Month: March, 2018

According To Scientists, Winged Archaeopteryx Dinosaur Flew In Short Bursts Like A Pheasant

Archaeopteryx flapped its wings but was not capable of long distance flight. Nor could it soar like birds of prey.

Instead, the feathered Jurassic creature probably made short bursts of ­limited low-level flight to escape danger, say experts in Grenoble, France, after X-ray analysis of fossil bones.

Pheasants fly in a similar way to avoid predators or human hunters.

Archaeopteryx – which means “ancient wing” – lived in the Late Jurassic period in what is now southern Germany.

The first fossil skeleton of one of the creatures, known as the London Specimen, was unearthed in 1861 near Langenaltheim and is housed at London’s Natural History Museum.

Similar in size to a magpie, it shared characteristics of Earth-bound dinosaurs and modern birds, including winged feathers, sharp teeth, three fingers with claws, and a long bony tail.

However despite being thought of as the first bird, experts now view Archeopteryx as a flying dinosaur.

Nor was it a direct ancestor of modern birds. Despite sharing a common dinosaur ancestor with birds, Archaeopteryx represents a “dead end” side branch on the evolutionary tree.

Present day birds are generally believed to have evolved from a group of small meat-eating dinosaurs known as maniraptoran theropods.

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Chips That Mimic Organs Could Be More Powerful Than Animal Testing

Each year, millions of rats and mice die for the sake of human safety. Scientists studying toxicity in chemicals feed, inject, or spray them on animals to suss out potential ill effects.

But Congress is now finally updating the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, which will among other things encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to find alternatives to animal testing.

The updated act, which is expected to pass both houses of Congress soon, asks the EPA to consider a suite of new testing technologies.

Such as high-throughput robots that apply chemicals to cells in petri dishes and algorithms that predict toxicity based on the effects of similar chemicals.

The most ambitious, the most sci-fi of all these technologies, though, is a human body on a chip.

Think mini organs the size of matchboxes—each mimicking a patch of heart muscle or alveoli in the lungs—all connected together by a tiny circulatory system of microfluidic tubes. An entire human body in miniature.

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The Truth About Fragrance Sensitivity

Fragrance isn’t for everyone. It makes some people cough, wheeze, sneeze, break out in an itchy rash or clutch their head in a migraine attack.

So while many of us love scent, some prefer to be able to choose cosmetic products without it.

Is fragrance sensitivity for real?

For those sensitive to fragrance, it’s not ‘just in their heads.’

Fragrance in personal-care products is the second most common cause of allergic skin reaction and the most common cause of reactions from personal-care products, according to Dr. Sandy Skotnicki-Grant.


She is medical director of the Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto and a leading Canadian expert on contact dermatitis.

A study in 2004 found that 11 percent of people had a reaction when patch-tested with a standard mix of fragrances used in cosmetics and grooming products.

Common ingredients that can cause a reaction are citronella, oak moss, balsam of Peru and synthetic fragrances.

And, increasingly, we’re seeing reactions to botanical fragrances such as ylang ylang, jasmine and narcissus, Skotnicki-Grant says.

Each year, more than 300 new patients are referred to Fox’s clinic, most of them because they have started to react to environmental triggers, especially fragrances.

The majority are in their 30s and 40s. About half of these patients have worked in jobs with a high level of exposure to chemicals’and strong smells’for example, painters, hairdressers, pest exterminators and autobody workers.

It’s as if the human body, after living a lifetime of exposure, can no longer deal with it,” Fox says.

Common symptoms are headache, coughing, muscle aches, breathing difficulties, confusion and fatigue.

And, he notes, a new study found that 44 percent of people who suffer from migraines say strong fragrances can bring on an attack.

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According To Some Research, Earth’s Nearest Dwarf Planet Ceres Is Still Evolving And May Have Its Own Water Cycle

It may be the largest object in the asteroid belt that sits beyond Mars, but the dwarf planet Ceres has been surprising scientists ever since it was discovered.

The latest findings suggests that water – one of the key ingredients for life – is present across the entire surface of the rocky planetoid.

What’s more, the distribution of these icy patches suggests the dwarf is still evolving suggesting it may have its own water cycle beneath the surface.

Ceres is of particular interest to scientists because it is the closest dwarf planet to Earth and may play host to the building blocks needed for alien life.

NASA’s Dawn probe has been mapping the object since 2015 and, in a new study, experts used images captured by the craft to study chemicals on Ceres’ surface.

Specifically it looked at carbonates, compounds that have previously been detected by Dawn, which are thought to be strong indicators of liquid water.

Researchers at Italy’s Institute of Astrophysics and Space Planetology in Rome used the probe’s visible-infrared mapping spectrometer to anaylse the planet.

They found that sodium carbonates, salts of carbonic acid, can be found across the entire observed surface of Ceres. The camera reads the chemical spectrum of compounds found far below the planet’s exterior to identify them.

Some carbonate patches, which are as long as a kilometre-wide (0.6 miles), featured sodium carbonate in its hydrated form.

This could only occur around liquid water, suggesting the dwarf planet has a subsurface ocean.

The distribution of these icy patches across Ceres suggests the dwarf planet is still evolving and may have its own subsurface water cycle, researchers found. To measure these icy patches, scientists looked at how carbonates (green and purple) were distributed across Ceres.

The Italian team, led by Dr Filippo Carrozzo, wrote in their paper: “Hydrated sodium carbonates could form early in a global ocean in equilibrium with the altered rocky phase and be incorporated in Ceres’ crust upon freezing of that ocean.

The chemicals could have formed as recently as a few million years ago, the researchers said.

Because they haven’t yet dehydrated, scientists suggest the planet must still be spewing water from its surface and hence is still evolving.

Patches of hydrated sodium carbonate were found by the team around craters with domes or mounds.

Some craters showed unique characteristics, such as floor fractures, that the authors say indicate areas where water had been ejected.

Patches of hydrated sodium carbonate (green and red) were found around craters with domes or mounds by the team. Some craters showed unique characteristics, such as floor fractures, that the authors say indicate areas where water had been ejected.

The researchers also focused on patches of ice covering the walls of Ceres’s Jugling impact crater.

The crater, found on Ceres’s southern hemisphere, is shadowy, dark and unlike other northern hemisphere craters where water ice has previously been found.

To better understand Juling’s water ice features, the Italian team analysed light spectrum data previously obtained by the Dawn mission.

Specifically, they compared how the amount of ice on the crater’s walls has changed over time as the sun shone on different regions.

Their results showed a clear increase of the area covered by the crater’s ice-rich wall as time progressed.

According to the authors, the trend between ice abundance and solar flux suggests that seasonal cycles of water are responsible for the observed increase.

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“Cruelty Free” Dog Food Grown in Labs Could Give Your Dog A Vegan Lifestyle

Dogs and cats everywhere, rejoice. Bond Pets, a Colorado-based startup, has its eyes set on bringing lab-grown, clean protein to pets nationwide.

Described as “Pet food made from real animal protein, without the animal,” Bond Pets is an entirely new breed of food hoping to make mealtime extra special for cats and dogs.

The developing brand was founded by Rich Kelleman, who was inspired to action after struggling with his wife to find healthy and transparent foods for their pets.

Kelleman found that lots of these foods had bad, unhealthy ingredients in them, and that even the “healthier” brands had sketchy, unclear sciences behind their labels.

Pet foods across the board, expensive and are notorious for being filled with animal leftovers including animal bones, beaks, hair, and manure. Needless to say, these kinds of proteins are dirty and are no good for our pets.

While lab-grown meat is still a new concept to many, the science behind it is already deeply developed.

Kelleman explained, “I thought…it was a bit like science fiction, something that would be cool for the future.” He continued, “I didn’t think it would have practical application now.”

It’s far closer to practical than science fiction, with other brands like Hampton Creek and Memphis Meats working with similar technologies.

Essentially, these folks are able to produce actual animal meat through the use of cells. This means that the animals — who would traditionally be bred, farmed, and slaughtered — are safe.

Ryan Yamka, who works with Bond Pets, says that people shouldn’t be surprised to see a company trying to incorporate pets into the thriving food culture we’re seeing today.

Pet food has always been quick follower to the human food trends,” he said. “So it’s not surprising that you see…what I would call the sustainable- food movement getting into the pet-food side.”

Bond Pets is still developing so it might be a little while before anyone sees their products in stores. However, given time, Bond Pets may change the animal market altogether, for the better.

Clean meat and clean protein is a thriving idea for human beings and there’s no reason our animal companions should be left out.

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Why Sun’s Atmosphere Is So Freaking Hot?

This false-color temperature map shows solar active region AR10923, observed close to center of the sun’s disk. Blue regions indicate plasma near 10 million degrees Kelvin.

Small, sudden bursts of heat and energy, called nanoflares, are responsible for the million-degree temperature of the sun’s tenuous atmosphere, a new study reveals.

The mystery of why temperatures in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, soar to several million degrees Kelvin (K) much hotter than temperatures nearer the sun’s surface has puzzled scientists for decades.

Why is the sun’s corona so darned hot?” said study member James Klimchuk of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

To answer this question, Klimchuk and colleagues constructed a theoretical model of the nanoflares, which are components of the loops of hot gas that arch high above the solar surface to make up the corona.

Coronal loops are the fundamental building blocks of the corona,” Klilmchuk said. “Their shape is defined by the magnetic field, which guides the hot flowing gases called plasma.

These loops are made up of bundles of smaller, individual magnetic tubes or strands that can have temperatures reaching several million degrees Kelvin (K), even though the sun’s surface is only 5,700 degrees K (9,800 Fahrenheit).

Nanoflares are small, sudden bursts of energy that happen within these thin magnetic tubes in the corona.

Unlike the bigger solar flares, which can be viewed through satellites and ground-based telescopes and can disrupt electronics and communications networks on Earth, nanoflares are so small that they cannot be resolved individually, so until now, no direct evidence of nanoflares was seen.

Only see the combined effect of many of them occurring at about the same time is visible.

Klimchuk’s model tries to pin down exactly what happens when these nanoflares erupt.

he ultra-hot plasma cools very quickly, however, which explains why it is so faint and has been so difficult to detect until now.

The energy lost from the cooling conducts down to the comparatively cooler solar surface.

The gas there at the surface is heated to about 1 million degrees K and expands upward to become the 1 million degree component of the corona that has been observed for many years.

Klimchuk presented the findings on August 6 at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Titan Could Have “Crystals” On Its Surface That Can Support Alien Life

Scientists say there may be crystals on Titan that could provide food for some forms of alien life, according to a study published in the journal ACS Earth and Space Chemistry.

Known as “co-crystals”, they are thought to be the result of ammonia and acetylene creating a salt-like compound, caused by Titan’s methane rain and ethane flooding.

Co-crystals are basically salts that are made of two or more molecular compounds. This allows for some unique properties, such as a different melting point to the original compounds.

However, there is some disagreement over what exactly one is.

The importance of these co-crystals is that they could provide food on Titan’s surface for microbial life.

Some composed of benzene and ethane have been proposed before, but this new type of co-crystal forms more quickly and should be able to survive Titan’s weather.

These co-crystals, or ‘organic minerals’, are an exciting new class of compounds for Titan’s surface,” Morgan Cable from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the study’s lead author said.

The crystals would be extremely small, just a few microns in size – which is smaller than the width of human hair.

They may grow larger under the right conditions, with Cable noting they could look like fresh snow. What’s more, they could be food for certain types of microbes.

Titan has been a bit of a hot topic lately, with NASA currently considering sending a quadcopter to the surface, flying over the ground to study dozens of sites – including the moon’s lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons.

It would launch in 2025 and arrive in 2034.

A recent study also found that Titan’s oceans may be suitable for a submarine at some point in future.

Replicating the temperature and pressure of Titan in the lab, they found that despite the tough conditions, we could feasibly explore these regions.

Titan is the only place other than Earth with known bodies of liquid on its surface. Coupled with its thick atmosphere, it looks like quite an enticing environment for life in one form or another.

Whether it’s truly habitable we might not know for a while, but perhaps these crystals on the surface could help play a part.

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Fertility Clinic Informs Hundreds Of Patients Their Eggs May Have Been Damaged

A long-established San Francisco fertility clinic experienced a liquid nitrogen failure in a storage tank holding thousands of frozen eggs and embryos for future use, jeopardizing tissue hundreds of women had stored in hopes of having children.

The March 4 incident at Pacific Fertility Clinic, acknowledged Sunday by the facility’s president, followed a similar malfunction the same weekend at an unrelated clinic in Cleveland, the University Hospitals Fertility Center.

The two episodes carry powerful emotional and financial consequences, and come as the number of women freezing their eggs has soared in recent years.

Although individual women have reported having frozen eggs damaged in storage or in transit, a spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a major professional organization, said such large-scale incidents appear to be unprecedented.

Officials at Pacific Fertility said the latest problem was discovered by the clinic’s laboratory director, who noticed during a routine check that the level of liquid nitrogen in one of the clinic’s steel storage tanks had fallen too low.

Too little liquid nitrogen causes the temperature in the waist-high tanks to rise, risking damage to tissue housed in vials called cryolocks.

Each vial can contain as many as three eggs; embryos — fertilized eggs — are stored individually.

The clinic declined to say how many eggs and embryos had been affected but said the malfunctioning tank, storage tank No. 4, contained “several thousand” eggs and embryos.

Clinic spokesman Alden Romney said that represents as much as 15 percent of the total stored at the facility.

In an interview, the clinic’s president, Carl Herbert, said the lab director immediately transferred the threatened eggs and embryos to a spare storage tank brought into the lab and filled with liquid nitrogen.

Staff then spent days sorting through records to verify which patients had tissue inside.

For affected patients who are still eager to use their eggs or embryos to try to become pregnant, Herbert said the clinic plans to first thaw them and check for viability.

If the tissue is not viable, he said, “we are going to make our patients happy one way or another.

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The Big Bang Wasn’t The Beginning, After All

A Universe that expands and cools today, like ours does, must have been hotter and denser in the past. Initially, the Big Bang was regarded as the singularity from which this ultimate, hot, dense state emerged. But we know better today.

The Universe began not with a whimper, but with a bang! At least, that’s what you’re commonly told: the Universe and everything in it came into existence at the moment of the Big Bang.

Space, time, and all the matter and energy within began from a singular point, and then expanded and cooled, giving rise over billions of years to the atoms, stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies spread out across the billions of light years that make up our observable Universe.

It’s a compelling, beautiful picture that explains so much of what we see, from the present large-scale structure of the Universe’s two trillion galaxies to the leftover glow of radiation permeating all of existence.

Unfortunately, it’s also wrong, and scientists have known this for almost 40 years.

The idea of the Big Bang first came about back in the 1920s and 1930s. When we looked out at distant galaxies, we discovered something peculiar: the farther away from us they were, the faster they appeared to be receding from us.

According to the predictions of Einstein’s General Relativity, a static Universe would be gravitationally unstable; everything needed to either be moving away from one another or collapsing towards one another if the fabric of space obeyed his laws.

The observation of this apparent recession taught us that the Universe was expanding today, and if things are getting farther apart as time goes on, it means they were closer together in the distant past.

An expanding Universe doesn’t just mean that things get farther apart as time goes on, it also means that the light existing in the Universe stretches in wavelength as we travel forward in time.

Since wavelength determines energy (shorter is more energetic), that means the Universe cools as we age, and hence things were hotter in the past.

It’s tempting, therefore, to keep extrapolating backwards in time, to when the Universe was even hotter, denser, and more compact.

First noted by Vesto Slipher, the more distant a galaxy is, on average, the faster it’s observed to recede away from us. For years, this defied explanation, until Hubble’s observations allowed us to put the pieces together: the Universe was expanding.

Theorists thinking about these problems started thinking of alternatives to a “singularity” to the Big Bang, and rather of what could recreate that hot, dense, expanding, cooling state while avoiding these problems.

The conclusion was inescapable: the hot Big Bang definitely happened, but doesn’t extend to go all the way back to an arbitrarily hot and dense state.

Instead, the very early Universe underwent a period of time where all of the energy that would go into the matter and radiation present today was instead bound up in the fabric of space itself.

That period, known as cosmic inflation, came to an end and gave rise to the hot Big Bang, but never created an arbitrarily hot, dense state, nor did it create a singularity.

What happened prior to inflation — or whether inflation was eternal to the past — is still an open question, but one thing is for certain: the Big Bang is not the beginning of the Universe!

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Teen Substance Use Shows Promising Decline

The 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) annual survey results released today from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reflect changing teen behaviors and choices in a social media-infused world.

The results show a continued long-term decline in the use of many illicit substances, including marijuana, as well as alcohol, tobacco, and misuse of some prescription medications, among the nation’s teens.

The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH.

Findings from the survey indicate that past year use of any illicit drug was the lowest in the survey’s history for eighth graders, while past year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is down from recent peaks in all three grades.

Marijuana use in the past month among eighth graders dropped significantly in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015. Daily use among eighth graders dropped in 2016 to 0.7 percent from 1.1 percent in 2015.

However, among high school seniors, 22.5 percent report past month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year.

Similarly, rates of marijuana use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.

The survey also shows that there continues to be a higher rate of marijuana use among 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws, compared to states without them.

The survey indicates that marijuana and e-cigarettes are more popular than regular tobacco cigarettes. The past month rates among 12th graders are 12.4 percent for e-cigarettes and 10.5 percent for cigarettes.

There has been a similar decline in the use of alcohol, with the rate of teens reporting they have “been drunk” in the past year at the survey’s lowest rates ever.

Although non-medical use of prescription opioids remains a serious issue in the adult population, teen use of prescription opioid pain relievers is trending downwards among 12th graders with a 45 percent drop in past year use compared to five years ago.

The MTF survey, the only large-scale federal youth survey on substance use that releases findings the same year the data is collected, has been conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975.

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