Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Romanian cave sealed for 5.5 million years is slowly being cataloged, with some interesting finds.

Movile Cave has an atmosphere so dangerous that the few scientists who have so far been allowed to visit must use breathing equipment, thanks to low levels of oxygen and high levels of hydrogen sulphide in the air. Most creatures in the cave are thought to have been sealed in over five million years ago, and then evolved features to deal with the dark, such as losing their eyes and growing longer legs and antennae.

The ecosystem relies entirely upon chemosynthetic bacteria that extract carbon from the air without the aid of light. The most numerous bacteria use carbon dioxide, and others get their carbon from methane. The bacterial film on the water and walls is where all the nutrients enter this ecosystem, and it’s the only known example of such a system. Small animals eat the slime, and larger animals eat them.


Photo: An unidentified leech from Movile Cave
Credit: Thierry Berrod, Mona Lisa Production/SPL

Milky Bioluminescence: Life light

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria and terrestrial invertebrates, such as fireflies. (Source: Wikipedia)

NSW Australia Central West Astronomical Society's astrophotography competition winner in nightscapes category.

Credit: James Garlick
Location: Australia
Award Date: 2015

+CSIRO science image

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Inverted Cheerios effect

The Cheerios effect is the tendency of solids floating on the top of liquids to clump together due to surface tension and gravity and is named after the behavior of cereal in milk. The effect has even been applied in understanding the way gravity binds objects together in space. Reversing the system and asking how liquids behave on top of solids has revealed an interesting and unexpected behavior. On a sufficiently thin surface that can deform itself (like Jello), drops of liquid will repel each other.



Lack of lithium in early Universe may be evidence for new particle

Explaining the lack of lithium in the universe is one of the challenges facing the Big Bang. The theory predicts that for every 10 billion atoms of hydrogen that formed during the period of nucleosynthesis, 5 atoms of lithium should have formed.

But observations only reveal 2 atoms of lithium per 10 billion of hydrogen. A new theory suggests that a hypothetical particle could have hindered the formation of lithium by affecting the formation and decay of beryllium (the next heaviest element).

Source & further reading:

The nuclear reactions that formed the first elements after the Big Bang.
Credit: Arizona State University

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Unprecedented Alzheimer’s drug slows disease by 80 percent

A drug that targets tau tangles in the brain has produced strong results in a large clinical trial, slowing the progression of the disease in hundreds of people.

The drug, called LMTX, is the first to produce really promising results in a large phase III trial, in which potential therapies are pitted against a placebo in hundreds of recipients. Drugs do already exist for Alzheimer’s, but these generally have only a modest effect.

The trial involved 891 people who already had mild or moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some received LMTX alone, others took it in conjunction with other treatments they were already taking, and the rest received a placebo.

At the end of the 15-month trial, tests of mental ability revealed that those taking LMTX alone had deteriorated significantly more slowly than those taking placebo – both in terms of cognition, and their ability to continue carrying out every-day tasks, such as dressing and feeding themselves.


Photo: Tangles in the brain

Corina Marinescu

Abrupt plate accelerations shape rifted continental margins

New research suggests that the movement of tectonic plates has oscillated between slow stretching and sudden shifting. You can explore these movements on a cool interactive website.

Give it a try here:


h/t skunkbear

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