Science: Galapagos tortoises use their self-destructing cells to avoid cancer

Galapagos giant tortoises are long-lived in part because their cells are surprisingly sensitive to certain forms of stress. As well as informing research into human medicine, the finding reveals how animals have evolved different ways to resist cancer and ageing.

There’s lots of different ways to get to a large body and a long, healthy lifespan,” says Vincent Lynch at the University at Buffalo, New York.

We would expect large animals to be more susceptible to cancer because they have a greater number of cells, each of …

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Mars: First true indication of Alien life? – Alien burp may have been detected by NASA’s Curiosity rover

[Methane could be a sign of life. It may be a sign of biological activity underground. This happens on Earth too. Jan]

A group of scientists may have just pinpointed the location on Mars of a mysterious source of methane, a gas most often produced by microbes — and NASA’s Curiosity rover could be right on top of it.

Methane blips have pinged on Curiosity’s detection systems six times since the rover landed in Mars’ Gale crater in 2012, but scientists weren’t able to find a source for them. Now, with a new analysis, researchers may have traced the methane burps to their origin.

To calculate the unknown methane source, researchers at the California Institute of Technology modeled the methane gas particles by splitting them into discrete packets. Taking into account the wind speed and direction at the time of their detection, the team traced their parcels of methane back through time to their possible points of emission. By doing this for all of the different detection spikes, they were able to triangulate regions where the methane source is most likely located — with one being just a few dozen miles away from the rover.

"[The findings] point to an active emission region to the west and the southwest of the Curiosity rover on the northwestern crater floor," the researchers wrote in their paper. "This may invoke a coincidence that we selected a landing site for Curiosity that is located next to an active methane emission site."

This prospect is thrilling for scientists, as almost all of the methane in Earth’s atmosphere has biological origins, according to the researchers, so that a signature on Mars could be a key signpost for finding life on the ostensibly desolate planet.

Even if the methane is being produced by non-biological processes, it could point to geological activity closely tied to the presence of liquid water — a vital ingredient for past or present life to thrive.

Curiosity detected the methane blips through an instrument called the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, which is capable of detecting trace quantities of the gas at less than one-half part per billion (ppb), or about the quantity of a pinch of salt dropped into an Olympic-size swimming pool. The methane spikes that led the team to the potential source were registered at roughly 10 ppb.

Previous attempts to cross-check Curiosity’s methane spikes with atmospheric methane levels detected by the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) have failed. This could either mean that there is methane in the Martian atmosphere and the TGO somehow isn’t picking it up, or there isn’t any atmospheric methane on Mars and Curiosity is parked right on top of a local source.

It’s possible that the methane could be leaking out from somewhere underneath Mars’ surface.

"It’s a bit of a haystack," John Moores a professor of planetary science at York University in Toronto, Canada, told New Scientist. "It could be covered by dust and be almost impossible to find."

Though we still don’t know whether the methane comes from tiny life-forms, the detectable life span of gas is only 330 years, after this it is completely destroyed by exposure to sunlight. That means whatever produced the methane could be still producing it today. Scientists’ next job will be to find out what that something is.

The researchers published their findings June 3 on the preprint server Research Square, so their study has yet to be peer-reviewed.


Photo: Famous Boy ‘Who Came Back from Heaven’ Admits It Was All Just a Lie – My Comments

[So here you get it out of the mouth of someone who lied. He wanted the attention. I'm gad he told the truth in the end. Jan]

The Ohio boy who became famous for claiming he visited heaven while trapped in a coma eventually admitted that the entire story was a lie.

When Alex Malarkey was six-years-old, he was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed, reports the Washington Post. Upon awakening from his deep sleep, he told his family and doctors that he reached Heaven’s gates. The boy even alleged that he came face-to-face with Satan and Jesus during his voyage, and looked down to see the wreckage of the car accident.

Obviously, his account became a best-selling book titled The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, which was written by both he and his father, Kevin.

In the book, this is what he remembers about the experience:

When I arrived in Heaven, I was inside the gate. The gate was really tall, and it was white. It was very shiny, and it looked like it had scales like a fish. I was in the inner Heaven and everything was brighter and more intense on the inside of the gate. It was perfect. Perfect is my favorite word for describing Heaven.

However, when he was 16 the quadriplegic teen came forward — writing a letter to “sellers, buyers and marketers” of the book. He made it clear that the encounters he described didn’t actually happen.

The letter revealed why he chose to lie.

I said I went to Heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

According to the Daily Mail, Alex told a pastor at church that he made everything up but was advised to keep quiet because the book was a blessing.

Alex’s mother, Beth, had known the story was a sham for quite some time. She even shared the truth on her blog.

She said, “It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned.”

The Washington Post reported that Tyndale House has officially taken the book out of print, while booksellers nationwide are expected to pull the story from their shelves.


Science: Mars was habitable for a million of years! – Lakes on Mars!

Martian surface

Gale crater on Mars may have contained a life-friendly lake for a million years


Parts of Mars may have been habitable for thousands or even a million years, based on analysis of clays found in one of its craters that could only have formed in a stable life-friendly environment.

In 2016, NASA’s Curiosity rover used its onboard drill to sample the Martian surface inside Gale Crater, which it is exploring. Studying the sample with X-rays using the rover’s onboard instruments, scientists found the presence of a particular clay mineral related to so-called glauconitic clays, which point to a period of habitability in the crater’s past.

While the site was already thought to have contained an ancient lake for up to 10 million years about 3.5 billion years ago, when the planet’s atmosphere was thicker and able to support liquid water on its surface, it was unclear if this lake would have had suitable conditions for life, such as a moderate temperature and neutral acidity.

However, the presence of mineral remnants of glauconitic clays is a promising sign. Their presence on Mars suggests that stable conditions – with temperatures around -3 to 15°C and water with a neutral pH – may have existed on Mars in Gale Crater, possibly for up to a million years.

“Glauconitic clays can be used as ‘a proxy’ for stable conditions,” says Elisabeth Losa-Adams at the University of Vigo, Spain, the study’s lead author. “The conditions under which these minerals form are friendly for the presence of life.”

While these glauconitic clays are an indicator of habitability at this time, they aren’t evidence of life itself. Finding such evidence is the goal of another NASA Mars rover – Perseverance – now exploring Jezero Crater. Curiosity’s findings in Gale Crater are a promising sign that Perseverance may strike lucky.

“The existence of glauconitic clays could provide a new understanding of the evolution of the ancient Gale Crater lake,” says Losa-Adams.


Video: A Cocky Old Physics Prof. looses a physics bet for $10,000 over impossible Wind Vehicle

[So one professor, later followed by others says that this wind powered vehicle is doing something impossible. It cannot go faster than the very wind that is blowing it. And he agrees to a bet … which he proceeds to lose! Jan]

Here’s the video:

Video: 5 Final Videos of Extinct Animals Right Before They Disappeared

Here’s the video:

The Laysan Crake was a 6-inch tall creature with reduced tail and wings that rendered it unable to fly. It used its wings to keep balance when running and jumping, and fed on invertebrates and seabirds’ eggs. The Hawaiian bird almost became extinct early in the 20th century, but a relocation to Midway Atoll slowed the natural process down. Still, the last crake was seen in 1944, around the time a US Navy landing craft drifted ashore…

The Laysan Crake’s coloration resembled that of the Baillon’s crake, with a mixture of dark grays and pale browns, a yellow bill, red eyes, and long dark legs. British BBC footage taken in 1936 shows the crake in its Hawaiian habitat.

Also known as the Laysan Rail, the small yet aggressive birds fed on invertebrates and eggs. They were highly active during mornings and afternoons, and they had no known natural predators that actively hunted them down. Also, their distinctive chirping resembled two marbles thrown on a glass roof.

According to biologists, the introduction of rabbits and guinea pigs on Laysan Island that consumed vegetation and reduced the availability of insects would have led to the birds’ extinction. But the relocation to the Midway Atoll in an attempt to save the species showed promising results.

However, the population started to decrease before the outbreak of World War II, and no further attempts were made to preserve the species.

In June of 1944, a US Navy landing craft drifted ashore carrying black rats that ate the remaining birds. Since then, no Laysan Crake has ever been spotted…

Dinosaurs thrived in the Arctic all year round: Dinosaurs lived in the Arctic around 70 million years ago

[This is pretty cool. It turns out the Arctic was warmer by ten degrees back then. Jan]

We have been discovering dinosaur fossils in the Arctic for 70 years. However, most palaeontologists assumed that these came from dinosaurs that ventured north during summers and migrated south to avoid the harsh winters. Now, the discovery of infant dinosaur fossils suggests that some species might have thrived year-round in the frigid tundra.

“We knew dinosaurs had been there, but we didn’t know if they could deal with the cold or even the darkness of winter,” says Patrick Druckenmiller at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Although migration has long been assumed as the answer to this question, it has its problems. “In order to migrate from our field site [to below the Arctic circle], you’re looking at a minimum 3000-kilometre round trip on foot,” says Druckenmiller.

He and his colleagues found an assemblage of hundreds of bones and teeth of between 1 and 2 millimetres long at a site in the Prince Creek Formation in northern Alaska. This included the remains of seven species of dinosaur that had either died within the egg or soon after hatching, suggesting that the dinosaurs weren’t visitors but year-round residents able to weather the dark night of the Arctic winter. The species were from eight families, including Ornithopoda, Hadrosauridae, Tyrannosauridae and Deinonychosauria.

Read more: 75-million-year-old eggshells suggest most dinosaurs were warm-blooded

“There’s good evidence that these dinosaurs had incubation periods of over five months,” says Druckenmiller. He argues that if they laid their eggs in spring when most vegetation appears, their eggs would hatch with winter on the horizon. Migration at that time is something a newborn is unlikely to survive.

The Prince Creek fossil site is the furthest north that dinosaurs have been confirmed to have lived. Accessing the site today involves landing a small aeroplane on a gravel bar along the creek and then assembling rafts to float through a series of sheer cliffs held together by permafrost.

It is a frozen tundra now, but the climate was very different 70 million years ago. Petrified logs at the site suggest the area was at least partially forested then. “It’s all the more amazing that, thanks to plate tectonics, Alaska was actually 10 degrees farther north than it is today,” says Druckenmiller.

Journal reference: Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.05.041