Horsey-aeology, Binary Black Holes, Tracking Red Tides, Fish Re-evolution, Walk Like a Man, Fact or Fiction - "So..."

 

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Horsey-aeology


kazakh_horse.jpg Traditional Kazakh villager

One of humanity's more important leaps forward was on the back of another animal - the horse. But just when the horse was domesticated has been something of a mystery. Now Dr. Alan Outram and his colleagues have good evidence to show that it had already happened by 5,500 years ago in the Eurasian steppes of what is now Kazakhstan. Villagers of the day were using horses for mounts, milk and meat, and left the tell-tale traces in large bone piles. Dr. Outram is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Exeter in England.

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Binary Black Hole


binary_black_hole.jpg An artist's conception of the binary pair, P. Marenfeld, NOAO

It's hard to imagine anything as enigmatic, destructive and awe-inspiring as a black hole, except, of course, for two of them. That's precisely what Dr. Todd Boroson, an astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, accidently found while studying quasars as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Most galaxies are thought to have a super-massive black hole at their centre, but this particular galaxy -- about 5 billion light years away -- has a set of twin black holes orbiting each other. Dr. Boroson says it's likely the binary pair is a result of two colliding galaxies and he suggests that they will likely merge with one another in the future.

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Tracking Red Tides


red_tide.jpg Red tide on the coast of California

In the winter of 2007, Dr. Raphael Kudela found himself at the centre of a marine mystery. Up and down the Monterey Bay, on California's Pacific coast, sea-birds began to wash up on shore, dead or barely alive. At the same time, the waters in the area had turned blood-red, the result of a marine algal bloom. It had all of the element for an ecological who-done-it. Was the red-tide killing the birds, or was it some undiscovered man-made spill? Dr. Kudela tested the waters for natural and man-made toxins, only to be stumped. But, then with a little scientific sleuthing, Dr. Kudela and his colleagues tracked down their culprit and cracked this case of fowl play. Dr. Kudela is Associate Professor of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Fish Re-Evolution


cod.jpg Atlantic Cod are one of the species we've caused to evolve.

Fishing pressure has caused some fish stocks to evolve to become smaller and less fertile, and are thus less able to replenish their depleted populations. Dr. David Conover, Dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in Long Island, New York, has found that this process can be reversed. Unfortunately, this reversal takes a long time - even in the lab - and Dr. Conover suggests that changing environmental conditions can slow the process further, or perhaps even prevent recovery from happening. He suggests that we need to take evolutionary processes into account before we deplete fish populations.

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Walk Like a Man


bennett-footprints.jpg Dr. Bennett at the site in Kenya - courtesy Dr. Bennett/Bournmouth University

Professor Matthew Bennett, the Dean of Conservation Sciences at Bournemouth University in England, has showed that even before we were modern humans, we walked like a man. He and his colleagues have discovered 1.5 million-year-old footprints in Kenya, probably made by our Homo erectus ancestors. These rare prints showed that these early people had a modern foot - quite distinct from the ape-like foot of earlier human ancestors. This kind of foot is less useful for climbing trees and grasping, but a more efficient design for long walks - like the one our ancestors took out of Africa.

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Fact or Fiction: "So..."


Many of our listeners have written in over the past couple of years with the same observation: our guests often seem to begin their sentences with the word "so." We reviewed some of our past shows and found that, indeed, we have hosted a lot of so-sayers. So...we decided to look into it. Dr. Maite Taboada, an associate professor of linguistics at Simon Fraser University, explains why people tend to start their sentences with this particular particle.

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