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Life-cycle of Alaskan wooly mammoth documented in new analysis of his tusk – National Post

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ANCHORAGE — A wooly mammoth that roamed Alaska 17,000 years ago covered enough ground in its 28-year lifetime to nearly circle the globe twice, an analysis of one of its tusks suggests.

The findings, detailed in a study published Thursday in the journal Science, show how the male mammoth went through infancy and youth as part of a herd, but died alone from starvation in Alaska’s northernmost mountains.

“This really is one of the very first insights into the life history of an Arctic wooly mammoth,” said Matthew Wooller of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, co-lead author of the study of the now-extinct ancestor of the modern elephant.

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The mammoth’s movements were traced through analysis of isotopes in one of its well-preserved tusks.

To generate more than 400,000 data points for the study, the scientists sliced open the tusk, exposing the layers that were added as the animal grew. Those layers, Wooller said, are like “sugar ice cream cones stacked one inside of each other.”

In its early years, the mammoth – named Kik by researchers after the river where its remains were found – moved around the area that is now the Lower Yukon River region, Wooller said.

Though glaciers extended far south at the time, much of Alaska, including that region, was glacier-free. Alaska areas that are now boreal forest were grassy steppe-like terrain, ideal for grazers such as wooly mammoths, he said.

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“It was probably hanging out with the herd, with its mother and other members of the herd,” Wooller said.

At age 15 or 16, the mammoth dramatically increased the distance and range of its travels, heading periodically to points much farther north and higher in elevation.

It’s likely that the mammoth left the herd then, Wooller said. Its behavior mirrored patterns in some modern elephant herds, in which maturing males are “encouraged, and I would put inverted commas around that word,” to strike off on their own, he said.

In its later years, the mammoth roamed some routes that caribou use today, Wooller said. It is possible that the mammoth, as it traveled seasonally to find food, shared migration paths with ancient caribou, he said.

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Its demise likely came at the Arctic gravel bar where its remains were found in 2010. The combination of two tusks and a partial skull there “gives us pretty good confidence that that’s where it died,” Wooller said.

At the end, it endured nutritional stress, the tusk analysis showed. “It looks like in its last year of life it slowed down to not much moving around,” Wooller said. “We have kind of a smoking gun of what killed it.”

The study does more than just satisfy curiosity about extinct Ice Age creatures. It is relevant to species living in today’s rapidly changing Arctic, Wooller said.

“Our work helps shed a light on environmental concerns we have about modern animals like polar bears and caribou that live in the Arctic today,” he said. (Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age.

David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years.

“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said.

“The only way we can save them is to record them — to take a lot of photos and make 3D models,” he said.

Earlier excavations in White Sands National Park have uncovered fossilized tracks left by a saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, Columbian mammoth and other ice age animals.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit – Illinoisnewstoday.com

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Tampa, Florida (WFLA) — SpaceX made history on Wednesday night when it launched the world’s first all-civil mission to get going from the Space Coast, Florida.

The Inspiration4 mission took off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center around 8:03 pm on Wednesday. The four crew members on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft were launched onto a reusable Falcon 9 rocket and later separated from the spacecraft and landed on the drone.

The mission’s five-hour launch window began at 8:02 EST. The window was very large, as the crew was sent to orbit the Earth rather than the International Space Station, and therefore did not have such strict time constraints.

The crew is set to travel 350 miles above the surface of the Earth, about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.

“This is important and historic, because it’s the best time humans have been in orbit since the Hubble Space Telescope mission,” said Benjireed, SpaceX’s manned spaceflight director.

(Photo provided by SpaceX)

The crew will spend three days in orbit to participate in research experiments on human health and performance. We hope that the results of our research will apply not only to future space flight, but also to human health here on Earth.

Inspiration4’s main goal is to provide and inspire support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They want to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude in a three-day mission.

According to SpaceX, each of the four members of the crew was chosen to represent the pillars of a mission of prosperity, generosity, hope and leadership. The Inspiration 4 crew and the pillars they represent are:

  • leadership: 38 years old Jared Isaacman – Founder and CEO of Shift4Payments
  • Hope: 29-year-old Haley Arseno – Doctor assistants and childhood cancer survivors treated with St. Jude
  • Generosity: 41 years old Chris Sembroski – Lockheed Martin US Air Force veteran and aerospace employee
  • prosperity: 51 years old Dr. Cyan Proctor – Entrepreneurs, educators, trained pilots, and the active voice of the space exploration community

SpaceX trained all four crew members as commercial astronauts on Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. The crew was trained in orbital mechanics, microgravity, weightlessness, other stress tests, emergency preparedness, and spacesuit training.

The mission was funded by Isaacman in a private transaction with SpaceX. Isaacman has also invested $ 100 million towards a funding target for the St. Jude mission.

Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit

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'Flying' microchips could ride the wind to track air pollution – Yahoo Movies Canada

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Researchers have created a winged microchip around the size of a sand grain that may be the smallest flying device yet made, Vice has reported. They’re designed to be carried around by the wind and could be used in numerous applications including disease and air pollution tracking, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, they could be made from biodegradable materials to prevent environmental contamination. 

The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees. Those fall slowly by spinning like helicopters so they can be picked up by the wind and spread a long distance from the tree, increasing the range of the species. 

The team from Northwest University ran with that idea but made it better, and smaller. “We think we’ve beaten biology… we’ve been able to build structures that fall in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds,” said lead Professor John A. Rogers. “The other thing… was that we were able to make these helicopter flyer structures that are much smaller than seeds you would see in the natural world.”  

They’re not so small that the aerodynamics starts to break down, though. “All of the advantages of the helicopter design begin to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it all the way, as far as you can go or as physics would allow,” Rogers told Vice. “Below that size scale, everything looks and falls like a sphere.”

The devices are also large enough to carry electronics, sensors and power sources. The team tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like antenna so that they could wireless communicate with a smartphone or each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality and solar radiation. 

The flyers are still concepts right now and not ready to deploy into the atmosphere, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs. Key to that is the use of biodegradable materials so they wouldn’t persist in the environment. 

“We don’t think about these devices… as a permanent monitoring componentry but rather temporary ones that are addressing a particular need that’s of finite time duration,” Rogers said. “That’s the way that we’re envisioning things currently: you monitor for a month and then the devices die out, dissolve, and disappear, and maybe you have to redeploy them.”

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