Previous month:
November 2010
Next month:
January 2011

Oxygen! Unlocking the Secrets of Its Evolution

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0133f504fe64970b-500wi Scientists are getting closer to unlocking the secrets of oxygenation of the Earth's biosphere -its oceans and atmosphere- with new research shows that shows that organisms like vascular plants may have appeared and evolved under lower oxygen conditions than previously thought.

Ariel Anbar, Arizona State biogeochemist, and an international team of scientists, using pioneering techniques at Arizona State University,  have found that the appearance of large predatory fish as well as vascular plants approximately 400 million years ago coincided with an increase in oxygen, to levels comparable to those we experience today. If so, then animals from before that time appeared and evolved under markedly lower oxygen conditions than previously thought. 

Continue reading "Oxygen! Unlocking the Secrets of Its Evolution" »

Bees Sting Supercomputers in Solving Complex Problems (A 2010 Most Popular)

6a00d8341bf7f753ef01348877084d970c-500wi In a new study this past summer, researchers discovered that bumblebees were able to figure out the most efficient routes among several computer-controlled "flowers," quickly solving a complex problem that even stumps supercomputers. We already know bees are pretty good at facial recognition, and researchers have shown they can also be effective air-quality monitors.

Continue reading "Bees Sting Supercomputers in Solving Complex Problems (A 2010 Most Popular)" »

Mount Everest's Sherpas Ring Warning Bell on Global Warming (2010 Top Environment Alert)

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0134896a5870970c When sherpas ring the warning bell on climate change the world should listen: Mount Everest is becoming increasingly dangerous to climb because global warming is melting glacier ice along its slopes, according to Apa, a Nepalese Sherpa who grew up in the foothills to Mount Everest, reached the 29,035-foot (8,850-metre) summit on Saturday for the 20th time, breaking his own previous world record for 19 ascents.Rising temperatures have melted much of the ice on the steep trail to the summit and climbers are struggling to get traction on the exposed rock surface.

Continue reading " Mount Everest's Sherpas Ring Warning Bell on Global Warming (2010 Top Environment Alert)" »

Image of the Year - The Himilayas from Space


The Himalayas (meaning "abode of snow") separate the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau and includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other, lesser, ranges that extend out from the Pamir Knot. The mountain system is the planet's highest and home to the world's highest peaks, include Mount Everest and K2. To grasp the enormous scale of this range consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 m (22,841 ft), is the highest peak outside Asia, whereas the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (23,622 ft).

Continue reading "Image of the Year - The Himilayas from Space" »

Antarctica Yields Remnants of a Dwarf Planet from Creation of Solar System (A 2010 Most Popular)


Rocks can be many things: they were probably our earliest weapons, they've been ballast on our journeys of exploration, even modern-art pieces.  But a pair recovered from Antarctica may be the grandest application yet - tombstones for an entire world.  Lunar and Planetary Institute researcher Allain Treiman believes that them to be pieces of a destroyed dwarf planet, relics from the creation of the solar system.

Continue reading "Antarctica Yields Remnants of a Dwarf Planet from Creation of Solar System (A 2010 Most Popular)" »

How do We Search for Quantum-Based ETs? (A 2010 Most Popular)

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0133f4775a0c970b-500wi On a recent Discovery program on the Universe, Stephen Hawking voiced concern about the dangers, he believes, are posed by aliens who may arrive some day on Earth: "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like..."

Life as we know it is based on chemistry but what, asks Randy D. Allen of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma State University, if life elsewhere is based, not on chemistry but on quantum mechanics?

An alien life form that can manipulate subatomic particles like our cells manipulate chemical compounds. Humans have existed as a species for less than a million years and we are, as far as we know, the only species on Earth that has even the vaguest notion of physics. We only discovered the atom and learned to unleash its power, Allen observes, within the last century:

Continue reading "How do We Search for Quantum-Based ETs? (A 2010 Most Popular)" »

"The Pac-Man" Blob -200,000 Xs Brighter than the Sun


Nebula N214 is a large region of gas and dust located in a remote part of our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud where massive stars are forming. A remarkable feature of N214C is the presence of a globular "Pac Man" blob of hot and ionised gas. It appears as a sphere about four light-years across, split into two lobes by a dust lane which runs along an almost north-south direction.

Continue reading " "The Pac-Man" Blob -200,000 Xs Brighter than the Sun" »

"Asteroid Proof Life": Deep-Earth Microbes Discovered Living on a Geologic Timescale.

Ig29_microbes_02 Tiny ancient microbes beneath the sea floor influence the Earth's long-term carbon cycle. Distinct from life on the Earth's surface, these microbes may account for one-tenth of the Earth's living biomass, according to an interdisciplinary team of researchers who  looked at sediment samples from a variety of depths taken off the coast of Peru, but many of these minute creatures are living on a geologic timescale. The team examined how the microbial world differs in the sub-sea floor from that in the surface waters, with profound implications for our understanding of possible lifeforms elsewhere in the Solar System.

"Our first study, back in 2006, made some estimates that the cells could double every 100 to 2,000 years," says Jennifer F. Biddle, PhD. recipient in biochemistry and former postdoctoral fellow in geosciences, Penn State. "Now we have the first comprehensive look at the genetic makeup of these microbes."

Continue reading ""Asteroid Proof Life": Deep-Earth Microbes Discovered Living on a Geologic Timescale." »

Particles from Outer Space Found in Antarctica

4 A new family of extraterrestrial particles, probably of cometary origin, was identified in Central Antarctica. Discovered by researchers from the Center for Nuclear Spectrometry and Mass Spectrometry (CSNSM), attached to the Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules, the micrometeorites, which are remarkably well preserved, are made up of organic matter containing small assemblages of minerals from the coldest and most remote regions of the Solar System.

Continue reading "Particles from Outer Space Found in Antarctica " »