May 2017

Artistic reconstruction of Luskhan itilensis (Image courtesy Andrey Atuchin)

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” describes the study of a new species belonging to the pliosaurid group called Luskhan itilensis discovered in present-day Russia about 130 million years ago. A team of scientists including Gleb N. Uspensky of Ulyanovsk State University, who discovered this marine reptile, examined the fossils concluding that there were evolutionary convergences between different species after an extinction that happened at the end of the Jurassic period.

Robert Ludlum was born on May 25, 1927 in New York. Only in 1971 Robert Ludlum made his debut as a writer with the novel “The Scarlatti Inheritance”. It contains some elements that became typical of this author’s spy novels with the presence of a wealthy and powerful group of people trying to manipulate a series of events without hesitating to commit murders to prevent secrets dangerous to them from being disclosed.

After several other successes, in 1980 Robert Ludlum published the novel “A Bourne Identity”, the first about the character of Jason Bourne, a secret agent who loses his memory after being severely wounded. This novel in which the psychological thriller element is very important was adapted into the 1988 TV movie with the same name and in the 2002 movie with the same name. However, apart from the original concept the movie has a plot very different from the novel’s.

Robert Ludlum died on March 12, 2001 for the consequences of wounds suffered in a fire burst in his villa on February 10. The circumstances of that event are worthy of one of his stories, so much that years later Kenneth Kearns, the author’s nephew, openly accused Ludlum’s wife of killing him.

Some novels were posthumously published as written by Robert Ludlum only or in collaboration with other writers. In the following years Eric Van Lustbader resumed the Jason Bourne series and has so far published 10 more novels about the famous secret agent’s adventures.

Robert Ludlum’s novels have been published in 40 countries in 33 languages. Their success is due to the author’s ability to tell international conspiracies with diabolical masterminds and sometimes unexpected heroes because in some cases they’re common people rather than secret agents who have to fight against apparently overwhelming forces. These heroes have to travel, sometimes run, all over the world, sometimes coming to little-known places underlined by local people who speak in even less known languages.

The plots that are developed in Robert Ludlum’s novels have elements over the top for the big conspiracies but sometimes seem even too realistic for the motivations of members of governments, armed forces, and various government agencies interested in controlling their citizens rather than serving them. On these occasions terrorists are also used for shadowy purposes that have nothing to do with the ideologies they are acting on. It’s a mixture of elements that for decades have captured the interest of millions of readers around the world.

Parvancorina minchami fossil (Photo Masahiro miyasaka)

An article published in the journal “Biology Letters” describes a research on an organisms that belongs to the Parvancorina genus that lived over 540 million years ago, concluding that it had a higher mobility than previously thought. A team of researchers created simulations to understand how the water flowed around the body of a Parvcorina to understand its mobility. This research contradicts the common idea that organisms belonging to the so-called Ediacara fauna had a static life.

The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (Italian edition)

The novel “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells was published for the first time in 1895. It’s freely available on Project Gutenberg’s website.

The Time Traveller tells his friends that he has built a machine that can travel in time as if it were a space-like dimension. He’s not believed but a few days later he arrives to a dinner at his home with very messy clothes, various wounds and looking very upset.

His friends ask the Time Traveller what happened to him and he starts telling the story of his journey in the year 802,701, made thanks to the machine he invented. At that time so far in the future he met little human beings called the Eloi, who spend their time playing, but also the Morlock, ape-like creatures who live in the underground.

Simulation of Tyrannosaurus rex anatomy (Image courtesy Gregory Erickson e Paul Gignac / Florida State University/Oklahoma State University / Scientific Reports)

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” describes a research on the bite force of Tyrannosaurus rex. Researchers Gregory Erickson and Paul Gignac created computer models based not only on fossils but also on the study of dinosaurs’ living relatives, crocodiles and birds, to estimate T.rex’s bite characteristics concluding that it could crush its prey’s bones.