The Week In Science: Ancient Wine, Curiosity Has A Glitch, Lucid Dreams

on November 22 2013 12:08 PM
Ancient wine jars unearthed in northern Israel Eric H. Cline, George Washington University

This week in science, we took a big whiff of belly-button cheese, watched the new Mars orbiter slip the surly bonds of Earth, and explored the limits of primate facial recognition. But there were many more discoveries that made the news this week. Here’s a roundup:

Just in time for the holidays, archaeologists have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in northern Israel. The 375-square-foot storeroom the researchers found contained 40 jars, each about 3 feet tall, holding about 528 gallons of wine altogether. The wine was flavored with juniper berries, cedar oil, honey and resins from trees. [NBC News]

Newly discovered dinosaur Siats meekerorum has a name that means “man eater” (the “Siats” part of the name is taken from a monstrous flesh-eater of legend among the Ute Native Americans), but it lived more than 50 million years before humanity first walked the Earth. Siats terrorized other dinosaurs long before T. rex emerged, and might have even eaten some of the tinier, dog-sized tyrannosaurs that roamed in the Late Cretaceous. Though similar in appearance to T. rex, Siats has three fingers instead of two, and is generally more slender. The specimen scientists discovered, though just a juvenile, was already a heavyweight – at least 30 feet long and 9,000 pounds. [Discovery; Wired]

By the end of this century, Earth could be home to 11 billion people. LiveScience has a fascinating series about the effects of humanity’s exploding numbers on a variety of issues: climate change, animals, food security, and more. [LiveScience]

Perhaps you’ve heard about the wonderful potential of graphene, the single-layer carbon material. But graphene has a hot new cousin – a material that’s a thin sheet of tin atoms, called stanene. The researchers that work with stanene think it might be able to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at the temperature that computer chips operate at, meaning it could ultimately replace silicon in transistors. [R&D Magazine]

How do you fix a mechanical problem from more than 160 million miles away? NASA’s working on it right now, after Curiosity suffered a small glitch that has put its scientific operations on hold. The rover experienced what’s called a “voltage change”: electricity leaks through a conducting material, bleeding some of Curiousity’s power. Luckily, Curiosity’s engineers designed her to tolerate glitches like this, so a voltage change shouldn’t cause any widespread damage. [Discovery]

The driest material in the world is not an English comedy routine but a modified bit of silicon that engineers are calling the most waterproof material on earth. Taking cues from the leaves of the nasturtium plant and butterfly wings, MIT scientists added small ridges to silicon, resulting in a material that repels water droplets. [BBC]

Your weekend science long-read: a profile of Stephen LaBerge, the scientist who pioneered the study of lucid dreaming. [Matter]

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