Science & Technology


Dogs may have been man's best friend for 40,000 years


The DNA evidence, published in Current Biology, also showed that modern-day Siberian Huskies (stock image) and Greenland sled dogs share an unusually large number of genes with the ancient Taimyr wolf
It was thought humans first tamed the ancestors of domestic dogs in the Ice Age, between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

But a new study has found our canine sidekicks have been our best friend for much longer.

A team of Swedish scientists discovered a divergence in the species may have occurred up to 40,000 years ago based on the genetic analysis of an ancient wolf bone.

To early humans, the first domesticated wolves were hunting companions, fighting animals and beasts of burden.

As they bred the animals, selecting those that best met their needs, the domestic and wild breeds diverged, and the animals' genetic code became less and less similar.


Computerized military suit with suspended armor makes debut

"Toto, we ain't in Kansas anymore." Prototype achieved, revealed at McDill Air Force Base.
A computer-run military suit of the future, with suspended armor, makes its debut at a military convention held at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL. Geared to special ops forces, the suit has built-in night vision, computers, a communications system and a suspended metal skeleton that wraps 60% of a soldier's body in armor. It is so heavy, it has a motorized metal skeleton that carries the weight. It is designed to feel zero load on the top of the head via a suspended helmet. This project is being pursued by SOCOM.

Comment: "I am a mechanical man in a mechanical suit with a mechanical mission in a mechanical world..."


Remote galaxy discovered shining with infrared light equal to more than 300 trillion suns

© NASA/JPL-Caltech
Dusty 'Sunrise' at Core of Galaxy (Artist's Concept).
A remote galaxy shining brightly with infrared light equal to more than 300 trillion suns has been discovered using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The galaxy, which belongs to a new class of objects recently discovered by WISE -- nicknamed extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs -- is the most luminous galaxy found to date.

"We are looking at a very intense phase of galaxy evolution," said Chao-Wei Tsai of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, lead author of a new report appearing in the 22 May issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "This dazzling light may be from the main growth spurt in the size of the galaxy's black hole"

Professor Andrew Blain, from the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been involved with WISE since its inception in 2001, and has been responsible for examining and validating the data from the WISE telescope. He is a co-author of the new report into this discovery.

The galaxy, known as WISE J224607.57-052635.0, may have a behemoth black hole at its belly, gorging itself on gas.


Ocean's hidden world of plankton revealed in 'enormous database'

© Christian Sardet / Tara Oceans
Planktonic organisms such as these single-celled creatures are found throughout the oceans
The hidden world of the ocean's tiniest organisms has been revealed in a series of papers published in the journal Science.

An international team has been studying samples of plankton collected during a three-year global expedition.

They have so far found 35,000 species of bacteria, 5,000 new viruses and 150,000 single-celled plants and creatures.

They believe that the majority of these are new to science.

Dr Chris Bowler, from the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), in Paris, told BBC News: "We have the most complete description yet of planktonic organisms to date: what's there in terms of viruses, bacteria and protozoa - we finally have a catalogue of what is present globally."

© Noan Le Bescot / Tara Oceans
This tiny crustacean was found in a sample taken in the South Pacific
Planktonic organisms are minute, but together they make up 90% of the mass of all of the marine life in the oceans.

They include viruses, bacteria, single-celled plants and creatures (protozoa).

They form the very base of the food chain, and produce - through photosynthesis - half of the oxygen we breathe.

However, until now, little has been known about this unseen ocean ecosystem.

The Tara expedition, primarily funded by the French fashion designer Agnes B, set out to change that.

© M Ormestad / Kahikai / Tara Oceans
Many of the organisms are new to science
© C Guiguand / Tara Oceans
So far the team has analysed 579 of the 35,000 samples that were collected
An international team of scientists took part in expeditions onboard the Tara schooner between 2009 and 2013.

It sailed 30,000km across the world's oceans, with researchers collecting 35,000 samples, taking them from the very top layers of the ocean down to 1,000m below the waves.

The project has cost about 10m euros.


Majority of European men descended from just 3 ancestors, study finds

© Reuters/Paul Hackett
Two-thirds of modern-day European males trace their genetic roots to just three Bronze Age forbears, who almost literally launched the "population explosion" many centuries ago, a new DNA study suggests.

Before coming to this conclusion, a research team from the University of Leicester analyzed the DNA sequences of 334 modern European men from 17 different European and Middle Eastern populations, focusing on the large portions of the Y-chromosome passed exclusively from fathers to sons.

Their findings were published in the Nature Communications.

After that they compared the DNA from each population in order to trace the key mutations in the genomes and find out when they might have occurred. Such an approach allowed the scientists to trace paternal lines down through a long period of history.

One mutation they found originated around 4,750 to 7,340 years ago and is prevalent in Norwegian and Orcadian populations. The second occurred between 3,700 and 6,500 years ago and has spread throughout Spain, Italy, France, England and Ireland. The third dated from about 3,470 to 5,070 years ago is prominent in the Sami in Lapland, Norwegians, Danes and Friesian populations in the Netherlands, as well as being found in France, Hungary, Serbia and Bavaria, the study reports.

According to the researchers, these three paternal lines account for about 63 percent of modern European men. That means that from 371.25 million males currently living in Europe around 233 million are descendants of just three men, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Those branches of the European genetic tree are fairly young, which suggests most modern populations settled in Europe only after the spread of farming during the Neolithic era, rather than during the period of hunter-gatherers moving across the continent in the Paleolithic era, as previously thought.


Andromeda and the Milky Way might collide sooner than expected

Andromeda’s halo is gargantuan. Extending for at least 2 million light years, if we could see in our night sky it would be 100 times the diameter of the Moon or 50 degrees across!
The merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy won't happen for another 4 billion years, but the recent discovery of a massive halo of hot gas around Andromeda may mean our galaxies are already touching. University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Nicholas Lehner led a team of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope to identify an enormous halo of hot, ionized gas at least 2 million light years in diameter surrounding the galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the largest member of a ragtag collection of some 54 galaxies, including the Milky Way, called the Local Group. With a trillion stars — twice as many as the Milky Way — it shines 25% brighter and can easily be seen with the naked eye from suburban and rural skies.


Tesla's Hyperloop could revolutionize transportation

Elon Musk is at it again. Next year the construction of an innovative, ultra-speed transportation system called 'Hyperloop' will commence in central California. It is the world's first supersonic overland transport system, with the ability to reach speeds up to 800 mph. Like most other Musk-inspired creations, the Hyperloop concept seems like something straight out of the future.

"We feel now that we're at a stage where questions are answered on a theoretical level so now we're moving on to prototyping," Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), told IBTimes UK.

To begin, the first 5-mile stretch Hyperloop system will begin construction in 2016 in a brand-new sustainable community called Quay Valley, located between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"This five-mile stretch will allow us to completely test the technology, from the boarding process to the safety procedures - really everything except top speed," Ahlborn said.


Iron in the brain boosts Alzheimer's risk

© old person/iStockphoto
High levels of iron in the brain indicates you are more likely to develop Alzheimer's, say researchers.

The findings, published in in Nature Communications, suggest it might be possible to arrest the disease using drugs that remove iron from the brain.

"We think that iron is contributing to the disease progression of Alzheimer's disease," says neuroscientist Dr Scott Ayton from the University of Melbourne.

"This is strong evidence to base a clinical trial on lowering iron content in the brain to see if that would impart a cognitive benefit."

Ayton says iron was first implicated in Alzheimer's disease in the 1950s, following post mortem studies showing higher iron levels in the brains of those with the disease.

"But there has been debate for a long period of time whether this is important or whether it's just a coincidence," says Ayton.

To help settle this question, Ayton and colleagues studied the link between iron and Alzheimer's disease in three groups of people: 91 people with normal cognition; 144 people with mild cognitive impairment; and 67 people with Alzheimer's disease.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers measured the iron binding protein, ferritin, in cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain, as a proxy for iron levels in the brain.

Over the next seven years they carried out regular cognitive tests and took MRI brain scans to look for degeneration in the brain.

Bizarro Earth

Giant craters found in Swiss Lake

© ETH Zurich
The "Crazy crater" is 525 feet (160 meters) wide.
Four giant craters were found by accident in the muddy floor of one of Switzerland's largest lakes, a new study reports.

Researchers surveying Lake Neuchâtel for evidence of past earthquakes spotted the craters near the lake's northwestern shore near the Jura Mountains. The biggest crater is 525 feet (160 meters) wide and almost 100 feet (30 m) deep. The pits are among the largest and deepest pockmarks ever found in Earth's lakes, the researchers said. The giant craters are similar in size to seafloor pockmarks created by methane-gas explosions. However, the researchers think that erupting groundwater excavated these "crazy craters."

"These craters are, in fact, springs," lead study author Anna Reusch, a doctoral student at the ETH Zurich Geological Institute, said in a statement.

Reusch and her co-authors found the craters at water depths of 328 feet (100 m) or more. The team was using ship-based sonar to search for sediment that had been disturbed by earthquakes.

The Swiss Alps occasionally shake from earthquakes of up to magnitude 6, studies have shown. Scientists are also investigating the risk of earthquake- and landslide-triggered tsunamis in Alpine lakes. In the past decade, researchers have discovered that tsunamis wiped out villages along the shores of both Lake Geneva and Lake Lucerne in the past 1,500 years.

But instead of ancient quake or tsunami deposits, Reusch and her colleagues stumbled upon an enormous feature they dubbed Chez-le-Bart crater ("Crazy crater"). "I never expected anything like this," Reusch said. "The craters were so interesting that we simply had to take a closer look at this phenomenon," she added.


University students design solar-powered desalination system that produces potable ocean water

© Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University.
Ryan Wasserman, E'15, tests his group's solar desalination system on a particularly sunny day on campus.
Five Northeastern University student-researchers have worked to address the worldwide water crisis, designing a solar-powered desalination system that produces potable ocean water.

They created the device for their senior capstone project, which was supervised by mechanical and industrial engineering professor Mohammad Taslim. Team members comprised Eric Anderson, Jon Moll, Dave Rapp, Murphy Rutledge, and Ryan Wasserman, all E'15.

In their project report, the students pointed to the urgent need to solve the global water shortage: Some 750 million people lack access to clean water, according to, and approximately 840,000 people die each year from a water related disease. Indeed, the water crisis represents the greatest risk facing the world today.

"We wanted to work on this project precisely because of the world's water problem," said Wasserman, who recently graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. "Developing nations like Haiti need a cost-effective method for obtaining usable water without power input."