Cover of the January 13, 2024 issue of Science News

Phrases matter

An historical grave with a sword, defend and mirror belonged to a lady who about 2,000 years in the past could have fought in raids and helped fend off enemy assaults in what’s now southwestern England, Bruce Bower reported in “Iron Age warrior grave belonged to a lady” (SN: 1/13/24, p. 5).

Reader Cathryn Brenner expressed disappointment in a phrase within the story. “The girl warrior was described as probably having a ‘violent streak.’ The connotation of violent streak, if not the precise that means, is destructive and used to explain a persona trait that’s evidenced within the frequent use of violence or bodily hurt to others throughout many contexts,” Brenner wrote. “I see no proof on this article that, if she was a warrior, she acted in any manner apart from a male warrior — raiding and defending. And I’ve by no means ever ever seen a male warrior described with this time period! I’m shocked that presently, this phrase obtained previous everybody concerned with the article.”

Shifting spins

Monumental polygonal rock patterns lie close to Mars’ equator deep under the floor, radar information counsel. The discovering hints that the Purple Planet’s equator was as soon as a lot icier than it’s now, maybe due to variations within the tilt of the planet’s axis, Elise Cutts reported in “Buried polygons trace at Mars’ tipsy previous” (SN: 1/13/24, p. 12).

Reader Robert Walty puzzled if some type of cosmic collision may have brought on the lean of Mars’ axis to alter. “It has usually been recommended that the explanation Uranus’ spin axis is on its facet could possibly be as a result of a collision with one other giant physique prior to now. This collision speculation was not talked about within the article,” Walty wrote.

It possible was not an occasion, reminiscent of an asteroid influence, that brought on a change in Mars’ tilt, however quite the pure evolution of the planet’s spin over time, says geoscientist Ross Mitchell, who together with colleagues found the patterns.

Earth’s axis is tilted at a mean of 23.3 levels. Stabilized by our moon, the planet’s tilt wobbles by a bit greater than a level from that common, says Mitchell, of the Chinese language Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing. However Mars’ two small moons present no such stabilizing impact. So though the Purple Planet’s tilt is at the moment fairly much like Earth’s at a mean of 25 levels, it may need diversified drastically prior to now — between round 15 and 40 levels, he says.

What’s extra, simulations of the photo voltaic system’s historical past counsel that the Purple Planet’s common tilt could have been higher than 40 levels for many of its existence, Mitchell provides. If true, that “would imply that many of the local weather historical past recorded within the Martian geologic report is likely to be very completely different from the present chilly, dry local weather we all know right this moment.”

The brand new discovering helps such a prediction, Mitchell says. The radar pictures of the traditional polygonal rock patterns buried underneath Mars’ floor counsel that the planet’s equator, which at the moment is “dry as a bone,” skilled freeze-thaw cycles of water just a few billion years in the past.

Questioning quantum gravity

Random fluctuations in gravitational fields may permit physicists to seal the rift between the final idea of relativity, which describes gravity, and quantum physics, with out the necessity for a idea of quantum gravity, Emily Conover reported in “What if gravity isn’t quantum?” (SN: 1/13/24, p. 15).

Reader John Rippingale puzzled what may trigger random fluctuations in a gravitational discipline.

On this idea of gravity that some researchers suggest, there may be intrinsic randomness in the way in which that spacetime bends in response to an enormous quantum particle, Conover says. In consequence, the gravitational discipline of an object would seem to fluctuate barely. “So if this idea is appropriate, there’s no want for a trigger for that randomness — it’s only a reality of nature,” she says.


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