Guest Post: SK Falls, Fevered Souls

Hello Aledans! I’m in the thick of NaNo and traveling for a wedding, so instead of an update post this week, I thought I’d leave you in the lovely, capable hands of my BFF, SK Falls. You know her from the Secret for a Song and World of Shell and Bone cover reveals and guest posts, and today she’s here to talk briefly about her new Fevered Souls Season Two Omnibus.

FSSeason2_400x600Four Reasons Why I Write the Fevered Souls Serial:

The guys are smoking. Ha, you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

When I have a bad day, I can kill someone. I love killing off bad guys to relieve stress. It’s cheaper than therapy!

I love plot twists. In a serial like Fevered Souls, I can add them in at the most (in)opportune times to make a reader sweat. I have more chances for these because each episode ends on a sort of cliffhanger as does each season.

Eden feels like a vacation. Eden, with its smoky, misty mountains and beautiful foliage, is an escape from reality. I could spend months there nestled in some cabin, spying on Dax and Cara. (I mean, writing about them. Note to self: They’re not real people.)

I know the smoking hot guys peaked your interest already, but doesn’t Eden sound wonderful? I want to visit already! And I’m sure you can already guess why we’re such good friends: she likes high body counts too!

About S.K. Falls:

SKFalls_NewerSmallerA huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, S.K. Falls enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards in Charleston, SC where she lives and imbibes coffee. Her husband and two small children seem not to mind when she hastily scribbles novel lines on stray limbs in the absence of notepads.

Since no writer’s biography is complete without mention of her menagerie of animals, you should know she has one dog that doubles as a footstool, a second that functions as a vacuum cleaner, and a cat that ensures she never forgets that her hands are, first and foremost, for pouring cat food.

Find S.K. Falls on:






Cover Reveal: Dreamsnatcher, by Angela Wallace

Surprise, Aledans! It’s a Wednesday post! Since I wasn’t planning to post an update tomorrow (update: NaNo starts Friday!) I decided to shake things up around here. So when Angela asked if anyone wanted to be part of her cover reveal I jumped on board. Who wouldn’t want to A) help out a good writing friend, and B) get a first peek at a BEAUTIFUL cover? And it is beautiful! But first, a little about Dreamsnatcher:

Falling asleep has never been so dangerous…

Lexa has spent the past five years training the princess of Teltania in dreamwalking, but with Taryn’s eighteenth birthday approaching, the girl has increasing royal duties and Lexa is getting ready to retire yet again. This time she’s looking forward to settling down and sailing with Sir Neil Duram—until his ship barely survives a raider attack.

The raiders have been hounding Teltania’s coast and their victims are falling into comas. With Neil’s crew at risk, Lexa sets out to find a cure. But things aren’t what they seem. She discovers that the comatose have been snatched from their dreams and stolen into the dreamscape.

The scattered cases soon become a potential plague, and Lexa has to find the connection between the waking world raiders and the dream snatchers. Is there a third dreamwalker out there, or something much more sinister? Lexa’s desperate search for answers will drive her to the edge in order to save everything she cares about.


Dreamsnatcher Cover Reveal

What did I tell you: gorgeous! Is your interest peaked yet? You can add the book on Goodreads

 Read more on the Dreamwalker Saga

 AngelaWallaceAngela Wallace loves gun-toting good boys and could have been a cop in another life except for the unfortunate condition of real blood making her queasy. Good thing writing gun and sword fights isn’t a problem. In her books you’ll find the power of love, magic, and redemption.

Subscribe to her newsletter and get an exclusive surprise when the book releases.

Follow on Twitter @AngelaRWallace



Science Tuesday: Zombie Edition (ie. Braaaaaaaaains!)

Happy Tuesday, Aledans! The title of today’s post promises brains, and you’ll find those articles saved together at the bottom of the page. First there are space balloon rides, baby morality, and a Viking Parliament buried under a Scottish parking lot. Enjoy!

First known venomous crustacean identified: The Speleonectes tulumensis, a blind cave-dwelling fanged remipede that resembles a centipede, is the first crustacean found to be venomous, according to scientists at the National History Museum in London. Scientists believe that the remipede’s sophisticated venom system injects its prey first with a paralyzing neurotoxin and then liquefies it for digestion. There are about 70,000 species of crustacean, with the remipede the first to be identified as venomous.

Study of fossil teeth suggests missing earlier human ancestor: A study of teeth in European, African and Asian fossils, and modern humans, suggests that the last common ancestor between humans and Neanderthals lived earlier than previously thought. “What we realized is that none of the species we have in the fossil record is similar to that ancestor morphology that we calculated as the most likely one. We think that we didn’t find it because we actually don’t have this ancestor in the fossil record,” said George Washington University anthropologist Aida Gomez-Robles, the lead author of the study published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The missing ancestor’s teeth would be more like those of Homo ergaster, which lived in Africa between 1.3 million and 1.8 million years ago, the study indicates.

Baby duck-billed dinosaur skeleton found by high schooler: The skeleton of a baby duck-billed dinosaur discovered by a high school student during a fieldwork outing in Utah in 2009 is the smallest and most complete of its kind ever found, say paleontologists at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, Calif. The skeleton is set to go on display at the museum this week, coinciding with a report about the discovery in PeerJ. The student is now studying geology in college.

Nanoscale coating repels water, video shows: A video released by Brookhaven National Laboratory shows how water is repelled by a nanoscale coating, leaving no moisture behind no matter how powerfully it is shot at the coating. The coating could be used to generate power or waterproof electronics.

Trees with gold inside could lead to deposits: Trees can absorb gold from the soil and hold it in their leaves, according to a study published in Nature Communications. Researchers grew trees in insulated greenhouses and watered them with gold-laced solutions. While gold cannot be mined from the trees themselves, the trees could help lead to gold deposits underneath them.

I guess money does grow on trees!

Private company to provide balloon rides to the stratosphere: A startup in Arizona is getting ready to offer balloon rides to the stratosphere at $75,000 a ticket. World View plans to have a six-passenger vehicle ready for liftoff within three years, Chairwoman and President Jane Poynter says. The ride, about 19 miles above Earth, will last about two hours.

Oldest known galaxy discovered in photos by Hubble: Researchers have spotted the farthest and oldest galaxy ever found, which existed 700 million years after the Big Bang. The galaxy, known as z8_GND_5296, is also very active, forming stars at 100 times the rate of the Milky Way. Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope’s infrared camera to find the galaxy and confirmed it with the Keck Observatory’s light-splitting spectograph. “If you tried to look at these really distant galaxies with a visible light telescope, you would see nothing. Literally, they’re invisible. All that visible and optical light has been shifted into the near-infrared,” said the study’s author Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin.

Shipping noise hinders killer whales’ communication, study suggests: The shipping noise levels in killer whale habitats off the British Columbia coast are disrupting the creatures’ communication space, according to a study by Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. “On average, what we found is, the habitats that are most important to resident killer whales — both northern and southern populations — are the noisiest of the sites we are studying,” said lead researcher Rob Williams. The study found that the noise levels in areas populated by humpback whales were less, but noted that there is no protection in place to ensure that they stay that way.

Giant pandas better genetically suited to handle change than other endangered creatures: The endangered giant panda has a resilient immune system and may be able to handle environmental change better than previously thought, according to a genetic study by researchers at China’s Zhejiang University. The scientists collected genetic material from 218 wild pandas from the six mountain areas where they live and found that the wild panda is more genetically diverse than other endangered species, such as the Bengal tiger and the Namibian cheetah. The data can be used help breeding programs perpetuate diversity.

Bee ancestors annihilated along with dinosaurs, study finds: An ancient ancestor of modern carpenter bees abruptly disappeared about 65 million years ago, about the same time as dinosaurs, according to a study published online in PLoS ONE. “We found this mass extinction event signature in the DNA that just happened to correspond to the extinction of dinosaurs, which was a major change in the global diversity at the time,” said University of New Hampshire professor Sandra Rehan, the study’s lead author. The researchers, who analyzed DNA sequences and used fossils of other types of bees as reference points, say the bee extinction lasted about 10 million years.

Drone gives researchers detailed view of 300-year-old coral: Detailed images of a 300-year-old coral living off the coast of American Samoa have been taken by a small drone, using technology that could help scientists map the world’s network of coral reefs. The drone, developed by Stanford Woods Institute’s Stephen Palumbi and Stanford aeronautics graduate student Ved Chirayath, can film coral reefs from up to 200 feet above the ocean. Combining the images from the drone with those of a 360-degree underwater camera, researchers produced detailed panoramic images of the reef.

Surgeons sew out scar tissue in beating heart for first time: Surgeons in England for the first time have operated on a beating heart, sewing out scar tissue in a patient with a failing heart. Doctors say the procedure is less traumatic and invasive than previous procedures, in which patients were placed on a heart-lung machine and had their hearts stopped. The heart function of the man who underwent the new procedure is said to have significantly improved since the operation.

This makes my eyes want to pop out of my head. How amazing is that?!

Cassini images add clues to Titan’s weather cycle: New photos from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft are giving researchers clues to the weather cycle of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. By studying previous images, scientists think Titan has a hydrologic cycle, in which hydrocarbons rain onto the surface filling the lakes and then evaporating back into the atmosphere. The new photos have shown another aspect of that cycle. “Many of these northern liquid bodies are surrounded by a bright material not seen elsewhere on Titan,” said Carolyn Porco, who leads the Cassini imaging team. “Is this an indication that with increased warmth, the seas and lakes are starting to evaporate, leaving behind a deposit of organic material?”

Curse tablet unearthed in Jerusalem: A 1,700-year-old lead tablet inscribed with a curse was found in Jerusalem in the remains of a collapsed Roman mansion. In part, the curse by a woman named Kyrilla against a man named Iennys says, “I strike and strike down and nail down the tongue, the eyes, the wrath, the ire, the anger, the procrastination, the opposition of Iennys,” asking the gods that “he in no way oppose, so that he say or perform nothing adverse to Kyrilla … but rather that Iennys, whom the womb bore, be subject to her” Archaeologists say the curse, written in Greek, was likely written for Kyrilla by a magician over a legal dispute.

The curse must have worked if the mansion collapsed ;)

Viking gathering place found under Scottish parking lot: A Dingwell, Scotland, parking lot was once the site of an 11th-century Viking parliamentary gathering known as a “Thing,” archaeologists say. Things, derived from the word thingvellir, which means field of assembly, were seasonal gatherings held far and wide by Norsemen, who stayed only temporarily. “No one’s had dating [information] from a Thing site in Scotland,” said archaeologist Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage and a member of the Thing Project, which works on similar sites around Europe.

Mars rover scales hill to find oldest rocks yet: NASA’s decade-old Opportunity rover is on its way up a 130-foot hill in its biggest climb yet. At the peak of Solander Point, the rover will find rocks thrown up by the impact that created the nearby crater, making them older than rocks below. “We expect we will reach some of the oldest rocks we have seen with this rover — a glimpse back into the ancient past of Mars,” said Opportunity principal investigator Steve Squyres.

7th planet found in distant solar system: A seventh planet has been discovered orbiting the dwarf star KIC 11442793, according to two separate research teams. “This is the first seven-planet system from Kepler, using a transiting search. We think [the identification] is very secure,” said the University of Oxford’s Chris Lintott, who co-wrote the paper for Planet Hunters, a group of volunteers who use public data from the Kepler space telescope to help suss out new exoplanets. The seven-planet system, about 2,500 light-years from Earth, is similar to our own with the smaller planets on the inside, though the planets circle much closer to their star than we do to our sun.

Scientist unlock genetic secrets in kiwifruit genome: The genome of the kiwifruit has been decoded by scientists from the U.S. and China. “The genome sequence will serve as a valuable resource for kiwifruit research and may facilitate the breeding program for improved fruit quality and disease resistance,” said researcher Zhangjun Fei of the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University. The scientists uncovered two major evolutionary events in the kiwifruit genome as well as many genetic similarities to potatoes and tomatoes, among other plant species.

Smart window insulates and generates power: Vanadium oxide incorporated in windows not only moderates infrared radiation from the sun to help insulate buildings but also can be used to drive diverted sunlight to solar cells for power. That’s the discovery of a team of scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the authors wrote, “This smart window combines energy-saving and generation in one device and offers potential to intelligently regulate and utilize solar radiation in an efficient manner.”

New species of gecko, skink and frog found in Australian rainforest: Three new species — the leaf-tail gecko, the golden skink and the blotched boulder frog — have been found in a remote, largely unexplored rainforest on the northern tip of the Australian state of Queensland. “Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we’ve explored pretty well,” said Conrad Hoskin of James Cook University, which embarked on the expedition along with National Geographic. The researchers said the rainforest may be home to a host of other new species.

Imported Asian carp breeding in Great Lakes watershed: Asian carp imported decades ago to help deal with algae in controlled settings have successfully reproduced in the Great Lakes watershed, much to the dismay of researchers who fear that the carp could threaten native fish. “It would have been a lot easier to control these fish if they’d been limited in the number of places where they could spawn,” said biologist Duane Chapman of the U.S. Geological Survey, which is studying the carp infestation along with Bowling Green State University. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon release a report on a long-term solution.

This has been a huge threat for years :(

Book looks at origins of morality through studies of babies: Babies can tell good from bad, suggesting that morality is innate, according to a book by psychology professor Paul Bloom of Yale University. In “Just Babies: The origins of good and evil,” Bloom, citing his own experiments as well as other studies, details how babies as young as 3 months old can tell the good guys from the bad during a puppet show and how, when they are just a little older, the babies gravitate toward the good guys and punish bad behavior. The basis of Bloom’s book is that the roots of morality are evolutionary and that humans are not born as blank slates.

Life on Earth to end in about 2.8B years, study suggests: In 2.8 billion years, only the toughest microbes will be left on Earth, as the sun ages and gets increasingly warmer, according to a study by astrobiologists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The scientists measured temperature, and the abundance of water and food to determine how and when life on Earth might die off, noting that as Earth’s temperature slowly rises, the level of carbon dioxide will decrease and start killing off plants, beginning in some 500 million years.

Well, that’s still a long time to find another home.

Magma reservoir underneath Yellowstone larger than once thought: The magma beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2½ times larger than previously thought. Researchers say the biggest risk the park faces is an earthquake, not a volcanic eruption. Researchers have noted swarms of tiny quakes above the magma blob in recent years, repeating every few seconds, and new images show that the molten rock reservoir is about 50 miles long and more than 12 miles wide. “I don’t know of any other magma body that’s been imaged that’s that big,” said University of Utah geophysicist Robert Smith.

Chinese girl gets new face: Surgeons reconstructed the face of a 17-year-old Chinese girl using tissue from her chest and a blood vessel from her leg. The girl lost her chin, eyelids and part of her right ear in a fire when she was 5 years old. “With her new face she will be able to express herself in a more precise way. She will even be able to blush when her emotions change, but it will take a long time,” said Jiang Chenhong, the girl’s surgeon.

And now for some Braaaaaaaains:

Cryptography helping researchers crack brain’s code: Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania are using cryptography to help them unlock the code to the brain. “Neurons extract information from the world and put it in code. There’s got to be some kind of code-breaker in the brain to make sense of that,” said the university’s Joshua Gold. Researchers are using an algorithm by World War II British code-breaker Alan Turing to give them insights into how the brain works.

Last night my sister called because she was listening to NPR and found an article for me to share on Science Tuesday: Eeek, Snake! Your Brain Has A Special Corner Just For Them

“We have our forward-facing eyes,” she says. “We have our excellent depth perception. We have very good visual acuity, the best in the mammalian world. We have color vision. So there has to be some sort of explanation for it.”

Primates in parts of the world with lots of poisonous snakes evolved better vision than primates elsewhere, she found out. It’s no accident that lemurs in Madagascar have the worst vision in the primate world, she says. There are no venomous snakes.

Hubs also found a cool NPR article about a professor of psychiatry who discovered he had the brain scan and genetic markers of a psychopath: Uncovering the Brain of a Psychopath


And there you have it. Science Tuesday will be postponed for NaNo in November, but I’ll be back with your weekly science goodies in December! If you want to receive the same daily science emails I do, you can sign up for the Sigma Xi SmartBrief here.

Science Tuesday: Oarfish, Bovine Burps, and Tricking Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

We’re back on schedule, Aledans! Here’s your weekly dose of sciencey goodness.

Otzi Replica, By Sandstein (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (]

Otzi Replica, By Sandstein (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (

Living relatives of 5,300-year-old Iceman discovered: Otzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old body found in the Italian Alps in 1991, has relatives living in Austria today, according to a study. Researchers found 19 genetic matches to the frozen mummy while examining DNA records of 3,700 Austrian blood donors for G-L91, a rare Y-chromosome mutation that is used to determine ancestral relationships.

Clay balls hold clues to ancient record-keeping system: Ancient clay balls from Mesopotamia contain clues to a lost code used for record-keeping about 5,500 years ago, before writing was invented. Researchers used CT scans and 3D modeling to see inside the sealed balls, which range in size from a golf ball to a baseball, to find tokens in varying shapes. The balls are believed to have been used as a record of economic transactions. University of Chicago professor Christopher Woods presented the findings in a lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, saying the mysterious balls may be the “very first data storage system.”

Virus could be behind white plague in corals: Viruses could be playing a role in an epidemic of the white plague that’s killing corals in the Caribbean Sea, according to a study. Researchers studied viruses present in diseased and healthy corals, finding that corals with the white plague held a specific group of viruses that may have caused the disease. “Viruses can be tracked down to a source. If the viruses behind white plague are tracked down to, say, human sewage, then we may have a way to mitigate disease infections,” said Oregon State University microbiologist Nitzan Soffer, lead author of the study published last month in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal.

Curled leaves serve as hearing aids for tiny bats: Tiny Spix’s disk-winged bats, which roost in plant leaves, also use the curled up leaves to help them hear sounds from outside. Researchers recorded calls made by the bats and played them back through a speaker, first positioned at the narrow end and then at the wider end, finding that the leaves amplified the incoming calls significantly, while the outgoing calls were only slightly louder. The findings of the study were reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Snorkeler finds 18-foot oarfish near Catalina Island: The carcass of an 18-foot oarfish was pulled ashore Sunday after being discovered by a marine instructor who was snorkeling near Catalina Island, Calif. Jasmine Santana, an instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, found the eel-like creature resting on the sandy bottom, almost perfectly intact. Oarfish, which are rarely seen, can grow up to 56 feet in length and are thought to have inspired tales of giant sea serpents.

Higgs to retire next year: Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs plans to retire next year after he turns 85. The physicist isn’t comfortable with all the attention after jointly winning the prize for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson. “I’m getting the prize for something which took me two or three weeks in 1964. It’s a very small amount of my life. If you take Einstein, for the example, his achievements were several orders of magnitude greater,” he said.

Light pulses gain speed by tricking Newton’s 3rd law of motion: A diametric drive, which uses negative and positive mass to accelerate forever, has been created by researchers using effective mass, essentially tricking light pulses into behaving as if they had mass. By firing laser pulses with positive and negative effective mass through two loops of fiber-optic cable, one a bit longer than the other, scientists at Germany’s University of Erlangen-Nuremberg found that the pulses accelerated in the same direction, gaining speed with each revolution, essentially cheating Newton’s third law of motion.

Thinning moose population has scientists puzzled, worried: Moose populations in North America are dying off, and researchers don’t know why. “Something’s changed. There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them,” said biologist Nicholas DeCesare, of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which is counting moose in the state in an effort to find the reason behind the decline. In different states, there are various causes of death, such as winter tick infestation, brain worms and deforestation. All have the common thread of climate change, but unregulated hunting could also be to blame.

Large fragment of asteroid that exploded over Russia pulled from lake: Divers on Wednesday pulled a meteorite weighing more than 1,255 pounds out of Russia’s Lake Chebarkul, the largest chunk of an asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk in February yet found, scientists said. However, the 5-foot-long rock broke into three pieces as it was hoisted onto a scale, which itself broke as it weighed the boulder. Divers have been searching the lake for pieces of the asteroid, recovering more than 12 rocks, though only four or five actually turned out to be meteorites.

Archaeologists cast doubt on King Herod burial site: A pair of archaeologists dispute that a relatively modest burial site found in 2007 is that of Herod, the Roman-appointed king of Judea. Joseph Patrich and Benjamin Arubas of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say the tomb discovered by Ehud Netzer as part of a massive complex built by Herod outside Jerusalem is too small and poorly designed to have been the work of the king, who was a master builder. Patrich and Arubas’ findings were presented last week at the Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area conference.

Study looks at how teeth evolved: Teeth were not the first bones to evolve, according to a study of conodonts — ancient, jawless, eel-like creatures that died out 200 million years ago. Using X-rays, palaeontologists determined that the bony tooth-like spurs found in the mouths of early conodonts evolved independently from vertebrate teeth, meaning that the tooth as we know it today hadn’t yet evolved when conodonts split from the animals that eventually became humans, according to a report in Nature. “We now have to assume our teeth evolved from the armor of mud-slurping fish,” said Philip Donoghue of the University of Bristol in England, the study’s lead author.

Immune proteins can stop HIV spread, shorten drug treatment: Defensive immune proteins called A3, found in rare cases of people with HIV, could help stop the virus from spreading throughout the body and prevent it from progressing when anti-HIV medications are stopped, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. The protein is part of the intrinsic immune system that can distinguish the core of the virus. The study suggests that increasing this defense in those who are infected with HIV can shorten drug treatment.

N.D. students ready lunar habitat simulation: Students and faculty at the University of North Dakota will participate in a one-of-a-kind simulation funded by NASA. Four students will live for 10 days in a lunar habitat that they have designed, testing its engineering systems and how it works together with the rover and suits also designed by the students. The results will be reported to NASA, followed by a 30-day test next spring.

That would be so much fun!

Well-preserved skull suggests early humans were a single species: A 1.8 million-year-old skull found in the Republic of Georgia has led some researchers to believe that early humans were a single species, Homo erectus, rather than multiple species as generally believed. “We think it is sensible to attribute all specimens to Homo erectus,” said neurobiologist Christoph Zollikofer, the study’s co-author. That is not to say that all fossil human specimens, modern humans included, are lumped into Homo erectus, Zollikofer said.

Scientists get close-up look at ancient spider-like fossil’s brain: One of the most well-preserved nervous systems in an ancient fossil has been found in a spider-like creature that dates back 520 million years, according to a study in Nature. Using a CT scanner and 3D software, scientists were able to see structures they could not see on the fossil’s surface. “It is very exciting to use new techniques to successfully reveal such a complete central nervous system from a 520 million-year-old fossil, and in such detail,” said the study’s co-author, Xiaoya Ma of the Natural History Museum in London.

Asteroid that recently brushed past Earth due back in 19 years: An asteroid that buzzed by Earth in September will come back in about 19 years for another close encounter, scientists say, but just how close it will come is causing some debate. Scientists say the odds of it striking Earth are 1:63,000. “With more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future,” said NASA Near-Earth Object Program Manager Don Yeomans.

Westerlund 1 Super Star Cluster, by ESO/VPHAS+ Survey/N. Wright

Westerlund 1 Super Star Cluster, by ESO/VPHAS+ Survey/N. Wright

Astronomers study giant star about to become a supernova: A glowing cloud of hydrogen gas is surrounding a huge star that is nearing the end of its life, researchers say. Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers noticed the ionized nebula, the first ever found near a red supergiant, giving them the opportunity to study how stars shed their layers before becoming a supernova. The star, dubbed W26, is the largest known star in the universe and is about 16,000 light-years from Earth.

Astronomers find a “tilted” solar system: Scientists have discovered a “tilted” solar system, according to a report in Science. While looking at Kepler-56, a star about 2,800 light-years away, they were surprised to find that the plane of its equator tilts 45 degrees to its planets’ orbits. Further study revealed that the tilting was caused by a distant body that tugs at the star and its planets’ orbits with its gravitational pull, yet they stay aligned because they are in resonance.

Study: Only a handful of tree species reign in Amazon rainforest: A few dozen tree species of the thousands that exist in the Amazon dominate the rainforest, according to a study that may help researchers identify when tree species are the most threatened with extinction. More than 120 researchers cataloged trees throughout the 2.3 million-square-mile area around the Amazon River, finding about 16,000 tree species, 227 of which made up almost half the tree population. “That’s a much smaller number than anyone anticipated,” said tropical forest ecologist Hans ter Steege of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands.

Sleep gives brain a chance to clean up, study says: Getting a good night’s sleep helps flush out waste from our brains, according to a study by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Researchers injected mice with beta-amyloid, which builds up in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and found that the substance was eliminated faster when the mice were asleep than when they were awake. The study, which appears in the journal Science, could lead to therapies for Alzheimer’s and other ailments.

Bovine burps turned into natural gas by scientists in Argentina: Digestive gases from cattle can be used to produce methane, a component of natural gas, say researchers at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology. “Once you get it compressed, it’s the same as having natural gas. As an energy source it is not very practical at the moment, but if you look ahead to 2050, when fossil fuel reserves are going to be in trouble, it is an alternative,” said the institute’s Guillermo Berra. The bovine burps are carried from the stomach through a tube into a tank where the gases are separated.

Imagine having a car that runs on cow burps.

Skeleton found in Tuscany tomb was of a woman, not a man: Bone analysis has revealed that the body found in a sealed tomb in Tuscany, Italy, last month is not that of a 2,600-year-old Etruscan prince, but instead is that of a woman. When the tomb was opened last month, researchers found two platforms, one bearing a skeleton with a lance, suggesting a warrior, and the other a partially burned skeleton. The presence of the lance initially led them to believe that the skeleton was a man, and the partially burned skeleton a woman, but it appears it was the other way around.

Flu virus attacks memory B cells to rapidly cause infection: U.S. researchers have discovered that the influenza virus enters and infects its host by attacking the first responders, called memory B cells, that produce antibodies that neutralize the virus. The study, published in the journal Nature, noted that once it enters the body, the virus will replicate efficiently, disrupt antibody production and eventually kill the cells before the immune system can mount a second wave of defense, causing infection.

Orionid meteor shower putting on a light show: The Orionid meteor shower was estimated to hit its peak Sunday and Monday, as Earth passed through the dust that Halley’s Comet left behind. The Orionids are known for producing bright fireballs, which are best seen past midnight and before dawn. “With city lights and the moonlight, you might be lucky to see two an hour. But if they are bright, it will be like free fireworks,” said Anthony Cook of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

Drones map Matterhorn in 6 hours: The Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps has been mapped in incredible detail by three eBee drones in only six hours. SenseFly, an unmanned aerial vehicle company, and aerial photography firm Pix4D showed off their work at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference in New York last week. “Such a combination of high altitudes, steep rocky terrain and sheer size of dataset has simply not been done before with drones, we wanted to show that it was possible,” said Adam Klaptocz of SenseFly.

Invading lionfish muscles into Atlantic: The venomous lionfish, an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean, is growing to unusually large sizes and dining on the local fish off the coast of Florida despite efforts to control its population. It’s not known how the robust lionfish were introduced to the area, though many suspect aquarium owners dumped a few into the ocean in the 1980s. One female can lay as many as 2 million eggs a year. “There is strong evidence that the lionfish is having negative effects on the native population. We don’t see any signal that anything is controlling the lionfish population,” said Stephanie Green, head of a research team that studied the problem this summer.

I hear these are delicious and I can’t wait to try one.

Second oarfish washes up on Calif. beach: An oarfish was discovered last week after it washed ashore in Oceanside, Calif., the second such rare find in as many weeks. The 14-foot carcass was hauled away for study by SeaWorld, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A week earlier, a snorkeler found a dead 18-foot oarfish off the coast of nearby Catalina Island.

Potential baldness treatment found in 3D drops: A cure for baldness may be a 3D drop away, thanks to research at Durham University in England. Scientists have grown dermal papilla cells, which form hair follicles, in a culture system of nutrients hanging in a thick drop, then injected the cells into normally hairless neonatal foreskin that was grafted to mice, resulting in the formation of new hair follicles. “The dermal papilla cells act as a collective group and restoring that collectivity in 3D helps bring these properties back,” said Colin Jahoda, one of the study’s authors.

Advanced 3D method designed to create tiny artificial pancreas: Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have devised a way that could potentially enable them to grow a mini artificial human pancreas using a 3D culture that allows pancreatic cells to expand more efficiently. Researchers hope the technique can be used to help combat diabetes and enable rapid drug testing without the need for animals.

Pancreas, public domain.

Pancreas, public domain.

Researchers identify new dengue virus: A new type of dengue virus has been identified, which could pose a problem for researchers looking to develop a vaccine against the pervasive tropical disease. “We discovered and characterized a new dengue serotype,” virologist Nikos Vasilakis of the University of Texas Medical Branch told the International Conference on Dengue and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever on Monday. Dengue 5 was found as researchers screened viral samples taken during an outbreak in Malaysia in 2007, noting that it varied significantly from known dengue viruses.


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Another Quick and Dirty Science Tuesday

It’s been a month since I posted a Science Tuesday, and my Inbox is exploding with the past month’s science news. We have a lot to get through, so I’m only posting the headlines – if you find them interesting, click the link to read more.  Good luck.

Researchers say fossil may be oldest ever in Nev.

Archaeologists discover Israeli town that may date to biblical times

Could a comet strike be the cause of life on Earth?

Technology transforms sewer water into electricity

Healthy lifestyles shown to reverse aging at cellular level

Search for clues about dark energy is underway

Something to chew on — artificial teeth that monitor health habits

Faster visual systems give small animals slow-motion view of world

Unlike leopards, these snails can change their spots

Sequenced Siberian tiger genome indicates big cats are born to kill <–Um…duh?

Steep decline seen in drug-resistant bacterial infections

A dinosaur model in a wind tunnel

4 new species of legless lizard found in California

Researchers study how to put drug factories in your bones <–This is a story just waiting to happen. How cool.

Study finds new level of deep coma in which brain activity revives

Researchers identify gene that can stop spread of HIV in the body

Magma blob has scientists scratching their heads

Earth could sustain life at least 1.75B more years, researchers say

Rover unable to find methane on Mars, NASA says

Largest deep earthquake puzzles seismologists

Study: Humans can smell 10 categories of scents <–The 10 categories are: fragrant, woody/resinous, fruity (non-citrus), chemical, minty/peppermint, sweet, popcorn, lemon, pungent and decayed.

Lol, popcorn is it’s own scent category :P

Study shows MERS virus jumped from animals to humans several times

Alaska glacier melt uncovers ancient forest

Researchers seek public’s help with plankton study

Audubon’s warblers pick up urge to migrate from interbreeding

NASA ends Deep Impact’s mission

Therapy administered during sleep could ease traumatic memories <–So basically they make you have nightmares of your traumatic memories every night until you’re desensitized to them. Um…no thanks.

Study finds vitamin B supplements may cut stroke risk

Leaving the galaxy would take some serious speed, study finds <–A TARDIS would also work.

Children with Down syndrome have leukemia-causing gene mutation

Afternoon naps may boost preschool children’s memory <–I think this would boost everyone’s memory. Nap time for all!

Parasites found in Egyptian dog mummy

Professor says he’s found Lincoln in a crowd photo at Gettysburg

Data about water on Mars served up at science congress

Moon not as old as once thought, study suggests

Massive quake in Pakistan may have triggered mud volcano island

Ancient leopard traps found in Israel desert

Ancient trilobites rolled up to defend themselves, study finds

19 elements to have atomic weights adjusted

Pulsar demonstrates ability to change from one form to another

New telescope camera snaps stellar view of Cat’s Paw Nebula <–Pretty!

Cuckoo finch foists parenting on other bird species <–Now that’s my kind of parenting (which is why I’m not a parent ;) )

Fish fossil face could offer clues to evolution of human visage

Huge cache of dinosaur tracks uncovered in Alaska

New species of fungus beetle found in Ariz. cave has no eyes, wings

Genetic characteristics may help predict prostate cancer treatment response

Oxygen present on Earth 3B years ago, study suggests

Earth’s slowing rotation is making days longer, NIST says

Researchers build carbon-nanotube computer

Satellites give researchers a view of sinking Venice

Marine creatures may have multiple internal clocks

Doctors fashion new nose for man using his forehead <–*shudders* I hope I never have to grow a nose on my forehead.

Easter Island settlers ate rats, study finds

Greater MS risk seen in children, teens with diabetes

Plastics chemical found around Saturn moon Titan

Yahoo Japan creates 3D printer for students who are visually impaired

Indonesian volcano thought to be source of massive eruption in 13th century

Iraqi mound reveals evidence of ancient city

DNA-swapping microbes thrive in salty Antarctic lake

Molecule in centipede venom could lead to pain treatment

Woman with rare malady unable to hear words, but can hear sounds <–Whoa. I had no idea this existed, or that it was treatable.

Flowering plants bloomed along with first dinosaurs, study suggests

Ancient hunting tools uncovered in melting snow patch

Scientists map clouds of huge planet outside the solar system

Tear, salivary glands grown from stem cells transplanted into mice

Government shutdown has deep impact on NASA, may delay Mars mission

Study suggests ancient Mars climate was altered by supervolcanoes

Radium, other contaminants found in fracking wastewater, study says <–Radium is one of the tests I used to run in the lab. It’s a fun one – you get to turn the samples different colors and they get really hot.

London construction workers find Roman-era skulls along new rail route

Worker digging oil pipeline unearths dinosaur tail

Stem cell extraction technique uses magnets

Jellyfish clog cooling pipes at Swedish nuclear reactor

Power plants could benefit from charged water drops, study says

Ocean health imperiled thrice over, IPSO says

Bulk of Earth’s xenon concealed in planet’s core, study suggests

South American expedition finds 60 possible new species

Honeybees smell trouble in diesel exhaust

Mystery diseases diagnosed through Human Genome Project

Lab-grown brain cells shows promise for treating Parkinson’s disease

Higgs boson key to dark matter creation, physicists suggest

Researchers devise early warning system for sinkholes

Mercury may be turning masterpieces black, researchers say

3 Americans share Nobel Prize for their work on cells

NASA finds way to keep Mars mission aloft amid government shutdown

Physicists win Nobel prize for predicting Higgs boson

Tall tunnels found underneath Antarctic ice shelf

Pinocchio lizard not extinct after all

Robotic swarm to be used to shred jellyfish in South Korea <–I’m not a huge jellyfish fan, but ouch!

Unique sundial found marking ancient grave in Ukraine

New metal can change shape

Pebble is evidence of comet strike 28 million years ago, researcher says

Swiss company looks to clean up junk orbiting Earth

Astronomers rediscover elusive Neptune moon in Hubble photos

Earth to help slingshot NASA spacecraft toward Jupiter

Evidence of massacre found at ancient fort site in Sweden

Portrait found in Swiss bank vault resembles da Vinci drawing

DNA study links Ashkenazi Jews’ lineage to Europe

Malaria vaccine could be available in 2016

Nobel Prize for chemistry goes to 3 U.S. scientists

Saturn, Jupiter may hold tons of diamonds, study suggests <–Guess we shouldn’t have shut down NASA, huh?

DNA test casts doubt that mummified head was that of Henry IV

Study: Cell culture transplant shows promise in treating brain disorders

Study: Melting iron in Earth’s inner core leads to seismic anomaly

New species of large Amazonian fish is identified

Ozone changes cause warmer temperatures in southern Africa, research finds

Portable device could help with treatment of jaundiced babies

Juno probe en route to Jupiter after puzzling glitch

Submerged wireless network could allow researchers to be online and underwater <–Looks like my mermaids in StO could be getting WiFi ;)

Fossilized mosquito is first found with blood in abdomen <–But…in JURASSIC PARK they showed the researchers taking blood from a mosquito! My childhood is a lie!

Broccoli byproduct could treat radiation sickness, study finds

Researchers explore how brain registers touch


Whew! That was a LOT of science news. I’ll get back on my normal Science Tuesday schedule next week, but if you don’t want to wait for Tuesdays to get your science news fix you can sign up for the Sigma Xi SmartBrief here.

NaNo Prep and #PonyFest13

What a week, Aledans! As you probably know by now #PonyFest13 voting is in full swing. Edgwyn had a solid lead for most of the week, with Tempest on his heels, but yesterday while I was at lunch Tempest blew everyone out of the water (pun intended ;P). You have until midnight on Saturday (EST) to vote, so if you haven’t yet get your vote in soon! The winner will be announced Sunday during Custom of the Week.

Last weekend was nice and relaxing, which is exactly what I needed in the midst of all the busyness my weeks have contained lately. I spent Friday shopping, then Hubs took me to The Macintosh for birthday dinner. It was excellent! Very rich food, but so yummy. When we got home I watched The Little Mermaid. Because that’s how 31-year-old’s roll, yo.

*shudders* Let’s not say “yo” ever again.

There’s no #WriteMotivation this month because everyone’s preparing for NaNo. I’m still trying to finish the last of Faye and Tarrin (I’m close!) so we’re going to take a one-week FEF break and start Faye and Tarrin next Friday. Once F&T is finished I’ll be working on a query and beat sheet for StO. I’m pretty excited to be doing NaNo again – I miss the community, even if I don’t miss being in charge of the community. It’ll be nice to go to write-ins as a participant again. I’m also super-geeked to write Speak the Ocean! It’s my first new book since my failed attempt at Book of Souls three years ago.

Are you participating in NaNo this year?


September’s (very late) #WriteMotivation Wrap-up

Happy Thursday, Aledans! If you’re from Fie Eoin like I am, then you’re getting ready for tomorrow’s Feast of Eoin/Warrior’s Ceremony. The warrior inductees will spend tonight in the vision tent, and at dawn they’ll be whipped to make a blood bond with the tribe. After a day of games and feasting their wounds will be read by firelight and their Eoin-blessed name chosen.

Unless they don’t have one. Like Kindra.

Tomorrow is also Juliana Brandt’s birthday, which makes it my birthday as well :) Happy Early Birthday, Juliana!

I think you can tell from the lack of posts around here lately that I’ve been quite a busy bee. Science Tuesday will be back at some point, and there’s no #WriteMotivation for October because everyone’s preparing for NaNo. But let’s see how I did at September’s #WriteMotivation Goals:

1. Finish Faye and Tarrin. I’ve gotten pretty far on this, but it isn’t finished. Still, I’ll be able to start posting once Aleda’s Story is finished (TOMORROW!)
2. Research Speak the Ocean. Did enough of this that I’m ready to start writing in November!
3. Get everything ready for the PonyFest13 announcement on September 15th! Voting begins Saturday!
4. Figure out which scenes to re-write from Daphne’s POV in Apollo. I don’t know that I’m going to do dual POVs anymore. This entire thing is a mess.
5. Send at least two queries a week for Nameless. I did send a bunch of queries, but I’m not sure that it works out to two/week.
6. Swim laps at least twice a week. This changed to walk the dogs and do my hundreds. Between hundreds, dog walking, and the massive house cleaning I did last week (it was a workout!) I’m going to call this a sort of half-win.

October’s unofficial goals include writing a query for StO before NaNo starts (I’ve heard this helps with big-picture stuff), filling out the StO beat sheet, continue querying NAMELESS, and start going to yoga again. I’ll also be posting Faye and Tarrin, so I have to complete that before NaNo starts.

All in all, September wasn’t a bad month, but I know October is going to be great. How can it not be with NaNo on the horizon, birthday celebrations, and #PonyFest voting to look forward to?

A Really Good Week, and a #WriteMotivation Update

Hubs and I being pirates in Key West.

Hubs and I being pirates in Key West.

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, Aledans! So far my favorite pirate-speak comes from @HannahPBowman with “As You Wish”. Dawwwww. Dread Pirate Wesley <3

Also, you know, #PonyFest13 is in full swing and I know of at least three designs coming this way soon, so I’m having a pretty freaking fantastic week. To top it all off, I’m going out for adult milkshakes tonight with SK Falls, Jocelyn Rish, and Leah Rhyne tonight. That’s like a cherry on top of my adult milkshake whipped cream.

I’m kind of all over the place today. I can’t help it. The summer has finally stopped beating me up long enough for me to get a couple punches in, and that feels pretty damn good. I’m even working on my #WriteMotivation Goals:

1. Finish Faye and Tarrin.
2. Research Speak the Ocean.
3. Get everything ready for the PonyFest13 announcement on September 15th! If you haven’t seen the announcement and want to win a custom pony based on your novel (and free books!) check out #PonyFest13.
4. Figure out which scenes to re-write from Daphne’s POV in Apollo.
5. Send at least two queries a week for Nameless.
6. Swim laps at least twice a week. It suddenly got WAY too cold out to swim, so this has changed to take the dogs on long walks and do “one hundreds” (it’s a pilates thing).

Faye and Tarrin is coming along nicely, and it should be ready by the time Aleda’s Story is finished (OMG, there are only three more installments of Aleda’s Story! Are you ready to cry your eyes out?). StO planning is also going well. Once F&T is finished I’ll map out StO and get ready to start writing it in November.

Apollo has been floundering all year, but now that it’s almost fall (Sunday!) I’m getting the bug back. Since Apollo is set in the fall and I wrote it in the fall, I just couldn’t get into it in the spring/summer.

I’ve been sending my queries like a good girl, and although I didn’t get any favorites at #PitMad last week the Madness luck has still been on my side. I’ll be sending out more queries today (once I write an author bio for one of them *scratches head* Would the one Juliana wrote me work? “Nuclear Chemist and Fantasy Author fueled by wine, my-little-pony-love, and a healthy (unhealthy?) obsession with editing.” ;) )

And yeah, about swimming…even though it’s technically still summer until Sunday it seems the weather didn’t get that memo. So I’m switching to long walks with the dogs, and “one hundreds”, which is when you lay on the ground with your legs up and your arms flapping up and down one hundred times. It sounds stupid (and probably looks stupid), but it’s a really good core workout.

So yeah, that’s been my week. How has your week gone? Anything happy to share? Any custom pony designs to throw my way?

Science Tuesday: Butterflies That Will Drink Your Tears, and We’re Going to Give the Moon a Moon.

I know what you were thinking, Aledans. You thought I forgot about Science Tuesday because of all the PonyFest excitement, didn’t you? You’re half right – I did forget about it until this afternoon :P But last week was full of really cool science news, so enjoy!

Just click through and read the description, NASA/JPL-Caltech [Public domain]

Just click through and read the description, NASA/JPL-Caltech [Public domain]

Interstellar winds change direction, study finds: Interstellar winds that blow through the solar system have changed direction by 4 to 9 degrees, according to a study by NASA researchers, who examined data collected by 11 spacecraft between 1972 and 2011. Scientists had long believed that the winds gusted in a steady direction. “Previously we thought the very local interstellar medium was very constant, but these results show just how dynamic the solar system’s interaction is,” said study co-author Dave McComas, lead investigator for NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer.

Drug combo shows promise as treatment for deadly virus: A combination of ribavirin and interferon protects monkeys from the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, and potentially could be used to treat humans, according to a study published in Nature Medicine. Three of six rhesus monkeys were given the drug cocktail eight hours after being infected with MERS, and showed only minimal signs of the virus, while the other three became very ill, researchers said.

Hyperactive behavior tied to genetic ear defect, study finds: A genetic defect in the inner ear has been linked to hyperactivity, according to a study published last week in Science, leading researchers to believe that the condition, in some cases, can have a neurobiological root. Scientists removed a gene from young mice that caused inner-ear defects, including a loss of hearing, and found that the gene removal coincided with higher levels of two proteins in an area of the brain that regulates motor functions, resulting in hyperactive behavior.

Milk intake during pregnancy may affect height, diabetes risk in children: According to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children born to women who consumed more than 150ml of milk, or roughly 5 ounces, daily during pregnancy are more likely to be tall later in life than those whose mothers drank less. Researchers also found that children whose mothers had high milk intake during pregnancy had higher insulin levels by their late teens, suggesting that they had lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Artifacts found at Israel dig site date to King Solomon’s rule: Artifacts found in excavations in Israel’s Timna Valley have been carbon-dated to the 10th century B.C., the time of King Solomon’s rule. The find offers clues to life during the period. “The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon. They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise,” said Tel Aviv University archaeologist Erez Ben-Yosef.

Final instrument completed for James Webb Space Telescope: Work has been completed on the Near-Infrared spectrometer, known as NirSpec, one of four instruments that will go into the James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to take over for the Hubble in October 2018. NirSpec will determine age, movement, composition and distance of objects that come into its view.

Researchers authenticate forgotten Van Gogh painting: A painting by Vincent van Gogh long thought to be a forgery has been authenticated after an investigation showed it significantly matched other works by the Dutch artist. “Sunset at Montmajour” dates to 1888 and spent many years in the attic of a Norwegian collector after it was declared a fake in the early 1900s. “We carried out art historical research into the style, the depiction, use of materials and context, and everything we found indicated that this is a work by Van Gogh,” explained researchers Louis van Tilborgh and Teio Meedendorp.

I think Amy really would have liked that painting ;)

Large Bermuda Triangle quake triggered 1817 tsunami, researchers find: An 1817 large wave that struck the East Coast was actually a tsunami triggered by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in the Bermuda Triangle, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Using newly discovered archival records, researchers created a computer model of the tsunami, which led them to revise the earthquake’s magnitude from 4.8 to 7.4.

Increased risk of bites in autumn corresponds with tiger shark migration in Hawaii: A seven-year study of tiger shark migration has lent credence to a long-held Hawaiian belief that the danger of shark bites increases in the fall. “Both the timing of this migration and tiger shark pupping season coincide with Hawaiian oral traditions suggesting that late summer and fall, when the wiliwili tree blooms, are a period of increased risk of shark bites,” said University of Hawaii researcher Carl Meyer, who co-authored the study. Researchers tagged more than 100 tiger sharks and found that about one quarter of the female sharks return to the islands every year, likely to give birth.

Sediment from Antarctic lake bottom shows signs of life: The mud deep below the surface of an ice-covered lake in Antarctica has evidence of life, according to a report in the journal Diversity. Scientists grew 20 cultures of microbes found in the sediment, indicating that life thrives in the extreme environment, and also found fossilized fragments of DNA from many kinds of microbes that appear to have adapted to the harsh conditions over the ages.

Larger brains help birds cope with stress: Birds with larger brains cope better in difficult situations, according to an analysis of 189 avian studies. Correlating the studies, evolutionary biologists determined that big-brained birds have lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, helping them anticipate and avoid problems.

Researchers identify microbes in panda waste that may aid biofuel production: Researchers have identified 40 microbes in giant panda waste that have the potential to speed up the conversion of plant cellulose in advanced biofuel production without the need for costly inputs used by existing methods, according to a report. The microbes have “unusually potent” enzymes that pandas use to extract nutrients from their bamboo diet, the researchers said.

Biofuels of the future, coming to you from…panda poop.

Naturally occurring chemicals can keep mosquitoes away, study finds: Chemicals that naturally occur in human skin could render people invisible to mosquitoes, researchers say, and may lead to an alternative to current repellant options. Scientists tested various compounds and found that some blocked the bugs’ sense of smell. “We are exploring a different approach, with substances that impair the mosquito’s sense of smell. If a mosquito can’t sense that dinner is ready, there will be no buzzing, no landing and no bite,” said Department of Agriculture researcher Ulrich Bernier.

Scientists uncover 6 million-year-old juvenile ape skull: The skull of a juvenile of an extinct species of ape dating back 6 million years has been found in China, researchers say. “The preservation of the new cranium is excellent. This is important because all previously discovered adult crania of the species to which it is assigned, Lufengpithecus lufengensis, were badly crushed and distorted during the fossilization process,” said paleoanthropologist Jay Kelley of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

Curiosity rover to stop and study Mars landscape: The Mars Curiosity rover will soon have a respite from its long trip to its next major destination, according to NASA. The rover is nearing the first of five waypoints in its journey to the base of Mount Sharp and will stop to do a detailed study of the area.

By Richard Bartz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Richard Bartz [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (

Butterflies thirsty for sodium find solace in turtles’ tears: Butterflies flock around the yellow-spotted river turtles in the Amazon rainforest and drink the reptiles’ tears to ingest sodium, researchers say. The mineral is scarce in the Amazon and the fluttery herbivores struggle to get enough of it, said scientist Phil Torres. The butterflies can also get their sodium from other sources.

These badass butterflies will drink your tears!

Mass grave found on site of ancient Maya excavation: The bones of 24 dismembered and decapitated bodies have been found in a mass grave in the ancient Mayan city of Uxul. Archaeologists were studying the water system when they came across the find, which lends credence to depictions of violence in the art of that time period. “After the 24 victims had been buried, the pre-Hispanic Maya covered the remains with a coarse layer of gravel and sealed it with a clay layer. Due to this sealing layer, the documented bones were found in an extraordinarily good state of preservation,” said archaeologist Nicolaus Seefeld of the University of Bonn in Germany.

Trio of buried rivers in the Sahara thrived in ancient times, study finds: Three large rivers ran through the Sahara Desert about 100,000 years ago, creating oases in the arid landscape, according to research published in PLoS ONE. “These rivers were big. They were about the same as the Missouri or the Rhine or even the Nile when it’s low flow,” said University of Hull hydrologist Thomas Coulthard, the study’s co-author. Researchers say these now-buried rivers could have helped ancient humans migrate across the Sahara.

Archaeologists uncover parts of ancient Stonehenge pathway: Parts of an ancient pathway leading to Stonehenge has been uncovered by archaeologists deconstructing a modern road near the site. “We found the bottoms, the truncated ditches, that belong to the feature known as the avenue, which is the processional leading up to Stonehenge,” archaeologist Heather Sebire said. The avenue is believed to be an ancient path to Stonehenge that had been dissected by the modern road.

Arctic sea ice continues to show declines, officials say: The amount of Arctic sea ice for this summer is well below average, but will not reach the all-time low set last September, as it reaches its annual minimum, say officials at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Meanwhile, scientists studying the region with the Cryosat spacecraft say the volume of sea ice did hit a new low during the March-April period, when marine floes are at their thickest. “The Arctic will be ice-free in the summer in a few decades. All we’ll have is winter ice,” said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze.

NASA drones: Keeping an eye on the hurricane’s eye: NASA is employing drones as storm chasers over the Atlantic Ocean, using them to watch for and track hurricanes as they develop. The two Global Hawks are studying how the storms grow and how they’re being affected by their environment.

Reprogrammed stem cells in mice could pave way to tissue regeneration: Spanish scientists successfully forced mature cells into an embryonic-like state inside the bodies of living mice, creating so-called reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells. Transforming mature cells into stem-like cells “means turning back the clock when everything in the environment favors the opposite,” lead author Manuel Serrano said. The experiment, published in the journal Nature, opens the possibility that damaged tissue can be regenerated in patients with conditions such as diabetes and heart disorders.

NASA confirms that Voyager 1 has entered interstellar space: Voyager 1 has indeed left the solar system, NASA confirmed, making it the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space. Voyager 1 was launched in 1977 and is currently more than 11.66 billion miles from the sun, entering interstellar space in August 2012, according to a study published in Science.

NASA rounds up 3 asteroid candidates for space lasso mission: NASA has identified three asteroids as candidates for its robotic space lasso mission, which aims to corral one of these space rocks, tow it to the moon and set it in orbit there so astronauts can explore it. Scientists are looking for asteroids between 20 and 30 feet wide that meet certain orbital constraints for the program, which hopes to have astronauts visit as soon as 2021.

WHUT? We’re going to give the moon a moon? This is so bizarre.

Molasses spill causes sticky situation for Hawaii: A molasses spill that has killed hundreds of fish in Hawaii could attract predators such as sharks, barracuda and eels, prompting health officials to warn people to stay out of the water. A leak in a molasses pipeline has dumped 1,400 tons of the sticky, sweet liquid into the waters of Hawaii.

Insect has functional gears on hind legs: Juvenile plant-hopping insects are the first living creatures known to have functional gears in their legs, according to a study published in the journal Science. The immature Issus coleoptratus uses the gears to help synchronize its hind legs when it jumps.

Evolutionary changes came swiftly 530M years ago, study finds: By combining evidence from the fossil record with genetic clues in living species, scientists have estimated the speed of the so-called Cambrian explosion, when the number and diversity of Earth’s life forms ballooned 530 million years ago. Researchers studied the evolution of arthropods through fossil records and found that they were evolving new traits four times faster during the dawn of modern creatures than they did in following eras, according to the study published online in Current Biology.

New snail species with translucent shell found in Croatian cave: A new species of snail with a semi-transparent shell has been found deep inside a cave in western Croatia. Zospeum tholussum has no eyes or shell pigmentation, which are unnecessary in the complete darkness of the cave. A live specimen and eight empty shells were collected by a team of cavers and biologists from the Croatian Biospeleological Society, which was on an expedition to measure the depth of the cave.

Dual-purpose bacteria help raise shrimp cheaply, ecologically: A shrimp-farming business in the U.K. says it has created an economical and ecological alternative to traditional methods by using bacteria with a dual purpose — to clean the water and provide food for the shrimp. Biochemical students from University College London founded the startup, called Marizca, which uses portable indoor units running on solar power to raise the shrimp. “The bacteria eat the shrimp waste and, at the same time, the shrimp eat the bacteria when they have reached a certain size. It makes producing shrimp a lot cheaper,” said co-founder Leonardo Rios.

Researchers identify gene mutation that blocks pain: Scientists have identified a gene mutation that causes people to not feel pain, which may lead to the development of pain treatments that work the same way. Researchers at Jena University Hospital in Germany compared the gene sequence of a girl with congenital analgesia — the inability to feel pain — with those of her parents, who do not have the disorder, to isolate the gene mutation.

Gene combo linked to left-handedness: Genes that control body asymmetry may also play a role in whether a person is left-handed or right-handed, according to a study by researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. They linked handedness to a complex combination of genes, including the gene PCSK6, which plays a key role in body asymmetry during development.

Me and my Mom, who is left-handed.

Me and my Mom, who is left-handed.

If you want to receive the same daily science emails I do, you can sign up for the Sigma Xi SmartBrief here.

Taking Care of Business, and a #WriteMotivation Update.

checklistHappy #PitMad day, Aledans! I’ll be on and off Twitter all day, pitching NAMELESS and RTing the pitches I think are interesting. If you want to join the fun, the details are at Brenda Drake’s blog. I also saw a number of agents on Twitter saying they wouldn’t be watching the #PitMad stream because it’s too confusing, and that reminded me that I have to send a few queries today. Here’s hoping the #PitMad luck helps with those ;)

Which brings us to September’s #WriteMotivation goals:


1. Finish Faye and Tarrin.
2. Research Speak the Ocean.
3. Get everything ready for the PonyFest13 announcement on September 15th! DONE! The post is ready for Sunday!
4. Figure out which scenes to re-write from Daphne’s POV in Apollo.
5. Send at least two queries a week for Nameless.
6. Swim laps at least twice a week.

I finally got my writing mojo back for Faye and Tarrin this week, so I’m plugging along on that. I briefly looked at Apollo’s outline to see which scenes need to change, but I’ll have to take a more in-depth look later. I will be sending queries today! Enough to make up for last week as well.

And I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t swam at all this week.

I have been researching Speak the Ocean though. I read Fathomless last weekend, and it was so good it put me in the mood to start writing. I still have to finish Faye and Tarrin first, but I’m so geeked to read more mermaid stories and start writing StO. In fact, do you have any recommendations for good mermaid stories?

Although from the list it doesn’t look like I’ve done much lately, I’ve checked off a number of personal to-dos that were causing quite a bit of stress. Now that those things are done I can focus on the #writemotivation list. First up: researching some of the agents on my query list. I’m going to go do that now.

Good luck if you’re participating in #PitMad, and don’t forget to return on Sunday for the announcement of PonyFest13! This year is going to be bigger and better than ever :)