James Ross Island from NASA's DC-8 aircraft during an AirSAR 2004 mission over the Antarctic Peninsula (NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

James Ross Island from NASA’s DC-8 aircraft during an AirSAR 2004 mission over the Antarctic Peninsula (NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

Did Some of Today’s Species Get Their Start in Antarctica?

We know Antarctica is the land of snow and ice and is the coldest place on Earth.  But believe it or not, this polar continent, was once quite warm, due to the different, earlier atmosphere.  Antarctica was covered with lush vegetation and teeming with a variety life, including dinosaurs.

An international group of scientists, supported by the National Science Foundation, have begun a month long expedition to Antarctica to look for proof that it may have been where a number of today’s species got their start.

Most of any fossil evidence of such rich and diverse life is likely buried beneath the continent’s incredibly thick ice.

But, those heading up the expedition will focus their search in areas where rocks containing fossils are more accessible, such as on James Ross Island and others just off the Antarctic Peninsula.

They hope to find fossils that date from the Cretaceous through the Paleogene period, some 100 to 40 million years ago.  This time span covers the end of the Age of Dinosaurs through the start of the Age of Mammals.

A langoustine/Nephrops norvegicus. (University of Southhampton)

A langoustine/Nephrops norvegicus. (University of Southhampton)

Sounds of Human Activity Could Impact Sea Floor Ecosystems

A new study published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, finds that the behavior of some marine invertebrates, who make their home on the seafloor, can be affected by sounds related to human activity.

Researchers at England’s University of Southampton found that these animals, who play an important role in maintaining marine ecosystems, become less active when exposed to man-made sounds such as those produced by ship traffic or offshore construction activity.

Creatures, such as langoustines, Manila clams and brittlestars live in burrows they dig in the sediment of the ocean’s floor.  Creating the burrows and movement into and out of their homes stirs up the sea floor, which is considered vital in recycling nutrients and storing carbon.

The researchers say any reduction in the animal’s disturbance of the sediment can cause it to become compacted, which reduces its oxygen level.  This could lead to conditions which could have a negative impact on the area’s ecosystem.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot (Photo: NASA/JPL)

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (Photo: NASA/JPL)

Ancient Astronomers Used Geometry to Track Jupiter

A recent study published in the journal Science suggests that Babylonian astronomers from about 350 to 50 BC used some rather sophisticated geometric calculations to track the position and movement of Jupiter.

These new findings appear to contradict previously held beliefs that these complex mathematical techniques weren’t developed until the 1400’s by scholars in Oxford and Paris.

Mathieu Ossendrijver, a science historian from the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Cluster of Excellence Topoi reached his findings after analyzing several ancient cuneiform tablets.

While he didn’t notice any drawings on the tablets, he did find some geometric calculations that pinpointed the position of Jupiter from when it was first seen on the horizon to where it would be 60 and 120 days later.

According to Ossendrijver, the calculations are based on the area of a trapezoid.  He also says by dividing the trapezoid into two smaller ones of equal area, the Babylonian astronomers were also able to calculate the time when Jupiter covered half of this 60-day distance.

(Photo: Bernard Wee via Flickr)

(Photo: Bernard Wee via Flickr)

Study: Frequent Facebook Visits a Sign of Sleep Deprivation?

California scientists say they have found people who frequently check their Facebook pages may not be doing so because they enjoy the interactivity of social media, but because they may not be getting enough sleep.

After analyzing data collected from 76 undergraduate students, researchers from the University of California, Irvine say they found a direct link between chronic lack of sleep, a bad mood and an increased dependence on checking out Facebook pages.

The study also showed a link between sleep deprivation and being distracted.

According to the study’s lead researcher, Gloria Mark, if someone is distracted, they often go online and check their Facebook page because it’s easy and they’re tired.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called sleep deprivation a public health epidemic. Lack of sleep has been linked to potentially life threatening incidents like car and industrial accidents.

Those who are sleep deprived are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, as well as from cancer.

Short-Arm Human Centrifuge at DLR Cologne is equipped with a new Artificial Gravity Training Device (DLR/Christian Gahl)

Short-Arm Human Centrifuge at DLR Cologne is equipped with a new Artificial Gravity Training Device (DLR/Christian Gahl)

NASA/ESA Research Will Send Volunteers to Bed for 60 Days

To help prepare for extended spaceflight to an asteroid or perhaps Mars, the European Space Agency and NASA are planning to send a group of volunteers to bed for 60 days.

It’s hoped that more can be learned about the effects of space and artificial gravity on the human body.

According to NASA prolonged exposure to the weightless environment of space travel can cause a number of physiological problems such as muscle fiber shrinkage and bone loss.

To help prevent negative impact of weightlessness astronauts aboard the ISS currently exercise about two hours a day.

Along with keeping the volunteers in bed for 60 days researchers at the DLR German Aerospace Center, in Cologne will also put them on a centrifuge to see if artificial gravity produced by the rotating machine will offset of the negative effects of weightlessness.

The ESA/DLR researchers conducted one 60 day bed-rest study last November it didn’t include the centrifuge tests.