Science Friday: Green Comet to Make Flyby on April 1st | Australia had a Virtual Jurassic Park in the Cretaceous

By Joe Rao, Space.com Skywatching Columnist | March 29, 2017 06:00pm ET

An unusually favorable opportunity to view a famous periodic comet in small telescopes comes during the next couple of weeks, when  passes closer to Earth than at any return since its discovery in 1858.

The comet’s perihelion point, which is that part of its orbit taking it closest to the sun, lies just outside Earth’s orbit. This year, the perihelion passage occurs April 12, when the comet will be 97.1 million miles (156.3 million kilometers) from the sun. But because the orbit of the comet nearly parallels the orbit of Earth at this point, there will be a six-day period — from March 29 through April 3 — when Tuttle-Giacobini- Kresák will be very near to its closest point to Earth.

The comet will, in fact, be closest to Earth on April Fools’ Day (April 1); just about 13.2 million miles (21.2 million km) away.

[…]

http://www.space.com/36260-april-fools-comet-passing-by.html


An unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified on a 25-kilometre stretch of the Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed “Australia’s Jurassic Park”.

A team of palaeontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences braved sharks, crocodiles, massive tides and the threat of development to unveil the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world in 127 to 140 million-year-old rocks in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Lead author Dr Steve Salisbury said the diversity of the tracks around Walmadany (James Price Point) was globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti”.

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” Dr Salisbury said.

[…]

https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2017/03/australias-jurassic-park-worlds-most-diverse

Science Friday: Theoretical Physicists Suggest There’s a Portal Linking the Standard Model to Dark Physics | Inventing a new kind of matter

In the youtube below, from Big Think, Dr Michio Kaku explains what Dark Matter is

FIONA MACDONALD
24 MAR 2017

Theoretical physicists have put forward a new hypothesis that aims to connect the world of visible physics to the hidden forces of our Universe: what if there’s a portal that bridges the gap between the standard model to dark matter and dark energy?

The idea is that the reason we struggle to understand things such as dark matter and dark energy isn’t because they don’t exist – it’s because we’ve been oblivious to a portal through which regular particles and these ‘dark particles’ interact. And it’s something that could be tested experimentally.

[…]

http://www.sciencealert.com/theoretical-physicists-suggest-there-s-a-portal-linking-the-standard-model-to-dark-physics


Inventing a new kind of matter

March 24, 2017 by Lawrence Goodman

Imagine a liquid that could move on its own. No need for human effort or the pull of gravity. You could put it in a container flat on a table, not touch it in any way, and it would still flow.

Brandeis researchers report in a new article in Science that they have taken the first step in creating a self-propelling liquid. The finding holds out the promise of developing an entirely new class of fluids that can flow without human or mechanical effort.

[…]

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-03-kind.html#jCp

 

Science Friday: Why Smart People Make Stupid Decisions | The World’s Best Heart Health Found in Indigenous Amazon Group

Christine Comaford
3/11/2017 @ 9:00AM

We’ve all been there.

We make what we think is a rational decision. And then seconds, minutes or days later we wonder “What was I thinking?!” Was it a temporary lapse of sanity? Were we just distracted and decided anyway?

We knew it wasn’t the right decision or the best decision, but in that moment, we made a decision anyway. And it ended up being a stupid one. Why?

The Science Behind “Stupid”

Does this mean that we are indeed stupid? Nope. It simply means that not every decision we make is actually rational. We see what we want to see filtered through our inherent biases, and then we make decisions based on those biases. These biases are called cognitive biases and we all have them.

cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. These biases cause conclusions, inferences, assumptions about people and situations to be drawn in a less than logical fashion. We all create our own “subjective social reality” from our perception of the input we receive —both from outside of us and inside of us.

[…]

https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2017/03/11/why-smart-people-make-stupid-decisions/print/


The World’s Best Heart Health Found in Indigenous Amazon Group

Science Friday: Neuroscientists discover new ‘mini-neural computer’ in the brain | Dental plaque DNA shows Neandertals used ‘aspirin’

Dendrites, the branch-like projections of neurons, were once thought to be passive wiring in the brain. But now researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have shown that these dendrites do more than relay information from one neuron to the next. They actively process information, multiplying the brain’s computing power.

“Suddenly, it’s as if the processing power of the brain is much greater than we had originally thought,” said Spencer Smith, PhD, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine.

His team’s findings, published October 27 in the journal Nature, could change the way scientists think about long-standing scientific models of how neural circuitry functions in the brain, while also helping researchers better understand neurological disorders

[…]

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-10-neuroscientists-mini-neural-brain.html


Dental plaque DNA shows Neandertals used ‘aspirin’

March 8, 2017

Ancient DNA found in the dental plaque of Neandertals – our nearest extinct relative – has provided remarkable new insights into their behaviour, diet and evolutionary history, including their use of plant-based medicine to treat pain and illness

[…]

The international team analysed and compared dental plaque samples from four Neandertals found at the cave sites of Spy in Belgium and El Sidrón in Spain. These four samples range from 42,000 to around 50,000 years old and are the oldest ever to be genetically analysed.

“We found that the Neandertals from Spy Cave consumed woolly rhinoceros and European wild sheep, supplemented with wild mushrooms,” says Professor Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD. “Those from El Sidrón Cave on the other hand showed no evidence for meat consumption, but appeared instead to have a largely vegetarian diet, comprising pine nuts, moss, mushrooms and tree bark – showing quite different lifestyles between the two groups.”

“One of the most surprising finds, however, was in a Neandertal from El Sidrón, who suffered from a dental abscess visible on the jawbone. The plaque showed that he also had an intestinal parasite that causes acute diarrhoea, so clearly he was quite sick. He was eating poplar, which contains the pain killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient of aspirin), and we could also detect a natural antibiotic mould (Penicillium) not seen in the other specimens.”

“Apparently, Neandertals possessed a good knowledge of medicinal plants and their various anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and seem to be self-medicating. The use of antibiotics would be very surprising, as this is more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin. Certainly our findings contrast markedly with the rather simplistic view of our ancient relatives in popular imagination.”

[…]

https://phys.org/news/2017-03-dental-plaque-dna-neandertals-aspirin.html

Science Friday: 3-D printing with cellulose: World’s most abundant polymer could rival petroleum-based plastic | Replacement Chemical In BPA-Free Bottles Also Disrupts Estrogen In The Body

3-D printing with cellulose: World’s most abundant polymer could rival petroleum-based plastics

March 3, 2017 by David L. Chandler in Chemistry / Materials Science

For centuries, cellulose has formed the basis of the world’s most abundantly printed-on material: paper. Now, thanks to new research at MIT, it may also become an abundant material to print with—potentially providing a renewable, biodegradable alternative to the polymers currently used in 3-D printing materials.

“Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer in the world,” says MIT postdoc Sebastian Pattinson, lead author of a paper describing the new system in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. The paper is co-authored by associate professor of mechanical engineering A. John Hart, the Mitsui Career Development Professor in Contemporary Technology.

Cellulose, Pattinson explains, is “the most important component in giving wood its mechanical properties. And because it’s so inexpensive, it’s biorenewable, biodegradable, and also very chemically versatile, it’s used in a lot of products. Cellulose and its derivatives are used in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, as food additives, building materials, clothing—all sorts of different areas. And a lot of these kinds of products would benefit from the kind of customization that additive manufacturing [3-D printing] enables.”

Meanwhile, 3-D printing technology is rapidly growing. Among other benefits, it “allows you to individually customize each product you make,” Pattinson says.

[…]

https://phys.org/print407767971.html


 

Replacement Chemical In BPA-Free Bottles Also Disrupts Estrogen In The Body

MARCH 2, 2017 by KAREN FOSTER

A compound called BPA is being phased out of all plastic packaging due to fears it may disrupt our hormones–but its replacement may be just as harmful.

BPA, or bisphenol A, is often found in disposable water bottles and babies’ milk bottles and cups. Small amounts can dissolve into the food and drink inside these containers. It is a dangerous chemical linked to health concerns from digestive problems to issues with brain development. It was previously found present in around two billion products in the U.S. that were used on a daily basis.

By 2009 it had the highest production volume and use in consumer goods, with 2.2 million tons consumed globally.

Because it’s the most harmful on developing brains and bodies, children and pregnant women, it started to be phased out from the manufacturing process of plastics.

This is a concern because a host of studies have shown that BPA can mimic the actions of oestrogen, binding to the same receptor in the body. Oestrogen is normally involved in breast development, regulating periods and maintaining pregnancies. Animals exposed to BPA develop abnormal reproductive systems, but it is unclear if people are exposed to high enough doses to be affected.

Due to public pressure — and bans in a few countries — many manufacturers have started replacing BPA. However, recent investigations have shown that Bisphenol A isn’t the only endocrine disrupting chemical consumers should be worried about. According to an article published in the US News and World Report, chemical substitute BPS, an endocrine disrupting hormone with traits very similar to BPA, is present in BPA-Free products and is inside paper money, cash register receipts and most plastic consumer products much like its predecessor.

[…]

http://preventdisease.com/news/17/030217_Replacement-Chemical-In-BPA-Free-Bottles-Disrupts-Estrogen.shtml