January 30, 2015

Fish Food Turned into Two New Biofuels

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food could become a future source of biofuel, according to a new study.

The research team, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has pioneered a technique that uses a single species of algae called Isochrysis to make both biodiesel and jet fuel.

January 29, 2015

Meet these 167 Million Year Old Snakes

(Artist’s reconstruction by Julius Csotonyi)
Think of a snake and you might picture a legless reptile. There was, however, a time long ago when snakes had legs. Scientists have now determined that snakes began evolving their characteristic skulls, expandable jaws, and elongated bodies long before they lost their limbs.

Earth-sized Planets, Ancient Star System Found

An artist’s conception of Kepler-444 with a planet passing across it
(Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)
An ancient solar system, dating back to the dawn of the Milky Way Galaxy, has been discovered by an international team of astronomers. Researchers have found five Earth-sized planets in orbit around a Sun-like star called Kepler-444 that, at 11.2 billion years old, is the oldest star with a planetary system ever found. This discovery suggests that ancient worlds are out there, and some of them may support life.

January 27, 2015

Jellyfish Do More than Drift

Barrel jellyfish (Graeme Hays)

Jellyfish might look like they are just drifting along with the ocean currents, but according to a new study of barrel jellies, these animals are moving with purpose.

January 23, 2015

Oldest Primates Lived in Trees

(Illustration courtesy of Doug Boyer)
A new study from the University of Florida suggests that humans’ earliest primate ancestor was a tree-dwelling creature. Named Purgatorius, scientists believe it looked like a cross between a squirrel and tree shrew, and weighed less than a deck of playing cards.

January 22, 2015

Whale Sharks Get International Protection

(Dave Witting/NOAA Fisheries)

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean. But despite their intimidating size — up to 40,000 pounds and 40 feet long — the creatures are so mellow that humans often swim alongside them. Now, an international coalition has agreed on regulations that may help protect whale sharks in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) from the dangers of commercial tuna fishing.

January 20, 2015

VuePod: Powerful New Virtual Reality System

Since Facebook paid $2 billion to acquire the virtual reality gaming device, Oculus Rift, the 3D industry seems to be booming. Now, Brigham Young University (BYU) has added its own invention to the mix. Principally made for use in engineering, yet powerful enough for gaming, the VuePod is especially exciting because it’s comparatively cheap to build.
(Mark A. Philbrick)
While the VuePod is certainly not the first immersive visualization system in academia, it might be the most cost effective. Other 3D systems cost as much as $10 million to build and maintain, but BYU’s VuePod cost only $30,000, the price of a new car.