Here are some top stories from astronomy, cosmology and evolutionary biology from the past week:
First 100,000 Years of Our Universe. From Science Daily: Mystery fans know that the best way to solve a mystery is to revisit the scene where it began and look for clues. To understand the mysteries of our universe, scientists are trying to go back as far they can to the Big Bang. A new analysis of cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation data by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has taken the furthest look back through time yet — 100 years to 300,000 years after the Big Bang — and provided tantalizing new hints of clues as to what might have happened.
Exploding Star from 12 Billion Years Ago Sheds Light on Previously Invisible Galaxy. From Science Daily: More than 12 billion years ago a star exploded, ripping itself apart and blasting its remains outward in twin jets at nearly the speed of light. At its death it glowed so brightly that it outshone its entire galaxy by a million times. This brilliant flash traveled across space for 12.7 billion years to a planet that hadn’t even existed at the time of the explosion — our Earth. By analyzing this light, astronomers learned about a galaxy that was otherwise too small, faint and far away for even the Hubble Space Telescope to see.
Black Holes + Wormholes = Quantum Answers. From NPR’s 13.7 Blog: If physicists had a holy grail it would go by the name of Quantum Gravity. For 60 years researchers have been searching for a way to unite the very large and the very small into a single coherent theory. But for all their efforts, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity — which describes the Universe at large scales — simply won’t play nice with quantum physics — the all-encompassing vision of the micro-world. But the appearance of a remarkable new idea is raising eyebrows, and hopes, around the world. Maybe, just maybe, a new clue to the most fundamental of fundamental theories has been found.
Genetic Adam and Eve Did Not Live Too Far Apart in Time. From Nature: The Book of Genesis puts Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden, but geneticists’ version of the duo — the ancestors to whom the Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA of today’s humans can be traced — were thought to have lived tens of thousands of years apart. Now, two major studies of modern humans’ Y chromosomes suggest that ‘Y-chromosome Adam’ and ‘mitochondrial Eve’ may have lived around the same time after all.
New Fossil Sheds Light on Evolution of Earliest Mammals. From Science Daily: A newly discovered fossil reveals the evolutionary adaptations of a 165-million-year-old proto-mammal, providing evidence that traits such as hair and fur originated well before the rise of the first true mammals. The biological features of this ancient mammalian relative, named Megaconus mammaliaformis, are described by scientists from the University of Chicago in the August 8 issue of Nature.
Is Our Understanding of Evolution Wrong? From Science News Blog: Our understanding of how animals on the planet evolved may be wrong, according to scientists at the University. In a new paper, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evolutionary biologists from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form. Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.
Are the the Pockmarks on the Moon Formed by Impact Craters or Internal Pressures? From Anacephalaeosis Blog: Scientist, theoretician and friend of this blog Erik Andrulis discusses his theory that the indentations on the Moon, Mercury and other celestial bodies are not formed by the impact of asteroid hits but from internal processes of the celestial body. Erik uses the analogy to the marks formed by oatmeal bubbles.
Bringing Light to a Halt; Scientists Freeze Motion of Light for a Minute. From Science News: Physicists in Darmstadt have been able to stop something that has the greatest possible speed and that never really stops: light. About a decade ago, physicists stopped it very for just a moment. In recent years, this extended towards stop times of a few seconds for simple light pulses in extremely cold gases and special crystals. But now the researchers at Darmstadt extended the possible duration and applications for freezing the motion of light considerably.