Is ‘strobe light star’ twins?


This video is called Flashing Star Spied By Hubble | Time-Lapse Video.

By Clara Moskowitz in the USA:

Rare ‘strobe light star’ may actually be twins

Protostellar object LRLL 5436, NASA, ESA, and J. Muzerolle (STScI)

This infrared image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows an image of protostellar object LRLL 54361. The image was released Feb. 7.

Space.com

An odd flashing star may actually be a pair of cosmic twins: two newly formed baby stars that circle each other closely and flash like a strobe light, scientists say.

Astronomers discovered the nascent star system, called LRLL 54361, with the infrared Spitzer observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, and say the rare cosmic find could offer a chance to study star formation and early evolution. It is only the third such “strobe light” object ever seen, researchers said.

The celestial oddity is located about 950 light-years from Earth and lets out a bright pulse of light every 25.34 days. Hubble telescope scientists said the baby star object (or protostar) is the most powerful such stellar strobe found to date. But understanding what’s causing the flashing light is difficult, because the system is hidden behind opaque dust and a dense disk of material.

“This protostar has such large brightness variations with a precise period that it is very difficult to explain,” astronomer James Muzerolle of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., said in a statement. Muzerolle is the lead author of a paper detailing the finding published recently in the journal Nature.

However, Spitzer’s infrared eyes were able to peer through the dust enough to discern signs of a protostar, or a pair of protostars, no more than a few hundred thousand years old.

Animal photography competition


Gorilla. MONKEY SNAPPER. (c) Lucy Ray (c) ZSL

From Wildlife Extra:

ZSL Animal Photography Prize 2013

£10,000 prizes for ZSL photo competition

February 2013. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has launched the ZSL Animal Photography Prize 2013, a competition and prize fund set up to discover the world’s most amazing animal photography.

Returning after a great debut in 2012 which saw entries from all around the world, the competition is back with a fantastic line up of judges including ZSL Honorary Conservation Fellow and television presenter Kate Humble, environmentalist David Bellamy, and Dr Joseph Zammit-Lucia, one of the world’s leading animal portrait photographers.

£10,000 prize fund

Astounded by the calibre of the entries last year, including the captivating shot of an infant gorilla behind the camera, the judges are expecting another influx of breath-taking images in 2013. With a £10,000 prize fund and the chance for the images to go on display in a stunning exhibition at ZSL London Zoo in September, the competition aims to inspire amateur and professional photographers of all ages to get out and capture the magic of the animal kingdom.

ZSL Director General Ralph Armond said: “We were blown away by the quality of the images submitted for the ZSL Animal Photography Prize 2012 and cannot wait to see this year’s entries. Our lives revolve around animals at ZSL and we know just how captivating they are – every day we see visitors to our Zoos absolutely enthralled by them.

“But animals around the world are facing increasing threats to their existence and as an international conservation charity we know that raising their profile is vital to their survival. This competition gives us the chance to inspire people to help us protect amazing species around the world, and share our passion for wildlife.”

7 categories

The 2013 competition features seven categories in which to submit photographs, including Last Chance to See?, the Weird and Wonderful and The Birds and the Bees.

Visit www.zsl.org/photo-prize for more information or to enter images into the competition.

Tasmanian tiger extinction, new research


This video says about itself:

Here is a combination of all the footage of the Tasmanian Tiger, now believed to be extinct.

From Wildlife Extra:

Humans alone responsible for extinction of Tasmanian Tiger

February 2013. Humans alone were responsible for the demise of Australia’s iconic extinct native predator, the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine, according to a new study led by the University of Adelaide.

Using a new population modelling approach, the study contradicts the widespread belief that disease must have been a factor in the thylacine’s extinction.

Government sponsored hunting

The thylacine was a unique marsupial carnivore found throughout most of Tasmania before European settlement in 1803. Between 1886 and 1909, the Tasmanian government encouraged people to hunt thylacines and paid bounties on over 2000 thylacine carcasses. Only a handful of animals were located after the bounty was lifted and the last known thylacine was captured from the wild in 1933.

“Many people, however, believe that bounty hunting alone could not have driven the thylacine extinct and therefore claim that an unknown disease epidemic must have been responsible,” says the project leader, Research Associate Dr Thomas Prowse, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environment Institute.

“We tested this claim by developing a ‘metamodel’ – a network of linked species models – that evaluated whether the combined impacts of Europeans could have exterminated the thylacine, without any disease.”

The mathematical models used by conservation biologists to simulate the fate of threatened species under different management strategies (called population viability analysis or PVA) traditionally neglect important interactions between species. The researchers designed a new approach to PVA that included species interactions.

“The new model simulated the directs effects of bounty hunting and habitat loss and, importantly, also considered the indirect effects of a reduction in the thylacine’s prey (kangaroos and wallabies) due to human harvesting and competition from millions of introduced sheep,” Dr Prowse says.

Disease not a factor

“We found we could simulate the thylacine extinction, including the observed rapid population crash after 1905, without the need to invoke a mystery disease. We showed that the negative impacts of European settlement were powerful enough that, even without any disease epidemic, the species couldn’t escape extinction.”

The study ‘No need for disease: testing extinction hypotheses for the thylacine using multi-species metamodels‘, which also involved Professors Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, Professor Chris Johnson from the University of Tasmania, and Dr Bob Lacy, Chicago Zoological Society, has been published online in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Is the Tasmanian tiger really extinct? Here.

Mice too clever for poison


This video is called House mouse (Mus musculus) in the back yard.

Translated from the forum of Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands:

February 7, 2013, 12:00

We had a stash of walnuts in our home, which also proved to be irresistible to mice. After we had unsuccessfully attempted to drive them away in various ways (they ate not only walnuts but also more substantial parts of our house) we, at wit’s end, used bait boxes with poison.

After a few days we went to see how this worked. Much to it our surprise, the mice proved to be able to read: “Keep out of reach of animals”. Completely independently, they had plugged both openings with our insulation material ……. Against that much cleverness, we cannot do anything!

Greetings,

Didi

Swedish wolves update


This video is about wolves.

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands today:

Friday, February 8, 2013 10.10

The Swedish government had recently given permission to shoot 16 wolves. But after fierce protests by pro animal groups this was suspended. Unfortunately, the decision came too late for three wolves.

USA: February 2013. Yet another Red wolf has been shot dead, adding to the spate of Red wolf shootings at the end of 2012. The wolf was found with a suspected gunshot wound on January 18, 2013, north of the Town of Fairfield, in Tyrrell County, North Carolina: here.

Prehistoric wolf bone on Texel island: here.

Berlusconi praises dictator Mussolini


This video is called Berlusconi defends Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler.

By Marianne Arens:

Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi praises Mussolini

8 February 2013

Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, used the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, to praise the fascist “Duce” Benito Mussolini. Mussolini had “done a great deal of good”, notwithstanding the racial laws that were “his worst mistake”, Berlusconi said.

Italian responsibility for the Shoah was “not comparable to that of Germany”, Berlusconi continued. It had been “difficult” for Mussolini, who acted under pressure from Hitler. Italians had merely tolerated Nazi racial policy and were “not really aware of it at the beginning”, he said.

Italy’s political leaders immediately sought to play down the significance of Berlusconi’s statements, describing the provocations of the 76-year-old multi-billionaire as a “minor offense”.

Mario Monti, the outgoing prime minister, remarked tersely that Berlusconi had used an “unfortunate phrase on the wrong day and in the wrong place”. Just prior to his comments, the Ansa news agency reported that Monti did not rule out collaboration with Berlusconi’s party, PdL (People of Freedom), following parliamentary elections on February 24, on condition that Berlusconi did not take up a leading post in the new administration.

The Christian Democrat Pierferdinando Casini (UDC) declared that Berlusconi had “spoken nonsense”. Politicians aligned with the country’s so-called “left” also made just brief comments on the incident and were quick to move on.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democrats and leading candidate for the post of prime minister, complained that Berlusconi had made the “Day of Remembrance” a “day of election campaign maneuver”. The regional president of Puglia, Nichi Vendola (Left, Ecology and Freedom, SEL), described Berlusconi as a “falsifier, who would be advised to keep silent”.

Berlusconi expressed his comments on fascism during the official inauguration ceremony of a Holocaust memorial on “Platform 21” of the Milan Central Station. The memorial has been erected around the hidden railway tunnel originally used by the fascists to conduct deportations.

From 1943 to 1945, thousands of Italian Jews were deported from this point to extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, and the Italian camps of Bolzano and Fossoli. A total of around 8,600 Jews were deported from Italy to the death camps.

Contrary to Berlusconi’s remarks, anti-Semitism was not merely imposed on Italian fascism externally by Hitler and Nazi Germany—the persecution of the Jews was entirely in line with Italian fascism and Mussolini’s own racist ideology. Jews were socially isolated and dispossessed; they were banned from attending state schools in Italy, heading a business, carrying out an official function, and could not marry Italians.

In order to create a new “Roman Empire” around the Mediterranean Sea the Italian fascists occupied North Africa and parts of Yugoslavia, classifying Africans, Slavs and Jews as “subhuman” and discriminating against them. The defense of a “pure Italian race” was used, especially in Abyssinia and Libya, to justify massacres and genocide.

As historian Carlo Moos demonstrates, racial laws against the Jews were first introduced in Italy in 1938 in accordance with the racial policies of the Third Reich. At the same time they corresponded to “a long-existing, general-fascist racial concept” (Moos, Carlo: Late Italian Fascism and the Jews, 2008).

Berlusconi, who is facing a series of criminal charges for business and sex crimes, is deliberately turning towards the extreme right in his election campaign.

One of his candidates for the Senate is Mussolini’s granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini. Berlusconi’s party, the PdL, has not only allied itself with its long-time former partner, the racist Northern League, but also with ultra-right-wing parties such as the neo-fascist La Destra, led by Francesco Storace. The ranks of La Destra include Giuliana De Medici, stepdaughter of the fascist leader and founder of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), Giorgio Almirante (1914-1988).

Berlusconi has continually relied on the fascists in the course of his political career. In 1994 he drew the MSI into government for the first time since the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship. The MSI at that time openly professed its adherence to Mussolini. The party later changed its name to National Alliance (NA) and joined Berlusconi’s supporters to form the PdL. Former MSI leader Gianfranco Fini is currently backing the electoral list headed by Mario Monti.

Following Berlusconi’s resignation in November 2011 as head of government, his PdL party fully backed the austerity measures of the Monti government for a year in parliament. Berlusconi is now trying to divert increasing social anger into right-wing channels. While all other parties, including alleged “leftist” organizations, advocate the continuation of Monti’s austerity measures and support for the European Union, Berlusconi is conducting a populist nationalist campaign, blaming the European Union and the German government for the social decline of Italy. …

In this context Berlusconi’s allegation that Mussolini had done “much good” assumes menacing dimensions. Mussolini smashed the organized labor movement, destroyed its social gains and democratic rights, and went on to conduct brutal colonial wars in Libya and Abyssinia. …

Across Europe bourgeois politicians are forming alliances with racist, ultra-nationalist and fascist parties. Such parties have been playing an important role for some time in political life in Hungary, Greece, France and Austria. Against a background of increasing social tensions they are needed by the ruling class as a battering ram against the working class.

Half-million-year-old human discovery in Serbia


An ancient hominin jawbone unearthed in a Serbian cave may be more than half a million years old. CREDIT: Mirjana Roksandic

From LiveScience:

Half-Million-Year-Old Human Jawbone Found

Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 06 February 2013 Time: 05:00 PM ET

Scientists have unearthed a jawbone from an ancient human ancestor in a cave in Serbia.

The jawbone, which may have come from an ancient Homo erectus or a primitive-looking Neanderthal precursor, is more than 397,000 years old, and possibly more than 525,000 years old. The fossil, described today (Feb. 6) in the journal PLOS ONE, is the oldest hominin fossil found in this region of Europe, and may change the view that Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relatives, evolved throughout Europe around that time.

“It comes from an area where we basically don’t have anything that is known and well-published,” said study co-author Mirjana Roksandic, a bioarchaeologist from the University of Winnipeg in Canada. “Now we have something to start constructing a picture of what’s happening in this part of Europe at that time.”

Cave diggers

In 2000, Roksandic and her colleagues began excavating a cave in Balanica, Serbia, that contained ancient archaeological remains. While they were away, rogue diggers secretly dug a deeper pit within the cave, hoping to do their own excavations. Because the site had already been disturbed, the team then decided to probe deeper below the pit’s bottom, Roksandic told LiveScience. [In Photos: Our Closest Human Relatives]

About 5.9 inches (15 centimeters) below the surface the team found an ancient jawbone fragment with three molars still intact.

Using several dating techniques, the team determined the fragment was definitely older than 397,000 years and perhaps older than 525,000 years.

The jawbone lacked several characteristic Neanderthal features, including distinctive chewing surfaces on the teeth that show up in Western Europe at that time. Instead, the fossil resembled the more primitive Homo erectus.

Back then, the cave may have been a hyena den, though the researchers can’t say whether a hyena actually brought the human remains into its den.

Oldest specimen

In the past, anthropologists assumed that Neanderthals were widespread throughout Europe, basing that assumption on Neanderthal fossils almost exclusively found in Western Europe, Roksandic said.

The new findings suggest that Neanderthals may not have evolved in this region of Southeastern Europe, at least during this time. Instead, during several ice ages, rising glaciers over the past eons cut off Western Europe from the rest of the continent, and this isolation likely contributed to the evolution of Neanderthals’ distinctive features from the more primitive Homo erectus.

Ancient humans in Southeastern Europe, by contrast, were never cut off due to rising glaciers.

“So there is no pressure on them to develop into something different,” she said.

But not everyone is convinced of this interpretation.

The jawbone may come from “an unusual individual in a population of which some others might be more Neanderthal-like,” said Fred Smith, a paleoanthropologist at Illinois State University, who was not involved in the study. “We would expect the population from this time period to show more variability.”