science

  • 60
Alex
 added a post  to  , science

NASA's Perseverance rover has recorded the first audio clips captured on the surface of Mars, beaming back to Earth guttural sounds of wind gusting on the red planet.

The first-of-its-kind audio was released Monday, along with extraordinary new video footage of the rover as it descended and landed last Thursday. The images are among the most sophisticated yet taken of Mars, and offer never-before-seen views of the rover approaching its landing site.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said the new images and audio are "the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit."

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

Biologists say the inadvertent discovery of sea life on a boulder underneath an Antarctic ice shelf challenges our understanding of how organisms can live in environments far from sunlight.

The team drilled through the 900-metre-thick Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf and dropped a camera down the hole in search of mud on the seabed. To their surprise, the camera revealed a boulder ringed by animals. Video footage appear to show 16 sponges, accompanied by 22 unidentified animals which could include barnacles. It is the first time such immobile life has been found beneath an Antarctic ice sheet.

“There’s all sorts of reasons they shouldn’t be there,” says Huw Griffiths at the British Antarctic Survey, who analysed the footage. He thinks the animals, which are likely filter feeders, survive on nutrients carried in the -2°C water. The conundrum is they are so far from obvious nutrient sources, given that the boulder is located 260 kilometres from the open water at the front of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf where photosynthetic organisms can survive.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

Pigs have a "remarkable” ability to learn how to play video games — an ability that's nothing to be snorted at. The pigs are unlikely to be taking home an E-sports trophy anytime soon, but their aptitude for learning this skill has highlighted their surprisingly high level of intelligence and cognitive flexibility.

Their exploits were recently the subject of a study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The research saw two Yorkshire pigs, named Hamlet and Omelette, and two Panepinto micro pigs, Ebony and Ivory, being taught how to play a simple video game. The pigs were trained to move a joystick with their snouts in front of a computer screen. If they successfully moved the pointing using the joystick toward one of the targets on the screen, they were rewarded with a snack. Even once the pigs stopped receiving the reward, they were able to complete tasks using only verbal and touch cues.

The researchers, who have previously explored the depths of chimpanzee cognition, described their ability to pick up this skill as "remarkable."

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

The nearest solar system to our own may actually host two potentially life-supporting planets, a new study reports.

In 2016, scientists discovered a roughly Earth-size world circling Proxima Centauri, part of the three-star Alpha Centauri system, which lies about 4.37 light-years from Earth. The planet, known as Proxima b, orbits in the "habitable zone," the range of distances from a star at which liquid water could exist on a world's surface. (A second planet, Proxima c, was later discovered circling the star as well, but it orbits farther away, beyond the habitable zone's outer limits.)

There's considerable debate about the true habitability of Proxima b, however, given that its parent star is a red dwarf. These stars, the most common in the Milky Way, are small and dim, so their habitable zones lie very close in — so close, in fact, that planets residing there tend to be tidally locked, always showing the same face to their host stars, just as the moon always shows Earth its near side. In addition, red dwarfs are prolific flarers, especially when they're young, so it's unclear if their habitable-zone worlds can hold onto their atmospheres for long.

The other two stars in the Alpha Centauri trio, however, are sunlike — a pair called Alpha Centauri A and B, which together make up a binary orbiting the same center of mass. And Alpha Centauri A may have its own habitable-zone planet, according to the new research, which was published online today (Feb. 10) in the journal Nature Communications.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

A new type of quantum holography which uses entangled photons to overcome the limitations of conventional holographic approaches could lead to improved medical imaging and speed the advance of quantum information science.

A team of physicists from the University of Glasgow are the first in the world to find a way to use quantum-entangled photons to encode information in a hologram. The process behind their breakthrough is outlined in a paper published today in the journal Nature Physics.

Holography is familiar to many from its use as security images printed on credit cards and passports, but it has many other practical applications, including data storage, medical imaging and defence.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

It will boil down to two predominant factors that control how a virus behaves in a population: the virus’s biology and the immunity of the host population.

Endemic viruses are those that have constant presence within a geographical area. Such viruses are all around us, though they vary by location. Examples in Europe and North America include the rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold) and influenza virus, while the dengue and chikungunya viruses are endemic in many Asian countries.

Endemic diseases are often milder, but it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Flu, for instance, is estimated to cause up to 810,000 hospitalizations and 61,000 deaths annually in the US.

There are currently four endemic coronaviruses that, for most people, just cause a cold. Whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will join them will be down to two predominant factors that control how a virus behaves in a population: the virus’s biology and the immunity of the host population.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

Drug makers are increasingly turning to monoclonal antibodies to protect the millions of people who can't use vaccines. But questions swirl about their cost and long-term viability.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gathers pace, a population is at risk of being left behind: the millions of people around the globe who lack fully functional immune systems.

While the exact number of the immunocompromised worldwide is unknown, estimates suggest that about 10 million live in the U.S. alone, or around 3 percent of the national population. The number encompasses a diverse range of vulnerabilities, including rare genetic immune deficiencies, chronic illnesses that impair the immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer and organ-transplant patients who must take immune-suppressing medications.

For them, vaccines will not be effective, because they are incapable of making their own antibodies to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Instead, pharmaceutical companies around the world are racing to develop alternative treatments that bypass the immune system altogether.

The most common option is called monoclonal antibody treatments. These artificially generated antibodies mimic the body’s natural immune response by binding to key sites on the virus’ spike protein, preventing it entering cells and reproducing. Companies including AstraZeneca, Regeneron, and Eli Lilly are currently testing whether monoclonal antibodies can protect immunocompromised people from SARS-CoV-2.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

A new study found that electrons can reach ultra-relativistic energies for very special conditions in the magnetosphere when space is devoid of plasma.

Recent measurements from NASA's Van Allen Probes spacecraft showed that electrons can reach ultra-relativistic energies flying at almost the speed of light. Hayley Allison, Yuri Shprits and collaborators from the German Research Centre for Geosciences have revealed under which conditions such strong accelerations occur. They had already demonstrated in 2020 that during solar storm plasma waves play a crucial role for that. However, it was previously unclear why such high electron energies are not achieved in all solar storms. In the journal Science Advances, Allison, Shprits and colleagues now show that extreme depletions of the background plasma density are crucial.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

The long evolutionary journey that created modern humans began with a single step—or more accurately—with the ability to walk on two legs. One of our earliest-known ancestors, Sahelanthropus, began the slow transition from ape-like movement some six million years ago, but Homo sapiens wouldn’t show up for more than five million years. During that long interim, a menagerie of different human species lived, evolved and died out, intermingling and sometimes interbreeding along the way. As time went on, their bodies changed, as did their brains and their ability to think, as seen in their tools and technologies.

To understand how Homo sapiens eventually evolved from these older lineages of hominins, the group including modern humans and our closest extinct relatives and ancestors, scientists are unearthing ancient bones and stone tools, digging into our genes and recreating the changing environments that helped shape our ancestors’ world and guide their evolution.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

Where does the mind 'meet' the brain? While there's no shortage of research into the effects of psychedelics, drugs like LSD still have much to teach us about the way the brain operates – and can shine a light on the mysterious interface between consciousness and neural physiology, research suggests.

In a new study investigating the effects of LSD on volunteers, scientists found that the psychedelic enables the brain to function in a way beyond what anatomy usually dictates, by altering states of dynamic integration and segregation in the human brain.

"The psychedelic compound LSD induces a profoundly altered state of consciousness," explains first author and neuroscience researcher Andrea Luppi from the University of Cambridge.

"Combining pharmacological interventions with non-invasive brain imaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) can provide insight into normal and abnormal brain function."

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

Planet Earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice every single year, a new study has confirmed.

The grim milestone was published in the journal Cryosphere, revealing that the loss of ice is up by nearly 60% since 1994, thanks to the acceleration of global warming.

Between the years of 1994 and 2017, Earth lost 28 trillion tons of ice – enough to cover the UK with a 300ft deep layer sheet – a sum which is only set to continue rising as the Earth’s atmosphere continues to rise in temperature.

Meanwhile, sea levels have risen by 1.3 inches globally since 1994.

Full Article >>

Alex
 added a post  to  , science

Before the Apollo era, the moon was thought to be dry as a desert due to the extreme temperatures and harshness of the space environment. Many studies have since discovered lunar water: ice in shadowed polar craters, water bound in volcanic rocks, and unexpected rusty iron deposits in the lunar soil. Despite these findings, there is still no true confirmation of the extent or origin of lunar surface water.

The prevailing theory is that positively charged hydrogen ions propelled by the solar wind bombard the lunar surface and spontaneously react to make water (as hydroxyl (OH-) and molecular (H2O)). However, a new multinational study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters proposes that solar wind may not be the only source of water-forming ions. The researchers show that particles from Earth can seed the moon with water, as well, implying that other planets could also contribute water to their satellites.

Water is far more prevalent in space than astronomers first thought, from the surface of Mars to Jupiter's moons and Saturn's rings, comets, asteroids and Pluto; it has even been detected in clouds far beyond our solar system. It was previously assumed that water was incorporated into these objects during the formation of the solar system, but there is growing evidence that water in space is far more dynamic. Though the solar wind is a likely source for lunar surface water, computer models predict that up to half of it should evaporate and disappear at high-latitude regions during the approximately three days of the full moon when it passes within Earth's magnetosphere.

Full Article >>