Rare Mammoth Tracks Reveal an Intimate Portrait of Herd Life
James Martin, professor of geosciences and paleontological curator, joined a team of researchers from the University of Oregon and the Bureau of Land Management to unearth and analyze the rare mammoth prints found in Fossil Lake, Oregon. The team was led by Gregory Retallack of the University of Oregon. This Smithsonian article provides a nice entry to learn about the 43,000-years-old tableau of an injured adult and concerned young these researchers unearthed.
Are the strikes of vipers the fastest? Not really!
Vipers are commonly thought to possess the quickest strikes. Not so fast, according to three researchers in the department of biology at UL Lafayette. David Penning, a doctoral student; Baxter Sawvel, a graduate student; and Dr. Brad Moon, an associate professor; have authored an article titled Debunking the Viper's Strike: Harmless Snakes Kill a Common Assumption published in Biology Letters which sheds new light on this assumption. It challenges some popular notions about vipers, namely that their strikes may not be fastest among snakes.
“There’s a misconception, both in common lore, and popular documentaries and scientific literature. It’s always either an implied assumption, or a direct statement, about vipers being the fastest snakes on the planet. We just basically point out that isn’t necessarily true,” explained Penning, the paper’s lead author.
Gravitational waves detected
For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window to the cosmos. The gravitational waves were detected on Sept. 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. EDT (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.
Dr. James Dent (assistant professor of physics) was featured in a local TV (KATC) report explaining this discovery.
Evolution of 'electric organs' in fish and eels
Dr. James Albert (professor of biology) and other researchers published an article in Science Magazine explaining how the shock of electric fish has evolved, opening a door to future practical applications. The team worked in Peru to catch native freshwater electric fish and compare their electricity-producing organs to a species of African fish of similar size they acquired through the aquarium trade.
Biologist Joins Exploration of Our Deepwater Backyard
Dr. Scott France (associate professor of biology) and other researchers are studying the New England Seamount chain, which extends about 700 miles to the southeast and consists of more than 30 volcanic peaks. The underwater mountains are dotted with holes and tunnels that provide habitat for a range of species, but are largely unexplored. It is the largest seamount chain in the North Atlantic.
Physicist-Geodynamicist Reconstructs 200 Million Years of Tectonic Plate Dynamics
Dr. Gabrielle Morra (assistant professor of physics) and his team have been able to simulate the motion and sizes of tectonic plates over the last 200 million years. To explain the changes in the plates' sizes, the team suggests that the mechanism for plate tectonics may alternate between being plate-driven and mantle-driven. The study finds that, while the number of smaller plates has been relatively steady for the past 60 million years, the large plate distribution has changed considerably.
Physicist offers new approach to dark energy
It is perhaps the biggest mystery of all: What is causing the universe to come unraveled? A paper by Dr. James Dent (assistant professor of physics) and Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a well-known theoretical physicist and cosmologist, discussed this topic in a paper published online in Physical Review Letters in early August 2013. The universe, which may have begun with a big bang, could ultimately fade to black. For decades, scientists acknowledged that the universe was expanding. But theoretical physics took a new twist in the 1990s, when astronomers discovered that this expansion wasn't happening steadily.