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Perfectly kept dinosaur embryo from 66 million years ago found – Al Jazeera English

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The exquisitely preserved embryo discovered in China was preparing to hatch from its egg just like a chicken.

Scientists have announced the discovery of an exquisitely preserved dinosaur embryo from at least 66 million years ago that was preparing to hatch from its egg just like a chicken.

The fossil was discovered in Ganzhou, southern China and belonged to a toothless theropod dinosaur, or oviraptorosaur, which the researchers dubbed “Baby Yingliang.”

“It is one of the best dinosaur embryos ever found in history,” University of Birmingham researcher Fion Waisum Ma, who co-authored a paper in the journal iScience, told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.

Ma and colleagues found Baby Yingliang’s head lay below its body, with the feet on either side and back curled – a posture that was previously unseen in dinosaurs, but similar to modern birds.

In birds, the behaviour is controlled by the central nervous system and called “tucking”. Chicks preparing to hatch tuck their head under their right wing in order to stabilise the head while they crack the shell with their beak.

Embryos that fail to tuck have a higher chance of dying after a hatching that is unsucessful.

“This indicates that such behaviour in modern birds first evolved and originated among their dinosaur ancestors,” said Ma.

An alternative to tucking might have been something closer to what is seen in modern crocodiles, which instead assume a sitting posture with the head bending upon the chest up to hatching.

Oviraptorosaurs were feathered dinosaurs that lived in what is now Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period [Handout/University of Birmingham/Lida Xing/AFP]

Forgotten in storage

Oviraptorosaurs, which means “egg thief lizards”, were feathered dinosaurs that lived in what is now Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period.

They had variable beak shapes and diets and ranged in size from modern turkeys at the lower end to massive Gigantoraptors, that were eight metres (26 feet) long.

Baby Yingliang measures about 27cm (10.6 inches) long from head to tail and lies inside a 17cm- (6.6 inch)-long egg at the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.

Researchers believe the creature is between 72 and 66 million years old, and was probably preserved by a sudden mudslide that buried the egg, protecting it from scavengers for aeons.

It would have grown two to three metres (6.5- 9.8 feet) long if it had lived to be an adult, and would have likely fed on plants.

The specimen was one of several egg fossils that were forgotten in storage for decades.

The research team suspected they might contain unborn dinosaurs, and scraped off part of Baby Yingliang’s eggshell to uncover the embryo hidden within.

“This dinosaur embryo inside its egg is one of the most beautiful fossils I have ever seen,” said Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, part of the research team, in a statement.

“This little prenatal dinosaur looks just like a baby bird curled in its egg, which is yet more evidence that many features characteristic of today’s birds first evolved in their dinosaur ancestors.”

The team hopes to study Baby Yingliang in greater detail using advanced scanning techniques to see a full image of the skeleton, including its skull bones because part of the body is still covered by rock.

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Owning, not doing: my transition from master's to PhD student – Nature.com

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For a more rewarding experience in your PhD programme, work to establish research autonomy.Credit: Monty Rakusen/Getty

One of the most important lessons I learnt from my seven years of graduate studies is the difference between simply ‘doing’ a research project and ‘owning’ one and how to make the transition from a doer to a researcher.

I started as very much a doer. During my master’s-degree work studying proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease, at Wuhan University, China, I relied on my supervisor — biochemist Yi Liang — to assign me to a research project, to propose ideas and sometimes to plan out sets of experiments for me. I simply had to follow protocols and produce data. I would read papers, but just the most relevant ones on the particular protein I was studying, or those involving the same methods that I was using. When I read those papers, it was to benefit my own experiments: I wasn’t looking for any deeper knowledge or understanding.

There are advantages to this approach: once everything had been mapped out for me, I was well on my way to getting my name on a paper, thanks to the data contributions I’d made. But following instructions without developing a deep understanding is not how students become successful scientists, even if they get their name on a paper.

Doing versus owning a research project

My interest in protein structures continued during my PhD programme at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. At first, I maintained the mindset I had while pursuing my master’s: I devoted myself to laboratory work and generating data. My PhD supervisor, structural biologist Gary Shaw, didn’t give me the step-by-step instructions I was used to, however. This often confused me and made it hard for me to find an obvious way forward. Our discussions on the project always remained ‘open ended’, leaving uncertainties for me to solve and decisions for me to make.

So, instead of being told what to do next, I learnt how to think about what confused me. I tried to answer my questions by myself, and to increasingly dictate the path of my own research. My PhD supervisor constantly encouraged and empowered me to come up with ideas, proposals and experiments. He told me, “You should own your research project instead of just doing it. By the time you graduate, your goal is to be the most knowledgeable person about your research in the whole world.”

Road to owning your research

Owning my research project in this way was deeply intimidating at first: I no longer had a decision-maker with more experience to follow. But as I developed as a scientist by reading and thinking at a deeper level, and as my excitement grew from following my own curiosity, I overcame this feeling. By the time I ended the second year of my PhD programme, I felt much more confident in my abilities as a researcher — not just as a data-gatherer.

Owning my project triggered some deep thinking that further inspired me to establish hypotheses, methodologies and collaborations with researchers around the world. In the last year of my PhD programme, I e-mailed neuroscientist Sandra Cooper at the University of Sydney, Australia, to discuss a few technical questions about her 2017 publication in the Journal of Biological Chemistry1. She kindly connected me to computational biologist Bradley Williams at the Jain Foundation in Seattle, Washington.

This was the start of a long-term collaboration between our labs, and I got to learn a lot about computational biology from them. The collaboration changed the direction of my project to some extent and brought a completely new perspective to my research and my lab.

Here are some tips I’d give anyone who wants to learn to own their research project.

1. Think beyond day-to-day bench work. Even if most of your time is allocated to doing lab work, don’t let it take over and become the core of your work. Instead, spend time thinking about why you’re doing particular experiments. What are you trying to achieve? What can you learn? What information is missing? All lab work should be driven by a clear rationale based on the literature, and motivated by a desire to answer scientific questions.

2. Make short- and long-term plans. Your supervisor might plan for you sometimes, but it’s important to be your own pilot. Make to-do lists for each day, week and month, so you know what you’re expecting and what you should prioritize. By doing this, you will learn how to make adjustments and better manage your time. Set goals along the way and enjoy every achievement — big and small.

3. Use all available resources. Science should not be a lone battle. Your supervisor, your lab mates and people from other labs are all resources that can help you with your research. There’s also a rich store of online advice and tools you can use to support yourself. For example, I found great help from Q&A forums on ResearchGate, a social-networking website for scientists. Don’t shy away from initiating conversations with researchers outside your department or institution if you think they could be helpful.

4. Communicate your research. Discussing your research at seminars and conferences, and with members of the public, requires your full understanding of it: I found that speaking at conferences helped me to discover what I didn’t understand in my field. Communication sparks collaboration and allows you to look at your research in contexts you might have not considered, which could in turn inspire ideas.

Of course, self-directed research has downsides. It won’t always give you the best results. You’re also likely to go through more trial and error. Not all the data you collect will be publishable — and some of it might feel like it’s downright useless. Certainly, the road to get my PhD work published was a winding, bumpy one. But nothing is more rewarding than owning up to your failures, pushing past each obstacle and finding a way to move forward.

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Massive asteroid safely zooms by Earth, a million miles away – Space.com

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A huge asteroid made its closest approach of the next two centuries Tuesday (Jan. 18), flying quite safely past our planet.

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), which is classified as a near-Earth asteroid, only got within five lunar distances of our planet, the equivalent of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers).

The Virtual Telescope Project, which is based in Rome, hosted a livestream allowing viewers to watch the 3,400-foot-wide (1 km) object during the closest part of its flyby, which occurred at 4:51 p.m. EST (2151 GMT).

Related: Top 10 ways to destroy Earth

Any asteroids or comets (which can be very loosely defined as icy space rocks trailed by gassy tails) that come within 1.3 astronomical units (120.9 million miles, or 194.5 million km) qualify as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, according to NASA. (One astronomical unit is equal to the average distance between the Earth and the sun). 

While there are no known objects “out there” that may pose an immediate threat for Earth, NASA does keep its eyes peeled. Through partner telescopes in space and on the ground, it monitors and hunts NEOs while assessing potentially hazardous ones through the Planetary Defense Coordination Office

The agency also tests out technology for potential planetary defense, including the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) that will seek to alter the path of an asteroid’s moonlet in the fall of 2022. 

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On a larger scale, NASA has a mandate from Congress to seek and report at least 90 percent of all NEOs 460 feet (140 meters) and larger, which would include 7482 (1994 PC1). The agency was tasked to finish the survey by 2020, but was unable to meet the deadline. That said, a dedicated world-hunting telescope called NEO Surveyor is planned to launch in 2026 to wrap up the work in the following 10 years.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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BEYOND LOCAL: Scientists study trajectory of meteorite that landed in B.C. in October – ElliotLakeToday.com

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VANCOUVER — Scientists studying a meteorite that landed next to a British Columbia woman’s head last year say it was diverted to that path about 470 million years ago. 

The small meteorite broke through a woman’s ceiling in Golden, B.C., in October, landing on her pillow, next to where she had been sleeping moments earlier.

Philip McCausland,a lead researcher mapping the meteorite’s journey, says they know the 4.5-billion-year-old rock collided with something about 470 million years ago, breaking into fragments and changing the trajectory of some of the pieces. 

McCausland, who’s a adjunct professor at University of Western Ontario in London, says it’s of scientific significance because it will allow scientists to study how material from the asteroid belt arrives on earth.

He says the Canadian team is now working with scientists in Switzerland, the U.K., U.S. and Italy to learn more about the meteorite and its path to Golden.

Most of the meteorite has been returned to Ruth Hamilton, the woman who had the close call and McCausland says it’s up to her to decide what to do with it. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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