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Wednesday, 27 January 2021

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Recent Geo Beats Videos

Scientists capture underwater sounds of rays crushing shells

Geo Beats

Using the whitespotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) as a model, a team of scientists led by Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in collaboration with FAU's College of Engineering and Computer Science; Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium; and the Florida Institute of Technology, are the first to use passive acoustics to characterize how they consume hard-shelled mollusk prey in a controlled environment.

Bali's monkey thieves apparently understand economics

Geo Beats

The token exchange paradigm shows that monkeys and great apes are able to use objects as symbolic tools to request specific food rewards. Such studies provide insights into the cognitive underpinnings of economic behaviour in non-human primates. However, the ecological validity of these laboratory-based experimental situations tends to be limited. Our field research aims to address the need for a more ecologically valid primate model of trading systems in humans. Around the Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia, a large free-ranging population of long-tailed macaques spontaneously and routinely engage in token-mediated bartering interactions with humans. These interactions occur in two phases: after stealing inedible and more or less valuable objects from humans, the macaques appear to use them as tokens, by returning them to humans in exchange for food. Our field observational and experimental data showed (i) age differences in robbing/bartering success, indicative of experiential learning, and (ii) clear behavioural associations between value-based token possession and quantity or quality of food rewards rejected and accepted by subadult and adult monkeys, suggestive of robbing/bartering payoff maximization and economic decision-making. This population-specific, prevalent, cross-generational, learned and socially influenced practice may be the first example of a culturally maintained token economy in free-ranging animals.

Virgin Orbit just launched a rocket from a Boeing 747

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Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, confirmed that its LauncherOne rocket reached space during the company’s second launch demonstration today, successfully deploying 10 payloads for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP). Virgin Orbit’s novel launch system uses a technique called air launch, in which a rocket is launched from under the wing of a jet aircraft, rather than from a traditional launch pad on the ground. In addition to improving the payload capacity of the rocket, this technique allows the LauncherOne system to be the world’s most flexible and responsive launch service — flying on short notice and from a wide variety of locations to access any orbit.

There's something fishy about this robot swarm

Geo Beats

Many fish species gather by the thousands and swim in harmony with seemingly no effort. Large schools display a range of impressive collective behaviors, from simple shoaling to collective migration and from basic predator evasion to dynamic maneuvers such as bait balls and flash expansion. A wealth of experimental and theoretical work has shown that these complex three-dimensional (3D) behaviors can arise from visual observations of nearby neighbors, without explicit communication. By contrast, most underwater robot collectives rely on centralized, above-water, explicit communication and, as a result, exhibit limited coordination complexity. Researchers are now demonstrating 3D collective behaviors with a swarm of fish-inspired miniature underwater robots that use only implicit communication mediated through the production and sensing of blue light.

Newly discovered bat has already won 2021 Halloween

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A group of scientists led by the American Museum of Natural History and Bat Conservation International have discovered a new species of a striking orange and black bat in a mountain range in West Africa. The species, which the researchers expect is likely critically endangered, underscores the importance of sub-Saharan "sky islands" to bat diversity. The species is described in the journal American Museum Novitates.

Scientists discover a bizarre new way snakes climb trees

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Julie Savidge: Only four major types of snake locomotion have been recognized for nearly 100 years. And we've discovered a fifth. In this locomotion, the snake forms a loop like a lasso around the cylinder with its body. The loop of the lasso squeezes the cylinder to generate friction and prevent slipping. The snake has little sideways bends within the loop of lasso that allow it to move upwards by shifting the location of each bend. It looks like it's wiggling its body upwards. Snakes move very slowly and it appears to take a lot of energy, as you can see snakes pause and breathe heavily. This locomotion allows this snake to climb larger, smooth cylinders or in its native range, smooth bark trees than any other type of locomotion.

Why some volcanic sites look like wheat fields

Geo Beats

Some volcanic sites create a scene remindful of a messy barbershop floor, except that it's acres and acres wide rather than a few square feet. The ground downwind of the crater can be strewn with Pele's hair, and it is almost impossible to avoid stepping on it.

Harvard professor says alien object may have passed through our solar system

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ʻOumuamua was the first interstellar object discovered near Earth that came from outside the solar system. It looked nothing like the asteroids and comets, these rocks that we have seen from within the solar system. First, it was much more elongated than those are. But more puzzlingly, it exhibited a push away from the sun, not followed by a cometary tail. So, what provided this extra push. One possibility is that it was pushed by sunlight, just like a very thin object of the type of an object discovered just in September of 2020, which was the rocket booster of the lunar Lander from 1966, Surveyor 2, that was produced by us and exhibited some push from sunlight. And so if it is a very thin object, if it is of very extreme geometry, then it cannot be produced by nature and it must be artificial. And so that is the possibility. The object also exhibited shiny reflectance and didn't show any heat coming off. It came from a very special frame of reference which is the rest frame of the local stars in the Milky way, sort of the galactic parking lot not associated with any particular star. And so it was weird on many, many counts, unlike any comet or asteroid that we have seen before. And that raises the possibility that it might be artificial in origin. It's interesting to check whether every now and then we might see a message in a bottle. I like to go along beaches when on vacation and look at seashells that were swept the shore. There are natural objects, but every now and then I encounter a plastic bottle that reflects a civilization that produced it. And so we should be open-minded and examine all the objects that come into our solar system from outside and possibly find evidence for either space junk or perhaps equipment that came from another civilization.

Dwarf giraffes have been spotted in the wild

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Researchers with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation recently spotted two dwarf giraffes in Namibia and Uganda. These adult male giraffes are the first dwarf giraffes that have been described in the scientific literature. Using digital photogrammetry techniques, the researchers found that these giraffes had shorter legs compared to others of similar age. Limited mobility caused by shorter leg dimension might make these giraffes more susceptible to predation, even in the adult life stages. Also, successful mounting for breeding seems physically improbable, suggesting the inability to transfer any potential genes associated with this condition. However, the researchers caution that the study was conducted largely on two opportunistic observations of wild giraffes encountered in the field.

A new lava dome just formed in Hawaii

Geo Beats

Lava forms a “dome fountain” at the inlet to the lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater January 2-3, 2021. Lava from the western vent cascades beneath roofed vertical channels to enter the lava lake at an inlet that has become partially submerged. The result is a rolling upwelling of lava near the inlet called a “dome fountain.” Dome fountains have been observed during eruptions at Mauna Ulu and Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. Dome fountains can occur when lava rapidly emerges from a constricted vent or fissure onto the surface or, as in this case, beneath the surface of a lava lake. The feature resembles, in part, a bubbling water fountain. The height of the dome fountain was estimated to be about 5 m (16 ft) with an estimated width of 10 m (33 ft).

This pregnancy test was designed for blind people

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From dealing with finances to accessing private medical information, privacy matters no matter who you are. But blind and partially sighted people are often denied their right to privacy due to inaccessible design and information. Taking a pregnancy test is a poignant example of this, as blind and partially sighted women often have no choice but to involve other people in reading their results. Meaning their private news is made public. Accessible design matters, and to prove it’s possible, RNIB created a pregnancy test prototype that would allow women to be the first to know their own news.

Rare video captures snow leopard's call in the wild

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Do you know what a snow leopard's call in the wild sounds like? I'm guessing you didn't imagine him sounding like this. The White Lion Foundation recently released this footage from Northern Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains. This is a rare video as snow leopards are by nature elusive and solitary, only coming together to mate and raise young. The adult male is exercising his vocal calls to establish territory and to let females know he is in the area. Sadly, this stunning snow leopard is one of the world’s most endangered big cats. There are an estimated 4,000 to 7,500 left in the wild, and over the last decade an average of one a day is believed to have been killed. Many leopards die at the hands of poachers and the illegal trade, but more than half are killed in retaliation for attacks on local herder’s livestock.

So, this is how geologists collect hot lava

Geo Beats

Geologist Tim Orr has quite a job. This 2017 clip shows how geologists sample lava from active volcanic sites. This video was captured in Hawaii. The lava is quickly put in a bucket of water to quench it. Changes in the lava chemistry provide information on the magma plumbing system, and regular sampling provides a long term record of these changes.