Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Competition led to Neanderthal extinction

ScienceDaily (2008-12-30) --

Neanderthal extinction was principally a result of competition with Cro-Magnon populations, rather than the consequences of climate change, according to a new study.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Humans and chimps use similar brain regions

ScienceDaily (2008-12-27) --

Chimpanzees recognize their pals by using some of the same brain regions that switch on when humans register a familiar face. The study -- the first to examine brain activity in chimpanzees after they attempt to match fellow chimps' faces -- offers new insight into the origin of face recognition in humans, the researchers said.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mystery of Giant's Causeway solved

ScienceDaily (2008-12-25)

Physicists have cracked the mystery behind the strange and uncannily well-ordered hexagonal columns found at such popular tourist sites as Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway and California's Devil's Postpile, using water, corn starch and a heat lamp. Using a combination of field observation, experiments and mathematical theory, they have solved the problem of what decides the size of the columns.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Earliest cave-dwelling human ancestors

ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2008)

A research team led by Professor Michael Chazan, director of the University of Toronto's Archaeology Centre, has discovered the earliest evidence of our cave-dwelling human ancestors at the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa.

Stone tools found at the bottom level of the cave — believed to be 2 million years old — show that human ancestors were in the cave earlier than ever thought before. Geological evidence indicates that these tools were left in the cave and not washed into the site from the outside world.

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Earth's original ancestor was LUCA

ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2008)

An evolutionary geneticist from the Université de Montréal, together with researchers from the French cities of Lyon and Montpellier, have published a ground-breaking study that characterizes the common ancestor of all life on earth, LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor).

Their findings, presented in a recent issue of Nature, show that the 3.8-billion-year-old organism was not the creature usually imagined.

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Hobbit fossils represent a new species

ScienceDaily (2008-12-19)

Kieran McNulty (along with colleague Karen Baab of Stony Brook University in New York) has made an important contribution toward solving one of the greatest paleoanthropological mysteries in recent history -- that fossilized skeletons resembling a mythical "hobbit" creature represent an entirely new species in humanity's evolutionary chain.

Discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, controversy has surrounded the fossilized hominid skeletons of the so-called "hobbit people," or Homo floresiensis ever since. Experts are still debating whether the 18,000-year-old remains merely belong to a diminutive population of modern-day humans (with one individual exhibiting "microcephaly," an abnormally small head) or represent a previously unrecognized branch in humanity's family tree.

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Reforestation helped start Little Ice Age

ScienceDaily (2008-12-19)

The power of viruses is well documented in human history. Swarms of little viral Davids have repeatedly laid low the great Goliaths of human civilization, most famously in the devastating pandemics that swept the New World during European conquest and settlement.

In recent years, there has been growing evidence to suggest that the effect of the pandemics in the Americas wasn't confined to killing indigenous peoples.

Global climate appears to have been altered as well.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Planets could reveal Earth-like Moons

ScienceDaily (2008-12-13)

Moons outside our Solar System with the potential to support life have just become much easier to detect, thanks to research by an astronomer at University College London (UCL).

David Kipping has found that such moons can be revealed by looking at wobbles in the velocity of the planets they orbit. His calculations, which appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society December 11, not only allow us to confirm if a planet has a satellite but to calculate its mass and distance from its host planet – factors that determine the likely habitability of a moon.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Event that breaks continents apart

ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2008)

Researchers have captured for the first time a geological event considered key in shaping the Earth's landscape. An international research team led by Eric Calais, a Purdue University professor of geophysics, was able to measure ground displacements as two tectonic plates in Africa moved apart and molten rock pushed its way toward the surface during the first so-called "dyking event" ever recorded within the planet's continental crust.

The event left a wall of magma 6 miles long and 5 feet wide wedged between the two plates. A paper detailing the event will be published Dec. 11 in Nature.

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