Sunday Science Update #2

I’m keeping my eye on the prize and continuing my efforts to stay up to date on science news. I’ve stumbled on a horde of new websites to help me with my resolution. With out further a do, I present the second Sunday Science Update – stories from the world of science that I find fascinating.

Scroll back through the archives of windyharbor.com and you’ll find a short piece I did on dark matter. In this piece, I cited dark matter as a evidence that the kitchen sink was permanantly occupied and therefore adding my dirty dishes in it made no difference. I’ve always been fascinated on the idea that space isn’t empty, but is in fact occupied by a mysterious form of matter that amazingly accounts for most of the mass in the universe. Therefore, when I stumbled across this article, my attention was instantly fixed on it.

Astronomers produce first detailed map of dark matter in a supercluster
Physorg.com

For the first time astronomers are able to see indirect evidence of dark matter and how this invisible force impacts on the crowded and violent lives of galaxies. University of British Columbia researcher Catherine Heymans has produced the highest resolution map of dark matter ever captured before.

Next up is an older article, someting I stumbled upon over at the Scientific American website. Ignoring the picture from the failed sitcom Cavemen, I plunged into this article with great interest. Neanderthals, our larger brained, more robust, but slightly shorter cousins vanished from the Earth somewhere around 30,000 years ago. They were fascinating creatures and one of the primary reasons I became interested in human evolution. This article explores the possibility of Neanderthals being able to speak. Now you might be thinking big deal- my dog can talk. But remember, there is a big difference between speech and communication. Every creature has a way of communicating, but the ability to speak- to articulate the tongue and lips in such a way that specific sounds are produced, is much trickier. A majority of the research up to this point has been focused on studying skeletal remains, in particular a tiny hole in the skull through which passes a tiny nerve called the hypoglossal. However, there is a very limited number of Neanderthal skeletons available to study. Now scientists are turning to genetics. How cool is that? If examining Neanderthal genetics can answer this question, I’m interested to know what other questions could be answered under the microscope.

Cave Speak: Did Neanderthals Talk?
SciAm.com

Discovery of the human variant of the FOXP2 gene in Neandertals suggests they may have had language skills.

Lastly, a link to a website that deserves everyones attention. Sciencedebate2008.com seeks to hold a presidential debate on science and technology among the candidates. Considering the shit thats’ come out of Huckabee’s mouth the past few months, this could be one hell of a show. But in fact, much to my disappointment, this debate would not be about finding out which candidate is smarter, but rather a forum for them to share their views on specific facets of science and technology. With everything that is happening in our world today (especially global warming), this is more than a great idea, it is a necessity. The debate already has the support of dozens of influential figures, including Nobel prize winners, politicians, respected educators, scientist, and Bill Nye the Science Guy! Please take the time to head over to the website and sign the petition showing your support for a Presidential Science Debate!

That’s all for this week!

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