Archive for March 22, 2013

Of Mammoths and Men


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Of Mammoths and Men

Ancient hunters killed woolly mammoths for their meat. Today in Russia’s Arctic the search is on for their valuable tusks.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

After being frozen for thousands of years in a Siberian riverbed, this pristine mammoth tusk is a financial boon to the hunter who found it.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

A few years ago tusk hunters from the village of Yukagir found this ginger-haired juvenile mammoth, nicknamed Yuka, in an ice cliff. As hunters proliferate, the pace of discoveries is accelerating.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

A tusk hunter scours the coast of Bolshoy Lyakhovskiy Island. Lured by rising prices for mammoth ivory, hundreds of men cross the frozen Arctic seas each spring to search for it along eroding shorelines.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Vladimir Potapov raises the skull of a prehistoric bison from a pile of assorted bones, including mammoth tusks, outside a makeshift bathhouse near Lake Bustakh.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Tusk hunters share a meal under a mammoth’s gaze in a cabin near Lake Bustakh. Hunger sets in as rations dwindle near the end of the five-month season. By fall many men will have lost 20 pounds or more.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

The valuable tusks of the mammoth, sketched by tusk hunter Lev Nikolaevich, serve as northern Yakutiya’s economic lifeline.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Hunters unload tusks on Siberia’s northern coast, where they’ll await transport up the Yana River. A good tusk can support a family through a long winter, but some hunters return empty-handed.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

At the end of summer Yakutiyan men weigh and measure their haul on the shore of northern Siberia’s Lake Bustakh. The tusks will be sold to brokers in the village of Kazachye, where the prices the hunters will get range from $50 to $250 a pound.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Ruslan Garipov and Petr Vanin dig a mammoth skull out of the tundra on Bolshoy Lyakhovskiy Island. The skull is worth little, but the men hope it will lead them to the pair of tusks it once supported.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Perching on an outcropping, Nikolay Haritonov scans for tusks on the island’s eroded shore.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Slava Dolbaev uses a spear to dig out a corkscrewed tusk from a coastal ice cliff. Prying loose a single tusk can take hours, even days. Tusk hunters often leave colored beads or silver jewelry as offerings to local spirits.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

It took Mikhail Milyutin days to remove a specimen from the frozen ground. Of exceptional size, shape, and color, that tusk will fetch thousands of dollars.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

A mud-splattered Milyutin shoulders another tusk dug from coastal cliffs. In the cold and wet, tusk hunters can go weeks without being able to clean or dry their clothes.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Milyutin gazes at his haul on Bolshoy Lyakhovskiy Island. His hut is camouflaged against the helicopters of the Russian border guards, who last summer ousted dozens of hunters for lacking proper permits.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

The journey from permafrost to market—nearly 90 percent of Siberia’s tusks end up in China—begins by small boat.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

An ivory carver in the regional capital of Yakutsk turns a tusk into a parade of miniature mammoths. These decorative pieces will be sold in Russia, but demand in China is far greater—and growing. Prices there can exceed $800 a pound.

Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva

In China the tradition of carving ivory dates back thousands of years. Carvers in this shop in Guangdong Province can spend five years on one piece, which might sell for a million dollars. Dashing hopes, availability of legal mammoth ivory has not reduced demand for illegal elephant ivory.

Delaware, at Last

Posted in Relaxing Corner with tags , on March 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Delaware, at Last

A proposed park celebrates the Brandywine Valley and more.

Photograph by Michael Melford

Du Pont descendants still live in the 1923 Granogue mansion, one of many grand estates that have preserved a lush natural corridor along the Brandywine River in Delaware. Portions of the corridor form the backbone of a proposed park.

Photograph by Michael Melford

The Brandywine River powered American industry in the 19th century. Walker’s textile mill joins many others that dot the riverbanks. Upstream, the DuPont Company made gunpowder; other mills produced everything from paper to snuff.

Photograph by Michael Melford

Bluebells blooming along the Brandywine River mark springtime in Delaware.

Photograph by Michael Melford

A Pennsylvania field splashed with grape hyacinths was the site of heavy combat in 1777 during the Battle of Brandywine. British troops outflanked Washington’s army, clearing a path for the redcoats to march on Philadelphia and take the city.

Photograph by Michael Melford

A reenactor seeks shade during the Battle of Brandywine.

Photograph by Michael Melford

Inside the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover, Delaware, portraits of the patriot’s parents oversee side-by-side rooms. Dickinson championed colonists’ rights in the run-up to the Revolutionary War and later signed the Constitution.

Photograph by Michael Melford

As dawn breaks, a lone sycamore tree emerges from the mist at Woodlawn, the 1,100-acre heart of Delaware’s proposed national monument. Industrialist William Bancroft bought this land for a park, predicting in 1909, “It may take a hundred years to work out.”

Photograph by Michael Melford

Along a road through Woodlawn, oaks and maples shimmer with the season. Woodlawn is one of the last large undeveloped sites in an area increasingly hemmed in by the encroaching outskirts of Wilmington and Philadelphia.

Photograph by Michael Melford

Painter Andrew Wyeth kept a secret studio a few miles from this Woodlawn farmhouse, creating works of art inspired by the surrounding landscape until his death in 2009. Some of his paintings evoke similar wintry scenes.

On the Moon, NASA Probe Sees Where Sun Never Shines

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags , on March 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching


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On the Moon, NASA Probe Sees Where Sun Never Shines

By Staff | – 2 hrs 59 mins ago

Elevation color coding lights up the inside of the moon’s Shackleton crater, a permanently shadowed region.

Some parts of the moon haven’t seen the sun in millions, and even billions, of years but an unmanned NASA spacecraft is shedding light on these lunar lands of permanent darkness.

A new video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio explains just how the agency’s powerful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is collecting data on the moon’s coldest, darkest craters.

Earth’s axis is titled about 23.4 degrees from vertical, meaning sunlight reaches every surface, even the north and south poles, for at least part of the year. The moon, meanwhile, is tilted just 1.6 degrees, nearly perpendicular to the direction of the sun’s light. This means that there are some deep craters near the moon’s poles that haven’t seen the sun for over two billion years.

Artist’s rendering of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft

Scientists are interested in the moon’s permanently shadowed regions because they are thought to have the right conditions to trap volatiles like water, which would normally vaporize and escape into space, according to NASA. In fact, LRO helped confirm the presence of water ice on the moon along with other lunar probes from Japan and India. In October 2009, LRO detected the presence of frozen water when its sister craft, Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, crashed into a permanently shadowed crater near the moon’s south pole.

NASA launched the $504 million LRO mission in June 2009. The spacecraft is equipped with a suite of instruments, including a laser ranging tool, to create the most-detailed ever topographical maps of the lunar surface of its mysterious shadowed regions. The lunar probe also has tools designed to measure temperature and neutron absorption in the moon’s darkest corners.

And while the sun can’t get into the moon’s permanently shadowed regions, LRO’s Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) instrument can detect how faint light from others stars reaches some of these craters.

How to Observe the Moon (Infographic)

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on March 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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How to Observe the Moon (Infographic)

by Karl Tate
With a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, many spectacular features can be spotted on the moon.
The Earth’s satellite is a spectacular sight even with the naked eye. With a small telescope or pair of binoculars, the view is even more amazing. Dark, flat plains called maria, deep craters and bright rays of ejected material pepper the rugged surface. 

As the moon orbits Earth, it always keeps one face toward the planet. The permanently hidden part is properly called the “far” side – not the “dark” side. In fact, the part of the moon that is dark changes constantly. The part that is illuminated indicates the moon’s phase. A full cycle of phases requires 29.53 days, or a lunar month.

In 1500 there were no telescopes, but Leonardo da Vinci was able to observe that the dark part of the crescent moon still has a faint glow. He correctly surmised that this was due to reflected light from Earth.

As the moon orbits, it rocks back and forth a little, a phenomenon called libration. This allows people to see just a little bit over the edge, into the far side. About 59 percent of the entire lunar surface is visible from Earth.

Today, the moon has been thoroughly mapped by orbiting satellites and walked upon by human visitors. Nevertheless the view of the moon from Earth is still a breathtaking sight.


Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on March 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1785


by Staff
Date: 26 February 2013 Time: 04:00 PM ET
Astrophotographer Greg Diesel Walck sent in this photo of the moonrise through the woods of Currituck, NC, taken Dec. 1, 2012.
Credit: Greg Diesel Walck
The Moon, Earth’s Nearest Neighbor
The moon is Earth’s nearest cosmic neighbor, but it is more than just a big pretty light in the sky.Here are 10 cool, and sometimes surprising, facts about Earth’s nearest neighbor: the moon. 

FIRST STOP: How the Moon was Made

This artist’s conception of a planetary smashup whose debris was spotted by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope three years ago gives an impression of the carnage that would have been wrecked when a similar impact created Earth’s Moon. A team at Washington University in St. Louis has uncovered evidence of this impact that scientists have been trying to find for more than 30 years. Image released Oct. 17, 2012.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Making of the Moon
The moon was created when a rock the size of Mars slammed into Earth, shortly after the solar system began forming about 4.5 billion years ago, according to the leading theory.
The near side (left) and far side (right) of the moon, showing the outline of the three biggest impact basins. 
Credit: Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.
Locked in Orbit
Perhaps the coolest thing about the moon is that it always shows us the same face. Since both the Earth and moon are rotating and orbiting, how can this be? 

Long ago, the Earth’s gravitational effects slowed the moon’s rotation about its axis. Once the moon’s rotation slowed enough to match its orbital period (the time it takes the moon to go around Earth) the effect stabilized. Many of the moons around other planets behave similarly.

What about phases? Here’s how they work: As the moon orbits Earth, it spends part of its time between us and the Sun, and the lighted half faces away from us. This is called a new moon. (So there’s no such thing as a “dark side of the moon,” just a side that we never see.)

As the moon swings around on its orbit, a thin sliver of reflected sunlight is seen on Earth as a crescent moon. Once the Moon is opposite the Sun, it becomes fully lit from our view — a full moon.

A Moon tree stands at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. File photo undated.
Credit: NASA

Apollo Moon Trees
More than 400 trees on Earth came from the moon. Well, okay: They came from lunar orbit. Okay, the truth: In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa took a bunch of seeds with him and, while Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell were busy sauntering around on the surface, Roosa guarded his seeds. 

Later, the seeds were germinated on Earth, planted at various sites around the country, and came to be called the moon trees. Most of them are doing just fine.

Skywatcher Tim McCord of Entiat, Washington caught this amazing view of the March 19, 2011 full moon – called a supermoon because the moon was at perigee, the closest point to Earth in its orbit – using a camera-equipped telescope. 
Credit: Tim McCord
Earth’s Sister Moons
The moon is Earth’s only natural satellite. Right? Maybe not. In 1999, scientists found that a 3-mile- (5-kilometer-) wide asteroid may be caught in Earth’s gravitational grip, thereby becoming a satellite of our planet. 

Cruithne, as it is called, takes 770 years to complete a horseshoe-shaped orbit around Earth, the scientists say, and it will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least 5,000 years.

The moon’s Linne Crater is young and beautifully preserved, providing scientists with a wealth of information about how craters form and evolve.
Space Rock Punching Bag
The moon’s heavily cratered surface is the result of intense pummeling by space rocks between 4.1 billion and 3.8 billion years ago. 

The scars of this war, seen as craters, have not eroded much for two main reasons: The moon is not geologically very active, so earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain-building don’t destroy the landscape as they do on Earth; and with virtually no atmosphere there is no wind or rain, so very little surface erosion occurs.

An artist’s rendering of the lunar core as identified in new findings by a NASA-led research team. Image released Jan. 20, 2011. 
Credit: NASA/MSFC/Renee Weber
A Lunar Egghead
The moon is not round (or spherical). Instead, it’s shaped like an egg. If you go outside and look up, one of the small ends is pointing right at you. And the moon’s center of mass is not at the geometric center of the satellite; it’s about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) off-center.
Buzz Aldrin deploys a seismometer in the Sea of Tranquility.
Credit: NASA
Apollo astronauts used seismometers during their visits to the moon and discovered that the gray orb isn’t a totally dead place, geologically speaking. Small moonquakes, originating several miles (kilometers) below the surface, are thought to be caused by the gravitational pull of Earth. Sometimes tiny fractures appear at the surface, and gas escapes. 

Scientists say they think the moon probably has a core that is hot and perhaps partially molten, as is Earth’s core. But data from NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft showed in 1999 that the moon’s core is small — probably between 2 percent and 4 percent of its mass. This is tiny compared with Earth, in which the iron core makes up about 30 percent of the planet’s mass.

This photo of Pluto (right) and its largest moon Charon is the best visible-light photo of the dwarf planet ever taken from Earth. It was taken by the North telescope at the Gemini Observatory using the speckle imaging technique for better clarity. Image released Sept. 26, 2012.
Credit: Gemini Observatory/NSF/NASA/AURA
The Moon Is a Planet?
Our moon is bigger than Pluto. And at roughly one-fourth the diameter of Earth, some scientists think the moon is more like a planet. They refer to the Earth-moon system as a “double planet.” Pluto and its moon Charon are also called a double-planet system by some.
Ocean waves lap the sand on the beach.
Credit: Galyna Andrushko | Shutterstock
Moon’s Ocean Tug
Tides on Earth are caused mostly by the moon (the Sun has a smaller effect). Here’s how it works: 

The moon’s gravity pulls on Earth’s oceans. High tide aligns with the Moon as Earth spins underneath. Another high tide occurs on the opposite side of the planet because gravity pulls Earth toward the moon more than it pulls the water.

At full moon and new moon, the Sun, Earth and moon are lined up, producing the higher than normal tides (called spring tides, for the way they spring up). When the moon is at first or last quarter, smallerneap tides form. The Moon’s 29.5-day orbit around Earth is not quite circular. When the moon is closest to Earth (called its perigee), spring tides are even higher, and they’re called perigean spring tides.

All this tugging has another interesting effect: Some of Earth’s rotational energy is stolen by the moon, causing our planet to slow down by about 1.5 milliseconds every century.

Scott Tully captured this sunrise shot of the crescent moon and Venus over rural Connecticut on Jan. 10, 2012. 
Credit: Scott Tully
Bye-Bye, Moon
As you read this, the moon is moving away from us. Each year, the moon steals some of Earth’s rotational energy, and uses it to propel itself about 3.8 centimeters higher in its orbit. Researchers say that when it formed, the moon was about 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) from Earth. It’s now more than 280,000 miles, or 450,000 kilometers away

Giant Squid All One Big, Happy Family

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags , on March 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1784

Giant Squid All One Big, Happy Family

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 19 March 2013 Time: 08:01 PM ET
  estimate that giant squid can grow up to about 60 feet (18 meters) long, including their massive tentacles.
CREDIT: Mark Norman  

Though they roam the deep sea around the globe, enigmatic giant squid are all part of the same species, new research finds.

The new study reveals that the genetic diversity of giant squid(Architeuthis) is remarkably low — far lower than that of other marine species examined, said study researcher Tom Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen. The findings suggest that the squid intermingle and mate across the globe.

“The results are extremely surprising,” Gilbert told LiveScience.

Monster of the deep

Giant squid are mysterious creatures. They dwell in the deep ocean, making them difficult to observe in their natural habitats. In fact, no one had observed a live giant squid in the wild until 2004. The first video of a live giant squid wasn’t released until this year. The animals appear to grow as long as 60 feet (18 meters) and are carnivores that prey on fish and other squid.

Most of what scientists know about the creatures comes from corpses found washed up on beaches or in sperm whale stomachs (the giant squid are apparently a common whale meal). Once in a while, a fishing trawler will entangle a giant squid in its nets. No one had ever published data on giant squid genetics before now.

Gilbert and his colleagues wanted to know if genetics could open any windows into giant squid life, particularly the size and diversity of their populations. No one even knew for sure how many giant squid species might be out there. Estimates ranged from one all the way up to 21, though the highest numbers were unlikely. [Release the Kraken! Giant Squid Photos]

Squid genes

The researchers extracted DNA from 43 soft-tissue samples from giant squid. Some of the samples came from squid found in whale stomachs or washed ashore, whereas others were frozen samples from giant squid dredged up by fishing trawlers. The scientists analyzed mitochondrial DNA, or mDNA, which is found in tiny cell structures called mitochondria. These structures help cells convert energy into a usable form, and their DNA is separate from the DNA in a cell’s nucleus; mDNA is inherited from the maternal line.

The mDNA sequences were extremely similar among all samples, the researchers found. The samples exhibited more than 20 times less genetic diversity than other local squid populations, Gilbert said, and there was no population structure. The results suggest that giant squid are all one species. Even more, they’re all part of the same big population, meaning there don’t seem to be groups of giant squid that interact only with one another. Geography doesn’t seem to be a barrier to their breeding, to the extent that any giant squid in the world is a potential partner for any other giant squid in the global oceans.

That’s amazing, Gilbert said, given that giant squid vary substantially in body form and live everywhere except at the poles.

“It’s very, very hard to explain,” he said.

The researchers are now working to confirm the results using nuclear DNA from the giant squid, in order to rule out that possibility that the similarities in mDNA could be some quirk of evolution. If the results hold, they suggest the giant squid may have undergone a recent population expansion and that the young squid larvae disperse over massive distances, traveling randomly across the globe.

“There are huge unexplored questions,” Gilbert said.

The researchers report their findings today (March 19) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Under the Sea: A Squid Album

LiveScience Staff
Future of Jumbo Squid Questioned
Future of Jumbo Squid QuestionedCredit: courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research InstitutionHumboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas) photographed by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institution’s remotely operated vehicle Tiburon at a depth of about 300 meters over Davidson Seamount, off the Central California coast.
Colorful Carpet of Cool Sea Creatures Discovered 2 Miles Deep
Colorful Carpet of Cool Sea Creatures Discovered 2 Miles DeepCredit: David ShaleDigital cameras also captured an image of this juvenile crachiid squid, also called glass squid due to its transparent body.
Longfin Squid
Longfin SquidCredit: Tom Kleindinst / Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionIn a study published in 2010 in the The Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers confirmed that longfin squid (Loligo pealeii), which are also a popular seafood meal, can indeed detect sound at low frequencies. Now, the researchers are working to better understand how this hearing mechanism works. [Read full story]
How Whales Attack Squid: Mystery Deepens
How Whales Attack Squid: Mystery DeepensCredit: Roger HanlonA long-finned squid.
Colossal Squid Is No Monster, Study Finds
Colossal Squid Is No Monster, Study FindsCredit: Ministry of Fisheries, New Zealand.The crew of the New Zealand vessel San Aspiring worked to bring aboard the colossal squid they found in the Ross Sea. The squid was barely alive when it reached the surface and observers and crew thought it would be very unlikely to survive if released.
Arrow Squid
Arrow SquidCredit: John A. Anderson | ShutterstockArrow squid like this one have smooth cylindrical bodies and short, pointed tail fins. There are two species of arrow squid, with both looking similar, according to the Deepwater Group Ltd.
Dedicated Mama
Dedicated MamaCredit: CREDIT: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research InstituteIf you think gestating one baby is tough, try 3,000. The squid Gonatus onyxcarries around her brood of 2,000 to 3,000 eggs for up to nine months. The squid moms have their arms full: While carrying their eggs, they’re stuck swimming with their fins and mantle instead of their much more effective arms. 

So why would G. onyx take such care of its thousands of offspring? According to a 2005 study published in the journal Nature, the squid carry their eggs to deep water, where predators are rare. The deep-sea offspring are also larger and more capable of survival than shallow water squid — thanks, mom!

Lone Squid
Lone SquidCredit: ©2007 MBARIA female Octopoteuthis deletron in the water column observed by MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle Ventana on December 6th 2007. The photophores on the arm tips are visible. This animal was observed at 854 meters depth in Monterey Canyon. Spermatangia were present on the dorsal arms. They are visible as white dots.
Vampire Squid
Vampire SquidCredit: 2004 MBARIDespite its terrifying name, the vampire squid is relatively tiny, reaching a maximum of 6 inches (15.4 cm) in length.  It gets its name from its red coloring, glowing, bioluminescent eyes and the cloak-like webbing that connects its eight arms. Although it has similarities with both squid and octopuses, it is actually not a squid but in its own separate family, of which it is the last remaining member; as such, the animal is referred to as a “living fossil.” Its scientific name,Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally translates to “vampire squid from hell.” Yikes
Klingon Cloaked Squid

Klingon Cloaked SquidCredit: NSFThe Hawaiian bobtail squid and its resident bacterium have a powerful and still somewhat mysterious symbiotic relationship. The luminescent bacteria populate a small pouch on the squid’s underside and pouch on the squid’s underside and provide a sort of “Klingon cloaking device.”

First Videos of Deep-Sea Squid Reveal Aggressive Predator

First Videos of Deep-Sea Squid Reveal Aggressive PredatorCredit: Royal SocietyThe deep-sea eight-armed squid Taningia danae, the world’s largest bioluminescent or light emitting creature, as it swims through the dark seas.

 Loligo Squid

Loligo SquidCredit: Yoko IwataHaving larger sperm may be the result of how the smaller Loligo bleekeri squid fertilize the female’s eggs. (Shown here, the squid species at a spawning ground.)