Bumblebee Intelligence Makes Them Able to Learn Skills

(Mirror Daily, United States) A new study shows remarkable findings in bumblebees intelligence. The tiny insects were put to the test by British scientists, and their experiments showed that the bees are able to learn skills. Researchers used a common method when it comes to testing cognitive skills, namely pulling a string.

A team of British scientists was highly interested in the domain of bumblebee intelligence. They decided to use a method which has been used with other animals before. However, the test of pulling a string was first used with insects in this bumblebee research.

What the scientists did was to take some bumblebee individuals to their laboratories. Here, they instructed the insects in using a string in order to gather food. The researchers themselves couldn’t believe it when they saw the first bee accomplish the task successfully.

The study raised an interesting question about bumblebees behavior, as well as that of other species. The scientists are interested in figuring out whether rewards can determine animals to act in different ways than the way they naturally do. Another of the specialists’ aim is to find out if bees or other species would teach young individuals to use those skills.

Researchers are amazed by the fact that they have obtained such good results with bees. Although the insects have tiny brains, they proved themselves able to accomplish the task of pulling a string. The specialists explain that first, they had to train them. The program included increasing the distance between bees and the fake flower sprinkled with a sweet substance.

What was even more surprising is that after the first bees started to master the technique of using the string, other bees in their group began to show improvement too. This leads researchers to believe that bumblebees observed the experience, then copied and used it.

The team of researchers is also concerned with linking the findings of this study to human evolution. They think that humans might have developed skills in the same way. In other words, they have accidentally used tools and observed their efficiency. This made them repeat the experience because they had benefits for it.

However, further research in human evolution is required. For the time being, the British researchers are impressed by how bumblebees succeeded in using tools, and they are pleased with the results.

The new study accounting for the intelligence of bumblebees was published in PLOS Biology, on October 4.

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Artistic graphic of mysterious star KIC 8462852 surrounded by comets

(Mirror Daily, United States) A mysterious star has been giving scientists a bad time for a year now.  Ever since its discovery, theories about it hosting alien forms of life have been going on, among others.  A new study provides evidence on the peculiar phenomenon happening on KIC 8462852.

The new study is based on information provided by a Kepler Space Telescope from NASA. The telescope has been gathering the data for four years, from 2009 to 2013. Scientists were able to observe that the star has a fading light and that it loses its power more and more.

The authors of the study note that at first, the phenomenon was advancing in a slow rhythm. According to them, the star was losing 0.3 percent of its light every year. However, the researchers also observed an acceleration. There was a period of six months when the luminosity of KIC 8462852 dropped by two percent.

Researchers are puzzled by the behavior of this mysterious star. They compared it to other five hundred similar celestial bodies, but no signs of such phenomenon were reported on them.

Previous studies also drew the scientists’ attention on the weird dimming of light happening on KIC 8462852. They are curious about what is going to happen next. If the phenomenon advances, the star is likely to fade completely. This is something researchers have never dealt with before.

The mysterious star is located at over one thousand four hundred light-years away from our solar system. There are several theories about what could cause the strange behavior of the star. Some scientists believe that interstellar dust may be surrounding it, or comets might be passing in front of it. There are also voices that claim that other strange objects in space are the cause of the fading light of KIC 8462852.

One of the most controversial theories was suggested last year. After analyzing several scenarios, scientists reached an important conclusion. They thought that the only possible explanation for the strange behavior of the star is alien technology. This would mean that KIC 8462852 is either the home of aliens or one of the few celestial bodies which show signs of interaction with aliens forms of life.

The new study on KIC 8462852 doesn’t provide explanations for the ever-fading light of the star. However, it accounts for the strange phenomenon happening. The recent study was published in Astrophysical Journal.

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Specialists used 3D printers for their project

(Mirror Daily, United States) Robotics is one of the fields of technology which is rapidly advancing. 3D printers are used more and more by scientists in order to develop improved models. It is the case of MIT researchers as well, who created a soft material which assures resistance of high-tech devices.

The newly designed material was obtained with the help of 3D printers. Its purpose is to protect all kinds of devices from getting damaged. Drones and robots will be much more resistant than they used to be and crashes will no longer affect them.  Developers suggest that the new protective material can be used even for smartphones.

The soft material developed by the MIT researchers assures a safe landing for robots and other devices that feature it. According to researchers, robots now have four times more chances of landing properly, without getting damaged. What the material does is help devices rather softly bounce than instantly hit the ground.

MIT researchers have also written a study on their latest invention. It is called “Printable Programmable Viscoelastic Materials for Robots.” The principal authors are Robert MacCurdy, Shuguang Li, Daniela Rus, and Jeffrey Lipton.

Because they protect devices from being damaged, the main feature of viscoelastic materials is that they absorb the shock. Daniela Rus talks about the implications of this new achievement:

“That reduction makes all the difference for preventing a rotor from breaking off of a drone or a sensor from cracking when it hits the floor. These materials allow us to 3D print robots with visco-elastic properties that can be inputted by the user at print-time as part of the fabrication process.”

Another important feature of these materials is that they can take any shape. They can be cut or carved according to the form of the device on which they will be applied.

For the time being, the MIT researchers put into effect their product by developing a cube with robotic features. The geometrical shape was covered with the special material in order to show how the PVM works. The testing leads specialists to believe that the PVMs are efficient with a broad range of materials.

The MIT researchers state that they can enlarge the variety of domains which can benefit from the soft materials. For now, they think about electronics and sports. They will present their product at a meeting on intelligent robots, which will be held in South Korea.

What do you think about the new soft materials produced with the help of 3D printers?

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Ivory trade is an old business

(Mirror Daily, United States) CITES or the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species has recently held a meeting on ivory trade. Authorities decided to close markets and prohibit animals being hunted. One of the officials’ main arguments was the low number of elephants in the wild.

The most recent meeting of CITES took place in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. The authorities decided to keep the regulations of banning poaching and ivory trade. However, there were voices that claimed that market should allow such commerce.

CITES had to reach an agreement with states that had several problems. Some of them had ivory stockpiles and asked for permission to destroy them. However, conversationalists suggested that the already collected ivory should be used for other purposes rather than destroyed by burning it.

Other states asked for permission to close all markets involved in the process of ivory trade.  The regulations imposed by CITES are not that harsh in this case either. Officials agreed that only illegal markets should be closed.

The United Nations also held a meeting on October 2. The members voted in favor of the closure of all markets, including legal domestic markets. They believe that allowing any type of ivory trade means sentencing animals to death.

Recent reports from specialists show that conservationists have strong reasons to be concerned about the faith of elephants. The large animals are widely hunted for their precious tusks. The population is declining because of poachers and low rhythm of reproduction.

Africa is home to both savanna and forest elephants. The latter type is smaller, so its sizes make it easy for hunters to chase them and put them down. Statistics show that the population of forest elephants displays a more drastic decline than that of savanna elephants.

This is why conservation specialists ask for the complete eradication of the practice of hunting elephants. They argue that more than twenty thousands of the large animals die every year by the hand of hunters.

China is one of the main ivory buyers. Trading the precious material doesn’t endanger only elephants, but other animals too, such as rhinos. Specialists hope that banning illegal commerce will help the animals.

On the other hand, it is also true that laws have never stopped poachers from carrying on with their activities. There are voices that claim that new regulation won’t prevent ivory trade.

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Teeth fossil of Megalodon (left) and great white shark (right)

(Mirror Daily, United States) Researchers are amazed by the importance of their latest discovery. A teeth fossil reveals a new shark species, which is assumed to have lived approximately twenty million years ago, in the Miocene epoch. Researchers believed it is a worthy ancestor of great white sharks that are roaming our oceans today.

The new shark species was called Megalolamna paradoxodon. The Greek denomination suggests the sizes and the sharpness of the teeth. The ancient predator is now extinct. Based on the information provided by the teeth fossil, specialists estimate that the animal must have been twelve feet long, which is comparable to the sizes of present-day great white sharks.

Experts also determined that the Megalolamna paradoxodon used to swim in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They found evidence of its existence in several countries in the world, namely Japan, Peru, North Carolina, and California. The evidence consists merely of fossil teeth.

Archeologists found five teeth which account for the existence of this new, but extinct, shark species. They measure almost two inches and show that the animal had very pointy and sharp teeth.  The Megalolamna paradoxodon used to feed on fish. It used its front teeth for grasping and its back teeth for slicing its prey.

The discovery of the teeth enabled researchers to compare the extinct Megalolamna paradoxodon to shark species that still exist today. The twelve feet long are the equivalent of approximately four meters. This means that it was actually smaller than the great white shark, which can be as long as six meters. However, it is still close to other large species, such as Mako sharks and sand tiger sharks.

Researchers are aware that the teeth fossil can’t provide enough information to establish the specific sizes of the Megalolamna paradoxodon. The proportion between teeth and body size can be tricky sometimes, as some of the specialists admit.

The experts who studied the teeth fossil also suggest that the Megalolamna paradoxodon might be a close relative of Carcharocles megalodon. They are both extinct species, but fossils account for their existence. The Megalodon is one of the largest shark species ever discovered. It could reach eighteen meters in body length.

The new study on the Megalolamna paradoxodon and its impressive teeth was published in Historical Biology, on October 3.

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The front of the Nobel Prize medal

(Mirror Daily, United States) The Nobel Prize is one of the most important awards scientists, writers or organizations can receive throughout their career. It stands as a recognition of the merits of a person or group of people who contributed to the benefit of culture and humankind.

The Nobel Prize awards have a tradition which dates back to 1901 when the first edition was held. The tradition began due to the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist. Initially, there were five categories, namely Peace, Literature, Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics. Approximately fifty years later, a new category was added, namely Economic Sciences, but it is not regarded as having the same status as the others.

As far as the 2016 edition of the event is concerned, it has already started. It will go on for the entire week, and roughly each day one of the winners to the now six categories will be announced. Winners receive approximately $930,000, as well as a diploma and a gold medal. However, apart from the material goods, they also get world fame and recognition for their work.

The Nobel Prize ceremonies are hosted by Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden. Nevertheless, the Peace Nobel Prize is awarded in Oslo, the capital city of neighbor country Norway.

Special committees are in charge of examining each category, namely the works of literature, the peace initiatives, and the scientific projects and research. Judges are not allowed to talk about nominees before the ceremony itself,  so this years’ winners will be a mystery too until public revealing.

Alfred Nobel stated in his will dating from 1895 which should be the institutions in charged of awarding the prizes. So Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute is in charge of the medicine category, while The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences covers two categories, namely chemistry and physics. The Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy.

The award for Peace was assigned to an institution in Norway. Specialists believe that  Alfred Nobel made this decision because Norway seemed a much more peaceful and democratic country than Sweden.

For this year’s edition, the first winner to be announced is that of Medicine category, on October 3, followed by that of Physics on October 4, and Chemistry on October 5. The winner of the Nobel Prize in Peace will be announced on October 7, while that of Economic Sciences is due to next week, October 10. The date for the Literature Category hasn’t been revealed yet.

Ernest Hemingway and Albert Einstein are just two of the most famous winners. Can you think of other similar personalities?

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Young star forming in the middle of a protoplanetary disk

(Mirror Daily, United States) Scientists have recently discovered an unusual structure surrounding a young star, called Elias 2-27. The structure has the seaming of a galaxy because of its arms describing a spiral. Specialists intend to find out the implications of such a phenomenon, such as the way in which planets appear.

Researchers explain that when a new star is born, dust and debris surround it. However, the shape of the structure forming around the young star is perfectly circular. This is why the spiral-like shape of the structure surrounding Elias 2-27 is particularly interesting.

This is the first time that researchers observe such a phenomenon. The spiral is composed of arms, just like a galaxy, just like the Milky Way. According to specialists, these arms are caused by density waves.

Experts are amazed by the discovery because they state that such a phenomenon only occurs in large scales, including galaxies. However, the same happens with Elias 2-27. The star is located at more than four hundred fifty light-years from Earth and belongs to the constellation of Ophiuchus.

The scientists were able to observe the young star, its features and the objects surrounding it with the help of a specially designed device. They used a special radio telescope, called Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. The researchers were able to have a closer view of the celestial body and observe that the spiral arms around it are symmetric.

Elias 2-27 is considered to be a young star, but it is at least one million years old. It is also about a half percent of the mass of the Sun. The spiral of dust and gas around the young star is scientifically called protoplanetary disk.

Astronomer Laura Pérez was the leader of the research on Elias 2-27. She talked about the link between this discovery and the possible reconsideration of the process of planet-forming, which is called ‘core accretion’:

“Once the core is large enough, it quickly accretes gas from the disk and forms a planet with an atmosphere — think of Jupiter, with its massive inner core and then its massive atmosphere. However, this standard picture fails at large distances from the star. There are not enough dust particles and gas for core accretion to be proceed.”

A study on Elias 2-27 and the curious structure around it was published in Science.

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The structure of the Milky Way is much complex than initially thought.

(Mirror Daily, United States) A new study from specialists reveals that the Milky Way sprawls beyond our imagination. This means that our galaxy is way bigger that researchers initially believed. Special calculations show that it is actually four times larger than the estimation of previous studies.

Galaxies are shaped similar to concentric circles or vortexes. Our Milky Way is composed of four such arms, and the one visible from Earth is called the Local Arm. However, the recent research points out that the shape of the Milky Way is quite different from that of other galaxies, because of the length of the Local Arm.

Scientists explain that our corner of the galaxy is approximately 20,000 light-years long, which is four times more that what previous theories suggested. What’s more, the Local Arm was thought to have modest dimensions, if compared to the other three in the Milky Way. In addition to this, this arm doesn’t behave like the others, because it doesn’t perfectly circle the galaxy like a spiral.

According to the experts in charge of the study, astronomers encounter difficulties with the proper mapping our Milky Way because of the spherical shape of the galaxy. The Earth is located at the core of the galaxy, and this way a proper view of the whole system is something hard to accomplish.

The team of specialists used radio wavelengths to study the skies. Based on the information received from specially designed devices, they could measure the distance which separates Earth from distant stars in the galaxy. The study also points out that there are active processes of star formation in the Local Arm.

Another important finding of the study is that the Milky Way also has a bigger mass than initially thought. This leads scientists to believe that there are many more mysteries about our galaxy and the universe that are still hidden in the cosmos. They know that their job is to unveil these mysteries.

The recent discovery helps astronomers get a more accurate view of the universe, and particularly, of our solar system. The fact that our Milky Way seems to be shaped differently from other galaxies could also lead to further research on the way galaxies form, evolve, and the connection between them.

The new study was published in Science Advances. Specialist Mark Reid is one of the authors of this new research.

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Red salmon swimming

(Mirror Daily, United States) October is the month of red salmon swimming and jumping out of the Cedar River. The river is hosting two main salmon species, namely Chinook and Coho, which come here for their spawn season. There is also an organization called Cedar River Salmon Journey which can help you see the red salmon and to provide you with more information.

Salmon live in oceans, but they migrate to fresh waters to spawn. Their breeding season has recently started, and one of their favorite places to go now is the Cedar River. Their appearance changes and sexually mature individuals turn pink or red in this period.  Females can have darker colors than males, and both of them can develop prominent organs.

There is a particular species of salmon, called Sockeye or red salmon. They are characterized as having only one reproduction phase. This means that they begin their journey from the ocean to fresh bodies of waters, and after spawning, they die.

As far as the migration of salmon is concerned, it is a tiring process for the fish. Swimming all the way from oceans to the rivers’ springs in the mountains could even take them months. Salmon spend all this time swimming, with no time for rest or feeding. This is why they are exhausted and weak when they reach their destination.

According to specialists, a salmon female can produce at least eight hundred little fish during its spawning phase. A salmon pair can even have one thousand babies. However, few parents make it back to the ocean. Their journey overwhelms them, and many fish die on their way back.

Salmons prove themselves able of great sacrifice. Because of their feature of migrating from the oceans and seas to rivers, they are called anadromous.

The Cedar River Salmon Journey is an organization which is in charge of studying and protecting wild salmon. The members of this association organize events so that people can come and watch red salmon during their spawning season every year at the Cedar River. The organization also receives the help of volunteers.

The association prepared activities for public interest which will be held every weekend in October. This means eight meetings have already been scheduled for the public. Their purpose it to educate especially children about the life circle of salmon, and providing people with the opportunity of seeing the fish.

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Hawaiian bees pollinate native flowers.

(Mirror Daily, United States) Hawaiian bees are joining other species on the endangered animal list. Starting September 30, they are under the protection of federal authorities, and the new regulation aims to save the bees from extinction. No less than seven Hawaiian bees have this status now.

Xerces Society is one of the active organizations which protect pollinators. The yellow-faced bees in Hawaii are among the species they defend. Advocates have been trying to draw the authorities’ attention to the situation for seven years. They first required federal protection for the bees in Hawaii back in 2009.

Years of research account for the importance of the Hawaiian bees on the islands. The small insects are closely related to the well-being of both plants and animals in the islands. They can be found in forests, as well as near the beaches, but also outside Hawaii. Nevertheless, specialists explain that these bees only pollinate Hawaiian flowers, and some of the plants are also on the verge of extinction.

Specialists are concerned about the balance of ecosystems if the Hawaiian bees disappear. This will lead to the extinction of the plants they pollinate too. Moreover, these plants stand as shelter and food source for other animals, which will indirectly be affected by the disappearance of the bees. The new law helps environmentalists raise awareness about the situation of the Hawaiian insects.

There are several threats which severely affect bees in Hawaii. One of them is other insects, which invade their territory. There are also wild pigs which interfere with their activity. Loss of habitat is a major concern, as wildfires and development around beaches deprive bees of their natural environment.

The Hawaiian bees are the first bee species in the United States to be placed under the protection of the  Endangered Species Act. Authorities at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced  that seven bee species that will be protected by law from now on, but they are not the only ones. Three other animals were also added, namely the band-rumped storm-petrel, the anchialine pool shrimp, and the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly. As far as plants are concerned, almost forty Hawaiian species are also considered to be endangered.

Authorities hope that further conservation strategies will help the Hawaiian bees surive, as well as other animals too. Recovery programs will start as soon as all details are set.

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