zones carry much more water from the ocean down to the mantle than has previously been suggested,” said seismologist Tom Garth of the University of Liverpool and lead author of the study.

Scientists ID healing mechanism in birch bark: Birch bark extract has been thought for centuries to encourage wound healing, and scientists at Germany’s University of Freiburg have identified the mechanism behind it. Substances in the bark attract keratinocytes to the wound, encouraging it to close, the researchers report in the journal PLoS ONE. The finding could lead to new wound-care treatments.

Study: Interbreeding with Neanderthals gave us disease gene variants: Neanderthals that mated with Homo sapiens passed along variants of diseases in their genes, including type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, according to a study in Nature. Researchers said they also found a gene variant for smoking addiction. The gene mutation for smoking may have more than one function, since it’s unlikely Neanderthals had a smoking habit, scientists said.

Antarctic ice shelves in danger as snow layer thins: Meltwater is threatening Antarctica’s ice shelves left vulnerable by thinning layers of snow, according to a study in the Journal of Glaciology. Snow acts as a sponge-like barrier that soaks up the meltwater before it has a chance to reach the fragile ice shelves, but gradually warming temperatures are putting some of the shelves at risk, researchers say. “The amount of ice shelves under the threat of collapse is dependent on the temperature increase we are going to get in the next few centuries,” said study leader Peter Kuipers Munneke of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Rural Calif. communities could go without water during drought: A drought in California could lead to 17 rural communities running out of water in the next few months, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. These small communities, ranging from 39 to 11,000 people, don’t have the resources to pay for backup water supplies or fix broken equipment. The state is looking at several options, including trucking water in or drilling new wells, to try to get ahead of the crisis.

Resurgence of bats seen in Europe: Bats are making a comeback in Europe, the European Environment Agency reported in a large-scale study. Sixteen of the 45 bat species in Europe were surveyed in nine countries, with a 43% increase seen between 1993 and 2011. “This is the first time such a large group of monitoring schemes within Europe all got together,” said Bat Conservation Trust science director Karen Haysom, who helped coordinate the study.

Snake flattens to glide from tree to tree, study finds: The Southeast Asian flying snake gets a little extra gliding time by flattening into a saucer-like shape, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Chrysopelea paradisi launches itself from tree branches to glide limb from limb. “The shape is unusual. You never find this kind of shape in any other animal flyer; you don’t find it in engineered flyers. We didn’t know if that was a good shape to have,” said Virginia Tech biomechanics researcher Jake Socha, the study’s co-author.

Skull of 200M-year-old long-nosed phytosaur found: The 200 million-year-old skull of a long-nosed creature has been discovered in Texas. Researchers say it belongs to a previously unknown species of phytosaur that hunted along the edges of rivers and lakes. “They had basically the same lifestyle as the modern crocodile, by living in and around the water, eating fish, and whatever animals came to the margins of the rivers and lakes,” said Museum of Texas Tech University’s Bill Mueller.

Sharp decline in monarch butterfly migration noted: The once-thriving population of monarch butterflies that migrate from the northern U.S. and Canada to Mexico each winter is dwindling, researchers said this week. The orange-and-black butterflies would fill up to 45 acres of Mexican forest each year, according to records kept over the past 20 years. But as of December, they filled only 1.6 acres, the smallest area ever recorded. Environmentalists say the decline could be due to a number of factors, including illegal logging and the use of herbicides that have killed off milkweed plants where the butterflies lay their eggs.

Large-headed, bottom-feeding fish in Idaho, Mont. rivers a new species: A small fish with a big head found in Idaho and Montana rivers has been identified as a new species of freshwater sculpin, according to a report in Zootaxa. Dubbed the cedar sculpin, the new species belongs to a class of bottom-feeding fish known to have unusually large heads and shoulders in proportion to the rest of their bodies. Biologist Michael Young, who co-authored the description of the find, said, “The discovery of a new fish is something I never thought would happen in my career because it’s very rare in the United States.”

Study of cuttlefish could lead to innovation in military camouflage: Scientists are studying how cuttlefish change their colors to blend into their environment with an eye toward developing similar camouflage for soldiers’ uniforms. Harvard University and Marine Biological Laboratory researchers studied chromatophores, or pigment-containing cells, that change the cuttlefish’s color and skin patterns. “[O]ur results suggest that they play a more complex role: [Chromatophores] contain luminescent protein nanostructures that enable the cuttlefish to make quick and elaborate changes in its skin pigmentation,” said Harvard’s Leila Deravi, the study’s co-author.

Researchers develop one-way sound device: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed an acoustic circulator, a one-way sound machine that could lead to the sound equivalent of a one-way mirror. “I can listen to you, but you cannot detect me back, you cannot hear my presence,” said electrical engineer Andrea Alu, co-author of the study published in the journal Science. The device could lead to several sound insulation applications.

Tiny leg hairs keep spiders adhered to surfaces, study finds: Thousands of tiny hairs on the ends of a spider’s legs help the arachnids stick to surfaces, researchers say. The method allows the spider to quickly detach itself, unlike the more permanent gluing method used by a barnacle, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. “Temporary attachment systems, like hairy adhesive pads, can be used multiple times [and] adhere strongly enough to hold the animal, but the contact can be loosened very quickly and effortlessly,” said biologist Jonas Wolff of the University of Kiel in Germany.

Lemur mates have synced scents, study suggests: Lemur couples mimic each other’s scent-marking habits and start to give off similar scents after they reproduce, according to a study of animals at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, N.C. Researchers, who centered their study on the endangered Coquerel’s sifakas lemurs, believe the synced scents help the lemurs signal their relationship status or increase their territory-marking prowess. “It could be a signal that they’re a united front,” said Duke University’s Christine Drea, a researcher on the study, which was published in Animal Behaviour.

Volcanic heat is next frontier for geothermal projects: A geothermal drilling project in Iceland accidentally drilled directly into magma, but instead of plugging the hole, researchers harnessed the heat using a perforated-steel casing to extract superheated, high-pressure steam. “This could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal projects in the future,” says Wilfred Elders, a co-author of the research.

Study predicts heat-related deaths will rise sharply by mid-century: Researchers in the U.K. have projected four times more heat-related deaths by the 2050s compared with what it is today in England and Wales. Researchers looked at daily average temperatures from 2000 through 2009 to calculate the projected temperatures for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. According to the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the number of hot days will increase sharply by the 2080s with the number of cold days dipping at a slower pace.

Mysterious hexagonal jet stream on Saturn shown in Cassini photo: The unique hexagonal jet stream that swirls around the north pole of Saturn has been captured in an image from NASA’s Cassini space probe. The photograph was taken in November showing Saturn’s polar vortex and the rings that surround the planet. The hexagonal shape of the jet stream has not be found anywhere else in the solar system, according to NASA officials.

Study: Buildup of sulfide in mud creates Baltic Sea eelgrass circles: The unique circular formations of eelgrass in the Baltic Sea is caused by a buildup of sulfide, which kills the grass in the center of the rings, according to biologists at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Copenhagen. Eelgrass typically grows out radially in a meadowlike configuration, but when the grass traps sulfide-infused mud, the older, weaker grass at the center is killed, leaving the circles. “The mud seemed to exist only inside the circle, so only here the plants are attacked by poison,” the researchers said.

Underwater fairy rings!


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Snow Days and Evil Mermaids

Happy Thursday, Aledans! We had a snow day yesterday (yes, in Charleston, SC!) so although I’m coming down with another cold I’m feeling pretty good today. Since it’s the Month of Do-Nothing I decided to do nothing yesterday. I watched TV and played WoW for a good portion of the day (I reached Vashj’ir, which I love playing in! I get to ride a seahorse and kill evil mermaids!), and wrote a little bit of StO.

Speaking of StO and evil mermaids, about two hours after last week’s Update post I decided to completely scrap the old version of StO and re-write it with a different concept. My mermaids are a little more viscous now, and there’s a fun twist that I think you’ll like. I still adore the old version, and I’ll probably continue writing it for myself and some CPs, but the new version is definitely more exciting. I’m still storylining it and trying to figure out how to weave all the components together, but I’m nearly to the end.

In fact, while I was writing this I figured out a HUGE plot point. I do so love to torture characters <3

Next month is a #WriteMotivation month, but in the spirit of being kinder to myself my only goals are to continue writing StO, finish mapping it out (I’m nearly done with that), and figure out the new names for Apollo and all his buddies (except Daphne and Dion, who are keeping their names). It’s also time to jump back on the query horse. I’ve had my month off, time to get back to work again.

How has the beginning of the year gone for you, Aledans? Any big plans for February?

Newspaper forecast for snow!

Newspaper forecast for snow!

Science Tuesday: Uterus Transplants, Nordic Grog, and how Mermaids Could Exist (no, really!)

Happy Tuesday, Aledans! Are you ready for the past week’s best science news (according to me)? Lets get to it!

Dolphins See the World the Same Way We Do: The results showed that “the visual world is perceived similarly by the three species of mammals (dolphins, chimpanzees, and humans), even though each has adapted to a different environment and has differing degrees of dependence on vision.

Supercomputer takes 40 minutes to simulate 1 second of brain activity: A Japanese supercomputer has simulated a single second of human brain activity, but it took the computer 40 minutes to calculate it. The purpose of the exercise wasn’t to create simulated brain activity, however, but was to test the capabilities of the fourth most powerful computer in the world, the K computer. Researchers from RIKEN, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, and research center Forschungszentrum Julich used the open-source Neural Simulation Technology to simulate 1.73 billion nerve cells linked by 10.4 trillion synapses, representing just 1% of the brain’s neuronal network.

Retreat of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier can’t be stopped, researchers say: Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier is in a self-sustaining retreat, researchers say. “You can think of PIG like a ball. It’s been kicked and it’s just going to keep on rolling for the foreseeable future,” said British Antarctic Survey’s Hilmar Gudmundsson, whose team has been modeling the glacier along with other researchers in the U.K., France and China. They say that much of the glacier’s retreat is occurring because a large part of it rests below sea level and slopes back toward the continent, which produces marine ice sheet instability.

Bright lights heighten intense feelings, study suggests: Dimming harsh office lights can alter the emotional temperature of the room, according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. University of Toronto and Northwestern University scientists tested the effects of various forms and intensities of light, finding “that people are unaware of how ambient brightness may be impacting their affective responses and that the link between brightness and affective response may be operating at a basic, non-conscious level.” The researchers found that participants felt things more intensely in a brightly lit room and that they were calmed by lower light conditions.

Uterus transplants may result in pregnancy via IVF: After successfully transplanting uteri into nine women, a surgeon at University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Hospital in Sweden is helping some of them become pregnant with in vitro fertilization. Dr. Mats Brannstrom, who performed the transplants, said “We are in the process of starting embryo transfer,” which, if successful, would be the first pregnancy in a transplanted uterus. The women receiving the transplants either had their own uterus removed as a result of cancer treatment, or were born without one. Donors were related to the recipients, including two who were the patients’ mothers.

So…two of these women could potentially give birth with the same uterus that they were in before they were born? Mind. Blown.

Star cluster home to exoplanet circling sun-like star: An exoplanet orbiting a star much like the sun has been found in a star cluster 2,500 light-years away, the first such discovery, researchers say. “In the Messier 67 star cluster, the stars are all about the same age and composition as the sun. This makes it a perfect laboratory to study how many planets form in such a crowded environment, and whether they form mostly around more massive or less massive stars,” said study leader Anna Brucalassi, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

Birds fly more efficiently in “V” formation, study finds: Birds form a “V” shape in flight and time their wing movements to use their energy more efficiently, researchers say. Using sensors attached to a flock of northern bald ibises, scientists found that the birds perfectly positioned themselves to catch the air created by the flapping bird in front of it, helping it fly more efficiently and adjust to any changes in the front bird’s movements, according to the study published this week in Nature. “It’s amazing how quickly they can respond to any changes [by] the bird in front,” said study author Steven Portugal of the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K.

Researchers to study bees with help of tiny sensors: In an effort to track their movements and combat diseases, researchers in Australia are attaching tiny microchips to honey bees. “Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee’s relationship with its environment,” said project leader Paulo de Souza of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The scientists first lull the bees to sleep by refrigeration then glue 2.5-millimeter, about 0.0625 inches, sensors onto the insects.

Researchers recreate Nordic grog from ancient recipe: An ancient Nordic grog found buried in the tombs of Scandinavian warriors and priestesses is available for tasting after the recipe was recreated by biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology along with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. “You’d think, with all these different ingredients, it sort of makes your stomach churn, but actually, if you put it in the right amounts and balance out the ingredients, it really does taste very good,” McGovern, said. Ingredients include barley, cranberries, honey, herbs and imported Greek and Roman wine, according to researchers.

Gigantic canyon found beneath Antarctic ice: A massive canyon lies beneath glacial ice in western Antarctica, according to a study in the Geological Society of America Bulletin. The valley is almost two miles, or 3.2 kilometers, deep; 15 miles, or 24 kilometers, wide; and 200 miles, 321.8 kilometers, long. “We had acquired ice penetrating radar data from both ends of this huge hidden valley, but we had no information to tell us what was in between. Satellite data was used to fill the gap, because despite being covered beneath several kilometers of ice, the valley is so vast that it can be seen from space,” said geology professor Neil Ross of Newcastle University, lead author of the study.

Ball of lightning caught on video offers clues to its makeup: Researchers in China recorded an instance of ball lightning, lending credence to a theory about the elusive phenomena. Scientists at Northwestern Normal University analyzed the composition of the lightning ball, and found the same elements in the soil where the bolt stuck. The observation supports a theory by University of Canterbury’s John Abrahamson that the sudden intense heat produced by the bolt vaporizes silicon oxide in the dirt, creating a vapor that becomes the glowing ball. However, researchers say other things could explain the ball’s appearance.

DNA testing a glass of water could help catalog fish, study suggests: A new technique can conduct a survey of fish based on a glass of water from the area where the fish live, researchers say. Scientists used DNA analysis of two pint glasses of water from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to find what kinds of fish were in the tank. They compared the DNA in the water to primers from previous studies. The researchers correctly identified eight bony fishes, but could not identify turtles or creatures such as sharks and rays.

Gene therapy shows promise in restoring sight for eye-disease patients: Gene therapy has helped restore sight to six people with choroideremia, an inherited disease that causes blindness because of defects in the CHM gene, according to a report published in the Lancet. Researchers at the University of Oxford injected a corrective copy of the CHM gene into the retinas of choroideremia patients and found that after several months, all reported vision improvement. Long-term results are yet to be determined.

Mars moon Phobos could be a captured asteroid, study suggests: The lumpy, mishapen Martian moon Phobos may be a captured asteroid, according to an international team of researchers. The astronomers modeled ultraviolet light reflected from the moon’s surface and compared it with those of an asteroid and a meteorite found on Earth, finding similarities. “This provided more additional support for compositional similarities between Phobos and D-type asteroids,” said University of Padova’s Maurizio Pajola, who led the study.

Extreme El Niños could happen more frequently, study suggests: Warming water in the eastern Pacific Ocean could lead to more intense El Niño weather events every 10 years instead of 20, according to a study led by CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research climate scientist Wenju Cai. El Niño weather events occur when changing wind patterns move warm water in the eastern Pacific, triggering atmospheric circulation changes that affect global rainfall and storm patterns. The study tested 20 climate models simulating extreme El Niño conditions, but looked at rainfall increases instead of sea surface temperatures, finding increased frequency in the chance of an extreme event over the next 100 years.

Comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta awakens from hibernation: The European Space Agency’s spacecraft Rosetta has awakened from a 31-month hibernation for its mission to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August. The craft’s mission is to deposit Philae, a robotic lander, on the comet in November as it passes out beyond the orbit of Jupiter and heads toward the sun. “This will give us knowledge on how and where the comet was formed, and about its subsequent journey through the evolution of the solar system,” said Matt Taylor, a Rosetta project scientist.

Scientists ponder the origin of doughnut-shaped rock on Mars: NASA scientists are trying to figure out how a rock, shaped like a jelly doughnut, appeared in the second of two photos taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars. The round rock, which scientists say contains twice as much manganese as they’ve seen on Mars, was not in the first photo, which was taken 12 days before. They speculate that the rover could have kicked up the rock while turning, or it landed there when something else hit the planet. “We’re completely confused,” said Steven Squyres, the mission’s principal investigator. “We’re having a wonderful time. Everyone on the team is arguing and fighting.”

Researchers say hookworm genome could hold cure for many diseases: Scientists hope to discover a cure for hookworm disease by decoding the genome of the blood-sucking creature. The information from the genome could help the more than 700 million people who have the disease, as well as provide insight into treatments for other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.

Energy efficiency could increase with new solar power technology: Researchers are looking at ways to use solar thermophotovoltaic systems to enhance energy efficiency. The photovoltaic cells would collect infrared radiation after a high-temperature material is heated by the sun. The technique would allow the cells to store the energy and also use wavelengths of light that are usually wasted.

30 minutes of sunlight may lower blood pressure, researchers say: Spending at least 30 minutes in the sun could decrease blood pressure, according to researchers in the U.K. The scientists observed that blood vessels dilated and blood pressure dropped when volunteers received a dose of ultraviolet light equivalent to a half-hour in the sun. They think the sunlight may affect the body’s nitric oxide, which helps regulate blood pressure.

Canadian researchers discover what triggers some deadly arrhythmias: Canadian researchers say they have uncovered the cause of calcium-triggered heart arrhythmias and are working to develop “molecularly tailored” drugs to treat the condition. The study found that a calcium overload in the heart disrupts contraction of the heart muscles and causes the arrhythmias that often lead to sudden death. “These findings open a new chapter of calcium signaling and the discovery fosters the possibilities of new drug interventions,” said senior author SR Wayne Chen.

Significant number of sharks, rays at risk of extinction, study suggests: A first-of-its-kind global analysis has found that 25% of sharks and rays are at risk of extinction, research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature has found. “Our analysis shows that sharks and their relatives are facing an alarmingly elevated risk of extinction. In greatest peril are the largest species of rays and sharks, especially those living in shallow water that is accessible to fisheries,” said Nick Dulvy of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University.

Ancient fish had genetic ability to evolve to have fingers and toes, study says: Ancient fish could have evolved to have fingers and toes if a different genetic switch had been flipped, according to scientists in Switzerland, who say the DNA structure was present in the genome of ancient fish. “The basics of the regulatory mechanism are there in the fish. Everything is there, you just need to click it, and then it goes into the genes,” said study co-author Denis Duboule, a geneticist with the University of Geneva and Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

Good to know, since I’m writing a mermaid novel where my mermaids are more like fish then humans ;)

European forests destroyed during ancient cold period, study suggests: Ancient European forests were wiped out during a cold period that descended on Earth almost 13,000 years ago, according to researchers at Germany’s University of Potsdam. “It got much colder — between 4 and 6 degrees Celsius [7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit] over the course of hundreds of years. Winters were very cold and got much longer, and summers were much shorter than before,” said paleoclimatologist and organic geochemist Dirk Sachse, co-author of the study. By analyzing fossils of this period, Sachse and colleagues found that about half of the forests in certain European locations were replaced by grasslands.

2013 ties 2003 as 4th-warmest year on record, NOAA says: Last year tied with 2003 as the fourth-hottest globally since 1880, according to figures released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA scientists say the average world temperature was 58.12 degrees Fahrenheit, or 14.51 Celsius. However, NASA, using a different method of calculation, says that 2013 was the seventh warmest, averaging 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 14.61 Celsius.

Long-forgotten Egyptian pharaoh’s remains found in ransacked tomb: The tomb of Woseribre Senebkay, a pharaoh of the long-forgotten Abydos Dynasty, has been found by researchers with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The tomb had been ransacked by ancient tomb robbers, leaving only the pharaoh’s remains, fragments of his coffin and a funerary mask. “Continued work in the royal tombs of the Abydos Dynasty promises to shed new light on the political history and society of an important but poorly understood era of Ancient Egypt,” said the museum’s Egyptian Section Associate Curator Josef Wegner, who led the team of archaeologists.

Researchers find new species of Amazon river dolphin: A new species of river dolphin has been discovered in the Amazon, according to a study in PLoS ONE. Researchers with the Federal University of Amazonas in Brazil noted that the new species, Inia araguaiaensis, has 24 teeth per jaw, unlike other river dolphins in the Amazon. The researchers also said the species came into being about 2 million years ago when the basins they called home became isolated from the rest of the Amazon river system. The scientists are concerned for the rare creatures, which are threatened by dam construction in the area.

Vapor venting out of massive asteroid Ceres: Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest asteroid in the solar system, appears to be intermittently venting water vapor into space, according to a report in Nature. Scientists aren’t sure what is causing the spurts, which had been observed by the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory before it was switched off last year, but a NASA space probe scheduled to visit the dwarf planet early next year and may provide clues. “It will be able to observe those dark regions at high resolution, and will probably solve the question of what process is creating the water vapor,” said Michael Kuppers of the ESA.

Remains of ancient Byzantine church found in Israel: A salvage excavation has revealed the remains of an ancient Byzantine church in southern Israel, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The 1,500-year-old remains include Greek inscriptions and mosaics depicting various animals and designs, as well as marble pillars and Byzantine glass vessels. The mosaics will be removed and put on display, according to the IAA.

Battery draws electrical power from sugar: A sugar in the form of maltodextrin has been used to produce an enzymatic fuel cell with water as the main byproduct. Electron charges in the sugar are released in stages with the use of a low-cost biocatalyst. “Sugar is a perfect energy-storage compound in nature. So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.

Study sheds light on X chromosomes: To better see how females turn on and off their X chromosomes, scientists at Johns Hopkins University have developed a way to get X chromosomes from different parents to light up in different colors. Dr. Jeremy Nathans and his team engineered mice to breed female babies with X chromosomes from one parent that turned green if active and exposed to a chemical, and red from the other parent when it came in contact with a different chemical. The colors in the offspring show a roadmap of which cells are turned off and on in various organs.

Placebo effect works for sleep, study suggests: The placebo effect can work for sleep, according to a study. Researchers misled participants to believe that sensors would measure the rate of REM sleep they got, then told them, upon waking, that they either got 16.2% REM sleep or 28.7% REM sleep. The participants who were told they got less REM sleep did poorly on a simple math test while those told they got better sleep did well.

So if I tell myself I slept well every night I’ll feel like I slept well? Worth a try.

Threat of Midwest quake still exists, study finds: The New Madrid Seismic Zone in the Midwest may be gearing up rather than slowing down, according to a study in the journal Science. Scientists have debated whether the seismic zone is dying out. “I don’t agree that this area is dying out. It’s not going to go off anytime soon, but we do have evidence that more stress is being built up now. Eventually, that energy will have to be released in a large earthquake,” said geophysicist and lead author Morgan Page of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif.

Residents of ancient Egyptian home appear to have lived the high life: Cattle bones and leopard teeth found within the remains of a 4,500-year-old estate near the Pyramids of Giza suggest that the residents lived a high-class lifestyle. Archaeologists working at a site near the Sphinx found remnants of the once-opulent home, which held at least 21 rooms, while excavating a city that existed around the time the last of the Giza pyramids was being built. “Almost all the cattle are under 10 months of age … they are eating veal,” said Richard Redding of Ancient Egypt Research Associates and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan.

Mosquito bite inspires painless needle: The surprisingly complex mechanics behind a mosquito’s bite was the inspiration for a new type of “micro-needle” designed for painless and efficient drug injections and blood extraction, according to one of its developers, Suman Chakraborty, a mechanical engineering professor at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur. The needle, half the width of a human hair, is made of titanium and may allow diabetics to avoid the pain of daily blood sampling and injections with conventional needles.

Researchers uncover clues to Grand Canyon’s complicated past: A thermochronological study of the Grand Canyon has given researchers more clues about its complicated history, according to a report in Nature Geoscience. Geologists with the University of New Mexico took samples from four of the five major areas of the canyon, and found that one of the oldest segments, called the Hurricane, formed between 55 million and 70 million years ago. Another segment, called the Eastern Grand Canyon, didn’t start forming until about 25 million years ago. They also found that the easternmost and westernmost regions hadn’t started forming until the past 5 million to 6 million years.

Coral reef growing in acidic water has scientists scratching their heads: A coral reef in the western Pacific Ocean near Palau is thriving under increasing acidic conditions, baffling scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Coral reefs typically create calcium carbonate from seawater, but carbonate levels fall as water becomes more acidic, threatening the corals’ existence. However the reef near Palau is thriving despite the acidity, according to the study in Geophysical Research Letters, and researchers have yet to figure out why.

Study: Hunter-gatherers with blue eyes, dark skin lived in Europe 7,000 years ago: Europe’s early hunter-gatherers had blue eyes and dark skin about 7,000 years ago, which goes against the conventional theory that blue eyes came to the continent with invaders about 5,000 years ago, according to a genetic map of skeletal remains found in a cave in Spain. Scientists with the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva in Barcelona took DNA from the tooth of the skeleton to create the gene map. They also found that many disease-resistant genes in modern Europeans were also present in the ancient gene map.

New method found to create antibiotics from seawater bacteria: A technique to find potential antibiotics in seawater bacteria has been developed by University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The ocean is home to a vast number of microbes, which are difficult to grow in the lab. The researchers say their method is an efficient way to identify promising new drugs, and to demonstrate, they created an antibiotic effective against MRSA.


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Writing Backwards

Happy Thursday, Aledans! The manic happiness of the other week is over, and so is most of “the month of do-nothing”. I’m still feeling happy, just not quite so “I want to hug the world forever and ever” happy. Which is good. The world couldn’t deal with being hugged that long ;)

Aly and I in Key West. Writing StO has me itching to return!

Aly and I in Key West. Writing StO has me itching to return!

My manic reading spree has also come to an end (for now), and I’ve settled into writing Speak the Ocean. Backwards. I wrote the final scene, then skipped to the next big scene before it, and I’m going to write until I hit the final scene again. Then I’ll skip to the next big scene before that…and you get the idea. I’ve never written this way before, but it’s fun. Much better then floundering through the beginning trying to figure out where I’m going. Plus, by the beginning I’ll know the characters so well I won’t have to deal with that awkward “who are these people?” beginning of the novel.

I’ve been having such a good time writing backwards that I even wrote 1,800 words yesterday! I haven’t done that in…a very long time. Maybe since NaNo 2010? Although that was such a failure of a year it might have been NaNo 2009. I guess when you’re electrocuting mermaids you just can’t be bothered to look up from your paper and pen ;)

I did take an hour out of writing yesterday to do yoga for the first time since August or September. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to get back into it, but I’m certainly feeling it today. Everything from my neck to my knees is sore, but the good kind of sore.

I also found this nifty website last week called DIY MFA, and I’m planning out the books I need to read while I work on StO. Lots of mermaid novels (if you have a suggestion for one that I shouldn’t pass up please let me know! I’ve already read FATHOMLESS and adored it), and now I’m trying to find some books set in Key West (there are lots of murder mysteries and romance novels, but I’m not finding much else – and yes, I’ve read TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT). Any book recommendations would be wonderful :)

How has your week been going so far, Aledans? Have you ever tried writing a book backwards?

Science Tuesday Is Back!

Welcome back to Science Tuesday, Aledans! While we missed all of November and December’s science news, I’m getting back on track and found seven (Word) pages of goodies for you today! Since that’s a lot of science news, let’s get right to it.

Geologists unravel origin of underwater Antarctic volcanoes: The Marie Byrd Seamounts, a group of eight large volcanoes on the seafloor off the coast of West Antarctica, were formed about 60 million years ago when part of the Earth’s crust pulled apart and fossilized mantle-plume material escaped to the surface, according to a report by Germany’s GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiehl. This goes against another theory that they were formed by a hotspot. “The Marie Byrd Seamounts are particularly interesting, since they represent an example for enigmatic intraplate volcanism which cannot be explained with the ‘classical’ model … for the origin of volcanism within the Earth plates and, therefore, requires alternative models,” said study co-author Reinhard Werner.

New species of humpback dolphin identified: A new species of humpback dolphin has been identified off the coast of Australia by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Researchers used genetic tests to confirm the findings, according to a report in the journal Molecular Ecology. Scientists hope the discovery will spark conservation programs that will target each species accordingly, leading to boosts in their populations.

Australia’s oldest known bird tracks date to Early Cretaceous period: Two sets of fossilized footprints found in Victoria, Australia, are those of birds during the Early Cretaceous period, which would make them the oldest bird tracks found on the continent, according to a report in the journal Palaeontology. “These tracks are evidence that we had sizable, flying birds living alongside other kinds of dinosaurs on these polar, river floodplains, about 105 million years ago,” said Emory University paleontologist Anthony Martin, who authored the report.

Brains wired to be wary of snakes, study says: The brain is wired to detect the threat of snakes, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers studied a pair of macaque monkeys born in captivity who had not encountered snakes before the experiment. When shown an image of a snake, the monkeys’ brains fired off rapid fear responses far stronger than those recorded when other threatening images were shown. “It really strengthens the argument that snakes are very important for the evolution of primates,” said University of California at Davis anthropology professor Lynne Isbell, who co-authored the study.

5 cannons recovered from Blackbeard’s ship: Five cannons have been recovered from Blackbeard’s sunken ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, off the coast of North Carolina. Researchers from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources worked with the Coast Guard to bring up the guns, which weigh between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds, bringing the total number of cannons recovered from the wreckage to 20. Edward Teach, better known as the pirate Blackbeard, intentionally grounded the ship about 300 years ago.

1,900-year-old eagle statue found at London dig site: A Roman statue of an eagle swallowing a snake has been uncovered by archaeologists digging at the site of a planned hotel complex in London. The limestone statue is in pristine condition and is believed to be about 1,900 years old. “This really sits among the finest pieces of Romano-British sculpture,” said Museum of London Archaeology finds specialist Michael Marshall.

Dinosaur walks again thanks to computer simulation: How the Argentinosaurus, among the largest known dinosaurs, moved more than 94 million years ago has been recreated in a computer simulation by researchers at the University of Manchester in England. Scientists used lasers to scan the skeleton of the 88-ton dinosaur, then created a computer model of how the bulky creature got around. “If you want to work out how dinosaurs walked, the best approach is computer simulation. This is the only way of bringing together all the different strands of information we have on this dinosaur, so we can reconstruct how it once moved,” said lead researcher Bill Sellers, a computational and evolutionary biology professor.

Scientists create first map of human HIV resistance: Genetic researchers have analyzed the genomes of strains of HIV from 1,071 individuals and retraced how the immune system fights the virus, producing the first map of human AIDS resistance. According to research published in the journal eLife, researchers used supercomputers to cross 3,000 genetic mutations with more than 6 million variations in the genes of HIV patients to trace how the virus interacted with different genes to survive. Scientists believe that by profiling the genome of HIV-infected people, it will be possible to develop individually targeted treatments that take into account the patient’s genetic strengths and weaknesses.

Stately redwoods hold record of Pacific Ocean’s climate: By soaking up water from fog as well as rain, coastal redwoods have helped scientists reconstruct climate patterns of the Pacific Ocean. “Redwoods are restricted to a very narrow strip along the coastline. They’re tied to the coastline, and they’re sensitive to marine conditions, so they actually may tell you more about what’s happening over the ocean than they do about what’s happening over land,” said Jim Johnstone, co-author of the study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. Researchers measured the different levels of oxygen trapped inside the wood.

Ocean warming at a faster rate, researchers say: Over the past 60 years, the Pacific Ocean has been warming 15 times faster than ever before, and heat from greenhouse gases is the culprit, researchers say in a study published in Science. The temperature of the area of the Pacific near Indonesia has risen about one-third of a degree Fahrenheit. “It’s not so much the magnitude of the change, but the rate of change. We’re experimenting by putting all this heat in the ocean without quite knowing how it’s going to come back out and affect climate,” said Columbia University climate scientist Braddock Linsley, the study’s co-author.

Massive flood may have led to decline of ancient Native American city: A devastating flood may have led to the demise of the thriving Native American city of Cahokia around 1200 A.D., according to research reported at the Geological Society of America conference. The community sprang up in an area near modern-day St. Louis and was just reaching the height of its population when the flood hit, after which Cahokia fell into decline and eventually became a ghost town. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, examined sediment cores from a lake near the Cahokia site, finding a layer of silty clay left behind by the floodwaters.

Wild blueberries linked to improved blood vessel function: Eating wild blueberries can help blood vessel function, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study is the first to link wild blueberry polyphenols to better vascular function in healthy men, according to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. “Importantly, even the lowest amount of wild blueberries tested in the study, equivalent to [three-quarters of a] cup of wild blueberries, was able to improve endothelial function,” said University of Dusseldorf’s Ana Rodriguez-Mateos.

Specific brain regions activate when babies watch different tasks: U.S. researchers looked at the brain activity of 70 babies who were 14 months old and found greater activation in areas of the brain corresponding to the body part used by adults performing specific tasks. “Babies are exquisitely careful people-watchers, and they’re primed to learn from others,” said Andrew Meltzoff, co-author of the study reported in the journal PLoS ONE.

Clouds hovering over pair of exoplanets, researchers say: High-altitude clouds have been found covering the atmospheres of GJ 436b, an exoplanet a bit larger than Neptune but significantly hotter, and GJ 1214b, a super-Earth, according to two teams of scientists whose findings have been published in Nature. Researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were looking for dips in specific wavelengths of starlight as the planets passed in front of their respective stars in order to determine the chemicals making up their atmospheres. They were unable to find chemicals within the light, leading researchers to believe that layers of clouds were blocking their view.

Sea anemones living underneath Antarctica ice shelf baffle scientists: A large number of white sea anemones have been found living on the underside of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Scientists are puzzled over how the creatures survive without freezing. Researchers, using a camera attached to a drill, were conducting a geological study of the ice shelf when they saw several Edwardsiella andrillae hanging underneath the ice. “I would never have guessed that they live embedded in the ice because there is nothing different about their anatomy,” said Marymegan Daly of Ohio State University.

Vitamin E shows promise in slowing brain decline due to Alzheimer’s: Vitamin E may slow brain decline in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, according to a study of 613 patients at several Veterans Affairs medical centers. The patients given 2,000 international units per day of vitamin E exhibited slower functional decline over the average follow-up time of 2.3 years and needed less caregiver assistance.

100-year-old negatives yield photos of early Antarctic expedition: Images of Ernest Shackleton’s final attempt to conquer Antarctica have been developed from negatives found in the darkroom of a hut that was a base for some of the earliest expeditions to the region. The 22 photos, a century old, depict the journey of the support ship and crew to Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance, which was eventually crushed by ice. The Aurora also ran afoul of weather, but the photos offer a glimpse of the ship before it was lost, as well as Ross Island and landmarks around McMurdo Sound.

High-tech scanners reveal Colonial-era sites in New England: The forests of New England hide Colonial-era farms and roads, according to archaeologists using light detection and ranging scanners, or LiDAR. The images have uncovered farm walls, homesteads and roads dating back to the 18th century in three areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts. LiDAR, which bounces laser light pulses off the ground from the air, is a growing method of revealing new clues about archaeological sites.

Paintings in tomb of Egyptian brewer depict life 3,000 years ago: The well-preserved tomb of an Egyptian brewer, with paintings on the walls showing life 3,000 years ago, has been found on the Nile’s west bank by a team of Japanese archaeologists. Khonso Im-Heb was a brewer who was in charge of granaries dedicated to the worship of Egyptian mother goddess Mut. The paintings depict scenes of daily life and worship between Khonso Im-Heb and his family.

Stem cells proliferate in newly developed artificial bone marrow: German scientists have successfully created an artificial bone marrow made from synthetic polymer that contains the basic properties of the natural human bone marrow. To test if hematopoietic stem cells can proliferate in the same way as they do in their natural environment, researchers directed HSCs from umbilical cord and incubated them for days. Results showed that the cells can proliferate in the artificial bone marrow, which can lead researchers to study stem cell behavior and how they are influenced by synthetic materials.

Rare configuration of pulsar, white dwarfs could test Einstein’s theory: A rare configuration of a pulsar orbited by two white dwarfs has been found by researchers with the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia, giving scientists an opportunity to test Einstein’s theory of relativity. Researchers can measure the orbital periods and the masses of each of the three objects to possibly uncover anomalies to Einstein’s theory. “By measuring to very high precision, we’ll be able to test this strong equivalence principle,” said Scott Ransom, who was conducting a pulsar survey with colleagues when they detected the trio.

Level of magma alone is enough to get supervolcanoes to erupt: Supervolcanoes don’t need any external help to erupt, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. Researchers conducting tests at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility found that just a large volume of liquid magma is enough to trigger a devastating eruption. “Now we know you don’t need any extra factor — a supervolcano can erupt due to its enormous size alone. … Once you get enough melt, you can start an eruption just like that,” said ETH Zurich’s Wim Malfait, lead author of the report.

Amber catches ancient flowering plant in act of producing seeds: A flowering plant from the Cretaceous period was encased in amber while it was making seeds, giving researchers a unique look at how ancient plants reproduced, which turns out not to be all that different from today’s plants. The Micropetasos burmensis, a plant with tiny bunches of flowers, was first collected in 2001 in Myanmar, and the amber perfectly preserved its fragile structures. “Here you have a 100-million-year-old flower that looks like it was blooming last week,” said Oregon State University biologist George Poinar, co-author of the study.

Ancient carnivore ancestor was cat-squirrel-like creature: The remains of one of the earliest ancestors of today’s carnivorous mammals has been found in Belgium. The 2-pound, or 1-kilogram, Dormaalocyon latouri was not a fearsome beast, but a creature that resembled a small panther crossed with a squirrel that lived during the Eocene era. “It is one of the oldest carnivorous mammals which is related to present-day carnivores,” said paleontologist Floreal Sole of the Royal Belgian Institute of National Sciences.

Fossils of Eocene-era cockroaches found in Colo.: The fossils of four different Ectobius species of cockroach have been found in northwest Colorado, dating back 49 million years. Ectobius cockroaches were thought to have originated in what is now Europe and Africa, but the Colorado discovery suggests they originated in North America during the Eocene era, according to a study published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Mars rover Opportunity celebrates 10th birthday: The Martian rover Opportunity was only supposed to operate for 90 days, but apparently, nobody told the rover. The robot continues to explore the Red Planet, a decade later. “Opportunity is still in excellent health for a vehicle of its age,” mission project manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The biggest science may still be ahead of us, even after 10 years of exploration.”

Researchers uncover dinosaur fossils in Saudi Arabia: Dinosaur fossils have been found in Saudi Arabia for the first time with the discovery of the remains of a titanosaur and a theropod. “This discovery is important not only because of where the remains were found, but also because of the fact that we can actually identify them,” said paleobiologist Benjamin Kear of Uppsala University in Sweden and lead author of the study published in PLoS ONE. The fossils date back 72 million years.

Prairie dogs jump to test neighbors’ awareness, study suggests: Prairie dogs exhibit contagious displays of communication very much like the wave seen at sports stadiums around the world, according to a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “This work reveals that black-tailed prairie dogs use contagious ‘jump-yip’ displays to probe the responsiveness of their neighbors, effectively testing their level of vigilance, and adjusting their behavior according to how much they can rely on their neighbor’s awareness of potential risks in their environment,” said James Hare of the University of Manitoba in Canada, a co-author of the study.

Ancient strips of bamboo hold multiplication table: A multiplication table in base 10 has been revealed in ancient strips of bamboo found in China that date back to around 305 B.C. About 2,500 bamboo strips were donated to Tsinghua University in Beijing five years ago, and researchers discovered ancient Chinese calligraphy written on the strips that they pieced together like a puzzle. Of those strips, 21 contained only numbers, which researchers found was a multiplication table.

More scientists explore use of cord blood stem cells to treat various diseases: Scientists are looking to expand the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells in treating conditions. Ongoing studies show promise in treating patients with type 1 diabetes, rebuilding heart muscles in children with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome and improving conditions of patients with cerebral palsy by infusing the stem cells intravenously. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued policy encouraging public cord blood donations, as U.S. demand for cord blood stem cells for research and medical treatments increases.

Mantis shrimp use rapid eye movements to track surroundings: To study their surroundings, mantis shrimp use rapid eye movements similar to primates, according to researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia. Scientists filmed shrimp eyes as a colored object was introduced inside an aquarium and found that the mantis shrimp tracked it with rapid eye movement, known as saccades, which is usually found in primates, but at twice the rate of human saccades.

Mycenaeans took their cooking on the road with portable grills: Ancient Mycenaeans were culinary pioneers as well as builders and warriors, using portable grills and non-stick pans more than 3,000 years ago, according to a study presented at the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting. Among the artifacts the Mycenaeans left behind were souvlaki trays and griddles that researchers recreated using American clays. The scientists used their replicas to cook meat and bread to better understand how the utensils worked.

Sticky nanoparticles may halt spreading cancer cells: Nanoparticles designed by scientists at Cornell University can destroy cancer cells in the blood and prevent the disease from spreading, research suggests. Researchers attached sticky cancer-killing proteins to nanoparticles and injected them into blood, where they stuck themselves onto white blood cells, according to a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The results are quite remarkable actually, in human blood and in mice. After two hours of blood flow, they [the tumour cells] have literally disintegrated,” said Michael King, the lead researcher.

Great white sharks live much longer than previously thought, study finds: The life span of great white sharks is much longer than what researchers first thought, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution combined the common method of determining a shark’s age — counting stripes in teeth and bones — with measurements of carbon-14 levels left behind after nuclear bomb testing during the 1950s-60s, which “provides a time stamp for us to determine when these tissue layers were deposited,” said Li Ling Hamady, the study’s co-author. Using that method, researchers determined that sharks can live up to 70 years or more and mature more slowly.

Prehistoric sea creatures had dark coloring, study finds: Fossil pigments of ancient reptiles have been found, giving scientists details about their coloring, which helped protect them from predators and ultraviolet radiation. “The pigment melanin is almost unbelievably stable. Our discovery enables us to make a journey through time and to revisit these ancient reptiles using their own biomolecules,” said study co-author Per Uvdal of the MAX IV Laboratory at Sweden’s Lund University. Researchers studied the soft tissue remains of a 196 million-year-old ichthyosaur, an 85 million-year-old mosasaur and a 55 million-year-old leatherback turtle, finding that they had dark skin, according to the study published in Nature.

Extreme-distance runners in better overall health, study finds: Ultramarathoners, who run races of 50-plus miles, are in better health and miss less work due to sick time, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. “Such information is valuable in understanding potential benefits and risks from levels of exercise beyond the moderate amounts known to have health benefits,” wrote Dr. Martin Hoffman of the University of California at Davis and Dr. Eswar Krishnan of Stanford University School of Medicine. The scientists studied 1,212 ultramarathoners between the ages of 18 and 81 who ran more than 64 miles a week.

Scientists develop tiny windmills with big power potential: Tiny nickel-alloy windmills, so small that 10 could fit on a grain of rice, could potentially produce enough power to revive a dead cell phone within minutes, according to researchers at University of Texas at Arlington. WinMEMS, a Taiwanese company, has already secured rights to commercializing the windmills and is working on potential applications. “These inventions are essential to build micro-robots that can be used as surgical tools, sensing machines to explore disaster zones or manufacturing tools to assemble micro-machines,” said university officials.

Caffeine can improve long-term memory, study suggests: In the right amount, coffee can improve long-term memory, according to a study from the University of California at Irvine. Researchers tested 160 volunteers, showing them images of objects, then giving them a pill with either a placebo or 200 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of two espressos. The subjects given the caffeine showed significant improvement in memory consolidation, researchers said.

Gene therapy for Parkinson’s yields promising results: ProSavin, a triple-gene therapy that stimulates brain cells to produce dopamine, shows potential in relieving symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s disease. The therapy was tested in 15 patients whose response to existing treatments had waned. ProSavin infuses genes into the brain via modified virus to boost production of dopamine in the area that controls motor function, according to findings reported in The Lancet. Though the therapy was well tolerated without serious side effects, experts noted additional research involving a control group is needed.

Japanese scientists use sound waves to levitate objects: Scientists at the University of Tokyo are using sound waves to levitate objects. The researchers created a standing wave, combining two or more waves to generate a node where there is no movement as the wave oscillates. The wave can hold aloft small objects and could be useful in industries where sterile materials need to be moved but not touched, like medicines or spaceship parts.

High levels of molecular chlorine over Alaska concern scientists: Researchers say an unusually high level of molecular chlorine in the atmosphere above Barrow, Alaska, is probably the product of melting sea ice, which becomes highly reactive chlorine atoms in sunlight. A 2009 study detected levels as high as 400 parts per trillion. “It’s a mystery to us right now,” said Greg Huey of the Georgia Institute of Technology. “But the sea ice is changing dramatically, so we’re in a time where we have absolutely no predictive power over what’s going to happen to this chemistry.”

Evidence of limbs found in 375 million-year-old fish: A 375 million-year-old fish known as Tiktaalik roseae had gills and fins, but also grew front and back legs much like alligators, researchers at the University of Chicago discovered. “We had long thought that expanded hind limbs and hips were features of limbed animals,” said study lead author and paleontologist Neil Shubin. “Tiktaalik shows that our closest fish relatives had expanded hips and hind fins; hence, this feature may well have arisen in fish.”

Long lives of primates may lie in their slower metabolism: Slower metabolisms may be the key to long lives in primates. Researchers say primates tend to expend 50% less energy during the day than mammals of similar size and shape, and the feature may be a survival mechanism when food becomes scarce. “Slowing life-history down would be advantageous and provide juveniles with extended periods to learn how to survive,” said primatologist Erin Vogel of Rutgers University. “If they can slow down their expenditure, this could buffer them against an uncertain environment.”


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2014, I Like You Already.

Happy Thursday, Aledans!

You know, I say that every day I post. But today I really mean it. I mean it all the other times too, but today I really mean it.


Ok, so I may have spent the first week of this year reading the entire IRON DRUID CHRONICLES while sick, so I’m a little expletive-happy. And Oberon-happy. And Atticus-happy. And just happy in general.

That’s right: I’m happy in general. I’m myself-happy for the first time since sometime last summer (or maybe spring?). I didn’t even realize I hadn’t been myself-happy until last night. I’ve had some really happy moments in the past six months. My first full request. Meeting one of my CPs. A million little happy moments with Hubs and my family and friends.

All tainted by…I don’t even know what. I don’t know what’s been wrong with me for the past several months. I mean, rejections, yeah. That’ll ruin anyone’s day. But you’d think directly after finding out you don’t need heart surgery you’d be, you know, loving life in a whole new way. Instead, I took a nose-dive in 2013 towards bah-humbug, screw-everyone-else, cynicism. That is so far in the opposite direction from ME that I can’t even begin to explain it, because I don’t understand it myself. There was a day in late November that I actually consider giving up writing. Not just trying to get published – which may or may not ever happen – but writing. Storylining. Kindra.

I almost gave up on Kindra. If ever there was a dark night of the soul, that was mine. It persisted until exactly four days ago:


Sometimes you need to be knocked on your ass to appreciate everything else.

I began this year sick. I thought I was hung-over on the first two days, but now I’m pretty sure it was just a massive head-cold gearing up to sucker-punch me in the throat/sinuses. Which is, honestly, exactly what I needed. I needed something to throw me down and tell me to stop.

Stop worrying about all the things I haven’t accomplished yet. All the obligations. All the guilt that I haven’t done all the things I promised myself I’d do. I know I wrote a little bit last week about the stupidity of making goals you know you can’t keep, only to get pissed at yourself that you didn’t keep those goals. After a week of nothing except reading whatever I want, and writing whatever I want (and deciding to write StO backwards instead of forwards because that’s how it wants to be written right now), I’m feeling good. A bit manic at this particular minute (it’s 12:16am on Thursday at this particular minute), but mostly I’ve felt calm and happy and good this week. “Look at the stars and notice how bright they are” good.

Speaking of stars, I’ve been grasping onto the song SHINE by Anna Nalick for the past two years (or more) as my own. I think it’s time to retire it. I think it’s time to find a new song.