Interesting Science News: Mainly But Not Exclusively Anthropologically Related

Science Daily reports on an interesting new application of Radiocarbon dating:

From the end of World War II and up until about 1960, the superpowers of the Cold War era, conducted nuclear tests, detonating bombs into the atmosphere. These detonations have affected the content of radioactive trace materials in the air and created what scientists refer to as the C-14 bomb pulse. From the first nuclear detonation and, until the ban on nuclear testing was evoked, the quantity of C-14 in the atmosphere doubled. Since 1960, it has only slowly decreased to natural levels.
This sudden curve has left an impression in the food chain and therefore also in the lens crystallins of the eyes, which have absorbed the increased carbon content through food stuffs. Since the crystallins remain unchanged once they have been created, they reflect the content of C-14 present in the atmosphere at the time of their creation. An event occurring shortly after birth. Using a large nuclear accelerator, physicists at Aarhus University can now determine the amount of C-14 in as little as one milligram of lens tissue and thereby calculate the year of birth.

The research behind the article appears in PLoS ONE (A wag of the finger to Coturnix for not giving me a heads up on this). I haven’t read the PLoS paper yet so I won’t comment further.


Only slightly less cool is a report on National Geographic concerning the use of weapons by gorillas:

In one of the three documented instances, the researchers observed a local hunter stumbling upon a group of gorillas.
Killing gorillas for meat or sale is taboo in this particular area of Cameroon. But when the hunter tried to scare off the gorillas by banging his machete on the ground, the group stayed put.
When the hunter began picking up stones and throwing them at the gorillas, the gorillas responded by picking up chunks of grass and throwing them back at the hunter.
“This went on for an hour,” Sunderland Groves said. “The gorillas seemed more curious than frightened.”

This research comes courtesy of the discovered gorillas using tools to determine water depth.
As an update to my Mt. Lykaion and the Worship of Zeus post, the people respnsible for the dig have their own website and their own blog. Check them both out!
The origins of the domestic cat lie in the Fertile Crescent according to recent genetic research:

In this study, the UC Davis research team focused on:
* tracing the movement of the modern cat through the ancient world and to the Americas;
* measuring changes in genetic diversity as cats dispersed throughout the world; and
* measuring any loss of genetic diversity that might have occurred in the development of the older or more contemporary breeds.
The researchers collected samples of cheek cells from more than 11,000 cats. These cats represented 17 populations of randomly bred cats from Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as 22 recognized breeds.

Fossil horseshoe crabs dating to around 455 MYA have been found in Canada according to National Geographic:

The new fossils are from the Late Ordovician period and are at least 455 million years old, Rudkin said.
“And the record must go back deeper still,” he added.
“We might well be able to trace the genealogical roots of horseshoe crabs into the Cambrian period,” more than 490 million years ago.

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2 Responses

  1. So the practical application of C-14 dating lens crystallins via accelerator mass spectrometry would be, what, a really really expensive way of catching kids showing fake IDs to get into a bar? :-)

  2. So the practical application of C-14 dating lens crystallins via accelerator mass spectrometry would be, what, a really really expensive way of catching kids showing fake IDs to get into a bar? :-)

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