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Sat, 16 Dec 2017
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Science & Technology


Newly discovered dino leaves researchers in cold sweat

© AP Photo/ Lukas Panzarin
"Halszkaraptor escuilliei"
A newly discovered dinosaur has made headlines, mostly due to its literally nightmarish appearance, as it turns out to have a bill like a duck and teeth like a croc, coupled with a swanlike neck and double claws - on its hands and feet.

This tiny, turkey-sized dinosaur, dubbed "Halszkaraptor escuilliei" after the late Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska, roamed more than 75 million years ago in what is currently Mongolia, a study in the journal Nature suggested.


Luxor: Linen-wrapped mummy found in previously unexplored tomb

mummy discovery
Egyptian archaeological technicians restore a mummy wrapped in linen, found at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west bank of the city of Luxor.
Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a mummy in one of two previously unexplored tombs across the Nile from the southern city of Luxor, the antiquities ministry said Saturday.

The tombs were found in the 1990s by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp, though she had only reached the entrance gate "but never entered", the ministry said.

It said that both tombs, which were given numbers by Kampp, were likely to date back to dynasties of the New Kingdom, which lasted several centuries until about 3,000 years ago.

Since Kampp's discovery, "both tombs were left untouched" an Egyptian archaeological mission started work.

Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany was in Luxor to announce the discovery in Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis near the famed Valley of the Kings, where many pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, were buried.

Comment: Items found in the tombs, including wooden funerary masks, statuettes and clay vessels, are currently being restored:
tomb artifacts
© REX/Shutterstock
tomb artifacts
© REX/Shutterstock
tomb statuettes


Score for climate realists! University of Arizona must disclose 'hockey stick' climate change emails

climate gate
The University of Arizona has been ordered to surrender emails by two UA scientists that a group claims will help prove that theories about human-caused climate change are false and part of a conspiracy.

Pima County Superior Court Judge James Marner rejected arguments by the Board of Regents that disclosure of the documents would be "contrary to the best interests of the state."

Marner said it may be true that some of the documents sought by Energy & Environment Legal Institute might be classified as unpublished research, manuscripts, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers and plans for future research.

But the judge said the subject matter of the documents has become available to the general public. And that, Marner said, does not allow the university to withhold disclosure under a separate section of the law governing university records.

There was no immediate response from the university.

Comment: From the Arizona Capitol Times:
Richardson said he is not denying that the climate is changing.

"It has been for 4.5 billion years," he said. "The question is what's causing it."

He contends that the research studies putting the entire blame on carbon dioxide emissions is flawed. More to the point, Richardson contends that accepting those findings as truth - and basing public policy on them - would have dire consequences in the United States. He said that already is playing out in Europe where "electricity rates are skyrocketing" because of moves away from carbon-produced fuels.

E & E describes itself as a nonprofit that engages in litigation to hold accountable "those who seek excessive and destructive government regulation that's based on agenda-driving policy making, junk science and hysteria."


Physicists confirmed new form of matter: 'Excitonium'

© unknown
Excitations can be thought of as propagating domain walls (yellow) in an ordered solid exciton background (blue).
Nearly 50 years after it was first theorized, physicists claim they've finally proven the existence of a new form of matter, known as 'excitonium.'
Excitonium is made up of particles known as excitons, which are made from an escaped electron and the hole it left behind.

According to the researchers, excitonium is what's known as a condensate.

This means it exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomenon, like a superconductor, superfluid, or insulating electronic crystal.

It was first theorized nearly 50 years ago, and researchers now say they've confirmed its existence.
In the new experiments, the researchers say they were able to observe the material and the precursor phase, which is said to be the 'smoking gun' proof of its existence.

When an electron gets excited and 'jumps', it leaves behind a hole. And, this hole can behave as though it were a particle itself, with a positive charge. As it has a positive charge, the hole attracts the electron, pairing them to form a composite particle, or boson, known as an exciton.

In the new experiments, the researchers studied non-doped crystals of the transition metal dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2).

According to the team from the University of Illinois College of Engineering, they were able to reproduce the results five times on different cleaved crystals. Previous efforts have struggled to distinguish the material from what's known as a Peierls phase, which is unrelated but shares the same symmetry as exciton formation.

To uncover the elusive form of matter, the researchers developed a new technique called momentum-resolved electron energy-loss spectroscopy (M-EELS), which is more sensitive to excitations than other methods. The researchers retrofit an EEL spectrometer with a goniometer, to precisely measure the electron's momentum. And, doing this allowed them to measure excitations of the particles for the first time.


Mathematicians crack the 'cursed curve'

Cursed Curve
© Jennifer Balakrishnan/Sachi Hashimoto
A graph of solutions to the “cursed curve.” Jennifer Balakrishnan and Sachi Hashimoto, plotted using SageMath.
Mathematical proofs are elaborate theoretical arguments that often say little about actual numbers and calculations - the concrete values non-mathematicians think of as "solving a math problem." Occasionally, though, theoretical proofs lead to explicit results. This was the case with an exciting sequence of events that culminated last month.

The story takes place in the mathematical field of number theory. The theoretical side involves some intriguing new ideas from Minhyong Kim, a mathematician at the University of Oxford.

As I explained in a recent article, Kim works in a highly abstract area of mathematics, but the goal of his work is actually quite straightforward: to find a method for identifying all the rational solutions to particular kinds of equations.

The rational numbers, remember, consist of all the numbers that can be written as a fraction. So for the equation x2 + y2 = 1, one rational solution is x = 3/5 and y = 4/5.

The problem Kim is wrestling with dates all the way back to Diophantus of Alexandria, who studied such "Diophantine equations" in the third century A.D. The most significant recent result on the topic provided an important but blunt reframing of the problem: In 1986, Gerd Faltings won the Fields Medal, math's highest honor, primarily for proving that certain classes of Diophantine equations have only finitely many rational solutions (rather than infinitely many).

Comet 2

NASA can't save us! Agency misses asteroid as it skims by Earth

asteroid collision
A whale-sized asteroid has come frighteningly close to the Earth - within one-third of the distance between the Earth and the moon. What's more, NASA failed to spot the space rock until it had already passed.

The rock is estimated to have a diameter of between six and 32 meters, which would translate into enough destructive power to level a major city. The colossal mass came within 73,000 miles (117,480km) of us in early November.

According to The Watchers, a website that monitors the path of asteroids in our solar system, NASA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii spotted the asteroid on November 10. However, at that point, it was already heading back out to space after having skimmed the Earth just one day before.

Comment: NASA can't warn us of an asteroid they can't see and using a 'space lasso' to prevent incoming threats probably won't work either. We're on our own, folks!


Study finds gay and straight men have genetic variations that may correlate with sexual orientation

genetic differences homosexuals
© global look press
Not all men who have the “gay” variants of the gene end up that way, however.
Gay and straight men have different variations of at least two genes that somewhat correlate with their sexual orientation, a new study appears to show, lending credence to the theory that sexual preferences are inherited, not chosen.

The study appeared Thursday in the Scientific Reports journal. Scientists at the North Shore University in Illinois compared the genomes of 1,077 gay and 1,231 straight men of "primarily European ancestry," and found differences in two genes.

The first, SLITRK6, is behind brain development and hormone production. It is particularly active in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which previous studies have shown are up to 34 percent larger in gay men. Differences were also found in another gene, TSHR, responsible for thyroid function, which previous studies also linked to sexual preferences as well as weight loss.

Comment: A number of other studies have attempted to find genetic factors that determine sexual orientation, yet findings are often inconclusive or contradictory.
Homosexuality's cause isn't genetics, but the answer does lie in the womb

Genes are spelled out by DNA and are entirely hereditary from one family member to another. However, genes do not explain everything about who a person is. After all, recent research shows that the average person has 400 genetic errors that could lead to a disease - and yet, the overwhelming majority of human beings do not have debilitating illnesses. Epigenetics, or environment influences on the genes, are almost as important as the genes themselves.
See also:

Microscope 1

'Magnetic Monopole' phenomenon found in old chemistry experiments

© Gizmodo
You might have scoffed at the "f....in' magnets, how do they work" line from the Insane Clown Posse song "Miracles," but if we're being honest here, magnets are pretty nuts. Take any old bar magnet and cut it in half and it will still have a North and a South pole. Keep cutting, you'll never end up with a single North or South pole. Whoever discovered a fundamental magnetic charge, like a single pole, would likely win the Nobel Prize.

A team of physicists at Institute of Science and Technology Austria haven't done quite that, but they have realised that some collections of molecules behave as if they were "magnetic monpoles," magnets with only one pole. Others have observed similar phenomena, but this one is perhaps most striking in its simplicity. In fact, other teams have probably created the conditions for these properties to manifest all along, but no one went looking for them.

"We analysed expeirments that have been done by other groups. What people do now is put a molecule in superfluid helium. This has been done for 20 years. The main focus was to study the property of molecules," Mikhail Lemeshko from IST Austria told Gizmodo. "They weren't measuring this particular property but were creating monopoles in their experiments by creating something else."

So why should you care if a monopole exists? Well, the most basic equations governing electricity and magnetism are called Maxwell's equations. There are four of them, two for magnetism and two for electricity that look like near mirror images. However, where the electricity equations imply the existence of single electric charges, the magnetic equations do not. People have long assumed that monopoles could possibly exist to make the equations look nicer. Since Maxwell, others have found that monopoles might make some particle physics ideas used to explain our strange Universe look much cleaner.

Lemeshko's team didn't find a single particle, but a quasiparticle that behaved like a single magnetic pole. Quasiparticles occur when many particles, when together, appear to act in a mathematically similar way to single particles moving in simpler ways -- like using the idea of a "hole" to represent "a place where all of the dirt has been removed." In this case, Lemeshko's team calculated the behaviour of a rotating molecule inside a sphere of superfluid helium, called an "angulon."


Information injected into monkey's brains

Scientists ‘Inject’ Information Into Monkeys’ Brains
© Christoph Hitz
When you drive toward an intersection, the sight of the light turning red will (or should) make you step on the brake. This action happens thanks to a chain of events inside your head.

Your eyes relay signals to the visual centers in the back of your brain. After those signals get processed, they travel along a pathway to another region, the premotor cortex, where the brain plans movements.

Now, imagine that you had a device implanted in your brain that could shortcut the pathway and "inject" information straight into your premotor cortex.

That may sound like an outtake from "The Matrix." But now two neuroscientists at the University of Rochester say they have managed to introduce information directly into the premotor cortex of monkeys. The researchers published the results of the experiment on Thursday in the journal Neuron.

Although the research is preliminary, carried out in just two monkeys, the researchers speculated that further research might lead to brain implants for people with strokes.

Comment: Also See:


Scientists have created the world's first soft artificial beating heart

soft artificial heart

The soft artificial heart resembles the human heart in appearance and function.
It looks like a real heart except that it's made of silicone, according to the World Economic Forum.

If you look at the video of it, you can see it's meant to mimic the real thing as close as possible - even maintaining a pulse.