Image of the surface of Venus taken by the space probe, Venera 13 (L. Ksanfomaliti-Solar System Research)

Image of the surface of Venus taken by the space probe, Venera 13 (Photo: L. Ksanfomaliti-Solar System Research)

A renowned Russian astronomer drew lots of attention after claiming there is life on Venus.

Leonid Ksanfomaliti, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, analyzed photos made by Venera-13, a Soviet-era space probe that explored Venus.

According to Ksanfomaliti, the photos showed objects – which looked like a disk, black flap and scorpion – that appeared to “emerge, fluctuate and disappear.”

This indicated, he said, that these objects had changed locations on the photos and traces on the ground.

But Ksanfomaliti’s claims are refuted by a number of experts including Jonathon Hill, a researcher and mission planner, who processes many of the images taken during NASA’s Mars missions.

Hill told an online journal his examination of higher-resolution versions of the Venera-13 photos determined one of the objects identified by Ksanfomaliti is not a living creature, but rather a mechanical component.

He points out the very same object also appeared in a photograph that was taken by an identical Venusian landing probe, the Venera-14.  One of the other objects was determined to be nothing more than processed noise.

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Oldest dinosaur nest found

Close-up of embryonic skeleton of Massospondylus from clutch of eggs at the nesting site (Photo: D. Scott)

Close-up of embryonic skeleton of Massospondylus from clutch of eggs at the nesting site (Photo: D. Scott)

Scientists excavating in South Africa say they’ve discovered the oldest dinosaur nesting site ever found.

It is 190 million years old and belongs to the prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus.

The researchers say the discovery reveals significant clues about the evolution of complex reproductive behavior in early dinosaurs.

The scientists found clutches of eggs, many with embryos, as well as tiny dinosaur footprints, which they say is the oldest known evidence showing that dinosaur hatchlings remained at their nesting site long enough to at least double in size.

The dinosaur nesting ground is believed to be more than 100 million years older than previously known nesting sites.

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Saliva HIV test shown to be as accurate as standard blood test

OraQuick ADVANCE® Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test (Photo: OraSure Technologies)

OraQuick ADVANCE® Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test (Photo: OraSure Technologies)

A saliva test is as accurate as traditional blood tests when testing for HIV, according to a new study.

Scientists in Canada analyzed data from five worldwide databases and found the saliva HIV test, OraQuick HIV1/2, had the same accuracy as the blood test for high-risk populations.

The researchers found the saliva test is 99 percent accurate for HIV in high risk populations, and about 97 percent in low risk populations.

The oral HIV test has become popular for a number of reasons, including its acceptability and ease of use.  The test is also non-invasive, pain-free, convenient and provides test results within 20 minutes.

“Getting people to show up for HIV testing at public clinics has been difficult because of visibility, stigma, lack of privacy and discrimination,” says study lead author Dr. Nikita Pant Pai. “A confidential testing option such as self-testing could bring an end to the stigmatization associated with HIV testing.”

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Scientists observe scorpions to learn how to protect machine parts

Androctonus australis - Yellow fattail scorpion (Photo: Creative Commons)

Androctonus australis - Yellow fattail scorpion (Photo: Creative Commons)

Scientists looking for ways to protect a machine’s moving parts from wear and tear looked to the yellow fattail scorpion for inspiration.

This scorpion uses its bionic shield to protect itself from scratches caused by desert sandstorms.

The researchers examined bumps and grooves found on the scorpions’ backs, scanned the arachnids with a 3D laser device, and developed a special computer program simulating the movement of sand-filled air over the scorpions.

The tools allowed researchers to create a computer model that helped them to develop a number of patterned surfaces to test. The team tested these surfaces by conducting erosion tests on them.

They found that a series of small grooves, cut at a 30-degree angle, gave steel surfaces the best protection from erosion, which they say is a key cause of material damage and equipment failure.

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Large amount of fresh water found in Arctic Ocean

Map of the Arctic Ocean

Map of the Arctic Ocean (Image: US Geological Survey)

A large dome of fresh water that’s been building up in the Arctic Ocean over the last 15 years has the potential to impact weather patterns.

English researchers say a change in wind direction could cause this water to spill into the north Atlantic, which in turn would cool Europe.

In a study published in Nature Geoscience, researchers report this fresh-water dome may have been created by strong Arctic winds, which sped up a large ocean circulation known as the Beaufort Gyre, causing the surface of the sea to bulge out.

The researchers say a change in wind direction would allow the fresh water to flow into the remainder of the Arctic Ocean, possibly reaching the north Atlantic.

If this happens, the researchers say a crucial ocean current which originates from the Gulf Stream, could be slowed.

That would then cool Europe.  This current usually helps maintain relatively-mild conditions on the continent compared to other parts of the world located at similar latitudes.

Katharine Giles, the lead author of the study says, “Our next step is to look into how changes in the sea ice cover might affect the coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean in more detail to see if we can confirm this idea.”

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