Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion


And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care.
The case that led Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University in Canberra to this idea is that of a profoundly ill young man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam and was buried, as were others in his culture, at a site known as Man Bac.
Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Ms. Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Dr. Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease.
They gathered that he became paralyzed from the waist down before adolescence, the result of a congenital disease known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. He had little, if any, use of his arms and could not have fed himself or kept himself clean. But he lived another 10 years or so.
They concluded that the people around him who had no metal and lived by fishing, hunting and raising barely domesticated pigs, took the time and care to tend to his every need.
“There’s an emotional experience in excavating any human being, a feeling of awe,” Ms. Tilley said, and a responsibility “to tell the story with as much accuracy and humanity as we can.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

rocky world is composed mainly of carbon (in the form of diamond and graphite), as well as iron, silicon carbide, and potentially silicates.


The alien planet, a so-called "super-Earth," is called 55 Cancri e and was discovered in 2004 around a nearby star in our Milky Way galaxy. After estimating the planet's mass and radius, and studying its host star's composition, scientists now say the rocky world is composed mainly of carbon (in the form of diamond and graphite), as well as iron, silicon carbide, and potentially silicates.
At least a third of the planet's mass is likely pure diamond.
"This is our first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth," lead researcher Nikku Madhusudhan of Yale University said in a statement. "The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Odd! Birds Screech at Avian Funerals

Odd! Birds Screech at Avian Funerals

When confronting a dead jay splayed out on the ground, the birds dashed to a tree and began a series of loud, screeching calls to attract other jays, which joined and added their voices to the choir. Iglesias found that these shrieking sessions could last from a few seconds to as long as 30 minutes.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Denisovan genome

A number of these changes influence genes linked with brain function and nervous system development, leading to speculation that we may think differently from the Denisovans. Other changes are linked with the skin, eyes and teeth.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hyraxes found to sing with varying syntax


Hyraxes' songs have something rarely found in mammals: syntax that varies according to where the hyraxes live, geographical dialects in how they put their songs together.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/19/MNEP1O80VA.DTL#ixzz1vWxeAkUv

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ancient life, potentially millions of years old and barely alive, found beneath ocean floor

Call it survival of the slowest: Extraordinarily old, bizarrely low-key bacteria have been found in sediments 100 feet below the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean, far removed from sunlight, fresh nutrients and what humans would consider anything interesting to do. 
Some of these organisms, scientists say, could be at least 1,000 years old. Or maybe millions of years.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Ancient antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in isolated cave


Bacteria that have never before come in contact with humans, their diseases or their antibiotics, but are nevertheless resistant to a variety of antibiotics, have been discovered in a U.S. cave.

Evidence of Traveller Ancients?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Runaway worlds may move at up to 30 million miles an hour, study predicts.

Brian Handwerk
Published March 23, 2012
If you think life on Earth moves too fast, imagine being perched on a planetthat's hurtling through space 400 times faster than our home world.
According to a new study, astronomers predict that "hypervelocity planets" are streaking through our Milky Way galaxy at up to 30 million miles (48 million kilometers) an hour—flung from the center of our galaxy by so-called gravitational slingshots.
Only subatomic particles such as cosmic rays are known to reach higher speeds in the Milky Way. (Related: "Lightning Creates Particle Accelerators Above Earth.")
So what would it be like on a lonely, fast-moving world? For one thing, the night sky would be a lot more dynamic, said study co-author Idan Ginsburg, an astronomy graduate student at Dartmouth College.
"If you were on the planet, from your perspective, you'd be moving so fast that in a relatively short time you'd see the galaxy just getting farther and farther away."
Ultimately, Ginsburg said, the planet would probably get kicked out of the galaxy.
"To where? That's a good question, but it would be a one-way ticket and a wild ride," he said.
"The problem is that you don't have a star or an external heat source, so your planet would get pretty cold." (Related: "Earth-Size 'Lone Wolf' Planets May Host Life.")
Planets Flung by Black Hole Slingshot
The new study was inspired by the discovery seven years ago of the first hypervelocity star, which is currently on a one-way trip out of our galaxy at a staggering 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers) an hour.
Since then astronomers have spotted more than a dozen high-speed stars in the Milky Way.
Scientists believe such speedy stars originate in binary star systems, where pairs of stars orbit each other.
"When two stars orbiting each other get close enough to the massive black holein the center of our galaxy, they feel slightly different forces, because they are at slightly different distances," explained study co-author Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
"Because of this difference, the gravity of the black hole is strong enough to basically rip them apart," and one star in the pair gets launched outward at high speed.
For the new study, astronomers examined what might happen to any planets orbiting within such system.
According to their computer models, the star that gets shot into space can carry its orbiting planets along for the ride.
The other star loses energy and falls back into orbit around the black hole. But in the process, that star's planets get torn away and hurled outward, also at truly extreme speeds.
Most hypervelocity worlds probably move at 7 to 10 million miles (11 to 16 million kilometers) an hour, the authors predict. But occiasionally in the model, hyperspeed planets traveled three to four times faster, though it's not exacty clear why.
Spotting the First Hyperspeed Planet
For now, any lone hypervelocity planets would be too distant, dim, and fast to be seen with today's astronomical equipment.
But the study authors think it may soon be possible to detect planets orbiting hypervelocity stars. The key is to look for transits—slight dips in starlight caused when a planet passes in front of its host star, as seen from Earth.
Finding actual planets headed out of our galaxy could ultimately shed light on conditions near the galactic center, which is largely hidden from us by distance and dust.
"We don't know if there are planets near the center of the Milky Way, where the stars are tightly packed and there are processes that might not allow planets to form in the first place, or might destroy them," the CfA's Loeb said.
The odds of life are only a bit better on planets orbiting hypervelocity stars—in order for any worlds to remain in orbit around high-speed stars, the planets would have to orbit quite closely.
"The [hypervelocity] stars we can detect are massive, and a planet so close to such a massive star would have to have life that could stand extreme temperatures. We don't know of any life that can do that," Dartmouth's Ginsburg said.
"But there may be less massive hypervelocity stars. Who knows? Maybe there could be life there. The universe is full of surprises."
The hypervelocity-planets study will be published in an upcoming issue of theMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.