Thursday, July 24, 2014

Science links - 7/24/2014

Fossils, dogs and jealousy, Apollo 11 technology, Mount St Helens, burning wood and global warming, genes and menarche

Article: Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated
For the first time in more than 30 years, paleontologists are about to revisit one of North America's most remarkable troves of late Pleistocene fossils: The bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at least 30 feet deep at the bottom of a sinkhole-type cave.
Fossils should range in age from 14,000 to 100,000 years old. The most recent fossils would coincide with the arrival of humans beings and the Pleistocene extinction event.

One of the goals is to see if DNA can be collected from the bones and analyzed.

The sinkhole is 85 feet deep. Researchers will repell down, but have to climb 85 feet back up.

Article: Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy: U.S. study
The owners of 36 small dogs were asked to do three things in the test - shower affection on a plush animatronic dog, shower affection on a plastic jack-o-lantern pail and read a children's book aloud - while ignoring their pet.

Researchers then watched how the dogs reacted.

Roughly 80 percent of the dogs pushed or touched their owner when they were coddling the toy, almost twice as often as when the owner played with the pail and about four times as often as when the owner was reading.

A quarter of the dogs even snapped at the toy, which barked, whined and wagged its tail, while the owner was playing with it. Only one dog snapped at the pail and the book.

"We can't really speak to the dog's subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship," Harris said in a statement accompanying the study.
It is already known that some breeds are more attached to their owners than others; dogs that are considered to be companion dogs.

A higher percent of the behavior of dogs is hard-wired; this lends credence to the idea that this behavior has a large genetic component.

Dogs, of course, can help themselves. Humans can overcome hard-wiring. Humans can feel jealousy or envy; but do not have to act on those feelings.

Article: Apollo 11's Vintage Tech: The Most Amazing Moon Landing Innovations
The computing technology of the average cell phone far exceeds the combined computing power of the two spacecraft that got humans to the moon and home safely
The Saturn V rocket, the Lunar Lander, computers, and spacesuits.

Article: U.S. scientists to map interior of Mount St. Helens volcano
A series of explosions set off by a team of scientists were expected to rattle Washington state's Mount St. Helens on Wednesday as researchers map the interior of the volcano, whose 1980 eruption was the deadliest in U.S. history.

The instruments will help create a sort of CAT scan on the interior and will "illuminate the architecture of the greater Mount St. Helens magmatic system from slab to surface," according to researchers from the project, called Imaging Magma Under St. Helens, or iMUSH (

Residents living near Mount St. Helens were unlikely to feel the shots because of their depth, but their insertion approximates a magnitude 2 earthquake, scientists said.

In May, the U.S. Geological Survey said that magma levels were slowly rebuilding inside Mount St. Helens, but there was no sign of an impending eruption.
Article: Concerns over carbon emissions from burning wood
Burning wood to fuel power stations can create as many harmful carbon emissions [aka, carbon dioxide] as burning coal, according to a [UK] government report.

Burning biomass - such as wood - is not a zero-pollution option. It creates greenhouse gases to cut and transport the wood, and when the wood is burned.

But supporters say that so long as the burned vegetation is replaced by new plants to absorb CO2 that should confer a significant advantage over using fossil fuels.

And it counts as renewable energy because new trees soak up the CO2 emitted by the burned trees.

Burning whole logs from natural forests would be counter-productive, the report says, whilst generating power from wood waste that would otherwise be burned at the roadside could provide benefits for the environment overall.
There is no perfect energy source. All have downsides. Coal is cheap, but the worst for CO2 emission. Natural gas is mostly methane which is, in itself, a greenhouse gas. Nuclear power can be cheap and has no carbon emissions, but it the fuel is, well, radioactive and the waste is toxic.

Article: Genetic clues to age of first period
The timing of when a girl reaches puberty is controlled by hundreds of genes, say scientists.

And age at first period may vary in daughters from the same family because of genetic factors, research shows.

The findings, published in Nature, could give clues to why early puberty may be linked to an increased risk of health conditions.

Scientists at 166 institutions analysed the DNA of more than 180,000 women in one of the largest studies of its kind.

They found that hundreds of genes were involved in the timing of puberty.
Continue reading the main story   

Unusually, a girl's first period was also influenced by imprinted genes - a rare event where genes from either the mother of father are silenced.

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