Science briefs

  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 8:52 PM
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In this photo taken Wednesday Feb.26, 2014, smoke billows from the crater of Mayon volcano, one of the country's most active volcanoes, in Albay province about 550 kilometers southeast of Manila, Philippines. The volcano, famous for its near-perfect conical shape, had its last "Phreatic explosion" last year that killed five European hikers. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

if ice age hits, warm up to a Volcano

If an ice age is coming and you are a lichen in Antarctica, you better hope you live near a volcano. A study suggests organisms native to the South Pole survived ice ages by huddling in pockets of warmth created by the heat of underground volcanoes. “These slightly warmer areas would have kept some parts of the continent ice free and let organisms survive on that land,” said Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey. “Then, when the ice receded, the plants and animals spread out from that refuge to occupy other places. When you look back at it, you think, ‘That was obvious,’ but this is a new finding for the Antarctic,” a place that was all but uninhabitable during the Earth’s periodic ice ages, said Convey, one of the authors of the paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It is opening up a new way of thinking.”

Bias may hurt women in science

A study of how men and women perceive each other’s mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women could be skewing hiring decisions, widening the gender gap in mathematical professions like engineering. When the only information that the employers had was a photograph of the candidate, men were twice as likely to be hired for a simple math job, no matter whether it was a man or woman doing the hiring. A team from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Columbia Business School reported the finding online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The bias did not disappear when candidates self-reported, in part because women tended to underestimate their ability while men tended to boast.

Why ocean fish have depth limits

Ocean fish can’t live any deeper than 8,200 meters or about five miles, a new study said. All fish have their limits — you’ll never find sharks below about 2½ miles, for example. Biologists say the reason for that is a threshold set by trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a chemical in fish cells that prevents proteins from collapsing under high pressure. While fish should need more TMAO to survive ever greater depths, higher concentrations of the compound also draw in more seawater. In the deepest waters, high TMAO levels reverse osmosis pressure, swelling brain cells and, in principle, bursting open red blood cells.

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  • HOLD FOR RELEASE 12:01 EDT FRIDAY OCT 10 **FILE**A a blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, is shown in this March 2008 file photo in the Indian Ocean off Aliwal Shoal, South Africa. Scientists have confirmed the second case of a "virgin birth" in a shark. In a study reported Friday, Oct. 10, 2008 in the Journal of Fish Biology, scientists said DNA testing proved that a pup carried by a female Atlantic blacktip shark in the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center contained no genetic material from a male. (AP Photo/Institute for Ocean Conservation Science/Matthew D. Potenski)

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