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Unprecedented fat bear story just got even better

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In 2022, the park rangers monitoring Alaska’s fat bears were astonished.

Brown bears are extremely cautious animals, constantly vigilant of threatening outsiders. That’s why mothers and cubs keep to themselves. Yet last year, bear viewers both online and at the park witnessed two family groups in Katmai National Park and Preserve — two sisters, each with her own cub — act like a big family. They traveled the salmon-filled river together. Fished together. And even napped together.

Now, their story has taken another unexpected turn.

The two mothers, bears 909 and 910, both returned to Katmai’s famous Brooks River (where the livestreamed explore.org cameras are located and the Fat Bear Week bears live) this summer. But bear 909 separated from her female cub, who at two and a half years old was entering its third summer. Mothers often, but not always, push their cubs into independence at this age. But 909’s cub wasn’t yet ready to be an independent bear.

Instead, this cub started hanging around bear 910, her aunt, whom she was already quite familiar with.

“It was the perfect setup for an adoption in brown bears,” Mike Fitz, a former Katmai park ranger and currently a resident naturalist for the wilderness livestreamers explore.org, told Mashable.

“It’s a great story.”

The adoption, just the second one ever witnessed at Katmai, was “fully integrated,” Fitz emphasized. Bear observers watched bear 910 nursing the adopted cub, which is an intense show of motherhood. These brown bears have a limited time to stock up on fat stores for the long Alaskan winter, where they burn fat to survive for some six months underground. 910 was giving invaluable calories to both her cub and the newly adopted cub.

“It’s a great story,” Naomi Boak, the media ranger at Katmai National Park and Preserve, told Mashable. “She was officially adopted.”

The image below shows 910’s two cubs, also known as “909 Jr.” and “910 Jr,” as they feast on salmon. Below that is a clip from the bear cams this summer: In the foreground, you can see 910 with 909 Jr. and 910 Jr. Behind them is the legendary fat bear Otis, bear 480, patiently awaiting for salmon to pass by in the water.

The bear cubs “909 Jr.” and “910 Jr.” seen together along the banks of the Brooks River in 2023.

After the adoption, the three-bear family fished together, sometimes waiting atop the Brooks Falls for leaping salmon. Sibling rivalries exist in the bear world, too, and at times the two cubs battled for ownership of a fish, especially in early summer. By fall, all three bears had fattened up. The youngest cub, 910’s biological cub, is the smallest and most vulnerable, but looks filled-out and healthy, Fitz noted.

The wild world of bears is in many ways still foreign to us. We don’t truly know why bear 910 adopted her sister’s cub. Could it be altruism? Could it be concern for kin? Could it be that another warm body in their den boosts everyone’s odds for survival?

Want more science and tech news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for Mashable’s Light Speed newsletter today.

We do know, however, that a bear adoption event is rare, even under the watchful eyes of global bear cam viewers. The other adoption witnessed by park rangers occurred in 2014. A starving, helpless cub, bear 503, was adopted by the well-known fat bear Holly. Today, bear 503 is a juggernaut, one of the larger and dominant bears of the Brooks River.

The future of the adopted 909 Jr. is uncertain, but her new mother has given her a strong shot at future success in the harsh Alaskan wilds.





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NASA reveals footage of astronauts training in desert for moon mission

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It’s taken more than half a century, but NASA really is going back to the moon.

Some of the space agency’s astronauts have been training in the Northern Arizona desert for the looming Artemis 3 mission, which is currently slated to land in September 2026. Decades of other U.S. space priorities (such as the Space Shuttle and building the International Space Station), along with the astronomical costs of sending astronauts to our natural satellite, have impeded such a return endeavor.

But after the successful launch of NASA’s new megarocket in 2022 — the Space Launch System — the moon mission’s wheels are turning, albeit slowly. That’s because every component of the agency’s new lunar campaign, dubbed Artemis, must be profoundly safe. Lives will be aboard.

NASA has released images of the astronauts’ May 2024 training in the desert, including a recent view of NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas simulating a nighttime space walk (the official Artemis 3 astronaut crew has yet to be announced). Training in the dark or twilight is essential, as the conditions mimic the dark, shadowy regions Artemis astronauts will explore: NASA is going to the moon’s south pole region, a place where the sun barely rises over the lunar hills. It’s a world of profoundly long shadows and dim environs.

Mashable Light Speed

The endeavor you see below is called the Joint Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Test Team Field Test 5, or JETT5.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas simulating a moonwalk for the looming Artemis 3 mission.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas simulating a moonwalk for the looming Artemis 3 mission.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

On left: Astronaut Andre Douglas reviews sample collection procedures. On right: Astronaut Kate Rubins ensures she has the necessary tools.

On left: Astronaut Andre Douglas reviews sample collection procedures. On right: Astronaut Kate Rubins ensures she has the necessary tools.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

Astronaut Kate Rubins used a hammer to drive in tube that will collect soil samples from the ground. On the moon, these samples will be sealed and then returned to Earth.

Astronaut Kate Rubins used a hammer to drive in tube that will collect soil samples from the ground. On the moon, these samples will be sealed and then returned to Earth.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

The two astronauts pushing a tool cart across the desert surface.

The two astronauts pushing a tool cart across the desert surface.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

NASA captured these images in a rugged region called the San Francisco Volcanic Field. The area astronauts are headed to is also quite rugged. It’s a heavily cratered region, teeming with volcanic rocks. Crucially, they’ll be hunting for ice deposits, too.

“The ice deposits could also serve as an important resource for exploration because they are comprised of hydrogen and oxygen that can be used for rocket fuel or life support systems,” NASA explained.

The moon may one day serve as a lunar fuel depot, where after burning copious amounts of fuel during launch, spacecraft stop to fill up for deeper space missions. They may be headed to Mars, resource-rich asteroids, or beyond.





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Webb Telescope Discovers Galaxies Formed Right After Birth Of The Universe With Earliest Elements

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A group of astronomers sifting through the James Webb Space Telescope have found three galaxies from the earliest universe. According to their findings, which have been published in the journal Science, the universe was just 400 to 600 million years old when the said galaxies were born. According to current estimates, the universe is about 13.8 billion years old.

Kasper Heintz, the lead author and an assistant professor of astrophysics at the University of Copenhagen, called these galaxies “sparkling islands in a sea of otherwise neutral, opaque gas.”

ALSO SEE: Webb Telescope Finds Best Evidence Of Potential Atmosphere Around A ‘Super-Earth’

Scientists believe that the universe was very different during the Era of Reionisation – the period of several hundred million years after the big bang. At this point, gas between stars and galaxies was largely opaque and things became transparent only after one billion year later.

About the galaxies discovered using the Webb telescope‘s data, they are believed to be surrounded by almost purely hydrogen and helium which are the earliest elements to form in the universe.

Darach Watson, a co-author of the paper, said that the large gas resorvoirs suggest that “the galaxies have not had enough time to form most of their stars yet.”

Moving forward, the researchers will work to build large statistical samples of these galaxies and measure the prevalence and prominence of their features.

ALSO SEE: Webb Telescope Discovers Oldest Ever Black Hole Merger From Over 13 Billion Years Ago

(Image: NASA)





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Neuralink’s Rival Company Precision Creates World Record By Placing Over 4,000 Electrodes In Human Brain

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Elon Musk-owned Neuralink’s rival Precision Neuroscience has set the world record for placing 4,096 electrodes in the human brain. It is double the number of electrodes placed last year – 2,048.

According to the official statement, the record-setting operation took place in April at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, as part of an ongoing clinical trial for the brain chip.

Precision’s chip in the brain. Image: Precision Neuroscience

Precision’s implant uses a thin-film microelectrode array containing 1,024 miniature electrodes covering 1.6 square cm of area. Four such arrays were placed on the patient’s brain.

More number of electrodes will ensure higher data transmission to and from the brain, and this will determine the capability of the chip.

ALSO SEE: Neuralink’s Paralysed Patient Desires A Tesla Robot Assistant He Can Control With His Mind

“This record is a significant step towards a new era. The ability to capture cortical information of this magnitude and scale could allow us to understand the brain in a much deeper way,” said Benjamin Rapoport, Precision’s co-founder and Chief Science Officer.

Also a co-founder of Neuralink, Rapoport exited the company and established Precision with two other Neuralink members in 2021.

According to Ars Technica, he told The Wall Street Journal that the reason for his exit from Neuralink were the safety concerns regarding the brain implants which he says are too invasive.

ALSO SEE: Elon Musk’s Neuralink Gets Approval For Second Chip Implant In Human Brain

The company claims that its ‘Layer 7 Cortical Interface’ can conform to the brain’s cortex with minimal invasiveness and without damaging any tissue.

Neuralink is currently at the forefront in the brain-computer interface game. It implanted the chip in the first patient earlier this year and is preparing for the second operation.

As for Precision, it is testing its chip through research collaborations with West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, Perelman School of Medicine (Penn Medicine), and New York’s Mount Sinai Health System.

(Image: Precision Neuroscience)





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