Sunday, January 16, 2022

Acceleration of Wind at Jupiter's Red Spot


Credits: NASA, ESA, Michael H. Wong (UC Berkeley)

Students have seen images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. That dot shows a huge storm and the winds are slowly but steadily accelerating! The acceleration of the winds in the outermost "lane" of Jupiter's Red Spot has been detected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which has monitored the planet for more than a decade.

Researchers analyzing Hubble's "storm reports" from 2009 to 2020 found that the average wind speed within the boundaries of the storm's high-speed ring has increased by up to 8 percent and exceed 400 miles per hour. In contrast, the winds near the storm's innermost region, set off by a smaller green ring, are moving significantly more slowly. Both move counterclockwise.

Astronomers have pursued ongoing studies of the "king" of solar system storms since the 1870s. The Great Red Spot is an upwelling of material from Jupiter's interior. If seen from the side, the storm would have a tiered wedding cake structure with high clouds at the center cascading down to its outer layers. Astronomers have noted that it is shrinking in size and becoming more circular than oval in observations spanning more than a century. The current diameter is 10,000 miles across, meaning that Earth could still fit inside it.

Read more here.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Dispersion of Words Related to Millet and Rice


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Linguists and anthropologists have noticed cultural and linguistic affinities between Mongolian, Turkish, Japanese, and Ainu populations. These share a Northeast Asia context that has been traced back to North Eurasian antecedents. The genetic closeness of these populations is evident on this chart.

Luigi Cavalli-Sforza's Genetic Distance Chart

In this study, Martine Robbeets (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena) and her team traced the proto-Transeurasian language back to the Liao river area of north-east China around 9000 years ago.

Millet farmers living in that region may have spoken a proto-Transeurasian language that gave rise to Japanese, Turkish and other modern tongues.

Transeurasian languages are spoken across a wide region of Europe and northern Asia. Until now, researchers assumed that they had spread from the mountains of Mongolia 3000 years ago, spoken by horse-riding nomads who kept livestock but didn’t farm crops.

Robbeets and her colleagues used linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence to conclude instead that it was the onset of millet cultivation by farmers in what is now China that led to the spread of the language family.

In another study, the rice trade appears to have spread common agricultural terms from Africa to Southeast Asia. The term "Sulawesi" might be related to the words "write" and "rice" records. If those who were moving from island to island were merchants, they would have recorded their transactions. Sulawe resembles the Egyptian word for writing ssw; and the Mande sewe; and the Dravidian ha-verasu (referring to written record of rice sales).

Linguistic connections are further evident in the terms for slash and burn cultivation used in Sulawesi and East Africa. The word trematrema is used in Northeast Betsimisaraa to refer to a one-to-three year slashed-and-burnt field. It is related to the Swahili word tema, ‘to cut’, and the redoubled form tematema, ‘to slash, to chop. This technique is used by Sulawesians who practice "dry rice" planting.

Rice grain formed the basis of weight measurement from East Africa to Sulawesi. On Madagascar, the the weight of one grain of rice is called vary and corresponds to the Swahili wari and to the Dravidian verasu. The Hebrew word for rice is orez and Arabic ruz. These share the RZ root with Dravidian. The Dravidian word reflects the written records of commercial weights.

There are two species of cultivated rice in the world: African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and Asian rice (Oryza sativa). African rice was domesticated from the wild ancestor Oryza barthii (Oryza brevilugata) by peoples living in the Benue-Niger floodplain about 3,000 years ago. The two strains of Asian rice are Oryza japonica and Oryza indica, identified with Japan and India.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Top USA Science Debate Team


The top science debate team in the USA hails from the Bronx! Learn about these amazing students here.

What is their secret? Cooperation. They practice together, research together, and help each other polish their public speaking. They are preparing to compete at the national level in 2022.

Approximately three hundred students are members of the Bronx Speech & Debate Team. Speakers and debaters from Bronx Science have won the country's most coveted championships, including all four national championships (TOC, NFL, NDCA, and NCFL) and major invitational titles (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Emory, Georgetown, the Glenbrooks, Blake, and Meadows, among many others). 

Related reading: Bronx School of Science

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

First Woman To Receive the Abel Prize


On Tuesday, November 2 (2021) it was announced from Oslo that Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck will be awarded the Abel Prize. The prize was created by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in 2003, and is viewed as the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel Prize. Uhlenbeck is the first woman to receive the Abel Prize in the award’s 18-year history.

The Abel Prize is awarded annually by the King of Norway to one or more outstanding mathematicians. It is named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1802–1829) and directly modeled after the Nobel Prizes.

The citation explains that Uhlenbeck’s work has “led to some of the most dramatic advances in mathematics in the last 40 years.”

Uhlenbeck, a founder of modern geometric analysis, is 79 years old.

Her research “inspired a generation of mathematicians,” said François Labourie of the University of Côte d’Azur in France. “She wanders around and finds new things that nobody has found before.”

Karen Uhlenbeck is a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, where she held the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair. She is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, and a visiting senior research scholar at Princeton University

Read more here.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Vaccination Lowers Risk of Death


Since January 2021, weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rates have fluctuated in unvaccinated people but have been consistently higher than in vaccinated people. For instance, as the delta variant became the dominant variant in June, hospitalizations of unvaccinated adults 18 years and older spiked while rates for vaccinated remained steady and low. The data were adjusted for age and come from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah.

Read more here.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

400,000-Year Tool Production Site Near Rome


A lissoir found at the site. (Villa et al., 2021, PLOS One)

The discovery of 98 elephant-bone tools at a site dating back 400,000 years is causing great excitement among paleoanthropologists. The bones are evidence of butchering by humans and the now-extinct animal was the straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). 

The bones were collected from Castel di Guido, located close modern-day Rome. The site indicates that archaic humans did not waste the resources at their disposal. They had a tool-production line using methods not known this far back in time. They used percussion flaking, a technique in which bits of bone are chipped off using a separate implement to make specific tools.

"We see other sites with bone tools at this time," says archaeologist Paola Villa (University of Colorado Boulder). "But there isn't this variety of well-defined shapes."

"At Castel di Guido, humans were breaking the long bones of the elephants in a standardized manner and producing standardized blanks to make bone tools."

Villa adds, "This kind of aptitude didn't become common until much later."

One of the most interesting tools discovered is a lissoir: a bone that's long and smooth at one end, and would have been used to treat leather. These kinds of tools didn't become common until about 300,000 years ago.

Read more here.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Sea Floor Expansion Pushes Continents Apart


Ridge zone where sea floor spreads.

Only a small portion of the oceanic crust produced in the Atlantic is subducted. Most is rising and the rising rock appears to be slowly pushing the continents of North and South America further apart from Europe and Africa. The spreading distance between North America and Europe is caused by mantle convection. The Atlantic is expanding by a couple of inches a year. 

The North American and Eurasian Plates are moving away from each other along the line of the Mid- Atlantic Ridge. The Ridge extends into the South Atlantic Ocean between the South American and African Plates. The ocean ridge rises to between 1.24 and 1.86 miles above the ocean floor, and a rift valley at its crest marks the location where the two plates are moving apart.

The Mid Atlantic Ridge has developed as a consequence of the divergent motion between the Eurasian and North American, and African and South American Plates. As the mantle rises towards the surface below the ridge the pressure is lowered (decompression) and the hot rock starts to partially melt. This produces basaltic volcanoes when an eruption occurs above the surface. An example is Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland

As the plates move further apart new ocean lithosphere is formed at the ridge and the ocean basin gets wider. This process is known as “sea floor spreading” and results in a symmetrical alignment of the rocks of the ocean floor which get older with distance from the ridge crest.