celebrate its 28th anniversary in space the NASA/ESA
Hubble Space Telescope took this amazing and colorful
image of the Lagoon Nebula.
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Hubble Celebrates 28th Anniversary With A Trip Through
The Lagoon Nebula - This colourful cloud of glowing
interstellar gas is just a tiny part of the Lagoon Nebula,
a vast stellar nursery. This nebula is a region full of
intense activity, with fierce winds from hot stars, swirling
chimneys of gas, and energetic star formation all embedded
within a hazy labyrinth of gas and dust. Hubble used both
its optical and infrared instruments to study the nebula,
which was observed to celebrate Hubble's 28th anniversary.
Since its launch on 24 April 1990, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space
Telescope has revolutionised almost every area of observational
astronomy. It has offered a new view of the Universe and
has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable
28 years. To celebrate Hubble's legacy and the long international
partnership that makes it possible, each year ESA and NASA
celebrate the telescope's birthday with a spectacular new
image. This year's anniversary image features an object
that has already been observed several times in the past:
the Lagoon Nebula. The Lagoon Nebula is a colossal object
55 light-year wide and 20 light-years tall. Even though
it is about 4000 light-years away from Earth, it is three
times larger in the sky than the full Moon. It is even visible
to the naked eye in clear, dark skies. Since it is relatively
huge on the night sky, Hubble is only able to capture a
small fraction of the total nebula. This image is only about
four light-years across, but it shows stunning details.
Large-Mammal Extinctions Linked To Humans - Homo sapiens,
Neanderthals and other recent human relatives may have begun
hunting large mammal species down to size - by way of extinction
- at least 90,000 years earlier than previously thought,
says a new study published in the journal Science. Elephant-dwarfing
wooly mammoths, elephant-sized ground sloths and various
saber-toothed cats highlighted the array of massive mammals
roaming Earth between 2.6 million and 12,000 years ago.
Prior research suggested that such large mammals began disappearing
faster than their smaller counterparts - a phenomenon known
as size-biased extinction - in Australia around 35,000 years
ago. With the help of emerging data from older fossil and
rock records, the new study estimated that this size-biased
extinction started at least 125,000 years ago in Africa.
By that point, the average African mammal was already 50
percent smaller than those on other continents, the study
reported, despite the fact that larger landmasses can typically
support larger mammals.
Did Neanderthals Have Big Noses? They Needed More Air. -
Scientists have long wondered why the physical traits
of Neanderthals, the ancestors of modern humans, differ
greatly from today's man. As published in the April 4 edition
of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, an international
research team may have the answer. "The physical variations
between modern man and 'cavemen' have caused Neanderthals
to be historically characterized as barbarous, dimwitted
and generally inferior to the contemporary human in almost
every way," said Jason Bourke, Ph.D., assistant professor
of Anatomy at NYITCOM at A-State and the fluid dynamics
expert on the international research team. "Yet, as we learn
more about their diet, spiritual beliefs, and behavior,
we realize that Neanderthals were likely more sophisticated
than previously assumed… Now the question begs, why they
looked so different." Aiming to answer that question, the
researchers applied sophisticated computer-based methods
and simulations to compare the physiological behavior of
Neanderthal to today's human. This approach permitted the
researchers to ignore the Neanderthals' strong brow ridge
(an inherited feature) and focus more on their enlarged
nose, which was deemed a unique feature of the species.
Existing theories suggest that their large facial structure
was required for a stronger bite to eat harder food, but
the engineering tests suggested a different reason for these
distinctive features. Unlike today's humans, who breathe
through a combination of the nose and mouth based on activity
level, it appears that Neanderthals relied more on its nose
for breathing - a function that would have required a more
prominent mid-face. In fact, the reconstructions demonstrated
that the Neanderthals' noses were able to transport twice
as much air to the lungs than today's humans, which could
have powered the more strenuous and energetic lifestyle
required to chase and hunt large animals. The ability to
condition large amounts of oxygen in colder temperatures
would have also allowed Neanderthals to remain warm and
active in Ice Age environments.
Flight, Or Freeze: Animal Study Connects Fear Behavior,
Rhythmic Breathing, Brain Smell Center. - "Take a deep
breath" is the mantra of every anxiety-reducing advice list
ever written. And for good reason. There's increasing physiological
evidence connecting breathing patterns with the brain regions
that control mood and emotion. Now, Minghong Ma, PhD, a
professor of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine
at the University of Pennsylvania, and Penn doctoral student
Andrew Moberly, have added neurons associated with the olfactory
system to the connection between behavior and breathing.
These findings are published this week in Nature Communications.
Connecting patterns in these interactions may help explain
why practices such as meditation and yoga that rely on rhythmic
breathing can help people overcome anxiety-based illnesses.
"We wanted to know why and how fear behavior, controlled
breathing, and smell centers of the brain were connected,"
Ma said. "What really drives our interest is finding out
what we can extrapolate about this relationship to learn
about the evolution of behavior and apply this knowledge
to help ease the pain associated with such disorders as
post-traumatic stress disorder." In earlier studies, Ma
found that ends of neurons in the nose have odor sensors
as well as the ability to detect the rate of breathing.
"The nose really does double duty in its function," Moberly
said. "Why and what role does this have in behavior and
what does that fear behavior look like in rodents? Their
behavioral choices for survival are fight, flight, or freeze."
To tease apart these overlapping characteristics, Moberly
first trained mice by pairing a specific sound with a light
foot shock to induce "freezing" in the normally mobile mice.
Freezing behavior is a quiescent period that is unusual
for scurrying mice. When he plays the sound associated with
the foot shock, "trained" mice literally freeze in their
tracks. Knowing that humans have the ability to voluntarily
control the breathing patterns, "now the field is asking,
how do we breathe differently in different emotional situations,"
Ma said. "Evolutionarily this makes sense. If a mouse in
the wild senses danger by smell, for example, it may freeze
and slow down breathing as a survival instinct. Now we want
to know how we can apply that knowledge to humans. It would
be interesting to find out what breathing patterns are most
effective in influencing human brain activity and emotional
Quote of the Month - “The most beautiful
experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental
emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
- Albert Einstein
New at the Museum:
- On August
24th, 79 AD, the volcano Vesuvius erupted along the west
coast of what we now call Italy. Among the casualties of
that event was the middle-class port town of Pompeii. In
the course of a few days the city went from a bustling metropolis
to a time-capsule of ancient Roman life, buried under dozens
of feet of volcanic ash, and not seen again until modern
Picture of the Month - What
a Well - If a person is in a deep well in the daytime
and he looks straight up will he be able to see the stars?
- M. Matthews
notion that you can see the stars during daylight hours
from the bottom of a deep well or chimney has been around
a long time. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle mentions
it as does the 19th century author Charles Dickens. However,
any theoretical or practical evidence for this seems lacking.
The British astronomer Rev. W.F.A. Ellison tried it from
the bottom of a bottom of a colliery 900 feet below the
surface and found the he wasn't struck by the sight of stars,
but the brilliant blue of the sky when compared the darkened
tube he was looking up through.
We cannot see the stars in the sky during the day because
of the sunlight is scattering off gas molecules in the air,
sending light in all directions - including into our eyes.
(Blue is scattered more than the other colors so that is
why the sky is blue). The light radiating this way during
day is much brighter than most stars. A few extremely bright
stars, like Sirius, are visible in the day if you know where
to look, though they do not stand out against the day sky
like they do at night. If you were at the bottom of a well
shaft, and Sirius was directly overhead during the day,
the well shaft might reduce the glare from the sun enough
to make the star more visible. It would not, however, allow
you to see the fainter stars and the real world chance of
Sirius being exactly over your shaft would be extremely
planets, like Venus, can be seen in the daylight and viewing
them from a well or chimney might reduce the Sun's glare
and make them more visible, but you could probably get the
same effect by using the cardboard cylinder from a roll
of paper towels that you hold up to your eye.
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System is Born - On May 8th of 1790, the French National
Assembly decided to create a simple, stable, decimal system
of measurement units. The earliest versions of the meter
unit of length was chosen as the length of a pendulum with
a half-period of a second but on March 30th of 1791, the
Assembly revised the definition to be 1/10 000 000 of the
distance between the north pole and the equator. On April
7thof 1795, the Convention decided that the new system was
be henceforth the legal measures in France. The metric system
adopted prefixes from Greek for multiples and Latin for
Eta Aquarids Shower - The Eta Aquarids shower is capable
of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Though
most its activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere, in
the Northern Hemisphere, it still can produce 30 meteors
per hour. The shower is caused by the debris left behind
by comet Halley as the Earth crosses it's orbit. The meteors
appear annually from April 19 to May 28 and this year peaks
the night of May 6 through the 7th.
UFO Memorial Needs Moving - A UFO controversy has erupted
in a small town in Massachusetts. Officials in Sheffield
have ordered the 5,000-pound concrete marker moved for the
second time since it was installed in 2015. The marker commemorates
an incident in 1969 when 40 residents of the community witnessed
a UFO. The monument was funded by donations from community
along with some of the 40 witnesses to the alleged event.
After it was installed the Town Administrator, Rhonda LaBombard,
required it be relocated a few weeks later because it was
on town property. It was moved to private property, but
now the town is complaining the location is on a public
right-of-way easement. "This isn't fair to the community,"
protested Thom Reed, a witness to the event when he was
9 years-old, to the newspaper, The Eagle. He notes that
that LaBombard herself picked the memorial's current location
the first time it had to be moved. "She chose the spot herself."
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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