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Posts Tagged ‘science

[LINK] “Chimpanzees have the brainpower, motivation to cook”

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CBC carried this Thomson Reuters article suggesting that chimpanzees–and by extinction, our now-extinct primate ancestors–are smart enough to take advantage of heat to cook their food.

They’re not likely to start barbecuing in the rainforest, but chimpanzees can understand the concept of cooking and are willing to postpone eating raw food, even carrying food some distance to cook it rather than eat immediately, scientists reported on Tuesday.

The findings, based on nine experiments conducted at the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in Republic of Congo and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggest that chimps have all the brainpower needed to cook, including planning, causal understanding, and ability to postpone gratification.

They do lack the ability to produce fire. But if they were given a source of heat, chimps “might be quite able to manipulate (it) to cook,” said developmental psychologist Felix Warneken of Harvard University, who conducted the study with Alexandra Rosati.

While the finding may seem esoteric, it lends support to the idea that cooking accelerated human evolution. Cooked food is easier to digest, spurring the growth of large brains in our australopithecine ancestors, Harvard’s Richard Wrangham proposed about a decade ago.

If chimps have the cognitive skills to cook, australopithecines likely did, too, said Wrangham, who was not involved in the study: “It suggests that with a little extra brainpower, australopithecines could indeed have found a way to use fire to cook food.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 8, 2015 at 8:32 pm

[LINK] More on the odd Nova Vulpeculae 1670, aka CK Vulpeculae

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Earlier this year, in March, I linked to a National Geographic report examining the very odd stellar object Nova 1770 Vulpeculae, also known as CK Vulpeculae. Universe Today seems to confirm the object is best explained by a very rare collision of two stars.

“For many years, this object was thought to be a nova,” said ESO researcher Tomasz Kaminski of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn Germany in a recent press release. “But the more it was studied, the less it looked like an ordinary nova—or indeed any other kind of exploding star.”

A typical nova occurs when material being siphoned off a companion star onto a white dwarf star during a process known as accretion builds up to a point where a runaway fusion reaction occurs.

ESO researchers used an instrument known as the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope (APEX) based on the high Chajnantor plateau in Chile to probe the remnant nebula from the 1670 event at submillimeter wavelengths. They found that the mass and isotopic composition of the resulting nebula was very uncharacteristic of a standard nova event.

A best fit model for the 1670 event is a rare stellar merger, with two main sequence stars smashing together and exploding in a grand head on collision, leaving the resulting nebula we see today. This event also resulted in a newly recognized category of star known as a “red transient” or luminous red nova.

Much more at the site.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 4, 2015 at 10:43 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily notes, after the Economist, that badly-educated men have not adapted well to global trade, high technology, and feminism.
  • blogTO notes that the High Park peacock roaming around Roncesvalles may have returned to its home in the zoo.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly provides tips for people moving to freelance writing from staff employment.
  • The Cranky Sociologists shares a parody of the new movie Aloha, set in Hawaii yet dominated by whites.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the unique astronomical biosignature of photosynthesis.
  • The Dragon’s Tales compares the clays of Earth and Mars.
  • jsburbidge examines the concept of the literary canon.
  • Language Log considers the complexities of Chinese character usage in an unacknowledged multilingual China/Taiwan space.
  • Marginal Revolution considers China’s heavy investments in the new Silk Road project.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell looks to a historian who suggests the world needs a new origins story based on science.
  • Towleroad notes how a gay couple dissolved the adoptive relationship that once united them to become married.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the illicit sexuality involved among the Republicans opposed to Clinton in the 1990s.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Crimea is set to be Russified and notes the importance of Russian rural agriculture in the time of sanctions.

[BLOG] Some pop culture links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talked about her social networks, and about the need to have faith in one’s abilities and to be strong.
  • C.J. Cherryh describes her visit to Grand Coulee Dam.
  • Crooked Timber notes the ways in which Ian Macleod is actually a romantic writer.
  • The Crux looks at the controversy over the siting of a new telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.
  • Cody Delistraty wonders if social rejection is needed for creative people.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at how difficult it is for Americans with criminal records to get jobs.
  • Mathew Ingram notes how young Saudis can find freedom on their phones for apps.
  • Language Hat suggests that a computer’s word analysis has identified a lost Shakespeare play.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw linked to his local history columns.
  • Otto Pohl notes the culinary links between Ghana and Brazil.
  • Peter Rukavina remembers the fallen elms of Charlottetown and reports on innovative uses of Raspberry Pi computers.
  • The Search reports on format migration at Harvard’s libraries.
  • Mark Simpson notes homoeroticism on British television.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle describes his discovery of wild leeks.
  • Towleroad notes an Austrian magazine’s printing of a limited edition with ink including HIV-infected blood, notes a gay Mormon’s defense of his life to his church, and observes an Argentine judge who thought it acceptable to give a man who raped a possibly gay child a lighter sentence because of the child’s presumed orientation.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the repeal of blasphemy laws in Norway and examines the questionable concept of Straight Pride.

[BLOG] Some space science links

  • Centauri Dreams considers the prospects for habitable worlds at Tau Ceti considering the composition of planets and the star’s evolution over time, considers the need for consistent observation in SETI programs, looks at possibly detectably volcanic 55 Cancri e, wonders if Fermi bubbles are detectable, considers stellar drift in the context of expanding interstellar civilizations, and looks at exoplanets with circular orbits.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that Kapteyn’s Star apparently does not support habitable-zone exoplanets, suggests that the superdense atmosphere of even a Venus analog could be eroded fairly quickly by a red dwarf, wonders if the G2 cloud at the galactic centre is a planetary embryo, wonders if water-rich asteroids have been detected impacting a white dwarf, and considers methane exoplanets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales wonders if the geysers of Enceladus feeds the E ring of Saturn, looks at thermal anomalies on Enceladus, imagines ways to detect Europa’s tides by space probe flybys, and compares the arroyos of Mars and Earth.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes how radio astronomy can be contaminated by Earthly pollution, notes the society’s recent lightsail launch, and looks at Ceres.

[LINK] “Why HIV Patients Should Start Treatment Right Away”

Bloomberg’s John Tozzi reports on a very important, and cheering, news report. Also featured at Joe. My. God., this goes to illustrate the point that the treatment of HIV/AIDS has advanced hugely.

People with HIV benefit from treatment with antiretroviral drugs as soon as they’re diagnosed, rather than waiting until damage to their immune system is evident, researchers reported May 27. The findings, from a major global trial of HIV care, were so clear and compelling that scientists released them before the trial was complete. That almost never happens in medical research, and it’s a sign that the evidence is overwhelming.

Current U.S. guidelines call for offering treatment to everyone at diagnosis. Unfortunately, the U.S. does a terrible job of getting people with HIV into treatment. Less than half the 1.2 million Americans with HIV are in care and have been prescribed antiretroviral therapy, according to CDC data[.]

The 35-country trial, funded largely by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, confirmed the benefits of early treatment. Researchers have been tracking 4,685 HIV-positive adults since 2011, all with apparently healthy immune systems. Half were randomly assigned to begin treatment immediately. The other half deferred treatment until a level of immune health, measured by a count of cells known as CD4+ or T cells, deteriorated.

After three years, the results were clear: Those who started treatment earlier did better. Their risk of serious illness or death was 53 percent lower than the group that waited. That’s a big benefit by the standards of medical interventions, which are sometimes considered successful if they improve outcomes by just a few percentage points.

Antiretroviral medications also greatly reduce the odds that people with HIV will transmit the virus to others. That benefit is well established—medication that controls viral loads can virtually eliminate the chance of infecting a partner. That’s why that big group of people in the U.S. who are diagnosed with HIV but not getting care account for a disproportionate share of new HIV infections[.]

More at the links.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 29, 2015 at 10:43 pm

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[ISL] “Sand disappears from popular Burin Peninsula beach”

CBC Newfoundland explains why and how all the sand disappeared off a beach on that island. Photos and more are at the link.

Despite concerns from locals, [Norm] Catto, head of the geography department at Memorial University, says the province’s beaches are dynamic and constantly changing, and this is just an example of that process.

“This is a natural fluctuation,” he says.

“It occurs in response to storm events, particularly storms out of the southwest.”

So where did all that sand go? Catto believes it is just off the shore at the bottom of Shoal Cove, and will return over time as conditions change and the winds calm down.

Some residents say they can already see the sand slowly migrating back up the beach, especially at low tide.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 22, 2015 at 10:22 pm

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