Science Scanner: Russian Researchers Reach Ancient Antarctic Lake

Posted February 8th, 2012 at 11:37 pm (UTC+0)
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Russian researchers at the Vostok station in Antarctica after reaching subglacial Lake Vostok. (Photo: AP/Arctic and Antarctic Research Insitute of St. Petersburg)

Russian researchers at the Vostok station in Antarctica after reaching subglacial Lake Vostok. (Photo: AP/Arctic and Antarctic Research Insitute of St. Petersburg)

After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists say they’ve reached Lake Vostok, Antarctica‘s largest subglacial lake, which has been buried nearly four kilometers below the ice sheet for about 20 million years.

The development could lead to the discovery of new life forms which existed before the Ice Age.  Scientists hope to find material that could help in the search for life on other planets – such as in the ice-encrusted moons of Jupiter and Saturn or under Mars’ polar ice caps – where conditions could be similar.

“There is no other place on Earth that has been in isolation for more than 20 million years,” Lev Savatyugin, a researcher with Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), told the Associated Press. “It’s a meeting with the unknown.”

Savatyugin told the AP that scientists hope they’ll find primeval bacteria that could further human knowledge of the origins of life.

“We need to see what we have here before we send missions to ice-crust moons, like Jupiter’s moon Europa,” he said.

The project has not been without controversy.  Some environmentalists worried the Russian team’s use of 60 metric tons of lubricants and antifreeze in the drilling process could contaminate the unspoiled lake.

But project’s researchers have said their drill bore would only slightly touch the surface of the lake. The resulting surge in pressure, once the drill made it through the ice and into the lake, would send the water rushing up the drill shaft where it would immediately freeze, which the Russian scientists say, would seal out the toxic chemicals.

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Spanking your kids may cause long-term harm

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” as the old saying goes, but a new study from Canada shows spanking and other forms of physical punishment is harmful to the long-term development of children.

The study’s authors analyzed 20 years of research and found, virtually without exception, “that physical punishment was associated with higher levels of aggression against parents, siblings, peers and spouses.”

For the study, researchers developed methods of discipline designed to both reduce difficult behavior in children and help the parents cut back on physical punishment like spanking.

Parents in 500 families were trained in and encouraged to use these methods.

After a trial period, the researchers found that as physical punishment was reduced, so too were the difficult behaviors exhibited by the children.

Spanking and other forms of physical punishment has been associated in past studies with a variety of mental health problems, like depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use.

Recent neuroimaging studies also suggest that physical forms of punishment could alter parts of the brain that are linked to performance on IQ tests and increase vulnerability to drug or alcohol dependence.

Over the years, parenting attitudes toward using physical punishment have changed, with many countries  shifting instead to a focus on positive discipline of children.  Some countries have legally abolished physical punishment.

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Sea Monster is oldest living thing in the world

Posidonia oceanica (Photo: Albert Kok via Wikimedia Commons)

Posidonia oceanica (Photo: Albert Kok via Wikimedia Commons)

An international research team says that they have found the oldest living thing on Earth and it’s a monster!

Actually it’s a giant ancient sea grass called Posidonia oceanica.  One single organism of this species of sea grass has been found to span up to 15 kilometers wide, reaching a mass of more than 6,000 metric tons.

Reproducing asexually, it generates clones and may well be more than 100,000 years old.

The researchers studied 40 meadows of the sea grass across 3,500 kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea.   The scientists developed and used various computer models that helped demonstrate the species clonal reproductive system which they say allowed the Posidonia oceanica to spread and maintain high-quality clones over the years.   The researchers point out that even the hardiest genotypes of organisms that can only reproduce sexually are disappear with each generation.

“Clonal organisms have an extraordinary capacity to transmit only ‘highly competent’ genomes, through generations, with potentially no end,” says Professor Carlos Duarte, director of the University of Western Australia’s Ocean’s Institute.

But, scientists say that sea grass, which serves as the foundation of key coastal ecosystems, have declined globally for the past 20 years and that the Posidonia oceanica meadows are now decreasing by an annual estimated rate of five percent.

“The concern is that while Posidonia oceanica meadows have thrived for millennia their current decline suggests they may no longer be able to adapt to the unprecedented rate of global climate change,” said the researchers in their report.

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New discovery may allow faster more efficient hard drives

Experimental images showing the repeated deterministic switching of nano islands. Initially the two nano islands have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively). (Photo: Johan Mentink and Alexey Kimel, Radboud University Nijmegen; Richard Evans, University of York)

Experimental images showing the repeated deterministic switching of nano islands. Initially the two nano islands have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively). (Photo: Johan Mentink and Alexey Kimel, Radboud University Nijmegen; Richard Evans, University of York)

A radical new technique of magnetic recording allows information to be processed hundreds of times faster than current hard drive technology allows.

An international team of scientists, led by the University of York’s Department of Physics, has developed and demonstrated the technique.

Instead of using the traditional method of using magnetism to record information onto ferrous material, the researchers used heat to record information, something that has long been thought to be unimaginable.

The researchers believe this finding will not only make future magnetic recording devices faster, but would also allow them to be more energy-efficient, too.

“Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat,” said York physicist Thomas Ostler. “This revolutionary method allows the recording of Terabytes of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less energy consumption.”

The principle that has long been used in magnetic recording technology is that the North Pole of a magnet is attracted to the South Pole of another and two poles that are alike will repel one another. Until this discovery it’s been thought that you had to apply an external magnetic field to be able to record just one bit of information.

But this new method of magnetic recording showed that the positions of both the North and South poles of a magnet can be reversed by an ultra-short heat pulse, which they say harnesses the power of much stronger internal forces within magnetic media.

>>> Read more…

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