Three Minute Warning A lot can happen in three minutes. You…

Three Minute Warning

A lot can happen in three minutes. You could boil an egg, walk a few hundred metres, or have a quick argument on social media. For a newly-fertilised fruit fly embryo, the first three minutes of development are probably the most important of its entire life. A fly egg is packed with all sorts of useful molecules known as morphogens, laid down in precise patterns that determine important aspects of the embryo such as which end is the head and which is the tail. As soon as the egg is fertilised, the morphogens spring into action and start switching on genes that begin the process of development in a matter of minutes. These images represent data from a new real-time imaging technique that captures this frenzy of gene activity as coloured spots, shown in a healthy embryo (top) and two others with faults in an important developmental gene called Zelda.

Written by Kat Arney

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NASA InSight Lander ‘Hears’ Martian Winds

NASA — InSight Mission patch.

Dec. 7, 2018

NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander, which touched down on Mars just 10 days ago, has provided the first ever «sounds» of Martian winds on the Red Planet. A media teleconference about these sounds will be held today at 12:30 p.m. EST (9:30 a.m. PST).

InSight sensors captured a haunting low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind, estimated to be blowing between 10 to 15 mph (5 to 7 meters a second) on Dec. 1, from northwest to southeast. The winds were consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit.

«Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,» said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. «But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves.»

Image above: One of two Mars InSight’s 7-foot (2.2 meter) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander’s Instrument Deployment Camera, which is fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Teleconference audio and accompanying visuals will stream live on NASA’s website. A follow-along page is available at:

Two very sensitive sensors on the spacecraft detected these wind vibrations: an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer sitting on the lander’s deck, awaiting deployment by InSight’s robotic arm. The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. The air pressure sensor, part of the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem (APSS), which will collect meteorological data, recorded these air vibrations directly. The seismometer recorded lander vibrations caused by the wind moving over the spacecraft’s solar panels, which are each 7 feet (2.2 meters) in diameter and stick out from the sides of the lander like a giant pair of ears.

This is the only phase of the mission during which the seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), will be capable of detecting vibrations generated directly by the lander. In a few weeks, it will be placed on the Martian surface by InSight’s robotic arm, then covered by a domed shield to protect it from wind and temperature changes. It still will detect the lander’s movement, though channeled through the Martian surface. For now, it’s recording vibrational data that scientists later will be able to use to cancel out noise from the lander when SEIS is on the surface, allowing them to detect better actual marsquakes.

When earthquakes occur on Earth, their vibrations, which bounce around inside our planet, make it “ring” similar to how a bell creates sound. InSight will see if tremors, or marsquakes, have a similar effect on Mars. SEIS will detect these vibrations that will tell us about the Red Planet’s deep interior. Scientists hope this will lead to new information on the formation of the planets in our solar system, perhaps even of our own planet.

SEIS, provided by the French Space Agency CNES, includes two sets of seismometers. Those contributed by the French will be used once SEIS is deployed from the deck of the lander. But SEIS also includes short period (SP) silicon sensors developed by Imperial College London with electronics from Oxford University in the United Kingdom. These sensors can work while on the deck of the lander and are capable of detecting vibrations up to frequencies of nearly 50 hertz, at the lower range of human hearing.

Sounds of Mars: NASA’s InSight Senses Martian Wind

“The InSight lander acts like a giant ear,” said Tom Pike, InSight science team member and sensor designer at Imperial College London. «The solar panels on the lander’s sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind. It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it. When we looked at the direction of the lander vibrations coming from the solar panels, it matches the expected wind direction at our landing site.»

Pike compared the effect to a flag in the wind. As a flag breaks up the wind, it creates oscillations in air pressure that the human ear perceives as flapping. Separately, APSS records changes in pressure directly from the thin Martian air.

«That’s literally what sound is — changes in air pressure,» said Don Banfield InSight’s science lead for APSS from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. «You hear that whenever you speak to someone across the room.»

Unlike the vibrations recorded by the short period sensors, audio from APSS is about 10 hertz, below the range of human hearing.

The raw audio sample from the seismometer was released unaltered; a second version was raised two octaves to be more perceptible to the human ear – especially when heard through laptop or mobile speakers. The second audio sample from APSS was sped up by a factor of 100, which shifted it up in frequency.

An even clearer sound from Mars is yet to come. In just a couple years, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to land with two microphones on board. The first, provided by JPL, is included specifically to record, for the first time, the sound of a Mars landing. The second is part of the SuperCam and will be able to detect the sound of the instrument’s laser as it zaps different materials. This will help identify these materials based on the change in sound frequency.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center, support the InSight mission. CNES and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris provided SEIS, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the wind sensors.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in France are responsible for delivering the SuperCam instrument to NASA. The SuperCam microphone is provided by Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, a French higher education institution.

Related article:

NASA’s Mars InSight Flexes Its Arm

For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

Teleconference audio and visuals will stream live at:

Image (mentioned), Video (NASA/JPL), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/JoAnna Wendel/Katherine Brown/JPL/Andrew Good.

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Palaeolithic people may have amputated fingers in religious ritual, study suggests

Early in human history, people were willing to make enormous sacrifices in order to satisfy their deities. Some cave dwellers even cut off their own fingers, according to new research.

Palaeolithic people may have amputated fingers in religious ritual, study suggests
These are examples of negative hand images with missing fingers on calcite draperies in Cosquer Cave,
located in Calanque de Morgiou, France [Credit: Jean Clottes]

It was a mystery archaeologists couldn’t figure out for decades. Cave paintings nearly 27,000 years old sometimes depicted hands with missing fingers — but why?

A team of anthropologists and archaeologists from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University now believe humans in the Upper Palaeolithic era amputated their fingers in religious rituals and that the incredibly painful experience might have helped groups of humans form intensely strong bonds.

Master’s student Brea McCauley and supervisors David Maxwell and Mark Collard combed through records dating back to the 1600s for examples of researchers and travellers who noted the practice of finger amputation.

McCauley, who led the team, was surprised to find examples of finger amputation on every continent humans inhabit.

“We did not expect, in the slightest, to find 121 societies that engaged in finger amputation,” McCauley said in an interview.

Palaeolithic people may have amputated fingers in religious ritual, study suggests
Closwer view of hand images in Cosquer Cave [Credit: Fanny Broadcast/
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images]

In one instance, a cave in France featured hand paintings from 50 different individuals, including men, women and children. Many had fingers missing.

The team posited that finger amputation was likely done as either a sign of mourning or as a sacrifice in order to appeal to a deity for assistance. And the ritual may have helped, but likely not in the way early humans thought.

Group amputations of people’s fingers in a highly ritualized practice probably had the “side effect” of creating powerful bonds among participants, said Collard, an archaeology professor at SFU.

Existing research suggests deeply uncomfortable experiences can in fact make people more loyal to others who share the same trauma, explained McCauley.

“These rituals that might be painful or might cause emotional distress create really strong communities. They bind people as though they are family,” she said.

“So that means they are really likely to look out for one another and that means they might be hostile to other groups because they are so bounded inward.”

While these rituals were happening during the Upper Palaeolithic era, modern humans spread across much of the world and out competed neanderthals.

The research is published in the Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology.

Author: Wanyee Li | Source: The Star Vancouver [December 07, 2018]