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Fri, 27 May 2016
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Sherlock

Acheulian human remains found in Morocco

Rabat -- A Moroccan-French archaeology team has discovered the rear part of a human mandible that dates back to the prehistoric Acheulian phase, local MAP news agency reported on Monday.

The mandible, which belongs to a young human, holds a premolar and a molar, the report said.

The fossil was uncovered on May 14 in the Thomas I quarry site in Casablanca, along with stone tools "that characterize the Acheulian civilization" and remnants of gazelles, antelopes, warthogs, bears, monkeys, said the report.

Magnify

Ship Over 2,000 Years Old Found in Novalja

Novalja, Croatia - In the Caska Bay on the Island of Pag, near Novalja, an ancient sewn ship over 2,000 years old was found. This is the result of research done by the city of Novalja and the Zadar University, in cooperation with the French institute for scientific research (CNRS-CCJ University in Marseille) and numerous other foreign associates.

Archaeologists have found a ancient sewn ship more than 2000 years old in Pag's Caska Bay, reports ezadar.hr.

Better Earth

Microfossils Challenge Prevailing Views Of 'Snowball Earth' Glaciations On Life

Image
© Carol Dehler
This is an exposure of the Chuar Group in Carbon Canyon, Grand Canyon.
New fossil findings discovered by scientists at UC Santa Barbara challenge prevailing views about the effects of "Snowball Earth" glaciations on life, according to an article in the June issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.

By analyzing microfossils in rocks from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the authors have challenged the view that has been generally assumed to be correct for the widespread die-off of early life on Earth.

"Snowball Earth" is the popular term for glaciations that occurred between approximately 726 and 635 million years ago and are hypothesized to have entombed the planet in ice, explained co-author Susannah Porter, assistant professor of earth science at UCSB. It has long been noted that these glaciations are associated with a big drop in the fossil diversity, suggesting a mass die-off at this time, perhaps due to the severity of the glaciations. However, the authors of the study found evidence suggesting that this drop in diversity occurred some 16 million or more years before the glaciations. And, they offer an alternative reason for the drop.

Telescope

Sunset Moon

Image
© Marek Nikodem
When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland, took the picture last night using a Nikon D700. "The Moon was only 31 hours past new," he says. "It was a lovely crescent!"

Only one day older and a few percent wider, the crescent Moon will be back again this evening.

Telescope

Space Station Flares

Image
© Quintus Oostendorp
Lately, a growing number of observers are reporting intense "flares" coming from the International Space Station (ISS). A typical sighting begins with a normal, sedate flyby: The station soars overhead, cutting silently through the stars with no hint that something extraordinary is about to happen. Then, a startling explosion of light boosts the station's luminosity 10-fold or more. Some observers have witnessed flares of magnitude -8 or twenty-five times brighter than Venus.

On May 22nd, Dutch amateur astronomer Quintus Oostendorp watched a flare through his backyard telescope. A movie he recorded using his Canon 1000D shows what happened.

Sun

Space storm caught slamming into Earth's atmosphere

A space storm has been observed exploding from a central point in Earth's upper atmosphere for the first time. The result could one day lead to better predictions of the storms, which can harm satellites and power grids on the ground.

The energy that powers space storms comes from clouds of plasma hurled at Earth by the sun. These clouds stretch our planet's magnetic field like a rubber band, storing energy in a long magnetic tail behind our planet.

The energy released when the field snaps back into place creates the ethereal glow of auroras (see a gallery of the light shows). It also floods the space around our planet with radiation that can incapacitate satellites and sicken astronauts, and can trigger electric currents on Earth capable of knocking out power grids.

Now, scientists have obtained the clearest view yet of the energy that was released in the magnetic tail arriving and initiating a disturbance in Earth's upper atmosphere, or ionosphere.

Robot

Crater was Shaped by Wind and Water, Mars Rover Data Shows

Most of the data relates to the central question of the role water might have played in the planet's past, and a new paper in Science, describing Opportunity's exploration of Victoria Crater in Meridiani Planum, a plain near the equator, is no exception.

The paper, by Steven W. Squyres, a Cornell astronomer, and more than 30 colleagues, summarizes information that has been released over the past several years, and can itself be summarized in two words - wet and windy. As in, water and wind have altered the terrain around the crater as they have done elsewhere, suggesting that the processes are regional in scope.

Blackbox

"Cough detectors"? Can airport technology really halt a pandemic?

Image
© Sinopix / Rex Features
At Hong Kong airport, a screen shows the location of a person in the airport, while immigration and health inspectors check the temperature and travel routes of visitors to see if they have the H1N1 virus.
When aviation officials chose Mexico City for a meeting to discuss their response to pandemic outbreaks, they could scarcely have predicted swine flu would intervene. "The irony was amazing," says Tony Evans of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada. "The meeting will probably go ahead in June unless we get another wave of H1N1."

Future pandemics will almost certainly be spread via air travel, with flights capable of carrying a pathogen across the world in hours. The UN's Convention on International Civil Aviation requires nations to "prevent the spread of communicable diseases by means of air navigation". That is easier said than done, especially in poorer regions.

Enter CAPSCA - the Cooperative Arrangement for the Prevention of the Spread of Communicable diseases by Air travel. CAPSCA aims to help airports in developing nations prepare for a pandemic, and its schemes are now getting off the ground in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Africa.

Robot

Mars robots may have destroyed evidence of life

Image
© NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona / Texas A&M University
This image was taken by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Surface Stereo Imager on June 5, 2008, the eleventh day after landing. It shows the robotic arm scoop, with a soil sample, poised over the partially open door of the lander's oven
Have Mars landers been destroying signs of life? Instead of identifying chemicals that could point to life, NASA's robot explorers may have been toasting them by mistake.

In 1976, many people's hopes of finding life on Mars collapsed when the twin Viking landers failed to detect even minute quantities of organic compounds - the complex, carbon-containing molecules that are central to life as we know it. "It contributed, in my opinion, to the fact that there were no additional [US lander] missions to Mars for 20 years," says Jeff Moore of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

The result also created a puzzle. Even if Mars has never had life, comets and asteroids that have struck the planet should have scattered at least some organic molecules - though not produced by life - over its surface.

Some have suggested that organics were cleansed from the surface by naturally occurring, highly reactive chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide. Then last year, NASA's Phoenix lander, which also failed to detect organics on Mars, stumbled on something in the Martian soil that may have, in effect, been hiding the organics: a class of chemicals called perchlorates.

Sherlock

Probing Antarctica's Lake Bonney

Image
© Vickie Siegel
The 16-foot-tall frame of the Bot House nears completion on the ice-covered surface of Lake Bonney.
Jupiter's giant moon Europa is one of the few places in our solar system where scientists believe there is a reasonable chance that life has made a home. An ice-covered world with a vast frigid ocean beneath, Europa will not be an easy place to explore.

If there is life there, it's likely to be in the ocean, and although the moon's surface may hold clues to what lies below, making a comprehensive plan to search for life on Europa means figuring out how to probe its watery depths.

NASA's ENDURANCE project - the acronym stands for Environmentally Non-Disturbing Underwater Robotic Antarctic Explorer - is a step in that direction.

Funded by the agency's ASTEP (Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets) program and headed by Peter Doran, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, ENDURANCE has completed the first of two field seasons exploring the ice-covered Lake Bonney in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. Antarctica's ice-covered lakes, said Doran, "can be used as models of an ice-covered ocean on Europa on a much smaller scale."