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Mon, 19 Nov 2018
The World for People who Think



Scientists resurrect ancient enzymes

Early Earth
Artist's conception of an early Earth.
In the 1990 Michael Crichton novel Jurassic Park, scientists resurrect extinct species, with disastrous, page-turning consequences. But what if the scientists hadn't wanted to re-create whole organisms, just a part of their long-lost molecular machinery? This is in essence what real-life researchers report they have done in a new paper published online Oct. 22 in the journal Nature Catalysis.

The molecular machinery in question are proteins called enzymes, and they are life's answer for how to speed up chemical reactions like the digestion of food or the breakdown of toxins.

Engineers are interested in using these versatile natural machines to speed up industrial chemical reactions in environmentally friendly ways. Unfortunately, enzymes tend to unravel in the harsh conditions often used in commercial processes.

In a quest for more robust enzymes, a team of researchers from Australia, Europe and China turned to an earlier page in life's history. Previous research from a different group had suggested that bacterial enzymes from the Precambrian era -- which encompasses all of Earth's history before a diversity of life exploded about 540 million years ago -- function best at temperatures around 60 degrees Celsius (140 F), likely because the bacteria lived in environments at this temperature.


Oldest rock art possibly discovered in Borneo cave

Oldest Art
Indistinct, but definite, the animal depiction in the centre of this image is perhaps the oldest figurative art in the world.
Artwork discovered on the walls of a limestone cave in Borneo's East Kalimantan province might just be the oldest figurative painting ever discovered.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, Maxime Aubert from Australia's Griffith University, reveals the red-orange painting - faint now, and depicting an animal that is not readily identifiable - as one of many put onto the walls of the caves in an area known as Lubang Jeriji Saléh, on island's Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Peninsula.

After conducting uranium-series analysis of calcium carbonate deposits that have accreted on top of the painting, the scientists concluded that the minimum age for it was 40,000 years.

This is, write the researchers, "currently the oldest date for figurative artwork from anywhere in the world". As well as many other depictions of animals, the caves also contain scores of "hand stencils" - art created by placing a hand on the wall and then covering it with pigment, resulting in a negative rendition.


Brave 15yo boy sacrifices himself while saving little cousin from bear in Russia

© Reuters / Ilya Naymushin
A courageous 15-year-old boy was practically ripped apart by a ferocious bear but still managed to rescue his little cousin as the two faced the animal alone in the middle of a forest in Russia's eastern Kamchatka Region.

Rodion, 15, and his cousin Boris, who is two years younger, lived in the tiny remote village of Lazo. On Monday, they went to take a steam bath, located at the weather station where the father of one of the boys worked.

The journey itself was long and challenging - the teenagers had to cross 14km of wilderness. Kamchatka is known for its large brown bear population. Since the area has yet to see any snow or freezing temperatures this year, animals that normally would be hibernating are out roaming around instead.

Locals say that in this state, bears become extremely dangerous. Sometimes they even approach towns and villages in search of food. They can attack humans, too. Just last August, bears killed a 23-year-old man who worked at the local nature reserve. An encounter with the fierce beast often means certain death for anyone, let alone a couple of unarmed teenagers.


New England forests devastated by invasive caterpillars

Gypsy moth caterpillars are having a devastating effect on southern New England forests.

The Providence Journal reports more than one million acres of forest in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have been damaged by an infestation of the insects since 2015.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management estimates as much as a quarter of the state's hardwoods trees have been killed by the caterpillars, as well as other recent environmental factors, including droughts and other insects.


Man killed in shark attack near Australia's Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is home to
© Getty Images
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is home to about 88 species of sharks.
A man has died after being attacked by a shark near Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Officials said the victim was swimming near Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island off the Queensland state coast on Monday when the animal struck at about 5.37pm local time.

The man, thought to be in his thirties, was flown to Mackay Base Hospital after sustaining "significant leg and wrist injuries", Central Queensland's helicopter rescue service said in a statement.

He later died in Mackay Base hospital of massive blood loss, according to the Courier Mail.


Pit bull terrier kills one of its owners in Clark County, Kentucky

A pit bull that killed one of its owners in Clark County had bitten her on two other occasions in the last month, according to investigators.

April Collins, 45, of 403 Verna Drive, died Friday morning in the University of Kentucky Medical Center from her injuries, according to a statement from the Fayette County Coroner's office.

Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. said Collins was found by her husband Thursday evening when he got home around 6:30 p.m.

"His wife had been mauled by their dog and was unresponsive," Perdue said. "She was transported to Clark Regional Medical Center and then they flew her to UK."


Toddler dies after being mauled by family dog in York County, Pennsylvania

canine attack
© Angela Antunes / CC by 2.0
A 19-month-old toddler was pronounced dead Sunday night after she was mauled by her family dog in Windsor Township, according to York County Coroner Pam Gay.

The attack occurred at the home about 10:15 p.m. York Area Regional Police, along with emergency medical responders, arrived at the home. The toddler was then taken to York Hospital, Gay said.

"Despite emergency medical intervention, the female toddler was pronounced dead at 11:03 p.m. Sunday night," Gay said.

York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon said Monday the dog was euthanized after the attack. He said he had been told what breed the dog is, but had yet to confirm it.

Bizarro Earth

Thousands of carp die mysteriously in Euphrates river near Baghdad - Water pollution suspected

Fish kill Bagdad Iraq
© Ruptly
While the reason for the deaths has not yet been determined, agricultural chief Safaa al-Junaibi believes that overcrowded fish farms and a rapid spread of bacterial disease could be to blame.
Iraqi fishermen have been busy scooping thousands of dead carp from the River Euphrates after the fish were found mysteriously floating in the water in Babil province, south of Baghdad.

In a development that is sure to impact local livelihoods, residents have spoken of their fears that the fish wipeout might be the result of contaminated water.

While the reason for the deaths has not yet been determined, agricultural chief Safaa al-Junaibi believes that overcrowded fish farms and a rapid spread of bacterial disease could be to blame.

One local man, Hussein Faraj, who has worked to clean up the grisly scene, said there are suggestions that water pollution could have had a hand in the incident.


New giant dinosaur species discovered in Argentina

© AFP / Agencia CTYS
Three well-preserved specimens of a new gigantic dinosaur species, named Lavocatisaurus agrioensis, have been discovered by a multinational team of scientists in the Argentine province of Neuquén.

The remains, an adult and two juveniles reptiles which roamed the Earth some 110 million years ago, were unearthed by a team of Argentine and Spanish paleontologists. The new species, which the discoverers named Lavocatisaurus agrioensis, were herbivorous and belonged to Sauropods saurischian clade of dinosaurs with very long necks, long tails, and a small head.

In addition to parts of the neck, tail and back, the team found "most" of the cranial bones, including the snout, the jaws, and teeth, making it possible to create an "almost complete reconstruction," noted Jose Luis Carballido, a researcher at the Egidio Feruglio museum and the national council of scientific investigations.


Sheep buried in deep snow in northern Spain

Captura de video
© Captura de video
"Welcome to the next Little Ice Age!" says reader."SEVERAL FEET of Global Warming hit Northern Spain on October 31st and Basque farmers were caught out very badly."

"The video shows them digging sheep out from heavy, wet snow. This amount of snow this early is almost unheard of in the modern climate record."

"Herd casualties across the whole of Europe and Eurasia, are already exceeding historic records for the time of year."

Gorbea, Basque mountains (max elevation 1481 m), north Spain

Recovering sheep buried deep in fresh snow on Gorbea, Basque mountains (max elevation 1481 m), north Spain on October 31!

Thanks to Caroline Snyder for this info and link