November 2019

Artist's portrait of a Neanderthal (Image courtesy Petr Kratochvil (CC0))

An article published in the journal “PLOS ONE” reports a study on the causes of Neanderthal extinction based on models created using data on hunter-gatherer populations as parameters. A team of researchers led by Dr. Krist Vaesen concluded that small populations were vulnerable to problems such as inbreeding, the Allee effects that predict a negative impact on individuals’ fitness in reduced populations and demographic fluctuations, factors that over about 10,000 years caused the extinction of this species.

Screenshot of the new Twitter inactive account policy

Twitter has changed its terms of use and now requires an access at least every 6 months. In the event of prolonged inactivity, the accounts will be removed but this will happen gradually in an operation that could take place over several months. The expiration date to be sure not to end up under Twitter’s axe is December 11 and from that day people who make little use of this service but want to keep their account will have to remember at least to access it. The first protests came in particular regarding profiles of dead people and a new tweet from the support service reported that the elimination will not begin before they have found a solution.

A skull of the herbivorous dinosaur called Styracosaurus albertensis shows that it had asymmetrical horns

An article published in the journal “Cretaceous Research” reports a study of a fossil skull of Styracosaurus albertensis, a herbivorous dinosaur that lived in today’s North America about 75 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period. A team of researchers led by Professor Robert Holmes of the University of Alberta, Canada, examined this well-preserved fossil noting that its horns were asymmetrical. Previously, no skull attributed to the genus Styracosaurus was complete enough to see that asymmetry. This discovery could lead to various reclassifications of fossils that over time were attributed to other species of the genus Styracosaurus and later even to other genera.

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

The novel “The Delirium Brief” by Charles Stross was published for the first time in 2017. It’s part of the Laundry series and follows “The Nightmare Stacks”.

The Laundry came out considerably weakened from the sequence of crisis in which it was involved and the invasion attempt from another dimension made its existence public. On a political level, this turned the agency into a scapegoat for all the recent dramatic events that couldn’t be covered up.

The British government plans to shut down the Laundry but the need for an agency capable of handling threats and events linked to magic is now clear. The alleged greater efficiency of specialized companies makes the idea of ​​contracting such services attractive but the only real candidate represents the main threat to the Kingdom. That forces the surviving Laundry senior members to adopt emergency measures, even extreme ones.

Halicephalobus mephisto (Image courtesy John Bracht, American University)

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” reports the DNA sequencing of a nematode nicknamed “Devil Worm” whose scientific name is Halicephalobus mephisto. A team of researchers led by Dr. John Bracht of the American University sequenced the DNA of this worm only half a millimeter long to try to understand the genetic reasons behind its ability to live even at over 3 kilometers deep underground in warm water veins, where there’s little oxygen and a large amount of methane. An article published in the “Journal of Molecular Evolution” reports the examination of some genes that this nematode has in common with some molluscs adapted to live in warm environments.