Dinosaur extinction may be the reason mammals are active during the day

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and University College London believe they have successfully traced the origins of humans diurnal lifestyle, and can explain why mammals tend to sleep at night.

Though most mammals have been going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning for hundreds of thousands of years, that was not always the case. Early species were first nocturnal, and then slowly became diurnal. Though nobody knows why this change occurred, the team in the study believes it is linked to the dinosaurs.

The first mammals evolved long before dinosaurs died off. However, the beasts likely had a large influence on the smaller creatures. As they were constantly under threat from being eaten, it would make sense that the first mammals hid during the day and only came out at night.

“We were very surprised to find such close correlation between the disappearance of dinosaurs and the beginning of daytime activity in mammals, but we found the same result unanimously using several alternative analyses,” said study co-author Roi Maor, a Ph.D. student at Tel Aviv University and University College London, in a statement.

In the study, the team used computer algorithms to look at 2,415 modern animal species and identify how they acted millions of years ago. By focusing on two different mammal family trees, researchers discovered that nearly all early species became active during the day shortly after the dinosaurs died off.

First, the species transitioned to activities that took place during both day and night. After a few millions of years, they completely made the transition.

The research also showed the mammals who would eventually turn into simian primates — a group that includes monkeys and apes — were the first to wake up during the day. That would help explain why simians have excellent day vision compared to other mammals.

However, while the study present compelling evidence, the team states that they cannot assume the fall of the dinosaurs directly led to the shift in sleeping patterns. It is likely, but more research needs to be done before such claims can be made.

“It’s very difficult to relate behavior changes in mammals that lived so long ago to ecological conditions at the time, so we can’t say that the dinosaurs dying out caused mammals to start being active in the daytime,” said study co-author Kate Jones, a researcher at University College London, according to Newsweek “However, we see a clear correlation in our findings.”

This research is published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.


Liquid metal could help lead to faster electronics

A team of researchers from RMIT University have uncovered a new technique to make atomically thin flakes of different materials, a process that could lead to faster, more efficient electronics.

In this method, certain metals are dissolved in liquid metal. Then, the resulting super-thin oxide layer is peeled off and can be used for various purposes. While it has not been extensively tested yet, the technique is predicted to work on roughly one-third of the periodic table.

As a proof of concept, scientists have used the method to create hafnium oxide with a thickness of just three atoms. That is roughly five to ten times thinner than hafnium oxide layers produced with other techniques. To get that thinness, researchers worked with the material for 18 long months.

“Here we found an extraordinary, yet very simple method to create atomically thin flakes of materials that don’t naturally exist as layered structures,” said study co-author Dr Torben Daeneke, a researcher at RMIT’s School of Engineering, according to Gizmodo Australia.

To do this, scientists use non-toxic alloys of gallium — a metal similar to aluminum — as a reaction medium to cover the surface of the liquid metal with atomically thin oxide layers of the added metal rather than the naturally occurring gallium oxide. Then, they exfoliate the oxide layer by touching the liquid metal with a smooth surface. Not only that but, as gallium alloy is liquid at room temperature, the process can be done safely at ambient conditions.

The new research is important because it could help scientists create semiconducting and dielectric components. Both of those are key for a lot of current technology. By making such components extremely thin, the team may be able to create stronger, more energy efficient electronics. The products could have applications in devices like batteries as well.

“The most important outcome of our work is that we introduce liquid metals as a reaction solvent which opens the door to a whole new type of chemistry,” added Daeneke, according to Yahoo News.

The recent findings are outlined in the journal Science.


FDA approves trials of drug ‘ecstasy’ for treatment of PTSD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the go-ahead to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to conduct clinical trials of the drug methlyenedioxymethamphetamine — better known as MDMA, or ‘ecstasy’ — for use in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation status to MDMA because preliminary clinical evidence shows that “this treatment may have a meaningful advantage and greater compliance over available medications for PTSD,” a MAPS statement said, as reported by Forbes.

MAPS is a non-profit organization that has spent about 30 years investigating the medical uses of MDMA. Researchers found the drug helps PTSD sufferers better cope with their residual trauma by, in part, producing feelings of intense happiness and empathy — emotions that are often inaccessible to someone afflicted with PTSD.

According to MAPS, it has agreed with the FDA under a special protocol for the design of two Phase 3 trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.

“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in Phase 3 trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said MAPS founder and executive director Rick Doblin, in a statement, as reported by Forbes. “Now that we have agreement with FDA, we are ready to start negotiations with the European Medicines Agency.”

The Phase 3 trials, which will be randomized and placebo-controlled, will test the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for a group of 200 to 300 participants with PTSD at sites in the U.S., Canada, and Israel.

Trials could start as early as next spring if MAPS can raise the estimated $25 million required to conduct them.

NONE SCI Science

Extinct dodo bird’s secrets revealed by bone study

Scientists studying the bones of the extinct dodo bird are revealing long-held secrets of its biology and behavior, including when it molted, when it reached adulthood, and when it laid eggs.

The dodo, which was native to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, was driven to extinction during the 1600s after Dutch sailors arrived on the island. Habitat destruction, competition for food, and hunting by the settlers and the animals they brought with them all contributed to their demise.

One puzzling aspect seen in 17th century reports about the dodo is how contemporary descriptions of the bird vary significantly. For example, some said dodos were covered in soft downy feathers, while others described it with gray or black plumage. Now, researchers can explain the discrepancies.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“It was usually believed that the descriptions are different because they were wrong,” said first author Delphine Angst, a paleontologist from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, in a report by The Guardian. “But the descriptions are not wrong. Actually they describe the dodo in different states of moulting.”

The scientists examined thin cross-sections of 22 leg and wing bones believed to be from 22 different dodos.

Among their other findings, the researchers learned that dodo bones have three layers of tissue — just like modern birds. They also were able to distinguish between juvenile and adult bones, could see the slow way bone tissue developed as the young birds reached sexual maturity, and determined the times of year the dodos molted or ovulated.

Dodo chicks probably reached full size by November before cold weather set in, molted between March and July, and ovulated in early August, Angst says.


Scientists edit human embryos for first time

In a major breakthrough that is sure to stoke controversy, U.S. scientists have successfully edited human embryos afflicted with a genetic mutation that causes a sometimes fatal heart condition to produce healthy embryos.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University, along with colleagues in California, China, and South Korea, were able to repair dozens of embryos using the gene-editing method, known as CRISPR-Cas9, so that if allowed to grow into babies, they would be free of disease and would not pass it on to their descendants.

Clinical trials for gene-editing on human embryos currently are prohibited under federal law. But the technique could potentially edit out a wide range of disease conditions caused by specific genetic mutations, such as Huntington’s disease, Tay-Sachs, and cystic fibrosis.

“You could certainly help families who have been blighted by a horrible genetic disease,” said Robin Lovell-Badge, a professor of genetics and embryology at the Francis Crick Institute in London, who was not involved in the study, in a report by The New York Times. “You could quite imagine that in the future that demand would increase. Maybe it will still be small, but for those individuals it will be very important.”

This milestone in human genetic engineering will likely reignite debate over the potential consequences of tinkering with Mother Nature.

But R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, says she doubts people will be beating down doors to have CRISPR-edited children.

“Nobody’s going to do this for trivial reasons,” Dr. Charo said, in the Times report. “Sex is cheaper and it’s more fun that IVF, so unless you’ve got a real need, you’re not going to use it.”


Black inmate may get a new lease on life after evidence of racial discrimination

Timothy Tyrone Foster, an inmate, accused of murdering an elderly 79-year-old white woman, has gotten a hearing with the Supreme Court. New evidence emerging from the case files show that the court removed all black jurors from the case.

From the case files, the appeal team found that next to the black jurors’ names a “B” was placed indicating their race. The courts then replaced them with as predominantly black new set of jurors. The appeal says that this is enough ground to hold an appeal from.

“The focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “The State’s new argument today does not dissuade us from the conclusion that its prosecutors were motivated in substantial part by race.”

But the story took another former twist judge; Thomas the judge who gave the ruling was not pleased with all with the decision to review his judgment. He says the Supreme Court had no power to review his decision. He says it is not lawful to look for new evidence so many years later because you will find it.

But former Judge Thomas says he did have his reasons for replacing the black jurors. He said that jurors should be impartial and the fact that the man on trial was on trial the would have made the black jurors bias.

However, Timothy’s accusations are quite gruesome, to say the least. He is accused of attacking, drugging, sexually assaulting and strangling the 79-year-old woman to death. Experts believe that it would be tough for him to win the appeal. However, this would open more investigations on other cases.


F-16 crashes in Arizona; fate of pilot unknown

The Air Force has confirmed that an F-16 fighter jet has crashed in remote Arizona.

The fate of the pilot is currently unknown. The plane crashed near Baghdad at around 8:45 a.m. local time. Baghdad is located in the central part of the state, according to a Reuters report.

A search and rescue operation responded to the scene. The cause of the crash is not yet known, and a military panel will investigate the accident.

The jet was assigned to the 56th fighter Wing, which is based at Luke Air Fore Base in Glendale. The crash was about 100 miles northwest of there.

Both F-16 and F-35 fighter aircraft are located at the base.

The F-16 is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft developed by General Dynamics but currently manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It was designed to be an air superiority fighter, but evolved into a multirole aircraft. More than 4,500 aircraft have been built since 1976, when the aircraft entered production. The Air Force is no longer buying the aircraft, but some international customers still buy improved versions of the aircraft.


Kim Kardashian finally meets Khole’s new boo

Although Khloe Kardashian claims to be taking some precautions with her new boyfriend, rapper French Montana, she did take a giant step with him recently when she finally introduced him to her family.

Khloe and Montana have been seeing one another for some time now, but she just felt comfortable enough to let him meet the reality TV clan. Some think she was hesitant to do so since her last relationship ended so poorly. Her ex-husband, NBA star Lamar Odom, turned to drugs and it was a messy ordeal that played out for the couple.

Now it appears that the 33-year-old is happy and in a better place with her rapper boyfriend. They are taking it slow and not rushing anything. Montana did not even attend the huge Kim and Kanye wedding a few months back. This was because Knloe’s mom, Kris Jenner, said it was too soon for him to come to a family affair – although there were a ton of guests including the likes of Jaden Smith.

As for what the family thought of Montana after finally meeting him? Kim Kardashian said, “They are so cute and he is so sweet with her.” So cute in fact that Montana decided to use Khloe not only in his video for his new single, “Don’t Panic,” but on the cover art for it as well.

When Khloe isn’t starring in music videos and introducing her boyfriend to the family, she and her sisters are busy with drama. She, Kim and Kourtney are refusing to film the upcoming tenth season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians due to a trio of thefts that they believe were inside jobs. Tens of thousands of dollars were taken from two of Kourtney’s residences and jewelry was swiped from Khloe’s home. They said they will not film until the culprit is caught.

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When 140 characters isn’t enough: Demi Lovato explains unfollowing Selena Gomez

Nowadays people can assume celebrities are over and done with one another pretty easily when they do one major thing – unfollow one another on Twitter. Demi Lovato did just that to Selena Gomez in July and this week she opened up as to why she no longer feels the need to see her former BFF’s tweets.

Lovato is not shy about why she said decided to unfollow Gomez. She recently appeared on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live and told Andy Cohen the details. Well, he had her play the “Plead the Fifth” and when it came to the Twitter question she said, “I plead the sixth if that’s in the game,” adding, “I think it’s just one of those things where people change and people grow apart.”

While the former Disney star was okay to mention it, there seems to be a little more to the story that she is not coming clean about. After all, after she unfollowed Gomez she tweeted, “Swimming away from the bulls–t bye b—h.” Some fans speculate that was aimed directly at Justin Bieber’s on again off again beau.

The girls had been friends ever since they met on the set of Barney & Friends. From there they both became household names when they each acquired their own Disney shows. For awhile they seemed to be attached at the hips, but like Lovato said – people grow apart. Lovato had her public battles with depression and substance abuse, so it could be that she did not want to be around Gomez anymore when she got involved with Bieber and his bad boy ways.

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Lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

An unused chapter of the classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been released. The novel written by Roald Dahl was published 50 years ago. This chapter is from a draft and reveals some interesting details. For example, there is a Vanilla Fudge Room, and Charlie originally went with his mother to the factory, not with his grandfather.

Chocolate Factory is iconic in children’s literature. It tells the story of Charlie Bucket, a young boy who comes from a poor, but loving family. There is a major announcement that Willy Wonka, owner of the Chocolate Factory has hidden golden tickets in five chocolate bars. Whoever finds them gets a pass to visit the factory. Charlie is one of the lucky kids, and is taken on an adventure through the magical empire. With plenty of treats and imagination, it is a beloved story from a celebrated author.

The novel was first published in 1964 and has sold over 50 million copies in dozens of languages. Its success also spawned two major motion pictures. The first one in 1971 starred Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. The remake in 2005 starred Johnny Depp as the famed chocolate factory owner. It also inspired a musical. Now a lost chapter was published in the Guardian. This could be exciting news for fans of the book.

When the 1961 draft was written, the fifth chapter was considered too subversive. After Dahl’s death in 1990, it was discovered among paperwork. With permission from the Roald Dahl estate, they were released to the public. In addition to the Fudge Room, there are characters that were later on cut from the final version. There are also illustrations revealed. This October will mark the 50th anniversary of the book published. This chapter gives new insight into the story, and the author’s writing process.