First humans in North America Lot Earlier than believed

Written by University of Montreal

The timing of the first entry of humans into North America across the Bering Strait has now been set back 10,000 years.

This has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt by Ariane Burke, a professor in Université de Montréal’s Department of Anthropology, and her doctoral student Lauriane Bourgeon, with the contribution of Dr. Thomas Higham, Deputy Director of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

The earliest settlement date of North America, until now estimated at 14,000 years Before Present (BP) according to the earliest dated archaeological sites, is now estimated at 24,000 BP, at the height of the last ice age or Last Glacial Maximum.

The researchers made their discovery using artifacts from the Bluefish Caves, located on the banks of the Bluefish River in northern Yukon near the Alaska border. The site was excavated by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars between 1977 and 1987. Based on radiocarbon dating of animal bones, the researcher made the bold hypothesis that human settlement in the region dated as far back as 30,000 BP.

In the absence of other sites of similar age, Cinq-Mars’ hypothesis remained highly controversial in the scientific community. Moreover, there was no evidence that the presence of horse, mammoth, bison and caribou bones in the Bluefish Caves was due to human activity.

To set the record straight, Bourgeon examined the approximate 36,000 bone fragments culled from the site and preserved at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau — an enormous undertaking that took her two years to complete. Comprehensive analysis of certain pieces at UdeM’s Ecomorphology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory revealed undeniable traces of human activity in 15 bones. Around 20 other fragments also showed probable traces of the same type of activity.

“Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals,” said Burke. “These are indisputable cut-marks created by humans.”

Bourgeon submitted the bones to further radiocarbon dating. The oldest fragment, a horse mandible showing the marks of a stone tool apparently used to remove the tongue, was radiocarbon-dated at 19,650 years, which is equivalent to between 23,000 and 24,000 cal BP (calibrated years Before Present).

“Our discovery confirms previous analyses and demonstrates that this is the earliest known site of human settlement in Canada,” said Burke. It shows that Eastern Beringia was inhabited during the last ice age.”

Beringia is a vast region stretching from the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories to the Lena River in Russia. According to Burke, studies in population genetics have shown that a group of a few thousand individuals lived in isolation from the rest of the world in Beringia 15,000 to 24,000 years ago.

“Our discovery confirms the ‘Beringian standstill [or genetic isolation] hypothesis,'” she said, “Genetic isolation would have corresponded to geographical isolation. During the Last Glacial Maximum, Beringia was isolated from the rest of North America by glaciers and steppes too inhospitable for human occupation to the West. It was potentially a place of refuge.”

The Beringians of Bluefish Caves were therefore among the ancestors of people who, at the end of the last ice age, colonized the entire continent along the coast to South America.

The results of Lauriane Bourgeon’s doctoral research were published in the January 6 edition of PLoS One under the title “Earliest Human Presence in North America Dated to the Last Glacial Maximum: New Radiocarbon Dates from Bluefish Caves, Canada.” The article is co-authored by Professor Burke and by Dr. Thomas Higham of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, in the U.K.

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Moon Older than Scientists Thought

Written by University of California - Los Angeles

A UCLA-led research team reports that the moon is at least 4.51 billion years old, or 40 million to 140 million years older than scientists previously thought.

The findings — based on an analysis of minerals from the moon called zircons that were brought back to Earth by the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 — are published Jan. 11 in the journal Science Advances. The moon’s age has been a hotly debated topic, even though scientists have tried to settle the question over many years and using a wide range of scientific techniques.

“We have finally pinned down a minimum age for the moon; it’s time we knew its age and now we do,” said Mélanie Barboni, the study’s lead author and a research geochemist in UCLA’s Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences. 

The moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a “planetary embryo” called Theia, a UCLA-led team of geochemists and colleagues reported in 2016.

The newest research would mean that the moon formed “only” about 60 million years after the birth of the solar system — an important point because it would provide critical information for astronomers and planetary scientists who seek to understand the early evolution of the Earth and our solar system.

That has been a difficult task, Barboni said, because “whatever was there before the giant impact has been erased.” While scientists cannot know what occurred before the collision with Theia, these findings are important because they will help scientists continue to piece together major events that followed it.

It’s usually difficult to determine the age of moon rocks because most of them contain a patchwork of fragments of multiple other rocks. But Barboni was able to analyze eight zircons in pristine condition. Specifically, she examined how the uranium they contained had decayed to lead (in a lab at Princeton University) and how the lutetium they contained had decayed to an element called hafnium (using a mass spectrometer at UCLA). The researchers analyzed those elements together to determine the moon’s age.

“Zircons are nature’s best clocks,” said Kevin McKeegan, a UCLA professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry, and a co-author of the study. “They are the best mineral in preserving geological history and revealing where they originated.”

The Earth’s collision with Theia created a liquefied moon, which then solidified. Scientists believe most of the moon’s surface was covered with magma right after its formation. The uranium-lead measurements reveal when the zircons first appeared in the moon’s initial magma ocean, which later cooled down and formed the moon’s mantle and crust; the lutetium-hafnium measurements reveal when its magma formed, which happened earlier.

“Mélanie was very clever in figuring out the moon’s real age dates back to its pre-history before it solidified, not to its solidification,” said Edward Young, a UCLA professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry and a co-author of the study.

Previous studies concluded the moon’s age based on moon rocks that had been contaminated by multiple collisions. McKeegan said those rocks indicated the date of some other events, “but not the age of the moon.”

The UCLA researchers are continuing to study zircons brought back by the Apollo astronauts to study the early history of the moon.

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Heat from Earth’s core drives plate tectonics

Written by University of Chicago

For decades, scientists have theorized that the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates is driven largely by negative buoyancy created as they cool. New research, however, shows plate dynamics are driven significantly by the additional force of heat drawn from the Earth’s core.

The new findings also challenge the theory that underwater mountain ranges known as mid-ocean ridges are passive boundaries between moving plates. The findings show the East Pacific Rise, the Earth’s dominant mid-ocean ridge, is dynamic as heat is transferred.

David B. Rowley, professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, and fellow researchers came to the conclusions by combining observations of the East Pacific Rise with insights from modeling of the mantle flow there. The findings were published Dec. 23 in Science Advances.

“We see strong support for significant deep mantle contributions of heat-to-plate dynamics in the Pacific hemisphere,” said Rowley, lead author of the paper. “Heat from the base of the mantle contributes significantly to the strength of the flow of heat in the mantle and to the resultant plate tectonics.”

The researchers estimate up to approximately 50 percent of plate dynamics are driven by heat from the Earth’s core and as much as 20 terawatts of heat flow between the core and the mantle.

Unlike most other mid-ocean ridges, the East Pacific Rise as a whole has not moved east-west for 50 to 80 million years, even as parts of it have been spreading asymmetrically. These dynamics cannot be explained solely by the subduction — a process whereby one plate moves under another or sinks. Researchers in the new findings attribute the phenomena to buoyancy created by heat arising from deep in the Earth’s interior.

“The East Pacific Rise is stable because the flow arising from the deep mantle has captured it,” Rowley said. “This stability is directly linked to and controlled by mantle upwelling,” or the release of heat from Earth’s core through the mantle to the surface.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge, particularly in the South Atlantic, also may have direct coupling with deep mantle flow, he added.

“The consequences of this research are very important for all scientists working on the dynamics of the Earth, including plate tectonics, seismic activity and volcanism,” said Jean Braun of the German Research Centre for Geosciences, who was not involved in the research.

The forces at work

Convection, or the flow of mantle material transporting heat, drives plate tectonics. As envisioned in the current research, heating at the base of the mantle reduces the density of the material, giving it buoyancy and causing it to rise through the mantle and couple with the overlying plates adjacent to the East Pacific Rise. The deep mantle-derived buoyancy, together with plate cooling at the surface, creates negative buoyancy that together explain the observations along the East Pacific Rise and surrounding Pacific subduction zones.

A debate about the origin of the driving forces of plate tectonics dates back to the early 1970s. Scientists have asked: Does the buoyancy that drives plates primarily derive from plate cooling at the surface, analogous with cooling and overturning of lakes in the winter? Or, is there also a source of positive buoyancy arising from heat at the base of the mantle associated with heat extracted from the core and, if so, how much does it contribute to plate motions? The latter theory is analogous to cooking oatmeal: Heat at the bottom causes the oatmeal to rise, and heat loss along the top surface cools the oatmeal, causing it to sink.

Until now, most assessments have favored the first scenario, with little or no contribution from buoyancy arising from heat at the base. The new findings suggest that the second scenario is required to account for the observations, and that there is an approximately equal contribution from both sources of the buoyancy driving the plates, at least in the Pacific basin.

“Based on our models of mantle convection, the mantle may be removing as much as half of Earth’s total convective heat budget from the core,” Rowley said. Much work has been performed over the past four decades to represent mantle convection by computer simulation. Now the models will have to be revised to account for mantle upwelling, according to the researchers.

“The implication of our work is that textbooks will need to be rewritten,” Rowley said.

The research could have broader implications for understanding the formation of the Earth, Braun said. “It has important consequences for the thermal budget of the Earth and the so-called ‘secular cooling’ of the core. If heat coming from the core is more important than we thought, this implies that the total heat originally stored in the core is much larger than we thought.

“Also, the magnetic field of the Earth is generated by flow in the liquid core, so the findings of Rowley and co-authors are likely to have implications for our understanding of the existence, character and amplitude of the Earth’s magnetic field and its evolution through geological time,” Braun added.

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NASA chasing asteroid to bring back to earth

Written by Richard Chirgwin

NASA’s asteroid-exploration mission OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has taken the left turn at Albuquerque on its way to a near-Earth space rock called Bennu.

The agency says the burn of 354 kg of fuel (780 pounds) boosted the craft’s velocity and put it on a trajectory for an Earth fly-by which will give OSIRIS-REx impart even more speed. That fly-by is set for September.

The most recent manoeuvre took place on December 28, 2016, and was the first big burn for the spacecraft (it’s designated Deep Space Manoeuvre 1, DSM-1). NASA says the Deep Space Network (DSN) collected tracking data showing it went well, and “subsequent downlink of high-rate telemetry from the spacecraft shows that all subsystems performed as expected”.

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Shock News: 2016 and 1998 have Statistically Same Temperature

Written by John O'Sullivan

Scientists say satellite temperatures for the year 2016 show no statistical difference when compared to the year 1998. In other words, that’s 18 years of no global warming. However, several mainstream fake news outlets are telling readers 2016 has just become the world’s ‘hottest year.’

Skeptics are mocking the lame media claims – which revolve around a supposed ‘rise’ of 0.24 degrees – statistically well inside error margins. Since the 1980’s the UN’s IPCC has predicted a global ‘climate catastrophe’ if governments don’t restrict increases in human emissions of carbon dioxide, the supposed cause of ‘catastrophic’ climate change.

But with CO2 levels in the atmosphere now edging over 400 parts per million (350 ppm the official ‘safe’ limit) there seems to be something wrong with the cornerstone of the science –  the so-called greenhouse gas theory.

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Bias, ignorance and reality in climate science

Written by Richard W Rahn

The rains have returned to California, and the six-year drought appears to be largely over. We have heard countless assertions from journalists and politicians, ignorant of the weather history of California and the other western states, that the drought was a result of global warming.

In the January edition of Scientific American, there is a well-told story “California Megaflood: Lessons from a Forgotten Catastrophe” by B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkley. She notes: “Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California every 100 to 200 years.

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Japanese Scientists Detect Venus Gravity Wave

Written by Karl Nelson

Japanese scientists have spotted a gravity wave on Venus, and it could be the largest stationary one ever recorded in the solar system.

Researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science detected the large gravity wave using the Akatsuki spacecraft, according to Gizmodo. The wave is said to be 6,200 miles long and is surrounded by strong winds traveling 225 miles per hour.

The wave was first observed by JAXA’s Akatsuki orbiter in 2015. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the orbiter discovered “a stationary, bow-shaped structure in the upper Venusian atmosphere.”

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Exposed: China’s Useless Wind Turbines

Written by Javier C Hernandez

JIUQUAN, China — On the edge of the Gobi Desert, the Jiuquan Wind Power Base stands as a symbol of China’s quest to dominate the world’s renewable energy market. With more than 7,000 turbines arranged in rows that stretch along the sandy horizon, it is one of the world’s largest wind farms, capable of generating enough electricity to power a small country.

But these days, the windmills loom like scarecrows, idle and inert. The wind howls outside, but many turbines in Jiuquan, a city of vast deserts and farms in the northwest province of Gansu, have been shut off because of weak demand. Workers while away the hours calculating how much power the turbines could have generated if there were more buyers, and wondering if and when they will ever make a profit.

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First baby born using 3-parent fertility technique

Written by Andy Coghlan

This is the first baby to be born using a particular “3-parent-baby” technique to treat infertility.

The girl was born on 5 January in a fertility clinic in Kiev, Ukraine. “With the help of this method, a 34-year-old woman who had suffered from infertility for more than 15 years gave birth to a healthy baby that’s genetically her own,” said a statement from the Nadiya clinic.

The clinic’s director, Valery Zukin, and his team used a mitochondrial transfer technique that creates embryos that carry the chromosomes of two parents, but the mitochondrial DNA of a donor.

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Earth Hour in 3D: Dim, Dark and Dopey

Written by Tony Thomas

For the past decade legions of the gullible have been signalling their eco-virtue by candles’ glow, turning off the lights for 60 minutes as an offering to poor, overheated Gaia. It makes little sense, but promoters are delighted the faithful can still write cheques in the gloom.

World Wide Fund for Nature (Australia) is gearing up for its tenth idiotic Earth Hour at 8.30pm on Saturday, March 25. Once again it will be urging people to turn off lights  (but not fridges, freezers, TVs, dishwashers, computers, aircons and smart-phones). If WWF is aware that satellite data shows no atmospheric warming for the past 18 years, that information figures nowhere in its literature.

Of course, any large-scale lights-off actually increases CO2 emissions because generators have to do inefficient ramping-up of power when the lights go on again. Such quibbles have never worried   WWF.

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The Unexpected Ingredient Essential for Life

Written by Marcus Woo

From microbes to marsupials, life abounds on Earth. But even if you stripped the planet of all its inhabitants, Earth would still “live”.

Its molten core churns, generating a magnetic field that envelops the planet. Erupting volcanoes spew gases and pave new lands with fresh lava. Earth’s surface is a jigsaw puzzle of continent-sized rocky plates that push, rub, and clash against one another – powerful processes that build mountains and reshape landscapes.

Earth is not just a vessel for life; the planet itself is alive. But its geological metabolism – and especially the dynamism of its tectonic plates – is also responsible for making it a habitable world. If the planet were a cold, dead, and inert space rock, life as we know it probably could not exist. At least on today’s Earth, geology and biology go hand in hand.

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Financial Ties Between Big Pharma & Researchers Taints Results

Written by BMJ

Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published this week by The BMJ (January 17, 2017).

Relationships with industry are common among investigators of randomised clinical trials (RCTs) – raising concerns about the effect that financial ties may have on the evidence base. But studies investigating these relationships have been conflicting.

So a team of US based researchers set out to investigate the association between financial ties of principal investigators and study outcomes in a random sample of 195 drug trials published in 2013.

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Study: Sea Urchins Thriving in High Carbon Dioxide Environment

Written by Uthicke, S., Ebert, T. et al.

Paper Reviewed: Uthicke, S., Ebert, T., Liddy, M., Johansson, C., Fabricius, K.E. and Lamare, M. 2016. Echinometra sea urchins acclimatized to elevated pCO2 at volcanic vents outperform those under present-day pCO2 conditions. Global Change Biology 22: 2451-2461

So how did Uthicke et al. (2016) learn what is implied by the title of their paper? As they go on to describe it, they studied “an Echinometra species on natural volcanic CO2 vents in Papua New Guinea, where they are CO2-acclimated and also subjected to secondary ecological changes from elevated CO2,” and where they additionally experienced “large daily variations in pH (>1 unit) and pCO2 (>2000 ppm) and average pH values (pHT 7.73),” which values, they make a point of noting, are “much below those expected under the most pessimistic future emission scenarios.”

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Rise in CO2 Reduces Impact of Ozone on Pine Trees

Written by Liu, Z., Chen, W. et al.

Paper Reviewed: Liu, Z., Chen, W., He, X., Fu, S. and Lu, T. 2016. Regulatory effects of elevated carbon dioxide on growth and biochemical responses to ozone stress in Chinese pine (Pinus taulaeformis Carr.). Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 97: 793-797.

In an attempt to downplay the many benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment on plant growth and development, climate alarmists frequently contend that the positive responses induced by rising levels of CO2 will be negated by the negative impacts of rising levels of ozone (O3) pollution. However, as evidenced by the many studies we have previously reviewed on this topic (see, for example, those reviews posted under the various subheadings of Ozone: Effects on Plants, listed here), elevated CO2 reduces, and nearly always completely overrides, the negative effects of O3 pollution on plant photosynthesis, growth and yield.

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