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wedderburn meteorite

Researchers confirm existence of mineral in meteorite never found before in nature

An exclusive mineral has been discovered roadside in a remote gold rush town of Australia, Wedderburn which is 214 kilometers north of Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne. Earlier, it was a hotspot for the researchers and miners and it still is, although occasionally but nobody there had ever seen a lump like this.

A small 210-gram piece of weird-looking stone was found just north-east of the Wedderburn town in 1951. Named as the Wedderburn, researchers have been trying to solve its mysteries and they just decoded another. Scientists examined the Wedderburn meteorite and confirmed the first natural occurrence of the mineral called ‘edscottite‘ which is a unique form of an iron-carbide mineral which has never been found in nature. The work appears in the American Mineralogist journal.

The unique black-and-red rock has been investigated to the extent that only one-third of the original specimen remains intact within the geological collection at Museums Victoria, Australia since the Wedderburn meteorite’s spacey origins were first detected. The rest of the rock was taken away to investigate the substances the meteorite is made of. Those investigations have shown traces of gold and iron, along with uncommon minerals such as kamacite, schreibersite, taenite, and troilite and now edscottite can be added to the list.

The discovery is named in honor of Edward Scott – meteorite expert and cosmochemist from the University of Hawaii. It is important because this specific atomic formulation of iron carbide mineral was never before confirmed to occur naturally. For official recognition by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA), this confirmation is important as it is an essential requirement for minerals.

An artificial kind of the iron carbide mineral produced during iron smelting has been well-known about for years. Edscottite is now an official element of the exclusive IMA’s mineral club and it is due to the research by Chi Ma and UCLA geophysicist Alan Rubin. Stuart Mills, Museums Victoria senior curator of geosciences who wasn’t engaged with the new study, said that they have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the research lab out of which only 6,000 were identified as naturally occurring minerals.

In regard to how this sliver of natural edscottite was found outside of rural Wedderburn is not yet clear but the mineral could have formed in the heated, pressurized core of an ancient planet according to planetary scientist Geoffrey Bonning from Australian National University, who wasn’t involved with the study. Bonning said that some kind of colossal cosmic collision could have occurred a long time ago involving this unfortunate edscottite-producing planet and another planet, or a moon, or an asteroid and been exploded apart, with the fragmented parts of this wrecked world being hurled across time and space. It is believed that one such part landed just outside Wedderburn after millions of years which has enriched our knowledge of the Universe.

Research Paper: Edscottite, Fe5C2, a new iron carbide mineral from the Ni-rich Wedderburn IAB iron meteorite


Researchers find that Oumuamua is not an alien spacecraft

Astronomers discovered the first interstellar object to visit our solar system on October 19, 2017. It was first spotted by Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 telescope situated at Haleakala Observatory, University of Hawaii. It was not easy to be described as it displayed both the characteristics of a comet and asteroid. 

Researchers gave the formal name 1I/2017 U1 while it was commonly termed as ‘Oumuamua’, meaning “scout” in Hawaiian. Scientists from all over the globe collected as much data as possible before it went beyond the reach of the telescopes of our planet. 

Few early reports speculated that it might have been an alien spacecraft meant to examine our solar system. However, all these claims were refuted by an analysis co-led by Matthew Knight, a researcher in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland. It concluded that Oumuamua has a natural origin. The findings of the study were published in the Nature Astronomy journal. 

Knight said that while it is exciting to come up with the hypothesis that it is an alien spacecraft, analysis suggests that there are a lot of natural phenomena that can explain it. Oumuamua is red in color, elongated and has a cigar-like shape. It also has an odd spin pattern. Scientists have found its motion through the solar system confusing. It appeared to accelerate in its trajectory but there has been no trail of gaseous emissions creating it. There is no discernable coma—the cloud of ice, dust, and gas that surrounds active comets—nor a dust tail or gas jets.

The International Space Science Institute in Bern was a home base for the collaboration of the researchers which included 14 scientists from the United States and Europe. The comprehensive analysis carried out by researchers gave the best possible explanation of the phenomenon. Knight explained that physical processes occurring near the Earth are considered to be universal. But the Oumuamua has been very weird and hard to explain. 

Researchers considered a number of factors that can explain how Oumuamua escaped from its home system. One possible explanation is that it could have been ejected by a gas giant planet orbiting another star.

Researchers expect to observe more interstellar objects such as Oumuamua with the help of Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, scheduled to be operational in 2022. Only then scientists can find out by observing other objects if it is unusual or common. 

Processed Meats supermarket

Studies showed what a processed diet can do to our body

Everybody today is promoting whole foods compared to processed foods. Many terms like ‘whole grain’, ‘clean eating’, ‘all natural’, ‘functional’ and ‘local’ have been taken over the lexicon. However, until recently there has been little scientific evidence to support the eat whole food movement.

The British Medical Journal published two studies of populations that found a lower risk of heart diseases and greater longevity among adults who ate less processed food. A further study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) showed that eating ultra-processed foods results in higher calorie intake and weight gain when compared to the ones with minimum consumption of processed food. The paper published by NIH explains the benefit of whole foods and acknowledges that ultra-processed food makes important contributions to the nation’s diet.

The paper was published by Kevin Hall who is a mathematical modeler and global obesity expert. It enrolled 20 young healthy adults( 10 men and 10 women ) who agreed to a clinical setup and testing for 28 days which provided access to food given only by the clinic. The results showed that persons gained 500 more calories per day when given ultra-processed food. It resulted in two pounds of weight gain in just 14 days. On the other hand, people who changed from ultra-processed food to minimally processed foods lost two pounds in 14 days. The data suggest that ultra-processed foods lead to more energy intake and weight gain whereas minimally processed food leads to low energy intake and weight loss.

The weight gains occurred even after the investigators tried to make both the meals alike with the same percentages of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugars, sodium, etc. It was achieved by adding soluble fiber to beverages for ultra-processed meals and making sure that the minimally processed diet included plenty of fresh fruit, high in natural sugars. The ultra-processed food contained canned soups and grains in a pouch. So, the ultra-processed food which was used was not that junky. If the ultra-processed diets were made to vary in nutrient intake then there would be a larger difference in calorie intake. The ultra-processed foods are formulated with industrial ingredients and contain little or no intact food. Ultra-processed foods are soft and easier to chew, swallow which led to calories being consumed 50% faster than minimally processed foods.

When we eat quickly our calorie consumption may race ahead of the gut-brain connection. This is because it takes 20 minutes for the gut to release hormones telling the brain that it is full. Insoluble fiber which is included in minimally processed foods moves through the stomach and GI system without breaking down and being absorbed which leads to reduced calorie absorption. Processed food is 60% cheaper than unprocessed food and offers convenience in hyper-speed world. We must choose the food and eat them either in whole or in the minimum processed form.