Thursday June 27, 2013

Podcast Extra - Ancient Egyptians Made Jewellery from Meteorites * Radiation en Route to Mars * Cuban Tree Frogs Are the Loud New Neighbours * Bob Goes to Sea to See Some Ocean Research

Listen to Full Episode 43:15
This edition of Quirks & Quarks is a special podcast-only episode to reward our faithful internet listeners. We have an intriguing story about Egyptian jewellery possibly made from meteorites; we'll also hear about a new study on the radiation astronauts might be exposed to on a mission to Mars. We'll listen in on a noisy invasive frog that's disrupting native species' communication, and we'll take a visit on the Coast Guard vessel the John P. Tully as it explores the sea bed off the BC coast.
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Ancient Egyptians Made Jewellery from Meteorites

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Gerzeh bead (top) and virtual model) bottom.  Courtesy Open University/University of Manchester.  Click to enlarge
During the excavation of two tombs near Cairo in 1911, iron beads were among the artifacts discovered.  The beads were dated between 3600 and 3350 BCE, making them the earliest known examples of iron use in Egypt.  But the discovery presented a mystery for scientists, as the age of the beads is thousands of years before Egypt's Iron Age.  The high nickel content of the beads pointed to two different theories over the years: one was that their content was characteristic of meteorites, and the other was that the beads were made of laterite, a naturally occurring ore that is rich in nickel.  Recently, Dr. Diane Johnson, a Planetary Scientist from The Open University in Milton Keynes, England, was able to study the beads using CT scan technology to determine their chemical composition.  The scan revealed that the distribution of iron and nickel inside the beads matched the chemical fingerprint of meteorites.  The study points to the fact that ancient Egyptians valued this material because they knew it was rare.

Related Links

  • Paper in Meteoritics and Planetary Science
  • The Open University release
  • Nature News story
  • BBC News story
  • National Geographic News

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Radiation en Route to Mars

RAD_flightmodel.jpg
RAD instrument on Curiosity Rover, courtesy NASA

New measurements of radiation levels in space suggest that it will be a major issue for astronauts on a voyage to Mars in the future. Dr. Cary Zeitlin, a principal scientist in the Space Science and Engineering Division of the Southwest Research Institute led a team that studied results from the Radiation Assessment Detector mounted on NASA's Curiosity rover on its trip to Mars.  Curiosity was shielded within the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft for the voyage, much the way an astronaut would be shielded in a spacecraft.  Nevertheless, particle radiation from the Sun and from sources in deep space reached the detector, and the amount detected would exceed NASA's allowable dose for astronauts during the long round-trip to Mars and back.

Related Links


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Cuban Tree Frogs Are the Loud New Neighbours


Cuban_Tree_Frog.jpg
All glory to the Cuban Tree Frog

The Cuban tree frog is native to the Caribbean, but was first identified in Florida in the 1930's.  The large frog may have made its way to the U.S. as early as the late 1800's in shipments of produce.  It is known for its unique call, described as a raspy, squawk.  They are successful as an invasive species because they are toxic to predators, they have a diverse diet and they breed quickly. Jennifer Tennessen, a PhD student in Ecology at Pennsylvania State University studied the Cuban tree frog, along with two native species, the Green tree frog and the Pinewood tree frog, in order to determine the effect of the invasive species' unique call on the others.  It was found that the Green tree frog dramatically increased the rate of its call in order to compete with the Cuban tree frog.  The Pinewood tree frog did not change because its call has a different pitch and, therefore, was not in competition with the Cuban tree frog. 

Related Links

  • Paper in Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
  • Acoustical Society of America release
  • Langkilde Lab at Pennsylvania State University

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Bob Goes to Sea to See Some Ocean Research

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Bob on board The Tully - courtesy Ocean Networks Canada
Earlier this month, Bob McDonald spent a day on board Canadian Coast Guard Vessel John P. Tully,  an oceanographic research vessel operating off the coast of British Columbia.  The 69-metre ship, with a crew of 21, carries 4 scientific laboratories, assorted underwater equipment - including a remotely operated submarine - and berths for 20 scientists.

Bob joined the ship in Bamfield, a small port on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The ship was on its way out to sea to service the Neptune Project, a unique array of scientific instruments on the floor of the ocean, all linked by fibre optic cable to the shore. The project is run by the University of Victoria. But before heading offshore, the ship spent a day exploring Effingham Inlet, a spectacular rainforest fjord in Barkley Sound, part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Also on board for the day was Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, a professor at the University of Victoria and Canada Research Chair in Deep Ocean Sciences.   She wanted to study the unusual bottom waters of the inlet, and look at the impact of climate change on the ocean floor.

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