Fossils of Plant Ancestor Discovered in India

red algae

Scientists recently found a plant ancestor that sets the beginning of eukaryotic life much eariler than previously thought.

Plants represent an oxygen mask for Earth. They are factories of oxygen that run on light, carbon dioxide, and water through the process of photosynthesis. The scientific world believed that they first appeared around 1,200 million years ago in the form of algal scum. However, a team of Swedish scientists might have changed history as we know it. They have just found fossils of a plant similar to red algae that are at least 1.6 billion old. This plant ancestor is proof that major multicellular life appeared earlier than it was believed.

The Recently Discovered Fossils Represent the Oldest Known Plant Ancestor

This scientific discovery does not affect only the history of plants. On the contrary, it concerns all creatures alike, including humans. Plants pertain to the kingdom of photosynthetic eukaryotes. Eukaryote is a primitive branch of life, yet it played an important role in the development of humans. The recently discovered plant ancestor settles the beginning of life itself on Earth much earlier. This study can be a true life changer.

The paper appeared on Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology. The fossils of the plant ancestor were found in the sedimentary rocks in India. They are about 1.6 billion years old, and they share complex similarities with red algae. This is not the first time scientists found signs of life in such a distant period of time. However, what makes this discovery unique is that these sources of life are complex and have eukaryotic cells. This means that the evolution of multicellular life happened much earlier than previously thought.

The Proterozoic Era Can Now Be Viewed as a Flourishing Period for Eukaryotes

The lead author of the study, Stefan Bengtson, works as a paleozoologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. He stated that this plant ancestor is only the beginning of a recalibration of the tree of life. If such complex form of life was possible in the Proterozoic era, it means that there are high chances of other types of forms to have evolved sooner than scientists thought.

Scientists believe that eukaryotic life didn’t develop earlier than the Cambrian explosion, which was set around 500 million years ago. However, if the new fossil is a specimen of red algae, it means that it has much older ancestors in its turn. This can signify that eukaryotic life started more than 2.3 billion years ago.

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A White Dwarf Star Is Living On The Edge Of A Black Hole

white dwarf star

A white dwarf star is orbiting in the extremely close vicinity of a black hole.

Scientists detected an unusual space relation. A white dwarf star is orbiting in the extremely close vicinity of a black hole. During its closest point, the star also loses parts of itself.

The White Dwarf Star Is Caught In A Space Tango With A Black Hole

This close in-stellar couple is also known as a “binary”. They were detected some 15,000 light years away from Earth. Both inhabit the 47 Tucanae globular cluster. The white dwarf star and the black hole were discovered using Chandra. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is nonetheless just a part of the study.

This was carried out by Michigan State University and University of Alberta, Canada researchers. They were led by Arash Bahramian, who is part of both. Research results were recently accepted for publication. They will be released in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The paper is called “The ultracompact nature of the black hole candidate X-ray binary 47 Tuc X9”.

Initially, astronomers studied the 47 Tucanea X9 system as a whole. But back in 2015, closer observations revealed something odd about the white dwarf star. At the time, research suggested that it may be circling a small black hole.

The current paper attests this theory and not only that. It also describes it as the closest such relation as yet recorded. This white dwarf star is just some 600,000 miles away from the black hole. It would mean an extremely close encounter in space terms. One that also takes its dues each time the star gets to its closest point.

Bahramian stated that “This white dwarf is so close to the black hole that material is being pulled away from the star […]”. Following this event, observations show that it is “[…] dumped onto a disk of matter around the black hole before falling in”.

Such encounters are also reportedly very common. The star is believed to whip by its black hole almost every 28 minutes. At least according to the orbit – distance estimates. However, the system also seems to be stable, at least for now.

Scientists Are Unsure As To The White Dwarf’s Fate

The team in charge of the study pointed out some facts. Although the system is stable, at least for now, this relation cannot last. As the black hole pulls away material from the star, this will eventually run out. But this is just one possibility.

According to the researchers, the white dwarf star is facing two most likely fates. Its material may be completely sucked in, which will cause it to evaporate. Or the hole’s orbital pull could cause the star to break apart. As it is, the white dwarf may also evolve into “an exotic type of planet”.

The scientists are also unsure how this strange space tango came to be it. They are still debating whether the black hole may not actually be a neutron star. But the captured X-ray emission do not correspond to the latter. For the moment, the team cannot fully disprove this variant. As it is, more research would be needed.

Image Source: FreeGreatPicture

EchoStar 23 Satellite Launch Will Be Transmitted Live

echostar 23 satellite launch

SpaceX is planning to launch the EchoStar 23 satellite on March 14th during a live webcast.

SpaceX is planning to launch the EchoStar 23 communication satellite on March 14th. For the occasion, the company also set out a live webcast, one that will transmit the event as it is taking place.

On its official website, SpaceX revealed details about its upcoming launch. One of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket will be carrying the EchoStar 23 satellite. This will be deployed on a GTO or Geostationary Transfer Orbit.

SpaceX is planning on launching the EchoStar 23 on Tuesday, March 14th, at 5:34 a.m. UTC or 1:34 a.m. EDT.

According to a company press release, SpaceX also has a backup plan. In case the Tuesday take off fails to take place, it already determined a second launch window. This was set for Thursday, March 16th. The time frame will be approximately the same. This was set for 5:35 a.m. UTC or 1:35 a.m. EDT.

Initially, the EchoStar 23 was set to lift off last year. However, a series of events caused it to be pushed back several times. For example, the company’s decision to ground its rockets for a specific period of time. As it is, SpaceX will be looking to launch the satellite tomorrow. Tuesday’s prospective launch will also have a new location.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellite will be launched from Pad 39A. This a historic location housed by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Most of the Apollo moon missions lifted off from this pad. Back in 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease which gave it permission to use the location.

Nonetheless, EchoStar 23 will only be its second launch from Pad 39A. The first lift-off took place last month and also involved a Falcon 9 rocket. On Tuesday, the aerospace company will have a 2 hours launch window. According to the company, the satellite will be deployed around 34 minutes after the lift off.

For this event, SpaceX also set up a webcast which will offer a live transmission.

This can be accessed here. In the same release that announced the webcast, SpaceX also stated the following. The company will not try to land the rocket’s first stage. Until now, the company successfully landed 8 such Falcon 9 rocket parts. However, this will be quite impossible on Tuesday. Reportedly, the rocket will not have enough fuel left in order to attempt a landing.

This is because the EchoStar 23 is quite heavy and large, coming up to 12,100 lbs. It will also be aiming high as it will target a GTO. According to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and owner, the first stage will be “too hot and heavy” to re-land.

If all goes according to plan, the EchoStar communication satellite should become operational by the end of June 2017. It will be a part of the EchoStar Corporation global satellite network.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Science Discovered the Secrets behind Memory Athletes

brain switch illustration

Memory athletes have their brains not so different from normal people’s brains.

Training memory is not so different from training your body. While avid gym goers can reach a point where they can dead lift 500 pounds, so memory athletes can remember 500 digits in five minutes. At least this is what a new study suggests namely that anybody can train their minds to break unthinkable limits. This superpower is just a matter of learning.

Whenever most people hear that a champion managed to memorize 164 names of as many people in just 16 minutes, they would attribute this success to an innate ability. However, science begs to differ. According to a new study, anybody who practices memorizing exercises on a daily basis can recreate such an impressive performance (at least during their best days).

On Thursday, Neuron published a new research paper that proved that anybody could become memory athletes. In the process of turning into one, people can also experience brain changes at large scale. The first part of the study wanted to discover brain differences between memory athletes and normal people. They paired each champion with a participant of the same gender, age, and IQ. They performed anatomical scans and fMRIs both during rest and memory effort.

The conclusion was that both parties had similar brain regions. On the other hand, what differed was the brain connectivity during passive and active states, which where much stronger in champions. Thus, researchers concluded that there was no special hardware that made people champions. The second part of the study involved 51 participants. None of them participated in memory training before. They were divided into the main experimental group and two control groups.

The experimental group trained their memories for half an hour a day for six weeks. They learned how to link new information to familiar places. The active control group performed memory tasks for six weeks. However, these exercises do not affect long-term memory. The passive control group received no treatment.

The results showed that the two control groups experienced no improvements. However, the experimental group recorded remarkable performance. While the structure of their brains remained intact, scientists noticed more powerful connection patterns to the resemblance of memory athletes. This change was persistent both when subjects were passive and when they performed memory exercises. This experiment showed that learning is similar to training our bodies. Memory exercises order the brain to adapt to difficult tasks.

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NASA Asks for Help Naming the 7 Newly Discovered Planets

newly discovered planets

Regardless of their amusing ring, officials say it is less likely the newly discovered planets will take after the seven dwarves in Snow White.

Now that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has stumbled upon seven new planets that may support intelligent life, beyond our solar system, the officials need to come up with names for each celestial body. To make thing more interesting, NASA launched the challenge on Twitter last week, February 25th, and asked the internet community to help with the task at hand. Needless to say, some funny entries made an appearance. However, there is little chance the planets will take after one of the seven dwarves in Snow White, as one user suggested.

Name Suggestions for the Trappist-1 Planets

At the moment, the planets discovered by the space agency’s Spitzer Space Telescope go by the names of Trappist-1b, Trappist-1c, Trappist-1d, Trappist-1e, Trappist-1f, Trappist-1g, and Trappist-1h. However, some amusing suggestions have been submitted under NASA’s hashtag “#7NamesFor7NewPlanets?”, with some users drawing inspiration from pop culture references, such as smartphone series, the seven Harry Potter novels, or popular characters from TV series like Friends or Game of Thrones.

Hence, one user came up with these names for the newly discovered planets:

  1. Tom Riddle’s Diary
  2. Marvolo’s Ring
  3. Slytherin’s Locket
  4. Hufflepuff’s Cup
  5. Ravenclaw’s Diadem
  6. Nagini
  7. Harry Potter

Also, some users found it amusing to reference the seven dwarves from Snow White’s story: Dopey, Doc, Itchy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, and Bashful. However, the most amusing suggestions came from Twitter user @idiotcracy, who reminded the internet of Britain’s Boaty McBoatface incident in 2016. Per @idiotcracy’s suggestion, the names of the Trappist-1 planets should be:

  1. Planet McPlanetface
  2. Moonie McMoonface
  3. Rocky McRockface
  4. Icy McIceface
  5. Dusty McDustface
  6. Gasy McGasface
  7. Wanda

Others chose to draw their inspiration from current events and call the newly discovered planets Far from Trump1 to Far from Trump7.

International Astronomical Union’s Opinion

No matter how much amusing they are, officials in charge of choosing the names of all things astronomical say there is no chance either of the entries will pass as valid names for the Trappist-1 planets. That is if they don’t want to repeat Britain’s Boaty McBoatface experience from 2016.

Ultimately, similar contests took place in recent years, more specifically, back in 2015, when the International Astronomical Union invited the public to name 32 extrasolar planets revolving around 15 stars.

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Nesting Sea Turtles Guidelines Updated – The Dos and Don’ts of Interacting with Testudines

Sea Turtles

A Florida conservationist society just updated its guidelines regarding the upcoming sea turtles nesting season.

As the turtles’ nesting season draws closer, a Florida conservationist group updated its nesting sea turtles’ guidelines. With the new set of rules, the group intends of educating tourists and regular beachgoers about the proper way to interact with the gentle sea creatures. A spokesperson acting on behalf of the conservationist group declared that the update nesting rulebook was designed to give the turtles some breathing space and to minimize any damage associated with human tampering.

Sharing the Beach with Sea Turtles

According to a Florida wildlife representative, the turtles’ nesting seasons debuts at the beginning of March. During this time, the clumsy-looking marine creatures will leave the nurturing womb of the sea and will head towards the shore. There, among the fine grains of sand, they will begin laying eggs.

The wildlife specialists stated that this is an event paramount significant in the life of a turtle. That’s why it’s important to know what to do in order to give the turtles a fighting chance. The Florida conservationist society declared that all guidelines are based on common sense and quite easy to follow.

So, what’s a rule of thumb when it comes to interacting with turtles? Mind your business and leave them be during this season. Another important aspect to keep in mind when heading to the beach is remembering to clean up afterward. Since turtles are curious creatures, they will literally eat anything they find near their nesting grounds, plastic bags included.

If you’re the owner of a boat rental, it would be best to put your equipment in storage at the end of the day, so you don’t obstruct the turtles’ path towards their nests. Beach owners are also advised to pack up any chairs and canopies.

Other Tips

As for tourists and regular beachgoers, the Florida conservationist society said that it would be for the best to refrain from digging up any holes in the sands. Furthermore, tourists have also been asked to cover up any hole dug during the day as not to leave any nests exposed.

And last, but not least, the tourists are expressively forbidden from digging up any mounds created by turtles. Apart from these simple rules, the Florida Wildlife Department stated that tourist should keep interaction to a minimum, and to report any disturbances to the nearest representative.

With this in mind, there will be no danger of impeding nature from taking its course.

Image Source: Pixabay

According to a New Study, Sexual Orientation Influences Orgasm Frequency

sexual orientation

Analyzing the “orgasm gap” between men and women, researchers concluded that sexual orientation plays an important role in orgasm frequency.

Multiple research papers in the past claimed that men, in general, are likely to climax more frequently than women. The discrepancy was so blatant, that the scientific community dubbed the effect the “orgasm gap”. However, a new nationwide study looked at several aspects past gender and analyzed whether an individual’s sexual orientation has something to do with their frequency of orgasm. As expected, it turned out that heterosexual men do indeed reach climax more frequently than individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Trials

The paper was recently published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. For the survey, the researchers focused on a sample of more than 52,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 65. Out of the total number of subjects, 26,000 identified as heterosexual men, 550 said they preferred the company of both men and women, and 452 identified as gay men. Furthermore, 24,000 female participants identified as heterosexual, 1,112 as bisexual, and 340 as lesbian women.

The Chapman University researchers asked the participants questions regarding their orgasm frequency during intercourse in the past month. Also, one key aspect of the study was how often did the participants engaged in oral sex within the month prior to the study. Other questions referred to how open the subjects were to each other when speaking about sex, the duration of their last sexual encounter, and the healthiness of their relationship.

Study’s Findings

At the end of their survey, the researchers concluded that men are indeed more likely to climax more frequently than women. Also, it seemed that sexual orientation had an effect on the said frequency, as well. Hence, 95 percent of straight men reported they usually-to-always climaxed when intimate. Gay men came in second place, with 89 percent of the participants reporting they reached climax during sexual intercourse. Finally, even though an impressive statistic, only 88 percent of bisexual men reported having an orgasm when intimate.

In a surprising turn of events, straight women were less likely to reach climax with their partners, as lesbians were 89 percent more likely to orgasm during sexual intercourse, and 66 percent of bisexual ladies reported having an orgasm within the past month. The researchers speculate that lesbian women had a greater understanding of how different behaviors in bed influence the frequency of orgasms.

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Dogs May Judge People Based on their Behavior, New Study Suggests

dogs

Dogs refuse to bond with humans they perceive as cold towards other people’s needs, researchers found.

According to a team of researchers, dogs, deemed humans’ closest companions, have the ability to observe behavior and judge people based on what they see. Details of the study have been recently published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

Study’s Highlights

The paper reviewed by New Scientists states that dogs can understand when somebody is behaving in a neglectful manner towards somebody in need of help. Furthermore, they use this information to determine how they will interact in the future with some people, the researchers determined. During the trials, both monkeys’, as well as dogs’ perception was put to the test.

Experiments

During the trials, the team of researchers employed actors to react differently to a person struggling to open a container. Hence, one actor would help the person in question to open the sealed container, one would simply sit and watch passively, and the other would repeatedly refuse to help.

Kyoto University’s James Anderson observed how dogs perceived different actors when asked to help with the sealed container on behalf of the person who was originally struggling to open it. Then, the actors would offer pets some treats. Interestingly enough, the subjects accepted treats from those who helped with the container, as well as from those who simply watched, but adamantly refused to accept anything from people who refused to help. The same applied for monkeys, as well.

Conclusions

The findings led scientists to believe that the long relationship between dogs and humans made them more sensitive to human feelings. Similarly, monkeys are able to understand helpfulness and just like the dogs, they refused to receive treats from those who were not willing to help others with basic tasks.

Based on the latest discoveries, the researchers believe both monkeys and dogs have developed a sense of morality similar to that of human babies. Hence, if somebody behaves in a manner that could be perceived as antisocial, dogs and monkeys alike exhibit an emotional response to it, said the lead author of the study and an animal behavior researcher at Kyoto University in Japan, James Anderson.

In a similar study conducted back in 2011, scientists showed that dogs were more likely to prefer people who gave food to the homeless over those who refused.

Image Source: Pixabay

This Inexpensive Thin Material May Replace Air-Conditioning

blue thin material

Earlier this week, scientists presented us with a new, inexpensive, thin material.

Earlier this week, scientists presented us with a new, inexpensive, thin material. Its purpose? To help cool down surfaces, even those that are under direct sunlight. As such, it may even come to replace air-conditioning in some systems.

The new, thin material was specifically developed to serve a very specific and necessary purpose. It can function as a sort of cooling unit. Some of its main advantages? It does not use water or energy. And it is also eco-friendly.

This new cooling solution was developed by University of Colorado, Boulder researchers. Ronggui Yang and Gang Tan are research co-authors. Research results were released last week. They were published in the Science journal.

Available online since February 09, the paper was titled as follows. “Scalable-manufactured randomized glass-polymer hybrid metamaterial for daytime radiative cooling”. In the paper, this new thin material was described and referred to as follows.

It is a randomized glass-polymer hybrid metamaterial, scalable-manufactured. It can be used in order to ensure daytime radiative cooling.

This new and inexpensive, thin material has quite some unusual properties. Ones that have yet to be observed in nature. Professor Ronggui went to offer some details. He is part of the CU-Boulder Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Ronggui pointed out one of the material’s key advantages. Thanks to its base technology, it can be used 24/7. And it also works without an energy and water source and help.

Gang Tan went to present the new material’s day-to-day possible usage. He is part of the University of Wyoming Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering. And according to him, their technology could be placed on top of homes.

Single-family residential houses could draw benefits from using this thin material. Some 10 to 20 square meters of the material could be placed on their rooftops. And serve as an air-conditioning system.

The thin material works as follows. It has to be placed on top of a structure’s surface. Its cooling effect works in two directions.

For one, this thin sheet helps reflect the incoming solar rays. As such, they will no longer heat up the contact surface. At the same time, the material also allows its base structure to eliminate heat. As such, the respective structure can also release its own infrared thermal radiation.

To put it more simply, the thin material works as follows. It cools down a structure as it enables heat elimination and also prevents the Sun from heating the designated surface area.

The new material is thin and reportedly quite easy to produce. This glass-polymer hybrid is reportedly just slightly thicker than a usual aluminum foil. And it could potentially be produced in rolls.

This eco-friendly technology could have a huge impact in the area. It may help provide a greener and maybe even cheaper cooling system. Some potential first usage areas have already been presented. They target a residential use. And also a thermoelectric power plants one.

The thin material could ensure the respective machines maintain a right operating temperature. And they do so without needing a huge electricity and water consumption.

Nonetheless, the research team is trying to determine potential new uses. Presently, they have filed for a patent. This could attest their new technology. At the same time, they are looking for new commercial uses for the thin material. One of the researchers presented their excitement on the matter. And also some potential new uses.

This thin material could come to be utilized in agriculture, the power industry, or the aerospace one.

For the moment, the CU-Boulder researchers have set out the following tasks. They will try to build a “cooling farm”. The 200 square meters prototype could be raised by the end of 2017.

Image Source: Pixabay

If You Find Other People’s Breathing Annoying, You Could Have Misophonia, Say Neurologists

misophonia

Misophonia patients’ brains are unable to suppress abnormal reactions to specific sounds, discovered a team of British researchers.

Most people felt annoyed at some point about other people’s heavy breathing, or their colleague repeatedly clicking his pen. However, some have adverse reactions to these sound triggers, to the point their bodies start to perceive them as genuine threats to one’s life, triggering the “fight or flight” response. A new survey that focuses on brain abnormalities could hold the key to the mystery. Neurologists call it misophonia, a disorder that stands at the core of intense hatred towards specific sounds, such as breathing, chewing, or repeated pen clicking.

Upon hearing one of these sounds, the patient’s body floods the patients’ muscles with adrenaline and prepares the individual for a “fight or flight” battle scenario. Tim Griffiths, study’s senior author hopes his team’s discovery will provide those who suffer from misophonia with some answers.

Trials

For their study, the team of researchers, led by Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at University College London and Newcastle University in the United Kingdom conducted brain scans on 20 people who were reportedly suffering from misophonia. For comparison purposes, the scientists also scanned the brains of 22 healthy individuals.

The scans revealed an abnormality in the misophonia patients’ emotional control mechanism. Hence, the researchers were able to conclude that upon hearing the aforementioned trigger sounds, the brains of the people that suffer from the condition go into overdrive. Furthermore, the scans also showed that the patient’s brain activity originates from a different connectivity pattern in the frontal lobe. According to the researchers, a healthy frontal lobe is responsible for suppressing abnormal reactions to specific sounds.

Misophonia Effects

Most importantly, the trigger sounds not only induced a state of unease among people suffering from misophonia but also had physical effects on their bodies, as if the patients were trapped in a life or death scenario. Hence, the body would attempt to cool itself off through sweating and started to pump more oxygen-filled blood to the patients’ muscles, subsequently increasing their heart rate.

The researchers hope that these preliminary findings will only help them to better understand the condition and develop treatment for people with misophonia.

Image Source: Pixabay