A nonchalant Elon Musk met with reporters on Friday evening. “It didn't put a hole in the ship or fall over, so we're pretty excited,” the SpaceX founder said at a news conference. This is what understatement sounds like. Musk's Falcon 9 rocket had just shot 200km up into space and flown almost horizontal to the planet at six times the speed of sound, before falling back to Earth. Then, somehow, it landed like a feather on a robotic barge in the ocean. The Falcon even found time to put an inflatable space habitat into orbit, too. “This was a beautiful day, and circumstances were good," Musk continued. "It's quite a tiny target. It's really trying to land on a postage stamp out there.” Engines and boosters have been dropping into the big drink from the moment NASA began launching Mercury astronauts into space. Most of those rockets sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Some components of the space shuttle were recovered, of course, and the orbiter itself landed on a … [Read more...] about Like a boss: Falcon soars into space and lands in the ocean
The male peacock's tail was a vexing problem for the father of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, who struggled to explain why the bird should have such a seemingly burdensome trait. Darwin finally struck upon the idea of sexual selection, which posits that extravagant traits like the peacock's colorful fan of feathers provided an advantage in the competition for mates that outweighed other disadvantages. Biologists think that certain physical characteristics are signals to potential mates that the individual they're scoping out is healthy and vigorous; the process even works in humans, who are attracted to symmetrical faces and other outward signs of fitness. Some researchers are now turning their attention from why showy traits evolved, to how they evolved and why they tend to do so more often in males. To help answer these questions, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied fruit fly derrieres and found that ancient genetic switches have evolved to … [Read more...] about How Peacocks Got Their Colorful Tails
Stunning new pictures of butterfly metamorphosis have been captured using common medical imaging.The images of the tiny insects, which are described today (May 14) in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, were taken with a CT scanner that has the resolution to image insects as small as 0.2 inches (5 millimeters).The new technique could be used to study insect development in place of dissection. Dissection can be a time-consuming, laborious process that requires killing a different specimen for each stage of development. [See the Amazing Caterpillars Morph into Butterflies]Masters of EarthInsects make up between 50 percent and 85 percent of the animals on the planet, said study co-author Russell Garwood, a geologist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, who studies fossilized insects."To a first approximation, every living thing is an insect, so they're worth understanding," Garwood told LiveScience.Yet despite insects' prevalence on Earth, most researchers study … [Read more...] about Caterpillars Morph into Butterflies in Amazing 3D Images
Historians record biographies of the rich and famous: kings, queens, emperors and knights. Archaeologists, more often than not, dig up common people, who remain stubbornly anonymous in death.Occasionally, however, the written record and the archaeological record collide. In rare situations, researchers are actually able to identify a collection of bones as a person in the historical record. Many of these identifiable, or "individualized," remains belonged to royalty or other high-profile people, the sort who tend to be buried in lavish graves stamped with their names.The bodies of royalty are not necessarily more important to archaeologists, who can learn much about diet and lifestyle by examining the bones of commoners. But there's something thrilling about uncovering this concrete evidence of the past. Read on for seven skeletons that have regained their rightful names, and three more that are tantalizingly close. 1. Richard IIIThe last Plantagenet king of England set off an … [Read more...] about Bones With Names: Long-Dead Bodies Archaeologists Have Identified
She may have ruled like a man, but Egyptian queen Hatshepsut still preferred to smell like a lady. The world may be able to get a whiff of that ancient royal scent when researchers complete their investigation into the perfume worn by Hatshepsut, the powerful pharaoh-queen who ruled over ancient Egypt for 20 years beginning around 1479 B.C. Analyzing a metal jar belonging to the famous queen , the team from the Bonn University Egyptian Museum in Germany recently found residue thought to be leftovers from Hatshepsut's own perfume. Their next step will be attempting to "reconstruct" the scent, which was likely made from pricey incense imported from present-day Somalia. Though funerary objects belonging to Egypt's ancient rulers fill museums around the world, if successful, this will be the first time that a pharaoh's perfume is recreated, the researchers said. Hatshepsut stepped in as one of ancient Egypt's rare female leaders when her half-brother and husband, Pharaoh Thutmose II, died … [Read more...] about What Does an Egyptian Pharaoh Smell Like?