November 2, 2012

Asteroid Belt Could Be Beneficial For The Building Blocks Of Life – The Daily Orbit

A talking elephant? Wait until you see this!

Are asteroids necessary for building life?

And what is the pain equation in mathematics?

All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit!  I’m Emerald Robinson.

First I had to worry about a whale trying to steal the show, now there’s a talking elephant? Well, fortunately for me this elephant only speaks Korean. Researchers have taught an elephant named Koshik to speak Korean by vocalizing with his trunk in his mouth. He can currently say hello, sit down, no, lie down, and good in Korean. Scientists say that Koshik can match both pitch and timbre patterns, two important aspects of human speech. Although his ability is very unique and shows his intelligence as an animal, scientists do not believe that Koshik understands what he is saying.

Now for some bird talk. Yale is putting together the most comprehensive family tree for birds to date. The list connects all living bird species – nearly 10,000 – and reveals some surprising new details about the evolutionary history and geographic context of birds. By analyzing the family tree, the research team was able to show when and where birds diversified.   Using fossil and DNA data, which they combined with geographical information, they found that bird diversification increased rapidly over the last 50 million years. Their research showed that bird speciation is actually speeding up, not slowing down, like most other species. Guess that’s good news for bird watchers everywhere.

Usually we’re talking about the fact that an asteroid could potentially hit Earth and blow the whole thing up, but now scientists are saying that the presence of an asteroid belt determines whether complex life evolves on an Earth-like planet. Confused now? Well, asteroids delivered water and organic compounds to the early Earth. Also, occasional asteroid impacts to a planet might accelerate the rate of biological evolution by disrupting a planet’s environment. An asteroid belt is shaped by the evolution of a Sun’s planet-forming disk and by the gravitational influence of a nearby giant Jupiter-like planet. Jupiter’s powerful gravity prevented nearby material inside its orbit from coalescing and building planets, leaving the asteroid belt intact. Scientists say that there are not many other systems with a Jupiter-like planet, which would allow for a formation of an asteroid belt. Isn’t it just fascinating how everything in our solar system is just in the right place for us to be here!

So what’s trending on Twitter today? #DailyOrbit? Researchers at MIT say that they developed an algorithm that more quickly predicts what’s “HOT” on the micro-blogging site. Figuring out what “tweeters” are most tweeting takes more than finding the most used words. The researchers say that their new algorithm predicts what’s trending up to five hours in advance. The algorithm watches the number of tweets about a certain topic in an hour and compares it to the changes in other tweets in the sample set. It’s like ESP for twitter, but actually based on science 😉

The square root of 176,980 is… Oh it hurts! It hurts! When someone says math hurts, it could be true! New research says that personal anxiety surrounding an impending math exam can actually cause people to feel physical pain. Scanning the brains of people who have high math-related anxiety, scientists found that the active areas were the same as during instances of bodily harm. They say the anticipation of doing math produces a reaction like putting your hand on a burning stove. Ouch! But not the actual performance of doing the math itself that hurts, just the anticipation. So I guess those kids who say their stomach hurts on math-test day aren’t lying!

Well that’s it for the Daily Orbit.

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