At the level of tiny particles, the laws of physics are symmetrical in time. A reaction that proceeds in one direction (such as particle A transforming into particle B) is just as likely to occur in the reverse direction (particle B transforming into A).
It’s not too strange a concept: A video showing a billiard ball’s initial bounce off a pool table’s cushion would look the same whether it was running backward or forward in time. The physics works just as well, and identically, either way.
Yet experiments since the 1960s have suggested there should be exceptions to this rule — special cases of so-called “time-reversal violation.” The first conclusive evidence of such a violation was finally discovered late last year by collaborators on an experiment named BaBar at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Read more
Minute fossil sea creatures recovered from sediments containing ancient DNA. Image: Lejzerowicz et al./Biology Letters
In the middle of the South Atlantic, there’s a patch of sea almost devoid of life. There are no birds, few fish, not even much plankton. But researchers report that they’ve found buried treasure under the empty waters: ancient DNA hidden in the muck of the sea floor, which lies 5000 meters below the waves.
The DNA, from tiny, one-celled sea creatures that lived up to 32,500 years ago, is the first to be recovered from the abyssal plains, the deep-sea bottoms that cover huge stretches of Earth. In a separate finding published this week, another research team reports teasing out plankton DNA that’s up to 11,400 years old from the floor of the much shallower Black Sea. The researchers say that the ability to retrieve such old DNA from such large stretches of the planet’s surface could help reveal everything from ancient climate to the evolutionary ecology of the seas. Read more
A huge mosaic with geometric patterns dating back to the Byzantine Period would have been used as the floor of a public building in what is today Kibbutz Bet Qama, in the B’nei Shimon region council in Israel.
YAEL YOLOVITCH, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY
Archaeologists have uncovered an “extraordinary” mosaic that would’ve been used as the floor of a public building during the Byzantine Period in what is today Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.
The colorful mosaic and public building, whose ceiling was covered in roof tiles, were uncovered in Kibbutz Bet Qama, in the B’nei Shimon regional council, prior to the construction of a road between Ma’ahaz and Devira Junction. Read more
We may be in the early stages of a disaster so profound that it could kick off a mass extinction. Does that mean humanity is doomed? No. Scientific evidence suggests that humans will survive. Read more
Scientists at Harvard University think they have found a way to possibly reverse the aging process in human organs.
Dr. Richard Lee, director of regenerative medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Amy Wagers, of the Department of Regenerative Biology at Harvard, made the discovery when they were working with younger and older mice.
They took an older mouse with the most common form of human heart failure and merged the mouse’s blood stream with that of a healthy young mouse using a Siamese twin technique known as parabiosis. They found that the older mouse’s diseased heart was able to reverse to a younger healthier condition. Read more
This is an artist’s reconstruction of an extinct marsupial lion — Thylacoleo carnifex. Artwork: Peter Schouten
Most species of gigantic animals that once roamed Australia had disappeared by the time people arrived, a major review of the available evidence has concluded.The research challenges the claim that humans were primarily responsible for the demise of the megafauna in a proposed “extinction window” between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago, and points the finger instead at climate change.
Mount Toba on the Indonesian island of Sumatra
A supervolcanic eruption thought to have nearly driven humanity extinct may not have endangered the species after all, a new investigation suggests.
Supervolcanoes are capable of eruptions dwarfing anything ever seen in recorded history, expelling thousands of times more magma and ash than even a Mount St. Helens or Pinatubo. A supervolcanic eruption could wreak as much havoc as the impact of a mile-wide asteroid,by blotting out the sun with ash, reflecting its rays and cooling the Earth — a phenomenon called a “volcanic winter.” A dozen or so supervolcanoes exist today, some of them lying at the bottom of the sea. Read more
Image: UCLA Neurology
If you were a rat living in a completely virtual world like in the movie The Matrix, could you tell? Maybe not, but scientists studying your brain might be able to. Today, researchers report that certain cells in rat brains work differently when the animals are in virtual reality than when they are in the real world. Read more
Specifically the orangutans were using sticks to pry open pulpy fruits that have “Plexiglas needles” capable of delivering a painful jab covering them. Using the tools, the orangutans were getting past handling the prickly husk and into the nutritious fruit. From an anthropological viewpoint, tool use represents an aspect of culture, since the entire group participates in a behavior that has developed over time. One unique thing to clarify is that only Sumatran orangutans have been observed to use tools, not orangutans from Borneo. Read more