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Mon, 30 Jan 2023
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Blue Planet

Toxoplasmosis turning wolves into pack leaders, new research suggests

Mexican wolves Brookfield zoo
© Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune
Mexican wolves wrestle in their habitat at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield on Feb. 7, 2018.
It seems that grey wolves are yet more victims of the strange and poorly-understood toxoplasma gondii parasite — but in their case, the effects of this brain worm seem to be driving the wolves toward leadership roles.

A new study in the journal Communications Biology details how an analysis of 27 years of data found that grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park that were infected with the T. gondii parasite were, like most animals who get the associated toxoplasmosis disease, driven toward risk-taking behaviors.

While that often plays out poorly in other animals — including humans, who can catch toxoplasmosis from cat crap, some scientists say — the infected canids surveyed by the Yellowstone Wolf Project for the study appeared to be up to 46 times more likely to become pack leaders in the wake of infection. This may be because T. gondii has been shown in other mammals — including, in humans in particular — to increase testosterone levels, the research notes.


Elon Musk says he's confident Neuralink device ready for humans

Elon Musk
"We are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so timing is a function of working through the FDA approval process."

At an event at its Fremont, California headquarters on Wednesday night, Elon Musk's Neuralink Corp. announced that it is hoping to start inserting its coin-sized computing brain implant into human patients within six months.

According to Bloomberg, the brain-computer interface (BCI), will "allow a person with a debilitating condition — such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or the aftereffects of a stroke — to communicate via their thoughts."

The CEO of Twitter and owner of Tesla wrote on the social media platform Wednesday night in response to a write up by the outlet about the device, "We are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so timing is a function of working through the FDA approval process."

The device translates neuronal activity into data that could be interpreted by a computer and during the event, Musk revealed the company is developing implants that can go into the spinal cord to potentially restore movement in someone who is paralyzed and an ocular implant to improve or restore human vision.

Musk said at the event, "As miraculous as that may sound, we are confident that it is possible to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a severed spinal cord."

Comment: While everyone who still has a shred of commonsense may be applauding Musk's overhaul of Twitter, the oligarchic mouthpiece of libertarian ideals helps usher in the technology of totalitarian transhumanism.

See: Meet Elon Musk - Technocratic Huckster


Climate models can never work, says computer modeller

© pagespeed.ic
If you cannot make a model to predict the outcome of the next draw from a lottery ball machine, you are unable to make a model to predict the future of the climate, suggests former computer modeller Greg Chapman, in a recent essay in Quadrant. Chapman holds a PhD in physics and notes that the climate system is chaotic, which means "any model will be a poor predictor of the future". A lottery ball machine, he observes, "is a comparatively much simpler and smaller interacting system".

Most climate models run hot, a polite term for endless failed predictions of runaway global warming. If this was a "real scientific process'" argues Chapman, the hottest two thirds of the models would be rejected by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). If that happened, he continues, there would be outrage amongst the climate scientists community, especially from the rejected teams, "due to their subsequent loss of funding". More importantly, he added, "the so-called 97% consensus would instantly evaporate". Once the hottest models were rejected, the temperature rise to 2100 would be 1.5°C since pre-industrial times, mostly due to natural warming. "There would be no panic, and the gravy train would end," he said.

As COP27 enters its second week, the Roger Hallam-grade hysteria - the intelligence-insulting 'highway to hell' narrative - continues to be ramped up. Invariably behind all of these claims is a climate model or a corrupt, adjusted surface temperature database. In a recent essay also published in Quadrant, the geologist Professor Ian Plimer notes that COP27 is "the biggest public policy disaster in a lifetime". In a blistering attack on climate extremism, he writes:
We are reaping the rewards of 50 years of dumbing down education, politicised poor science, a green public service, tampering with the primary temperature data record and the dismissal of common sense as extreme right-wing politics. There has been a deliberate attempt to frighten poorly-educated young people about a hypothetical climate emergency by the mainstream media, uncritically acting as stenographers for green activists.


General relativity may need tweaking on the grand scale of the Universe

Conflict between theory and observational evidence suggests a missing ingredient in our understanding of the early Universe.
Early Universe
© Gerd Altmann on Pixabay
Einstein's theory of general relativity, formulated in 1916, treats gravity as a deformation of spacetime as a result of different particles and fields. Together with the Standard Model describing electromagnetic, weak and strong forces, it constitutes the basis of our modern understanding of particle physics.

Despite the remarkable success of this theory in explaining gravitational effects on the scales of planets, stars, and galaxies, general relativity still has its limitations. It has been known for around a century that it doesn't explain quantum effects, which in the case of gravity are expected to become important at the scale approximately 20 orders of magnitude smaller than the size of an atom. This means that to describe the physics of gravity at such extremely small distances, one cannot use general relativity.

However, recent astronomical observations indicate that on the largest of scales — that of the entire Universe — general relativity may also lose its validity.

To determine whether general relativity or any known modification provides a correct theory of gravity on this grand scale, an international team of physicists led by Professor Levon Pogosian of Simon Fraser University analyzed a large body of astronomical data and concluded that all known theories of gravity have some form of tension with current observations.

Fireball 4

Two minerals never before been seen on Earth discovered inside 17-ton meteorite

meteorite somalia two new minerals discovered
© University of Alberta Meteorite Collection
The 2.5-ounce slice of the Somalia meteorite which contains the two brand-new minerals.
The minerals were found inside a slice of the El Ali meteorite, which was found in Somalia in 2020.

Two minerals that have never been seen before on Earth have been discovered inside a massive meteorite in Somalia. They could hold important clues to how asteroids form.

The two brand new minerals were found inside a single 2.5 ounce (70 gram) slice taken from the 16.5 ton (15 metric tons) El Ali meteorite, which was found in 2020. Scientists named the minerals elaliite after the meteor and elkinstantonite after Lindy Elkins-Tanton , the managing director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative and principal investigator of NASA's upcoming Psyche mission, which will send a probe to investigate the mineral-rich Psyche asteroid for evidence of how our solar system's planets formed.

Comment: More from Global News:
somalia el ali meteorite

The El Ali meteorite is moved for analysis
Chris Herd, a professor in the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the University of Alberta's meteorite collection, was contacted a couple years ago about trying to classify a 15-tonne meteorite found in Somalia, the ninth-largest meteorite ever found.

"In the course of doing the classification — describing this new rock for science — I came across some inclusions, some potential different, interesting minerals inside the meteorite. What we've now discovered is there are at least two new minerals in this meteorite from Somalia that have never been discovered before.

"Most people in my profession will go through their career and not even find one new mineral. Here, just by virtue of examining this meteorite... we came across two," Herd said.

"It was an exciting moment when my colleague Dr. Andrew Locock was doing the analysis. The first day he was looking at it, he came to me and said: 'I think you've got at least two new minerals in there,' based on their chemistry, based on the ratio of elements that are in there — in this case, iron, phosphorus and oxygen — you've got two new minerals, and that was really exciting."

The two minerals came from a 70-gram piece that was sent to the U of A for classification. A potential third mineral is also being looked at.

"Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what's been found before," Herd said.

"That's what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.

"That's my expertise — how you tease out the geologic processes and the geologic history of the asteroid this rock was once part of," Herd said. "I never thought I'd be involved in describing brand new minerals just by virtue of working on a meteorite."

This meteorite is about twice as dense as a regular earth rock, he said, and it's magnetic.

The new minerals have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite. They were identified by Locock, head of the U of A's electron microprobe laboratory, because each had been synthetically created before.

"These minerals have been synthesized in a lab by a group in France in the 1980s, so they were known to science in that regard," Herd explained, "but it doesn't get to be a called a new mineral until it's found in nature."

Elaliite is named after the meteorite itself because it was found near El Ali, in Somalia. Herd named the second mineral after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a distinguished planetary scientist.

The research is being done with UCLA and the California Institute of Technology.

Herd believes more minerals could be found if researchers can obtain more samples but, researchers say the meteorite appears to have been moved to China and its future is unknown.

"The rock itself sat for at least several generations in the area in Somalia where it was found," Herd said. "It was known by camel herders as a place to stop and sharpen their tools. It's been removed from the site and actually removed from the country now, which is a bit unfortunate... It's a gigantic stone that has potential cultural significance."

The meteorite could also reveal clues about asteroid formation, the university said in a news release Monday.

"Intriguingly, the meteorite that elaliite, the group that it belongs to, may not actually be from the core of an asteroid, it might be from kind of a gigantic pond of originally molten metal near the surface of an asteroid," Herd said.

"Whenever there's a new material that's known, material scientists are interested too because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society," he added.

"You never know what you're going to find until you start to investigate these rocks in detail."

The university is often asked to conduct meteorite classifications and does a couple dozen a year, Herd said.

Light Saber

Debunking "Professor Dave's" hit piece against intelligent design proponent Stephen Meyer

Dave Farina intelligent design debunk Casey Luskin
© YouTube
Dave Farina
In a previous series at Evolution News (Bechly 2022a, 2022b, 2022c), I answered the diatribe by YouTuber "Professor Dave" directed against our Discovery Institute colleague, geologist Dr. Casey Luskin. The popular YouTuber, whose real name is Dave Farina, is neither a professor nor a PhD but just a failed ex-teacher who unsuccessfully tried twice to get a master's degree in chemistry. These are simply facts about him. But his more than two million subscribers and others, who may come across his misleading content, deserve some fact-checking. Therefore, I exposed the non-professor's propaganda and incompetence. In a second episode (Farina 2022) aimed at intelligent design proponents, Mr. Farina did it again, focusing on philosopher of science Dr. Stephen Meyer and in particular Meyer's New York Times bestseller Darwin's Doubt (Meyer 2013a). This YouTube video runs to about an hour and a quarter, so I will be answering him once again in a series, minute by minute. I have added timecodes in square brackets for easier reference.

Comment: For the full flavor, here is the complete video:

Ice Cube

Dramatic recovery in global sea ice levels confounds the Net Zero catastrophists

iceberg sea ice
© MB Photography/Getty Images
It's a mystery. Why has Arctic sea ice cover roared back so quickly over the last few years? Nobody knows - not one scientist on the planet can tell you, writes Willis Eschenbach in a short essay on the climate site Watts Up With That? It might be noted, of course, that there was no shortage of explanations when there was a cyclical downturn, mostly to do with humans having something to do with it. Ice melting at the Poles is still one of the crucial supports for the entire command-and-control Net Zero political agenda.

Comment: A sampling of mostly ignored reports over the years:


Inside the proton, the 'most complicated thing' you could imagine

proton particle physics
© Samuel Velasco/Quanta Magazine
Researchers recently discovered that the proton sometimes includes a charm quark and charm antiquark, colossal particles that are each heavier than the proton itself.
The positively charged particle at the heart of the atom is an object of unspeakable complexity, one that changes its appearance depending on how it is probed. We've attempted to connect the proton's many faces to form the most complete picture yet.

More than a century after Ernest Rutherford discovered the positively charged particle at the heart of every atom, physicists are still struggling to fully understand the proton.

High school physics teachers describe them as featureless balls with one unit each of positive electric charge — the perfect foils for the negatively charged electrons that buzz around them. College students learn that the ball is actually a bundle of three elementary particles called quarks. But decades of research have revealed a deeper truth, one that's too bizarre to fully capture with words or images.

Better Earth

3.5 billion-year-old rock structures are one of the oldest signs of life on Earth

© Keyron Hickman-Lewis
Dresser Formation stromatolite showing complex layered structure of hermatite, barite, quartz and domed upper surface
Fossils called stromatolites from Western Australia were created by microbes 3.48 billion years ago. Layered rocks in Western Australia are some of Earth's earliest known life, according to a new study.

The fossils in question are stromatolites, layered rocks that are formed by the excretions of photosynthetic microbes. The oldest stromatolites that scientists agree were made by living organisms date back 3.43 billion years, but there are older specimens, too. In the Dresser Formation of Western Australia, stromatolites dating back 3.48 billion years have been found.

However, billions of years have wiped away traces of organic matter in these older stromatolites, raising questions about whether they were really formed by microbes or whether they might have been made by other geological processes.

"We were able to find certain specific microstructures within particular layers of these rocks that are strongly indicative of biological processes," said Keyron Hickman-Lewis, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, who led the research.


Study investigates a rare type Icn supernova

SN 2022ann
© Davis et al., 2022
Finder charts of SN 2022ann (right) and its host galaxy, SDSS J101729.72–022535.6 (center and left).
An international team of astronomers has conducted optical and near-infrared observations of a rare Type Icn supernova known as SN 2022ann. The results of the study, published November 9 on the preprint server arXiv, shed more light on the nature of this supernova and its unique properties.

Supernovae (SNe) are powerful and luminous stellar explosions. They are important for the scientific community as they offer essential clues into the evolution of stars and galaxies. In general, SNe are divided into two groups based on their atomic spectra: Type I and Type II. Type I SNe lack hydrogen in their spectra, while those of Type II showcase spectral lines of hydrogen.

Type Icn SNe are an extreme subtype of interacting stripped-envelope supernovae (SESN). They have strong, narrow oxygen and carbon lines but weak or absent hydrogen and helium lines, presenting additional complications to the stripping mechanism. They have narrow emission features indicative of circumstellar interaction.

To date, only five Type Icn SNe have been discovered, and SN 2022ann is the latest addition to the short list of this SN subtype. SN 2022ann was detected on January 27, 2022 in the faint host galaxy SDSS J101729.72-022535, at a distance of about 710 million light years.