Science & Technology


Revival on Jupiter

Think of the turmoil at the sea surface just before a massive submarine emerges from depth. Something like that is happening on Jupiter. A turbulent plume is breaking through the giant planet's cloudtops in the south equatorial zone, heralding the emergence of ... what? Scroll past this Nov. 14th photo from astrophotographer Paul Haese of Glenalta, South Australia for further discussion:

Leonid Meteor Shower

© A. Scott Murrell, Sky & Telescope Magazine
The annual Leonid meteor shower peaks this year on Nov. 17th when Earth passes through a thicket of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Earth is expected to miss the densest swarms of comet dust, making this an off-year for Leonids with a maximum of only 20 meteors per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Wednesday.

Modern Humans Mature More Slowly Than Neanderthals Did

© Graham Chedd (PBS)/Paul Tafforeau (ESRF); and Tanya Smith (Harvard University and MPI-EVA)
A sophisticated new examination of teeth from 11 Neanderthal and early human fossils shows that modern humans are slower than our ancestors to reach full maturity. The finding suggests that our characteristically slow development and long childhood are recent and unique to our own species, and may have given early humans an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals.

The research, led by scientists at Harvard University, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (MPI-EVA), and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), is detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Teeth are remarkable time recorders, capturing each day of growth much like rings in trees reveal yearly progress," says Tanya M. Smith, assistant professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard. "Even more impressive is the fact that our first molars contain a tiny 'birth certificate,' and finding this birth line allows scientists to calculate exactly how old a juvenile was when it died."

Compared to even early humans, other primates have shorter gestation, faster childhood maturation, younger age at first reproduction, and a shorter overall lifespan. It's been unclear exactly when, in the 6 to 7 million years since our evolutionary split from non-human primates, the life course shifted.

Comment: See also our forum discussion The Neanderthal Legacy for more information on this topic.

Cloud Lightning

Satellites provide up-to-date information on snow cover

© ESA GlobSnow.
Snow Water Equivalent map for Northern Hemisphere, 4 November 2010.
ESA GlobSnow project led by the Finnish Meteorological Institute uses satellites to produce up-to-date information on global snow cover. The new database gives fresh information on the snow situation right after a snowfall. Gathering this information was not possible before when only land-based observations were available.

New analysis explains formation of bulge on far side of moon

© Unknown
A bulge of elevated topography on the farside of the moon--known as the lunar farside highlands--has defied explanation for decades. But a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows that the highlands may be the result of tidal forces acting early in the moon's history when its solid outer crust floated on an ocean of liquid rock.

Comet bomber flyby pics show spaceball belching ancient dry ice

Professor Sunshine bitchslaps wet squirty tail theory

Excellent snaps sent back by a NASA probe craft during a rendezvous with the comet Hartley 2 have revealed that the spectacular "jets" of glowing gas which make it so spectacular result from dry ice subliming in its interior.

© The Register
A little bit of dry ice fabulousness
Control Panel

Hacker makes Minority Report manipulation a reality with Kinect hack

After eight years of geeking over Minority Report's gesture-based manipulation interface, we're really pumped that it isn't all just movie magic anymore. It was only a matter of time before this would happen. Hackers are a crafty bunch after all.
Grey Alien

SETI Astronomers Launch New Campaign to Eavesdrop on E.T.

Andromeda galaxy
© Chaco Culture NHP Observatory
Andromeda galaxy.

In a vast cosmic experiment equivalent to hitting "redial," astronomers in a dozen countries are aiming telescopes to listen in once again on some of the stars that were part of the world's first search for alien life 50 years ago.

The coordinated signal-searching campaign began this month to mark the 50th anniversary of Project Ozma, a 1960 experiment that was christened the world's first real attempt in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence - or SETI.

Like Project Ozma, which got its name from a character in L. Frank Baum's series of books about the Land of Oz, the new search is called Project Dorothy.

Project Ozma was conducted by astronomer Frank Drake of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. Drake is also famous for devising the Drake equation, which predicts the number of alien civilizations with whom we might be able to communicate. The formula is based on factors including the rate of star formation in the galaxy and the percentage of stars thought to have planets. Making educated guesses for some of the equation's terms, scientists have used it to predict we could find evidence of ET intelligence within the next 25 years.

New Pathway Discovered for Repairing Damaged DNA

UC Davis researchers have found a new pathway for repairing DNA damaged by oxygen radicals. The results are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This new inducible pathway gives cells greater capacity to repair oxidative damage," said Peter Beal, professor of chemistry at UC Davis and senior author of the paper.

As part of its inflammatory response, the body's immune system produces oxygen radicals, or reactive oxygen species, to kill bacteria, parasites or tumors. But chronic inflammation, for example in the gut, has been linked to cancer, said co-author Professor Sheila David, also of the Department of Chemistry.

Oxygen radicals are strongly linked to cancer and aging and are also formed during metabolism and upon exposure to environmental toxins and radiation. Understanding more about how this damage can be repaired could lead to a better understanding of the causes of some cancers.

Oxygen radicals can react with the four bases that make up the "letters" of DNA -- A, C, G and T -- so that the "spelling" of genes gets changed. The accumulation of spelling errors (called mutations) can lead to cancer.

UK: Found After 300 Years, The Scourge of the British Navy

© National Maritime Museum
A painting of the French frigate from around 1780
Wreck found off Plymouth is identified as feared French corsair

With 25 guns and a plunder-thirsty crew, La Marquise de Tourny was the scourge of the British merchant fleet some 260 years ago. For up to a decade, the French frigate terrorized English ships by seizing their cargoes and crew under a form of state-sanctioned piracy designed to cripple British trade.

Then, in the mid-18th century, the 460-ton vessel from Bordeaux, which seized three valuable cargo ships in a single year and distinguished itself by apparently never being captured by the English, disappeared without a trace. Nearly 300 years later, the fate of La Marquise and its crew can finally be revealed.

Wreckage from the frigate, including the remarkably well-preserved ship's bell carrying its name and launch date of 1744, has been found in the English Channel some 100 miles south of Plymouth by an American exploration company, suggesting that the feared privateer or "corsair" sank with the loss of all hands in a storm in notoriously treacherous waters off the Channel Islands.

The vessel is the first of its type to be found off British waters and one of only three known around the world, offering a unique insight into a frenetic phase of Anglo-French warfare when both countries set about beefing up their meagre navies in the mid-1700s by providing the captains of armed merchant vessels with "Letters of Marque" to take to the seas and capture enemy ships in revenge for attacks on other cargo convoys.