Today in Lab History: June 20, 1861- Sir Frederick Hopkins
Sir Frederick Hopkins was an English biochemist, born June 20, 1861, who shared, with Christiaan Eijkman, the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of essential nutrient factors, now known as vitamins, needed in animal diets to maintain health. Hopkins fed young rats on a basic diet that, in addition to the necessary salts, contained a carefully purified mixture of lard, starch and casein (the most abundant protein in milk).
The inks on historical documents can hold many secrets. The ingredients can help trace trade routes and help understand a work’s historical significance. And knowing how the ink breaks down can help cultural heritage scientists preserve valuable treasures. In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers report the development of a new, non-destructive method that can identify many types of inks on various papers and other surfaces.
It is likely that most of the large impact craters on Earth have already been discovered and that others have been erased, according to a new calculation by a pair of Purdue Univ. graduate students.
"Over the past 3.5 billion years it is thought that more than 80 asteroids similar in size to, or larger than, the one which killed the dinosaurs have struck the Earth, leaving behind craters which are over 100 kilometers across, but our model suggests only about eight of these massive craters could still exist today," says Timothy Bowling, a graduate student in Purdue’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. "Geologists have already found six or seven such craters, so odds are not in the favor of those hoping to find the next big crater."
Scientists and art experts have found a hidden painting beneath one of Pablo Picasso’s first masterpieces, “The Blue Room,” using advances in infrared imagery to reveal a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand. Now the question that conservators at The Phillips Collection in Washington hope to answer is simply: who is he?
It’s a mystery that’s fueling new research about the 1901 painting created early in Picasso’s career while he was working in Paris at the start of his distinctive blue period of melancholy subjects.
Today in Lab History: June 19, 1902- Barbara McClintock
Barbara McClintock was an American scientist, born June 19, 1902, regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of genetics. In the 1940s and 1950s McClintock’s work on the cytogenetics of maize led her to theorize that genes are transposable — they can move around — on and between chromosomes.
Tibet Was Cradle of Evolution for Cold-adapted Mammals
For the last 2.5 million years, our planet has experienced cold and warm, millennia-long cycles that collectively have become known as the Ice Age. During cold periods, continental-scale ice sheets blanketed large tracts of the northern hemisphere. As the climate warmed up, these colossal glaciers receded, leaving Yosemite-like valleys and other majestic geologic features behind. The advance and retreat of the ice sheets also had a profound influence in the evolution and geographic distribution of many animals, including those that live today in the Arctic regions.
A study, published online in PNAS, identifies a newly discovered three- to five-million-year-old Tibetan fox from the Himalayan Mountains, Vulpes qiuzhudingi, as the likely ancestor of the living Arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus, lending support to the idea that the evolution of present-day animals of the Arctic region is intimately connected to ancestors that first became adapted for life in cold regions in the high altitude environments of the Tibetan Plateau.
Carl Drake spent his life studying bugs, everything from aphids to water striders. When he died in 1965, the entomologist left his life savings and his vast insect collection to the Smithsonian. But now Drake’s will has become something of a pest.
The Smithsonian Institution says that after nearly half a century, it’s having a hard time carrying out Drake’s wishes, including fulfilling the mission he gave the institution for his money: buy more bugs. So, the Smithsonian is asking a federal judge in Washington for permission to modify Drake’s will.
Researchers from Northwestern Univ. and the Univ. of New Mexico have reported evidence for potentially oceans worth of water deep beneath the U.S. Though not in the familiar liquid form — the ingredients for water are bound up in rock deep in the Earth’s mantle — the discovery may represent the planet’s largest water reservoir.
The presence of liquid water on the surface is what makes our “blue planet” habitable, and scientists have long been trying to figure out just how much water may be cycling between Earth’s surface and interior reservoirs through plate tectonics.
A study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefited from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too fast.
An international team, led by scientists from the Universities of Southampton and Oxford, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes. Looking at the 30,000 years before human activity impacted the climate, as Antarctica gradually warmed, they found that three species of penguin; Chinstrap, Adélie and southern populations of Gentoo penguins increased in numbers. In contrast, Gentoo penguins on the Falkland Islands were relatively stable, as they were not affected by large changes in ice extent.
Today in Lab History: June 12, 1913- First Animated Cartoon
On June 12, 1913, the first animated cartoon made in the U.S. by modern techniques was released. John Bray invented and patented the process, producing a movie called The Artist’s Dream (also known as The Dachsund) in which a dog eats sausages until it explodes.
A major fossil discovery in Canada sheds new light on the development of the earliest vertebrates, including the origin of jaws. This is the first time this feature has been seen so early in the fossil record.
A key piece in the puzzle of the evolution of vertebrates has been identified, after the discovery of fossilized fish specimens, dating from the Cambrian period (around 505-million-years-old), in the Canadian Rockies. The fish, known as Metaspriggina, shows pairs of exceptionally well-preserved arches near the front of its body. The first of these pairs, closest to the head, eventually led to the evolution of jaws in vertebrates, the first time this feature has been seen so early in the fossil record.
Pangaea’s Mountains Helped Earth Avoid Warming Last Time
Geochemists have calculated a huge rise in atmospheric CO2 was only avoided by the formation of a vast mountain range in the middle of the ancient supercontinent, Pangaea. This work is being presented to the European Association of Geochemistry’s Goldschmidt geochemistry conference.
Around 300 million years ago, plate tectonics caused the continents to aggregate into a giant supercontinent, known as Pangaea. The sheer size of the continent meant that much of the land surface was far from the sea, and so the continent became increasingly arid because of a lack of humidity. This aridity meant that rock weathering was reduced; normally, a reduction in rock weathering means that CO2 levels rise, yet in spite of this CO2 levels – which had been falling prior to the mountain formation- continued to drop, eventually undergoing the most significant drop in atmospheric CO2 of the last 500 million years. This phenomenon has remained unexplained, until now.
Earth, Moon are Around 60 M Years Older than Thought
Work presented at the European Association of Geochemistry’s Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference in Sacramento, California shows that the timing of the giant impact between Earth’s ancestor and a planet-sized body occurred around 40 million years after the start of solar system formation. This means that the final stage of Earth’s formation is around 60 million years older than previously thought.
A group of scientists believe that a previously unexplained isotopic ratio from deep within the Earth may be a signal from material from the time before the Earth collided with another planet-sized body, leading to the creation of the moon. This may represent the echoes of the ancient Earth, which existed prior to the proposed collision 4.5 billion years ago. This work is being presented this week at the Goldschmidt conference, cosponsored by the European Association of Geochemistry.
The currently favored theory says that the moon was formed 4.5 billion years ago, when the Earth collided with a Mars-sized mass, which has been given the name “Theia.” According to this theory, the heat generated by the collision would have caused the whole planet to melt, before some of the debris cooled and spun off to create the moon. Now however, a group of scientists from Harvard Univ. believe that they have identified a sign that only part of the Earth melted, and that an ancient part still exists within the Earth’s mantle.