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June 3 2014

Solving the puzzle of ice age climates


The paleoclimate record for the last ice age — a time 21,000 years ago called the "Last Glacial Maximum" (LGM) — tells of a cold Earth whose northern continents were covered by vast ice sheets. Chemical traces from plankton fossils in deep-sea sediments reveal rearranged ocean water masses, as well as extended sea ice coverage off Antarctica. Air bubbles in ice cores show that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was far below levels seen before the Industrial Revolution.

While ice ages are set into motion by Earth's slow wobbles in its transit around the sun, researchers agree that the solar-energy decrease alone wasn't enough to cause this glacial state. Paleoclimatologists have been trying to explain the actual mechanism behind these changes for 200 years.

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June 3 2014

Could tree rings skip a beat? Astronomical event tests tree ring dating


Last year, we wrote about a real climate science debate taking place between researchers who look at tree ring records of past climate. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, well-known for his work on the “hockey stick” climate reconstructions, published a paper arguing that some trees may have failed to grow for a year following major volcanic eruptions. “Skipping” a ring could shift the whole record from that tree by a year, introducing subtle errors into the compilations that are used to reconstruct past climate.

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June 3 2014

Cracking the code for a perfect coffee


Coffee lovers have a new way to ensure they are getting the perfect brew - by listening to it roast.

New research by coffee aficionado and underwater acoustics expert Associate Professor Preston Wilson from the University of Texas, Austin has shown that the cracking sounds emitted during the bean roasting process could provide the foundations of an automated roast monitoring technique.

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June 3 2014

Parasitic vines may serve as lightning rods


Tropical rainforests in Central and South America are being overrun by lianas, parasitic woody vines that clamber up trees and smother the forest canopy as they reach for sunlight. But the vines may be doing more than infiltrating the ecosystem — they may actually be protecting it.

Some researchers suspect that the vines act like lightning rods, saving trees from damage.

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June 3 2014

Britain's urban rivers cleanest in 20 years


Scientists from Cardiff University have found that Britain's urban rivers are the cleanest they've been in over two decades.

The 21-year study of over 2,300 rivers measured the presence of clean-river invertebrates - a yardstick for river health – which during the days of heavy industry and poor sewage treatment had declined considerably, but now appear to be making a comeback.

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June 3 2014

Do Wild Animals Get Drunk and High On Purpose?


In South Africa, local legend has it that the elephants like to get drunk. They seek out the marula tree, overindulge on its sweet fruits, and enjoy the intoxicating effects of the slightly fermented juice.

Tales of the tipsy pachyderms go back at least two centuries. In the 1830s, a French naturalist called Adulphe Delegorgue described stories from his Zulu guides of mysteriously aggressive behaviour in male elephants after they fed on the marula fruits.

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June 3 2014

Bees build mental maps to get home


Bees, like birds and butterflies, use the Sun as a compass for navigation, whereas mammals typically find their way by remembering familiar landmarks on a continuous mental map. However, the latest research suggests that bees also use this type of map, despite their much smaller brain size. The work adds a new dimension to complex bee-navigation abilities that have long captivated researchers.

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June 3 2014

Radar Picks Up Grasshopper Swarm Over Albuquerque


Weather officials in Albuquerque say a mysterious presence that showed up on its radar the last few nights has turned out to be of the insect variety.

The National Weather Service says a swarm of grasshoppers were detected over Albuquerque's West Mesa for the fourth night in a row on Friday.

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June 3 2014

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades


Does handwriting matter?

Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.

But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

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June 3 2014

The quest for inhabited habitable planets


Which came first: life or habitability? Although this question seems at first sight contradictory, a new paper by Colombian researchers is bringing to the attention of astrobiologists a classical conundrum: Is life also required for habitability? On Earth it is almost a matter of fact that in the same way as habitable conditions on our planet are mandatory for life, the existence of life could also be determinant at making our world permanently habitable.

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June 3 2014

UFO Filmed From Plane Window Over London


New footage purporting to show a UFO being filmed from a plane window over London is doing the rounds.

It was posted to YouTube on 26 May by user UFOvni2012.

Set to appropriately space-age music, the early-morning footage from a day earlier appears to show a disc-shaped object zipping past the aircraft’s window and has clocked up nearly 110,000 views in less than a week.

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June 3 2014

Viking Age Revninge woman: an exceptional find


A newly discovered female figurine amulet from Revninge in the east of Denmark represents a very interesting find due to her remarkably detailed Viking Age dress.

On April 22, 2014, Paul Uniacke had started to explore a field near Revninge with his metal detector – several items had already been recovered when to his astonishment a small fine figurine appeared. He instantly recognised it as Viking Age and immediately contacted Østfyns Museums, who confirmed his thoughts and started the process of conservation.

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June 3 2014

Fossil-theft phenomenon has petrified forest visitors returning 'keepsakes'


Many visitors to one of Utah's lesser-known state parks seem to think there is an ancient curse hanging over the area. They typically have a string of rotten luck that proves — to them at least — the curse is real.

Guilt-ridden former visitors often send chunks of petrified wood back to the park, apologizing for having stolen it years before.

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June 2 2014

Egypt turns to technology in effort to protect ancient treasures from looters


The closest comparison is Swiss cheese: holes in vast swaths of land where looters, armed with machine guns and bulldozers, take to ancient archaeological sites in search of loot. To the untrained eye, these holes, visible in satellite images, seem haphazard. But to experts, these deep pits, spanning hectares of land, are the work of sophisticated traffickers.

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June 2 2014

Objects from Tutankhamun’s war chariots to be restored


The tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, but even now some of the amazing treasures it held are unknown to most of us. Decorated gold leaf-on-leather objects forms one such group which is currently undergoing restoration by an Egyptian-German team at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The objects, which have never been adequately studied, were part of Tutankhamun’s war chariots, the trappings of the horses and the sheaths of weapons. Although they are not presently in good condition it is clear that they posses an unusual beauty.

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June 2 2014

Neolithic houses built at Stonehenge - but not without modern tools


Stonehenge has acquired new neighbours, four deceptively spacious detached houses, newly built in an area where planning permission even for a new cowshed is problematic.

The first fires have been lit, the first food – bread made from flour ground beside the hearth on a stone quern – cooked, and slightly to the surprise of their landlords, the first residents, some house martins, have moved in. From Monday visitors are welcome to duck their heads under the low lintels and come in.

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June 2 2014

Medieval identity theft


A case of medieval identity theft might have allowed an unusually rare Pocket Bible from the 13th century to find a home at the University of South Carolina. If researchers can establish that the hand-lettered book was once part of the holdings of a pre-Reformation English monastery or friary, they'll bring to light a truth hidden nearly 500 years ago.

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