Genetic Forensics Wakes a Dragon
A genetic investigation into the illegal trade of sailfin dragons has unearthed a surprise: a new species of the rainbow-colored lizards that resemble small dinosaurs. The finding highlights just how little is known about these mysterious and threatened animals.
Sailfin lizards (genus Hydrosaurus) look like they were pulled from a child’s coloring book. As the water-loving reptiles mature, their faces, dorsal crests, and saillike tails shift from a drab green and gray to vibrant shades of neon purple, cyan, and harlequin. That’s made them a popular target for an illegal pet trade which—along with destruction of their habitat in the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, and New Guinea—has decimated their numbers. In the wild, only juveniles remain in most populations, says Cameron Siler, the curator of herpetology at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.
This is a full body shot of this lizard, hence the name Sailfin.
13 Must See Stargazing Events for 2013
— Listed In Chronological Order
1) January 21 — Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction
A waxing gibbous moon (78% illuminated) will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter high in the evening sky. Your closed fist held out at arms length covers 10 degrees. These two wont get that close again until 2026.
2) February 2-23 — Best Evening View of Mercury
The planet Mercury will be far enough away from the glare of the Sun to be visible in the Western sky after sunset. It will be at its brightest on the 16th and dim quickly afterwards. On the 8th it will skim by the much dimmer planet Mars by about 0.4 degrees.
3) March 10-24 — Comet PANSTARRS at its best
First discovered in 2011, this comet should be coming back around for about 2 weeks. It will be visible low in the northwest sky after sunset. Here are some sources predicting what the comets may look like in the sky; 1, 2
4) April 25 — Partial Lunar Eclipse
A very minor, partial lunar eclipse (not visible in North America) where only about 2 percent of the moon’s diameter will be inside the dark shadow of the Earth.
5) May 9 — Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)
It will be visible in Northern Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea but mostly within the Pacific Ocean. See all the solar eclipse paths for 2001-2020 here.
6) May 24-30 — Dance of the Planets
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will seemingly dance between each other in the twilight sky just after sunset as they will change their positions from one evening to the next. Venus will be the brightest of all, six times brighter than Jupiter.
7) June 23 — Biggest Full Moon of 2013
It will be the biggest full moon because the moon will be the closest to the Earth at this time making it a ‘supermoon’ and the tides will be affected as well creating exceptionally high and low tides for the next few days.
8) August 12 — Perseid Meteor Shower
One of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year producing upwards of 90 meteors per hour provided the sky is dark. This year the moon won’t be in the way as much as it will set during the evening leaving the rest of the night dark. Here is a useful dark-sky finder tool.
9) October 18 — Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon
Visible mostly in Asia, Europe and Africa, at this time the 76% of the moon will be covered by the penumbral shadow of the Earth.
10) November 3 — Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun
A Hybrid Eclipse meaning, along its path, the eclipse will turn from Annular to Total and in this case most of the path will appear to be Total as there will be a slight ring of sunlight visible near the beginning of the track. This one will begin in the Atlantic (near the East Coast of the U.S.) and travel through Africa. See the path here. The greatest eclipse (with 100 seconds of totality) will appear in Liberia, near the West Coast of Africa.
11) Mid-November through December — Comet ISON
The second comet this year, ISON, could potentially be visible in broad daylight as it reaches its closest point to the Sun. It will reach that point on November 28 and it is close enough to the Sun to be categorized as a ‘Sungrazer’. Afterwards it will travel towards Earth (passing by within 40 million miles) a month later.
12) All of December — Dazzling Venus
The brightest planet of them all will shine a few hours after sundown in the Southwestern sky and for about 1.5 hours approaching New Years Eve. Around December 5th, a crescent moon will pass above the planet and the next night Venus will be at its brightest and wont be again until 2021.
13) December 13-14 — Geminid Meteor Shower
This is another great (if not the best) annual meteor shower. This year put on a show at about 120 meteors per hour and in 2013 it won’t be much different so expect another fantastic show. However, the moon - as it is a few days before full phase - will be in the way for most of the night obscuring some of the fainter meteors. You might have to stay up in the early morning hours (4am) to catch the all the meteors it has to offer. If you missed 2012’s Geminid Meteor Shower, here are some great photo-sets; 1, 2, 3
Thinking of putting a few of these on my calendar.
A new way to study the role of a critical neurotransmitter in disorders such as epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, depression, schizophrenia, and alcohol addiction has been developed by a group of scientists led by Gong Chen, an associate professor ofat Penn State University.
The new method involves molecularly engineering a model synapse — a structure through which a nerve cell send signals to another cell. This model synapse can precisely control a variety of receptors for the neurotransmitter called GABA, which is important in brain chemistry. The research, which will be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry on 10 August 2012, opens the door to the possibility of creating safer and more-efficient drugs that target GABA receptors and that cause fewer side effects.
Good to see this.
if that wasn’t cool enough, this has implications for chronic pain management as well. GABA and pain:
- ScienceDaily: A Step Forward In Targeted Pain Therapy (Jan 24, 2008)
- Enna and McCarson: The role of GABA in the mediation and perception of pain. (2006)
gabapentin and pregabalin are both named after GABA (γ-Aminobutyric acid). benzodiazepines are antiepileptics with analgesic (and anxiolytic and sedative) properties, and they’re also GABAergics.
really hoping this works, because i’ve done the drug merry-go-round and i still can’t get past my depression. :/
Spin a hard boiled egg in a puddle of milk and you get a sprinkler. But how? The science starts at the surface. When the egg spins, the fluid touching its surface is dragged along due to friction, and, because of the fluid’s viscosity, other parts of the fluid will also be spun. Dynamics tells us that the velocity at the surface of the object varies with radius; the velocity at the bottom of a spinning sphere is much smaller than that at its equator because a particle at the equator traverses a larger distance in a single rotation. Likewise, the fluid touching the bottom of the egg is spun slower than the fluid just above it. Bernoulli’s principle tells us that, for an incompressible fluid, the pressure decreases as velocity increases, meaning that a favorable pressure gradient exists along the spinning convex surface. It is this pressure gradient that draws the fluid up the sides of the object. Near the equator, the pressure gradient is weakest and centrifugal force flings the the fluid outward. Surface tension, angular velocity, and viscosity all play a role in the jets and sheets created by the sprinklers. (Video credit: NPR Science Friday with Tadd Truscott et al)
Researchers used computational models of ocean currents to produce this video visualizing worldwide ocean surface currents from June 2005 through December 2007. Dark patterns under the ocean are representative of ocean depths and have been exaggerated to 40x; land topography is exaggerated to 20x. Notice the wide variety of behaviors exhibited in the simulation: some regions experience strong recirculation and eddy production, while others remain relatively calm and unmoving. Occasionally strong currents sweep long lines across the open waters, carrying with them warmth and nutrients that encourage phytoplankton blooms and other forms of ocean life. (Video credit: NASA; submitted by Jason S)
*dies laughing* This is for you. Several of you. You know who you are.