Life begins between the sheets, the best way to pour champagne, the Bermuda Triangle, and more

From time to time I will report interesting scientific research that probably would not be reported by local media.

The Secret of Life May Be As Simple As What Happens Between the Sheets

life_mica_fMica sheets that is. Several lines of evidence support the idea that life originated with molecules that lay between mica sheets. The term “mica” refers to several aluminum-potassium silicate minerals that form very thin, transparent sheets.

Researchers hypothesize that structural compartments between mica sheets “could have held, protected and sheltered molecules, and thereby promoted their survival.” “Also, mica could have provided enough isolation for molecules to evolve without being disturbed and still allow molecules to migrate towards one another and eventually bond together to form large organic molecules.” Mica-bearing rocks in the early ocean would receive sunlight for energy and nutrients from the ocean. Earlier research has assigned a similar role to clay minerals, but they are subject to swelling when wet. Read more details in the press release here. This research was published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Best way to pour champagne 


From the press release of the American Chemical Society: In a study that may settle a long-standing disagreement over the best way to pour a glass of champagne, scientists in France are reporting that pouring bubbly in an angled, down-the-side way is best for preserving its taste and fizz. The study also reports the first scientific evidence confirming the importance of chilling champagne before serving to enhance its taste, the scientists say. Their report appears in ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Gérard Liger-Belair and colleagues note that tiny bubbles are the essence of fine champagnes and sparkling wines. Past studies indicate that the bubbles — formed during the release of large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide gas — help transfer the taste, aroma, and mouth-feel of champagne. Scientists long have suspected that the act of pouring a glass of bubbly could have a big impact on gas levels in champagne and its quality. Until now, however, no scientific study had been done.

The scientists studied carbon dioxide loss in champagne using two different pouring methods. One involved pouring champagne straight down the middle of a glass. The other involved pouring champagne down the side of an angled glass. They found that pouring champagne down the side preserved up to twice as much carbon dioxide in champagne than pouring down the middle — probably because the angled method was gentler. They also showed that cooler champagne temperatures (ideally, 39 degrees Fahrenheit) help reduce carbon dioxide loss.

The Bermuda Triangle Explained 

 Two scientists hypothesize that large methane bubbles rising from the ocean floor might account for many, if not all, of the mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft at specific locales around the world.

“The methane—normally frozen at great pressure as gas hydrates embedded within subterranean rock—can become dislodged and transform into gaseous bubbles expanding geometrically as they explode upwards. When these bubbles reach the surface of the water they soar into the air, still expanding upwards and outwards.

Any ships caught within the methane mega-bubble immediately lose all buoyancy and sink to the bottom of the ocean. If the bubbles are big enough and possess a high enough density they can also knock aircraft out of the sky with little or no warning. Aircraft falling victim to these methane bubbles will lose their engines-perhaps igniting the methane surrounding them-and immediately lose their lift as well, ending their flights by diving into the ocean and swiftly plummeting.”

(Story) (Note: although touted as a new hypothesis, the idea has been around at least since 1982.)

Frogs evolution tracks rise of Himalayas and rearrangement of Southeast Asia 

 You never know what will be important. “The evolution of a group of muscled frogs scattered throughout Asia is telling geologists about the sequence of events that led to the rise of the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau starting more than 55 million years ago.” “Asian frogs evolved along with the mountains’ uplift, developing hard, nubby spines and Popeye-like arms to hold onto their mates in the swift-running streams roaring down from the highest mountains in the world. The sequence of evolutionary changes, in turn, tells geologists the sequence in which mountain ranges and river systems arose and isolated frog populations as a result of the Indian tectonic plate pushing northward into Asia.” More details here.



Ancient blob-like creature of the deep revealed by scientists 


Blob2“A unique blob-like creature that lived in the ocean approximately 425 million years ago,” called the Drakozoon, “was a cone-shaped, blob-like creature with a hood and it probably had a leathery exterior skin. It appears to have survived in the ocean by attaching itself to hard surfaces such as rock. It was approximately 3mm long, and used filament-bearing tentacles to catch and eat organic particles in seawater. It pulled its hood down over its body for protection against predators, pulling it back again to expose its tentacles when danger passed.” This is actually a very rare find because the Drakozoon was a soft-bodied animal and it is very hard to make a fossil if the animal does not have bones or shells. This particular specimen “was perfectly preserved because it lived in an area that was covered in volcanic ash, following a volcanic eruption that instantly entombed it and other creatures living with it, keeping it intact for 425 million years.” The fossil was found near Herefordshire, England. See press release here. (Note: the photo is a stereo pair of the fossil. If you stare past the photo you may be able to see it in 3D.)

The ultimate cold case 

 Anthropologists “solve” a 1,500-year old murder in the ancient Greek city of Nemea during the Slavic invasion of Greece. Evidence “suggests the victim was likely an eyewitness to the Slavic invasion of Nemea. The deceased possibly used the tunnel entrance as an escape from the invaders, where he died/was killed.” Find out how “Bones” solved the mystery.