The discovery of a partial foot fossil in Ethiopia suggests that our human ancestors were possibly an occasional tree-climber and an occasional upright walker.
In a search for additional clues on how and when our ancestors stopped climbing trees and started walking on two feet, scientists went to the central Afar region in Ethiopia. It’s home to some of the world's richest fossil and artifact sites, including the famous Hadar site. “Lucy,” the partial ape-human skeleton, was excavated at Hadar in 1974.
About 30 miles north of Hadar in 2009, scientists excavated a surprising set of foot bones at the Burtele palaeontological site. Scientists spent the next three years analyzing their findings before reaching a moment of eureka.
“For the first time, we have good evidence that there is indeed another hominin lineage that lived at the same time as Lucy’s species,” study co-author Bruce Latimer said in a scientific news briefing. He is an anthropologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
In 2009, Jill Tarter wanted to trigger the most meaningful search for extraterrestrial intelligence to date by pulling everyone together to look at the sky. The SETI Institute scientist brought her wish to the 2009 TED Conference. The idea of citizen science gave her hope.
The more eyes and ears she could put on the sky and the signals being received by the Allen Telescope Array – a collection of small satellite dishes together that can simultaneously pick up signals for radio astronomy research – the better chance we have at making new discoveries. Tarter wanted people to analyze the signals the array sends back in real time – something machines can’t do.
“We think humans are able to do something that our machines can’t” Tarter said. “We’re hoping that in these regions of the spectrum, where there are so many signals that we use for our own communication purposes, that humans can perhaps be sensitive to signals buried underneath all of this chatter of our own that might be coming from a distant technology.”
If you're trying to count how many planets could be candidates for harboring life in our galaxy, this might blow your mind: Scientists now say there could be billions of them.
Astronomers working with the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) HARPS instrument estimate that in our galaxy, there are tens of billions of rocky planets not so much bigger than Earth orbiting red dwarf stars within the habitable zones of those relatively cool stars. A habitable zone is the area in a star system where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface without boiling away or staying frozen.
Specifically, the planets that have astronomers so excited are called super-Earths, meaning they can have up to 10 times more mass than our planet. That's important distinction because some scientists believe these super-Earths have a better chance of being habitable than planets about the size of our Earth.