Friday, May 29, 2020

science news 29.5.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

ESPRESSO confirms the presence of an Earth around the nearest star
The existence of a planet the size of Earth around the closest star in the solar system, Proxima Centauri, has been confirmed by a team of scientists including researchers from the University of Geneva. The planet, Proxima b, has a mass of 1.17 earth masses and is located in the habitable zone of its star. This breakthrough has been possible thanks to measurements using ESPRESSO, the most accurate spectrograph currently in operation.



This artist's impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System.
Credit: © ESO/M. Kornmesser


evolution

World's oldest bug is fossil millipede from Scotland

Chinese pterodactyl wings its way to the United Kingdom
The first ever specimen of a pterodactyl, more commonly found in China and Brazil, has been found in the United Kingdom.


ecology

Two bacteria allow spittlebugs to thrive on low-nutrient meals

New Zealand blue whale distribution patterns tied to ocean conditions, prey availability


food and drink

New report discusses coffee's effect on digestion and digestive disorders
A new report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC), entitled 'Coffee and its effect on digestion' reviews the latest research into coffee's effect on digestion, and indicates a potential protective effect against gallstones and gallstone disease and pancreatitis. The report also highlights other beneficial effects that coffee consumption may have on the process of digestion, including supporting gut microflora and promoting gut motility.


sustainability

Balancing the economy while saving the planet
A new research-based framework lets companies make informed decisions balancing economic and sustainability factors when producing bio-chemicals.

Gold mining with mercury poses health threats for miles downstream


humans

Genomic analysis shows long-term genetic mixing in West Asia before world's first cities
Scientists analyzed DNA data from 110 skeletal remains in West Asia dated 3,000 to 7,500 years ago. The study reveals how a high level of human movement in West Asia during the Neolithic to late Bronze Age not only led to the spread of ideas and material culture but to a more genetically connected society well before the rise of cities, not the other way around, as previously thought.
Different PR on the same paper:

Human mobility and Western Asia's early state-level societies

Who were the Canaanites? New insight from 73 ancient genomes
See also my ancient (2017) feature on antiquity's genomes, which also included a section on the Canaanites.
And another new paper covering the same geographic area:

4,000 years of contact, conflict & cultural change had little genetic impact in Near East

New research reveals Cannabis and Frankincense at the Judahite Shrine of Biblical Arad



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From the news media:


Richard Horton on the "scientists" still being used to prop up the UK govt. failing in its pandemic response. Personally, I stopped taking Whitty and Vallance seriously on March 13 when they were talking herd immunity.



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