On December 6, Little Foot, the most complete, and possibly oldest, skeleton of a human ancestor ever found, made its debut at the Hominin Vault at University of Witwatersrand's Evolutionary Studies Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa. The ancient fossil’s public unveiling ends a painstaking journey of discovery and assembling that began in 1994, when paleoanthropologist Ron Clarke stumbled upon fragments of four left foot bones while rummaging through a museum box.
Today, December 12, marks the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Since the eight-day celebration begins at the 25th day of Kislev, the ninth month on the Hebrew calendar, its exact date varies from late November to the end of December.
Less than two months after wildfires burned through 245,000 acres, destroyed 8,400 structures, and killed 42 people in Northern California’s wine country, there is more devastation. This time, the blazes, fueled by dry brush and fierce Santa Ana winds, are wreaking havoc in Southern California.
After almost a year of orbiting the sun, on September 22, 2017, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer) made its closest flyby of Earth. Moving at speeds of about 19,000 mph, the spacecraft passed within 11,000 miles of the planet’s surface just south of Chile, before zooming over Antarctica. The carefully orchestrated encounter was designed to take advantage of the Earth’s gravity to help launch OSIRIS-REx towards a tiny asteroid named Bennu. Referred to as the slingshot effect, or gravity assist, the ingenious method helps propel spacecrafts to great distances without expending precious fuel.
With the New Year just weeks away, you are probably looking forward to watching the dazzling fireworks shows that will usher in 2018 worldwide. Unfortunately, the over ten million visually impaired and blind Americans, and scores more around the globe, have never been able to experience this joyful celebration. That may change soon thanks to Feeling Fireworks, a tactile fireworks experience invented by the masterminds at the Disney Research Lab in Switzerland.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula, is mostly a desert. However, this has not deterred the leaders from setting and achieving lofty goals that include massive building projects, most bordering on the impossible. Dubai, the UAE’s largest and most populous city, is home to the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest mall, as well as the world’s second largest choreographed fountain system. On September 26, UAE officials announced yet another ambitious project – a space simulation city, the world’s largest of course!
A week before the December 2 season-opening race of the 2017 FIA Formula E Championship, Techeetah team driver Jean-Éric Vergne got behind the wheel for an unusual challenge. The French driver, who placed fifth at the 2016 FIA championship, tested his driving skills against the world’s fastest land animal – the cheetah. And, unlike the Michael Phelps race against a shark earlier this year, this one did not rely on a CGI animated replica.
Facial recognition is a complex task which requires as many as 200 neurons in the brain’s temporal lobe, called “face patches,” to fire up simultaneously within milliseconds. Hence the skill has always been believed to be the realm of “intelligent” animals such as humans, monkeys, apes, dogs, and horses. Now, British scientists have found that the unassuming cud-chewing sheep also possess this skill.