The sea is big, scary and full of things that want to eat you.
If you ever find yourself in doubt as to whether or not to go in the water, it can be helpful to remember the sheer number of giant teeth, suckers and appendages-yet-unknown-to-science that live in it.
A spine-chilling, luminous, snakelike creature was recently captured in Taiwan by a man who was out fishing at a port in Penghu.
The fisherman, Wei Cheng Jian, caught the strange creature and posted a video of his find on Facebook in hopes of getting a few answers.
However, Jian, who seemed more than a bit nervous in the video, removed the clip from his Facebook page shortly afterwards – but not before the footage was copied, shared, and incited a little internet confusion.
In the video, the three-foot-long bright-green creature is seen slithering slowly across the dock’s concrete floor and shooting out a long pink tongue as if searching for a prey.
The seemingly alien-like critter sparked a huge debate online with persons from science fiction backgrounds to an expertise in the natural world throwing in their two-cents about the creature’s origin.
And though an exact answer has not yet been determined, the stringy green mass is strongly believed to be a ribbon worm (or, Nemertea) – a carnivorous worm that comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
Some species live on land or reside in freshwater — but many of them choose to stay in the sea and live burrowed in the sand. They can also grow to be as long as 60 meters.
Terrifying ‘soul-sucking dementor wasp’ turns unlucky victims into ‘ZOMBIES’
This week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported that 139 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, including a species of wasp that can turn a cockroach into a Zombie and eat it alive as it pleases.
The species making headlines is a wasp named after fictional, soul-sucking prison guards known in the Harry Potter universe as Dementors.
WWF describes the wasp as “steal[ing] its prey’s free will with single sting before eating it alive,” and continues:
[Ampulex] dementor hunts cockroaches, injecting a venom into the mass of neurons on its prey’s belly that turns the roach into a passive zombie… the cockroach is still capable of movement, but is unable to direct its own body. Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.
Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.
Though the species is new, this group of wasps is not. Ampulex wasps are part of the Ampulicidae wasp species, known as cockroach wasps for their typical prey. This wasp, however, was named after Dementors as part of a group of researchers’ efforts to bring the public into the process of naming new species.
Here’s the emerald cockroach wasp a cousin of the Dementor which does a similar thing.
The researchers, led by Michael Ohl, invited 300 museum visitors to choose from four possible names for the new species, and explained how each was connected to the wasp. Dementor—“magical beings, which can consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims as an empty but functional body without personality and emotions”—reigned supreme.
The fascinating bright spots on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres have come into sharper view.
What were initially thought to be just a couple of brilliant, closely spaced features at one location now turn out to be a clutch of many smaller dots.
The latest pictures were acquired by the US space agency’s Dawn spacecraft on its first full science orbit since arriving at Ceres on 6 March.
The spots were seen from a distance of 13,600km.
Researchers on the mission concede they still have much to learn about the dots’ true nature, but the new data is hardening their ideas.
“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” said Chris Russell, who is the principal investigator on the mission.
With a diameter of 950km, Ceres is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn will spend the coming months studying its geology and surface chemistry with a suite of cameras and remote-sensing instruments.
The intention is to get some insights into the processes that have sculpted the dwarf since its formation with the rest of the Solar System some 4.5 billion years year ago.
Having completed its first science orbit, Dawn is now heading downwards to get even closer to the body.
This second mapping campaign, which will commence on 6 June, will see Dawn moving just 4,400km from the surface.
Here are some strange sounds from outer space.
The noise is caused by electromagnetic vibrations. The sounds have been recorded by various NASA space craft using Plasma Wave antenna to record the vibrations.
Russia Orders Obama: TELL THE WORLD ABOUT ALIENS, Or We Will.
February 11, 2015 – A stunning Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) report on Prime Minister Medvedev’s agenda at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week states that Russia will warn President Obama that the “time has come” for the world to know the truth about aliens, and if the United States won’t participate in the announcement, the Kremlin will do so on its own.
The WEF (The Forum) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva and describes itself as an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
The Forum is best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment.
Medvedev is scheduled to open this years Forum where as many as 50 heads of government, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron, will attend the five-day meeting that begins on 23 January.
Critical to note about this years Forum is that the WEF, in their 2013 Executive Summary, scheduled for debate and discussion a number of items under their X Factors from Nature category, and which includes the “discovery of alien life” of which they state: “Proof of life elsewhere in the universe could have profound psychological implications for human belief systems.”
Equally critical to note is that Medvedev, after completing a 7 December 2012 on-camera interview with reporters in Moscow, continued to respond to reporters and made some off-air comments without realizing that his microphone was still on. He was then asked by one reporter if “the president is handed secret files on aliens when he receives the briefcase needed to activate Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” Medvedev responded:
“Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes, the president of the country is given a special ‘top secret’ folder. This folder in its entirety contains information about aliens who visited our planet… Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country… More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called Men In Black… I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic.”
Western news sources reporting on Medvedev’s shocking reply about aliens stated that he was “joking” as he mentioned the movie Men In Black, which they wrongly assumed was a reference to the 1997 American sci-fi adventure comedy about two top secret agents battling aliens in the US.
Medvedev, however, wasn’t referring to the American movie but was, instead, talking about the famous Russian movie documentary Men In Black which details many UFO and alien anomalies.
Where Western news sources quoted Medvedev as saying “More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called ‘Men In Black,’” his actual answer was, “You can receive more detailed information having watched the documentary film of the same name.”
The reason(s) for Western propaganda news outlets deliberately distorting Medvedev’s words become apparent after his shocking statement, and as evidenced in just one example of their so called reporting on this disclosure of alien life already being on our planet where the title of one such article was “Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev makes a crack about aliens, and conspiracists promptly lose their minds.”
If anyone is “losing their minds” about aliens, it must be pointed out, it is certainly not Russia, but the Vatican, which in November 2009 announced it was “preparing for extraterrestrial disclosure”.
Equally, and apparently, “losing their minds” are US government officials themselves, such as former Pentagon consultant Timothy Good, and author of Above Top Secret: The Worldwide U.F.O. Cover-Up, who in February 2012 stated that former President Dwight Eisenhower had three secret meetings with aliens who were ‘Nordic’ in appearance and wherein a ‘Pact’ was signed to keep their agenda on Earth secret.
With the recent discovery in the Russian city of Vladivostok of a 300-million-year-old UFO tooth-wheel, and scientists, astronauts and YouTube users reporting increasingly strange happenings on the moon, the European Space agency reporting their discovery of a 1,000 ancient river on Mars, and UK and Sri Lanka scientists saying they now have “rock solid proof of alien life” after finding fossilized algae inside meteorite, the only ones who seem to be truly “losing their minds” are the Western, especially American, propagandists who for decades have covered up one of the most important stories in all of human history that “we are not alone.”
To if Medvedev will be able to convince the Obama regime to tell the truth about UFO and aliens at the WEF this week it is not in our knowing. What is in our knowing, though, is that with or without the US, the Kremlin will surely begin the process of telling the truth about that which we already know to be true.
Here’s some interviews with people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.
Dark matter ‘ghosts’ through galactic smash-ups
By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News
By observing multiple collisions between huge clusters of galaxies, scientists have witnessed dark matter coasting straight through the turmoil.
Dark matter is the mysterious, invisible stuff that makes up 85% of the matter in the cosmos – and these results rule out several theoretical models put forward to explain it.
This is because it barely interacts with anything at all, including the dark matter in the oncoming galaxies.
The work appears in Science magazine.
To conduct their study, astrophysicists looked at 72 smash-ups between galactic clusters, using two space telescopes: visible light was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope, and X-rays by the Chandra Observatory.
Scouring multiple views of the collisions, the researchers tracked the movement of the three main components of galaxies: stars, clouds of gas, and dark matter.
The violently swirling clouds of gas are hot enough to glow with X-rays, which Chandra detects. And stars can be seen in regular, visible-light images from Hubble.
Dark matter is more difficult to “see” – but not impossible. Although it does not emit or absorb light, it does have gravity, and so it bends the path of light passing nearby. This warps our view of anything on the other side of it, in an effect called “gravitational lensing”.
“Looking through dark matter is like looking through a bathroom window,” said Dr Richard Massey from Durham University, one of the study’s authors. “All the objects that you can see in the distance appear slightly distorted and warped.”
Images were used from the Hubble Space Telescope (illustrated here) and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory
Using this distortion allowed Dr Massey, with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh, University College London and Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), to “map” the dark matter in the clusters as they collided.
‘Smash it and see’
Galaxy clusters are vast and contain huge amounts of dark matter, so when they collide – over billions of years – it offers a unique glimpse of how the stuff behaves.
“We like these collisions because it’s exactly what we’d do in the lab,” Dr Massey told BBC News.
“If you want to figure out what something is made out of, you knock it, or you throw it across the room and see where the bits go.”
In this case, the bits went straight through each other.
Unlike the gas clouds, which grind to a turbulent halt, and the stars, which mostly glide past each other, the ubiquitous dark matter passes through everything and emerges unscathed, like a ghost.
“It seems not to interact with anything at all,” Dr Massey said.
Dr Tom Kitching, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory
Our new measurements of the self-interaction of dark matter are some of the best yet. But statistically speaking, the strongest result from this study is in fact the confirmation that dark matter really does exist in these galaxy clusters.
We measured three things: the position of stars, the position of mass, and the position of gas. If there was no dark matter, then all of the mass that isn’t accounted for by the stars would be associated with the gas.
But we found an offset, which confirms that there is something in the clusters that is not gas, has mass, but that we cannot see: a dark matter. This detection is statistically very significant – corresponding to a probability of better than 99.99999999999% that dark matter exists in these clusters.
Sometimes I think dark matter is a terrible name. It was originally coined because the phenomenon does not emit or absorb light. But light is everywhere in the dark matter we have observed, passing within it and around it. Indeed, the lensing effect that we employed in our study uses the light from distant galaxies that has passed through dark matter.
So perhaps “transparent matter” or “clear matter” are better names. My favourite alternative is “materia incognita” (the unknown material). Maps used to be labelled “terra incognita” in areas that were unknown, and in a similar way we could be explicit about the unknown nature of this phenomenon.
However, thanks to studies like this one – and much more work planned for the coming years – our ignorance will one day end. Then we can finally give this “something” a proper name.
Earlier observations of the “Bullet Cluster” – a bust-up between two particularly big groups of galaxies, now in its final stages – had already demonstrated dark matter’s weird lack of interactions, including with itself.
But this new, major survey was able to deliver much more precision, concluding that there was even less interaction than the previous work allowed for.
“If you bang your head against the wall, the electrostatic force between the molecules in your head and the ones in the wall cause a collision. This is what dark matter doesn’t seem to feel,” Dr Massey explained.
Dark matter does “feel” gravity; those interactions are the reason we know it is there, and the reason it is bound up in the galactic collisions to begin with. But the lack of almost any other interaction makes it even more mysterious than before.
The late-stage collision of the Bullet Cluster yielded previous observations of dark matter
“In all of these collisions that we’ve seen, it just seems to go straight through. And now we’ve seen loads more of them, we would have been able to detect any deceleration of this dark matter, if it had interacted in the ways that most theories predict,” Dr Massey said.
So although some theories remain, many can now be ruled out. This includes the idea that dark matter is some sort of “dark” version of ordinary matter, made of “dark atoms”. It must be more outlandish than that, Dr Massey said.
“Basically, we’re saying: Back to the drawing board! Let’s come up with some more ideas.”
Space has some really interesting stuff going on. Here’s a clip featuring some of the sounds of outer space.
Giant pythons have ‘homing instinct’
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News
This enormous Burmese python burst trying to swallow an alligator in Florida in 2005
Giant Burmese pythons have map and compass senses which help them travel “home” over vast distances, scientists have been surprised to discover.
Pythons captured and relocated in Florida’s Everglades – where they are an invasive species – returned 23 miles (36km) to their original start point.
It is the first evidence that snakes may share a similar magnetic compass to other reptiles, such as sea turtles.
The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is one of the largest snakes in the world. The biggest specimen ever caught measured more than 17ft (5m) and weighed 164lb (74kg).
The snakes coil around their prey and suffocate it – and have been known to swallow animals as large as alligators.
Although native to South East Asia, they have become established in Florida’s Everglades National Park – where they have been blamed for a staggering decline of mammals.
To study how these invasive predators migrate and spread, researchers captured 12 snakes and fitted them with GPS radiotransmitters.
Half were released where they were captured, but the other six were transported to other suitable habitats in the Everglades 13-23 miles (21-36 km) away.
Using aircraft to track their movements, the researchers were stunned by how quickly the snakes travelled homeward.
The pythons could navigate by the Sun, the stars, or by a magnetic compass
Five of the six returned within 5km of their original capture location – and their movement was faster than the control snakes.
“We were very surprised,” said lead author Shannon Pittman, of Davidson College, North Carolina.
“We anticipated the pythons would develop new home ranges where they were released. We didn’t expect them to orient back to their capture locations.
“This is evidence that Burmese pythons are capable of homing on a scale previously undocumented in any snake species.”
The experiment suggests the snakes have both a map sense (to determine their position in relation to home) and a compass sense (to guide their movement home).
Researchers say the map could be magnetic, like sea turtles, while the compass could be guided by the stars, olfactory (smell) cues, or by polarised sunlight – all of which have been shown to be used by reptiles.
“Other snakes likely do share this ability with pythons. But our understanding is limited by a dearth of research on the subject,” Ms Pittman told BBC News.
Some previous studies found that smaller snakes – sea kraits and garter snakes – can home over short distances, but not large constrictors.
“I’m impressed, but I’m not surprised – this verifies what many of us in the field have been seeing for years,” said Dr Stephen Secor of the University of Alabama, who researches Burmese python physiology.
“Reptiles know where they’re going – it’s not just random. They’re familiar with their home range.
“And I suspect that, if pythons can do this, all snakes can do it – rattlesnakes, vipers, the lot.”
Dr Stephen Secor says the pythons are actually gentle, docile creatures
Keeping in familiar territory may help snakes to find prey and mates, and the homing sense may allow them to return to their territory after exploratory forays, Ms Pittman said.
“We know that snakes tend to come back to some of the same sites throughout their lives – such as overwintering locations or refuges,” she told BBC News.
Understanding how invasive pythons migrate could help control their spread in Florida, she suggested.
But Dr Secor said the threat to the Everglades had been overstated: “Some people want to sell it as an ecological disaster. It’s really not.
“Burmese pythons can’t ever move beyond the Everglades. It’s too cold. The minute it freezes, it kills them,” he told BBC News.
“They’re actually very docile, gentle snakes. People who don’t like them don’t know a lot about them. They’re pretty amazing animals and we can learn a lot from them.”
And the first lesson we can learn from their homing ability, said Dr Secor, is “don’t pick reptiles up”.
“People see turtles crossing the road and try to move them to safety. But if you take them away, they’re just going to try and come back. You are doing more harm than good.
“Likewise with snakes – people find them in their yard, drive them off and dump them a mile down road. Then, three days later, the snake comes back.
“I hear these stories frequently: ‘It came back! The same snake!’ And I’m always kind of sceptical. Is it really the same snake? Or just another one that looks similar?
“But maybe these people were right all along. The snake really did come back.”
Here’s one big Australian python. The cameraman thought it was dead.
It’s quite simple really. You take the number 1 and add it to itself which gives you 2. You then add the 2 to the 1 which =3. then 3+2 = 5. 5+3= 8 and so on like this. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, …
A bit freaky.
But it gets freakier.
The Fibonacci numbers are Nature’s numbering system. They appear everywhere in Nature, from the leaf
Fibonacci in nature
arrangement in plants, to the pattern of the florets of a flower, the bracts of a pinecone, or the scales of a pineapple. The Fibonacci numbers are therefore applicable to the growth of every living thing, including a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, and even all of mankind.
Plants do not know about this sequence – they just grow in the most efficient ways. Many plants show the Fibonacci numbers in the arrangement of the leaves around the stem. Some pine cones and fir cones also show the numbers, as do daisies and sunflowers. Sunflowers can contain the number 89, or even 144. Many other plants, such as succulents, also show the numbers. Some coniferous trees show these numbers in the bumps on their trunks. And palm trees show the numbers in the rings on their trunks.
Fibonacci in plants
Why do these arrangements occur? In the case of leaf arrangement, or phyllotaxis, some of the cases may be related to maximizing the space for each leaf, or the average amount of light falling on each one. Even a tiny advantage would come to dominate, over many generations. In the case of close-packed leaves in cabbages and succulents the correct arrangement may be crucial for availability of space.
In the seeming randomness of the natural world, we can find many instances of mathematical order involving the Fibonacci numbers themselves and the closely related “Golden” elements.
Fibonacci in Plants
Phyllotaxis is the study of the ordered position of leaves on a stem. The leaves on this plant are staggered in a spiral pattern to permit optimum exposure to sunlight. If we apply the Golden Ratio to a circle we can see how it is that this plant exhibits Fibonacci qualities. Click on the picture to see a more detailed illustration of leaf arrangements.
By dividing a circle into Golden proportions, where the ratio of the arc length are equal to the Golden Ratio, we find the angle of the arcs to be 137.5 degrees. In fact, this is the angle at which adjacent leaves are positioned around the stem. This phenomenon is observed in many types of plants.
Fibonacci in trees
The number of petals in a flower consistently follows the Fibonacci sequence. Famous examples include the lily, which has three petals, buttercups, which have five (pictured at left), the chicory’s 21, the daisy’s 34, and so on. Phi appears in petals on account of the ideal packing arrangement as selected by Darwinian processes; each petal is placed at 0.618034 per turn (out of a 360° circle) allowing for the best possible exposure to sunlight and other factors.
The head of a flower is also subject to Fibonaccian processes. Typically, seeds are produced at the center, and then migrate towards the outside to fill all the space. Sunflowers provide a great example of the
Sun flower seeds
Here are just a few plants that have their leaves and settles arranged according to Fibonacci numbers
Not surprisingly, spiral galaxies also follow the familiar Fibonacci pattern. The Milky Way has several spiral arms, each of them a logarithmic spiral of about 12 degrees. As an interesting aside, spiral galaxies appear to defy Newtonian physics. As early as 1925, astronomers realized that, since the angular speed of rotation of the galactic disk varies with distance from the center, the radial arms should become curved as galaxies rotate. Subsequently, after a few rotations, spiral arms should start to wind around a galaxy. But they don’t — hence the so-called winding problem. The stars on the outside, it would seem, move at a velocity higher than expected — a unique trait of the cosmos that helps preserve its shape.
Faces, both human and nonhuman, abound with examples of the Golden Ratio. The mouth and nose are each positioned at golden sections of the distance between the eyes and the bottom of the chin. Similar proportions can been seen from the side, and even the eye and ear itself (which follows along a spiral).
It’s worth noting that every person’s body is different, but that averages across populations tend towards phi. It has also been said that the more closely our proportions adhere to phi, the more “attractive” those traits are perceived. As an example, the most “beautiful” smiles are those in which central incisors are 1.618 wider than the lateral incisors, which are 1.618 wider than canines, and so on. It’s quite possible that, from an evo-psych perspective, that we are primed to like physical forms that adhere to the golden ratio — a potential indicator of reproductive fitness and health.
Looking at the length of our fingers, each section — from the tip of the base to the wrist — is larger than the preceding one by roughly the ratio of phi.
Even our bodies exhibit proportions that are consistent with Fibonacci numbers. For example, the measurement from the navel to the floor and the top of the head to the navel is the golden ratio. Animals
Animal bodies exhibit similar tendencies, including dolphins (the eye, fins and tail all fall at Golden Sections), starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, ants, and honey bees.
Honey bees follow Fibonacci in other interesting ways. The most profound example is by dividing the number of females in a colony by the number of males (females always outnumber males). The answer is typically something very close to 1.618. In addition, the family tree of honey bees also follows the familiar pattern. Males have one parent (a female), whereas females have two (a female and male). Thus, when it comes to the family tree, males have 2, 3, 5, and 8 grandparents, great-grandparents, gr-gr-grandparents, and gr-gr-gr-grandparents respectively. Following the same pattern, females have 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on. And as noted, bee physiology also follows along the Golden Curve rather nicely.
The Golden Rectangle
The Golden rectangle has been known since antiquity as one having a pleasing shape, and is frequently found in art and architecture as a rectangular shape that seems ‘right’ to the eye. It is mentioned in Euclid’s Elements and was known to artists and philosophers such as Leonardo da Vinci.
One of the interesting properties of the golden rectangle is that if you cut off a square section whose side is equal to the shortest side, the piece that remains is also a golden rectangle.
In the figure below, the yellow rectangle is in the same proportion as the original larger rectangle after the gray square is cut off.Both the rectangles ABCD and PBCQ are golden rectangles.
Genomes document ancient mass migration to Europe
From the BBC
Nomadic herders moved en masse into Europe from the steppe around 4,500 years ago
DNA analysis has revealed evidence for a massive migration into the heartland of Europe 4,500 years ago.
Data from the genomes of 69 ancient individuals suggest that herders moved en masse from the continent’s eastern periphery into Central Europe.
These migrants may be responsible for the expansion of Indo-European languages, which make up the majority of spoken tongues in Europe today.
An international team has published the research in the journal Nature.
Prof David Reich and colleagues extracted DNA from remains found at archaeological sites around the continent. They used a new DNA-enrichment technique that greatly reduces the amount of sequencing needed to obtain genome-wide data.
Their analyses show that 7,000-8,000 years ago, a closely related group of early farmers moved into Europe from the Near East, confirming the findings of previous studies.
The farmers were distinct from the indigenous hunter-gatherers they encountered as they spread around the continent. Eventually, the two groups mixed, so that by 5,000-6,000 years ago, the farmers’ genetic signature had become melded with that of the indigenous Europeans.
But previous studies show that a two-way amalgam of farmers and hunters is not sufficient to capture the genetic complexity of modern Europeans. A third ancestral group must have been added to the melting pot more recently.
Prof Reich and colleagues have now identified a likely source area for this later diaspora. The Bronze Age Yamnaya pastoralists of southern Russia are a good fit for the missing third genetic component in Europeans.
The team analysed nine genomes from individuals belonging to this nomadic group, which buried their dead in mounds known as kurgans.
The scientists contend that a group similar to the Yamnaya moved into the European heartland after the invention of wheeled vehicles, contributing up to 50% of ancestry in some modern north Europeans. Southern Europeans on the whole appear to have been less affected by the expansion.
By 5,000-6,000 years ago, Europeans were a two-way mix of indigenous hunters and Near Eastern farmers
Even more intriguing is the possible link between this steppe expansion and the origins of Indo-European languages.
Most indigenous European tongues, from English to Russian and Spanish to Greek, belong to the Indo-European group. The classification is based on shared features of vocabulary and grammar.
Basque, spoken in south-west France and northern Spain, does not fit in this group, and may be the only surviving relic of an earlier group of languages once spoken more widely.
Two principal hypotheses have been put forward to explain the preponderance of Indo-European tongues in Europe today.
According to the “Anatolian hypothesis”, Indo-European languages were spread by the first farmers from the Near East 7,000-8,000 years ago.
But the latest paper supports the “Steppe hypothesis”, which proposes that early Indo-European speakers were Bronze Age farmers on the grasslands north of the Black and Caspian Seas.
“An open question for us is whether the languages spoken by these steppe migrants were just ancestral to a sub-set of Indo-European languages in Europe today – for example, Balti-Slavic and maybe Germanic – or the great majority of Indo-European languages spoken in Europe today,” Prof Reich told BBC News.
But he added that Indo-European languages spoken in Iran and India had probably already diverged from those spoken by the Yamnaya before the nomads blazed a trail into Europe.
Bright spotlight on Dawn mission to Ceres
By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent
The bright spots inside a 92km-wide crater have been the big surprise of the encounter so far
Scientists say they are hugely excited to learn the origin of two bright spots on the surface of Ceres.
The US space agency’s Dawn probe is bearing down on the dwarf planet and on Friday will be captured by its gravity.
That will allow the satellite to spiral down in altitude in the coming months, to take ever sharper images of the spots, which sit inside a wide crater.
The striking features could be where an impact has dug out surface deposits and exposed the dwarf’s interior layers.
But deputy project scientist Dr Carol Raymond cautioned that the resolution of Dawn’s imagery was not good enough at the moment to make any definitive statements.
“These spots were extremely surprising and they have been puzzling to everyone who has seen them,” the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher told reporters.
“They show up in a 92km-wide crater that’s about 19 degrees North latitude. The spot in the centre is about twice as bright as the spot on the side of the crater, and as yet it has not been resolved, meaning it is smaller than the 4km pixel size [of the images].
“But its apparent brightness is already off-scale; it’s consistent with high reflective materials.”
Intriguingly, the European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope reported last year seeing water vapour coming from two sectors on Ceres. One of these sectors includes the location of the spots. That could be very significant, Dr Raymond said.
“The association with the impact crater may indicate that impact heating resulted in exposure of underlying ice [and] its vaporisation; and perhaps we’re seeing a deposit left behind which is rich in material like salts.”
Dawn will spend 14 months studying the 950km-diameter dwarf planet, which is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
An artist’s impression of Dawn firing its ion engine on approach to Ceres
The satellite has turned up at Ceres having previously visited the asteroid Vesta. This 530km-wide rock had the look of a punctured football, the result of a colossal collision sometime in its past that ripped a big chunk out of its southern polar region.
Ceres, on the other hand, is big enough for gravity to have pulled it into a more spherical shape.
Scientists think both bodies are fledglings that never quite made it to the planetary big time.
In the case of Vesta, it underwent a lot of the same processes that transformed the early Earth, such as differentiating its insides to include an iron core.
In contrast, Ceres’s bid to reach the major planet league probably stalled quite quickly.
Researchers believe its interior is dominated by a rocky core topped by ice that is then insulated by rocky lag deposits at the surface.
The surface of Ceres is covered with craters of many shapes and sizes
A big question the mission hopes to answer is whether there is a liquid ocean of water at depth. Some models suggest there could well be.
The evidence may well be found in Ceres’ craters which have a very muted look about them. That is, the soft interior of the dwarf has undoubtedly had the effect of relaxing their original hard outline.
“One of the prime motivations of the Dawn mission is to examine these building blocks of the planets, Vesta and Ceres, which are two intact proto-planets from the very dawn of the Solar System. They’re literally fossils that we can investigate to really understand the processes that were going on at that time,” Dr Raymond said.
At capture, the satellite will be at a separation of about 40,000km. Controllers at Earth will work in the next few weeks to reshape the orbit to get it ready for science.
One issue is that Dawn approached the dwarf from its Sun-lit side. The probe has now gone over to the dark side, and it will not come back around again to take images until late April.
But then onwards, the pictures will just get better and better as the orbit is progressively lowered.
“We’ll get to our final orbit in December of this year at just [380km] from the surface, which for context is just a little bit lower than the International Space Station orbits around the Earth. From this vantage point, Dawn will acquire its highest detail and highest resolution images of the surface,” said Nasa project manager Robert Mase.
Discovered in 1801 by the Sicilian astronomer Father Giuseppe Piazzi, Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvests.
Craters on Ceres will follow a similar theme and will be named after gods and goddesses of agriculture and vegetation from mythology. Other features on the dwarf will be named after agricultural festivals.
The soft outline of the big basin suggests that the surface has relaxed over time
US actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the cult sci-fi series Star Trek, has died at the age of 83 in Los Angeles, his family has said.
His son, Adam, said he died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Friday morning.
Nimoy had a long career as both an actor and director.
However he was best known for his portrayal of the half-human, half-Vulcan character in both the TV franchise and series of films.
Last year, the actor revealed he was suffering chronic lung disease COPD, despite stopping smoking 30 years ago.
It was reported earlier this week he had been taken to hospital on 19 February after suffering from chest pains.
He later tweeted: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”
He signed off what was to be his final tweet with “LLAP” – a reference to his character’s famous catchphrase, “Live long and prosper”.
The same Twitter account was used by his granddaughter to confirm that he died at home on Friday in Bel-Air, California.
Dani Nimoy said her grandfather was an “extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author – the list goes on – and friend.”
She added that special merchandise was being added to Nimoy’s website, with all proceeds going to the COPD foundation.
George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek and was a friend of Nimoy’s, paid tribute to the actor.
“The word extraordinary is often overused but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard”, Mr Takei told US broadcaster MSNBC.
“He was an extraordinarily talented man but he was also a very decent human being.”
Among the torrent of tributes on Twitter was a message from Nasa crediting Nimoy and Star Trek as an inspiration.
Thousands took to Twitter to pay tribute after Nimoy’s death was announced, including Star Trek actors past and present.
William Shatner, who as Captain Kirk acted alongside Nimoy for years in Star Trek, said he loved the actor “like a brother”.
“We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love,” Mr Shatner said on Twitter.
Leonard Nimoy often gave Spock’s famous salute
Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, said: “We stood on your shoulders, and wouldn’t have had a galaxy to explore if you hadn’t been there, first. Thank you, Leonard, Rest in peace.”
More than a Vulcan
It was Nimoy’s casting as Spock in 1966 that made him in a star and, in many ways, defined his acting career.
He played the character in all three of the original series of the programme and later in several big-screen spin offs.
Nimoy had an ambivalent relationship with Spock, seeming to both cherish and resent his close association with the role.
His two volumes of autobiography – “I Am Not Spock” in 1975 and “I Am Spock” two decades later – seemed to epitomise his mixed feelings.
Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 83 when he died
1965 appeared in rejected Star Trek pilot The Cage
1966-69 played Spock in original Star Trek series
4 Emmy award nominations, 3 for his character Spock
2013 appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness – his last film
Nimoy did have success outside of his Spock costume, in both acting and directing, and he pursued music, painting, and photography.
After the end of Star Trek’s initial run, he played master of disguise Paris in the hit adventure series Mission Impossible.
Later he directed two of the Star Trek films, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, and in 1987 helmed the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby, one of the highest-grossing films of that year.
Nimoy announced that he was suffering from COPD last year, writing: “I quit smoking 30 years ago. Not soon enough. Grandpa says, quit now!!”
COPD is an umbrella term for several lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and some forms of bronchiectasis.
Sufferers experience increasing breathlessness during the advanced stages of the disease but it can be symptomless for a long time as it develops.