Saturday Science Links: August 29, 2015 | The BioLogos Forum

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Welcome to this week’s edition of Saturday Science Links—a place to check out the latest science headlines, as we explore and appreciate the wonders of creation together.

University of Connecticut researchers Alejandro Rico-Guevara, Margaret Rubega, and Tai-Hsi Fan used a combination of research and slow-motion video technology to alter the previously accepted model of hummingbird feeding: Hummingbirds drink by using their tongues as tiny pumps. Through two skinny tubes or grooves at the top of its tongue, the bird draws liquid after squeezing its tongue flat with its beak. (Picture the way in which a dropper takes in liquid.) Previously scientists thought that the bird “wicked,” or absorbed like a wick absorbs oil, the liquid through its tongue. Follow the link to watch the spectacular slow-motion video yourself, and read the original UConn article for further details.

Have archeologists found the lost palace of Sparta? A statement released by the Greek Ministry of Culture reveals that researchers unearthed a 10-room complex that falls within the Mycenaean Age and lays only 10 miles away from the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta. At the site, researchers discovered various objects that suggest the ruins of a palace, including religious objects, bronze swords, and clay tablets with financial and religious engravings. Though it has not been officially determined whether the ruins belonged to the city-state, the statement suggests that it likely housed the palace archive. The ruins are hoped to offer important insight into the disappearance of one of the most dominant empires in history.

A study performed and published by researchers at Brown University and the Carnegie Institution of Washington explores the ancient moon’s behavior and composition. Though the moon previously had a molten and active surface, rather than the solid, rocky, surface it has today, the cause of the active nature of the moon was unknown. The researchers revealed that the explosions were likely due to the presence of carbon monoxide alongside water and sulfur, suggesting the moon to be geologically similar to Earth and—for some—suggest a common origin for both.

Would you like to enter earth’s orbit? Got 60 minutes? Soon, these questions may become relevant. Following eight years of preliminary research, Canadian company Thoth Technology acquired a patent for a 12.4-mile-high “space elevator” that would serve as a docking platform for space vehicles that will launch cargo, astronauts, and tourists into orbit. Traveling at 7 miles per hour, the space elevator can carry up to ten tons of cargo to the top of the tower in about an hour. Though it is expected to cost roughly five billion dollars to build, the company predicts that it will significantly reduce the cost of reaching low Earth orbit—opening further opportunity for space exploration and interaction. Up next for the team is building a demonstration structure, which will be 0.9 miles high (and the tallest structure on Earth).

Research conducted by Noah Fierer, associate professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and fellow in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, and his team offers important information regarding what determines the composition of household dust. Their study showed that the dust that surrounds us daily is replete with living organisms, including pollen, fungi, and bacteria, and its exact composition depends upon factors such as where you live and the people with whom you live—including the gender of the people and whether or not your household has pets.

If you happened to see the photo shared throughout social media of the “fire rainbow” spotted over South Carolina, you may be interested in knowing what the phenomenon is all about. Read this explanation of how several atmospheric conditions must come together in order for the phenomenon to occur. If you didn’t see it, check out the link to view the photo for the first time and read the explanation of the often misunderstood beauty: the circumhorizontal arc.

Can technology solve problems facing wildlife conservation? Recent headlines reflect the fascinating intersection of conservation and robotics.

Researchers working with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), an Australian science agency, have developed micro-sensors that track the behavior of honeybees. The honeybee has been in the headlines because of concerns for their declining population, and CSIRO researchers hope information gathered from the 10,000 bees that have been tagged and are currently being tracked will shed light ways to address the problem.

Drones have been in the news for various reasons lately, as they can potentially be used for anything from shipping packages to spying on neighbors. Here’s a potential new use for drones: Tracking wildlife behavior. Lead researcher Dr. Debbie Saunders and her team at The Australian National University (ANU) along with scientists at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (University of Sydney) are seeking to improve tagging and tracking practices of wildlife by using drones with small radio receivers. The technology provides live, remote tracking of animals in currently readily explored areas along with areas that are difficult to access. Though there is much to be excited about when exploring and using new technology, it is also important to consider its potential deleterious effects. While the two previously referenced articles were in the headlines highlighting the exciting potential for robots and drones in wildlife conservation, another warned of the harmful effects that the use of foreign technology like drones can have on animals, specifically focusing on the technology’s effects on black bears.

Thanks to a study published in Nature by researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (Colorado, USA) and Queen's University (Ontario, Canada), scientists may have a clearer picture of the development of gaseous planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn. To predict the development of planets, the scientists entered existing astronomical data into supercomputers that then simulate what happens over vast amounts of time. The initial results showed that, given thousands of years, our Solar System should have hundreds of Earth-sized objects, which is not the case. They decided to add additional time to the simulation and found that over 400,000 years the Solar System resulted in several Earth-sized planets and one to four rocky cores—precursors to gas-giant planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn. This was the first time that such a simulation created results like this, offering important insight into the development of such planets.

God’s creation can be studied, admired, and explored in a host of different ways, but one of my favorite ways to do so is through the art of photography. So to close this week’s Saturday Science Links, I’ll leave you with a several series of photos of his handiwork: the Twin Jet Nebula, New Zealand’s Lake Wakatipu, and Pluto.

"Bee-apis" by Maciej A. Czyzewski - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons -

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