пятница, 23 ноября 2018 г.

Eyebrow Raising Although humans have lost most of the hair…

Eyebrow Raising

Although humans have lost most of the hair from their bodies and faces over many thousands of years of evolution, we have kept a few distinctive patches. One example is eyebrows, which are thought to be important not only for keeping sweat out of our eyes but also for communication and even sexual attraction. Eyebrow thickness varies from person to person – as seen in these three examples – and it appears to be something you inherit from your parents, suggesting that it is strongly controlled by genes. Researchers have now used careful genetic analysis to pinpoint a number of variations in ‘control switches’ in DNA, which affect eyebrow thickness in people from a wide range of ethnic groups by altering the activity of genes involved in hair growth. But they found no evidence that these variations were under strong sexual selection pressure, suggesting that eyebrow thickness has no impact on attractiveness.

Written by Kat Arney

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2018 November 23 Good Morning Leonid Image Credit &…

2018 November 23

Good Morning Leonid
Image Credit & Copyright: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrées), TWAN

Explanation: On November 17, just an hour before sunrise, this bright and colorful meteor flashed through clear predawn skies. Above a sea of clouds this striking autumn morning’s moment was captured from Hochblauen, a prominent 1165 meter high summit in southern Germany’s Black Forest. Shining through the twilight, Sirius as well as the familiar stars of Orion are recognizable near the southwestern horizon, and the meteor seems headed right for the hunter’s belt and sword. Still, as part of the annual Leonid meteor shower, the meteor trail does point back to the shower’s radiant. The constellation Leo is high above the horizon and off the top left of the frame.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181123.html

Gobble Up These Black (Hole) Friday Deals!

Welcome to our 6th annual annual Black Hole Friday! Check out these black hole deals from the past year as you prepare to

head out for a shopping spree or hunker down at home to avoid the crowds.

First things first, black holes have one basic rule:

They are so incredibly dense that to escape their surface you’d have to travel

faster than light. But light speed is the cosmic speed limit … so nothing

can escape a black hole’s surface!


hole birth announcements

Some black holes form when a very large star

dies in a supernova explosion and collapses

into a superdense object. This is even more jam-packed than the crowds at your

local mall — imagine an object 10 times more massive than the Sun squeezed into

a sphere with the diameter of New York City!


Some of these collapsing stars also signal

their destruction with a huge burst of gamma rays. Our Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and


Gehrels Swift Observatory
continuously seek out the

signals of these gamma ray bursts — black hole birth announcements that

come to us from across the universe.


black holes

There are loads of stellar mass black holes,

which are just a few 10s of times the Sun’s mass, in our home galaxy alone —

maybe even hundreds of millions of them! Our Neutron Star

Interior Composition Explorer
, or NICER for short,

experiment on the International Space Station has been studying some of those relatively nearby black holes.


Near one black hole called GRS 1915+105, NICER found disk

winds — fast streams of gas created by heat or pressure. Scientists are still figuring out some puzzles about these types of wind.

Where do they come from, for example? And do they change the way material falls

into the black hole? Every new example of these disk winds helps astronomers

get closer to answering those questions.


monster black holes

But stellar mass black holes aren’t the only

ones out there. At the center of nearly every large galaxy lies a supermassive

black hole — one with the mass of millions or billions of Suns smooshed into a region no bigger than our solar



There’s still some debate about how these

monsters form, but astronomers agree that they certainly can collide and

combine when their host galaxies collide and combine. Those black holes will

have a lot of gas and dust around them. As that material is pulled into the

black hole it will heat up due to friction and other forces, causing it to emit light.  A group of scientists wondered what light it

would produce and created this mesmerizing visualization showing that most of the light

produced around these two black holes is UV or X-ray light

We can’t see those wavelengths with our own eyes, but many telescopes can.

Models like this could help scientists know what to look for to spot a merger.


holes power bright gamma ray lights

It also turns out that these supermassive

black holes are the source of some of the brightest objects in the gamma ray

sky! In a type of galaxy called active galactic nuclei (also called “AGN” for short)

the central black hole is surrounded by a disk of gas and dust that’s

constantly falling into the black hole.


But not only that, some of those AGN have jets

of energetic particles that are shooting out from near the black hole at nearly

the speed of light! Scientists are studying these jets to try to understand how

black holes — which pull everything in with their huge amounts of gravity —

provide the energy needed to propel the particles in these jets. If that jet is

pointed directly at us, it can appear super-bright in gamma rays and we call it

a blazar. These blazars make up more than half of the sources our Fermi

space telescope sees


particles from near a black hole

Sometimes scientists get a two-for-one kind of

deal when they’re looking for black holes. Our colleagues at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory

actually caught a particle from a blazar 4 billion light-years

. IceCube lies a mile under the ice in Antarctica and

uses the ice itself to detect neutrinos, tiny speedy particles that weigh

almost nothing and rarely interact with anything. When IceCube caught a

super-high-energy neutrino and traced its origin to a specific area of the sky,

they turned to the astronomical community to pinpoint the source.


Our Fermi spacecraft scans the entire sky

about every three hours and for months it had observed a blazar producing more

gamma rays than usual. Flaring is a

common characteristic in blazars
, so this didn’t attract

special attention. But when the alert from IceCube came through, scientists

realized the neutrino and the gamma rays came from the same patch of sky! This

method of using two or more kinds of signals to learn about one event or object

is called multimessenger astronomy, and it’s helping us learn a lot about the



Get more fun facts and information about black

holes HERE

and follow us on

social media
today for other cool facts and findings

about black holes!


sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Tourmaline | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Minas…

Tourmaline | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Minas Gerais, Brazil

Size: 16.5 x 0.7 x 0.5

Photo Copyright © Saphira Minerals

Geology Page



Rock art might help understand how human language has evolved

Understanding how early humans developed their capacities of expression which led to emergence of the language which sets us apart from other species was the topic of an article published in the Frontiers in Psychology. Led by researcher Shigeru Miyagawa, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the USA, with the participation of linguists Cora Lesure (MIT) and Vitor Augusto Nóbrega, from the School of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) of USP, the study suggests cave paintings represent a modality of language expression.

Rock art might help understand how human language has evolved
Reproduction of a bison of the cave of Altamira [Credit: Rameessos/WikiCommons]

The so-called rock art is one of the terms for the oldest known artistic representations, the oldest of which date back from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 BC) and were drawn on rocky walls and ceilings of shelters or caves. According to scientists, the secret for understanding the leap taken by humans towards language might have started within those small spaces.
‘We take up the topic of cave art and archeoacoustics, particularly the discovery that cave art is often closely connected to the acoustic properties of the cave chambers in which it is found’ the researchers explain in the introduction of their article. For them, ‘early modern humans were able to detect the way sound reverberated in these chambers, and they painted artwork on surfaces that were acoustic “hot spots,” i.e., suitable for generating echoes’.

Based on that, linguists argue cave art is “a form of cross-modality information transfer, in which acoustic signals are transformed into symbolic visual representations”. That is, it is the first sign of “how the symbolic mind of early modern humans was taking shape into concrete, externalized language”.

Beyond the allegory and the cave

A linguist graduated from USP, Nóbrega started his academic career studying how compound words, such as “glass cleaner”, “swordfish”, etc., were formed in different languages, and which the minimum requirements were for forming them in any language. In his doctoral studies, his focus shifted to how human beings managed to considerably expand their vocabulary, a field known as Biolinguistics. The contact with Professor Miyagawa started from this work.

As he tried to understand how we develop what he called lexical competence — the knowledge and capacity to use the vocabulary to form sentences in a language — the linguist went deeper on studying the origins of language in an attempt to uncover how it developed in the context of evolution, a mystery yet to be solved by scientists, and which has intrigued researchers across the world.

“There are reasons to believe the cognitive underpinnings for the development of a symbolic consciousness were available at the time of the emergence of the Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago”, he says as he emphasizes recent discoveries suggest the Neanderthals — an extinct human species — also possessed symbolic consciousness.


“Our starting point is a hypothesis defined in several works on archeoacoustics, which suggest the location and subject matter of cave paintings are intimately related to the acoustic properties of the environment in which they were made”, he explains, and gives as examples hoofed animals, such as bulls or bison, which generally are drawn in chambers whose acoustic reverberations sound like hoof beats. It is not a coincidence there are cave walls which would have been perfectly suited for painting, but which were ignored because of the acoustic properties of the cave chambers. Generally speaking, early humans painted not only what they saw, but also what they heard.

“Archeoacoustics is not the only hypothesis; and not all paintings features acoustic properties like this one. But there is a relation between the location and the subject matter with significant statistical outcomes”, argues Vitor as he stresses the research suggests cave artists already made use of a reasoning which “stemmed from symbolic consciousness”.

“Based on that relation, we suggest the mechanisms these cave representations seem to display are a parallel to what allowed us to develop human language through speech and signals”, he sums up.

The same idea among different species

Coincidently, at the same time his article was released, two other studies had an impact on the scientific community for they managed to prove cave paintings could be older than previously thought, dating about 60,000 years ago, when the Homo sapiens did not exist in Europe. That means the Neanderthals might have been the first artists. With that new information, scientists now need to think about how this competence sprang up at the same time in two different species.

Even if cave art cannot be seen itself as language, Nóbrega says its production might suggest “the mechanisms underlying the production of painting run parallel to the production of language”. Then, we need to see them from a multi-sensory point of view, so we can identify correlations concerning how these paintings represented an advance which might have promoted human language.

Just like archeology might be viewd as a reconstruction — as archeologists dig for new evidence to either confirm or disprove historical hypotheses — “the study of language formation is also a reconstruction”, argues Nóbrega, as he highlights Linguistics is an “extremely interfaced” field in which one needs to pay close attention to discoveries being made in archeology, biology, psychology, among a diversity of other fields.

Despite that, “unfortunately, we will never have any direct evidence of what the first form of language used by the species was like”. However, we can examine the relation between archeological records, cave paintings, and the cognitive processes needed for them to come up. It is from this investigation “we can shed light on the timeline of human evolutionary development”, he remarks.

Source: Universidade de São Paulo [November 19, 2018]



XMM-Newton’s view of pulsar J1826-1256

XMM-Newton’s view of pulsar J1826-1256

Credit: ESA/XMM-Newton/J. Li, DESY, Germany

Based on a new theoretical model, a team of scientists explored the rich data archive of ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra space observatories to find pulsating X-ray emission from three sources. The discovery, relying on previous gamma-ray observations of the pulsars, provides a novel tool to investigate the mysterious mechanisms of pulsar emission, which will be important to understand these fascinating objects and use them for space navigation in the future. 

Lighthouses of the Universe, pulsars are fast-rotating neutron stars that emit beams of radiation. As pulsars rotate and the beams alternatively point towards and away from Earth, the source oscillates between brighter and dimmer states, resulting in a signal that appears to ‘pulse’ every few milliseconds to seconds, with a regularity rivalling even atomic clocks.

Pulsars are the incredibly dense, extremely magnetic, relics of massive stars, and are amongst the most extreme objects in the Universe. Understanding how particles behave in such a strong magnetic field is fundamental to understanding how matter and magnetic fields interact more generally.

Originally detected through their radio emission, pulsars are now known to also emit other types of radiation, though typically in smaller amounts. Some of this emission is standard thermal radiation – the type that everything with a temperature above absolute zero emits. Pulsars release thermal radiation when they accrete matter, for example from another star.

But pulsars also emit non-thermal radiation, as is often produced in the most extreme cosmic environments. In pulsars, non-thermal radiation can be created via two processes: synchrotron emission and curvature emission. Both processes involve charged particles being accelerated along magnetic field lines, causing them to radiate light that can vary in wavelength from radio waves to gamma-rays.

Non-thermal X-rays result mostly from synchrotron emission, while gamma-rays may come from so-called synchro-curvature emission – a combination of the two mechanisms. It is relatively easy to find pulsars that radiate gamma-rays – NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope has detected more than 200 of them over the past decade, thanks to its ability to scan the whole sky. But only around 20 have been found to pulse in non-thermal X-rays.

Unlike gamma-ray detecting survey instruments, X-ray telescopes must be told exactly where to point, so we need to provide them with some sort of guidance,” says Diego Torres, from the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona, Spain.

Aware that there should be many pulsars emitting previously undetected non-thermal X-rays, Torres developed a model that combined synchrotron and curvature radiation to predict whether pulsars detected in gamma-rays could also be expected to appear in X-rays.

Scientific models describe phenomena that can’t be experienced directly,” explains Torres.

This model in particular helps explain the emission processes in pulsars and can be used to predict the X-ray emission that we should observe, based on the known gamma-ray emission.

The model describes the gamma-ray emission of pulsars detected by Fermi – specifically, the brightness observed at different wavelengths – and combines this information with three parameters that determine the pulsar emission. This allows a prediction of their brightness at other wavelengths, for instance in X-rays.

Torres partnered with a team of scientists, led by Jian Li from the Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron in Zeuthen near Berlin, Germany, to select three known gamma-ray emitting pulsars that they expected, based on the model, to also shine brightly in X-rays. They dug into the data archives of ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatories to search for evidence of non-thermal X-ray emission from each of them.

Not only did we detect X-ray pulsations from all three of the pulsars, but we also found that the spectrum of X-rays was almost the same as predicted by the model,” explains Li.

This means that the model very accurately describes the emission processes within a pulsar.”

Non-thermal X-ray emission from three pulsars

Credit: Adapted from J. Li et al. (2018)

In particular, XMM-Newton data showed clear X-ray emission from PSR J1826-1256 – a radio quiet gamma-ray pulsar with a period of 110.2 milliseconds. The spectrum of light received from this pulsar was very close to that predicted by the model. X-ray emission from the other two pulsars, which both rotate slightly more quickly, was revealed using Chandra data.

This discovery already represents a significant increase in the total number of pulsars known to emit non-thermal X-rays. The team expects that many more will be discovered over the next few years as the model can be used to work out where exactly to look for them.

Finding more X-ray pulsars is important for revealing their global properties, including population characteristics. A better understanding of pulsars is also essential for potentially taking advantage of their accurate timing signals for future space navigation endeavours.

The result is a step towards understanding the relationships between the emission by pulsars in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, enabling a robust way to predict the brightness of a pulsar at any given wavelength. This will help us better comprehend the interaction between particles and magnetic fields in pulsars and beyond.

This model can make accurate predictions of pulsar X-ray emission, and it can also predict the emission at other wavelengths, for example visible and ultraviolet,” Torres continues.

In the future, we hope to find new pulsars leading to a better understanding of their global properties.”

The study highlights the benefits of XMM-Newton’s vast data archive to make new discoveries and showcases the impressive abilities of the mission to detect relatively dim sources. The team is also looking forward to using the next generation of X-ray space telescopes, including ESA’s future Athena mission, to find even more pulsars emitting non-thermal X-rays.

As the flagship of European X-ray astronomy, XMM-Newton is detecting more X-ray sources than any previous satellite. It is amazing to see that it is helping to solve so many cosmic mysteries,” concludes Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton Project Scientist at ESA.

Notes for Editors

DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aae92b

The prepint is available on the arXiv/astro-ph server (arXiv:1811.08339).

For more information, please contact:

Jian Li
Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron DESY
Zeuthen, Germany
Email: jian.li@desy.de

Diego Torres
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC)
Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC)
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avanc¸ats (ICREA)
Barcelona, Spain
Email: dtorres@ice.csic.es

Norbert Schartel
XMM-Newton Project Scientist
European Space Agency
Email: norbert.schartel@esa.int

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Remains of Viking settlement discovered on Scottish island

The remains of a coastal Viking ­settlement have been found on the Isle of Tiree for the first time. The finds were made on a hillock overlooking the sea at an undisclosed location on the island with the site now considered to be the most important one of its kind on Tiree.

Remains of Viking settlement discovered on Scottish island
The Viking-era bone pin found on Tiree [Credit: The Scotsman]

A piece of bone pin – thought to have been used to fasten a cloak – was among items found at the site with a Viking-era loom weight and boat rivet also discovered. A piece of discarded boar tusk and remains of burnt alder, birch, hazel and heather were also retrieved.

Radiocarbon dating has placed the loom weight to around 790 and 990AD, a period when Vikings are known to have been living on the island. Dr John Holliday, a retired GP and archaeology enthusiast who has lived on the island for 30 years, discovered the remains of the Viking site while out walking.

The exact location of the site is being kept a closely guarded secret for the time being with senior archaeologists now hoping to carry out excavations there in due course.

Dr Holliday said: “To find a Norse site on Tiree is very exciting to me and it is a great responsibility. There aren’t very many of these sites in the Hebrides. It is in a very sensitive part of the island close to the beach and we now have a number of senior archaeologists working to take this forward.”

Dr Holliday said it was now believed that Tiree, which is well-known for its fertile land, was ­specifically pinpointed by the Norse settlers.

“There is a new understanding that the islands in the south Hebrides were some of the first Viking acquisitions – they were not an afterthought”,  Dr Holliday added.

However, there is a still a mystery surrounding the origins of the bone pin found at the site.

Archaeologist Dr Colleen Batey, of Glasgow University, said the item could not be assigned to the Viking era, with several experts of the same view.

“It is unique and essentially specifically undated,” she added.

On Tiree, it is known that a Gaelic-speaking native population survived alongside the new settlers from the ninth century.

According to accounts, a new line of half Gael, half Norse mercenary warriors – the Gall-Gaedhil – developed in the Hebrides and many leaders mentioned in this period have one parent from either group.

Viking discoveries have been rare on Tiree with hopes that the latest finds will draw new attention to the island’s archaeology.

Dr Holliday added: “Tiree has had very little archaeology time spent on it compared to other places but I think that is starting to pick up now. This is definitely the most important site so far.”

A brass oval brooch, thought to have been from a female Viking-era grave, was found on the island ­during the late 19th Century. A further legacy of the Norse settlers is the dozens of place names they left behind. Research has shown that more than 180 place names with northern influence still exist.

The name of Tiree’s main township, Scarinish, is a combination of Norse words which mean cormorant and headland. The Viking name for the island was Tyrvist, from which the modern Gaelic name for an islander, Tirisdeach, is thought to be derived.

Dr Holliday added: “It is fair to say that Tiree was a Norse speaking country for 400 years. Tiree was a such a fertile island that it was known as the Land of Barley. You find Norwegian farm names in every nook and cranny. They went everywhere, which is not ­surprising as it was so fertile.”

Author: Alison Campsie | Source: The Scotsman [November 19, 2018]



Ancient village site, tomb found on island in southeast China’s Fujian Province

Teachers and students of Xiamen University have recently discovered an ancient village site and a tomb in Pingtan, an island in southeast China’s Fujian Province.

Ancient village site, tomb found on island in southeast China's Fujian Province
Credit: Xiamen University

An archaeological team from the history department of Xiamen University launched an excavation in Pingtan in September.
They unearthed a tomb dating back around 1,500 years ago to the Southern Dynasty (420-589), where well-preserved burial objects and clear patterns on tomb bricks have been found.

Ancient village site, tomb found on island in southeast China's Fujian Province
Credit: Xiamen University

Another village site dating back to more than 3,000 years to the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC) has been discovered in Shangpan Village, Pingyuan Town. A well and relics including stoneware and pottery shards, as well as sites of houses have been found there.
The archaeological team said that the new findings are very important, providing new materials for archaeology on islands in the country. They are also crucial materials to understand the local history, people’s immigration and culture.

Source: Xinhua [November 19, 2018]



NASA picks ancient Martian river delta for 2020 rover touchdown

NASA has picked an ancient river delta as the landing site for its uncrewed Mars 2020 rover, to hunt for evidence of past life on Earth’s neighboring planet, officials said Monday.

NASA picks ancient Martian river delta for 2020 rover touchdown
The Jezero Crater delta on Mars [Credit: NASA]

Even though the Red Planet is now cold and dry, the landing site, Jezero Crater, was filled with a 1,600-foot (500-meter) deep lake that opened to a network of rivers some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago.

“The delta is a good place for evidence of life to be deposited and then preserved for the billions of years that have elapsed since this lake was present,” Ken Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told reporters on a conference call.

Experts believe the 28-mile (45-kilometer) wide basin could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other signs of microbial life.

At least five different kinds of rocks, including “clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life,” are believed to lie in the crater, just north of the Martian equator, the US space agency said in a statement.

Carbonate rock is produced by the interaction of water, atmospheric gases and rock, and leaves clues about habitable environments, said Farley.

Scientists have debated where to land the rover for the past four years, and whittled down their decision from more than 60 possible sites.

The $2.5 billion rover is planned to launch in July 2020, and land in February 2021.

Mars 2020 is designed to land inside the crater and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis, perhaps by the later 2020s.

Perilous landing

But first, the rover has to make it to the surface intact and upright, dodging a field of boulders, sand traps and the edges of the delta.

Mars 2020 will use the same sky crane landing that successfully delivered NASA’s unmanned Curiosity rover to a location called Gale Crater on Mars back in 2012.

Gale Crater, with its many layers of sediment, was chosen to tell the story of how Mars transitioned from a warm, wet planet to the frigid and dusty one it is today.

The landing site of Jezero Crater is different because of its abundant carbonate rocks and what they can hopefully reveal about early habitability on Mars, NASA said.

Instead of having an analytical laboratory on board—like Curiosity has—Mars 2020 is designed to look at rocks on a finer scale, seeing what biosignatures are preserved.

It will then pile them in a cache for further study back on Earth. A separate mission, yet to be defined, would bring the rocks back to Earth.

‘Expand our presence’

Knowing more about the ability for life to exist on Mars in the distant past could inform us about how life evolved on Earth.

“Mars is one of four terrestrial planets in the solar system and it actually has the best record of what was going on in the first billion years of planetary formation,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.

“During the same time that life started on Earth, life could have started on Mars,” he added.

“Mars had conditions more similar to Earth early on—in the first billion years—so what may have been happening in our solar system that allowed life to start on this planet may also be evident on Mars itself.”

Certain features of the Earth—such as plate tectonics which roil the terrain periodically—and flowing water which washes away ancient artifacts, actually make the search to understand early microbial life easier on Mars than on Earth.

“Because there are so many ancient rocks on the surface of Mars, this information is more accessible,” said Meyer.

Robotic rover missions are an important part of human space exploration because these tools also help inform NASA’s efforts to send people to the surface of Mars sometime in the coming decades.

“Mars is really the obvious place, after the Moon, to go and expand our presence in deep space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate.

NASA has vowed to send people to Mars by the 2030s, but industry experts say it could take longer—at least 25 years from now—before humans could survive on the Red Planet.

Author: Kerry Sheridan | Source: AFP [November 19, 2018]



Earth’s cobalt deposits formed much later than previously believed

Cobalt deposits in one of Earth’s largest cobalt-mining regions are 150 million years younger than previously thought, according to a new study by University of Alberta geologists.

Earth's cobalt deposits formed much later than previously believed
UAlberta geologists have used a new technique to measure the age of cobalt-copper ore in Central Africa—showing the
 deposits are 150 million years younger than previously thought. The findings could lead to the discovery
of more sources of cobalt around the world [Credit: Getty Images]

Working with former post-doctoral fellow Nicolas Saintilan, U of A geochemist Robert Creaser, Canada Research Chair in Isotope Geochemistry, used a new, rhenium-osmium dating system to examine the rich cobalt deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their results show that cobalt and copper mineralization occurred during a period of mountain building and deformation between 610 and 470 million years ago, suggesting that the deposits formed 100 to 150 million years more recently than originally thought.

The study also provides critical insight into exploration for cobalt, an important component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in everything from smartphones to hybrid cars.

“Using this new knowledge of the timing of events that formed cobalt deposits, we can target regions for exploring known cobalt deposits and discovering new ones,” said Creaser.

Cobalt enables rechargeable batteries to stock energy without overheating. It is a strategic metal for the technological revolution, critical in efforts to face and remediate climate change.

Because of its use in lithium-ion batteries, cobalt is a hot commodity on the international market—creating steep competition. Most large cobalt deposits are located in developing or poverty-stricken regions in Central Africa. Exploration can be mired in human rights, geopolitical and sustainability issues, Creaser explained.

“The conundrum is that the western world needs cobalt, and the conditions in some places we currently get it from can be exploitative.

“The biggest value of this research is opening the possibility of finding more prospective areas worldwide for sources of cobalt. This background information helps exploration geologists develop ideas of where and where not to look,” said Creaser.

The research was supported by David Selby at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Key samples were provided by Stijn Dewaele at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium.

The paper was published in Scientific Reports.

Author: Katie Willis | Source: University of Alberta [November 20, 2018]



Could yesterday’s Earth contain clues for making tomorrow’s medicines?

Several billion years ago, as the recently formed planet Earth cooled down from a long and brutal period of heavy meteor bombardment, pools of primordial muck began to swirl with the chemical precursors to life.

Could yesterday's Earth contain clues for making tomorrow's medicines?
Researchers described initial steps toward achieving chemistries that encode information in a variety
of conditions that might mimic the environment of prehistoric Earth [Credit: NASA]

Today, scientists are devising chemical reactions that mimic early Earth not only to learn about how life developed, but also to unlock new capabilities for modern medicine.

“If you can get chemistries that encode information, then maybe you can design new drugs,” says John Yin, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In a paper published recently in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, Yin and colleagues described initial steps toward achieving chemistries that encode information in a variety of conditions that might mimic the environment of prehistoric Earth.

“I view this as systems chemistry,” says Yin. “How do we take store-bought chemicals and combine them in such a way that they display emergent properties like the ability to store information or copy themselves?”

The compounds the researchers combined were molecules called amino acids, which are the molecular building blocks for the proteins that perform much of the structural and chemical work inside living cells. There are 20 different amino acids that combine to form the essential proteins for life, but Yin and colleagues focused on just two: alanine and glycine, which are among the simplest examples of these molecules. Also in the mix was an energy molecule called triphosphate, believed to be available on early earth.

The researchers “cooked” together the mixture over a range of different temperatures and variously acidic conditions. In mixtures without the energy molecule, amino acids only joined together under the most hot and harsh conditions. When triphosphate was present, however, short chains of alanine and glycine formed at more moderate temperatures.

“Triphosphate facilitates reactions in conditions where most life is found to occur,” says Yin.

Intriguingly, the alanine and glycine did not combine at random. Instead, the amino acids linked up into chains with specific sequences, depending on temperature and pH.

“What we have shown is that you are a product of your environment,” says Yin.

Key to the study was the ability to determine the composition of different amino acid chains with sophisticated analytical chemistry. For the molecular characterizations, Yin collaborated with Lingjun Li, a UW-Madison professor of pharmacy and chemistry.

“People have been cooking amino acids since 1940 or so,” says Yin. “But now we can identify what’s actually in there.”

What they identified hints at the first glimmers of information storage that arose so many billions of years ago.

The scientists speculate that, with increased “cooking” time, even greater complexity might appear. Their reactions only proceeded for 24 hours — a mere blink of an eye compared to the history of the planet. Additionally, the scientists plan to add a greater variety of molecules into the mixture.

Eventually, they hope to create mixtures where complicated molecules spontaneously come together from simpler components and create self-driving chemical reactions that interact and feed off of each other.

Those reactions could contain the keys to creating new drugs or synthesizing existing compounds more efficiently.

“We’ll figure out how to close the loop,” says Yin.

Author: Sam Million-Weaver | Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison [November 20, 2018]



Phlegraean Fields: final stage before a big bang?

The Phlegraean Fields near the bustling metropolis of Naples is one of the world’s most active and volatile volcanic regions. Its calderas were formed by enormous eruptions that took place 39,000 and 15,000 years ago, in addition to countless minor eruptions. Smaller volcanoes also erupted repeatedly during the period in between. The Phlegraean Fields have become more active again in recent years.

Phlegraean Fields: final stage before a big bang?
The Bay of Naples with the island of Ischia (left) and the scarred Phlegraean Fields. Naples
lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius (centre) [Credit: Copyright: ESA]

In an article in the journal Science Advances, a team of vulcanologists, led by ETH Zurich’s Francesca Forni and Olivier Bachmann, argues that the Phlegraean Fields are subject to caldera cycles. It concludes that the volcanic area is at the early stage of a new cycle, which could culminate in another gigantic eruption.
A cycle begins with the accumulation of magma in a large reservoir in the Earth’s crust, a process that takes millennia. This stage is characterised by long periods of dormancy and small eruptions of differentiated magma. A further injection of magma into the magma chamber triggers an enormous eruption. The reservoir is emptied abruptly, the roof collapses, and a new caldera is formed – the cycle begins anew.

Minerals as data loggers

Rock samples from 23 earlier eruptions at the Phlegraean Fields provided the researchers with evidence of the start of a new cycle. In particular, rock material from Monte Nuovo, which last erupted in 1538, resembles in its composition rock ejected just before the last two major eruptions.

The researchers took advantage of the fact that the chemical composition of minerals from magmatic rock stores information on the conditions under which it originates. A comparison of the chemical signatures of rock from different eras enables vulcanologists to reconstruct the conditions in the crust at the time of its formation. This allows them to determine the current stage of the magma system. The vulcanologists also created a model of the cycle.

“The importance of this study is that we can reconstruct from past eruptions the rhythm that super volcanoes have, and hopefully predict where they stand in their cycle. Here of course, in the Phlegraean Fields, but doable in principle in any super volcanoes on this planet,” explains ETH Professor Bachmann.

Despite these advances, the researchers cannot predict when the next major eruption at the Phlegraean Fields may occur. But former ETH doctoral student Forni is certain: “We do not have to worry about a catastrophic eruption in the next 20,000 years. The magma reservoir underneath the Phlegraean Fields fills up only very slowly. We, the next generations and perhaps the entire human race will not be here to witness a massive eruption.

Nonetheless, it is important to continue to monitor the evolution of the Phlegraean Fields on a sustained basis. Forni warns that even a small eruption, which can occur during the early stages of a cycle, would wreak havoc on the region. Early warning signs of an impending eruption of a magma chamber include land elevation and changes in the composition of the gases emitted by the Phlegraean Fields.

A massive volcanic eruption would be devastating not only for the Naples region but the entire world. Supervolcanoes have caused short-term climate catastrophes, crop failure and famines in the past. The eruption of the Indonesian supervolcano Tambora in 1815 is a well-documented example: the following summer was dubbed the “year without a summer”, and even Switzerland suffered crop failure.

Source: ZTH Zurich [November 20, 2018]



Ceraurinus marginatus Trilobite | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Ceraurinus marginatus Trilobite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Trilobite #Fossil

Age: Upper Ordovician

Locality: Cobourg Formation, Colborne, Ontario, Canada

Size: 9 cm

Photo Copyright © American Museum of Natural History

Geology Page



Hidden Beach In Marieta Mexico | #Geology #GeologyPage #Beach…

Hidden Beach In Marieta Mexico | #Geology #GeologyPage #Beach #Mexico

World’s most idyllic bomb site

Hidden beach created by giant blast from Mexican government during target practice is now a stunning strip of sand

Geology Page



HiPOD (22 November 2018): Pitted Cones in Chryse Planitia    –…

HiPOD (22 November 2018): Pitted Cones in Chryse Planitia 

   – Alt: 296 km, less than 5 km across.

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Study reveals one of universe’s secret ingredients for life

A new study led by ANU has investigated the nature of a cosmic phenomenon that slows down star formation, which helps to ensure the universe is a place where life can emerge.

Study reveals one of universe's secret ingredients for life
The central region of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. This newly-formed star cluster (R136)
 is forming stars rapidly enough that the cosmic phenonmenon studied may operate here
[Credit: NASA, ESA, P Crowther (University of Sheffield)]

Lead researcher Dr. Roland Crocker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said the research team studied a particular way stars provide a counter-pressure to gravity that slows down the star-formation process.

“If star formation happened rapidly, all stars would be bound together in massive clusters, where the intense radiation and supernova explosions would likely sterilise all the planetary systems, preventing the emergence of life,” he said.

“The conditions in these massive star clusters would possibly even prevent planets from forming in the first place.”

The study found that ultraviolet and optical light from young and massive stars spreads out into the gas from which the stars have recently formed and hits cosmic dust, which then scatters infrared light that acts effectively as a kind of pressure that pushes against gravity.

“The phenomenon we studied occurs in galaxies and star clusters where there’s a lot of dusty gas that is forming heaps of stars relatively quickly,” Dr. Crocker said.

“In galaxies forming stars more slowly—such as the Milky Way—other processes are slowing things down. The Milky Way forms two new stars every year, on average.”

Other galaxies in our vicinity and elsewhere in the universe continuously form new stars at a relatively slow and steady rate.

Dr. Crocker said the study’s mathematical findings indicated the phenomenon set an upper limit on how quickly stars can form in a galaxy or giant gas cloud.

“This and other forms of feedback help to keep the universe alive and vibrant,” he said.

“We are investigating other ways stars might feed back into their environment to slow down the overall rate of star formation.”

Professor Mark Krumholz and Dr Dougal Mackey from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Professor Todd Thompson from Ohio State University in the United States and Associate Professor Holger Baumgardt at the University of Queensland contributed to the study, which was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Author: Will Wright | Source: Australian National University [November 21, 2018]



The genomic keys to the origin of the vertebrates

The vertebrates, the animal group to which humans belong, are extremely diverse and have colonised virtually all of the planet’s ecosystems. For many years there was some debate as to which changes in our ancestors’ genome could have contributed to the successful evolution of the vertebrates. Now, an international team of scientists co-led by Spanish investigators from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, has just described the processes that ultimately helped to yield the diversity of gene functions and regulation during the transition from invertebrates to vertebrates.

The genomic keys to the origin of the vertebrates
Amphioxus specimen with a background of epigenomic marks
[Credit: Vincent Moncorgé]

The vertebrates share a unique set of gene regulation systems that allows the information contained in our genome to produce hundreds of specialised cells, tissues and organs. “We conducted an exhaustive analysis of the genomic regulation of different species, finding two key differences between vertebrates and invertebrates.

First of all, we observed that generally speaking our gene regulation is much more complex than that of the invertebrates. The second difference is that we have copies of genes that originally performed only very general functions, but which in the vertebrates went on to specialise in much more specific functions, particularly in the brain”, explains Manuel Irimia, group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation and one of the principal investigators of this work.

The scientists studied the genomes of several species of vertebrates, such as the zebrafish or the medaka fish, as well as of the frog, chicken, mouse and the human being. However, in order to understand the origin of the genomic regulation mechanisms that characterise the vertebrates, they needed equivalent data from a closely-related species that would furnish with information about the evolutionary transition between invertebrates and vertebrates.

For this purpose, the investigators sequenced the genome of the amphioxus and generated the data required to study its gene regulation. “The amphioxus is an organism that has been used as a research model system since the 19th Century. Its genome has evolved very slowly, without the whole duplications present in the vertebrates. For this reason, the amphioxus can serve as a reference in evolutionary comparisons to understand our lineage”, says Héctor Escriva, one of the leaders of the work and a researcher at the Sorbonne and at the CNRS in Banyuls sur Mer, France.

The work, recently published by the prestigious Nature journal, not only compares the genomes, but also provides genomic, epigenomic and gene expression data, furnishing unique information about the functional changes that gave rise to higher complexity in the vertebrates. The scientists observed that, while the regulation of the genes that are responsible for the basic anatomy has been maintained between species, the vertebrates incorporated more regulatory regions that enabled them to take on new functions.

“Just like studies performed in human beings, our own study gives us an overview of the genome’s different regulatory layers and a detailed description of the vertebrates’ unique genomic regulation characteristics that gave rise to organisms with a much more complex morphology”, states José Luis Gómez-Skarmeta, one of the leaders of the work from the Centro Andaluz de Biología del Desarrollo (CSIC – Universidad Pablo de Olavide).

One of the most important results of this work consists of understanding how the genomic duplications that occurred in the origin of the vertebrates contributed to diversifying gene function. Almost 50 years ago, it was suggested that these duplications were key to our origin, although many of the associated predictions could not be proven until now. “We observed that in most cases, there are copies of genes whose function specialises in specific tissues. This is particularly evident in the brain, which has incorporated new functions that have likely been essential to the vertebrates’ evolutionary success”, adds Ignacio Maeso, a researcher at the same centre, and one of the leading authors of the work.

Source: Center For Genomic Regulation [November 21, 2018]



Fossil of oldest long-necked dinosaur found in Brazil

A group of paleontologists discovered in southern Brazil what has been described as the world’s oldest long-necked dinosaur, university researchers said Wednesday. Their findings are based on analysis of three well-preserved dinosaur skeletons.

Fossil of oldest long-necked dinosaur found in Brazil
A newly-described dinosaur from Brazil is the oldest long-necked dino ever found, dating back 225 million years
[Credit: Marcio L. Castro/UFSM/EFE]

The description of the new dinosaur species made by researchers at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) was published in the latest edition of the scientific journal Biology Letters.
The new species, named “Macrocollum itaquii,” part of a group of dinosaurs known as sauropodomorphs – was identified after three complete dinosaur skeletons were removed in 2013 from Triassic rocks in Agudo, a municipality in the interior of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Argentina and Uruguay.

Fossil of oldest long-necked dinosaur found in Brazil
Reconstructed skeleton and representative elements of Macrocollum itaquii. (a) Skull in left lateral view (CAPPA/UFSM
0001a). (b) Skull in dorsal view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001a). (c) Skull in ventral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b). (d) Fourth cervical
vertebra in left lateral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b). (e) Mid-truncal vertebra in left lateral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b).
(f) Left ilium in lateral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b). (g) Left ischium in lateral view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b). (h) Right
pectoral girdle in lateral view (reversed – CAPPA/UFSM 0001b). (i) Right manual digit I in medial view (CAPPA/UFSM
0001b). (j) Right astragalus in dorsal view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001c). (k) Right femur in cranial view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001b).
 (l) Left pes in cranial view (CAPPA/UFSM 0001a). I-1, phalanx one of the digit I; I-2, phalanx two of the digit I; a,
angular; ap, ascending process; co, coracoid; crt, crest; ct, cranial trochanter; d, dentary; dp, diapophysis; epi,
epipophysis; f, frontral; fh, femoral head; fob, fossa for the olfactoy bulbus; inf, internarial fenestra; is, ischium shaft;
 j, jugal; mc, medial condyle; mcI, metacarpal I; mtI, metatarsal I; mtIII, metatarsal III; mtV, metatarsal V; mw, medial
wall; mx, maxilla; n, nasal; ns, neural spine; opl, obturador plate; p, parietal; pa, parapophysis; paa,
postacetabular ala; pmfo, promaxillary fenestra; pmx, premaxilla; po, postorbital; poz, postzygapophysis;
prf, prefrontal; prz, prezygapophysis; q, quadrate; qj, quadratojugal; sa, surangular;
sac, supracetabular crest; scp, scapula; sq, squamosal; stf, supratemporal fenestra.
Scale bar = 50 mm [Credit: Rodrigo Temp Müller et al. 2018]

The main characteristic of the newly identified species is its long neck, which stretched for 3.5 metres (almost 12 feet).
That feature places the “Macrocollum itaquii” in the same group of sauropodomorph dinosaurs that also includes Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus.

Source: EFE [November 21, 2018]



South Africa’s hominin record is a fair-weather friend

New research from an international team of scientists led by University of Cape Town isotope geochemist Dr Robyn Pickering is the first to provide a timeline for fossils from the caves within the Cradle of Humankind. It also sheds light on the climate conditions of our earliest ancestors in the area.

South Africa's hominin record is a fair-weather friend
Field photograph of massive flowstone layers from one of the South African hominin caves,
with red cave sediments underneath [Credit: Robyn Pickering]

Published online in the journal Nature, the work corrects assumptions that the region’s fossil-rich caves could never be related to each other. In fact, the research suggests fossils from Cradle caves date to just six specific time periods.

“Unlike previous dating work, which often focused on one cave, sometimes even just one chamber of the cave, we are providing direct ages for eight caves and a model to explain the age of all the fossils from the entire region,” says Dr Robyn Pickering.

“Now we can link together the findings from separate caves and create a better picture of evolutionary history in southern Africa.”

The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site made up of complex fossil-bearing caves. It’s the world’s richest early hominin site and home to nearly 40% of all known human ancestor fossils, including the famous Australopithecus africanus skull nicknamed Mrs Ples.

Using uranium-lead dating, researchers analysed 28 flowstone layers that were found sandwiched between fossil-rich sediment in eight caves across the Cradle. The results revealed that the fossils in these caves date to six narrow time-windows between 3.2 and 1.3 million years ago.

“The flowstones are the key,” says Pickering. “We know they can only grow in caves during wet times, when there is more rain outside the cave. By dating the flowstones, we are picking out these times of increased rainfall. We therefore know that during the times in between, when the caves were open, the climate was drier and more like what we currently experience.”

South Africa's hominin record is a fair-weather friend
Typical Cradle of Humankind landscape today. The authors believe that at specific times in the past,
this environment was much wetter and more vegetated than today
[Credit: Dr Robyn Pickering]

This means the early hominins living in the Cradle experienced big changes in local climate, from wetter to drier conditions, at least six times between 3 and 1 million years ago. However, only the drier times are preserved in the caves, skewing the record of early human evolution.

Up until now, the lack of dating methods for Cradle fossils made it difficult for scientists to understand the relationship between East and South Africa hominin species. Moreover, the South African record has often been considered undateable compared to East Africa where volcanic ash layers allow for high resolution dating.

Professor Andy Herries, a co-author in the study at La Trobe University in Australia, notes that “while the South African record was the first to show Africa as the origin point for humans, the complexity of the caves and difficultly dating them has meant that the South African record has remained difficult to interpret.”

“In this study we show that the flowstones in the caves can act almost like the volcanic layers of East Africa, forming in different caves at the same time, allowing us to directly relate their sequences and fossils into a regional sequence,” he says.

Dr Pickering began dating the Cradle caves back in 2005 as part of her PhD research. This new publication is the result of 13 years of work and brings together a team of 10 scientists from South Africa, Australia and the US. The results return the Cradle to the forefront and open new opportunities for scientists to answer complex questions about human history in the region.

“Robyn and her team have made a major contribution to our understanding of human evolution,” says leading palaeoanthropologist Professor Bernard Wood, of the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at the George Washington University in the USA, who is not an author on the study.

“This is the most important advance to be made since the fossils themselves were discovered. Dates of fossils matter a lot. The value of the southern African evidence has been increased many-fold by this exemplary study of its temporal and depositional context.”

Source: University of Cape Town [November 21, 2018]



Blocks found in Egypt bear name of famed pharaoh’s builder

Egypt says archaeologists digging in Cairo have found two blocks of limestone with inscriptions belonging to an engineer who worked for Ramses II, one of the longest ruling pharaohs in antiquity.

Blocks found in Egypt bear name of famed pharaoh's builder
This undated photo released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, shows an archaeologist working on a block of limestone
 that was found in the temple of Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, in the Matariya neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt.
The Antiquities Ministry said Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, that archaeologists digging in Cairo found two blocks of
limestone with inscriptions belonging to an engineer who worked for Ramses II, one of the longest
ruling pharaohs in antiquity [Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities via AP]

The Antiquities Ministry said on Wednesday that the artefacts were found in the Temple of Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, in Cairo’s Matariya neighbourhood.
Egyptologist Mamdouh el-Damaty says the inscriptions show that the engineer had supervised the building of a booth with a seat used by Ramses II during celebrations and public gatherings. Ramses II ruled for more than 60 years, from roughly 1279-1213 BC.
Egypt frequently announces archaeological discoveries, hoping to spur interest in its ancient treasures and revive tourism, which was hit hard by political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

Source: The Associated Press [November 21, 2018]



Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast

An ancient city believed to date back 2,700 years has been discovered in Turkey’s western Çanakkale province after three years of work in the area, archaeologists announced Wednesday.

Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast
Credit: AA

The ancient city of Limnai on the Gallipoli was discovered by a team of archaeologists from Turkey’s Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University (ÇOMÜ).
The existence of the ancient city was already known from ancient sources, although the exact location was not certain. Excavation works for the city first started in the Salt Lake plain in 2015 and continued in the Beşyol plain where the city was found.

Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast

Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast
Credit: AA

Speaking about the city’s history, the head of ÇOMÜ’s Ancient History Department Assoc. Prof. Dr. Reyhan Körpe said: “Only pieces of bowls, pottery and tiles can be seen on the surface since the architectural remnants of the city are underground. However, these pieces give us information about the field the city covered, as well as when the city was established and when it was deserted. “
Dating back to 7th century BC, Körpe said the ancient city was established by settlers from Ionia on the western coast of Asia Minor, in what is today Turkey’s Izmir and Aydın provinces.

Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast

Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast

Ancient Greek city discovered on Turkey’s west coast
Credit: AA

The ancient city was one of the richest and busiest seaports of the Gallipoli region in its time and maintained its existence until the Roman era, he added.
Körpe also said that there are lots of other ancient settlements in the region that are yet to be discovered, and their works in the Gallipoli area will continue.

The ancient city of Limnai is the 5th of its kind to be unearthed in the Gallipoli region.

Source: Daily Sabah [November 21, 2018]



Time Machine Learning The earliest stages of life are…

Time Machine Learning

The earliest stages of life are delicate, challenging scientists to come up with new ways observe without disturbing. Here they’ve turned to a form of time travel. Seen from above (top row) or the side (bottom), gentle light sheet microscopy captures individual cells (grey) in a mouse embryo as they grow and develop. Eventually the cells separate into stripes (right) destined to form different tissues. Following these developments backwards in time, (from right to left), a form of machine learning uses multi-coloured blobs to trace each cell’s ancestry, highlighting, for example, that the green-coloured cells on the left share the same lineage as the green cells in the early brain – the neural tube – on the right. Understanding the timings of this separation into layers of cells – a process called gastrulation – will help to improve the picture of early development as well as problems that may lead to miscarriage.

Written by John Ankers

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