Short Science, May 19, 2013
Primate fossils reveal early coexistence
Newly unearthed ape and monkey fossils prove that the cousin species lived side-by-side in Africa as long as 25 million years ago, according to a study published in Nature.
This is at least five million years earlier than fossil evidence has so far been able to show, according to a team of scientists from the United States, Australia and Tanzania.
"These discoveries suggest that the members of the major primate groups that today include apes and Old World monkeys were sharing the planet millions of years earlier than previously documented," said study co-author Nancy Stevens of Ohio University.
Old World monkeys (cercopithecoids) like baboons and macaques are found in Africa and Asia today, and are a distinct group from American or New World monkeys such as marmosets and spider monkeys.
Monkeys are part of the primate family that also includes apes, which fall in the hominoid sub-group with humans.
Scientists analysing modern primate DNA had already predicted that apes and monkeys must have split from a common ancestor about 25 to 30 million years ago, but the evidence has been lacking - the oldest fossils found to date were some 20 million years old. The new skull fragments, dug up in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania in 2011 and 2012, belonged to a previously unknown monkey named Nsungwepithecus gunnelli, and an ape dubbed Rukwapithecus fleaglei. AFP
Cornstarch now worth its weight in gold
Scientists have found a way to extract gold from ore using a seemingly unlikely kitchen ingredient - cornstarch.
Traditional leaching employs poisonous cyanide to dissolve and extract the gold locked up in mineral ore - but the method is polluting and controversial. Now a team of scientists say they accidentally stumbled upon an alternative while doing simple test tube chemistry experiments.
One of them mixed a sugar derived from cornstarch with dissolved gold salt in the hope of creating a three-dimensional cubic structure. But he instead discovered a new extraction method , according to the study published in Nature Communications. AFP
Nobel winners hold Peking University talk
Nobel Prize winners Chen Ning Yang and Mo Yan discussed science and literature with students at Peking University on Wednesday in a rare exchange.
According to Yang, 91, achievements could be made by young people in their 20s or 30s, especially in mathematics and theoretical physics, as they could be more concentrated than older people in a specific field.
In 1957, 35-year-old Yang shared the Nobel Prize for physics with his colleague Tsung Dao Lee for their joint work in upsetting the principle of conservation of parity as a fundamental law of nuclear physics. According to Mo Yan, the 2012 Nobel laureate in literature, there is more freedom in literature than in physics and chemistry. Mo Yan praised Yang as a genius while admitting he was very poor in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Mo Yan, a pseudonym for Guan Moye, was born in 1955 and grew up in Gaomi in Shandong province.
Mo Yan has been appointed director of the International Writing Centre of his alma mater, Beijing Normal University. He said he would encourage literature on campus. Xinhua