Science Scanner: Curiosity’s Mars Selfie, Jurassic Caterpillar & an X-ray of Dark Matter?

Posted June 25th, 2014 at 7:26 pm (UTC-5)
Comments are closed

Odd X-ray Signal Might be Sign of Dark Matter

Astronomers found the mysterious X-ray signal in 73 galaxy clusters including the Perseus glaxy cluster, shown here.  The little chart inside the image is a plot of X-ray intensity as a function of X-ray energy.  Circled is the unidentified x-ray emission line (NASA/CXC/SAO)

Astronomers found mysterious X-ray signal in 73 galaxy clusters including Perseus, shown here. Inside the image is a plot of X-ray intensity as a function of X-ray energy. Circled is the unidentified x-ray emission line (NASA)

Strange X-ray emissions from galaxy clusters– hundreds of galaxies connected to each other by gravity–are providing clues about mysterious dark matter.

Dark matter–if it really does exist–is thought to be invisible, doesn’t produce or attract light, and makes up a majority, 84.5 percent, of the matter in the universe.

But scientists who’ve been trying to unlock the mysteries of dark matter have so far only been able gather evidence of its existence by studying objects throughout the Universe, such as stars and galaxies, that seem to be influenced by gravity produced by unseen material.

Using ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra space telescopes, both of which make their observations by detecting x-ray radiation, astronomers noticed an emission at an odd wavelength that they think may have been produced by the decay of a sterile neutrino, a certain type of dark matter.

 

Curiosity Marks its First Mars Year with a Selfie

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year exploring the Red Planet. (NASA)

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year of exploring the red planet. (NASA)

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity marked the anniversary of its first Martian year on the red planet by taking a selfie.

A Martian year is equal to 687 Earth Days, about 45 shy of two Earth years.

Curiosity’s selfie was snapped at a location called Windjana, where it drilled into Martian rock.

NASA says the Martian rover has traveled 7.9 kilometers since since it touching down on Mars in August 2012. Curiosity is heading to Mt. Sharp inside the Gale Crater.

Curiosity’s selfie is actually a combination of images it took of itself between this past April and May.

 

Archeologists Discover Jurassic Period Parasite Fossil

Artist's rendering of the ancient and odd Qiyia jurassica (Yang Dinghua, Nanjing)

Artist’s rendering of the ancient and odd Qiyia jurassica (Yang Dinghua, Nanjing)

Archeologists recently found an odd fly larva fossil with legs like a caterpillar and a giant sucking plate of a thorax that allowed it to attach to, and feed on, ancient amphibians with a mouth fashioned like a sting.

The parasite fossil called Qiyia (bizarre in Chinese) jurassica (Jurassic period – when the animal lived) was found in Inner Mongolia. It’s about 2 centimeters long and is believed to be 165 million years old.

The archeologists who made the discovery said there’s no other known insect with the unique features of the Qiyia jurrassica.

 

Some Sad People Actually Prefer Not to be Cheered Up

Feeling sad? (Barry Langdon-Lassagne via Wikimedia Commons)

Feeling sad? (Barry Langdon-Lassagne via Wikimedia Commons)

You may want to think about this the next time you come across a loved one or friend who is feeling sad.

According to a new study by a couple of Canadian Universities, despite your good intentions, Mr. or Ms. Glum may not want to be cheered up, especially if they have low self-esteem.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada found that people who have negative feelings about themselves want others to see them as they see themselves, rather than spouting off a litany of positive and optimistic affirmations.

The study finds these people want negative validation, to be reassured that all the pessimism they’re feeling about themselves is normal and appropriate.

Rather than the cheery lecture you’d normally give to someone who is down in the dumps, the researchers suggest that you show some understanding of what they’re going through and agree that the bad feelings they’re experiencing are OK.

 

Special Glove Teaches How to Read and Write Braille

Woman wearing a special glove designed by scientists at Georgia that teaches how to read and write Braille. (Caitlyn Seim/Georgia Tech)

Woman wears a special glove that teaches people how to read and write Braille. (Caitlyn Seim/Georgia Tech)

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) have come up with some special gloves that can teach you to read and write Braille, the communications method used by those with impaired vision.

The process used to teach Braille is based on what the Georgia Tech researchers called passive haptic learning (PHL), which helps people learn muscle memory through vibrating stimulus, rather than through sight.

Some of the research participants were given gloves with tiny vibrating motors sewn into the knuckle area, while others weren’t provided with the device.

The motors vibrated the knuckles in such a way that matched a typing pattern of a specific phrase in Braille.

The keyboard would also provide audio cues as to what they were actually typing.  After typing the phrase with help of the vibrating glove, the participants were then challenged to do the same thing again, only without the glove or audio cues.

The researchers found that about one-third of those using the vibrating glove were more accurate in their typing than those who didn’t have the benefit of the glove.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

Comments are closed.