Three newly discovered exoplanets could help researchers redefine the shaky line between rocky and gaseous planets, according to new observations from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS, which marks its first year of operations this month, spotted the trio of planets some 73 light-years away from Earth. The exoplanets are of a type that does not exist in our solar system, being between the Earth and Neptune in size.
Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Wednesday, 24 July 2019
Researchers have developed a new building block for a quantum computer, bringing the technology a tantalising step closer. The team has built the first two-qubit gate between atom qubits in silicon, they report in the journal Nature. The quantum building block, which is capable of performing an operation of 0.8 nanoseconds, is around 200 times faster than existing spin-based two-qubit gates in silicon.
Friday, 12 July 2019
A 210,000-year-old skull seems to be the oldest Homo sapiens fossil ever found outside Africa by 30,000 years. It was discovered, along with another fossil skull nearby, in the Apidima cave in southern Greece in the 1970s, but has only now been analysed using modern techniques. The second skull is that of a Neanderthal, who lived more recently, potentially upending some theories about the order in which Neanderthals and modern humans came to Europe. “Our findings support multiple dispersals of early modern humans out of Africa,” say the researchers, and highlight just how complex the human story is.
Tuesday, 9 July 2019
Archaeologists have known for a century that the distinctive ceramic pots and other artefacts that suddenly appeared in the 12th century B.C.E. Philistine cities resemble artefacts from the Mycenaean empire of Greece, the ancient power that, according to myth, battled Troy. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict a sea battle with people from the north whom 19th century scholars called the "Sea Peoples."
The DNA data suggest a kernel of truth to Greek and Middle Eastern legends that describe survivors who moved south after the catastrophic collapse of great Bronze Age civilisations of the Mediterranean in the late 13th and early 12th centuries B.C.E.
The Levantine Philistines examined had inherited 25% to 70% of their DNA from southern European ancestors, and the closest matches were to ancient people from the Aegean, Sardinia, and Iberia. The remaining DNA was from local people, suggesting their European ancestors had quickly interbred with their new neighbours.
Friday, 5 July 2019
The mathematics hidden in materials keeps getting more exotic. Topological states of matter — which derive exotic properties from their electrons’ ‘knotty’ quantum states — have shot from rare curiosity to one of the hottest fields in physics. Now, theorists are finding that topology is ubiquitous, and recognising it as one of the most significant ways in which solid matter can behave.
Sunday, 30 June 2019
NASA will send a dual-quadcopter drone to hop across the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Named Dragonfly, the mission will launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034. Dragonfly will study the atmosphere as it flies around, and touch down for extended stays on the moon's surface. The drone will explore areas where methane- and ethane-rich lakes recently dried up — and in the process, might have left behind residue rich with organic compounds like those that may have existed on early Earth before life arose.
Friday, 28 June 2019
At half the weight of a paper clip, 'RoboBee X-wing' has achieved untethered flight using ultra-lightweight solar cells, powering piezoelectric actuators, via a stripped down circuit board. This technology is in its infancy, but could pave the way for a new generation of miniature drones.
Tuesday, 25 June 2019
NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured the highest level of methane gas ever found in the atmosphere at Mars’s surface. The reading taken last week at Gale Crater — 21 parts per billion — is three times greater than the previous record, which Curiosity detected back in 2013. Various spacecraft and telescopes have spotted methane on Mars over the past 16 years, but the gas doesn’t appear in any predictable pattern — deepening the mystery of its origin.
Saturday, 8 June 2019
Tissue mosaics arise as cells accumulate mutations — from DNA errors that creep in during cell division, or because of exposure to environmental factors. When a skin cell with a given mutation divides, it can create a patch of skin that is genetically different from its neighbours.
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Researchers built an artificial atom out of a superconducting circuit to explore the quantum behaviour and were able to predict when the leap was about to take place. They could even interfere to reverse the jumps and stop them happening, which might come in handy for correcting errors in quantum computing.
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Chimpanzees in Gabon were seen smashing tortoises' shells and sharing the meat with each other. One male chimp was seen stashing tortoise meat into a shell, storing it in a tree, and retrieving it the following day.
Capuchin monkeys crack open clam shells. Storing food for later retrieval is extremely common across animal species.
Friday, 24 May 2019
Minute fossils pulled from remote Arctic Canada could push back the first known appearance of fungi to about one billion years ago — more than 500 million years earlier than scientists had expected. These ur-fungi are microscopic and surprisingly intricate, with filament-like structures. Chemical analyses suggest that the fossils contain chitin, a compound found in fungal cell walls.
Thursday, 16 May 2019
These newly discovered archaea have genes that are considered hallmarks of eukaryotes. And deep analysis of the organisms’ DNA suggests that modern eukaryotes belong to the same archaeal group. If that’s the case, essentially all complex life — everything from green algae to blue whales — originally came from archaea.
Friday, 3 May 2019
Scientists have uncovered the most complete remains yet from the ancient-hominin group known as the Denisovans. The jawbone, discovered high on the Tibetan Plateau and dated to more than 160,000 years ago, is also the first Denisovan specimen found outside the Siberian cave in which the hominin was uncovered a decade ago — confirming suspicions that Denisovans were more widespread than the fossil record currently suggests.
Tuesday, 30 April 2019
Gravitational waves may have just delivered the first sighting of a black hole devouring a neutron star. If confirmed, it would be the first evidence of the existence of such binary systems. The news comes just a day after astronomers had detected gravitational waves from a merger of two neutron stars for only the second time.
|simulation of a black hole consuming a neutron star|
Wednesday, 24 April 2019
The enormous predator, named Simbakubwa kutokaafrika — “big lion from Africa” in Swahili — roamed what is now Kenya around 22 million years ago and was probably larger than a polar bear. However, Simbakubwa was not a cat, but one of a group of animals called hyaenodonts that includes some of the biggest predatory mammals ever to walk on Earth. Hyaenodonts were the top carnivores before hyaenas, cats, dogs and bears staged their global takeover.
Friday, 12 April 2019
The human family tree has grown another branch, after researchers unearthed remains of a previously unknown hominin species from a cave in the Philippines. They have named the new species, which was probably small-bodied, Homo luzonensis.
The shape of the H. luzonensis foot bones most resembles those of Australopithecus — primitive hominins, including the famous fossil Lucy, thought not to have ever left Africa.
Thursday, 11 April 2019
Astronomers have finally glimpsed the blackness of a black hole. By stringing together a global network of radio telescopes, they have for the first time produced a picture of an event horizon — a black hole’s perilous edge — against a backdrop of swirling light.
Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Friday, 29 March 2019
The new frogs are part of an informal group called microfrogs, which belong to the family Cophylinae. Their discovery brings the total number of Malagasy microfrogs to 108; on average, 10 new species are identified and described per year in the country.
Saturday, 23 March 2019
An experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, has seen a new difference in the way matter and antimatter behave — in decays of particles called D mesons.
Sunday, 17 March 2019
Thursday, 14 March 2019
Fossilised jawbones found in rocks along Victoria's Gippsland coast have been identified as belonging to a new species of plant-eating dinosaur the size of a wallaby that would have roamed the land between Australia and Antarctica.
Saturday, 16 February 2019
Monday, 31 December 2018
Thursday, 6 December 2018
These clocks are so accurate they'd lose just half a second if they lasted the age of the universe. The clocks' exquisite precision, outlined in Nature today, means they can measure how space-time distorts under gravity forces. Eventually, astrophysicists could enlist their help to detect mysterious dark matter.
Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Some 9 billion years ago, a pair of black holes — around 51 and 34 times the mass of the Sun — merged in a colossal collision. They formed a new black hole around 80 times the mass of the Sun, and the ensuing blast in their final seconds sent gravitational waves coursing through space-time. Travelling at the speed of light, those infinitesimally tiny ripples washed through Earth on July 29 last year.
Sunday, 25 November 2018
Astronomers have named the breathtaking pinwheel Apep, after the Egyptian god of chaos and destruction. At its centre are two massive, fast-spinning "Wolf-Rayet stars" which appear to be on the point of exploding. Stars like these are thought to be a source of long gamma ray bursts — a violent blast of radiation never before seen in our galaxy.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
Barnard's star is the closest single-star system to us. Astronomers have detected signs of a frozen alien world 3.2 times the mass of Earth. If it is confirmed, it will be the second-closest exoplanet to Earth.
Friday, 16 November 2018
Goffin's cockatoos were trained to cut cardboard strips to use as tools. Tools were cut to the right length to reach food. Only the female cockatoo could adjust the tool width.
Wednesday, 14 November 2018
A number of caves in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan contain thousands rock art images of animals, hand stencils and symbols. Sophisticated dating of the paintings shows the earliest paintings were created at least 40,000-52,000 years ago. Paintings shifted from animals to humans at the peak of the Ice Age between 20,000-21,000 years ago.
Wednesday, 7 November 2018
Palæobiologists analysed fossilised eggshells for traces of pigments and found eggs laid by dinosaurs closely related to birds were coloured, while more distantly related dinosaurs were plain, which suggests that modern birds inherited their eggshell hues from dinosaurs, rather than evolving them independently.
Wednesday, 3 October 2018
A round frozen dwarf planet just 300 kilometres across, nicknamed the Goblin, has been discovered well beyond Pluto, further redefining our solar system. This is the third dwarf planet recently found to be orbiting on the frigid fringes of our solar system.
Goblin's orbit is extremely elongated — so stretched out, in fact, that it takes 40,000 years for it to circle the sun. At its most distant, the Goblin is 2,300 times further from the sun than Earth. That's 2,300 astronomical units (AU). One AU is the distance from Earth to the sun, or roughly 150 million kilometres. At its closest, the Goblin is 65 times farther from the sun than Earth, or 65 AU. Pluto, by comparison, is approximately between 30 and 50 AU.
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
The true identity of one of evolution's greatest mysteries has finally been revealed by ancient fat molecules extracted from 558 million-year-old fossils discovered in Russia. The creatures preserved in the fossils, known as Dickinsonia, are among the earliest known animals in the geological record, settling a 75-year-old debate about the nature of these organisms.
Wednesday, 19 September 2018
A tiny stone flake covered in a red ochre cross-hatch design has been unearthed in South Africa in a famous cave where paints, paint tool boxes, spears and beads have previously been found. The discovery indicates early modern humans were capable of symbolic behaviour between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago.
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
A tiny bone fragment found in a Siberian Cave belongs to the first-known hybrid child born of different ancient humans. A DNA analysis shows the young girl's mother was Neanderthal and her father was Denisovan. While it's been known for a long time the two groups intermingled from traces of their DNA in modern humans, this is the first direct evidence of their dalliances.
Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Wednesday, 8 August 2018
- Groups of pygmy people live near a site where fossils of a short-statured species of hominin called Homo floresiensis were found
- Whether present-day inhabitants are descendants of Homo floresiensis was up for debate
- New DNA analysis shows no ancestral link between current population and Homo floresiensis
- Short stature evolved twice in two separate lineages of hominins on Flores
Given that the Homo floresiensis fossils are physically consistent with Australopithecines and physically inconsistent with both Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, this is not a surprising finding.
Wednesday, 1 August 2018
A giant lake of liquid water seems to be buried beneath the ice near the Red Planet's south pole. Using ground-penetrating radar on an orbiting spacecraft, an Italian team picked up signs of a 20-kilometre-wide body of liquid water, hidden 1.5 kilometres under the ice cap.
Thursday, 19 July 2018
For the first time, astrophysicists have traced a single neutrino from beyond our galaxy all the way back to its source: an active supermassive black hole called a blazar, some 4 billion light-years away.
Wednesday, 11 July 2018
The discovery of a new dinosaur species suggests gigantism in sauropods evolved about 30 million years earlier than previously thought. The newly uncovered bones, belonging to a plant-eater dubbed Ingentia prima, also suggest that there were a couple of different ways these giant dinosaurs evolved.
Thursday, 28 June 2018
Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Friday, 22 June 2018
Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
The latest data shows huge swings in the level of methane in the atmosphere as the seasons change, and new types of organic molecules capable of preserving life just beneath its surface.
Friday, 8 June 2018
NASA’s veteran Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter buried and preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on Mars more than 3 billion years ago.
The discovery is the most compelling evidence yet that long before the planet became the parched world it is today, Martian lakes were a rich soup of carbon-based compounds that are necessary for life, at least as we know it.