Daily Bulletin for 04/20/2017

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Why Did Two Lions Eat 35 Men?

Virginia Morell, Science News

In 1898, two male African lions killed 35 people in the Tsavo region of Kenya. Their 9-month reign of terror ended when Colonel John Patterson of the British Army shot them dead. Scientists have long debated why the lions began eating people.

Tomb Full of Mummies Unearthed at Luxor

Owen Jarus, Live Science

Several mummies and more than 1,000 figurines have been discovered at an ancient cemetery located at Luxor in Egypt, archaeologists reported.A team of archaeologists with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities uncovered the funerary complex during the ministry’s ongoing excavations at the site.

Chemistry Without Solvents Is Possible

Frederic Lamaty, CNRS

Through its synthesis activities, organic chemistry contributes to the production of many everyday products including plastic materials, medicine, and cosmetics. Yet in a context of sustainable development, it must reduce its environmental impact while remaining economically viable.

Consciousness Is Made of Atoms, Too

Mark Titus, Nautilus

In his first lecture on physics to freshmen and sophomores at the California Institute of Technology, in 1961-62, Richard Feynman said, “If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?"

CERN’s New Results Won’t Break Standard Model

Tommaso Dorigo, Sci 2.0

With a slightly anti-climatic timing if we consider the just ended orgy of new results presented at winter conferences in particle physics (which I touched on here), the LHCb collaboration outed today the results of a measurement of unity, drawing attention on the fact that unity was found to be not equal to 1.0.

Why Does the Proton Spin?

Ethan Siegel, Forbes

You can take any particle in the Universe and isolate it from everything else, yet there are some properties that can never be taken away. These are intrinsic, physical properties of the particle itself — properties like mass, charge, or angular momentum — and will always be the same for any single particle.

Rethinking Critical Thinking

Ross Pomeroy, RealClearScience

Let’s face it, when more than half of undergraduates believe that a full moon causes people to behave oddly, when two-thirds of them believe that Bigfoot exists, and when students of all ages have a “dismaying" inability to tell fake news from real news, it’s obvious that critical thinking education is failing. Students are being sent out into a modern world rife with misinformation without the needed skills to tell fact from faction.

Why FBI Kept a 1,400-Page File on Einstein

Mitch Waldrop, Nat Geo

Albert Einstein was already a world-famous physicist when the FBI started keeping a secret dossier on him in December 1932. He and his wife Elsa had just moved to the United States from their native Germany, and Einstein had been very vocal about the social issues of his time, arguing publicly against racism and nationalism.By the time of Einstein’s death on April 18, 1955, that FBI file would be 1,427 pages long. Agency director J. Edgar Hoover was deeply suspicious of Einstein’s activism; the man was quite possibly a communist, according to Hoover, and was certainly an extreme radical.

Antihelium Trapped by Giant Space Magnet?

Joshua Sokol, SM

Sam Ting speaks softly and deliberately as he gets ready to deliver some juicy news to his audience. “You normally cannot hear me anyway," jokes the physicist at the start of a talk this past December at CERN, the particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, while a technician fiddles with his microphone.Ting may be soft-spoken, but few would call him retiring. Two decades ago, Ting persuaded funders to spend $1.5 billion to build the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). In 2011, NASA launched the 8.5-metric-ton magnet on the penultimate space shuttle flight and attached it to the…

Harnessing People Power Proves Pointless

Stephen Skolnick, Physics Central

This week, we had a reader write in:Why has no one developed a battery that can be attached to a recumbent bike to gather energy when someone is pedaling? Thousands of hours of manual work is being wasted (not counting the health benefits)The short answer is “conservation of energy"if you’re putting work into charging a battery, it’s going to make it harder to get where you’re going by pedaling. However, some people have tried creating an electric bike with a motor and regenerative brakes, which allow the rider to simultaneously charge up and slow down. Unfortunately, converting between…

Dingo Wins World’s Most-Interesting Genome Award

Kacey Deamer, Live Sci

Meet Sandy the dingo, owner of the world’s most interesting genome.The wild-born, pure Australian desert dingo recently took first place in the World’s Most Interesting Genome competition, and will have her DNA decoded thanks to the Pacific Biosciences SMRT Grant Program. The grant provides genome sequencing for “a particularly fascinating plant or animal."In a public poll, Sandy secured 41 percent of the votes to beat out a pit viper, a solar-powered sea slug, an explosive beetle and a pink pigeon for the top prize.

Sentinel Satellites to Monitor Earth’s Volcanoes

Morelle & Amos, BBC

A UK-led team of scientists is rolling out a project to monitor every land volcano on Earth from space.Two satellites will routinely map the planet’s surface, looking for signs that might hint at a future eruption.They will watch for changes in the shape of the ground below them, enabling scientists to issue an early alert if a volcano appears restless.

How Two Meters of DNA Untangles Itself

Elie Dolgin, Nature News

Leonid Mirny swivels in his office chair and grabs the power cord for his laptop. He practically bounces in his seat as he threads the cable through his fingers, creating a doughnut-sized loop. It’s a dynamic process of motors constantly extruding loops! says Mirny, a biophysicist here at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.Mirny’s excitement isn’t about keeping computer accessories orderly. Rather, he’s talking about a central organizing principle of the genome how roughly 2 metres of DNA can be squeezed into nearly every cell of the human body without getting…

Frog Oozes Flu-Fighting Mystery Compound

Beth Mole, Ars Technica

From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses.A compound in the frog’s mucuslong known to have germ-killing propertiescan latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity. The peptide is a potent and precise killer, able to demolish a whole class of flu viruses while leaving other viruses and cells unharmed. But scientists don’t know exactly how it pulls off the viral eviscerations. No other antiviral peptide of its ilk seems to work the same way.

IARC: Should It Be Reformed or Abolished?

Cohen & Moretto & Boobis, GLP

Editor’s note: Over four decades, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has assessed 989 substances and activities, ranging from arsenic to red meat to working as a painter to sunlight, and found all but one of them were likely to cause cancer in humans. Ranked among the Group 1 Carcinogens are wood dust and Chinese salted fish.

Exploring Hospitability of Red-Dwarf Planets

John Wenz, Astronomy

A new, nearby exoplanet could be just the boilerplate needed to find out if life could exist in untold numbers of star systems.The planet, LHS 1140b, is 39 light years away. It orbits a small M-dwarf star every 24 days. The planet itself is 1.4 times larger and 6.6 times more massive than Earth, and the principal investigators of the study published today in Nature believe it to be rocky.

Uncovering the Origins of the Elements

Paul Halpern, SWaB!

In science, you don’t have to get everything right in order to get the most incredible things correct. Sometimes good ideas emerge from a failed paradigm. An excellent example of both is the groundbreaking stellar nucleosynthesis paper (creation of complex nuclei from simpler ones) paper, published in 1957, known simply as B2FH, after the initials of the four authors. For the first time, it offered a successful model of element formation. It was designed to avoid the need for a Big Bang, and to support an alternative explanation called Steady State theory. Today, while Steady State theory is…

Physicists Detect ‘Whiff’ of New Particle at the LHC

Adrian Cho, Science

For decades, particle physicists have yearned for physics beyond their tried-and-true standard model. Now, they are finding signs of something unexpected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest atom smasher at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. The hints come not from the LHC’s two large detectors, which have yielded no new particles since they bagged the last missing piece of the standard model, the Higgs boson, in 2012, but from a smaller detector, called LHCb, that precisely measures the decays of familiar particles.

Blanket of Spider Webs Cloaks New Zealand Field

Mindy Weisberger, Live Sci

Maris spotted the webs on a newly made tsunami evacuation mound, she told the news agency Storyful. “There was a bright glistening coming from the top of the mound. It looked almost like the hill was sparkling," Maris said. The elevated mound may have attracted spiders seeking higher ground after recent flooding from Cyclone Cook earlier that week, Maris told Storyful.It is very likely that the field’s silky cover is made of sheet webs, spun by members of the sheet web spider family, Thomas Scheibel, head of the Department for Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, told Live…

Conservative Scientists in the Trump Era

Sara Reardon, Nature News

When physicist Michael Stopa decided to run for the Massachusetts state senate in 2010, he didn’t expect much encouragement from his overwhelmingly liberal colleagues at Harvard University in Cambridge. He was acutely aware of his minority status as a conservative Republican on campus, and avoided talk of politics in his role as a staff scientist in a nanotechnology lab. Then the university newspaper wrote about Stopa’s campaign and closeted Republicans around campus began to reveal themselves with quiet messages of support.

Prenatal Antidepressant Use Not Linked to ADHD

Aimee Cunningham, SN

Taking antidepressants during pregnancy does not increase the risk of autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, two new large studies suggest. Genetic or environmental influences, rather than prenatal exposure to the drugs, may have a greater influence on whether a child will develop these disorders. The studies are published online April 18 in JAMA.Clinically, the message is quite reassuring for practitioners and for mothers needing to make a decision about antidepressant use during pregnancy, says psychiatrist Simone Vigod, a coauthor of one of the studies. Past research has…

Vanishing Islands on Titan May Be Bubbles

Charles Q. Choi, Space.com

Mysterious bright anomalies known as “magic islands" that wink in and out of existence on the seas of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, may be streams of bubbles, a new model suggests.Such bubbles, each up to more than an inch (2.5 centimeters) wide, might complicate any future missions seeking to explore Titan’s seas, to the study’s researchers said.

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