• German Research Institute Drops Canadian Tar Sands Project

    The Helmholtz-Association of German Research Centres has just backed out of a CAN$25 million research project funded by the Canadian government that would study sustainable solutions for tar sands pollution. Canada is home to the world's third largest crude reserves in the form of tar sands. Tar sands are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit and are considered part of the world's oil reserves as new technology can extract oil from these sands. >> Read the Full Article
  • Genetic Study of Brown Bear Population Reveals Remarkable Similarities to Polar Bears

    A new genetic study of polar bears and brown bears led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz has overturned prevailing ideas about the evolutionary history of the two species. Brown bears and polar bears are closely related and known to produce fertile ursid hybrids. Previous studies suggested that past hybridization had resulted in all polar bears having genes that came from brown bears. But new research indicates that episodes of gene flow between the two species occurred only in isolated populations and did not affect the larger polar bear population, which remains free of brown bear genes. >> Read the Full Article
  • Martian Stream Bed

    Scientists have identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon - some of the key chemical ingredients for life - in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. Sedimentary rock means running water once upon a time. Water often means life and the rock had the right chemistry to do this. Clues to this habitable environment come from data returned by the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. The data indicate the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes. The rock is made up of a fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals. This ancient wet environment, unlike some others on Mars, was not harshly oxidizing, acidic or extremely salty. >> Read the Full Article
  • Neanderthal Man Senses

    The Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of the genus Homo which is closely related to modern humans. They are known from fossils, dating from the Pleistocene period, which have been found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. Still what and who were they? How ere the same end how were they different? Neanderthal brains were adapted to allow them to see better and maintain larger bodies, according to new research by the University of Oxford and the Natural History Museum, London. >> Read the Full Article
  • Every time the Dpp gene rings, a fruit fly gets its wings

    It has been said that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. But what about a fruit fly? Ever wonder how this species gets its wings? According to new research, scientists have revealed that genetic activity has led to the development of the fruit fly's wings. Researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed a cluster of cells present in the fruit fly's first day of larval life to connect a gene known to be active in the embryo with the gene that triggers the growth of wings. >> Read the Full Article
  • Nearby Stars and Planets

    The stars are so very far away. But they seem to be creeping closer all the time with the advent of new discoveries and studies. For example. a pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The stars are so very far away. But they seem to be creeping closer all the time with the advent of new discoveries and studies. For example. a pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916 and is about 6.5 light years distant. The closest still remain the trio of stars known as Alpha Centauri at a little over 4 light years away. Even more amazing is that researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding light of stars. Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of this system's four red exoplanets, which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth. It makes one wonder what astronomers on other worlds are seeing on Earth itself. >> Read the Full Article
  • Origins of Life

    The origin of life is a scientific problem which is not yet solved. There are plenty of ideas, but few established facts. It is generally agreed that all life today evolved by common descent from a single primitive life form. We do not know how this early form came about, but scientists think it was a natural process which took place perhaps 3.9 billion years ago. Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions about the origins of life. Proteins are formed from chains of amino acids and fold into three-dimensional structures that determine their function. According to crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, very little is known about the evolutionary drivers for this folding. >> Read the Full Article
  • Martian Water Channels

    Water on Mars exists today almost exclusively as water ice. The Martian polar ice caps consist primarily of water ice, and further ice is contained in Martian surface rocks at more temperate latitudes (permafrost). A small amount of water vapor is present in the atmosphere. There are no bodies of liquid water on the Martian surface today. Despite this, research suggests that in the past there was liquid water flowing on the surface, creating large areas similar to Earth's oceans. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided images allowing scientists for the first time to create a 3-D reconstruction of ancient water channels below the Martian surface. The spacecraft took numerous images during the past few years that showed channels attributed to catastrophic flooding in the last 500 million years. During this period, Mars had been otherwise considered cold and dry. These channels are essential to understanding the extent to which recent hydrologic activity prevailed during such arid conditions. They also help scientists determine whether the floods could have induced episodes of climate change. >> Read the Full Article
  • Convection at the Center of the Earth

    The inner core of the Earth, its innermost part, is a primarily solid ball with a radius of about 760 miles, according to seismological studies. It is believed to consist primarily of an iron–nickel alloy, and to be about the same temperature as the surface of the Sun. A new study, by an international team of researchers from Leeds, London and California, states that rocks could be circulating in the inner core which may explain the unusual behavior of seismic waves passing through it. >> Read the Full Article
  • Don't Miss Comet PANSTARRS

    A comet visible to the naked eye is not that common. Scientists estimate that the opportunity to see one of these icy dirtballs advertising their cosmic presence so brilliantly they can be seen without the aid of a telescope or binoculars happens only once every five to 10 years. That said, there may be two naked-eye comets available for your viewing pleasure this year. "You might have heard of a comet ISON, which may become a spectacular naked-eye comet later this fall," said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NASA's NEOWISE mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and self-described cosmic icy dirtball fan. "But if you have the right conditions you don't have to wait for ISON. Within a few days, comet PANSTARRS will be making its appearance in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere just after twilight." >> Read the Full Article