New discoveries in science range from space to skulls

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Photo Credit: Caitlin Zellers | Daily Texan Staff

Man's Oldest Friend?

The dog may have been domesticated earlier than we previously thought. Two 33,000-year-old dog skulls have been found in Siberia and Belgium with shortened snouts, indicating a domesticated, rather than a wild, species. This is especially interesting because it appears that the domestication of dogs took place earlier than that of other, more “useful” animals such as cows or goats, which provide food for us. It is believed that the dogs may have provided protection, companionship or hunting assistance to ancestral humans.

Spidey Senses
Though not as cuddly as dogs, spiders are just as interesting. Japanese researchers have recently discovered that jumping spiders have a method for seeing 3D images that appears to be unique in the animal kingdom. Spiders have special eyes with four separate layers that can detect light. One of these layers views green light in focus and another views it out of focus. By testing spiders’ abilities to catch flies in the absence of green light, the scientists determined that the spiders can detect depth by noting how out of focus the light is in the out-of-focus layer. These results shed light on how a small arachnid brain can quickly analyze and react to complex visual information.

New Membrane Means Stronger Alcohol

A new, thin membrane made from graphene won’t allow most gasses to pass through it. Even helium, which can make its way through relatively thick glass, won’t pass through this material. However, what makes this material remarkable is that, despite its impenetrability to most gasses, water vapor passes through it as easily as if it wasn’t there. Applications? The researchers insist that there are likely many uses for the new material; however, between them, the only practical thing they could come up with was using it to seal a bottle of vodka. They let the bottle sit and the water evaporate and soon ended up with a much stronger drink.

Dinosaur Wore Black

Once thought to be unknowable, scientists are slowly but surely discovering the likely color of various species of dinosaurs. The latest victory is archaeopteryx. A well-preserved wing feather has recently been analyzed and, through the use of an electron microscope, scientists have found fossilized remains of the parts of the cell that produce the color. By comparing the results with a similar cell found in modern living birds, it can be stated with 95 percent certainty that the feather was black. 

Hi-Def Earth

A new photograph of our planet has been making its way around the web. While it’s not the largest, most detailed or even a real photograph in the conventional sense, it’s a beaut and well worth checking out. The image was created by a satellite orbiting the planet that takes data comparing the amount of light falling on the Earth to that reflected off of it. The picture is a composite of several images taken by the satellite on Jan. 4, combined to make one awe-inspiring portrait of the place we call home.