Science News Update (08 Dec 2006)

The big news, of course, is the evidence that there has liquid water on the surface of Mars during the past several years, but I dedicated a separate post to that. Here are some other interesting news items.

Climate change

In a Nature news article, Quirin Schiermeier reports that Europe experienced its warmest autumn in 500 years, and appears to be headed for a warm winter. Meanwhile, Sara Goudarzi writes in LiveScience about the dramatic effects global warming could have on marine life. Also see a Scientific American blog entry (about a BBC article); it discusses among other things the shift of North America’s wheat-growing region north to Canada as the climate warms.

Vibration and smell

A report by Philip Ball in Nature news discusses an interesting new theory of how smell might work. While traditionally it was thought that odor molecules are recognized by their shape as they fit receptors, some researchers speculate that different vibrational states may affect a quantum-mechanical process called electron tunnelling which would then trigger the signal. It is only speculative, though it appears plausible.

Lunar partnership

Russia has expressed interest in working with the United States on its upcoming lunar mission, reports Vladimir Isachenkov of It hopes to offer technological assistance. This is the latest example of international cooperation between the many nations planning to launch lunar missions in the next years.

Biology illustrations

In two previous posts, I previously mentioned the beautiful illustrations of cetacean ancesters at Olduvai George’s weblog. He hasn’t yet had a chance to complete the next in the series, but he has posted a couple other illustrations in the interim.

Shuttle launch delayed

Unfortunately, Discovery’s launch was postponed due to weather concerns. It has not yet been rescheduled for a specific date.


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