science, technology, scitech, twist

ICYMI: Science and technology updates from April 7 to 13, 2019.

Pinoy archaeologists find new human species, Homo luzonensis, in Cagayan

homo luzonensis, h. luzonensis
The bones of H. luzonensis, displayed at a recent press conference in Diliman, Quezon City. (Image: Mikael Francisco)

From GMA News Online:

An international team of archaeologists, including researchers from the University of the Philippines, have announced the discovery of the new species, Homo luzonensis, based on bones and teeth found in Callao Cave located in Peñablanca town, Cagayan province in northern Luzon that date back over 50,000 years.

In a paper published on April 10 in the journal Nature, the researchers said they had found the remains of three individuals with physical features common to modern and early humans but in an altogether unique combination. This prompted the researchers to designate the find as a completely new species.

Read the full story.

Three minor planets named after Pinoy winners of int’l science fair

After bagging a major prize at the 2018 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), three Pinoy students — Eugene Rivera, Joscel Kent Manzanero, and Keith Russel Cadores of Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City, Camarines Sur — now have their names written in the stars, so to speak.

Three minor planets were named after the students, after their team won second place in the competition’s “Energy: Physical” category.

Their work focused on the design and development of Solar-Tracking Arduino-Rooted PV Panels. The students were selected to represented the Philippines after their performance at the 2018 National Science and Technology Fair (NSTF).

PCIEERD trains 141 new data scientists

In line with its goal of promoting data science in the Philippines, the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) has produced 141 new data training graduates.

The trainess took the Learning at Scale training sessions, for which PCIEERD partnered up with local startup MOOCs PH. The Learning at Scale trainings are based on lessons developed by international universities via the Coursera online educational platform.

The graduates made it to the advanced courses of the data science track training program, which tackle modules from Johns Hopkins University’s Data Science specialization program.

PCIEERD seeks to train more data scientists to keep up with expected market demand in the Philippines and abroad.

Iloilo marine sediments: Potential source of antibiotic drug?


The Philippines could be the source of another breakthrough antibiotic drug taken from marine sediments harvested from the ocean floor off Iloilo province.

Dr. Doralyn Dalisay of the University of San Agustin – Center for Chemical Biology and Biotechnology in Iloilo said the painstaking research and development she has been leading at the USA-C2B2 in putting up a library of more than 3,000 bacteria isolates was already bearing fruit with the identification of 38 “lead isolates” for further study and development into at least one super antibiotic drug. 

Read the full story.

Synchronized “swimming”: Bacteria around distant coral reefs change at the same time


In coral reef ecosystems, amid stony corals, fronds of algae and schools of fish, microorganisms are essential for recycling nutrients—transforming bits of organic matter into forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, for example, that are useful to photosynthetic organisms.

A study published today in Nature Communications by researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU), the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and others revealed that the bacteria present in the water overlying dozens of coral reefs changed dramatically during the night, and then returned to the same daytime community as observed the morning before. Further, as if these communities were all privy to the same schedule, these changes were synchronized across reefs separated by hundreds of miles. 

Read the full story.

Planet of the apes? Chinese scientists put human brain genes into monkeys

From ABS-CBN News:

Researchers inserted human versions of MCPH1, a gene that scientists believe plays a role in the development of the human brain, into 11 rhesus monkeys.

They found the monkeys’ brains — like those of humans — took longer to develop, and the animals performed better in tests of short-term memory as well as reaction time compared to wild monkeys. However, the monkeys did not grow bigger brains than the control group.

Read the full story.

Self-defense lessons: New cancer therapy “teaches” body how to destroy tumors

From ScienceAlert:

Researchers have invented a new type of cancer immunotherapy by injecting tumours with a series of stimulants. The experimental therapy attracts the body’s own immune system’s attention, so it can come and destroy the cancerous masses.

The radical new approach has already shown promise in patients with an advanced form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that resists conventional treatments, and is currently being tested on a variety of stubborn cancers.

The result can be described as turning the tumours into “cancer vaccine factories”, because attracting the body’s immune cells to the cancer site is a method known as in situ vaccination.

Read the full story.

Tech issues cause Israeli spacecraft to crash before moon landing

From CNN:

Israel’s Beresheet, the first privately-funded mission to the moon, has crashed.

The spacecraft aimed to perform a soft landing on the moon and would have made Israel the fourth country to do so — and by far the smallest. Only the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have done it before.

The $100 million spacecraft, built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, lost communications with the control room in Israel during the landing sequence. As program managers who had been watching the mission in real time tried to re-establish communications, they also dealt with issues in the spacecraft’s main engine.

Read the full story.

Dino Moly: Paleontologists find well-preserved dinosaur skin in Korea

From the University of Colorado Denver:

Paleontologists are used to finding dinosaur bones and tracks. But remnants of soft tissue, like muscles or skin, are rare and often not well preserved. A very small percentage of tracks – much less than 1% – show skin traces.

Kyung-Soo Kim, PhD, of Chinju National University of Education recently found a set of very small tracks with perfect skin traces near Jinju City, Korea. CU Denver Professor Emeritus of Geology Martin Lockley, PhD, – with Kim, Jong Deock Lim of Korea and Lida Xing of Beijing – wrote a paper about the skin traces for the journal Scientific Reports. They described the skin as “exquisitely-preserved.”

“These are the first tracks ever found where perfect skin impressions cover the entire surface of every track,” Lockley said. The skin patterns of different groups of dinosaurs varied and, like fingerprints, were signatures of differences in anatomy.

Read the full story.

Cover photo: Kike Calvo/AP