Wayward whales, battling sea monsters, possums in packs, and space junk

Tim’s blog

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about wayward whales; possums in packs; battling sea monsters; space junk; and more

The orbital junkyard—Satellites are under threat of collision with about 500,000 pieces of space junk. But Australian technology can now track debris as small as a centimetre across to within a metre of space—and may even be able to deal with it.—Australasian Science

A story on this topic can be found in the May 2011 issue of Australasian Science.

Climate change curbs cropsFarmers have produced less food during the past three decades than they would have done were climate change not happening, US researchers have calculated. They estimate that global production of maize, for instance, is about 3.8 per cent and wheat about 5.5 per cent lower than they would have been in a non-warmed world—Science

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110505/full/news.2011.268.html

Wayward whale not a fluke—Israeli scientists are suggesting that the sighting of a (Pacific) grey whale in the Mediterranean last year might indicate the start of a trend made possible by the melting of the Arctic Sea ice. The northern Atlantic and Pacific marine ecosystems may begin to mix, they say.—Marine Diversity Record

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110504/full/473016a.html

Ancient marsupials played possum in packs—Most modern marsupials are solitary and, with no fossil evidence to the contrary, palaeontologists have just assumed marsupials were always that way—until now. Belgian researchers have unearthed a fossil site in Bolivia which shows many marsupials living together.—Nature

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110508/full/news.2011.272.html

Here be battling sea monstersAustralian researchers have found a fossil ichthyosaur—a 120-million-year-old marine dinosaur—which was bitten on the snout during a prehistoric tussle. The South Australian sea monster appears to have survived its traumatic experience, and lived on.—Acta Palaeontologica Polonia

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/05/sea-monster-battle-preserved-for.html?ref=hp

Out-of-Africa migration selected novelty-seeking genesThe versions of a gene more closely linked to impulsive, risky and exploratory behaviour are more common in indigenous populations further from Africa, US researchers have found. The suggestion is that these versions allowed immigrant populations to handle the stress of the new more calmly.—American Journal of Physical Anthropology

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028114.400-outofafrica-migration-selected-noveltyseeking-genes.html

Heart attacks are more dangerous in the morningA heart attack in the morning causes more damage than an attack at any other time of the day, Spanish researchers have found.—Heart

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028115.200-heart-attacks-are-more-dangerous-in-the-morning.html

Turning waste heat into electricityResearchers in the US and China have discovered a way to boost the performance of computer chip-like devices which can convert waste heat into electricity. Their results could finally usher in practical ways of converting the waste heat of cars and other mechanical devices into usable power.—Energy & Environmental Science

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/05/turning-waste-heat-into-electric.html?ref=hp

Heat up tumours to back up cancer therapy—It turns out that some cancers just can’t stand the heat. Dutch researchers have found why heating boosts chemotherapy. The heat breaks down the enzymes that work against cancer drugs—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20458-heat-up-tumours-to-back-up-cancer-therapy.html