Futurology ~ Mercury is active, 12 year crash, print-on-demand bones, crossbill evolution, maths repairs masterpiece, ancient protein


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Mercury is geologically active — Earth has always held a special place in the hall of geologic fame. It was the only bonafide planet to exhibit tectonic and seismic activity – until now. Mercury, just a little larger than our Moon, has spent the last four billion years in a broiler, and it’s geologically active. That’s according to a new analysis of high-resolution images taken near the planet’s north pole in the final months of the MESSENGER mission; they reveal numerous tiny fault scarps (offsets in the surface that form as Mercury’s interior cools and the planet’s crust shrinks).
~ It may even have little, uh, ‘mercuryquakes’. 

Rosetta crashes into comet — The Rosetta mission landed (actually, crashed into) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, mission controllers hugged each other; there was gentle applause from onlookers; and that was it. Seven of Rosetta’s instruments kept gathering data until the end.
Earlier, it had snapped the interior of deep pits on the comet that may show the building blocks it is made of.
~ Its beats comets crashing into us, I guess, and features a prodigious feat of maths. 

Print-on-demand bones — If you shatter a bone in the future, a 3D printer and some special ink could be your best medicine. Researchers have created what they call ‘hyperelastic bone’ that can be manufactured on demand and works almost as well as the real thing, at least in monkeys and rats. Though not ready yet for humans, bioengineers are optimistic the material could be a much-needed leap forward in quickly mending injuries ranging from bones wracked by cancer to broken skulls.
~ But can you choose the colour?

The strange evolution of the crossbill — In the pine forests of Idaho, a bird called the South Hills crossbill is waging one seriously bizarre evolutionary war. The crossbill (the two halves of its bill cross over each other instead of aligning) has developed an ever-bigger beak to break into the lodgepole pine’s cones and steal its seeds. In response, the tree has evolved ever-thicker cone scales and on and on through the millennia.
Species evolving together like this is known as coevolution. Happens all the time. The weird bit is that the South Hills crossbill may have speciated without geographic isolation – which is problematic for traditional evolutionary theory.
~ Don’t you just hate it when things speciate without geographic isolation? That’s flocking crazy. 

Maths reveals text, helps repair 650-year-old masterpiece — The Saint John Altarpiece isa 14th-century work by Francescuccio Ghissi. It has nine scenes in total: eight smaller pictures featuring St. John the Evangelist flanking a larger central Crucifixion. At the end of the 19th century, the altarpiece was separated into parts by a saw and eight of the nine resulting panels were sold to different collectors. One panel, the last of the smaller scenes, was lost. [Ouch!]
When the polyptich is closed, the far right panel at middle height shows an Annunciation scene; in the background, propped up on a stand, is the page of a book with medieval writing. It was not clear, however, whether the van Eycks had painted only a book’s symbolic representation or its actual text, and indeed, it has now been identified it as a theological text written by Thomas Aquinas on the Annunciation, and extensive repairs to the whole work were made possible.
~ Brilliant. 

Researchers identify 3.8-million-year-old protein — Researchers working in Africa have uncovered 3.8 million-year-old protein fragments encased in an ostrich eggshell. These biological building blocks are millions of years older than the oldest DNA ever found, highlighting the possibility of recovering ancient proteins from extinct animals — and even the remains of early humans.
~ Tomato sauce with that, I reckon. 

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