Greetings, science and space fans! Here are some news items and fun stuff to check out today:
–Sure, all fossils are old. But now, scientists say they’ve found the oldest - specifically, single-celled organisms that are 3.4 billion years old. According to The New York Times, around that time, the moon was orbiting a lot closer to Earth, which raised huge tides. Our planet hadn’t evolved to provide oxygen, so our atmosphere was full of methane. If these organisms really did come from that time, it means that life on Earth probably evolved after the Late Heavy Bombardment, which was a period when asteroids were crashing into the planet and heating the surface to molten rock, the Times reports.
–Be sure to add this term to your space vocabulary: "hot Jupiter." A hot Jupiter is a kind of planet outside our solar system that has a mass about the same as our own Jupiter, but has an orbit that is a lot closer to the host star than Jupiter is to the sun. As Time magazine reports, scientists were surprised to find a hot Jupiter that's blacker than you can imagine. This planet, called TrES-2b, reflects only about 1% of sunlight, whereas our Jupiter reflects 50%. And TrES-2b is more than 160 times closer to its star than Jupiter is to the sun. Read the article to find out more about this mysterious discovery.
–And in other exoplanet news, some planets outside our solar system actually have orbits in the opposite direction as the spin of their host stars. Here's a possible explanation, New Scientist reports.
–Coral populations are in jeopardy worldwide, and the decline is especially significant in the Caribbean, where elkhorn coral has decreased by about 90% over the past 15 years, in part because of white pox. But how did coral get white pox? Scientists have found a possible culprit: bacteria from human feces, which leaked into the water from septic tanks. Ecologist James Porter says this is the first time human disease has been shown to kill an invertebrate, Livescience reports.
–Time flies when you're having fun, sometimes, right? Our brains have a curious perception of time, and scientists are trying to figure out why some time spans seem to last longer than others. A new study suggests that channels of neurons are associated with certain time lengths, Wired reports.
–You may not remember your college science days fondly, but here's a gallery to make you crave the classroom: "25 Most Awesome College Labs 2011" from Popular Science. Students in these labs get to crash cars, build robots, brew beer and more. At Cornell, students can major in game design; at MIT, you can build toys and test them on kids. (At Princeton, we went to Six Flags Wild Safari to study animal behavior; that was pretty cool, too).