The Week In Science: Antarctic Research Imperiled, Lonely Planet, Diamonds On Jupiter

 @rpalmerscience
on October 12 2013 10:32 PM
diamonds
Diamonds are a gas giant’s best friend. Flickr via Creative Commons/Ultima_Bruce

What a week in science! We found out that elephants can understand why people point at things; met some marsupials literally dying for sex; and explored a possible diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease that involves peanut butter. But there were still lots more discoveries that surfaced this week, so here’s a roundup of what we missed:

NASA is scrambling to cut the red tape that is keeping Chinese scientists and students from presenting data from the now-defunct Kepler space telescope at a conference. In an email, the space agency blamed “mid-level managers” for misapplying a federal law aimed at preventing the theft of U.S. space technology. [FoxNews.com]

Antarctic research is critically endangered by the federal government’s partial shutdown. Researchers fear that, with funding frozen, their entire year’s research season will be effectively canceled. [NPR]

Scientists are still trying to figure out whether Comet ISON will survive its brush with our sun later this year. One team using mathematical models said ISON is big enough not to be vaporized, but, depending on how dense it is, it could still be torn apart by tidal forces. [Nature News]

Temperatures across the planet will rise to unprecedented levels if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study. By around 2047, for a given region, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said lead scientist Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. [New York Times]

Jupiter and Saturn may house solid diamonds scattered in their gassy clouds, with pools of liquid diamonds at their cores. The diamonds are made from methane gas that is blasted apart by lightning, then compressed by intense pressure and heat. [USA Today]

Peter Higgs, who won the Nobel Prize in physics this week, found out he had won when a woman stopped him on the street and congratulated him. [Telegraph]

What happened to a deal to save the Everglades? Apparently, the global recession strangled Florida’s efforts to buy land from a sugar company and restore the ecosystem. [NPR]

Astronomers have found a giant planet wandering through space, with no starry companion. Similar lonely objects have been spotted before, but scientists couldn’t be sure whether they were planets or failed stars. The researchers speculate that the planet, PSO J318.5-22, was kicked out by its home star shortly after birth by some sort of gravitational perturbation -- or the planet could have been formed by some unknown method. [NBC News]

What’s good for human lifespans is bad for just about everything else: A new study shows that human life expectancy is a key predictive factor for extinctions of other species, and the rise of invasive animals. [Los Angeles Times]

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