Skip to main content

Our fearless leader, Neon Vincent, is away this week, so I am stepping in to try to keep us all up to date.

Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.

This week's featured story is about the "major" event coming on Sunday night:

The Oscars: Why Hollywood Tales Become 'Real' History
By Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer |
While watching the Oscars on Sunday, it's important to remember that Daniel Day-Lewis isn't actually Abraham Lincoln.

Several historical films are vying for the golden statue this year. While such films can be powerful teaching tools, they also run the risk of becoming the true history for many viewers, experts say.

"People learn the correct material in films really, really well," said psychology researcher Sharda Umanath of Duke University, who has studied student learning in historical films. "But the problem is they also learn anything that's false in a film."

From the far to the near, from the old to the new...

Astronomy and general space coolness

Mini planet found far beyond Earth's solar system
By Irene Klotz | Reuters €“ Wed, Feb 20, 2013

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - - Astronomers have found a mini planet beyond our solar system that is the smallest of more than 800 extra-solar planets discovered, scientists said on Wednesday.

The planet, known as Kepler-37b, is one of three circling a yellow star similar to the sun that is located in the constellation Lyra, about 210 light years away. One light year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km).

NASA Sees Monster Sunspot Growing Fast, Solar Storms Possible
By Tariq Malik | – Thu, Feb 21, 2013.. .

A colossal sunspot on the surface of the sun is large enough to swallow six Earths whole, and could trigger solar flares this week, NASA scientists say.

The giant sunspot was captured on camera by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory as it swelled to enormous proportions over the 48 hours spanning Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 19 and 20). SDO is one of several spacecraft that constantly monitor the sun's space weather environment.

Colorful Map of Mercury Snapped by NASA Spacecraft (Video)
By Miriam Kramer | €“ 8 hrs ago.. .

A new video by a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mercury is showing the closest planet to the sun like never before, revealing the rocky world as an oddly colorful planet.

Scientists created the new video of Mercury from space using images captured by NASA's Messenger spacecraft, which has been studying the small planet from orbit since 2011. The video shows a complete global map of Mercury as it spins on its axis and was assembled using thousands of photos into a single view.

Is Millionaire Space Tourist Planning Trip to Mars?
By Mike Wall | €“ Thu, Feb 21, 2013.. .

Buzz is building about a planned 2018 private mission to Mars, which may launch the first humans toward the Red Planet.

A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation -€” which is led by millionaire Dennis Tito, the world's first space tourist -€” will hold a news conference on Feb. 27 to announce the 501-day roundtrip mission, which will aim for a January 2018 launch.

Super Space Germs Could Threaten Astronauts
By Charles Q. Choi, Contributor | – 17 hrs ago.. .

The weightlessness of outer space can make germs even nastier, increasing the dangers astronauts face, researchers say.

These findings, as well as research to help reduce these risks, are part of the ongoing projects at the International Space Station that use microgravity to reveal secrets about microbes.

"We seek to unveil novel cellular and molecular mechanisms related to infectious disease progression that cannot be observed here on Earth, and to translate our findings to novel strategies for treatment and prevention," said microbiologist Cheryl Nickerson at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute. Nickerson detailed these findings on Monday (Feb. 18) at the annual meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science in Boston.

Astronomer Sleuths Find Clues to 100-Year-Old Meteor Mystery
By Miriam Kramer | €“ Fri, Feb 22, 2013

It may be the ultimate cosmic cold case, but the 100-year-old mystery of a huge group of fireballs flying in formation through Earth's atmosphere is finally a bit closer to being solved, scientists say.

By sifting through the archival records from the meteor procession that took place on Feb. 9, 1913, sleuthing stargazers pieced together the surprisingly large path of the rare astronomical event.

New Privately Built Rocket Passes Key Engine Test
By Tariq Malik | – 8 hrs ago.. .

A new commercial rocket designed to launch unmanned cargo missions to the International Space Station passed a key engine test Friday night (Feb. 22), setting the stage for the booster's debut flight in the months ahead, NASA officials say.

The Virginia-based company Orbital Sciences Corp. test-fired the first stage engines of its new Antares rocket at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. -€” the home of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. The so-called "hot fire" test ignited the Antares rocket's engines for 29 seconds without ever leaving the launch pad.


Hunting Fertilizer to Find Hints of Early Life
By Elizabeth Howell, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor | €“ Fri, Feb 22, 2013.. .

In Brazil, a search for fertilizer fodder is also turning into a hunt for ancient life.

Scientists at Nova Scotia-based Acadia University are working with MbAC Fertilizer Corp. to help the Brazilian company find and analyze phosphate deposits -€” the basis for fertilizer â€- in a small mining town in central Brazil.

At the same time, the project researchers seek to understand how the tiny plants that deposited the phosphorous helped drive ocean evolution, particularly in the period from 700 million to 740 million years ago -€” just as multicellular life began evolving on Earth.

Jurassic Insects Wrongly Accused of Sucking Dino Blood
By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer | €“ Wed, Feb 20, 2013..

A group of Jurassic insects thought to have been parasites of feathered dinosaurs were falsely accused, new research finds. Instead, the tiny creatures were aquatic flies, similar to some still living today.

The findings don't change the reality that dinosaurs really did have lice and other parasites, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology researcher Diying Huang and his colleagues write in the Feb. 21 issue of the journal Nature. Huang and his colleagues had previously discovered dino-fleas 10 times the size of the ones that plague mammals today.

How Dinosaurs Grew the World's Longest Necks
By Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor | €“ 4 hrs ago.. .

How did the largest of all dinosaurs evolve necks longer than any other creature that has ever lived? One secret: mostly hollow neck bones, researchers say.

The largest creatures to ever walk the Earth were the long-necked, long-tailed dinosaurs known as the sauropods. These vegetarians had by far the longest necks of any known animal. The dinosaurs' necks reached up to 50 feet (15 meters) in length, six times longer than that of the current world-record holder, the giraffe, and at least five times longer than those of any other animal that has lived on land.

50-Million-Year-Old Canada Rivaled Tropics in Diversity
By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer | – Fri, Feb 22, 2013.. .

Fifty million years ago, cool temperatures predominated in western Canada. But new research finds that species in the region were once as diverse as in a modern tropical rain forest.

The reason, according to the new study, is that the temperate regions of the globe once lacked seasons, just as the tropics do today. The findings suggest that although the incredible wealth of life in the modern tropics seems like an outlier now, it is actually the rest of the world that's gone wonky.

"We're living in a time of truncated global biodiversity," study researcher S. Bruce Archibald, a paleontologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia told LiveScience.

Climate and Weather

The Dirt on Dirt: It's Mostly from Plains
By Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer |  Fri, Feb 22, 2013.. .

The dirt in Spain -€” and the rest of the planet -€” comes mainly from the plain.

Most of the world is flat, and more than 90 percent of the world's sediment comes from these gentle, low-lying slopes, a new study finds. The discovery overturns accepted geologic wisdom, which holds that steep mountain rivers create most of the sediment carried to the world'€™s oceans. These sediments from relatively flat areas also take the prize for trapping the most carbon in dirt.

"I learned [sediment] all came from the mountains," said Jane Willenbring, a geologist at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. "The result is quite unexpected."


Video from James Cameron Deep-Sea Dive Reveals New Species
By Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer |  

Update: This article was updated at 3:15 pm ET to add comments from researcher Natalya Gallo.

When movie director James Cameron dove to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean early last year, he and his team captured hours of video of strange new deep sea life. Today, a researcher is giving a peek into this bizarre new world, presenting preliminary findings based on analysis on reams of footage from the so-called Deepsea Challenge expedition.

One of the strangest new finds is a sea cucumber seen in the Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the world's oceans at approximately 36,000 feet (11 kilometers) below the surface, said Natalya Gallo, a doctoral student and researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. This new sea cucumber is almost certainly a new species, and lives in large numbers at this deep spot, Gallo told OurAmazingPlanet.

..Warmer Waters Make Weaker Mussels
Scientific American – Wed, Feb 20, 2013.. .

When it comes to mussels, bigger isn'€™t necessarily better. Tiny fibers called byssals enable mussels-€”the shellfish kind-€”to anchor themselves to coastlines despite crashing ocean waves.

Whale Watchers Have a Close Encounter With Gray Whales
By ABC News | ABC News Blogs€“ Wed, Feb 20, 2013.. .

Boaters aboard a whale watching safari off the coast of California got their money's worth when a gray whale got up close and personal.

The whale allowed the delighted adults and children on the boat to pet its skin and inside its mouth, something that could make whales just like their human admirers.

"According to the naturalists who see them every day, these gray whale calves enjoy having people touch them, even in their mouth and on their baleen," reads the description with the video of the encounter posted on YouTube this week. "Even though these whales don't have teeth, perhaps it is like a teething child who enjoys having his gums rubbed."

Caterpillars Build Leaf 'Houses,' Other Insects Move In
By Rachel Kaufman, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor | - Fri, Feb 22, 2013.. .

Leaf-rolling caterpillars, widely considered pests in many parts of the world, actually play a crucial role in forest ecosystems by building shelters used by hundreds of other insect species, a new study says.

Caterpillars of the genus Anaea are the larvae of leafwing butterflies (so named because their wings mimic dead leaves). They protect themselves while caterpillars by rolling themselves up in a leaf -€” like rolling a cigar. They secure the leaf with a bit of silk they produce.

But these caterpillars aren't just building temporary shelters for themselves, it turns out.

To prevent snakes on a plane, Guam to airdrop poisoned mice
By Kevin Gray | Reuters -€“ 13 hrs ago.. .

(Reuters) - Declaring war against invasive brown tree snakes infesting the Pacific U.S. territory of Guam, wildlife officials plan this spring to bomb the island with dead baby mice stuffed with a common pain-killing medicine that is poisonous to the reptiles.


Aches and Pains: You Can Thank Evolution for Them
By Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor | - Fri, Feb 15, 2013.. .

BOSTON -€” Bad backs, dangerous childbirths, sore feet and wisdom teeth pains are among the many ailments humans face from evolution, researchers say.

In an evolutionary sense, humans are by far the most successful primates on the planet, with a world population close to 7 billion. Humanity owes this success to a number of well-known adaptations, such as large, complex brains and walking upright on two feet. However, there are downsides to these advances as well.

Human mouth in 'a permanent state of disease' by: Clifford Fram, AAP National Medical Writer

PEOPLE can brush their teeth as much as they like, but our mouths will never be as healthy as those of our ancient ancestors.
Modern food, particularly processed sugar and flour, has decreased the amount of good bacteria in the human mouth, allowing bad bacteria to take over, which results in tooth decay and gum disease.

The human mouth is in "a permanent state of disease", says Professor Alan Cooper, director of the University of Adelaide Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD).

Why Snacking at Night Is Bad For You
By Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer | – 19 hrs ago.. .

Eating that bowl of Cocoa Puffs at night may be much worse than having it in the morning. The body tends to turn more of that food into fat at night, while turning it into fuel during the day, new research suggests.

The study, published yesterday (Feb. 21) in the journal Current Biology, found that mice's ability to regulate their blood sugar varied throughout the day. In addition, disrupting their circadian clock, which signals sleep and wakefulness among other things to the body, caused them to put on more fat.


Syrian violence threatens ancient treasures

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN | Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:54am EST

(Reuters) - Syrian museums have locked away thousands of ancient treasures to protect them from looting and violence but one of humanity's greatest cultural heritages remains in grave peril, the archaeologist charged with their protection said.

Aleppo's medieval covered market has already been gutted by fires which also ripped through the city's Umayyad mosque. Illegal excavations have threatened tombs in the desert town of Palmyra and the Bronze Age settlement of Ebla, and Interpol is hunting a 2,700-year-old statue taken from the city of Hama.

In a country which also boasts stunning Crusader castles, Roman ruins and a history stretching back through the great empires of the Middle East to the dawn of human civilisation, the task of safeguarding that heritage from modern conflict is a daunting responsibility.

Top Egypt archaeologist sees hope for future in past
By Tom Perry, Reuters

CAIRO - The keeper of Egypt's archaeological treasures sees hope for the nation's future in its pharaonic past.

Mohammed Ibrahim, head of the antiquities ministry, likens Egypt's turbulent emergence from autocracy to the periods of decline that afflicted the nation on the Nile between the fall and rise of its three ancient kingdoms.

"We have passed through similar periods like that, even in antiquity," said Ibrahim, custodian of the pyramids, tombs and temples that bare witness to one of the world's oldest civilizations. "Every time Egypt passes through this period, it recovers very quickly, very strongly."

Iraqis, foreign teams work together to excavate ancient sites

2013-02-19 By Khalid al-Taie in Baghdad

The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on Monday (February 18th) announced it has authorised six foreign teams to start archaeological excavations at a number of ancient sites.

"As part of its work programme for the current year, the ministry has reached agreements with six archaeological teams from Italy, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic," Hakim al-Shammary, director of the tourism minister's media office, told Mawtani.

The teams will begin excavations at a number of sites, particularly in the south, he said.

"Among the sites to be excavated are ancient hills such as Tal Abu Tuwaira in the city of al-Nasiriya, Tal al-Baqarat in al-Kut and Tal Abu Shathar in Maysan province, as well as other sites in al-Dalmaj marshes," he said.

High-altitude archaeologists from the University of York to probe prehistoric Himalayas (art daily)

YORK.- A team of archaeologists from the University of York are to travel to the roof of the world to discover, survey, and record mountain archaeology in the Nepalese Himalayas.

The Himalayan Exploration and Archaeological Research Team (HEART) will spend four weeks documenting high-altitude artefact scatters, rock shelters and formerly inhabited hand-cut cave systems that were used either as settlements and tombs dating back to the 3rd century BC.

The five-strong team, led by Dr Hayley Saul, of the Department of Archaeology at York, will be based in the Mustang valley in the Annapurna massif where they will use digital 3D imaging to survey and record the features as part of a new initiative to piece together the prehistory of the high Himalayas.

They will also trace the way mountain cultures have occupied and adapted to the landscape through time, seeking to set Himalayan archaeology in a broader global framework. This will include the role of the region in the development of the domestic cultivation of rice, a historical perspective on mountain resource exploitation, and the spread of Buddhism.

Early human burial practices varied widely

 Fewer women than men buried

By David Kelly | University Communications

DENVER - A new study from the University of Colorado Denver shows that the earliest human burial practices in Eurasia varied widely, with some graves lavish and ornate while the vast majority were fairly simple.

'€œWe don'€™t know why some of these burials were so ornate, but what'€™s striking is that they postdate the arrival of modern humans in Eurasia by almost 10,000 years,' said Julien Riel-Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at CU Denver and lead author of the study.  'When they appear around 30,000 years ago some are lavish but many aren'€™t and over time the most elaborate ones almost disappear. So, the behavior of humans does not always go from simple to complex; it often waxes and wanes in terms of its complexity depending on the conditions people live under.'€

Remains discovered of a pyramid dating back 3,000 years (audio)

Archaeologists say they have discovered the remains of a large pyramid built in honour of a prominent advisor to Pharoah Ramses II in the 19th dynasty.

The 12-metre structure, which is thought to have reached 15-metres, was found in Egypt by a team of scientists from the Free University of Brussels and the Universite de Liege in Belgium.

The Shocking Savagery of America's Early History

Bernard Bailyn, one of our greatest historians, shines his light on the nation's Dark Ages

By Ron Rosenbaum
Smithsonian magazine, March 2013

It's all a bit of a blur, isn't it? €ˆThat little-remembered century 1600 to 1700 that began with the founding (and foundering) of the first permanent English settlement in America, the one called Jamestown, whose endemic perils portended failure for the dream of a New World. The century that saw all the disease-ridden, barely civilized successors to Jamestown slaughtering and getting slaughtered by the Original Inhabitants, hanging on by their fingernails to some fetid coastal swampland until Pocahontas saved Thanksgiving. No, that'€™s not right, is it? €ˆI said it was a blur.

Enter Bernard Bailyn, the greatest historian of early America alive today. Now over 90 and ensconced at Harvard for more than six decades, Bailyn has recently published another one of his epoch-making grand narrative syntheses, The Barbarous Years, casting a light on the darkness, filling in the blank canvas with what he's gleaned from what seems like every last scrap of crumbling diary page, every surviving chattel slave receipt and ship'€™s passenger manifest of the living and dead, every fearful sermon about the Antichrist that survived in the blackened embers of the burned-out churches.

Canada'€™s oldest shipwreck to be resurrected in replica of 16th-century Basque galleon

Randy Boswell
Published: February 18, 2013, 2:49 pm

Updated: 5 days ago

It'€™s the oldest shipwreck ever found in Canada and one of the most important in the world: a 16th-century Basque whaling galleon that lies at the bottom of Labrador'€™s Red Bay, a sunken relic from the Age of Discovery that symbolizes the early spread of European civilization -and commerce - to the New World.

Now, the 450-year-old San Juan, a jumble of thick beams and broken barrels lying in shallow waters off the site of a 1560s-era whaling station in the Strait of Belle Isle, is to be resurrected by a team of Spanish maritime heritage experts planning to construct a full-scale, seaworthy replica of the original 16-metre, three-masted vessel.

Gloucester prison closure: Criminals buried underneath (BBC)

A historian has said there could be up to 122 executed criminals buried in unmarked graves under Gloucester prison.

The jail will close at the end of March and proposals for its future already include a hotel, flats and a museum.

But English Heritage said the site required archaeological investigation before any development takes place.

Originally posted to annetteboardman on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 09:21 PM PST.

Also republished by Overnight News Digest.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site