June 15, 2021

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Record-breaking gamma rays hint at violent environments in space

The cosmos keeps outdoing itself.

Extremely energetic light from space is an unexplained wonder of astrophysics, and now scientists have spotted this light, called gamma rays, at higher energies than ever before.

The Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory, LHAASO, spotted more than 530 gamma rays with energies above 0.1 quadrillion electron volts, researchers report online May 17 in Nature. The highest-energy gamma ray detected was about 1.4 quadrillion electron volts. For comparison, protons in the largest accelerator on Earth, the Large Hadron Collider, reach mere trillions of electron volts. Previously, the most energetic gamma ray known had

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Little Foot’s shoulders hint at how a human-chimp ancestor climbed

Little Foot, a nearly complete hominid skeleton painstakingly excavated from rock inside a South African cave, shouldered a powerful evolutionary load.

This 3.67-million-year-old adult female sports the oldest and most complete set of shoulder blades and collarbones of any ancient hominid. Those fossils also provide the best available model for what the shoulders of the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees looked like, say Kristian Carlson, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and his colleagues. Their results provide new insights into how both Little Foot and a human-chimp last common ancestor climbed in trees.

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