среда, 5 сентября 2018 г.

Cabbage for Colons Most people understand the importance of…


Cabbage for Colons


Most people understand the importance of eating their greens. But, in case you’re someone that still balks at broccoli and sidesteps sprouts, research provides yet another incentive to add something green to your plate. According to experiments examining mouse colons (one pictured), a chemical produced during the digestion of kale, cabbage and other members of the Brassica genus – indole-3-carbinol– may be effective at both reducing colon inflammation and preventing colon cancer. When a strain of mouse normally prone to gut inflammation and cancer was given a diet rich in indole-3-carbinol, the animals’ colons were protected against inflammation and tumours. Furthermore, if such mice fed a normal diet began developing colon cancer, switching them to the indole-3-carbinol diet, reduced the number and malignancy of tumours that grew. Whether the results will hold true in humans is not known, but regardless it wouldn’t hurt to eat an extra sprout or two.


Written by Ruth Williams



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Prehistoric Axe Heads and Tools, Stranraer Museum, Scotland, 1.9.18.A variety of axe...







Prehistoric Axe Heads and Tools, Stranraer Museum, Scotland, 1.9.18.


A variety of axe heads and earlier stone tools.


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Torhouse Stone Row, Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, 31.8.18.Found almost...





Torhouse Stone Row, Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, 31.8.18.


Found almost directly across the road from the well known Torhouse Stone Circle, this stone row suggests a complex of prehistoric monuments in the vicinity of the circle. Likely created by the early farmers that built the stone circle, it may have incorporated more stones.


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ISBA 2018 abstracts

The ISBA 2018 conference is in a couple of weeks and the abstract book is now available here. Below are a few examples of what’s on offer this year. Admittedly, the Scythian abstract looks a bit weird to me, because we know for a fact that the Scythians who lived in the Pontic-Caspian steppe harbored Siberian genome-wide and maternal admixture (see here and here). The abstract about the horses and mules looks like it’s from the major horse paper that I blogged about a few days ago (see here).



Genetic continuity in the western Eurasian Steppe broken not due to Scythian dominance, but rather at the transition to the Chernyakhov culture (Ostrogoths)
Jarve et al.
The long-held archaeological view sees the Early Iron Age nomadic Scythians expanding west from their Altai region homeland across the Eurasian Steppe until they reached the Ponto-Caspian region north of the Black and Caspian Seas by around 2,900 BP. However, the migration theory has not found support from ancient DNA evidence, and it is still unclear how much of the Scythian dominance in the Eurasian Steppe was due to movements of people and how much reflected cultural diffusion and elite dominance. We present new whole-genome results of 31 ancient Western and Eastern Scythians as well as samples pre- and postdating them that allow us to set the Scythians in a temporal context by comparing the Western Scythians to samples before and after within the Ponto-Caspian region. We detect no significant contribution of the Scythians to the Early Iron Age Ponto-Caspian gene pool, inferring instead a genetic continuity in the western Eurasian Steppe that persisted from at least 4,800–4,400 cal BP to 2,700–2,100 cal BP (based on our radiocarbon dated samples), i.e. from the Yamnaya through the Scythian period.
However, the transition from the Scythian to the Chernyakhov culture between 2,100 and 1,700 cal BP does mark a shift in the Ponto-Caspian genetic landscape, with various analyses showing that Chernyakhov culture samples share more drift and derived alleles with Bronze/Iron Age and modern Europeans, while the Scythians position outside modern European variation. Our results agree well with the Ostrogothic origins of the Chernyakhov culture and support the hypothesis that the Scythian dominance was cultural rather than achieved through population replacement.

Unveiling early horse domestication and mule production with ancient genome-scale data
Fages et al.
Despite being one of the last large herbivores to be domesticated, the horse has deeply transformed human civilizations. It provided not only important primary domestication products including both meat and milk, but also invaluable secondary products, such as fast transportation, which impacted patterns of human movements and facilitated the spread of vast cultural and political units across the Old World. The steps underpinning early horse domestication are, however, difficult to track in the archaeological record, especially due to (1) the relative scarcity of horse bone assemblages until the Neolithic and Bronze Age transition, and (2) the absence of clear patterns of size differentiation prior to the Iron Age. Some of the more recent steps accompanying horse domestication, and in particular how it was transformed to fit a range of utilizations in different human groups, are also poorly documented. One such step pertains to the development of mules, and other kinds of F1-hybrids, which are difficult to identify on fragmentary remains using morphology alone. Within the course of the ERC PEGASUS project, we have generated genome-scale sequence information from hundreds of equine archaeological remains spread across Eurasia and spanning the last ~40,000 years. These data helped us test the extent to which candidate domestication centres in Central Asia and Europe contributed to the genetic makeup of the modern domestic horse and propose a minimal time boundary for the earliest utilization of mules by mankind.

The genetic history of the Iberian Peninsula over the last 8000 years
Olalde et al.
The Iberian Peninsula, lying on the southwestern corner of Europe, provides an excellent opportunity to assess the final impact of population movements entering the continent from the east and to study prehistoric and historic connections with North Africa. Previous studies have addressed the population history of Iberia using ancient genomes, but the final steps leading to the formation of the modern Iberian gene pool during the last 4000 years remain largely unexplored. Here we report genome-wide data from 153 ancient individuals from Iberia, more than doubling the number of available genomes from this region and providing the most comprehensive genetic transect of any region in the world during the last 8000 years. We find that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers dated to the last centuries before the arrival of farmers showed an increased genetic affinity to central European hunter-gatherers, as compared to earlier individuals. During the third millennium BCE, Iberia received newcomers from south and north. The presence of one individual with a North African origin in central Iberia demonstrates early sporadic contacts across the strait of Gibraltar. Beginning ~2500 BCE, the arrival of individuals with steppe-related ancestry had a rapid and widespread genetic impact, with Bronze Age populations deriving ~40% of their autosomal ancestry and 100% of their Y-chromosomes from these migrants. During the later Iron Age, the first genome-wide data from ancient non-Indo-European speakers showed that they were similar to contemporaneous Indo-European speakers and derived most of their ancestry from the earlier Bronze Age substratum. With the exception of Basques, who remain broadly similar to Iron Age populations, during the last 2500 years Iberian populations were affected by additional gene-flow from the Central/Eastern Mediterranean region, probably associated to the Roman conquest, and from North Africa during the Moorish conquest but also in earlier periods, probably related to the Phoenician-Punic colonization of Southern Iberia.



See also…
How relevant is Arslantepe to the PIE homeland debate?

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2018 September 5 NGC 3682: Sideways Spiral Galaxy Image Credit…


2018 September 5


NGC 3682: Sideways Spiral Galaxy
Image Credit & Copyright: Data: Paul Gardner, Great Basin Observatory; Processing: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (DeepSkyColors.com)


Explanation: What do spiral galaxies look like sideways? Featured is a sharp telescopic view of a magnificent edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 3628, a puffy galactic disk divided by dark dust lanes. Of course, this deep galactic portrait puts some astronomers in mind of its popular moniker, The Hamburger Galaxy. The tantalizing island universe is about 100,000 light-years across and 35 million light-years away in the northern springtime constellation Leo. NGC 3628 shares its neighborhood in the local Universe with two other large spirals M65 and M66 in a grouping otherwise known as the Leo Triplet. Gravitational interactions with its cosmic neighbors are likely responsible for the extended flare and warp of this spiral’s disk.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180905.html


Saturn’s famous hexagon may tower above the clouds


ESA – Cassini Mission to Saturn logo.


04 September 2018


The long-lived international Cassini mission has revealed a surprising feature emerging at Saturn’s northern pole as it nears summertime: a warming, high-altitude vortex with a hexagonal shape, akin to the famous hexagon seen deeper down in Saturn’s clouds. This suggests that the lower-altitude hexagon may influence what happens up above, and that it could be a towering structure spanning hundreds of kilometres in height.


When Cassini arrived at the Saturnian system in 2004, the southern hemisphere was enjoying summertime, while the northern was in the midst of winter. The spacecraft spied a broad, warm, high-altitude vortex at Saturn’s southern pole, but none at the planet’s northern pole.


A new long-term study has now spotted the first glimpses of a northern polar vortex forming high in the atmosphere as Saturn’s northern hemisphere approached summertime. This warm vortex sits hundreds of kilometres above the clouds, in a layer of atmosphere known as the stratosphere, and reveals an unexpected surprise.



Animation above: Saturn’s northern polar hexagon in motion. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.


“The edges of this newly-found vortex appear to be hexagonal, precisely matching a famous and bizarre hexagonal cloud pattern we see deeper down in Saturn’s atmosphere,” says Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester, UK, lead author of the new study.


“While we did expect to see a vortex of some kind at Saturn’s north pole as it grew warmer, its shape is really surprising. Either a hexagon has spawned spontaneously and identically at two different altitudes, one lower in the clouds and one high in the stratosphere, or the hexagon is in fact a towering structure spanning a vertical range of several hundred kilometres.”


Saturn’s cloud levels host the majority of the planet’s weather, including the pre-existing north polar hexagon. This feature was discovered by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s and has been studied for decades; it is a long-lasting wave potentially tied to Saturn’s rotation, a type of phenomenon also seen on Earth in structures such as the Polar Jet Stream.


Its properties were revealed in detail by Cassini, which observed it in multiple wavelengths – from the ultraviolet to the infrared – using instruments including its Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). However, at the start of the mission this instrument could not peer further up in the northern stratosphere, which had temperatures around -158 degrees Celsius – some 20 degrees too cold for reliable CIRS infrared observations – leaving these higher-altitude regions relatively unexplored for many years.


“One Saturnian year spans roughly 30 Earth years, so the winters are long,” adds co-author Sandrine Guerlet from Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, France.


“Saturn only began to emerge from the depths of northern winter in 2009, and gradually warmed up as the northern hemisphere approached summertime.”


A strange process at play within Saturn’s atmosphere sped up this warming: as air sank at the north pole, the upper hexagon warmed increasingly quickly, and the transport of air downwards made the abundance of several minor species more concentrated. The increased temperature allowed Fletcher and colleagues to study the polar vortex in infrared light.


“We were able to use the CIRS instrument to explore the northern stratosphere for the first time, from 2014 onwards,” adds Guerlet. “As the polar vortex became more and more visible, we noticed it had hexagonal edges, and realised that we were seeing the pre-existing hexagon at much higher altitudes than previously thought.”



Image above: Brightness maps of the stratospheric hexagonal vortex at Saturn’s north pole. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Leicester/GSFC/L.N. Fletcher et al. 2018.


This indicates that Saturn’s two poles behave very differently – there was no hexagon at the south pole, either at the cloud tops or above, when it was observed early in Cassini’s mission during southern summer. The northern vortex is also nowhere near as mature as the southern vortex, as it is cooler, and displays different dynamics from its southern counterpart.


“This could mean that there’s a fundamental asymmetry between Saturn’s poles that we’re yet to understand, or it could mean that the north polar vortex was still developing in our last observations and kept doing so after Cassini’s demise,” adds Fletcher. The Cassini mission came to an end in September 2017.


The presence of a hexagon way up in Saturn’s northern stratosphere, hundreds of kilometres above the clouds, suggests that there is much more to learn about the dynamics at play in the gas giant’s atmosphere.


A single, towering hexagonal structure that stretches up through the atmosphere would be unlikely given that wind conditions change considerably with altitude. However, by investigating the atmospheric properties in the northern region, Fletcher and colleagues also determined that waves like the hexagon should be unable to propagate upwards –  they should remain trapped in the cloud-tops, as previously thought.


“One way that wave ‘information’ can leak upwards is via a process called evanescence, where the strength of a wave decays with height but is just about strong enough to still persist up into the stratosphere,” explains Fletcher. “We simply need to know more. It’s quite frustrating that we only discovered this stratospheric hexagon right at the end of Cassini’s lifespan.”



Image above: Saturn’s hexagon, greyscale. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.


Understanding how and why Saturn’s north polar vortex has assumed a hexagonal shape will shed light on how phenomena deeper down in an atmosphere can influence the environment high up above, something that is of particular interest to scientists trying to figure out how energy is transported around in planetary atmospheres.


Saturn’s north polar region is expected to continue developing in coming years; the northern hemisphere passed summer solstice in May 2017, and is on track for its autumn equinox in 2024.


“Saturn’s northern hexagon is an iconic feature on one of the most charismatic members of the Solar System, so to discover that it still holds major mysteries is very exciting,” says Nicolas Altobelli, ESA Project Scientist for the Cassini-Huygens mission.


“The Cassini spacecraft continued to provide new insights and discoveries right up to the very end. Without a capable spacecraft like Cassini, these mysteries would have remained unexplored. It shows just what can be accomplished by an international team sending a sophisticated robotic explorer to a previously unexplored destination – with results that keep flowing even when the mission itself has ended.”


Notes for editors:


The paper “A Hexagon in Saturn’s Northern Stratosphere Surrounding the Emerging Summertime Polar Vortex” by L. N. Fletcher et al. is published in Nature Communications: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06017-3


The Principal Investigator of Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) is Michael Flasar (NASA/GSFC, USA).


Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA, and ASI, the Italian space agency. More information on the mission can be found here: http://sci.esa.int/cassini-huygens


This study was partially supported by the European Research Council Consolidator Grant GIANTCLIMES.


Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ESA/Nicolas Altobelli/Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD)/Sandrine Guerlet/University of Leicester/Leigh Fletcher.


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Astronauts Get Ready for Japan’s Seventh Cargo Mission and Two U.S. Spacewalks


ISS – Expedition 56 Mission patch.


September 4, 2018


A rocket carrying Japan’s seventh H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) is poised to launch next Monday on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Expedition 56 crew members trained for the HTV-7’s arrival, conducted eye checks and prepared for a pair of spacewalks.


On Sept. 10, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is launching a cargo craft, exactly nine years to the day JAXA launched its first HTV mission, to the space station. The HTV-7 will take a four-day trip before reaching a point just 10 meters away from the orbital lab. Commander Drew Feustel will then grapple it with the Canadarm2 robotic arm as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor backs him up inside the cupola.



Image above: Japan’s last cargo craft, the HTV-6, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 moments before its release ending its stay Jan. 27, 2017, at the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.


The duo practiced for next week’s approach and rendezvous of the HTV-7 then turned their attention to eye exams and ultrasound eye scans. Their cosmonaut crewmates, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev, also participated in the eye exams using Optical Coherence Tomography for detailed views of their retinas.


After the HTV-7 arrives, robotics controllers will begin the work of removing six new lithium-ion batteries from the HTV-7’s External Pallet and storing them on the Port 4 (P4) truss structure. They will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries on the station’s P4. Nine of the older batteries will be stowed inside the HTV-7 for disposal and the other three stored on the P4.



International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Three astronauts will then install and hookup the battery adapter plates over a pair of spacewalks planned for Sept. 20 and 26. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks, with Feustel on the first and NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold on the second.


NASA TV is broadcasting live the HTV-7 launch and rendezvous activities as well as both spacewalks.


Related links:


Expedition 56: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition56/index.html


H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) launch: https://www.nasa.gov/launchschedule/


Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA): http://global.jaxa.jp/projects/iss_human/index.html


NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv


Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html


International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html


Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.


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NASA Finds Tropical Storm Gordon’s Strength East of Its Center


NASA – EOS Aqua Mission logo.


Sep. 04, 2018


Gordon (Atlantic Ocean) 2018


After drenching south Florida, Tropical Storm Gordon moved into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and is headed to the northwest. NASA’s Aqua satellite found three areas of the strongest storms east of Gordon’s center when it passed overhead on Sept. 4 .



Image above: At 4:05 a.m. EDT (0805 UTC) on Sept. 4, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite looked at Tropical Storm Gordon in infrared light. MODIS found coldest cloud tops (red) had temperatures near minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.6 degrees Celsius) in three areas east of the center. Image Credits: NASA/NRL.


Infrared satellite data on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 4:05 a.m. EDT (0805 UTC) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite revealed several strongest areas in Gordon where cloud top temperatures were indicative of strong storms and heavy rainmakers. In those areas, MODIS found coldest cloud tops had temperatures near minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.6 degrees Celsius). NASA research has found that cloud top temperatures that cold have the capability to generate heavy rainfall.


At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC), the National Hurricane Center or NHC noted “The storm has a small CDO [central dense overcast] with convective banding features primarily over the eastern semicircle of the circulation.” It is in the eastern semicircle where Aqua found the strongest storms.


There are numerous watches and warnings in effect as Gordon is forecast to track through the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall along the northern Gulf coast. NHC said A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Shell Beach to Dauphin Island, Alabama. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from west of Shell Beach to the Mouth of the Mississippi River and east of Dauphin Island to Navarre, Florida. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for. The mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama-Florida Border. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for west of the mouth of the Pearl River to east of Morgan City, Louisiana, including Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas and from the Alabama-Florida Border to Okaloosa-Walton County Line, Florida..


At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Gordon was located near latitude 28.1 degrees north and longitude 86.2 degrees west. That’s about 190 miles (305 km) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Gordon is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph (25 kph). A west-northwestward to northwestward motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected over the next few days.



Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

NHC said that maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph (100 kph) with higher gusts.  Some strengthening is expected today, and Gordon is forecast to be a hurricane when it makes landfall along the north-central Gulf Coast.  Rapid weakening is expected after Gordon moves inland.


On the forecast track, the center of Gordon will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico today, and will approach the north-central Gulf Coast within the warning area late this afternoon or evening, and move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley tonight or early Wednesday, Sept. 5.


For updates on Gordon, visit: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/


NASA’s Aqua satellite: https://aqua.nasa.gov/


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Rob Gutro.


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Jupiter’s Swirling Cloudscape


NASA – JUNO Mission logo.


Sep. 04, 2018



Intricate swirls in Jupiter’s volatile northern hemisphere are captured in this color-enhanced image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Bursts of bright-white “pop-up” clouds appear scattered throughout the scene, with some visibly casting shadows on the neighboring cloud layers beneath them. Juno scientists are using shadows to determine the distances between cloud layers in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which provide clues to their composition and origin.


This image was taken at 10:27 p.m. PDT on May 23, 2018 (1:27 a.m. EDT on May 24) as the spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 7,050 miles (11,350 kilometers) from the planet’s cloud tops, above a northern latitude of approximately 49 degrees.


Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager.



JUNO spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam.


More information about Juno is at https://www.nasa.gov/juno and https://missionjuno.swri.edu.


Image, Animation,Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstäd/Seán Doran.


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Glentirrow Stone Circle, Stranraer, Scotland 1.9.18.Thought to be the remains of a Bronze...








Glentirrow Stone Circle, Stranraer, Scotland 1.9.18.


Thought to be the remains of a Bronze Age stone circle inner ring, no concentric ring exists although I did come across a single outlier stone (last image). Set against a very bleak (and waterlogged) moorland backdrop, this must have been a very stark monument visible from a great distance.


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Torhouse Stone Circle Walk Around Video, Dumfries and Galloway,…


Torhouse Stone Circle Walk Around Video, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, 31.8.18. (Silent Footage)


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Twisting Tubes Everything has to start somewhere. For the…


Twisting Tubes


Everything has to start somewhere. For the heart – the multi-chambered organ responsible for pumping blood round the body – the journey starts in the embryo from a simple tube of cells twisting around on itself. By studying these embryonic zebrafish hearts as they grow in plastic dishes in the lab, researchers are starting to understand the intricate details of the molecular pathway that cause a straight tube to start expanding and twisting round on itself (left) – the first step towards forming the chambers of a fully-functioning heart. If the cells are lacking certain key genes in this pathway then they ‘forget’ which way is up. As a result, the tube balloons up but doesn’t start doing the twist (right) so the heart doesn’t develop properly. Faults in the human versions of these genes have been implicated in inherited heart defects, helping to shed light on the developmental origins of these problems.


Written by Kat Arney



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