The Latest Pics from NASA: Nobody Has Ever Seen Such Detailed Images of Pluto

Krystian Science SpaceWe are witnessing history, people! NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto it snapped during its flyby in July. According to NASA, these are the best close-up images of Pluto we may see for decades.

The Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

The photo above is the highest-resolution image showing huge blocks of Pluto’s icy crust slammed together in the al-Idrisi mountains. The series of detailed images features a sequence taken near New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto. These photos capture the beauty and diversity of Pluto’s terrain.

“The mountains bordering Sputnik Planum are absolutely stunning at this resolution,” said New Horizons science team member John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute. “The new details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce our earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations.”

With resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel, NASA was able to capture features less than half a city block wide on the surface. The sequence – which forms a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide on a world 3 billion miles away – shows Pluto’s massive craters, mountains, ice fields and glaciers.

The New Horizons spacecraft transmits recorded data from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14th every week. Mission scientists expect to receive more amazing images of Pluto over the next few days.

Aren’t you excited to see what they find?


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PHOTO: World’s First BABY Giant Squid Caught in Japan

KS_LOGOs2_UnderwaterResearchers have captured three different giant squid babies off the coasts of western and south-western Japan. This is the first time this has EVER happened in the whole world! 🐙 I’m absolutely terrified of giant squid (thanks to this exhibit at the AMNH), but I’m also obsessed with these fascinating creatures of the deep.

MORIHIKO YAMADA/MUSEUM OF NATURE AND HUMAN ACTIVITIES
A baby giant squid caught off the coast of Kagoshima prefecture in southwestern Japan. MORIHIKO YAMADA/MUSEUM OF NATURE AND HUMAN ACTIVITIES

According to National Geographic, giant squid are thought to reach sizes up to 60 feet (18 meters), but because they live at such great ocean depths adults have never been studied in the wild – let alone babies.

The Museum of Nature and Human Activities in Hyogo prefecture said researchers caught three individuals of small, young giant squid (Architeuthis due) in or near Japanese coastal waters from April–June 2013. The discovery was published last week in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.

The first baby giant squid was recorded on the coast off Kyushu Island, southern Japan. The remaining two were caught dead in fishing nets off the coast of Shimane, south-western Japan. Giant squid are the world’s largest invertebrates but each baby weighed in at under a pound and ranged from 5-13 inches in length.

I guess they aren’t so scary when they are just one foot long! Needless to say the scientific community is excited by this discovery. Researcher Toshifumi Wada told The Wall Street Journal, “This is the first time in the world that such young giant squid were found, and it has helped us understand what they are like this early in their life stage.”

PHOTO: World’s First BABY Giant Squid Caught in Japan

Hog-Nosed Shrew Rat Seems Like A Harsh Name For This Newly Discovered Mammal

KS Nature

Scientists in Indonesia just discovered a new mammal and they named it the hog-nosed shrew rat. Seems a little harsh, right? But I guess that’s to be expected when you find a rat with a little piggy face. 🐀🐷

Hog-Nose Rat
This new species of rat is called Hyorhinomys stuempkei, or the hog-nosed rat. Credit: Museum Victoria

According to the BBC, the unusual creature was discovered on Sulawesi island by researchers from Australia, Indonesia and the United States. While the hog-nosed rat (Hyorhinomys stuempkei) shares many traits with other rats in the area, there are a few features that are unique to the species. It has huge ears for an animal its size, a long hog-like nose with forward-facing nostrils, and flat nails.

It also has ‘very long urogenital hairs.’ That means it has long pubic hair – a lot of it. I don’t know what you want to do with that information, but its written right there in the report.

Morphologically, the hog-nosed rat is most similar to a group of endemic Sulawesi rats known commonly as “shrew rats.” These are long faced, carnivorous murines, and include the genera Echiothrix, Melasmothrix, Paucidentomys, Sommeromys, and Tateomys.

Discovery of this new genus and species brings known shrew rat diversity on Sulawesi to 6 genera and 8 species. Researchers believe the physical diversity among these animals is ‘remarkable’ considering the small number of species currently known. The findings were published in this month’s Journal of Mammalogy.

Hog-Nosed Shrew Rat Seems Like A Harsh Name For This Newly Discovered Mammal

Scientists Use 5,000 Slices of a Dead Woman’s Body to Create Detailed Digital Model

KS HealthA 59 year-old obese Maryland woman died over 20 years ago, but details of her anatomy will live on in the digital world. Scientists with The Visible Human Project (creepiest name ever) sliced her cadaver over 5,000 times in order to create a super detailed digital image of the human body.

Image: Visible Human Project
Image: Visible Human Project

High-resolution images showing cross-sections of the body – at just a third of a millimeter thick – were stitched together to create a digital version of the woman, referred to as the ‘human phantom.’

The Visible Human Project was created by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in 1986. Their goal is to provide digital subjects for medical education, but they also hope to provide a new way for researchers to conduct experiments deemed too dangerous to perform on living humans.

“They have ten times as much information as you’d get from an MRI scan,” Dr Fernando Bello, from Imperial College London, told New Scientist. “It means the team will have much more information about organs and their structuring.”

The unnamed woman was not the first to undergo this procedure. The project also digitally pieced together a man in the 1990’s, but the woman’s recreation is much more detailed due to the fact she was sliced thinner (yikes). The male cadaver was sectioned at 1 millimeter intervals; the woman at intervals of just a third of a millimeter.

Click here to learn more about the Visible Human Project. And watch the crazy video below showing 1,800 cross-section images of the male cadaver!

Scientists Use 5,000 Slices of a Dead Woman’s Body to Create Detailed Digital Model

9,000 Year-Old Skull and Severed Hands Might Be Oldest Case of Decapitation in the New World

KS_LOGOs2_HumanScientists made a very creepy discovery in a cave in Brazil – a 9,000 year-old decapitated skull covered by two severed hands. Researchers have concluded that the skull and hands found below represent the oldest case of decapitation in the New World. 💀

CREDIT: LEEH USP AND GIL TOKYO
CREDIT: LEEH USP AND GIL TOKYO

The remains, known as Burial 26, were found in the rock shelter of Lapa do Santo, an archaeological site that has yielded 26 human burials. The grave, which was excavated in 2007, consists of a circular pit covered in limestone slabs. Under one of these slabs is where the skull and amputated hands were found.

AndrÊ Strauss from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and his colleagues wrote that using cranial morphology and tooth wear they have decided the individual was most likely a young adult male. According to the study, decapitation was likely common in the New World, but this case raises questions about how the morbid practice began in the Americas.

“Few Amerindian habits impressed the European colonizers more than the taking and displaying of human body parts, especially when decapitation was involved,” said Strauss.

The skull was buried about 22 inches below the surface suggesting it was a deliberate ritual entombment, not the result of an enemy trophy. The placement of the hands in opposite directions on the skull leads researchers to believe it was a ritualized decapitation. See more photos here!

“The careful arrangement of the hands over the face is compatible with an important public display component in the ritual that could have worked to enhance social cohesion within the community,” Strauss said.

Scientists hope to analyze the DNA of the remains in the near future to learn more about who they belonged to. The findings were published online Sept. 23 in the journal PLOS ONE.

9,000 Year-Old Skull and Severed Hands Might Be Oldest Case of Decapitation in the New World

Every Day You are Surrounded by Your Own Distinct Cloud of Microbes

KS HealthHuman beings are not sterile organisms – we are made up of millions of living microbes. In fact, we shed up to a million particles an hour! That means over the course of a day you will ditch roughly 24 million biological particles (bacteria, viruses, spores and more) into the air around you, forming what scientists are calling a ‘microbe cloud.’ It looks like everyone has a little more in common with Pig-Pen from Peanuts than we thought. 😷

Pig Pen Peanuts Dirt Cloud

Adam Altrichter, a microbial ecologist at the University of Oregon, and his colleagues asked 11 individuals to spend varying amounts of time in a sanitized sample chamber. Then they sampled the surfaces and the air for microbes.

Researchers discovered that most people could be clearly detected by their airborne bacterial emissions alone, as well as settled particles found on surfaces. Bacterial clouds from the sample groups were statistically distinct! The results show for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud. We each give off a slightly different cocktail of bacteria.

“Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one,” the authors wrote, “and reveal for the first time that individuals occupying a space can emit their own distinct personal microbial cloud.”

Our unique ‘microbe clouds’ could have an impact on epidemiology, environmental engineering, or criminal forensics. The findings were published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ.

Every Day You are Surrounded by Your Own Distinct Cloud of Microbes

Incredible New Pluto Pic Highlights ‘Arctic’ Peaks and Valleys in Backlit Panorama

Krystian Science SpaceScientists were stunned after viewing the latest images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. Not only is the surface of Pluto covered in large icy mountains, low-lying hazes, and streams of frozen nitrogen – it also looks eerily like the arctic.

The photo below was taken just 15 minutes after New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. The spacecraft looked back toward the sun and caught this backlit panorama of Pluto’s rugged mountains and flat icy plains. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s atmosphere. Trippy! 🌒

Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This new view offers a unique look at Pluto’s varied terrains and atmosphere. It was taken by New Horizons’ wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14 and downlinked to Earth on Sept. 13. Below is a close up of Pluto’s majestic icy mountains and flat glassy plains. It was taken at a distance of 11,000 miles.

Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

“This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “But this image is also a scientific bonanza, revealing new details about Pluto’s atmosphere, mountains, glaciers and plains.”

Near-Surface Haze or Fog on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Near-Surface Haze or Fog on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Let me quickly break down the geography of Pluto’s ‘heart.’ Sputnik Planum is the name of the smooth region on the left of the heart. The white upland region on the right may be coated in nitrogen ice that evaporated from the surface of Sputnik. The box shows the location of the glacier detail image below.

Pluto’s ‘Heart’. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Pluto’s ‘Heart’. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Valley glaciers on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Valley glaciers on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
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Pile of Bones in South African Cave Reveal Mysterious New Human Species

KS_LOGOs2_HumanScientists in South Africa have discovered a new species of human, Homo naledi. Its physical attributes are bizarre, its age is unknown, and its burial circumstances are baffling.

Pieces of a skeleton of Homo naledi, a newly discovered human species. Credit John Hawks/University of Wisconsin-Madison, via European Pressphoto Agency
Pieces of a skeleton of Homo naledi, a newly discovered human species. Credit John Hawks/University of Wisconsin-Madison, via European Pressphoto AgencyaqACFV

The bones were collected from a chamber 100 feet below ground within the Rising Star cave system in South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind region, which is known for its human fossils. Some 1,550 specimens of bones and teeth were recovered, belonging to at least 15 different skeletons, but that only represents a fraction of the material at the site. The name H. naledi refers to the cave where the bones were found; “naledi” means “star” in the local Sesotho language.

The research paper published in the journal eLife on September 10th explains that modern humans, or Homo sapiens, are now the only living species in their genus. But as recently as 20,000 years ago there were other species that belonged to the genus Homo. Together with modern humans, these extinct human species, our immediate ancestors and their close relatives are collectively referred to as ‘hominins’.

H. naledi stood at about 5 feet tall, with a small brain, clever hands, and an ape-like torso that was built for walking upright as well as climbing. This unique blend of traits is what expedition leader Dr. Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand feels classifies it a new species of human.

Scientists don’t quite know where to place H. naledi on the human family tree. So far, researchers haven’t been able to determine the age of the bones. They could be several million years old or tens of thousands of years old. Also curious is whether or not this primitive creature decided to bury their dead together intentionally.

Click here for an in-depth piece by National Geographic delving into the discovery of H. naledi and how this new species changes the human story.

 

Pile of Bones in South African Cave Reveal Mysterious New Human Species

Nerd Nite San Francisco is the Best $8 You Will Spend All Month: 7 Questions for Co-Founder Bart Bernhardt

KS_LOGOs2_PopCultureNerd Nite SF is proof nerds know how to party. On the third Wednesday of every month nerds of all shapes and sizes gather together to listen to a few lectures and drink a bunch of booze. The crowd that gathers at the Rickshaw Stop on Fell St. in San Francisco is incredibly diverse and yet equally excited to throw back a few brews and learn a thing or two in the process.

Heavy red curtains line the walls and the faint hint of smoke from toasting grilled cheese sandwiches floats in the air. They sell Nerd Nite SF shirts (I have two) next to a booth dedicated to the San Francisco Public Library. My favorite part? Not only does Rickshaw have a full bar, they also have a cocktail of the night themed after one of the presentations. This last Nerd Nite featured a wonderful talk about absinthe, so the cocktail was “The Root of all Evil” – absinthe + root beer. 🍻

Nerd Nite began in Boston in 2003 and has since spread to 90 cities all over the globe. The city of San Francisco has Lucy Laird and Bart Bernhardt to thank for bringing the brainy shenanigans to the Bay Area. Not only is Bart co-founder of Nerd Nite SF, he is also the enthusiastic and hilarious host of the night! I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with him about Nerd Nite SF’s beginnings, his favorite talks over the years, and how you can bring Nerd Nite to your city.

Nerd Nite May 20
Bart Bernhardt – co-founder and host of Nerd Nite SF (Credit: Krystian Science)

1) What is your role with Nerd Nite SF and how did you initially get involved?

We’re the co-organizers of NNSF, so we book & coach speakers, manage the venue  & A/V, organize field trips, and all that jazz.

Several years ago, Chris Balakrishnan (the founder of Nerd Nite) and Matt Wasowski (head of the Nerd Nite network and NN NYC) went on a national tour and, like nerdy Johnny Appleseeds, wherever they went, little Nerd Nites sprung up in their wake!

In SF, they did their thing at Langton Labs, a really awesome artist/scientist/community living space, and god knows how many people were crammed into this sign-factory-turned-underground-community-center to hear lectures on ornithology, archaeology, and neurobiology. But there was also tons of drinking and laughing and zombies and heckling and me thinking why isn’t this a thing here? I love science and had been to many lecture events and science cafes, and none were as authentic, entertaining, and engaging as this.

I eventually connected with Matt about running a proper Nerd Nite. He introduced me to Lucy, and together we kicked off this little shindig. That was 5? 6? years ago? Something like that.

2) What makes someone a ‘nerd’, and why do you think San Francisco is such a great Nerd Nite city?

Many pixels have been shed over what’s a “nerd”, but I don’t really think too much about it. We’re very inclusive – if you love to learn and self-identify as a nerd for any reason whatsoever, or are even just “nerd-curious”, that’s good enough for us.

The short answer to why Nerd Nite thrives here is because it’s a city filled with young curious people who like to drink! Many are transplants and are looking to find their tribe, and it’s a good way to meet people (in fact, two folks who met at NNSF just got married!). There’s a much longer answer in the curious and wonderful evolution of the Bay Area over the past ~160 years that makes it a uniquely nerdy place.

3) What do you do when you’re not planning for the third Wednesday of the month?

I am involved in innumerable projects and consulting gigs, mostly advertising and data-related. Lucy is the operations director for the SF Silent Film Festival and consultant on all things film exhibition-related.

4) Nerd Nite blends science, comedy, research, and performance… yet it’s accessible and lets be honest, a little boozy. How does Nerd Nite walk the line between informative and fun?

It’s surprisingly easy. We tell speaker candidates that, you know, we’re in a bar and we give you lots of free beer. We want you to have a ton of fun and make jokes and you can even swear if you like, but you also need to be deeply educational. And most people just get that and run with it, especially if they’ve been to a Nerd Nite before. It’s pretty rare that we have to step in and say “You should increase/decrease the depth of this talk” or “crank up the fun”. It happens, but not often. It turns out nerds are often very enthusiastic about their expertise and also like to have fun.

5) You schedule such a wide variety of speakers – what are your guidelines for picking a specific talk?

The benefit of running your own lecture series is that you get to book whatever sounds interesting to you! So that’s a pretty big bias.

Beyond that, we really do try to curate a wide range of topics, presentation styles, genders, depth, and whatnot. I particularly like finding “surprising complexity” presentations – these are talks that take something you think you understand as being simple, if you even think about it at all, but under the tutelage of an expert a fascinating complicated world is revealed. Similarly, I love talks that take a fairly known topic, but approach it from an unexpected angle. I love that stuff.

6) You have seen a lot of interesting talks and colorful characters – what are a few of your favorites?

Oh, wow. So many, and for so many different reasons. From kicking it with an actual #&$@%!ing Apollo 9 astronaut, to science raps that brought down the house, to heavy metal riffs on a homemade lute, to the most endearing ode to the Martian magnetosphere, we have a huge range of favorites. Of the more recent ones, I can think of:

Two months ago, Brendan Rogers came on stage to talk about labor abuse in the fishing industry, and he kicks it off by saying he was a homeless teenager on the streets of SF who needed structure, and that’s why he went into the Coast Guard and worked on ships in the South Pacific, and that’s how he became aware of this issue. And I’m like, holy shit, this guy is legit. I really appreciated that.

Michelle Trautwein from the California Academy of Sciences was talking about face mites, and the sampling methodology they used in a study. And there’s a moment where she’s cracking up, and the audience is laughing, and we’re talking about methodology and I couldn’t be happier. She later said that was the most fun she’s ever had doing science outreach, which is just about the nicest thing anyone could say to us.

Self-described “monsterologist” Brian Engh came on stage in hoodie and saggy pants and grabbed the mic like a rapper — because he is — and proceeded to slay the audience with the phylogenetic trees of dinosaurs and the process he went through to create a realistic representation of a newly published dinosaur fossil in partnership with the paleontologist discoverers.

7) How can someone bring Nerd Nite to their town? If there isn’t one already scheduled?

Contact an existing Nerd Nite boss! I assure you we don’t make much money on this, we do it because we love learning and being part of a joyous community. We’re happy to help you spread the nerdlove, so please reach out and we’ll walk you through what it takes.


Nerd Nite SF is the third Wednesday of every month and it costs just $8 if you get your ticked in advance online! You have a small chance of getting in at the door the night of, but Nerd Nite often sells out, so plan ahead 😎

Nerd Nite San Francisco is the Best $8 You Will Spend All Month: 7 Questions for Co-Founder Bart Bernhardt

SCIENCE VIDEO ROUNDUP: Huge Great White Shark, Booze Reaches the ISS, and a Two-Headed Sea Slug

KS_LOGOs2_TVbroadcastKSTV Weekly Science Wrap Up!


1) ‘Deep Blue’ – The Biggest Great White Shark Caught on Film

2) LA Saves Water with ‘Shade Balls’

3) Whiskey Reaches the ISS

&

4) The World’s First Two-Headed Sea Slug

SCIENCE VIDEO ROUNDUP: Huge Great White Shark, Booze Reaches the ISS, and a Two-Headed Sea Slug