Friday, 21 January, 2022
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Ancient ‘chewing gum’ discovered that reveals genetic code of a Stone Age woman

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week, with links to their sources.

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DNA from ancient ‘chewing gum’ reveals more about Stone Age humans

Scientists have deciphered the genetic code of a Stone Age woman from DNA left in an ancient “chewing gum”. This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than a human bone.

The DNA was found in a black-brown lump of birch pitch, produced by heating birch bark, which was used 6000 years ago to glue together stone tools. Tooth marks on the substance suggest that it was chewed, perhaps to make it more malleable or to relieve toothache.

The DNA made it possible for the scientists to get more insight into the appearance of the woman, as well as the lifestyle of the ancient population. More on BBC.

Earth’s magnetic north pole shifts towards Russia much faster than expected

The Earth’s magnetic north pole is moving towards Russia much faster than expected. This has forced scientists to update the World Magnetic Model, a navigation system used by civilians, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and US and British militaries, a year ahead of schedule.

While the north magnetic pole has been slowly moving across the Canadian Arctic toward Russia since 1831, its swift pace of around 34 miles per year towards Siberia, in recent years, has puzzled scientists.

Scientists predict that the pole will continue on its path to Russia, but now the speed will slowly decrease to about 24.8 miles per year. Read more on CNN.

Harvard scientist’s DNA-based dating app draws flak. Critics call it eugenics

A Harvard scientist who is developing a dating app, which matches people based on their DNA, faced severe criticism for promoting eugenics and racism.

However, geneticist George Church says that the app simply does not match the carriers of rare genetic diseases with each other to prevent such diseases from being carried on to their offspring.

The app is yet to be developed and would only address a subset of the most severe genetic diseases. More about this on The Washington Post.

2020 set to be the latest in a series of warm years in the past decade

The UK Meteorological office predicts that the year 2020 is likely to be among the warmest on record, with annual global temperature rising to 1.11°C above pre-industrial levels.

The five hottest years on record since the 1850s, when record keeping began, were all in this decade. The year 2016 was the hottest, with the average worldwide temperature reaching 1.16°C above the baseline. This was followed by 2017, 2015 and 2018.

While a strong El Nino weather phenomenon in the Pacific usually pushes up global temperatures, the hot temperatures in 2020 will be due to rising levels of greenhouse gases, experts said. More on The Telegraph.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule fails to reach the ISS

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule, which was supposed to demonstrate its ability to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and back, could not reach the correct orbit.
While the much awaited launch of the spacecraft went smoothly, half an hour after lift off, Boeing reported that the capsule did not enter the right orbit to reach the space station.

By the time the crew identified the problem, the capsule did not have enough fuel to be brought back on track. The snag is likely to further delay Boeing’s plan to carry NASA astronauts to the space station next year. Read more on this in the Los Angeles Times.

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