Daily Bulletin for 04/19/2017

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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…

Bringing Triton Back Into the Spotlight

Nola Taylor Redd, Astronomy

Before it was eclipsed by Jupiter and Saturn’s ice-rich moons, Neptune’s largest moon Triton made a play to be recognized as one of the most interesting satellites in the solar system. But new research reveals Triton as a potential water-world. Large fractures on the surface hint towards a liquid ocean beneath the icy crust.When Voyager 2 visited Neptune in 1989, it snapped the first images of Triton, revealing towering dark plumes and a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere. Few craters mar the crust, suggesting that something is resurfacing the young exterior. Triton’s density suggests a layer of ice…

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.

Landmines Detected Via Luminous Bacteria

Kendra Redmond, Phys Central

A hidden and indiscriminate threat, landmines injure and kill soldiers, civilians, and even inhabitants of now-peaceful regions every day. It’s impossible to know how many landmines are buried worldwide, but most estimates place the number somewhere between 100 million and 200 million devices. Once planted, landmines remain a threat until they are detected and detonated, a process that can take decades or longer if it is not a high priority in the region. Even when it is a priority, detecting these mines is slow and risky work.

How Hurricanes Replenish Their Rainwater Supply

Ian Randall, Physics World

The mystery of how tropical cyclones deliver colossal amounts of rainwater over long periods of time may have been solved by an international team of atmospheric physicists. The team suggests that rather than relying on ongoing evaporation to replenish rainwater these powerful storm systems suck pre-existing moisture out of the air through which they travel.Tropical cyclones or hurricanes, as they are called in the northern hemisphere are capable of delivering huge amounts of rain that can do more damage than the high winds associated with the storms.

How Does Your Brain Make Sense of Color?

Brian Gallagher, Nautilus

When Robbert Dijkgraaf was a little boy, growing up in the Netherlands, he’d play in his home attic after school, often with a friend. It was dark inside except for the light streaming in from one window. One time, they closed the shades so only a sliver of photons could pass through. Robbert, holding a prism to the beam, found that it was like holding a rainbow in your hand. The prism, as Newton had observed centuries before, divided the white light, by refraction, into its constituent colors. The magic of that moment inspired him to become a scientist, and now he’s the director of the…

Giant, Sulfur-Eating Worms Found in Philippines


Scientists have discovered a hellish, sulfur-eating, worm-like relative of clams living in a Philippines bay, a new study reports. At more than five feet long and two inches wide, these creatures are the longest members in this family of shellfish that exist today and they look like massive, ink-black, alien boogers.Known as the giant shipworm (Kuphus polythalamia) even though they aren’t worms, they’ve never before been described in the scientific literature. But scientists knew that they had to exist, because of the massive, elephant tusk-like shells that stick around even when their…

Epiphany Revealed Through Eye Movements

Sara Miller, Live Sci

That wonderful moment when the solution to a problem suddenly pops into your head might actually be signaled beforehand by your eyes, a new study finds.By tracking the eye movements of people in the study, the researchers were able to pinpoint the moment leading up to a person’s epiphany, or an “aha" moment.

Applying ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ to Science Funding

Alex B. Berezow, ACSH

Because of the replication problems facing biomedical science and psychology, much attention in recent years has focused on scientific integrity. How can scientists ensure that the data they are publishing is accurate and reliable?A new report that partially addresses that issue has been released by the National Academies. It was reviewed by Physics Today, which said that, among other things, the report “advocates stricter policies for scientific authorship attribution, increased openness in scientific work, [and] the reporting of negative findings." These recommendations are fine, but they…

Clouds of Venomous ‘Jaws’ Released by Sea Urchins

Nala Rogers, IS

Imagine a swarm of venomous, quivering jaws surrounding the food you are about to eat. Would you change your mind about dinner? Fish do, as it turns out. And that’s good news for collector sea urchins, spiky creatures 4 to 5 inches across that live in shallow waters mostly around Australia. Collector urchins’ shells are carpeted with tiny, biting appendages called pedicellariae. When threatened, the urchins release the heads of their pedicellariae en masse, creating a snapping cloud of defenders that predators are loathe to approach.

Poll Finds Majority of Americans Have Smoked Pot

Mary O’Hara, NBC

Planning on celebrating 4/20 this Thursday? You aren’t alone.According to a new poll released Monday, 52 percent of Americans over 18 have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. The survey conducted by Yahoo News and Marist Poll found that not only have most adults in the U.S. smoked pot, 44 percent of those who tried it once still use it today.The poll, titled Weed and the American Family, looks at everything from family views on marijuana use to regulation, entertainment, social acceptability, and more. And of course it comes just in time for the unofficial holiday of cannabis…

Average Age of Scientists Higher Than Other Vocations

Steph Yin, NYT

The work force is aging in the United States, and scientists are leading the way. From 1993 to 2008, the share of scientists aged 55 and older increased by nearly 90 percent, according to David Blau and Bruce Weinberg, economics professors at the Ohio State University.By comparison, the share of all American workers aged 55 and older increased by little more than 50 percent during that period.

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