Category: ABC Science

‘These beasts are made for walking’: Woolly mammoth took enough steps to nearly circle the Earth twice

If you found yourself standing in Alaska during the last ice age, chances are you would meet a woolly mammoth on the move.

But was this shaggy beast taking a quick stroll or a long hike? Was it alone, or travelling in a herd?

Well, now we know.

An international team of scientists has unravelled the travel diary of a woolly mammoth, stored in its 17,000-year-old tusk.

And it turns out the mammoth this particular tusk belonged to was indeed quite the traveller, taking enough steps over Alaska during its life to nearly circle the Earth twice.

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How does COVID-19 affect the brain? Here’s what we know so far

At the beginning of 2020, Carol Andersen was busy enjoying life.

The 67-year-old had a job she loved in the results department of a clinical lab and was looking forward to a holiday on a cruise.

Then in March, she got COVID-19.

Even though Ms Andersen’s infection wasn’t severe, she has been stuck with lingering neurological symptoms such as nerve pain, fatigue, “brain fog” and smell issues ever since.

The Blacktown resident has been unable to work due to her symptoms.

“I don’t feel the way I felt before COVID. It’s really quite confronting,” Ms Andersen said.

“Even doing my ‘survival’ jobs at home like showering, washing up, putting the garbage out … I feel like I’ve done a 10-page essay.”

An emerging body of research on the long-lasting neurological effects of COVID-19 suggests Ms Andersen is not alone.

A recent analysis of the health records of more than 230,000 people with COVID-19 found that around one-third experienced a neurological or psychiatric condition up to six months after infection.

Roughly 13 per cent of those patients had not been diagnosed with those types of conditions previously.

“It’s more than a psychological thing,” said Craig Anderson, a neurologist at the George Institute for Global Health.

“This is really a physical fatigue that people are trying to recover from.”

And while it’s early days, researchers are beginning to unravel how COVID-19 affects the brain and leads to brain fog and other neurological issues.

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A geologist brought home some ancient rock 20 years ago. She may have stumbled on the world’s oldest animal fossil

Two decades ago, geologist Elizabeth Turner set out to explore the ancient reefs locked away in the Mackenzie Mountains in north-west Canada.

Her heart was set on understanding how photosynthetic microbes had built huge reefs millions of years ago.

Instead, the then-PhD student walked away with a pile of rocks, a handful of which had some pretty unusual features.

But it turns out that Dr Turner may have stumbled across the earliest known animal fossils, according to a paper published today in Nature.

The tiny structures embedded in the 890-million-year-old rocks look remarkably similar to the skeletons of sea sponges, suggesting that these simple creatures were thriving in the oceans earlier than previously thought.

Dr Turner said the structures were too complex to have been created by algae or bacteria.

“The process of elimination says that it can’t be these other things,” said Dr Turner, who is now based at Laurentian University in Ontario.

“The fact that other workers have found this structure in [younger] fossil sponges kind of put the nail in the coffin.”

But some scientists are sceptical about whether the fossils are sponges or may have even been created by a biological process.

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Astronomers capture image of a second black hole. And it’s very different to the first one

In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope made history when it captured the very first image of a supermassive black hole in the M87 galaxy.

Now, it has zoomed in on a second supermassive black hole, this time in the centre of a galaxy called Centaurus A.

The new images capture a fiery jet of super-hot gas being spat out from the heart of the galaxy, allowing astronomers to pinpoint the location of its supermassive black hole.

The findings, published today in Nature Astronomy, could give clues about how these mysterious cosmic jets are generated.

“This has been seen before, but never quite so clearly,” said study co-author Phil Edwards, an astronomer at the CSIRO.

“The detail that can be seen is something like seeing an apple on the surface of the Moon from the Earth.”

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Most people have side effects after the second Pfizer jab. Here’s why

When Rachael McGuire rolled up her sleeve to get her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in April, she went home with a sore arm and spent the evening feeling a little more tired than usual.

But around 12 hours after receiving the second dose, McGuire went to bed with a splitting headache that hung around for a couple of days.

“I asked my husband to take the day off so he could watch the kids, because I just wanted to go to bed,” said Ms McGuire, an immunisation nurse at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

It was the first time the 38-year-old had felt knocked around after a vaccine, but she wasn’t worried.

“I knew that they were expected side effects,” Ms McGuire said.

“I didn’t feel great at the time, but I knew it was perfectly fine and felt reassured that obviously something was working.”

But why do these side effects happen in the first place and is there anything you can do to avoid them?

Here’s what we know.

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The Lambda coronavirus variant has arrived in Australia. Here’s what we know so far

We’ve seen the Alpha, Kappa and Delta variants cross our borders, but it turns out another strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has reached our shores.

The variant, named Lambda by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month, was detected in an overseas traveller who was in hotel quarantine in New South Wales in April, according to national genomics database AusTrakka.

Some reports suggest the new variant could be fast spreading and difficult to tackle with vaccines.

So what sets this variant apart from others and should we be concerned?

Here’s what we know so far.

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Scientists opened a 5,000-year-old cold case. They found the roots of the Black Death

Around 5,000 years ago in Northern Europe, a young man fell ill and died.

It turns out that the man had been infected by the oldest strain of Yersinia pestis — the bacterium that caused the Black Death plague, which spread through medieval Europe thousands of years later.

This ancient strain of the infectious bug emerged around 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to the study published today in Cell Reports.

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‘The sharks basically just disappeared overnight’: Scientists have found a mysterious ancient extinction event

When palaeobiologist Elizabeth Sibert set out to build a record of fish and shark populations over millions of years, she didn’t expect to be solving a mysterious disappearance case.

And then they vanished.

Global shark populations were wiped out by up to 90 per cent around 19 million years ago, even though there were no signs of sudden climatic or environmental changes.

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What makes some COVID-19 variants more contagious than others?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is evolving, with new and more infectious variants taking hold.

That has now been extended for at least another seven days in Melbourne.

But what makes this outbreak different from others is the spread of a “highly infectious” variant that was first detected in India in October last year.

There are currently four coronavirus variants of global concern that have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), each first detected in India, Brazil, South Africa and the UK.

Authorities in Vietnam have also identified a “dangerous” new hybrid variant that is a mix of the types first detected in the UK and India.

But how do these variants occur and what makes some more contagious than others?

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Believers in QAnon and other conspiracy theories reveal how they climbed out of the rabbit hole

For two years, Jitarth Jadeja spent most of his time in the darkest corners of the web reading about conspiracy theories.

Mr Jadeja, 33, was an avid follower of QAnon — a baseless, far-right theory that started by alleging then-US president Donald Trump was fighting against a secret group of elites who ran a global child sex trafficking ring.

For hours each day, Mr Jadeja devoured cryptic predictions shared by an anonymous online poster called Q on the imageboard website 4chan.

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