Welcome to the Thursday edition of “Hawaii Science Digest”–a Hawaii Island-based blog focusing on science, technology, medicine, health, the environment, cyber security, and artificial intelligence (AI). Views expressed in this science news summary are those of the reporters and correspondents. This post cites recent articles published by “Discover Magazine”. Here are the details:
Accessed on 10 January 2019, 1540 UTC.
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LATEST BLOG POSTS
Astronomers Clock a Black Hole Spinning at Half the Speed of Light
Black holes are massive beasts that annihilate anything that dares to cross them. We don’t know a whole lot about these invisible, terrifying bodies, but astronomers have found a new way to study their mysterious behavior.
By observing the X-rays blasting from a star torn apart by a black hole, a team of researchers were able to calculate how fast the black hole spins — clocking it at nearly 50 percent the speed of light. This marks the first time that astronomers used X-rays, which …
SNAPSHOT: First Direct Evidence Stars Like Our Sun Turn Into Crystals
Stars like our sun can turn into crystals in the final stages of their lives, bringing a whole new meaning to those glittering jewels in the sky. Astronomers from the University of Warwick say they’ve found the first direct evidence that white dwarf stars – the dense, stellar corpses of stars like our sun – can crystallize, or turn from a liquid into a solid. The discovery was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Astronomers had long suspected such crystallization was possible. …
Scientists Uncover the Genetic Roots of Monogamy
Wolves, prairie voles and bald eagles commit to their partners. But in the animal kingdom, these pairs are exceptions, not the rule. Now researchers say they’ve uncovered a universal genetic signature for monogamy. The discovery suggests evolution may have also led to a common genetic basis for other complex, social behaviors.
“It was surprising to see how robust the … similarities appear to be, even though the monogamous species we selected differ quite a bit,” said Hans Hofmann, …
Repeating Fast Radio Burst Detected for Second Time in History
For just the second time, scientists have recorded the repeat of a mysterious cosmic flash know as a fast radio burst (FRB). This remarkable observation could help scientists to better understand this phenomenon and where these bursts originate in the universe.
FRBs are extremely brief (think millisecond) flashes of radio waves that originate from random (as far as we can tell) places in the cosmos. Astronomers have grappled with this mystery for years because, while they co …
Ancient Whale Basilosaurus Isis Was Head-Chomping Apex Predator
Analysis of its fossilized stomach contents suggests that Basilosaurus isis, an ancient whale that could grow to more than 50 feet long, swam at the top of the food chain and took its prey by the head. The new findings challenge previous suggestions that the formidable animal was a scavenger and suggest instead that it may have had orca-like behavior.
B. isis, one of two Basilosaurus species, has been found across North Africa, including in Egypt’s famously fossiliferous Valley of Whales …
Few Share Fake News; Those Who Do Are Mostly Older Republicans
Researchers combing through survey respondents’ Facebook data have determined that only about one in 10 users shared articles from fake news domains during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and even fewer shared more than one article. Individuals who did share fake news were more likely to be both self-described Republicans and 66 or older.
Politicians and civilians alike have expressed concern over the apparent rise of fake news — false information presented in the guise of a legi …
Where Static Electricity Comes From and How It Works
Static electricity is a ubiquitous part of everyday life. It’s all around us, sometimes funny and obvious, as when it makes your hair stand on end, sometimes hidden and useful, as when harnessed by the electronics in your cellphone. The dry winter months are high season for an annoying downside of static electricity – electric discharges like tiny lightning zaps whenever you touch door knobs or warm blankets fresh from the clothes dryer.
Static electricity is one of the oldest scienti …
These Exoplanets Are Forever Half Dark and Covered in Clouds
Cloudy Hot Jupiters
“Hot Jupiters” exoplanets that resemble our own Jupiter, except for being, well, hot, have another side to them. We mean this literally: The planets usually don’t rotate, so one side is always facing their star, and the other remains in permanent night. A new study is suggesting that these night sides probably all look the same, no matter where you go in the universe. They’re dark and covered in opaque clouds.
These new findings are a result of a new study based on …
Even in Space, Microbes Continue to Evolve
Space Station Microbes
Genetic mutations are life’s ace in the hole. When confronted with challenging environments, species will adapt over time, incorporating beneficial genetic alterations into their DNA to grow new and useful traits. It’s no different in space.
A new study from Northwestern researchers finds that microbes aboard the International Space Station are changing genetically in response to the conditions there. It’s no danger to the astronauts there, it’s just a reminder that …
SpaceX’s Starship Prototype Could Make First Test Flight in Just Weeks
Testing the Starship
SpaceX is on the verge of launching a prototype of the spacecraft that could one day carry humans to the moon and Mars. Over the weekend, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter on Saturday morning (Jan 5) that the flight-test version of the Starship vehicle could be ready to embark on its first excursion in just a few weeks.
This initial trip will be the rocket’s first “hopper test,” a short test run. Later tests, expected to take place in 2020, will be perf …