Dinosaurs & Satellites | SciByte 107

Dinosaurs & Satellites | SciByte 107

We take a look at a high school dinosaur discovery, technological seeing eye cane, satellites both new and retiring, viewer feedback for bacteria eating viruses, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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— Show Notes —

High School Dinosaur Find

  • A dinosaur skeleton discovered by a high-school student turns out to be the smallest, youngest and most complete duck-billed dinosaur of its kind ever found.
  • The Discovery
  • Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, Calif is affiliated with The Webb Schools, a private high-school campus outside of Los Angeles
  • The students at the schools participate in paleontology fieldwork as part of their coursework
  • In 2009 a group of students were prospecting for fossils in Utah\’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, surveying ground that had previously been covered
  • One student spotted a little sliver of bone sticking out from under a boulder and alerted a paleontologist and curator that was with them
  • I originally looked like a piece of dinosaur rib, which is while nice not really worth the trouble of excavating at that time
  • The bone was under what looked like a large cobblestone and on the other side of the boulder they found a dinosaur skull
  • Since that indicated the strong possibility that the rest of the skeleton was beneath the boulder the team had to line up permits to excavate on the public land
  • They then returned in 2010 to dig the bones from the ground
  • The 363 kg [800-pound] rock, that the bones were surrounded by had to be airlifted out of the rugged backcountry by helicopter
  • The Skeleton
  • After 1,300 painstaking hours of cleaning, chiseling and picking, technicians revealed the fossil buried in all that stone
  • Paleontologists realized they had an amazing example of a baby Parasaurolophus
  • Parasaurolophus, walked the Earth some 75 million years ago.
  • Dinosaurs in this genus are best known for their impressive tube-shaped head crests, which may have been used for display or perhaps to amplify the animals\’ calls
  • The Skull
  • The skull although remarkably complete is split into left and right halves by erosion which exposed structures on the inside of the skull that would otherwise be inaccessible
  • The right and left halves were separated by weathering, with the left being the best preserved.
  • A model was created from CT scan data, and shows all of the features exactly as they are in the original specimen
  • Growth Rate
  • They were able to sample the baby\’s leg bone, as dinosaur bones grow, they develop ring patterns, much like trees
  • The sample of the leg bone that took didn\’t have any rings at all indicated that this animal was under a year old when it died
  • Duck-billed dinosaurs hatch at about the same size as a human infant, within one year this dinosaur was already 6 feet (1.8 meters) long
  • The Crest
  • The dinosaur was already sprouting a crest bump so young suggests that Parasaurolophus started growing its crest earlier than other duck-billed dinosaurs.
  • This discovery helps paleontologists understand how Parasaurolophus evolved that big crest, just by shifting around events in its development
  • Misc
  • On Oct. 22 \”Joe\” went on display at the Alf museum, with digital exploration of the skeleton also available at dinosaurjoe.com.
  • The student who discovered the found the little duck-bill skeleton is now in college, studying geology
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | A Tour of the Skull of \”Joe\” the Baby Parasaurolophus | AlfMuseumPaleo
  • YouTube | A Tour of the Skeleton of \”Joe\” the Baby Parasaurolophus | AlfMuseumPaleo
  • Album: Discovering a Duck-Billed Dino Baby | LiveScience
  • Reconstructured Skull in 3D | Joe\’s Fossil Skull | Joe the Dinosaur
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Joe the Dinosaur
  • High-School Student Finds Bumpy-Headed Baby Dino | LiveScience


\’Steer\’ing-eye Cane

  • The robotic cane maps the user’s path with a vision and 3D camera, and picks out stairways, low overhangs, and other features of interest to the visually-impaired
  • What is Currently Out There
  • Robots designed by companies like iRobot can already drive themselves around indoors with a minimum of collisions although problems of obstacle detection and avoidance are far from licked
  • The margin of failure for a robot cane has to be vanishingly small, and that level of accuracy could also benefit systems that aren’t attached to humans
  • The Robotic Cane
  • The bot will be able to verbally warn or guide the operator, speaking through a Bluetooth earpiece (and possibly through tactile feedback), it will also be able to perform limited steering maneuvers
  • In navigation mode, the device\’s roller tip is activated, and may drive the cane and point it towards the desired direction of travel
  • The six-degree-of-freedom roller does not drive the operator, but makes suggestions, and can be toggled on and off by switching between navaid and white cane modes
  • Funding
  • The co-robotic cane was co-funded for a three-year period by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and the National Eye Institute (NEI), both of which are part of NIH
  • National Robotics Initiative
  • National Robotics Initiative, is a federal program that aims to push the development of co-robots, or bots that work alongside—and occasionally inside—humans
  • NRI is a panoply of loosely-related ideas, few of which are photogenic
  • The research done with this program are robots that could become part of our lives, in our own lifetimes,
  • These robots won’t look like Boston Dynamics’ Atlas, or NASA’s (and GM’s) Robonaut 2. they are most likely to look a lot more like a walking stick, with a bunch of stuff bolted onto it.
  • Another Funded Project
  • One of the new projects funded by NSF is an effort to make robots that can better read the emotional needs of Parkinson’s sufferers, specifically those whose faces have been significantly paralyzed
  • These robots would serve as mediators between victims of “facial masking” and their caregivers
  • The project aims to “develop a robotic architecture endowed with moral emotional control mechanisms, abstract moral reasoning, and a theory of mind that allow corobots to be sensitive to human affective and ethical demands
  • Whether it will be an existing system, or a new one is unclear, of that project’s collaborators is the roboticist who proposed the use of so-called “ethical governors” for autonomous military robots
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • An Autonomous, Self-Steering Robo-Cane, And Other Co-Robots to Come | Popular Science


European Satellite Going to Burn Up on \”Reentry\”

India\’s First Martian Probe

  • India\’s the nation’s first true interplanetary probe, is now set to lift off on its mission to Mars in Nov.
  • Mangalyan will leave Earth orbit in November and cruise in deep space for 10 months using an onboard propulsion system it will then enter an elliptical orbit around Mars
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says the primary objectives of the orbiter are to demonstrate India’s technological capability, look for signs of life and study the planet’s atmospheric composition
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | India\’s First Mars Mission Prepares for Launch | VideoFromSpace
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • India\’s First Mars Probe Launch Set for Nov. 5 | Space.com


Bacteria Eating Virus

  • Stephen, SMBinFLA in the chatroom
  • Bacteria-eating viruses \’magic bullets in the war on superbugs\’ | ScienceDaily.com](http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131016212558.htm)
  • A specialist team of scientists from the University of Leicester has isolated viruses that eat bacteria, called phages, to specifically target the highly infectious hospital superbug Clostridium difficile
  • Antibiotics
  • Since the discovery of the first antibiotic, penicillin, antibiotics have saved countless lives and impacted on the well-being of humanity
  • The future impact of antibiotics is dwindling with more and more bacteria \’out-evolving\’ these miracle drugs
  • Bacteriophages
  • The team has been investigating an alternative approach to antibiotics, which utilizes naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages, meaning \’eaters of bacteria\’.
  • Bacteriophages are specific in what they kill and will generally only infect one particular species, or even strain, of bacteria
  • Following attachment to their hosts, they inject their DNA into the bacterium, which then replicates many times over, ultimately causing the bacterial cell to burst open
  • One Example of a Use
  • Bacteria primarily affect our digestive system pose a serious threat when our natural digestive environment is disrupted or depleted, such as after chronic antibiotic use
  • Antibiotics also destroy the \’good\’ gut bacteria, in turn increasing the potential for relapse or new infections
  • Recent Developments
  • A specific mixture of phages have been proved, through extensive laboratory testing, to be effective against 90% of the most clinically relevant C. diff strains currently seen in the U.K
  • US-based biopharmaceutical company and pioneers in developing phage-based therapeutics and have already made progress in developing phages targeted against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen that causes acute, life-threatening lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients
  • Goals
  • One goal of funding further development and testing of phages developed by scientists is to have a phage mixture ready to go into phase 1 and 2 clinical trials
  • Evaluations of the efficacy of bacteriophage therapy and optimisation of dosing regimes will be carried out
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Bacteria-eating viruses \’magic bullets in the war on superbugs\’ | SciencDaily.com


Looking back

  • Nov 3, 1906 : 107 years ago : “SOS” | . . . – – – . . . : “SOS” was specified as the international distress signal, in a document signed by representatives of 27 nations at the second International Wireless Telegraph Convention in Berlin. It would replace the earlier Marconi call sign CQD. By 1904 many transatlantic British ships had wireless equipment. First used in England on landline wires, “CQ” preceded time signals and special notices as a sign for “all stations.” The Marconi company suggested adding the “D” meaning distress. The code “CQD” was established as a distress signal on 1 Feb 1904, but was never chosen from such a phrase as “Come Quick Danger.” The 1906 Conference proceedings do not detail the discussions about the choice of SOS. The likely reason is that it was speedy to tap out (not from “Save Our Souls”).
  • S [ . . . ] O [ – – – ] S [ . . . ]
  • V [ . . . – ] T [ – ] B [ – . . . ]

Looking up this week

  • Keep an eye out for …
  • Thursday, Oct 31 | Halloween | No moon tonight.
  • Thursday, Oct 31 | Halloween | Twilight | Venus is in the SW
  • Saturday, Nov 02 | Sunrise | There will be a partial eclipse of the Sun for the Eastern Seaboard of North America. [Daytime Sunday for Africa, Middle East, and S Europe | How to Safely Observe the Sun (Infographic) | Space.com | How To View the Sun Safely | Sky and Telescope Image Sky & Telescope illustration / source: Stellarium
  • Planets
  • Saturn | No longer visible, in light of sunset
  • Venus | Dusk | In the SW, set about an hour after dark
  • Mars | 2-3am local | Still near the blue-white star Regulus (actually 4 stars, 2 binary star systems) they are high in the E by dawn
  • Comet ISON | Before dawn below Mars. Still only visible in a moderate sized telescope. Updates on Comet ISON | Sky and Telescope
  • Jupiter | 10-11pm local | Rises in the E-NE, with the star Castor and Pollux about 8* to the left (10* ~ fist held at arms length)


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