Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday, 9/3/22
Welcome to the Overnight News Digest with a crew consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors side pocket, maggiejean, Chitown Kev, eeff, Magnifico, annetteboardman, Rise above the swamp, Besame and jck. Alumni editors include (but not limited to) Interceptor 7, Man Oh Man, wader, Neon Vincent, palantir, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse (RIP), ek hornbeck (RIP), rfall, ScottyUrb, Doctor RJ, BentLiberal, Oke (RIP) and jlms qkw.
OND is a regular community feature on Daily Kos, consisting of news stories from around the world, sometimes coupled with a daily theme, original research or commentary. Editors of OND impart their own presentation styles and content choices, typically publishing each day near 12:00 AM Eastern Time.
Please feel free to share your articles and stories in the comments.
‘World’s Loneliest Man’ Dies
A tribe member who has been called the “loneliest man in the world” has died, officials say. The man, whose name was not known, had lived in total isolation for the past 26 years. The BBC reports: He was known as Man of the Hole because he dug deep holes, some of which he used to trap animals while others appear to be hiding spaces. His body was found on August 23 in a hammock outside his straw hut. There were no signs of violence. He is thought to have died of natural causes at an estimated age of 60. The man was the last of an indigenous group living in the Tanaru indigenous area in the state of Rondonia, which borders Bolivia.
The majority of his tribe are believed to have been killed as early as the 1970s by ranchers wanting to expand their land. In 1995, six of the remaining members of his tribe were killed in an attack by illegal miners, making him the sole survivor. Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Agency (Funai) only became aware of his survival in 1996, and had been monitoring the area ever since for his own safety. It was during a routine patrols that Funai agent Altair Jose Algayer found the man’s body covered in macaw feathers in a hammock outside one of his straw huts. Indigenous expert Marcelo dos Santos told local media that he thought the man had placed the feathers on himself, knowing that he was about to die. “As he had avoided any contact with outsiders, it is not known what language the man spoke or which ethnic group he may have belonged to,” adds the report. “A post-mortem will be carried out to try to determine whether he had contracted a disease.”
‘Zombie Ice’ From Greenland Will Raise Sea Level 10 Inches
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Associated Press: Zombie ice from the massive Greenland ice sheet will eventually raise global sea level by at least 10 inches (27 centimeters) on its own, according to a study released Monday. Zombie or doomed ice is ice that is still attached to thicker areas of ice, but is no longer getting fed by those larger glaciers. That’s because the parent glaciers are getting less replenishing snow. Meanwhile the doomed ice is melting from climate change, said study co-author William Colgan, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “It’s dead ice. It’s just going to melt and disappear from the ice sheet,” Colgan said in an interview. “This ice has been consigned to the ocean, regardless of what climate (emissions) scenario we take now.” Study lead author Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Greenland survey, said it is “more like one foot in the grave.”
ALMA discovers birth cry from a baby star in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University have observed “baby stars” in the Small Magellanic Cloud, having an environment similar to the early universe. Toward one of the baby stars, they found molecular outflow, which has similar properties to those seen in the Milky Way galaxy, giving a new perspective on the birth of stars.
Dolphins form largest alliance network outside humans, study finds
Male bottlenose dolphins form the largest known multi-level alliance network outside humans, an international team led by researchers at the University of Bristol have shown. These cooperative relationships between groups increase male access to a contested resource.
The scientists, with colleagues from the University of Zurich and University of Massachusetts, analysed association and consortship data to model the structure of alliances between 121 adult male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins at Shark Bay in Western Australia. Their findings have been published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Washing dishes with superheated steam more effective, earth-friendly
Superheated steam dishwashers could provide a more effective, environmentally friendly solution than conventional dishwashers. Researchers simulated such a dishwasher, finding that it killed 99% of bacteria on a plate in just 25 seconds. The model of an idealized dishwasher looks like a box with solid sides, a top opening, and a nozzle at the bottom. A plate covered with heat-resistant bacteria is placed directly above the nozzle. Once the plate reaches a certain threshold temperature, the microorganisms are deemed inactivated.
Conventional dishwashers often do not kill all the harmful microorganisms left on plates, bowls, and cutlery. They also require long cycle times that use large quantities of electricity, and the soap pumped in and out is released into water sources, polluting the environment.
Land plants changed Earth’s composition
Scientists at the University of Southampton have discovered that the evolution of land plants caused a sudden shift in the composition of Earth’s continents.
The Southampton researchers, led by Dr Tom Gernon, working with Queen’s University Canada, led by Dr Christopher Spencer, and colleagues at the University of Cambridge, the University of Aberdeen, and the China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, studied the effects of land plant evolution on Earth’s chemical composition over the past 700 million years.
The researchers’ findings are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The evolution of land plants took place about 430 million years ago during the Silurian Period, when North America and Europe were conjoined in a landmass called Pangaea.
Corals pass mutations acquired during their lifetimes to offspring
In a discovery that challenges over a century of evolutionary conventional wisdom, corals have been shown to pass somatic mutations — changes to the DNA sequence that occur in non-reproductive cells — to their offspring. The finding, by an international team of scientists led by Penn State biologists, demonstrates a potential new route for the generation of genetic diversity, which is the raw material for evolutionary adaptation, and could be vital for allowing endangered corals to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.
“For a trait, such as growth rate, to evolve, the genetic basis of that trait must be passed from generation to generation,” said Iliana Baums, professor of biology at Penn State and leader of the research team. “For most animals, a new genetic mutation can only contribute to evolutionary change if it occurs in a germline or reproductive cell, for example in an egg or sperm cell. Mutations that occur in the rest of the body, in the somatic cells, were thought to be evolutionarily irrelevant because they do not get passed on to offspring. However, corals appear to have a way around this barrier that seems to allow them to break this evolutionary rule.”
Old drugs hint at new ways to beat chronic pain
Pain is an important alarm system that alerts us to tissue damage and prompts us to withdraw from harmful situations. Pain is expected to subside as injuries heal, but many patients experience persistent pain long after recovery. Now, a new study published in Science Translational Medicine points to possible new treatments for chronic pain with a surprising link to lung cancer. The work was spearheaded by an international team of researchers at IMBA — Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Children’s Hospital. Their findings of the research, conducted in laboratory mouse models, open up multiple therapeutic opportunities that could allow the world to improve chronic pain management and eclipse the opioid epidemic.
New way found to turn number seven plastic into valuable products
A method to convert a commonly thrown-away plastic to a resin used in 3D-printing could allow for making better use of plastic waste.
A team of Washington State University researchers developed a simple and efficient way to convert polylactic acid (PLA), a bio-based plastic used in products such as filament, plastic silverware and food packaging to a high-quality resin.
“We found a way to immediately turn this into something that’s stronger and better, and we hope that will provide people the incentive to upcycle this stuff instead of just toss it away,” said Yu-Chung Chang, a postdoctoral researcher in the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and a co-corresponding author on the work. “We made stronger materials just straight out of trash. We believe this could be a great opportunity.”
People generate their own oxidation field and change the indoor air chemistry around them
People typically spend 90 percent of their lives inside, at home, at work, or in transport. Within these enclosed spaces, occupants are exposed to a multitude of chemicals from various sources, including outdoor pollutants penetrating indoors, gaseous emissions from building materials and furnishings, and products of our own activities such as cooking and cleaning. In addition, we are ourselves potent mobile emission sources of chemicals that enter the indoor air from our breath and skin.
Astronomers show how terrain evolves on icy comets
With an eye toward a possible return mission years in the future, Cornell University astronomers have shown how smooth terrains — a good place to land a spacecraft and to scoop up samples — evolve on the icy world of comets.
By applying thermal models to data gathered by the Rosetta mission — which caught up to the barbell-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko almost a decade ago — they show that the topography influences the comet’s surface activity across hundreds of meters.
“You can have a uniform surface composition on comets and still have hotspots of activity,” said lead author Abhinav S. Jindal, a graduate student in astronomy and member of the research group of Alexander Hayes, associate professor of astronomy. “The topography is driving the activity.”
Push, pull or swirl: The many movements of cilia
Cilia are tiny, hair-like structures on cells throughout our bodies that beat rhythmically to serve a variety of functions when they are working properly, including circulating cerebrospinal fluid in brains and transporting eggs in fallopian tubes.
Defective cilia can lead to disorders including situs inversus — a condition where a person’s organs develop on the side opposite of where they usually are.
Researchers know about many of cilia’s roles, but not exactly how they beat in the first place. This knowledge would be a step toward better understanding, and ultimately being able to treat, cilia-related diseases.
NASA calls off Artemis moon rocket launch for second time in 5 days
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept 3 (Reuters) – For the second time in five days, NASA on Saturday halted a countdown in progress and postponed a planned attempt to launch the debut test flight of its giant, next-generation rocket, the first mission of the agency’s moon-to-Mars Artemis program.
The latest attempt to launch the 32-story-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule was scrubbed after repeated attempts by technicians to correct a leak of super-cooled liquid hydrogen propellant being pumped into the vehicle’s core-stage fuel tanks.
‘Diamond rain’ on giant icy planets could be more common than previously thought
A new study has found that “diamond rain,” a long-hypothesized exotic type of precipitation on ice giant planets, could be more common than previously thought.
In an earlier experiment, researchers mimicked the extreme temperatures and pressures found deep inside ice giants Neptune and Uranus and, for the first time, observed diamond rain as it formed.
Stunning photo released by NASA reveals Jupiter’s true colors
A NASA probe has captured stunning new images of Jupiter that show the gas giant in its ‘true colors’. The Juno spacecraft observed the complex colors and swirling patterns of the planet’s clouds as it completed its 43rd close flyby on July 5. Raw images taken by the JunoCam instrument were made available to the public, and that is when software engineer Björn Jónsson stepped in to process them.
SU(N) matter is about 3 billion times colder than deep space
Japanese and U.S. physicists have used atoms about 3 billion times colder than interstellar space to open a portal to an unexplored realm of quantum magnetism.
“Unless an alien civilization is doing experiments like these right now, anytime this experiment is running at Kyoto University it is making the coldest fermions in the universe,” said Rice University’s Kaden Hazzard, corresponding theory author of a study published today in Nature Physics. “Fermions are not rare particles. They include things like electrons and are one of two types of particles that all matter is made of.”
Ferns finally get a genome, revealing a history of DNA hoarding and kleptomania
Ferns are notorious for containing massive amounts of DNA and an excessively large number of chromosomes. Defying all expectations, a fern no larger than a dinner plate currently holds the title for highest chromosome count, with a whopping 720 pairs crammed into each of its nuclei. This penchant of ferns for hoarding DNA has stumped scientists, and the intractable size of their genomes has made it difficult to sequence, assemble and interpret them.
Now, two papers published in the journal Nature Plants are rewriting history with the first full-length genomes for homosporous ferns, a large group that contains 99% of all modern fern diversity.
The Geology at Jezero Crater is Even More Complex Than Scientists Were Expecting
On February 18th, 2021, the Perseverance rover landed in the Jezero Crater on Mars. Since then, Perseverance has been exploring the region in search for evidence of past (and possibly present) life – much like its cousin, the Curiosity rover. This includes obtaining samples that will be placed in a cache and retrieved by a future ESA/NASA sample-return mission. These will be the first directly-retrieved samples of Martian rock and soil that will be analyzed in a laboratory on Earth, which are expected to reveal some tantalizing bits about the history of the Red Planet.
But it appears that we don’t need to wait on the sample-return mission since the Perseverance rover is already sending some surprising data back to Earth. According to a new study by a research team led by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Oslo, Perseverance’s ground-penetrating radar detected that the rock layers beneath the crater are strangely inclined. These strange sections could have resulted from lava flows that slowly cooled or could be sedimentary deposits from an underground lake.
From wound healing to regeneration
The phenomenon of regeneration was discovered over 200 years ago in the freshwater polyp Hydra. Until now, however, it was largely unclear how the orderly regeneration of lost tissues or organs is activated after injury. In its investigations of Hydra, an interdisciplinary research team at Heidelberg University was able to show how wound healing signals released upon injury are converted into specific signals of pattern formation and cell differentiation. Essential components are the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and the Wnt signalling pathway — molecular mechanisms that have remained relatively unchanged throughout evolution.
Did primitive cetaceans feed like marine reptiles?
Did the first ancestors of whales pick up where the mosasaurs left off 66 million years ago, after the extinction of all the large predatory marine reptiles? A study conducted by Rebecca Bennion, a PhD student at the EDDyLab of the University of Liège (Belgium), has looked into the possible convergences in morphology and behaviour that may exist between these two groups of large marine predatory animals. This research has been published in the journal Paleobiology.
Mississippi Crisis Highlights Climate Threat To Drinking Water Nationwide
Flash floods, wildfires and hurricanes are easy to recognize as ravages of a fast-changing climate. But now, climate change has also emerged as a growing threat to clean, safe drinking water across the country. The New York Times: The deluge that knocked out a fraying water plant in Jackson, Miss., this week, depriving more than 150,000 people of drinking water, offered the latest example of how quickly America’s aging treatment plants and decades-old pipes can crumple under the shocks of a warming world. “There’s a crisis at hand,” said Mikhail V. Chester, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University. “The climate is simply changing too fast, relative to how quickly we could change our infrastructure.” Earlier this summer, more than 25,000 people lost their water, some for weeks, after deadly floods ripped through eastern Kentucky, breaking water lines as they obliterated entire neighborhoods.
Utility companies across Texas spent the summer coping with hundreds of water-main breaks as record heat baked and shifted the drought-stricken soil surrounding pipes. This came after a bitter winter storm that plunged Texas into freezing darkness in February 2021 and caused thousands of pipes to burst. And from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, supercharged hurricanes like Harvey and Ida now regularly debilitate water suppliers, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to boil their water or scramble for bottles days or weeks after the storms pass. This is on top of the slower-moving threats such as rising sea levels that can contaminate water supplies with saltwater, or a Western “mega-drought” that is withering reservoirs and parching the Colorado River that supplies water to some 40 million people.
Cannabis Researchers Say It’s High Time To Drop ‘Lazy Stoner’ Stereotype
Cannabis users are often depicted as lazy “stoners” whose life ambitions span little further than lying on the sofa eating crisps. But research from the University of Cambridge challenges this stereotype, showing that regular users appear no more likely to lack motivation compared with non-users. From a report: The research also found no difference in motivation for rewards, pleasure taken from rewards, or the brain’s response when seeking rewards, compared with non-users. “We’re so used to seeing ‘lazy stoners’ on our screens that we don’t stop to ask whether they’re an accurate representation,” said Martine Skumlien, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge and the research’s first author. “Our work implies that … people who use cannabis are no more likely to lack motivation or be lazier than people who don’t.”
Skumlien said smoking cannabis could be associated with other downsides, but that the stoner stereotype is “stigmatising” and could make messages around harm reduction less effective. “We need to be honest and frank about what are and are not the harmful consequences of drug use,” she added. Cannabis is the third most commonly used controlled substance worldwide, after alcohol and nicotine, with a 2018 NHS report finding that almost one in five (19%) of 15-year-olds in England had used cannabis in the previous 12 months.