Dinosaurs flourished in Europe right up until the asteroid impact that wiped them out 66 million years ago, a new study shows. The theory that an asteroid rapidly killed off the dinosaurs is widely recognized, but until recently dinosaur fossils from the latest Cretaceous--the final stanza of dinosaur evolution--were known almost exclusively from North America. This has raised questions about whether the sudden decline of dinosaurs in the American and Canadian west was merely a local story.
The new study synthesizes a flurry of research on European dinosaurs over the past two decades. Fossils of latest Cretaceous dinosaurs are now commonly discovered in Spain, France, Romania, and other countries. By looking at the variety and ages of these fossils, a team of researchers led by Zoltán Csiki-Sava of the University of Bucharest'sFaculty of Geology and Geophysics has determined that dinosaurs remained diverse in European ecosystems very late into the Cretaceous.
In the Pyrenees of Spain and France, the best area in Europe for finding latest Cretaceous dinosaurs, meat and plant-eating species are present and seemingly flourishing during the final few hundred thousand years before the asteroid hit.
Dr Csiki-Sava said "For a long time, Europe was overshadowed by other continents when the understanding of the nature, composition and evolution of latest Cretaceous continental ecosystems was concerned. The last 25 years witnessed a huge effort across all Europe to improve our knowledge, and now we are on the brink of fathoming the significance of these new discoveries, and of the strange and new story they tell about life at the end of the Dinosaur Era."
Dr Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences (UK), an author on the report, added: "Everyone knows that an asteroid hit 66 million years ago and dinosaurs disappeared, but this story is mostly based on fossils from one part of the world, North America. We now know that European dinosaurs were thriving up to the asteroid impact, just like in North America. This is strong evidence that the asteroid really did kill off dinosaurs in their prime, all over the world at once."
“A Swedish company claims that this small-scale concentrated solar energy system—which leans on ideas from a 19th-century Scottish clergyman—converts 34 percent of sunlight into electricity. That could make it the most efficient solar system in the world.”
Via OFFICIAL ANDREASCY
"This video is from the BBC documentary film Earth: The Power Of The Planet. The clip is also embedded in this story map that tells the tale of Earth’s tectonic plates, their secret conspiracies, awe-inspiring exhibitions and subtle impacts on the maps and geospatial information we so often take for granted as unambiguous."
Treating HIV with an antibody can reduce the levels of the virus in people's bodies — at least temporarily, scientists report on 8 April in Nature1. The approach, called passive immunization, involves infusing antibodies into a person's blood. Several trials are under way in humans, and researchers hope that the approach could help to prevent, treat or even cure HIV. The work is a milestone towards those goals, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. “This is an early study, but it’s a study with some impressive results,” he says.Researchers tested four different doses of an HIV antibody called 3BNC117 in 29 people in the United States and Germany. Seventeen of the participants had HIV, and 15 of those were not taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at the time of the study. One infusion of the highest dose of antibody, given to 8 participants, cut the amount of virus in their blood by between 8 and 250 times for 28 days.But much work remains to determine whether the approach can produce longer-lasting effects and whether it is practical for clinical use. Previous studies have shown that passive immunization can reduce levels of HIV in the blood of monkeys and mice, although the approach has not worked as well in humans2.But the antibodies used in those earlier clinical tests were of an older generation that could not neutralize many different strains of HIV. Researchers have spent much of the past decade trying to find 'broadly neutralizing' antibodies that are more widely effective against the virus, and the 3BNC117 antibody belongs to this class.The price of treatment with this approach is also a concern. Antibodies can cost thousands of dollars for each course of treatment, and the majority of people with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries, some of which are already fighting drug companies over the high cost of antibody medicines. “The practicality, utility and efficacy of this approach are hugely open questions,” says Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a global organization that advocates HIV prevention and is headquartered in New York City.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
scientist Marc-Oliver Gewaltig and his team at the Human Brain Project (HBP) built a model mouse brain and a model mouse body, integrating them both into a single simulation and providing a simplified but comprehensive model of how the body and the brain interact with each other. "Replicating sensory input and motor output is one of the best ways to go towards a detailed brain model analogous to the real thing," explains Gewaltig.
As computing technology improves, their goal is to build the tools and the infrastructure that will allow researchers to perform virtual experiments on mice and other virtual organisms. This virtual neurorobotics platform is just one of the collaborative interfaces being developed by the HBP. A first version of the software will be released to collaborators in April. The HBP scientists used biological data about the mouse brain collected by the Allen Brain Institute in Seattle and the Biomedical Informatics Research Network in San Diego. These data contain detailed information about the positions of the mouse brain's 75 million neurons and the connections between different regions of the brain. They integrated this information with complementary data on the shapes, sizes and connectivity of specific types of neurons collected by the Blue Brain Project in Geneva.
A simplified version of the virtual mouse brain (just 200,000 neurons) was then mapped to different parts of the mouse body, including the mouse's spinal cord, whiskers, eyes and skin. For instance, touching the mouse's whiskers activated the corresponding parts of the mouse sensory cortex. And they expect the models to improve as more data comes in and gets incorporated. For Gewaltig, building a virtual organism is an exercise in data integration. By bringing together multiple sources of data of varying detail into a single virtual model and testing this against reality, data integration provides a way of evaluating – and fostering – our own understanding of the brain. In this way, he hopes to provide a big picture of the brain by bringing together separated data sets from around the world. Gewaltig compares the exercise to the 15th century European data integration projects in geography, when scientists had to patch together known smaller scale maps. These first attempts were not to scale and were incomplete, but the resulting globes helped guide further explorations and the development of better tools for mapping the Earth, until reaching today's precision.
Stephen Hawking has set the world of physics back on its heels by reversing his lifetime’s work and a pillar of modern physics.He claims that black holes do not exist – saying that the idea of an event horizon, the invisible boundary thought to shroud every black hole -- the awesome gravitational pull created by the collapse of a star will be so strong that nothing can break free including light -- is flawed.Hawking proposes that instead of an inescapable event horizon, we should think of an “apparent horizon”. “The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes — in the sense of regimes from which light can't escape to infinity.” “There is no escape from a black hole in classical theory. [But quantum theory] enables energy and information to escape from a black hole," Hawking told Nature. His revised theory allows matter and energy to be held for a period of time before being released back into space. Hawking says that his revsion requires a new theory that merges gravity with the other fundamental forces of nature. “The correct treatment remains a mystery,” he observed.
Via Sepp Hasslberger
A Framework for K-12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) describe a new vision for science learning and teaching that is catalyzing improvements in science classrooms across the United States. Achieving this new vision will require time, resources, and ongoing commitment from state, district, and school leaders, as well as classroom teachers. Successful implementation of the NGSS will ensure that all K-12 students have high-quality opportunities to learn science. Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards provides guidance to district and school leaders and teachers charged with developing a plan and implementing the NGSS as they change their curriculum, instruction, professional learning, policies, and assessment to align with the new standards. For each of these elements, this report lays out recommendations for action around key issues and cautions about potential pitfalls. Coordinating changes in these aspects of the education system is challenging. As a foundation for that process, Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards identifies some overarching principles that should guide the planning and implementation process. The new standards present a vision of science and engineering learning designed to bring these subjects alive for all students, emphasizing the satisfaction of pursuing compelling questions and the joy of discovery and invention. Achieving this vision in all science classrooms will be a major undertaking and will require changes to many aspects of science education. Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards will be a valuable resource for states, districts, and schools charged with planning and implementing changes, to help them achieve the goal of teaching science for the 21st century.
If you think it's hard waking up after a nine-hour plane flight, imagine doing so after a space voyage of nine years and three billion miles. On Saturday, NASA's New Horizons deep space probe woke itself up from hibernation mode as it began preparations for its flyby of Pluto and its moons next July. Having traveled 2.9 billion miles (4.6 billion km) from Earth and with 162 million miles (260 million km) to go, the signals announcing the awakening took four hours and 26 minutes to cover the distance to NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.
Monitored by the New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the unmanned spacecraft came out of hibernation automatically due to its preprogrammed instructions on December 6 at 9:53 pm EST and the confirmation signal was sent 90 minutes later.
The US$650 million New Horizons mission was launched January 19, 2006 atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The unmanned 1,054 lb (478 kg) nuclear-powered probe was sent on a 9.5-year mission to fly by Pluto and then on to study selected objects in the Kuiper Belt. Sent on a slingshot trajectory using the gravitational pull of Jupiter, New Horizons passed the orbit of Neptune on August 24 and will rendezvous with Pluto on July 14 of next year, which it will pass at a distance of 8,000 mi (13,000 km).
“ On Saturday morning, I turned on NPR while I made breakfast for my daughter and me. We had a big day ahead: first the farmers market, then a nearby forest preserve’s migratory bird festival featuring a mist-netting demonstration and the chance to take home and dissect your own owl pellet....”
Via Bonnie Bracey Sutton
An international team of scientists has announced the discovery of a new state of matter in a material that appears to be an insulator, superconductor, metal and magnet all rolled into one, saying that it could lead to the development of more effective high-temperature superconductors.
Why is this so exciting? Well, if these properties are confirmed, this new state of matter will allow scientists to better understand why some materials have the potential to achieve superconductivity at a relativity high critical temperature (Tc) - "high" as in −135 °C as opposed to −243.2 °C. Because superconductivity allows a material to conduct electricity without resistance, which means no heat, sound, or any other form of energy release, achieving this would revolutionise how we use and produce energy, but it’s only feasible if we can achieve it at so-called high temperatures.
As Michael Byrne explains, when we talk about states of matter, it’s not just solids, liquids, gases, and maybe plasmas that we have to think about. We also have to consider the more obscure states that don’t occur in nature, but are rather created in the lab - Bose–Einstein condensate, degenerate matter, supersolids and superfluids, and quark-gluon plasma, for example.
By introducing rubidium into carbon-60 molecules - more commonly known as 'buckyballs' - a team led by chemist Kosmas Prassides from Tokohu University in Japan was able to change the distance between them, which forced them into a new, crystalline structure. When put through an array of tests, this structure displayed a combination of insulating, superconducting, metallic, and magnetic phases, including a brand new one, which the researchers have named 'Jahn-Teller metals'.
Named after the Jahn-Teller effect, which is used in chemistry to describe how at low pressures, the geometric arrangement of molecules and ions in an electronic state can become distorted, this new state of matter allows scientists to transform an insulator - which can’t conduct electricity - into a conductor by simply applying pressure.
There’s a whole lot of lab-work to be done before this discovery will mean anything for practical energy production in the real world, but that’s science for you. And it’s got people excited already, as chemist Elisabeth Nicol from the University of Guelph in Canada told Hamish Johnston at PhysicsWorld: "Understanding the mechanisms at play and how they can be manipulated to change the Tc surely will inspire the development of new superconducting materials".
MIT researchers have developed a new, ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than its predecessors. It could lead to miniaturized, battery-powered devices for medical and materials imaging, contraband detection, and even geological exploration.Magnetic-field detectors, or magnetometers, are already used for all those applications. But existing technologies have drawbacks: Some rely on gas-filled chambers; others work only in narrow frequency bands, limiting their utility.Synthetic diamonds with nitrogen vacancies (NVs) — defects that are extremely sensitive to magnetic fields — have long held promise as the basis for efficient, portable magnetometers. A diamond chip about one-twentieth the size of a thumbnail could contain trillions of nitrogen vacancies, each capable of performing its own magnetic-field measurement.The problem has been aggregating all those measurements. Probing a nitrogen vacancy requires zapping it with laser light, which it absorbs and re-emits. The intensity of the emitted light carries information about the vacancy’s magnetic state.“In the past, only a small fraction of the pump light was used to excite a small fraction of the NVs,” says Dirk Englund, the Jamieson Career Development Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and one of the designers of the new device. “We make use of almost all the pump light to measure almost all of the NVs.”The MIT researchers report their new device in the latest issue of Nature Physics.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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