Courtesy WikipediaCheck out this nifty homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night put together by Alex Parker a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Parker obviously must not have had much research work last April when the Hubble Telescope was celebrating its 22nd birthday, so he spent all the free time putting together this really cool recreation of the Van Gogh astronomical masterpiece using photo-mosaic software and several of Hubble’s stunning Top 100 images found here.
Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / Dr. Philip Bart, LSURecent investigations into microfossils show that Antarctica hasn’t been quite the icebox scientists have imagined it to be over the past 34 million years. Pollen and leaf wax samples from Miocene-aged sediments indicate the continent has experienced some periods of warming since the beginning of the most recent glacial period. The core samples studied came from ocean sediments collected near Antarctica, and particulates found in the samples indicate more rain fell on the ice-covered continent during the Middle Miocene epoch (15.5 – 20 million years ago) than previously thought, enough rain to spur the growth of forests of small, stunted trees.
Paleoclimatologist and organic geochemist Sarah Feakins of the University of Southern California and her colleagues analyzed core samples taken from between 144 and 1,100 meters beneath the ocean floor – levels dating back to the Middle Miocene. Spikes of concentrated amounts of pollens and leaf wax appeared in two periods – one about 16.4 million years ago, and another about 15.7 million years ago. The warm periods were relatively short, each lasting less than 30,000 years.
In a previous study, palynologist Sophie Warny of Louisiana State University had first described the pollen and leaf wax spikes found in the core samples, and she and Feakins eventually teamed up for the recent study. The team determined the particle spikes didn’t arise from the leaf wax and pollen blowing in from elsewhere but rather came from two species of trees that once lined the shores of Antarctica. The two species, podocarp conifer and southern beech wouldn’t have grown very tall – maybe knee-high – and neither spreads their pollen over wide areas. Had the pollens blown in from elsewhere - say South America or New Zealand - there were would have been more species in the mix.
Using a mass spectrometer, Feakins and NASA researchers analyzed the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium atoms in the wax molecules which indicated the temperature at the Antarctica location during the two warm periods was about 7 degrees Celsius during the summer. Today, summer temperatures in the same region are about –4 °C. The average global temperature at the time was about 3 °C higher than it is today. As the overall global temperature changes a relatively greater change in polar temperature isn't unexpected due to a process called polar amplification.
The data from Feakins and Warny’s study, which appeared in Nature Geoscience, adds to growing concerns over the sensitivity of Earth’s climatic and hydrological systems. At the moment, no trees line the shores of Antarctica, but current levels of carbon dioxide (393 parts per million) are not far off those thought to have existed during the Middle Miocene’s warm periods (400-600 parts per million) when forests did exist on the margins of the icy continent. This could indicate that even small changes in carbon dioxide levels can are capable of creating big changes in climate.
Courtesy CoegotaA baby giant panda was born last night at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. It's the first captive birth of a panda at the zoo since 2005 and only the second captive panda birth at the zoo ever. Mother and child are reported to both being doing well, while pappa panda is passing out cigars to all the other bears at the zoo. The zoo will follow Chinese custom and name the baby panda in 100 days. Do you have any suggestions?
It's been, oh, maybe 3 weeks since I posted the last hi-def POV video of Curiosity's amazing descent to the surface of Mars but this time it's in Ultra High Def and at 30fps! Who wouldn't want to see that? And with audio no less. Not sure if the audio is dubbed in or was actually captured with the video. Compared to Earth Mars doesn't have much of an atmosphere but because sound can travel through several different types of media - air, liquids, solids, etc - audio capture would probably be possible but I'm not sure NASA set the rover up for that. Whatever the case, the imagery is worth seeing.
Courtesy dbwilldo Right off the bat, let me say that this study was conducted by a female. And she asks a very interesting, and maybe stereotypical, question. Please read this full post before you jump to any conclusions. Or jump on me for posting this.
Do girls really "throw like girls?"
It's standard trash talk one male can hurl at another male who doesn't exhibit the form and proficiency of throwing that's usually expected. But professor Janet Hyde at the University of Wisconsin has data to back up the fact that men throw significantly farther and harder than women.
She actually has studied a variety of gender differences in her research. And the differences in throwing are one of the only categories where those gender differences are off the charts. You can read a full story about it right here.
To summarize, girls under teenage throw 51 to 69 percent the distance of their male peers. The differences grow as people get older. Teenage girls, on average, throw only 39 percent as far as teenage boys – throwing a ball for distance about 75 feet compared to 192 feet by males.
There is acknowledgement of the fact that boys in general get more practice in throwing based on the activities that they typically do compared to girls. But are there other factors.
Click the link to see some interesting theories about how evolution may have a role in this, leading to physiological differences between the muscles and movement patterns of males and females. Interestingly, the gap exists, but is narrower, between males and females in less advanced cultures.
Should we even be talking about this? Some think pointing out these differences might make girls give up hope on trying to improve their throwing. Others think data like this helps identify the difference and give girls, teachers and coaches information on how to improve. What do you think?
Of course, all these numbers still can't explain why Pee Wee Herman continues to throw like a girl.
Courtesy JMTThe way technology usually works, things get smaller and faster to be more efficient. That's not the case with wind turbines. Read this interesting piece on how new innovations are making wind turbines taller (reaching up into the sky the length of a football field), the blades are getting longer and are moving slower. All of this is actually generating more electricity.
Courtesy Illustration by Cheung Chungtat via PLoS ONEThe stomach contents of two carnivorous dinosaur skeletons discovered in China show evidence of both bird and dinosaur remains, raising questions about the carnivores' behaviors in acquiring the meals. The two predators, both species of Sinocalliopteryx (and larger cousins of Compsognathus) came from the Early Cretaceous-aged Jianshangou Beds of the lower Yixian Formation in Liaoning province.
The holotype of Sinocalliopteryx gigas included the skull and skeleton, and also signs of “long filamentous integument”, i.e. feathery fuzz. Inside its gut researchers detected the remains of a dromeosaurid (Sinornithosaurus?). The abdomen of the second, recently discovered specimen contains the remains of not one but two primitive birds of the species Confuciusornis sanctus. It also contains the bones of a possible ornithischian dinosaur.
The researchers, led by paleontologist Lida Xing of the University of Alberta, can’t say for certain how the second Sinocallioptyryx acquired the two birds, but several hypotheses have been made. One is that S. gigas was a stealthy hunter with the prowess of a modern day cat, able to stalk and pounce on the unsuspecting early avians. Another possibility is that Sinocalliopteryx scavenged the Confuciusornis meals. But because the remains of the two primitive birds are in the same proximity in the Sinocallioptyryx gut, and show similar levels of being digested, this latter hypothesis opens the question of what would have been the possibility of two C. sanctus dying (or being killed by something else) in such close proximity to each other. The cat-like behavior seems more likely. It could also be possible that the two primitive birds were fledglings that fell out of their nest, or just weren’t as agile as modern birds are in taking flight to avoid predatory attacks.
The remarkable Sinocalliopteryx fossils have also revealed new information about how the digestive systems of some dinosaurs operated. The dinosaur bone found in S. gigas gut is degraded and heavily corroded by stomach acid. Whatever kind of dinosaur it was, it seems to have been consumed first, followed later by the two Confuciusornis. Similar corrosion isn’t evident in the two confuciusornines specimens suggesting S. gigas was still digesting the ornithischian meal when it caught and ate the two avians in fairly rapid succession. This also points to S. gigas having a high rate of metabolism, unlike most reptiles and more like that of modern birds.
Most modern birds egress (vomit) up bone material and don’t try to digest it, while alligators and some vultures living today are able to break down bone material with strong stomach acid in a foregut. A cold-blooded alligator would need about 13 days of digestion to reach the apparent level of bone corrosion seen in the gut of the S. gigas, while warm-blooded birds would need only about 12 hours.
So what kind of scenario does all this intestinal evidence present? Was Sinocalliopteryx gigas a catlike predator that actively hunted, killed, and consumed its own meals, or was it just an opportunistic scavenger of leftovers and road kill? I tend to favor the stalk and pounce method but further evidence would be necessary to say for certain. In the meantime, you can read all about this recent study online in the open access journal PloS ONE.
Courtesy Jeff BedfordWhat did I learn this summer? I didn't have to go back to school this week, but yet this question jumped out at me when I read this article. That's because I did learn that it's a bit of a complicated line in deciding if you should just drink water or a sports energy drink after that hard workout.
This Washington Post article matches up with what I learned this summer working on a sports nutrition video for another museum. And with the onslaught of football season and all the sports drink commercials that come with it, it might be good to find out what nutritionists think about when it's best to drink sports drinks or just plain water.
Courtesy Walter J. PilsakAs a general rule, if you've been exerting for a hour or less, water is your best bet. More than an hour of hard activity, many sports drinks will give you needed energy boosters to keep you going. But as with anything you put into your body, you want to read the labels closely and make sure that the right kinds of things are going into to replace your lost energy.
I highly recommend this article. And be sure to make it to page two to find out about the pee test, which is a quick way to gauge if you're properly hydrated or in need of more fluids in your system.
What do you think about sports energy drinks and their use? To you have your own rule of thumb on when to use them? Share your thoughts with other Science Buzz readers.
You just knew summer had to end with one more weird science story. I did not know beavers could be rabid. This Virginia woman now knows that first hand.
This truly stunning hi-def footage captured by NASA satellites positioned around our Sun, show various views of a coronal mass ejection that occurred August 31, 2012. Wow!!
FROM THE YOUTUBE SITE:
"On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled away from the sun at over 900 miles per second. This movie shows the ejection from a variety of viewpoints as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), and the joint ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).“