* A Dinosaur Nursery * Arctic Astronomy * A Moth of a Different Colour * Brown Fat * Miller's Grizzled Langur, I Presume * Your Brain on Meditation *



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A Dinosaur Nursery

Thumbnail image for Embryocloseup.jpg Embryonic skeleton from a clutch of eggs at the nesting site of the dinosaurs Massospondylus. (Photo by D. Scott)
A Canadian-led team of paleontologists has discovered the oldest dinosaur nursery ever found. At the 190-million-year-old site in South Africa, there are at least 10 nests containing the fossil eggs and embryos of a plant-eating dinosaur called Massospondylus. The site even includes the tiny fossil footprints of the newly-hatched babies. Dr. Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto Mississauga says the site provides a wealth of surprising, new information about early dinosaurs, including evidence that they nested in groups, returned to the same nesting site year after year, and likely cared for their young.

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Arctic Astronomy

Mount_Barbeau.jpg Mountains on Ellesmere Island.(Paolo Giardino/Wikimedia Commons)
A good site for a big ground-based telescope is at high altitude, has clear skies with little air turbulence. Mauna Kea, the Hawaiian volcano has these conditions, and most of the world's largest telescopes are situated there. Astronomers are, however, considering other sites for star-gazing, and one of the best places might be the Canadian High Arctic. Dr. Eric Steinbring, an astronomer with the National Research Council's Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, has been looking at mountaintop sites on Ellesmere Island, north of 80 degrees, where skies are cool and clear, and where there is the additional advantage of a starry night that lasts months at a time.
      

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A Moth of a Different Colour

moth_reconstruction.jpg (Courtesy of Yale University)
Insects today display a spectacular range of different colours, and they very likely did so in the past as well, but we can't be sure.  While fossils can preserve the shape of an animal, they rarely preserve their colours. Dr. Maria McNamara, a paleobiologist in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University, has discovered an exception to that rule. She's been studying 47 million-year-old moth fossils. These moths produced colour not from pigments, but from the delicate structure of their wings, and Dr. McNamara has been able to reconstruct that colour as a brilliant yellow-green.

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Brown Fat

329px-Braunes-Fett-PET-00.jpg PET scan showing location of brown fat in an adult woman. (Hellerhoff/Wkimedia Commons)
Brown fat is a special kind of fat that burns very efficiently to produce heat in small animals such as mice. Recently, scientists discovered that adult humans also have brown fat. Dr. André Carpentier of the University of Sherbrooke wanted to find out whether humans are any good at burning brown fat when they are exposed to cold. He and his colleagues chilled some human volunteers and monitored their metabolism. The researchers found that in humans, brown fat does melt away in the cold, burning almost as many calories as light exercise. Carpentier suggests the findings might have future implications for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.
     

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Miller's Grizzled Langur, I Presume



In the summer of 2011, an international team of  scientists went to Borneo to study the diversity and abundance of animals in Borneo's Wehea Forest, an area the local community was trying to preserve from logging and development. Among the scientists was Brent Loken, a PhD student from the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Mr. Loken was hoping to study the little-known clouded leopard, and camera traps were set up to capture images of the elusive cat.  However, when the images from the camera were reviewed, a mysterious monkey seemed to be making regular appearances. This monkey turned out to be the Miller's grizzled langur, which had been thought to be extinct. 


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Your Brain on Meditation

newmed_1.jpg An fMRI scan of someone meditating shows areas of decreased activity in brain areas associated with wandering thoughts . (Yale University)
People have been practicing various forms of meditation for thousands of years, and recently psychologists have been giving new attention to some forms of the practice for their value in calming the mind and reducing anxiety. Dr. Judson Brewer, Medical Director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience clinic at Yale University in Connecticut, was interested in whether meditation's effects were reflected in brain activity. Using Functional MRI imaging he studied experienced and novice meditators, and found that meditation did seem to reduce activity in parts of the brain associated with mind wandering and extraneous and often negative, thoughts. 

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Theme music bed copyright Raphaël Gluckstein, Creative Commons License by-nc-nd-2.0