Strange Bacteria & Higgs-Boson | SciByte 85

Strange Bacteria & Higgs-Boson | SciByte 85

We take a look at dinosaur fight scars, possible sub-glacial bacteria, a robot that can throw, update on the Higgs-Boson, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Dino-Eat-Dino World

  • Scientists say that a scar recently found on the face of a duckbill dinosaur received after a close encounter is the first clear case of a healed dinosaur wound
  • The lucky dinosaur was an adult species of duck billed dinosaur, Edmontosaurus annectens, that lived about 65 to 67 million years ago
  • The Scar
  • A teardrop-shaped patch of fossilized skin about 5×5 inches (12×14 centimeters) that was discovered with the creature\’s bones and is thought to have come from above its right eye
  • Some scientists say that the scar pattern is nearly identical to those found on modern reptiles, including iguanas
  • Other scientists are not convinced, however, they say that the skin injury was not caused by a predator attack
  • They say the size of the scar is relatively small, and it would also be consistent with the skin being pierced in some other accident such as a fall.
  • Skull Injury
  • Paleontologist at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History say the skull also showed signs of trauma, and from the size and shape of the marks on the
  • They determined that the marks on the skull, are more consistent with Tyrannosaur-bitten bones
  • Prior to this discovery, scientists knew of one other case of a dinosaur wound
  • In that case however, it was an unhealed wound that scientists think was inflicted by scavengers after the creature was already dead
  • Escape
  • Although escaping from a T. rex is something that we wouldn\’t normally think might happen, duckbill dinosaurs were not without defenses.
  • They travelled in herds, grew up to 30 feet (9 meters) in length, and could swipe their hefty tail or kick its legs to take down predators, and traveled in herds
  • They also had very powerful running muscles, which would have made them difficult to catch once they\’d taken flight
  • The Puzzle Pieces
  • Figuring out the details of the story is part of what makes paleontology exciting
  • Though still unproven, it is thought that both the skin wound and the skull injury were sustained during the same attack, possibly a T. Rex
  • The wound \”was large enough to have been a claw or a tooth,\”
  • It\’s very likely that this particular dinosaur wasn\’t the only dinosaur to have scars, whether from battle wounds or accidents
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Scarred Duckbill Dinosaur Escaped T. Rex Attack |


Strange Bacteria From Under the Polar Cap? … Or Momentary Hope

  • Last Time on SciByte
  • SciByte 33 | Sub Glacial Lakes & Updates – Sub Glacial Lakes (February 14, 2012)
  • Collecting the Sample
  • This discovery comes from samples collected in an expedition in 2012 where a Russian team drilled down to the surface of Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica
  • Last year the Russian team drilled almost 2.34 miles (4 kilometers) to reach the lake and take the samples.
  • The lake is believed to have been covered by ice for more than a million years but has kept its liquid state.
  • The Sample, the Truth and Fiction
  • A Russian scientist at the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics had believed they have found a wholly new type of bacteria in the mysterious subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica
  • He claimed that one particular form of bacteria whose DNA was less than 86 percent similar to previously existing forms, as far as DNA goes, basically zero
  • The head of the genetics laboratory at the same institute said on Saturday that the strange life forms were in fact nothing but contaminants.
  • New samples of water will be taken from Lake Vostok during a new expedition in May, if the same bacteria are found then the team will be sure that they have found new life on Earth that exists in no database
  • On the “Extra-Terrestrial” Scale
  • \”If this had been found on Mars everyone would have undoubtedly said there is life on Mars. But this is bacteria from Earth.\”
  • Exploring environments such as Lake Vostok allows scientists to discover what life forms can exist in the most extreme conditions
  • Whether life could exist on some other bodies in the solar system.
  • Saturn\’s moon Enceladus and the Jupiter moon Europa as they are believed to have oceans, or large lakes, beneath their icy shells.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Russia admits no new life form found in Antarctic lake |
  • Russia finds \’new bacteria\’ in Antarctic lake |

Cheap Interplanetary Satellites

  • Two CubeSats, designed by NASA\’s JPL and three university partners, are soon to go where no CubeSats have gone before: beyond Earth orbit.
  • CubeSats are tiny satellites, some no bigger than four inches (10 cm) on each side, sent into orbit as secondary payloads on other launch vehicles
  • The Mission
  • The space agency’s twin satellites will be the first CubeSats to leave Earth\’s orbit for interplanetary space
  • If the interplanetary test launch succeeds, CubeSats could someday blanket the solar system, conducting cheap, high-risk missions to comets, asteroids, moons and planets
  • The INSPIRE project has been approved by NASA to launch sometime between 2014 and 2016, but a specific launch vehicle hasn\’t been selected.
  • Just where the pioneering CubeSats will go is still unclear, however, since it’s not known yet which model rocket will be used for launch
  • The first mission will be basically an escape trajectory in some unknown direction
  • Since they won\’t have much propulsion or scientific instrumentation, the INSPIRE craft are mainly just a test of whether tiny machines can survive the harsh environment of space.
  • The Challenges
  • One of the challenges of the project is figuring how the tiny satellites will communicate with Earth.
  • CubeSats are far cheaper than a traditional space mission but they lack room for complex communications systems or large power sources.
  • As they away from Earth they need larger antennas to communicate with the low-powered craft
  • In addition once they spacecraft leaves the protective magnetic field surrounding Earth, it\’s at risk of failure from solar radiation
  • Traditional satellites are built with more expensive \”radiation-hardened\” components
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Tiny Satellites\’ Big Mission: Going Beyond Earth Orbit |


“BigDog” Can Throw Things Now Too

— Updates —


  • Last time on SciByte
  • SciByte 53 | Higgs-Boson (July 10, 2012)
  • SciByte 37 | Solar Storms and Higgs Boson
  • Physicists told a conference in La Thuile, Italy, that more analysis is needed before a definitive statement can be made on the Higgs-Boson
  • Inch-by-Inch
  • Since scientists\’ announcement last July that they had found a particle likely to be the Higgs, much data has been analysed, and its properties are becoming clearer
  • Key to a positive identification of the particle is a detailed analysis of its properties and how it interacts with other particles
  • Spin-Zero?
  • The existence of spin angular momentum is where particles are observed to possess angular momentum that cannot be accounted for by orbital angular momentum alone
  • Experiments indicate that the elementary particles are not made up of smaller particles rotating around a center point so the spin of an elementary particle is therefore seen as a truly intrinsic physical property, akin to the particle\’s electric charge and rest mass.
  • Current theories are that these elementary particles spin is simply a physical property, like electrical charge and mass
  • Rotating a spin-1/2 particle by 360 degrees does not bring it back to the same quantum state, but to the state with the opposite quantum phase; this is detectable, in principle, with interference experiments. To return the particle to its exact original state, one needs a 720 degree
  • Rotating a spin-2 particle 180 degrees can bring it back to the same quantum state and a spin-4 particle should be rotated 90 degrees to bring it back to the same quantum state.
  • A spin 0 particle can be imagined as sphere which looks the same after whatever angle it is turned through.
  • Several teams researching the particle determining the Higgs-Boson spin say it must be spin-zero
  • All the analysis conducted so far strongly indicates spin-zero, but it is not yet able to rule out entirely the possibility that the particle has spin-two
  • The Future …?
  • Until physicists can confidently observe the particle\’s spin, the particle will remain Higgs-like
  • New research will have to stop as the Large Hadron Collider is upgraded, but physicists will still have plenty of data to analyze
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Particle looking \’more and more\’ like Higgs, LHC scientists say |



Looking back

  • March 16, 1867 : 146 years ago : Antiseptic surgery : The Lancet published a paper by Joseph Lister, the first of a series of articles in the Lancet on his discovery of antiseptic surgery: On a New Method of Treating Compound Fractures, Abscess, &c. Lister applied Louis Pasteur\’s idea that the microorganisms causing gangrene might be controlled with chemical solutions. Since the use carbolic acid (phenol) was known as means of deodorizing sewage, Lister tested the results of using a solution of it for spraying instruments, on surgical incisions, and applied to dressings. Upon finding this procedure substantially reduced the incidence of gangrene, Lister published his results in series of articles in the Lancet on the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery

Looking up this week

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