Science News Update: March 16th

Science News March 16th

Science News for the Science Classroom

Pygmy Tyrannosaur

Tyrannosaurine dinosaurs, the gargantuan carnivores native to the Late Cretaceous and popularized by the infamous T. Rex, have traditionally only been discovered in North America and Asia. Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, the “Pygmy Tyrannosaur”, is the most recent species of this group to be discovered. Related both to both Tarbosaurus and TyrannosaurusN. hoglundi was found not in China or the United States but in Alaska, making it the first tyrannosaurine species yet known to live in arctic climates.

While Alaska may not have been as cold as it is now 70 million years ago, it still would have featured the extreme seasonal differences that characterize the state today. Because of these varying conditions, N. hoglundi developed to be much smaller than its more southern cousins. For instance, N. hoglundi’s skull measures only 25 inches, whereas the legendary T. Rex sports a skull some 60 inches long. The “Pygmy Tyranosaur” may also have been influenced by geographical isolation, with the ancient Brooks Range separating it from other dinosaur species.

As the N. hoglundi fossil was found in fragments, it was believed to belong to a different, non-tyrannosaurine species before recently being re-classified as a new kind of Dinosaur.

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Second Child ‘Cured’ of HIV

In recent years, claims that people have been “cured” of HIV/AIDS have surfaced in the media. From the Berlin patient, who through a bone marrow transplant cured both his leukemia and his AIDS, to the “Mississippi Baby”, who was born HIV positive but when administered high dosages of certain drugs had the virus eliminated from its system. Now, a second baby has been rid of HIV, through much the same way as the Mississippi baby.

The baby, born in Long Beach, California, was born HIV positive from a likewise HIV positive mother who had not had antiretoviral therapy. When doctors administered three drugs- AZT, 3T and Nevirapine- into the baby’s system, the virus apparently went into remission. Scientists believe this is because the virus, at such an early stage in the child’s life, had not had time to spread to the viral reservoirs that allow the HIV virus to survive the lifetime of its host.

The baby is still on antiretroviral treatment, so it is unknown if the virus is truly gone, yet 8 months after the procedure it has yet to retain any traces of HIV in its blood.


“Lost Years” of Sea Turtles Uncovered

The first two years of life for a sea turtle have remained a mystery for scientists for years. What we know is that they are dangerous years- only 1% of the 50 to 250 eggs a female sea turtle lays survives into adulthood. While trackers have been proposed to help understand these “lost years”, until recently such technology has been too large to be put on juvenile turtles.

A recent study conducted by the University of Central Florida raised 17 baby turtles to the ages of 3.5-9 months old, when they had grown large enough to fit the trackers onto their backs. From there, they released the turtles into the open ocean and studied the courses they took.

All of the Sea Turtles turned north along the Gulf Stream upon release, some traveling as far as the Azores near Portugal, with most (but not all) eventually turning east towards North Carolina. The Sea Turtles also spent all of their time on the surface, presumably to keep warm.

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Black Hole Spinning Half the Speed of Light

In the first measurement of a black hole’s rotational speed, a “quasar” 6 billion light years away has been measured at spinning half the speed of light. While more measurements of the speeds of other black holes is needed to determine if this speed is the norm for supermassive black holes or an outlier, it is believed that the more often a black hole eats, the faster it spins. In the case of RX J1131-1231, this rate is close to one stellar mass per year.

While RX J1131-1231 should be too far away to accurately measure, scientists were able to determine its speed through a technique called “gravitational lensing”, in which a closer galaxy, in this case one 3 billion years away, “magnifies” the galaxies directly behind it. Scientists believe that this technique can be used to determine the speeds of even more distant and massive black holes.

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Drones have far more uses than for war or delivering Amazons packages- like studying volcanoes! In this video, a Phantom drone gets closer to an erupting volcano than a human ever could.

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