Science this week – October 21, 2011

This week’s science news from EarthSky

In the September 14, 2011, issue of Legal and Criminological Psychology, researchers at Cornell University and the University of British Columbia showed — for the first time — that a computerized text analysis can detect the distinct speech patterns of psychopaths. The analysis of 14 male murderers held in Canadian prisons reveals that psychopaths make identifiable word choices — beyond conscious control — when talking about their crimes. The words of psychopathic murderers tend match their personalities, and t reflect selfishness, detachment from their crimes and emotional flatness. More

On October 17, NASA and Japan’s ministry of trade released an improved version of the most complete digital topographic map of Earth to date. They created the new map – which covers 99 percent of Earth’s landmass – from images collected by the Japanese ASTER instrument aboard NASA’s Terra spacecraft. The map is available now and free to everyone. Download map, read more

The Fornax and Sculptor dwarf galaxies are neighbors to our Milky Way galaxy. A new study of these little galaxies reveals a smooth distribution of dark matter – the mysterious, invisible “stuff” thought to have a gravitational effect on the whole universe and a critical role in its formation. This research draws into question prior theories of dark matter, which suggested it was densely packed in the centers of galaxies. Astronomers announced these new results on October 17 from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. More

On October 12, researchers from the UK and Chicago’s Field Museum published research online suggesting that Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largest carnivore ever to walk the Earth, was heavier and grew faster than previously thought. The new research suggests that hatchlings the size of a beagle grew into a 8-ton monster in about 17 years. That’s adding about the weight of a sports utility vehicle every year. These scientists used precise laser-scanning techniques to compare bones of adult animals to young ones. More

On October 20, scientists announced at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center that they had captured what they say is a “record-breaking” photo of a brown dwarf with an exceptionally cool temperature – about the temperature of a summer day in Arizona. Brown dwarfs, also known as failed stars, are like planet/star hybrids – they’ve got a bunch of mass, but not enough mass to burn hot and bright. Astronomers say these objects are valuable as laboratories for studying the atmospheres of planets with Earth-like temperatures outside our solar system. More

The Wildlife Conservation Society reported on October 19 that camera traps revealed a record number of jaguars in Bolivia. Scientists spotted 19 individual jaguars in Madidi National Park, Bolivia with the help of a strategically placed digital camera. This is a record number for a single camera trap survey in Bolivia. Experts say the new data – and the confirmed accuracy of this new tracking technique – will help them protect jaguars. More

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