The Habitable Zone Was Redefined Today, Earth Is Now Barely Habitable

The difference between Mars and Earth is that one of them falls into the habitable zone, while the other doesn’t. This habitable zone – a small path along a star where a planet is not too close and not too far away that life could exist on its surface – was redefined today, and Earth just barely made the cut.

Scientist took updated atmospheric databases called HITRAN and HITEMP which basically measure how much energy the water absorbs and how much energy carbon dioxide can retain, and updated our current place within the habitable zone in our solar system.  After their calculations were plotted on the new chart, they discovered that our planet was just inside the habitable zone.

The habitable zone is used to identify if a planet has the right temperature to retain liquid water on its surface. If a planet is too far away from its parent star, the water will freeze, if its too close, the water will vaporize away. Obviously, a planet with liquid water would be a primo spot for life to flourish.

This new redefined boundary means that many planets that we thought were in the habitable zone, are no longer in the sweet spot to hold life, however, this also allows planets that had recently been excluded as candidates for life to come back into the realm of plausibility.

How much did our Earth move on this zone? Not much, only .04 AU’s closer to the sun from the previous data which was collected 20 years ago – by James Kasting from Penn State. An AU is a term used to define an Earth-Sun distance, 1 Astronomical Unit is about 150 million kilometers in size. So our records went from 0.95 AU – 1.67 AU to the new distance of .99 AU – 1.7 AU (remember the path of the Earth around the sun is not a perfect circle. Throughout the year,  the Earth shifts about .8 AU’s. This shift makes the difference between Winter and Summer.)

Abel Mendez from the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo is a researcher in charge of a Habitable Exoplanet Catalog – a catalog with all the planets that could hold life. He stated that this new study is going to require him to update the catalog and kick off or squeeze in new planets to fit this new data.

Basically, since the Earth is now just inside the new boundary – and we seem to be pretty comfortable – this means that the habitable zone’s outer edges could be extended to areas that we once thought were too extreme 20 years ago.

HZ_distance

The main planet that Mendez is particularly excited about is Gliesse581d, a planet who’s path, using outdated data, was on the outer edge of the habitable zone. With this new redefinition of the zone, the planet’s new path is now right in the middle of the zone. What’s interesting about the new zone is that Mars is now also in the zone, on the outer cooler boundary, but it’s there.

This new data, however, does not take into consideration cloud formations, which according to the researchers have a huge impact on the habitability of a planet. What I want to know is, what happens after we fall completely outside of the habitable zone and we’re still alive, do we change it up again? Or will we be officially screwed?

Via Space.com

Brazil To Start Cloning Endangered Species Of Animals

Endangered animals are a drag, you know, because they are going extinct and all. But Brazil is actually doing something about it. They just recently started a program who’s main purpose is program to clone animals that are currently at risk of going extinct. The animals that they currently have in mind include the Tamarins, Maned Wolves, Jaguars, and the Black Lions.

Over the past few years, the Brazilian researchers have been collecting genetic samples from hundreds of local, yet, endangered species of animals. Now that they have a good number in their hands, they want to start cloning them to preserve the animals currently in captivity. Their main goal is to maintain the healthy living animals in zoos and other protected areas without having to go into the wild animal’s natural habitat to extract them from there. Basically, we’ll have animals stored away and we’ll let the ones in the wild run their course… which means that other animals – mainly us – will exterminate them the way we’ve been doing lately.

The first animal to be cloned, the Maned Wolf, it should happen in the next quarter of the year. The researchers are not planning on using clones to increase population of animals, but they hope that IF a species of animal is about to be 100% exterminated, they will be able to create enough animals to maintain balance to the bio-system.

I wonder if Peta will have anything to say about this? I guess we’ll find out when we start cloning Maned Wolf fur coats – IPS News, via io9

Floating Island Found by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Pacific

One of the most exciting things about our earth is how often it consistently surprises us. After all, we’ve explored practically every inch of the planet, right? Well, that’s in fact not the case. There are many places on earth that we as a human species have yet to penetrate, and what’s more, we have so many things left to understand.

Take for example the floating islands found by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the south Pacific. These islands are made of volcanic pumice that covered nearly 9,000 square miles. That’s roughly the size of New Jersey. When it was discovered, the man who first saw the rock was completely thrown by surprise. In a statement, he said it was, “the weirdest thing I’ve seen in 18 years at sea”. These “floating islands” were compared to polar ice shelves, and are thought to have been discharged from the underwater volcano Monowai.

Another reason that this particular floating volcanic rock is getting so much attention is because it helps solidify a major theory in the Earth’s biological evolution that says these raft-rocks could carry animals across bodies of water to other lands, and were home to the very first microscopic life forms. PhysOrg

Man Falls Asleep on Airport Baggage Belt and Goes Through X-Ray Machine

Everyone knows that airports are a giant pain in the ass, and that most adults would rather deal with a busy Chuckee-Cheese than a busy airport. But dealing with long flights with even longer layovers is almost a right-of-passage to some people, even if it means sitting in an uncomfortable, upright position for hours behind a fat guy with gas, and in front of a kid practicing his soccer kick over and over, or dealing with that pesky airport security, barefoot next to your luggage, in a line with 200 other barefooted people. Those lines can get so tiresome that it can be tempting to just lay down and take a nap! And that’s just what one Norwegian tourist did recently.

A newly popular image of a man going through the X-ray machine on a baggage claim at Rome’s Fiumicino airport is getting quite a bit of Internet attention in the last couple of days. The man in question has remained anonymous, but apparently traveled 15 minutes and nearly 160 feet on a conveyer belt and through security X-ray machines before being noticed.

Notwithstanding the fact that this raises a few security safety issues, this is apparently not that unheard of. Crazy, right? Similar incidents have been reported happening from drunkards and people who have psychological disabilities. And, even in this case, that seems to hold true, for the man was discovered to be drunk, holding his backpack and a beer.

Other than getting a few laughs and head scratches, this sort of thing would definitely be one of the more interesting things to watch happen at the airport. Via: Yahoo News

The Amazing Cenote Angelita – The Underwater River in Mexico

In another addition to Tek-Bull’s new segment featuring the earth’s hidden treasures, we’d like to show y’all a river. Yep, just a river in Mexico called the Cenote Anjelita. One that’s already submerged within another river that is.

What we’re talking about is a mini “river” within a river in a submerged cave, known academically as a cenote, in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and flows calmly near the bottom of the cave.

The scientific explanation for this beautiful enigma is really that due to a series of climate and geological changes over many thousands of years, the water is now a briny mix of salt water and hydrogen sulfate, and since this chemical combination is much denser than the regular salt water surrounding it, it sinks to the bottom of the cave and forms its own body of water that acts and flows like a river. Adding to its ambiance and curiosity is the fact that the area has its own flora and fauna, making it even easier to see it as its own river, rather than a denser body of water within another body of water more than 100 feet underwater.

While this otherworldly view is not unheard of (Mexico frequently boasts about their unique and beautiful caverns) it is at least completely stunning when you experience it up close. IMG Credit: Crystal Kiss

Georgia Tech’s Chicken Deboning Robot – Would You Still Eat It?

With the advents in robotics, and “self-driving” technology, I never through the process of deboning a chicken would be so complicated for a robot.  Apparently, deboning a chicken “efficiently” requires the human touch and can only be performed by a skilled chicken deboner.  Sure, robots can drive a car, perform surgery, fly planes, but when it comes to deboning a chicken, we’re still the superior being – for now.

Gary McMurray from the Georgia Institute of Technology has been working with his team for eight years to develop a robot that can debone a chicken AS/OR better than a human deboner. China has a machine that can debone chickens pretty quickly at a little over 1k chickens per hour, but while it is very fast, it sacrifices the best “cut.” – think quantity over quality – According to McMurray, the problem with robots is that the bots don’t have the hand eye coordination that humans have when it comes to placing the blade into the meat.  A trained factory worker can feel and cut around the edges of the bone to produce the best cut.  The higher the quality of the cut, the more trained workers you need to get that cut, which increases the prices on chicken. Basically these chicken companies have to pull off a balancing act, and hopefully skilled robots can make that act cheaper for everyone across the board.

In June of this year, the team of researchers will get the chance to test out their product on real chickens, if this works, they would have a tide changer between quality v/s quantity in the industry. “This machine, equipped with robotic arms and a surgical blade, is guided by a three-dimensional imaging system that can determine in a split second the size of each chicken and where its skin, meat and bone are,” The ultimate goal is to make the robot as efficient as a human, so the test is going to be dependent on two things – How fast can it be done, and how high is the quality of the cut.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m the same way. I don’t care about the quality of the cut, when I get it home it’s frozen and then I cut it into smaller pieces when I’m ready to cook. But really, the people that care about the cut are the deboning companies. They want to get as much meat as possible from the chicken before they discard the remains. In this kind of business, the QUALITY of the cut produces a higher QUANTITY of the product.

We may have a whole bunch of people that will lose their jobs, but there will always be companies that hire workers and go off on a marketing scheme selling “Ethical” chicken cuts over “robotic” cut chickens. VIA: WSJ

DNA Error Is Likely Responsible For Human Brain

Turns out that our DNA went full retarded about 3.5 million years ago and we ended up gaining the power of intelligence. According to researchers, when any cell divides, it first copies its entire genome. While the genome is being copied, the process often times causes errors that are later on fixed in the DNA reproduction, however, if the errors don’t get fixed they become permanent changes – we call them Mutations – sometimes these changes can hurt us, other times they can greatly help us out.

The researchers intentionally caused this “error” on small lab mice, and it caused their brains to move into place faster and helped their brain create more connections – which means they become “smarter”.

According to the researchers, the error is in the duplication of genomes, when a genome is copied twice, it increases our brain functions. They found that many of the duplicates in the human body play an important role in the developing brain.

“There are approximately 30 genes that were selectively duplicated in humans,” study researcher Franck Polleux, of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said in a statement  “These are some of our most recent genomic innovations.” An extra copy of a gene gives evolution something to work with: Like modeling clay, this gene isn’t essential like the original copy, so changes can be made to it without damaging the resulting organism.

According to them, this is where we differentiate from our primates, I’m sure there are other things involved but intelligence is the most noticeable one, and our DNA “Fails” may hold all the secrets.

“We may have been looking at the wrong types of mutations to explain human and great ape differences,” study researcher Evan Eichler, of the University of Washington, said in a statement. “These episodic and large duplication events could have allowed for radical — potentially Earth-shattering — changes in brain development and brain function.”  [Live Science]

A Species of Parrot That Chooses Infant Gender

The eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus) has already been considered an anomaly in the animal kingdom. Males and females in this species look so different that for a very long time researchers believed that they actually were two different kinds of parrots. Now, it has been discovered that the eclectus possess a much more interesting trait. They have the ability to choose the sex of their offspring.

ANU professor Rob Heinsohn has been studying this species for most of the past decade, and by studying that really means climbing thirty meters up in the air and perching on a wooden platform. He discussed one particular bird well known for possessing this trait. “There was a famous parrot in Chester Zoo that produced 30 sons before switching to produce 20-something daughters. Nobody knew why, but it told us that these parrots have some way of controlling the sex of their offspring.”

Heinsohn discovered that the tree hollows that are used for nesting are not very common, and when a female picks out a tree for breeding she will not leave the entire time she is nesting for a fear of losing her spot. This will require her to depend on the male for food.

This is where it starts to get interesting and completely gruesome. Heinsohn and colleagues discovered that the female would usually lay two eggs. They also discovered that both eggs were normally viable; however, when they would return to the nests they would only find one chick.

Heinsohn then said, “Then we worked out that the missing chick was always a male. In an act of sex-specific infanticide, the females were tossing the males overboard. We saw beak-shaped peck marks on the backs of their head or neck when we found their little corpses.”

They determined this was the result of the female trying to speed up the nesting process because females leave the nest much sooner than males. This way they would still have one chick survive, but could get out of their sub-standard nesting situations that resulted from floods.

The parrots are now the only other animal that exists that kills their offspring on the basis of gender. Heinsohn also said that they may have found conclusions to why this occurs in nature, but they are still not sure why it happens in captivity.