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Monday, June 30, 2014

How Much Elephant Is In That Mouse?

‘New mouse species has elephant DNA,’ declared the headlines. It must have been hard to resist, considering the contrast in size between these animals. The wording conjures up images of runt elephants evolving into dwarf and then pocket pachyderms before shrinking so small that they could run up their bigger cousins’ trunks.

To further support the idea, the new species is part of a group called sengis, also known as elephant shrews.

Sadly, it’s all complete rubbish. Macroscelides micus is as closely related to elephants as aardvarks are. Yes, they share genes, but so do all creatures. Go back far enough and every living thing is related.

Part of the confusion arises because of the common name, which was probably given to them because of their long thin snouts.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

NASA Can Smell other Distant Planets now!

So what if NASA can't reach out to distant planets, but they have found out a way to smell them. A recent interplanetary smell-o-scope experiment was conducted by NASA to smell Titan, the moon of the planet Saturn.

The experiment involved a series of spectroscopic tests to be performed on the data collected by the spacecraft Cassini. Eventually from this virtual test this data is able to show chemical composition of a target's atmosphere, which in this case was Saturn's moon Titan.

The research team was led by Joshua Sebree, Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Also, he was a former postdoctoral fellow at NASA Goddard.