Tag Archives: Ars Technica

Mammals are smaller than they used to be, and it’s our fault

Enlarge / They were big, but we showed up, and they’re now gone. (credit: Mauricio Anton)

When the first modern humans ventured beyond Africa during the late Pleistocene, roughly 120,000 years ago, they stepped into a world filled with giants: the six-ton giant ground sloth in South America, the two- to three-ton wooly rhino in Europe and northern Asia, the 350- to 620-pound sabertooth cat in North America, and the six-ton wooly mammoth in Eurasia and North America. It’s hard to imagine a world filled with animals that large. The giants of the Pleistocene quickly vanished, and the animals that survived were generally two or three times smaller than those that went extinct. A new study indicates that the late Pleistocene decrease in mammal size coincided

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Doctors tried to lower $148K cancer drug cost; makers triple price of pill

(credit: Wellness GM)

A drug that treats a variety of white blood cell cancers typically costs about $148,000 a year, and doctors can customize and quickly adjust doses by adjusting how many small-dose pills of it patients should take each day—generally up to four pills. At least, that was the case until now.

Last year, doctors presented results from a small pilot trial hinting that smaller doses could work just as well as the larger dose—dropping patients down from three pills a day to just one. Taking just one pill a day could dramatically reduce costs to around $50,000 a year. And it could lessen unpleasant side-effects, such as diarrhea, muscle and bone pain, and tiredness. But just as doctors were gearing up for more

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Watch live: SpaceX to launch a small planet hunter for NASA [Updated]

TESS launch

Wednesday update: SpaceX had to scrub Monday’s launch attempt due to an unspecified issue with the Falcon 9 rocket’s guidance, navigation, and control system. However, after engineers with the California-based company looked at the rocket, it has been declared ready for flight. The 30-second launch window opens at 6:51pm ET (22:51 UTC). Weather conditions in Florida at the launch site are nearly perfect.

The webcast (above) should begin about 15 minutes before the launch window opens. Read below for more background on today’s mission, which will attempt to send a cool new planet hunter into space for NASA.

Original post: The wildly successful Kepler Space Telescope was designed to observe faint stars and monitor them for brief dips in brightness that would

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Massive bleaching event may be permanently changing the Great Barrier Reef

Enlarge / Although these corals are colored, they’ve been bleached, in that they have lost their photosynthetic symbiotes. (credit: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies / Gergely Torda)

The intense El Niño event that started in 2015 drove global air temperatures to new records, helped by the long trend of human-driven warming. But the air wasn’t the only thing affected. El Niño is fundamentally about Pacific Ocean temperatures, and those were exceptionally hot as well. One of the unfortunate results of this was a massive bleaching of the corals of the Great Barrier Reef.

While the damage to corals looked dramatic at the time, appearances aren’t the same as data, and they don’t give a comprehensive view of the damage, much less the

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Meteorite’s diamonds tell of Earth’s baby sister, which died young

Enlarge / Microscope image showing diamond (blue), graphite (black/gray), and blobs of iron-sulfur minerals (yellow). (credit: Dr. F. Nabiei/Dr. E. Oveisi/Prof. C. Hébert, EPFL, Switzerland)

On Earth, diamonds are time capsules with fascinating stories to tell. After all, they form at great depths—below the tectonic plates that make up Earth’s crust. It’s only because they travel to the surface with the volcanic equivalent of a jet pack that we’re able to see them at all.

But there’s another way to get your hands on a diamond: wait for one to crash to Earth inside a meteorite. And in the case of a new study published this week, it might even tell a story of a different planet, one that died in the early days of

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Russia appears to have surrendered to SpaceX in the global launch market

Enlarge / A Russian 3-stage Proton rocket blasts into the sky in 2000. (credit: NASA)

As recently as 2013, Russia controlled about half of the global commercial launch industry with its fleet of rockets, including the Proton boosters. But technical problems with the Proton, as well as competition from SpaceX and other players, has substantially eroded the Russian share. This year, it may only have about 10 percent of the commercial satellite launch market, compared to as much as 50 percent for SpaceX.

In the past, Russian space officials have talked tough about competing with SpaceX in providing low-cost, reliable service to low-Earth and geostationary orbit. For example, the Russian rocket corporation, Energia, has fast-tracked development of a new medium-class launch vehicle that it is calling

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Despite alien theories and novel mutations, the real Ata puzzle may be ethical

Enlarge (credit: Bhattacharya et al. 2018)

In 2003, Oscar Munoz found a mummy in the Atacama Desert ghost town of La Noria. The six-inch-long mummy, now called Ata, has an elongated skull, oddly shaped eye sockets, and only ten pairs of ribs… which helped fuel wild speculation that she was an alien hybrid. Ata was sold several times—probably illegally—and ended up in the private collection of Barcelona entrepreneur and UFO enthusiast Ramón Navia-Osorio. A 2013 documentary called Sirius soon helped immortalize Ata, focusing heavily on the alien hybrid claims.

When a team led by University of California, San Francisco bioinformatics researcher Sanchita Bhattacharya recently sequenced the tiny mummy’s genome, however, it revealed only a girl of Chilean descent. There were a complicated set of genetic mutations,

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Homeopath “treated” 4-yr-old boy’s behavior problems with saliva from rabid dog

Enlarge / Insanity dog’s got nothin’ on homeopaths. (credit: Getty | Agency-Animal-Picture)

“Hair of the dog” remedies may do the trick for some hangover sufferers. But health experts say that a Canadian homeopath took the idea too far—way, way too far.

Homeopath and naturopath Anke Zimmermann used diluted saliva from a rabid dog to “treat” a four-year-old boy, according to a blog post she published earlier this year. Zimmermann claims that the potentially infectious and deadly concoction successfully resolved the boy’s aggressive behavior, which she described as a “slightly rabid-dog state.”

The tale fits with the scientifically implausible principles of homeopathy. These roughly state that substances that produce similar symptoms of a particular ailment can cure said ailment (“like cures like”) and that diluting

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A solar panel on every roof in the US? Here are the numbers

Enlarge (credit: Jon Callas)

When you’re scoping out possible futures, it’s useful to ask a lot of “what if?” questions. For example, what if we could install solar panels on every suitable roof in the United States? How much electricity would they generate?

Plenty of research has followed this line of thought, though much of it has necessarily focused on working out the details for individual cities or regions. But now with enough of these studies in the bank, a group of researchers from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory decided to take another whack at a national estimate.

There are a lot of things you need to know to do this: number of buildings, size of roofs, direction the roofs are facing, strength of

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Oxygen ions may be an easy-to-track sign of life on exoplanets

Enlarge (credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

The search for extraterrestrial life is fairly synonymous with the search for life as we know it. We’re just not that imaginative—when looking for other planets that could host life, we don’t know what to look for, exactly, if not Earth-like conditions. Everything we know about life comes from life on Earth.

But conditions that clearly favor life here—liquid water, surface oxygen, ozone in the stratosphere, possibly a magnetic field—may not necessarily be prerequisites for its development elsewhere. Conversely, their presence does not guarantee life, either. So what can we look for that’s an indication of life?

Skip the dwarfs

Most (about seventy percent) of the stars in our Galaxy are M dwarf stars, and many of them have associated planets.

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