Was T. rex a stand-up guy? Many young people wrong on dinosaur’s appearance, study suggests

Here’s a test of your dinosaur knowledge: Did Tyrannosaurus rex stand upright, with its tail on the ground?

The answer: No. But a lot of young people seem to think so, and the authors of a study are blaming toys like Barney and other pop influences for that misconception.

Scientists used to think T. rex stood tall, but they abandoned that idea decades ago. Now, the ferocious dinosaur is depicted in a bird-like posture, tail in the air and head pitched forward of its two massive legs.

‘It doesn’t matter what they see in science books or even in Jurassic Park.’

– Warren Allmon, a paleontology professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

The change led major museums to update their T. rex displays, study authors said, and popular books have largely gotten the posture right since around 1990. So did the "Jurassic Park" movies.

But when the researchers asked college students and children to draw a T. rex, most gave it an upright posture instead. Why? They’d soaked up the wrong idea from toys like Barney, games and other pop culture items, the researchers conclude.

"It doesn’t matter what they see in science books or even in `Jurassic Park,"’ says Warren Allmon, a paleontology professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and an author of the study.

It struck him when he saw a box of dinosaur chicken nuggets at a grocery store.

"What they grew up with on their pajamas and their macaroni and wallpaper and everything else is the tail-dragging posture," he said.

If the explanation is correct, Allmon said, it’s a sobering reminder of how people can get wrong ideas about science. The study will be published in the Journal of Geoscience Education.

The authors examined 316 T. rex drawings made by students at Ithaca College and children who visited an Ithaca museum. Most of the college students weren’t science majors.

Seventy-two percent of the college students and 63 percent of the children drew T. rex as being too upright. Because the sample isn’t representative of the general population, the results don’t necessarily apply to young people in general.

When the authors looked at other depictions of T. rex, they found the obsolete standing posture remains in pop culture items like toys, games, cookie cutters, clothing, comics and movies.

Mark Norell, a prominent paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York who didn’t participate in the study, said he doesn’t know if the upright-posture myth is as widespread as the new study indicates.

But he said it makes sense that children’s first impressions of T. rex can persist. If they don’t study dinosaurs later, "that’s what they’re stuck with."

Source : foxnews[dot]com


Is millionaire space tourist planning trip to Mars?

Buzz is building about a planned 2018 private mission to Mars, which may launch the first humans toward the Red Planet.

A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation — which is led by millionaire Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist — will hold a news conference on Feb. 27 to announce the 501-day roundtrip mission, which will aim for a January 2018 launch.

"This ‘Mission for America’ will generate new knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration," Inspiration Mars officials wrote in a media advisory yesterday (Feb. 20). "It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again, in doing the hard things that make our nation great, while inspiring youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and motivation."

Tito made history in 2001, plunking down a reported $20 million for an eight-day trip to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. [Photos: The First Space Tourists]

‘A crewed free-return Mars mission would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it.’

– Millionaire Dennis Tito

Tito will participate in the Feb. 27 news conference. So will Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter, CEO and president, respectively, of Paragon Space Development Corp., which has expertise in life-support systems; and space-medicine expert Jonathan Clark of the Baylor College of Medicine.

The speakers’ backgrounds and the lofty goals articulated in the media advisory have led some people to speculate that Inspiration Mars is planning a manned mission to the Red Planet. And it looks like that may be the case, according to some media reports.

On March 3, Tito will give a talk called "Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free Return Mission in 2018" at an aerospace conference in Montana, the NewSpace Journal reported Thursday, Feb. 21.

The NewSpace Journal says it obtained a copy of the paper Tito plans to present in Montana and gives a summary of its main thrust.

Tito’s paper discusses "a crewed free-return Mars mission that would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it. This 501-day mission would launch in January 2018, using a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket," the NewSpace Journal writes. "According to the paper, existing environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) technologies would allow such a spacecraft to support two people for the mission, although in Spartan condition."

The mission would be privately financed and cheaper than previous estimates for manned Mars efforts, the NewSpace Journal adds, though no overall cost is given.

The purported involvement of California-based SpaceX is not a huge surprise, as company founder Elon Musk has repeatedly stressed his desire to help humanity reach and eventually colonize Mars. Indeed, SpaceX has been developing a mission concept called "Red Dragon," which would use its Dragon capsule to send astronauts to the Red Planet.

A 501-day mission would pose potentially serious physiological and psychological issues for astronauts (standard stints aboard the space station are currently just six months).

Researchers have tried to understand the psychological and sociological effects of being isolated in cramped quarters for long stretches, notably during the Russia-based Mars500 mock mission, which wrapped up in November 2011. But the physiological effects may be tougher to simulate and mitigate, experts say.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

U-2 spy plane pilots get key lime pie, hash browns and more

Nearly 60 years after first taking to the skies, the U2 spy plane continues to roam the edge of space while conducting important reconnaissance — and its pilots can now eat like gourmets thanks to a new five-star in-flight menu.

For these elite U.S. Air Force and NASA pilots, an entire meal, from bacon and hash browns to beef stroganoff and key lime pie, is contained in something that looks like a toothpaste tube.

Also known as the “Dragon Lady,” the U2 flies at 70,000 feet gathering surveillance data anywhere in the world with more flexibility than satellites. Built by the illustrious Lockheed Martin Skunk Works group and entering service in the late 1950s, the U2 has been a national treasure for more than fifty years.

Today’s model is 40 percent larger and carries four times the intelligence collection payload than the originals, with a wide variety of sensors. U2s provide many key capabilities, from aerial eavesdropping to surveying dirt patterns in Iraq and Afghanistan to flag signs of hidden IEDs.

NASA also uses the U2 as a high-tech, high-altitude platform for research including physics experiments.

When pilots fly at these extreme high altitude conditions they need to wear a pressurized suit and helmet. Pilots are fitted into the four-layer suits by two technicians and then shoehorned into the cockpit.

Once suited, under pressure and connected to oxygen, there’s no movement inside the cockpit; even something as simple as swallowing is not the same as it is on the ground and needs to be a conscious deliberate act. The U2 is capable of very long flights so pilots can find themselves in a very small cockpit in these restrictive suits for twelve hours at a time.

And when you’re flying at the edge of space, it is not exactly the time or place to get out the knife and fork and tuck into a steak.

To sustain the pilots and maintain concentration, tube food was designed to let pilots eat in these special suits without taking off the helmet. The silver meal tubes are attached to feeding probes and inserted through ports in the helmets – and the cockpit is even equipped with meal heaters.

The scientists behind the menus
For five decades, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate has been creating tube food for these pilots.

Three years ago the Air Force asked CFD to modernize the menu of fifteen meal options, which are encapsulated in toothpaste-like tubes and range from entrees and desserts through to soups and meats.

Just about any food is fair game for tubing. The team has made a range of popular options, including caffeinated chocolate pudding, chunky apple pie and more.

In advance of their missions, pilots get to choose their selections and order their tubes.

Pilots were given the opportunity to identify four new products they’d like to eat and then the Air Force then asked Natick to make the winners.

Breakfast bacon with hash browns, beef stroganoff, key lime pie and peach melba have now all been added and the fifteen options on the menu also underwent a makeover.

Accomplishing a series of “Top Chef”-worthy tasks, Natick introduced a new approach to tube food by building layers of flavors, and worked hard to ensure texture rather than making it all baby food puree.

They hope to introduce other modern meals — even chicken tortilla soup.

Portion size does vary by tube, but each meal is about five ounces, between 130 and 300 calories per tube, and designed to give pilots the sustenance they require.

So how do they make it?
To convert a desired meal into a tube meal option, Natick’s scientist-chefs (on the “Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team”) break it down into elements and create a flavor profile.

Starting with the actual meal — bacon and hash browns, for example — they taste it and write down all the flavors, spices and textures. Next they blend the meal into liquid, tasting it again to compare the difference between the liquid and solid versions.

In the final stage, they put the liquefied meal through a “thermal preserving process” and taste it again.

The team then adapts the recipe so that it can be put in the tube and taste like the original. Similar to canning, the tube food is kept fresh from spoiling by using heat to preserve it, rather than preservatives. These tubes can then last about three years at 80 degrees.

Natick supplies a whopping 28,000 tubes annually of the food to support about 100 pilots.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

Curiosity rover first robot to ever drill into Mars

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has beamed home photos confirming that it recovered samples from deep within a Red Planet rock, cementing the robot’s place in exploration history.

The Curiosity rover drilled 2.5 inches into a Martian outcrop on Feb. 8, and Wednesday mission scientists first set eyes on images showing drill tailings sitting in Curiosity’s scoop, waiting to be transferred to analytical instruments on the robot’s body.

The photos confirm that Curiosity has pulled off an historic achievement, scientists said.

"This is the first time any robot, fixed or mobile, has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars," Louise Jandura, sample system chief engineer for Curiosity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters.

"In fact, this is the first time any rover has drilled into a rock to collect a sample anywhere but on Earth," Jandura added. "In the five-decade history of the space age, this is indeed a rare event." [Curiosity’s First Drilling on Mars (Photos)]

Breaking open a time capsule
Curiosity landed inside Mars’ huge Gale Crater on the night of Aug. 5, kicking off a two-year prime mission to determine if the area has ever been capable of supporting microbial life.

Along with its 10 science instruments and 17 cameras, Curiosity’s hammering drill is considered key to this quest, for it allows scientists to peer deep into Martian rocks for evidence of past habitability — something no other Red Planet robot has been able to do.

The arm-mounted drill "allows us to go beyond the surface layer of the rock, unlocking a kind of time capsule of evidence about the state of Mars going back three or four billion years," Jandura said.

The first drilling location is an intriguing time capsule indeed, scientists say. Curiosity bored into part of an outcrop called "John Klein," which is shot through with light-colored mineral veins and other evidence of long-ago exposure to liquid water.

"All of these features tell us that the rocks in this area have a really rich geological history, and they have the potential to give us information about multiple interactions between water and rock at this location," said JPL’s Joel Hurowitz, sampling system scientist for Curiosity.

Mission scientists will learn more about that history when the drilled sample is transferred to two of Curiosity’s key instruments, CheMin (short for Chemistry and Mineralogy) and SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars).

"That’ll play out over the next few days here," said JPL’s Daniel Limonadi, lead systems engineer for Curiosity’s surface sampling and science system.

A few glitches
The recovered powder has already been used to clean out Curiosity’s sample-handling system, to help ensure that the system is scrubbed free of potential contaminants from Earth. A minor software glitch has delayed the delivery of the sample to CheMin and SAM, but the team found a workaround, researchers said.

The Curiosity team has also become aware of another potential issue with the the sample-handling hardware. Engineers built two models of this hardware to run tests here on Earth, and the sieve — which screens out particles more than 0.006 inches (150 microns) wide — has begun to detach on one of them.

But this only happened after extensive use, and the sieve remained functional, rover team members said. And they stressed that there is no sign of any problem with the sample-handling gear Curiosity toted to Mars, though they’ll take some measures to lessen the sieve’s workload on the Red Planet (such as sieving samples for 20 minutes rather than 60 minutes, which Curiosity had done previously with soil samples).

"Based on the test results to date, and based on how we expect to use the hardware on Mars, we really have pretty good confidence that we’re going to be able to use this hardware through the prime mission and beyond," Limonadi said.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

3D-printed ear created in lab

With 3D printing, it seems the things you can make are limited only by your imagination. The latest innovation: a 3D-printed artificial ear.

The ear, which looks and functions like a normal human ear, was created by squirting living cells into an injection mold. Over the course of three months, each ear grew cartilage in the shape of its mold. These ersatz ears could replace the ears of children with congenital deformities, researchers report online today (Feb. 20) in the journal PLOS ONE.

"A bioengineered ear replacement like this would also help individuals who have lost part or all of their external ear in an accident or from cancer," co-lead author Jason Spector, a plastic surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, said in a statement. If the ears prove safe and successful, it could be possible to implant one in a human in as few as three years, Spector said.

Children with a deformity called microtia have an intact inner ear but an external ear that fails to develop fully, causing hearing loss. The prevalence ranges from slightly fewer than one to as many as four babies per 10,000 births, depending on the country. [The 9 Most Bizarre Medical Conditions]

The artificial ears were made by producing a digital 3D image of a child’s intact ear and feeding that into a 3D printer to produce an ear-shaped mold. Then the scientists injected a gel made of living cow ear cells and collagen (a substance used to make gelatin) into the mold, and out popped an ear.

The whole process took less than two days: half a day to design the mold, a day to print it, half an hour to inject the gel, and 15 minutes to allow it to set.

Then the researchers implanted the fabricated ears on the backs of rats, where the ears grew for one to three months. Creepy as it sounds, it isn’t the first time scientists have grown ears on rodents, as a model for naturally growing ears.

In medicine, current replacement ears are made from a Styrofoam-like material or by an Eve-like genesis out of a patient’s harvested rib. The latter is difficult and painful, and rarely produces an ear that works well or looks natural.

The advantage of 3D-printed replacement ears is that they could be made-to-order, using molds from the patient’s normal ear (if they have one) or from one of a person of similar size. The researchers are now working on growing human ear cartilage cells in the lab, which would reduce the chances of tissue rejection.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Coal: the cleanest energy source there is?

Researchers have discovered a stunning new process that takes the energy from coal without burning it — and removes virtually all of the pollution.

The clean coal technique was developed by scientists at Ohio State University, with just $5 million in funding from the federal government, and took 15 years to achieve.

“We’ve been working on this for more than a decade,” Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer and director of OSU’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory, told FoxNews.com, calling it a new energy conversion process. “We found a way to release the heat from coal without burning.”

The process removes 99 percent of the pollution from coal, which some scientists link to global warming. Coal-burning power plants produced about one-third of the nation’s carbon dioxide total in 2010, or about 2.3 billion metric tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

‘We found a way to release the heat from coal without burning.’

– Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer and director of OSU’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory

Retrofitting them with the new process would be costly, but it would cut billions of tons of pollution.

“In the simplest sense, conventional combustion is a chemical reaction that consumes oxygen and produces heat,” Fan fold FoxNews.com. “Unfortunately, it also produces carbon dioxide, which is difficult to capture and bad for the environment.”

And simply put, the new process isn’t.

Heating, Not Burning, Coal
Fan discovered a way to heat coal, using iron-oxide pellets for an oxygen source and containing the reaction in a small, heated chamber from which pollutants cannot escape. The only waste product is therefore water and coal ash — no greenhouse gases. As an added benefit, the metal from the iron-oxide can be recycled.

“Oxidation” is the chemical combination of a substance with oxygen. Contrast this with old-fashioned, coal-fired plants, which use oxygen to burn the coal and generate heat. This in turn makes steam, which turns giant turbines and sends power down electric lines.

The main by-product of that old process — carbon dioxide, known chemically as CO2 — is released through smokestacks into the earth’s atmosphere.

Fan’s process, called “coal-direct chemical looping,” has been proven in a small scale lab at OSU. The next step is to take it to a larger test facility in Alabama, and Fan believes the technology can be commercialized and used to power an energy plant within five to 10 years, if all goes smoothly. The technology generated 25 kilowatts of thermal energy in current tests; the Alabama site will generate 250 kilowatts.

Can Coal Ever Be ‘Clean’?
Some environmentalists are skeptical of the technology, and of the idea of clean coal in general.

“Claiming that coal is clean because it could be clean — if a new technically unproven and economically dubious technology might be adopted — is like someone claiming that belladonna is not poisonous because there is a new unproven safe pill under development,” wrote Donald Brown at liberal think tank Climate Progress.

Yet the federal Department of Energy believes that the process can create 20 megawatts to 50 megawatts by 2020, said Jared Ciferno, the agency’s director of coal and power-production research and development, in a statement.

The government plans to continue to support the project, as well as the concept of "clean coal" in general.

Meanwhile, Fan is exploring the possibility of establishing a start-up company and licensing the process to utilities, and has the potential to patent 35 different parts of the process.

Other scientists and experts are enthused about the prospects for this technology.

Yan Feng with Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division, Climate Research Section, called it “an advancement in chemical engineering. “It is very important that we act on CO2 capturing and sequestration as well as emission controls of other warming agents like tropospheric ozone and black carbon."

Adds Rebecca Taylor, a spokesman for Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical Company, a global Fortune 250 chemical manufacturer that works in clean energy, “researchers continue to uncover innovative ways to use coal efficiently/sustainably.”

Concludes Dawei Wang, a research associate at OSU, the technology’s potential benefits even go beyond the environment and issues like sustainability.

"The plant could really promote our energy independence. Not only can we use America’s natural resources such as Ohio coal, but we can keep our air clean and spur the economy with jobs,” he said.

Source : foxnews[dot]com

Smallest planet yet found outside solar system

Astronomers searching for planets outside our solar system have discovered the tiniest one yet — one that’s about the size of our moon.

But hunters for life in the universe will need to poke elsewhere. The new world orbits too close to its sun-like star and is too sizzling to support life. Its surface temperature is an estimated 700 degrees Fahrenheit. It also lacks an atmosphere and water on its rocky surface.

University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, one of the founding fathers of the planet-hunting field, called the latest find "absolutely mind-boggling."

"This new discovery raises the specter that the universe is jampacked, like jelly beans in a jar, with planets even smaller than Earth," said Marcy, who had no role in the new research.

‘[Is] the universe jampacked, like jelly beans in a jar, with planets even smaller than Earth?’

– Geoff Marcy, one of the founding fathers of the planet-hunting field

It’s been nearly two decades since the first planet was found outside our solar system. Since then, there’s been an explosion of discoveries, accelerated by NASA’s Kepler telescope launched in 2009 to search for a twin Earth. So far, 861 planets have been spotted and only recently have scientists been able to detect planets that are similar in size to Earth or smaller.

While scientists have theorized the existence of a celestial body that’s smaller than Mercury — the baby of the solar system since Pluto’s downgrade — they have not spotted one until now. Nearest to the sun, Mercury is about two-fifths the Earth’s diameter; the newly discovered planet and our moon are about a third the size of Earth.

The teeny planet was detected by Kepler, which simultaneously tracks more than 150,000 stars for slight dips in brightness — a sign of a planet passing in front of the star. The planet — known as Kepler-37b — orbits a star 210 light years away in the constellation Lyra. It’s one of three known planets in that solar system.

Discoverer Thomas Barclay of the NASA Ames Research Center in Northern California was so excited when he spied the moon-sized planet that for days, he said he recited the "Star Wars" movie line: "That’s no moon." It took more than a year and an international team to confirm that it was a bona fide planet.

The discovery is detailed in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

Scientists are looking for an Earth-size planet that’s in the so-called Goldilocks zone — that sweet spot that’s not too hot and not too cold where water, which is essential for life, could exist on the surface.

While the newly discovered planet isn’t it, "that does not detract from the fact that this is yet another mile marker along the way to habitable Earth-like planets," said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, who was not part of the discovery team.

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