Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the most feared predators in the age of dinosaurs, may have been built for endurance, not speed.
A paper published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE takes recent research on how mammals move and applies it to dinosaurs. Its conclusions support theories that the massive meat-eaters hunted in packs and opens a window into the ecology of the ancient forests they roamed.
“We’re trying to figure out how much energy is going into and flowing through paleo ecosystems,” said Hans Larsson of Montreal’s McGill University, one of the paper’s co-authors.
“If we can’t get an estimate for what it takes to feed the apex predators, then we have no chance of estimating anything else.”
To figure out how much T. Rex needed to eat, the scientists first had to figure out how it moved, including how fast it could run.
In the past, that’s been done using a formula based on hip height.
“That, coupled with body mass, can tell us a lot about speed,” said Larsson.
The problem is that an animal’s speed comes from many factors — the relative length of certain leg bones; whether it runs on its toes or its heels; and its size.
Consider the elephant. Its hip height is lengthy, but a gazelle can run rings around it.
“Lots of other things come into play,” Larsson said.
Recalibrating with focus on body mass
“What we wanted to do was recalibrate … dinosaur speed using some really cool new papers that have come out using mammals, especially really large mammals.”
Larsson applied those papers to dinosaurs, bringing body mass into the calculation.
Earlier papers proposed T. Rex could achieve speeds of up to 70 km/h — a lightning pace for an animal that would have weighed more than 10 tonnes. Larsson suggests its top end would have been closer to 20 km/h.
But, he adds, T. Rex’s long legs would have made that a very efficient 20 km/h, a pace that could be kept up for quite a while.
A summary report of the research notes that for theropod dinosaurs weighing over one tonne, top running speed is limited by body size, so longer legs instead correlated with low-energy walking while the predators prowled for prey.
Larsson asked what that could mean.
Comparing pack animals
“If this were their mode of hunting, being able to go much greater distances at a pretty good clip, what kind of lifestyle would that be? The animals that do this today are ones, like wolves, that hunt in packs.”
Near Red Deer, Alta., a group of many large, meat-eating dinosaur fossils appear to be from members of a single flock.
“It’s pretty good evidence,” said Larsson.
Understanding how the top predator in the forests of the Cretaceous era moved and hunted allows scientists to also ask better questions about that ancient ecosystem.
How much food would T. Rex have needed to move that huge body at that pace? How much prey would have had to have been available? What would that prey have needed to eat?
Answering those questions will have direct benefits for modern biology, Larsson said.
“Some of the fundamental questions on current ecosystems are still not there. In most cases, we don’t even know what the food web is.”
Rebuilding an ancient food web from sketchy fossil records could give science a road map to find its way through the incredible complexity of a living forest, he said.
“We can start off with a paleo ecosystem and start developing ideas that can be used to begin tackling these questions in living ecosystems. The data become far simpler.”
NASA's Rover Is Taking a Tree-Like Device That Converts CO2 Into Oxygen to Mars – ScienceAlert
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 30 July, carrying a host of cutting-edge technology including high-definition video equipment and the first interplanetary helicopter.
Many of the tools are designed as experimental steps toward human exploration of the red planet. Crucially, Perseverance is equipped with a device called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE: an attempt to produce oxygen on a planet where it makes up less than 0.2 percent of the atmosphere.
Oxygen is a cumbersome payload on space missions. It takes up a lot of room, and it’s very unlikely that astronauts could bring enough of it to Mars for humans to breathe there, let alone to fuel spaceships for the long journey home.
That’s the problem MOXIE is looking to solve. The car-battery-sized robot is a roughly 1 percent scale model of the device scientists hope to one day send to Mars, perhaps in the 2030s.
Like a tree, MOXIE works by taking in carbon dioxide, though it’s designed specifically for the thin Martian atmosphere. It then electrochemically splits the molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and combines the oxygen molecules into O2.
It analyses the O2 for purity, shooting for about 99.6 percent O2. Then it releases both the breathable oxygen and the carbon monoxide back into the planet’s atmosphere. Future scaled-up devices, however, would store the oxygen produced in tanks for eventual use by humans and rockets.
The toxicity of the carbon monoxide produced isn’t a worry, according to Michael Hecht, a principal investigator for MOXIE. The gas reenters the Martian atmosphere but won’t alter it very much.
“If you release the carbon monoxide into the Mars atmosphere, eventually it will combine with a very small amount of residual oxygen that’s there and turn back into carbon dioxide,” Hecht previously told Business Insider.
For that reason, the carbon monoxide also wouldn’t hinder a potential biosphere on Mars – a closed, engineered environment where Earthly life could thrive.
Because MOXIE is a small proof-of-concept experiment, it won’t produce much oxygen – if all goes well, it should be producing about 10 grams per hour, which is roughly the amount of oxygen in 1.2 cubic feet of Earth air. For context, humans need about 19 cubic feet of air per day.
MOXIE will test its capabilities by producing oxygen in one-hour increments intermittently throughout the duration of Perseverance’s mission, according to NASA. The device should start working soon after the rover lands on 18 February 2021.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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NASA drops racially charged nicknames of celestial bodies – CTV News
Grocery store items, pro sports teams, and country music bands have all removed racially insensitive names.
Now, NASA is adding celestial bodies to the list that includes Aunt Jemima, the Washington Football Team and hitmakers The Chicks and Lady A.
“Eskimo Nebula” and “Siamese Twins Galaxy” are out, for example.
“Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname ‘the Horsehead Nebula’ invokes its appearance,” NASA said in a release this week. “But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science.”
NASA is examining its use of phrases for planets, galaxies and other cosmic objects “as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The space agency says it “will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, said, “Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”
In June, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said it was dropping the brand “Eskimo Pie” after a century. The word is commonly used in Alaska to refer to Inuit and Yupik people, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska. “This name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean ‘eater of raw meat.'” People of Canada and Greenland prefer other names.
“Siamese twins” is an antiquated expression for conjoined twins, based on brothers from Siam (now Thailand) who were used as sideshow freaks in the 19th century.
The renaming trend followed worldwide protests against racism and police brutality after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police.
NASA Astronaut to Take Questions from Girl Scouts – Net Newsledger
Girl Scouts from across the nation will pose questions next week to NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy aboard the International Space Station. The educational downlink event will air live at 10:55 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 11, on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Cassidy will answer prerecorded questions selected from the 1.7 million girls who are members of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Girl Scouts works to provide girls in grades K-12 with engaging opportunities that increase their interest in STEM, including space science badges, training, and events that inspire them to explore space science.
Linking students directly to astronauts aboard the space station provides unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Space Network’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS).
For nearly 20 years, astronauts have continuously lived and work on the space station, testing technologies, performing science and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth. Through NASA’s Artemis program, the agency will send astronauts to the Moon by 2024, with eventual human exploration of Mars. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery.
Follow America’s Moon to Mars exploration at:
Follow NASA astronauts on social media at:
See videos and lesson plans highlighting research on the International Space Station at:
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