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.