Study: Lakes On Ancient Mars; Scientists Say They Know Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

Posted October 9th, 2015 at 4:34 pm (UTC-5)
6 comments

The planet Mars in late spring as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA/JPL/California Institute of Technology)

The planet Mars in late spring as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA/JPL/California Institute of Technology)

New Caltech Study Finds That Mars Once Had Lakes

A couple of weeks ago the science world was all a twitter after NASA announced that its scientists had found evidence of flowing water on Mars.

The excitement raised expectations that life may exist on the Red Planet since, as some say, where there’s water, there’s life.

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) who studied data from NASA/JPL’s Mars Curiosity Rover have just released a new study that suggests Mars had a much more rich and robust atmosphere and a lively hydrosphere where water flowed and accumulated in lakes across its surface.

“Observations from the rover suggest that a series of long-lived streams and lakes existed at some point between 3.8 billion to 3.3 billion years ago, delivering sediment that slowly built up the lower layers of Mount Sharp,” said Ashwin Vasavada a scientist with the space agency’s Mars Science Laboratory project, in a press release.

Scientists Learn Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

Did you know that elephants rarely get cancer?

Why these giant creatures are better equipped to avoid this dreaded disease has mystified scientists for years.

Deepening the mystery further is that elephants have 100 times as many cells as humans, which should also boost the odds of having at least one of those many cells mutate into a cancerous state.

Researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation say they may have the answer.

The scientists found that elephants have 38 additional copies of a modified gene that programs a well-known tumor suppressing protein called p53.  We humans only have two.

The researchers also believe that elephants may also have a much stronger system for destroying damaged cells that could become cancerous, but further research is need to confirm this.

UK Scientists Link Birth Order with Nearsightedness

Are you nearsighted, and were you the first born in your family?

A UK team has found a link between nearsightedness and birth order.

The researchers took information from a UK database of people between 40 and 69 years of age, who’ve had a vision assessment and conducted an analysis.

After considering factors such as age, gender and exposure to education, the researchers found that the first born were about 10% more likely to be myopic than their later born siblings.

Among the risk factors for myopia are genetic background, the amount of time spent outdoors, and how much time is spent doing what doctors and scientists call “near work”, such as reading, writing or working with a computer.

The researchers suggest that parents tend to invest more in the educational attention of the first born than those born later.  This could mean the first born child does more reading and other “near work” compared to their siblings, which would increase the odds them having myopia.

Astronomers Puzzled by Odd Behavior in Planet Forming Disk

AU Microscopii Debris Disk (NASA, ESA, G. Schneider/Steward Observatory, HST GO 12228 team)

AU Microscopii Debris Disk
(NASA, ESA, G. Schneider/Steward Observatory, HST GO 12228 team)

Astronomers recently discovered some odd, never seen before wave-like structures moving through a dusty planet forming disk surrounding a somewhat nearby star.

The star is AU Microscopii, located 32 light years away in the constellation Microscopium.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, in Chile, the astronomers said what they saw looked like ripples moving through water.

They then pulled up some earlier images of the star that was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2010 and 2011.

At first they couldn’t find the mysterious ripples in the Hubble images, but after some reprocessing they were able to not only recognize them by noticed that they had changed over time.

The astronomers say that this odd new celestial phenomenon could provide valuable insight into the formation of planets.

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.

6 responses to “Study: Lakes On Ancient Mars; Scientists Say They Know Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer”

  1. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    “The excitement raised expectations that life may exist on the Red Planet since, as some say, where there’s water, there’s life.”

    That is an absurd and unscientific leap of faith. Water may be necessary for life as we know it but it is hardly sufficient by itself. It is not science when an investigation is looking for a hoped for outcome with no rational reason for expectations. It means the analysis will be biased in trying to justify the conclusions the investigators want to find. So far there is not one shred of evidence that life exists or ever existed on Mars. What’s more scientists will have to be very careful not to carry any biological substances to Mars that could lead to contamination and false conclusions. I do think many scientists have read far too many science fiction books, seen too many sci fi movies. Their expectations of Venus was heaven. It turned out to be hell.

  2. Bill Webb says:

    The high levels of radiation on Mars certainly would end any life that may dare try to form. There are locations near the poles that have much lower radiation and have the water necessary to sustain life. It has been proven that the rest of Mars is sterile so why search there. The next rovers should go to the poles.

  3. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    Mars has no magnetic field. The earth’s magnetic field shields the surface from ionizing radiation including cosmic rays. One problem for any future colonizers will be shielding from radiation. While solar radiation may be less intense at the poles, I’m not sure cosmic rays are. Mars presents far more extreme challenges to the creation and sustenance of life then practically anywhere on earth. Therefore the probability of finding native life on Mars is likely low but can’t be ruled out entirely. Scientists will have to be very careful that any life they find is not the result of their own contamination.

  4. ali baba says:

    the gene is not only factor that causes caner. environmental factor is very critical such food full preservative and chemicals, smoking and alcohol. I am sure that elephants who is alcoholic many will get cancer. stress can lower the immune ability to fight disease. the link between emotional stress and disease is well established . for example ,people who are clinically depressed are vulnerable to get heart attack. there is a disease is called a broken heart which people suffered from the death of loved one .can cause serious heart disease. there is toxic stress when a child experience some type of neglect . when they grow up they are vulnerable to heart disease .

  5. Deo Isaack Kapufi says:

    Send some astronauts and astronomers to work and live for some days on Mars, this will open up new arrivals on Mars why get worried !

    Let’s work on discoveries and findings to shape history.

    Vasco da Gama did to discover Some part of Africa and Asia, Christopher Columbus discovered America, why don’t we go on Mars to discover the allocated scenery and live there if possible.

    From,
    Deo.

    • Marcus Aurelius II says:

      “why don’t we go on Mars to discover the allocated scenery and live there if possible. ”

      Simple, Mars is uninhabitable for humans. They’d have to get everything they’d need to survive by taking it with them or sending it ahead. They’d have to live in a lead lined bubble. They’d have to grow food hydroponically with far less sunlight. The dust storms on Mars make the dust storms in the Mideast look like a sunny day. Even on a summer day it would be 10 below zero F. In short they’d have to build the equivalent of the International Space Station fifty million miles away at its closest and 230 million miles away at its furthest. What’s more there’s nothing to see there. Just a lot of empty rocks and dried river beds. There’s a gigantic volcano and a huge canyon. Better to send photo’s home like the rover’s did.