Archive for June, 2015

Everyone Loses In This Python vs. Porcupine Battle

Posted in News with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Everyone Loses In This Python vs. Porcupine Battle


The life of a python in South Africa came to a thorny end last week.

A mountain biker at the Lake Eland Game Reserve in a coastal part of KwaZulu-Natal province reportedly spotted the snake with a full belly on June 14. Last Saturday, the snake — of which there are some graphic photos below — was found dead not far from the original sighting.


Experts at the game preserve autopsied the python and discovered a 32-inch, 30-pound porcupine inside of it.

While a snake swallowing a spiky porcupine whole may sounds like a classic case of mutually assured destruction, it’s actually not that uncommon.

“The porcupine did not injure the snake at all and eating the porcupine should not have caused the snake to die,” Lake Eland Game Reserve general manager Jennifer Fuller told The Huffington Post in an email. “The real cause of death is unknown.”

She said the stress from human interaction may have prompted the snake to try to regurgitate the porcupine but it got stuck.


Fuller said the snake fell off a rocky ledge, according to The Telegraph, but it was unclear if the snake was already dead when it did or if the fall caused some of the quills to puncture its digestive tract.


A wall in Bolivia is covered in thousands of dinosaur footprints, and it’s becoming a major tourist attraction

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags , on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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A wall in Bolivia is covered in thousands of dinosaur footprints, and it’s becoming a major tourist attraction

Business Insider

Cal Orcko, located 3 miles south of downtown Sucre in Bolivia, is home to the world’s largest and most diverse collection of dinosaur footprints from the Cretaceous Period.

.cal orcko

The limestone cliff hosts about 5,000 dinosaur footprints, with many dating back 68 million years.

Discovered on the grounds of the local cement company Fancesa in 1985, the cliff was closed off to tourists after mining conditions and erosion began damaging the area.

After eight years of closures, tours started last year to allow visitors the opportunity to marvel at these footprints.


cal orcko

(Flickr/Ryan Greenberg)
From the Parque Cretacico, which hosts a museum and dinosaur models, fossils, and paleontological information, you can take a one-hour guided tour to select areas of the wondrous paleontological site.


Cal Orcko

The tour starts in the Parque Cretacico, where you’re given a helmet as a safety requirement from the cement factory before going to the south part of the cliff, which hosts footprints of Theropods (carnivorous dinosaurs).

Then you’re taken through the cliff with your guide, who explains the history behind the Sauropod (long-neck herbivores) footprints you’ll see. There are tracks from entire herds of Sauropods, ranging from 26 feet long to an impressive 65 feet.


Cal Orcko

You’ll also get to peak at “under footprints,” the oldest layer of prints, which date back 70 million years.

The site contains the footprints of at least eight different species and stands as an ever-changing record of history in the Cretaceous era.


Cal Orcko

(Flickr/Jenny Mealing)
As parts become eroded, new prints are continuously being found in the area, which is why the park has submitted Cal Orcko to the Unesco World Heritage list in an effort to continue preserving the footprints.

Guided tours are offered Monday through Saturday at noon and at 1 p.m. Tours cost $4.35.

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

Posted in HEALTH, SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4703

George Dvorsky

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

Several months ago, the UK approved a groundbreaking reproductive technique in which babies are created from the genetic material of three people. The US is now considering the procedure, but Congress’s new spending bill will require religious experts to review a forthcoming report.

As Sara Reardon reports in Nature News, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is being asked to create an evaluation committee — a committee that must include religious experts — to review a forthcoming report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The technique under consideration produces embryos that, technically speaking, have three genetic parents, even though a scant 0.1% of genetic information is extracted from the donor. The reproductive technique eliminates rare but severely deadly or debilitating mitochondrial diseases.

If it likes what it sees in the IOM report (which is expected this winter), the FDA will permit clinical trials on mitochondrial replacement. But in the latest development, the U.S. House of Representatives is demanding another layer of review — an “independent panel of experts, including those from faith-based institutions with expertise on bioethics and faith-based medical associations.” The panel will have 30 days to evaluate the report and submit its recommendations to the House Appropriations Committee.

More from Reardon’s report:

William Kearney, a spokesman for the IOM’s parent organization, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington DC, declined to comment on the House bill. But he says that the NAS has occasionally included religious specialists on its committees when appropriate. “We always strive to balance our committees with the expertise necessary to carry out the study in a scientific manner in order to produce an evidence-based report.”

In fact, the IOM committee that is evaluating mitochondrial transfer includes a bioethicist, James Childress, who teaches religious studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

But experts who have served on committees that were convened by the IOM or the NAS, say that the House bill’s provisions are highly unusual.

“It’s hard for me to understand what Congress thinks can be added by another layer of taxpayer-supported ethics reflection,” says Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “You don’t have to be a faith-based bioethicist to recognize that there’s some global responsibility for modifying the human germline.”

This “added layer” will almost certainly serve as a hindrance to getting this technique sanctioned. It could be years before this procedure is introduced to the United States—if it ever is, at all.

But that’s not all; the spending bill will prohibit the FDA from spending any money to evaluate research or clinical applications for any product or intervention in which human embryos are modified to introduce heritable traits. The effort to block human-embryo editing comes in the wake of news that scientists in China have edited the genomes of human embryos. This move will make it considerably harder to test embryo editing in clinical trials.

Much more at Nature.

Contact the author at and @dvorsky. Top image by Ekem/cc.

“Light Echoes” Prove That This Neutron Star is Weirdly Like a Black Hole

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4702

Mika McKinnon

Giant Plant Eats Rodents

Posted in SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Giant Plant Eats Rodents

Recluse Spider Bite Eats Hole in Young Woman’s Ear

Posted in HEALTH with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4700

Recluse Spider Bite Eats Hole in Young Woman’s Ear

The case is the first evidence that recluse-spider venom can also destroy ear cartilage, said van Wijk, a co-author of the case report, published last month in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery.

Venom from recluse spiders, including the American brown recluse and its Mediterranean cousin, kills skin and fat with a mixture of chemicals, including substances that break down proteins. The complex nature of the venom makes the bites hard to treat, van Wijk said. A drug called Dapsone has been used, but there is no proof that it works to treat these bites, she added.

Therefore, the recommended treatments for these spider bites are icepacks and painkillers, van Wijk told LiveScience.

In this case, van Wijk and her colleagues removed the dead tissue, and recreated it using cartilage from the woman’s ribs.

Recluse spiders rarely bite people, and when they do, the bites don’t usually inflict serious damage or large scars. Most bites occur when people roll over onto a spider while asleep, or when they put their foot into a shoe in which a recluse is found. It’s difficult to diagnose a brown-recluse-spider bite, and many suspected bites actually come from stinging insects, or are caused by other things, such as bacterial infections.

The restored ear, made in part from cartilage taken from the woman’s ribs.
Credit: Marieke van Wijk et al

The spiders are “not that dangerous,” van Wijk said. “I wouldn’t take precautions, but if one develops a mysterious red-white-and-blue and swollen lesion in summer, in an endemic region, keep the brown recluse in mind,” she added.

In a small minority of cases of recluse bites, the venom can cause a severe immune reaction that destroys blood cells. A recent study found that adrug used to treat unrelated rare blood disorders, eculizumab, may be able to reduce the destruction of blood cells in these patients by 80 percent.

Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us@livescience,Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.


Girl’s Brown Recluse Spider Bite Turns Into Open Wound

Posted in HEALTH with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Girl’s Brown Recluse Spider Bite Turns Into Open Wound


The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery)

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4698

The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery)

The Smallest

Credit: NASA
This artist’s concept of Kepler-10b shows the smallest known exoplanet, announced in January 2011. [Full Story]

Earth-Mass Gassy Planet KOI-314c

Credit: C. Pulliam & D. Aguilar (CfA)
KOI-314c, shown in this artist’s conception, is the lightest planet to have both its mass and physical size measured. Surprisingly, although the planet weighs the same as Earth, it is 60 percent larger in diameter, meaning that it must have a very thick, gaseous atmosphere. It orbits a dim, red dwarf star (shown at left) about 200 light-years from Earth.

The Former Champ

Credit: ESO/L. Calcada
Gliese 581 e used to hold the title of smallest alien planet. However, it was dethroned in January 2011, with the announcement of Kepler-10b. [Full Story]

The Biggest

Credit: Jeffrey Hall, Lowell Observatory
The largest exoplanet ever discovered is also one of the strangest and theoretically should not even exist, scientists say. Dubbed TrES-4, the planet is about 1.7 times the size of Jupiter and belongs to a small subclass of so-called puffy planets that have extremely low densities. The planet is located about 1,400 light years away from Earth and zips around its parent star in only three and a half days. [Full Story]

Closest Alien World to Us

Credit: NASA, ESA, G.F. Benedict (University of Texas, Austin)
Epsilon Eridani b orbits an orange Sun-like star only 10.5 light years away from Earth. It is so close to us telescopes might soon be able to photograph it. It orbits too far away from its star to support liquid water or life as we know it, but scientists predict there are other stars in the system that might be good candidates for alien life. [Full Story]

Volcanic Nightmare

Credit: ESO/L. Calcada
This planet, CoRoT-7b, was the first confirmed rocky world outside our solar system, but it doesn’t look like a particularly pleasant place to live. It is tidally locked to its parent star, sees hellish 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 degrees Celsius). It may also rain rocks and be the core of a vaporized gas giant. [Full Story]

Multiple Sunsets Like Tatooine

Credit: NASA/JPL’s Planetquest/Caltech
Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine in Star Wars had two suns, but that’s paltry compared to a Jupiter-like planet 149 light-years from Earth. Thisplanet has three suns, with the main star similar in mass to our own sun. The triple-star system is known as HD 188753. Like Tatooine, the planet there is likely pretty hot – it orbits very close to the main star, completing one orbit every 3.5 days. [Full Story]

Coldest and Farthest From Us

Credit: ESO
With a surface temperature of -364 degrees Fahrenheit (-220 degrees Celsius), the extrasolar planet known as OGLE-2005-BLG-390L b is likely the coldest alien world. It is about 5.5 times as massive as Earth and thought to be rocky. It orbits a red dwarf star about 28,000 light-years away, making it the most distant exoplanet currently known. [Full Story]

Hottest World

Credit: ESA/NASA/Frederic Pont, Geneva University Observatory
A planet called WASP-12b is the hottest planet ever discovered (about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2,200 degrees Celsius), and orbits its star closer thanany other known world. It orbits its star one every Earth day at a distance of about 2 million miles (3.4 million km). WASP-12b is a gaseous planet, about 1.5 times the mass of Jupiter, and almost twice the size. It is 870 light-years from Earth. [Full Story]


Credit: ESO
Astronomers are finding many worlds now in a category of worlds called Super-Earths, which are between 2 and 10 times the mass of our own Earth. Some scientists think such worlds could be more susceptible to forming the conditions for life because their cores are hot and would be conducive to geological upheaval through volcanism and plate tectonics. [Full Story]

Oldest Alien Planet

Credit: NASA and H. Richer (U. British Columbia)
The oldest known planet is a primeval world 12.7 billion years old that formed more than 8 billion years before Earth and only 2 billion years after the Big Bang. The discovery suggested planets are very common in the universe and raised the prospect that life began far sooner than most scientists ever imagined. [Full Story]

The Youngest Known Exoplanet

Credit: NASA
The youngest exoplanet yet discovered is less than 1 million years old and orbits Coku Tau 4, a star 420 light-years away. Astronomers inferred the planet’spresence from an enormous hole in the dusty disk that girdles the star. The hole is 10 times the size of Earth’s orbit around the Sun and probably caused by the planet clearing a space in the dust as it orbits the star.

The Puffiest

Credit: David A. Aguilar/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
A planet lighter than a ball of cork is one of the puffiest alien planets known to date. Called HAT-P-1, the planet is about half as massive as Jupiter but about 1.76 times wider-or 24 percent larger than predicted by theory. It could float in water, if there was a tub large enough to hold it. [Full Story]

Super Neptune

Credit: David A. Aguilar, CFA
While Neptune has a diameter 3.8 times that of Earth and a mass 17 times Earth’s, the new world (named HAT-P-11b) is 4.7 times the size of Earth and has 25 Earth masses. The newfound world orbits very close to its star, revolving once every 4.88 days. As a result, it is baked to a temperature of around 1100 degrees F. The star itself is about three-fourths the size of our Sun and somewhat cooler. [Full Story]

Tilted World

Credit: NASA. ESA, amd G. Bacon (STScI)
Most planets orbit in a plane that corresponds to their parent star’s equator. But XO-3b orbits with a crazy tilt of 37 degrees from its star’s equator. The only other known example of such an oddly angled orbit was Pluto, until its demotion to dwarf planet status. There is, however, a planet known to orbit backwards around its parent star. [Full Story]

Fastest Planet

Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Schaller (for STScI)
SWEEPS-10 orbits its parent star from a distance of only 740,000 miles, so close that one year on the planet happens every 10 hours. The exoplanet belongs to a new class of zippy exoplanets called ultra-short-period planets (USPPs), which have orbits of less than a day. [Full Story]


Credit: David A. Aguilar, CFA
The extrasolar planet GJ 1214b is a rocky planet rich in water that sits about 40 light-years away. It orbits a red dwarf star. It is the only known “Super-Earth” exoplanet — worlds that have masses between Earth and Neptune — with a confirmed atmosphere. The planet is about three times the size of Earth and about 6.5 times as massive. Researchers think it is likely a water world with a solid center. [Full Story]

Atmosphere Detected

Credit: ESA, NASA and G. Tinetti
Astronomers have been able to detect the atmospheres around several exoplanets, including HD 189733b – one of the first alien words to have its atmosphere sniffed to determine its composition. Glowing methane, which can be produced naturally or be a biological byproduct, has been detected on the planet. [Full Story]

Endangered World

Credit: CARREAU/ESA/Nature
When astronomers observed WASP-18b, they may have seen it in the cosmic moment before its death. This planet, possibly an ill-fated world, whips aroundits star in less than one Earth day. Scientists think that this speed coupled with the planet’s heft yields strong gravitational tugs that can alter the planets orbit. If the planet orbits faster than its star spins, it should gradually be moving inward towards its sun, and its doom. [Full Story]

Most Habitable

Credit: ESO
One of the several planets within the Gliese 581 star system, called Gliese 581 d, may be one of the most potentially habitable alien worlds known. It is about 8 times the mass of Earth, and located in an orbit just right for liquid water to exist on the surface. Water is a key ingredient for life as we know it. Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star 20.5 light-years from Earth [Full Story]

Densest Planet

Credit: ESO/OAMP
One of the densest exoplanet to date is a world known as COROT-exo-3b. It is about the size of Jupiter, but 20 times that planet’s mass, making it about twice as dense as lead. Scientists have not ruled out that the COROT-exo-3b may be a brown dwarf, or failed star. [Full Story]

Diamond Planet

Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions
Here’s some bling on an astronomical scale: A Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the newly discovered pulsar PSR J1719-1438 is likely one gigantic diamond. Theplanet’s ultra-high pressure has caused the carbon within it to crystallize into diamond, researchers say. And the weirdness doesn’t stop there. The planet was probably once a star, but most of its mass was sucked off by its tiny pulsar companion, which is spinning at a rate of 10,000 revolutions per minute. It is 4,000 light-years from Earth. [Full Story]

Darkest Alien Planet TrES-2b

Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
The distant exoplanet TrES-2b, shown here in an artist’s conception, is darker than the blackest coal. This Jupiter-sized world reflects less than one percent of the light that falls on it, making it blacker than any planet or moon in our solar system. It is 750 light-years from Earth. [Full Story]

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away


Post 4697

George Dvorsky

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced the winnersof its inaugural “Weather in Focus” photo contest. Here’s a sampling of the best the year had to offer.

Top image: A tornado churns up dust in sunset light near Traer, IA by Brad Goddard. This image won second place in the Professional Submissions category.

The NOAA photo contest features four different categories: (1) Professional Submissions, (2) Weather, Water and Climate, (3) Science in Action, and in the (4) iMoment (i.e. pics captured with handheld devices). Here are the respective winners of each, followed by some of our favorite submissions.

Stars Behind the Storm by Brad Goddard, Orion, IL

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

First place, Professional Submissions

Snow Express by Conrad Stenftenagel, Saint Anthony, IN

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away1

First place, Weather, Water & Climate

Green Bank Telescope in WV by Mike Zorger, Falls Church, VA

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

First pace, Science in Action

Smoky Mountains by Elijah Burris, Canton, NC

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

First place, iMoment

Proton Arc Over Lake Superior by Ken William, Clio, MI

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away2

Second place, Weather, Water & Climate

With a Bang by Bob Larson, Prescott, AZ

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

Third place, Weather, Water & Climate

Fire in the Sky Pver Glacier National Park by Sashikanth

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

Honorable mention, Weather, Water & Climate

Spring Captured by Mike Shelby

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

Second place, iMoment

Rolling Clouds in Lake Tahoe by Christopher Le Boa

The Best Weather Photos of the Year Will Blow You Away

Third place, iMoment

More photo contest winners here.

Contact the author at and @dvorsky. All images and captions via NOAA


Time-Lapse Footage Of April’s Calbuco Eruption Is Otherworldly

Posted in GEOLOGY, SCIENCE with tags on June 26, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4696

Robbie Gonzalez

Time-Lapse Footage Of April’s Calbuco Eruption Is Otherworldly

Time-Lapse Footage Of April's Calbuco Eruption Is Otherworldly

On April 22, 2015, a stratovolcano in southern Chile called Calbuco erupted for the first time in 42 years. Filmmaker Martin Heck was in the area shooting a neighboring volcano, when Calbuco came alive. He fixed his cameras on its undulating plumes of ash. This gobstopping time-lapse is the fruit of the images he captured.

We spend the prior couple of days on the neighboring volcano Osorno (~20km linear distance) shooting timelapses. After an amazing night under the nightsky we took the cable car downwards after a delay caused by repairs. Already late we headed south to catch the ferry on Routa 7 down to Patagonia. After 10min on the ferry we noticed a massive, almost nuclear looking cloud boiling upwards just were we left a few hours ago. Frenetically looking for a good outlook we then rushed to the only non-forested place to get a decent view of the show. We quickly put every bit of camera-equipment we could find on the constantly growing mushroom-cloud. We shot timelapses in 8K and 4K with a Pentax 645Z and Canon 6D. On the A7s we shot 4K video to the Shogun using Kingston HyperX SSDs. We filled almost all of our memory cards in the prior night so I had to do backups while shooting all this stuff.This was for sure the most incredible show I’ve ever seen. I think this is a one in a lifetime event and I am so happy that we were able to capture it in all its glory.

If you’ve ever seen the way ink spreads immediately after it’s injected into water, you’ll notice that it bears a striking resemblance to the billowing plumes of Calbuco.As Nicole Sharpe explains at FYFD, that’s no coincidence.

Time-Lapse Footage Of April's Calbuco Eruption Is Otherworldly

[Martin Heck via FYFD]

Contact the author at