Thu, 31 July 2014
Steve Nerlich from the Cheap Astronomy podcast gives us an update on the roller-coaster life of the ISEE-3 space probe. It was alive, then it died, then it was resurrected then it seemed dead but now it may be still alive again!
Paleontologists have discovered the fossilised remains of one of the world's first known predators that lived in the sea around 520 million years ago. The fossils were detailed enough to show some of the brain structures.
Researchers at UCLA have found eight types of electric bacteria - bacteria that eat and excrete electrons.
The Rosetta spacecraft is approaching its target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and its latest photos reveal the comet to be, well, rubber-duckie shaped. The comet could be two bodies joined together, and this could make the planned deployment of a lander a bit complicated.
A well-preserved, complete fossil skeleton of the largest known microraptorine - a flying non-avian dinosaur - has been found in China. Called Changyuraptor yangi, the dinosaur was about 1.3 metres long and weighed 4kg. And it had four wings!
Scientists at Dartmouth College are looking at a parasite commonly found in cat poo, Toxoplasma gondii, in an attempt to develop a cancer vaccine. When infected by 'Toxo', the human body produces cytotoxic T cells that cancer would normally shut down.
And what happens when you put snakes in microgravity? In the ultimate Snakes On A Plane experiment, scientists found snakes either attack themselves or tie themselves in knots.
Sat, 26 July 2014
Twenty-seven months ago the "Mississippi Baby" stopped HIV treatment and was believed to be free of the virus. Unfortunately, that changed this month when test showed the virus is back. It had gone into hiding and the now four-year-old girl will face years, possibly her whole life, on antiretroviral therapy.
A scientist at a CDC research centre found a cardboard box containing six vials of the smallpox virus in a storage room. The vials are believed to have been left there since the 1950s, and there is always a possibility that there are other long-forgotten samples of the virus elsewhere.
A study of mice that attempted to replicate the Dutch Winter Hunger have found that stresses on a mother can have epigenetic effects, altering gene expressions across multiple generations.
When experimental stem cell therapies go wrong: an 18 year old paraplegic had stem cells from her nose placed in her spine as part of a trial. Eight years later, the cells had grown into a mass of nasal tissue containing a thick, mucous-like substance.
Neonicotinoids are a controversial class of insecticides widely used in agriculture, that have been linked to declining bee populations. A new study reveals that they may be doing more widespread harm than just bees, and insect-eating birds could be affected by the disruption in the food-chain.
Giant pandas, while technically belonging to the order Carnivora, almost exclusively eat bamboo. Bamboo is so nutritionally poor that researchers wondered how they survive. Turns out, they move around to different areas and eat bamboo in different stages of development.
Wed, 16 July 2014
We’re not comfortable being bored, according to a study published in the journal Science. The paper suggestedpeople would rather give themselves electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts.
Where humans detect colours via three receptors in our eyes, the mantis shrimp have twelve. And a new study indicates six of those detect five different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. The mantis shrimp has adapted “nature’s sunscreens’ – mycosporine-like amino acids – and turned them into ultraviolet detectors.
Despite not having ears, plants can ‘hear’ the chomp of nearby caterpillars. Two researchers from University of Missouri noticed plants produced a pesticide chemical when they heard the sound of hungry, hungry caterpillars.
A common lichen in South America turns out to actually be 126 distinct species – and maybe more than 400. This highlights the difficulties involved in classifying and categorizing life, and the advances that modern gene technologies are bringing to taxonomy.
After a comprehensive study of the world’s oceans, oceanographers “can’t account for 99 percent of the plastic that we have in the ocean“. There are a few hypotheses to explain the missing plastic, but none are very conclusive. Also Illinois has now banned the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, which are too small to be filtered from waste-water and end up released into oceans and other large bodies of water.
Plucky Ukrainian astronomers have ‘adopted’ a star and given it a name that’s, well, somewhat insulting to Vladimir Putin.
Fri, 11 July 2014
The announcement earlier this year that the BICEP2 team had discovered gravitational waves is now mired in controversy. Dr. Alan Duffy joins us to explain why 'the biggest announcement' is now probably meaningless.
In 2012, Facebook manipulated the newsfeed of 689,003 users as part of a psychological experiment. The company claims it was able to alter the moods of some users, but the study's methodology and ethical concerns have drawn widespread criticism.
The electric eel - described by one researchers as "a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod" - can deliver a powerful electric shock. Now, a study of its genome reveals this ability has evolved six separate times, in a remarkable example of convergent evolution.
Italy is about to send its first female astronaut to the International Space Station, and she'll be taking a special zero-gravity coffee machine with her.