SciTech Briefs

Atlantis takes off after long delay

The space shuttle Atlantis rocketed into orbit on Thursday, bringing with it a $2 billion lab provided by the European Space Agency. The lab, called Columbus, was built over a period of 23 years.

Atlantis will deliver it to the International Space Station, which has housed Destiny, a U.S. lab, for seven years. NASA has plans to ship a Japanese lab called Kibo (meaning “hope”) to the station in March.

Atlantis’s takeoff was two-months delayed from December because of problems with the fuel gauge.

NASA members were concerned that bad weather would cause yet another delay, but the storms stayed west of the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Source: CNN

Lice found in mummified bodies

Scientists have discovered lice in two mummified bodies discovered in Peru that are about 1000 years old. The lice found had the same DNA as the most widespread louse species today.

In the past, biologists assumed that European colonists brought lice to North and South America — as they did smallpox and measles — but these new findings suggest otherwise. If anything, some scientists theorized, colonists might have brought lice back to Europe.

Scientists also hope that this finding will help them study how humans and diseases have spread across the globe.

Source: The New York Times

Cause of ice shelf collapse found

Scientists have asserted that climate change was not the only factor behind the collapse of Larsen B, a 500 billion ton ice shelf in Antarctica that broke apart in 2002.

The scientists, Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University and Ted Scambos of Colorado University, cited atmospheric and glaciological factors, including small breaks within the ice shelf that had weakened the structure.

The study states that global warming contributed to the problem, but was not the sole cause of Larsen B’s collapse. In 1998, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey warned that some ice shelves in Antarctica would soon collapse due to increasing water temperatures. But Glasser and Scambos assert that other factors that Larsen B was close to collapsing for decades.

Source: BBC News

Tooth shows Neanderthal mobility

Analysis of a 40,000-year-old tooth discovered in Greece is leading scientists to think that Neanderthals were more mobile than many had once thought. Neanderthals are a now-extinct species of Homo genus that lived in areas of Europe and Asia.

Scientists looked at the ratios of strontium isotope in the tooth’s enamel. Strontium is a metal naturally found in both food and water. The strontium levels in the tooth suggested that the Neanderthal must have lived about 12.5 miles from the space where it died.

The analysis was conducted by members of the Max Planck Institute, which researches the anthropology of evolution. The team announced its findings on Friday.

Source: USA Today