Snooze (this week in Science News): October 30

    Money and animals seem to be the main news stories coming out of the science and technology world this week. These include AT&T’s expensive deal with Time Warner, which includes more figures than the average person’s number of fingers, and Northwestern’s new research funding record. On the other end, the first ever fossilized dinosaur brain has been found, and there's a little bit of negative news related to the hibernation patterns of our friends the grizzly bears.

    Let’s take a look.

    AT&T buys Time Warner for more money than you can count.

    Courtesy of Mike Mozart

    That sounds like a lot of money, tell me about it.

    AT&T and Time Warner have agreed upon a $85.4 billion merger. AT&T will now control Time Warner, a company that owns assets including Warner Bros. Studio, HBO and CNN. Because Americans are able to access many forms of entertainment through a wide variety of mediums, corporations are attempting to engage and appeal to consumers. This deal is an attempt to stay ahead of a rapidly changing entertainment industry.

    Should I be happy or sad about it?

    The merging of these two companies will likely lead to new innovations in entertainment. The AT&T Time Warner conglomerate hopes to rival cable by making breakthroughs that would allow them to be more mobile-friendly and cheaper, such as better TV streaming to your phone. However, now that AT&T has power over Time Warner and its programming, the independent entertainment that the company has produced and its viewers have come to love may be threatened in the future based on the interests of AT&T.

    Northwestern awards almost $650 million in research grants this year.

    Wait didn’t they just raise tuition this year?

    During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Northwestern awarded $649.7 million worth of research grants to various departments from psychology, biology, chemistry, sociology and more. This money comes from industrial sponsors, voluntary health organizations, federal agencies, foundations and more. The amount of research funding has increased from last year’s record-breaking margin by $28.7 million and makes this year the seventh straight year that research funding has exceeded half a billion dollars.

    Who is this money actually going to?

    The department that will receive most of this funding is the Feinberg School of Medicine, currently ranked the 17th best medical school in the country by US News. Much of that funding comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. It provided $362 million in grants. The funding provided to the McCormick School of Engineering did not increase while the funding provided to the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences actually decreased. According to Northwestern, 3,482 grant proposals that would amount to a total of $2.5 billion were submitted this fiscal year.

    Grizzly bears are in danger due to climate change.

    Courtesy of Gary Lackie

    But I thought polar bears were the ones going extinct?

    While polar bears are facing the harsh realities of climate change, their close relative the grizzly bear will also suffer from the impacts of an increasing global temperature. Hibernation is an imperative period of time for these animals; however, that period may be cut short due to climate change. Grizzly bears may have to reduce the length of time they hibernate due to more temperate weather and a greater abundance of food that is not typically available during late fall or winter.

    Why does it matter? I never get enough sleep and I’m doing just fine.

    The hibernation period is an integral part of the lives of grizzly bears. It allows them to rest and consume less food during a time when the elements can be most perilous. Cubs are protected in the safety of the caves in which their parents choose to hibernate. If cubs are hastily forced to face the outside world due to climate change, they may be more susceptible to threats such as humans or other bears. This could have significant, negative impacts on the grizzly bear population.

    A fossilized dinosaur brain has been identified for the first time.

    How was it discovered and identified?

    While walking along a beach in East Sussex, England, a man came across a partial fragment of fossilized dinosaur brain. Paleontologists examined the fossil, likely around 130 million years old, paleontologists said just two days after its discovery. They were able to find evidence of small blood vessels and collagen fibers. The paleontologists believe that the brain may have belonged to an Iguanodon or a creature like it. A photo of it can be found here.

    Does this mean we can finally make Jurassic Park a reality?

    Unfortunately, no. The brain is just like any other fossil and cannot be used to produce synthetic dinosaurs. However, this finding is giving archaeologists hope that there is much more to discover beneath the topsoil. It is also incentivizing them to more carefully examine fossils they have already unearthed. It is possible that fossilized brain matter could have been mistaken for bone. The next fossil that holds the next breakthrough to better understanding the prehistoric world may simply be gathering dust in a drawer, but paleontologists now have more motivation to keep on digging.


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