Science & Technology


Some cheaters can keep it in their genes

A new study examining social behaviour suggests certain individuals are genetically programmed to cheat and often will do... providing they can get away with it.

The researchers looked at slime moulds - microscopic single-cell organisms or amoebae that are forced to cooperate with one another when food is in short supply. Studying slime moulds at the cellular level provides the scientists with a unique insight into the genes that may also influence human behaviour.

The international team, including biologists from The University of Manchester, found that some amoebae have the ability to use cheating tactics to give them a better chance of survival. The research - published in the journal Nature - not only demonstrates that cheating is a natural phenomenon governed by our genes but that it may be widespread among social creatures.

No, it's not a joke! Plans for 'doomsday ark' on the moon

Plans are being made for the first experiments to pave the way for a "doomsday ark" on the moon.

The ark would contain DNA, embryos and all the essentials of life and civilisation, to be activated should Earth be devastated by a giant asteroid, a climate flip or nuclear holocaust.

Comment: A dose of hubris and lack of reasoning produces such ideas unfortunately. Instead the money and energy could be used to fund research into NEOs and the collection of historical data on cometary/asteroid impacts on earth, in order to inform the public and prepare them accordingly. This project is a distraction from the real issues at hand.


Mission to the Forgotten Planets

Sometime in August 2011, a boxy space probe called Dawn will settle into orbit around one of the most underrated and overlooked objects in the solar system, a giant oblong asteroid named Vesta. After lingering for almost 10 months of study, Dawn will depart for Ceres, the biggest asteroid of all. Ceres is so large that it was recently promoted to the rank of dwarf planet, putting it on a par with Pluto and highlighting its status as a key planetary missing link.

Dawn Probe
Dawn Probe

Utah Crater Mystery Cracked

One of the longest-running mysteries in the U.S. National Parks has been solved: The crater-like Upheaval Dome in Utah's Canyonlands National Park was caused by a meteor impact, say German researchers.

Utah crater
For decades geologists have debated whether Upheaval Dome in Utah's Canyonlands National Park, pictured here, was created by a volcanic outburst, an eruption of salt or a meteor impact. The crucial clue was the discovery there of "shocked quartz," which can be created only by the intense pressures of a violent meteor impact, say researchers.

Bipolar Disorder: Manic Mouse Made With One Gene Missing

Bipolar Disorder (BPD or manic-depressive illness) is one of the most serious of all mental disorders, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Affected individuals alternate between states of deep depression and mania. While depression is characterized by persistent and long-term sadness or despair, mania is a mental state characterized by great excitement, flight of ideas, a decreased need for sleep, and, sometimes, uncontrollable behavior, hallucinations, or delusions. BPD likely arises from the complex interaction of multiple genes and environmental factors. Unlike some brain diseases, no single gene has been implicated in BPD.

Mice that were missing the GluR6 gene underwent a series of tests designed to approximate the symptoms of mania. These mice showed many of the symptoms of mania, including hyperactivity, aggressiveness, driven or increased goal-directed pursuits, risk-taking, and super-sensitivity to amphetamine.

Stunt Doubles: Ultracold Atoms Could Replicate The Electron 'Jitterbug

Ultracold atoms moving through a carefully designed arrangement of laser beams will jiggle slightly as they go, two NIST scientists have predicted.* If observed, this never-before-seen "jitterbug" motion would shed light on a little-known oddity of quantum mechanics arising from Paul Dirac's 80-year-old theory of the electron.

atomic cloud
A) Optical lattice of five laser beams trapping an atomic cloud. Color scale indicates cloud density: black is low, white high. B) Jittering motion of the atomic cloud in the optical lattice. The horizontal axis represents the spatial distribution of the cloud along one direction, while the vertical axis shows the variation of cloud density with time.
Evil Rays

NOAA Launches Final Two Buoys To Complete U.S. Tsunami Warning System

NOAA deployed the final two tsunami detection buoys in the South Pacific this week, completing the buoy network and bolstering the U.S. tsunami warning system. This vast network of 39 stations provides coastal communities in the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico with faster and more accurate tsunami warnings.

NOAA DART II buoy system.

Startling Discovery About Photosynthesis: Many Marine Microorganism Skip Carbon Dioxide And Oxygen Step

A startling discovery by scientists at the Carnegie Institution puts a new twist on photosynthesis, arguably the most important biological process on Earth. Photosynthesis by plants, algae, and some bacteria supports nearly all living things by producing food from sunlight, and in the process these organisms release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

©Richard W. Castenholz, University of Oregon
Sausage-shaped cells are unicellular cyanobacteria (Synechococcus) and filaments are green nonsulfur bacteria.

How The Peruvian Meteorite Made It To Earth

It made news around the world: On Sept. 15, 2007, an object hurtled through the sky and crashed into the Peruvian countryside. Scientists dispatched to the site near the village of Carancas found a gaping hole in the ground.

Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and an expert in extraterrestrial impacts, went to Peru to learn more. Brown graduate student Robert "Scott" Harris collaborated on the research, joined by Jose Ishitsuka, a Peruvian astrophysicist, and Gonzalo Tancredi, an astronomer from Uruguay.
Arrow Down

"Giant Fireball" Impact in Peru Upends Meteorite Theory

A meteorite that smacked into the Peruvian highlands last September may have punched holes into long-held theories about how such meteorites, called chondrites, interact with Earth's atmosphere.

Chondrites are stony chunks of asteroid, likely common in space, that contain materials similar to those found in Earth's crust.

©Reuters/STR New
A meteor slammed into the southern Peruvian town of Carangas on September 16, 2007, leaving a 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) crater, seen here two days after the impact.

New investigations of the crash site reveal that the meteor stayed as one piece during its journey through Earth's atmosphere, challenging previous views that such objects break apart and scatter before hitting the ground, experts say.