You may have missed – cosmetic surgery, thylacine RNA, sterilised planets

Low self-compassion + social media = increase in cosmetic surgery 

Regular social media use can lead women to excessive self-judgement and consideration of cosmetic surgery, a behavioural science study has found.  

The University of South Australia studied about 200 women aged 18-29 to understand social media use and attitudes towards cosmetic procedures.  

Of these participants, about a sixth had already undergone a procedure, and half indicated they would consider one in the future. About a third ruled out having surgery. 

A higher use of social media was correlated with greater acceptance of cosmetic surgery and negative self-compassion. 

“We found that young women who over-identify with personal attributes that they believe are not attractive, are more likely to feel bad about themselves and despite recognising this, can’t seem to break away from these negative thoughts,” says lead researcher Lauren Conboy. “Over-identification was the most important predictor of positive attitudes towards cosmetic surgery. 

“In Australia, young adults are among the greatest users of social networking sites, so their exposure to unrealistic body ideals is high. Not surprisingly, the increase in social media use has been accompanied by an increase in young women having cosmetic surgery.” 

A thylacine specimen at the natural history museum in vienna
A thylacine specimen at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Credit: GoleGole

Thylacine RNA recovered in Sweden 

The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) is the first extinct animal to have its RNA recovered by scientists.  

Stockholm University researchers extracted 130-year-old samples of RNA from a thylacine pelt kept in a Swedish museum collection.  

In doing so, they have now decoded specific genes responsible for creating muscle and skin tissues. This is an important step forward on the controversial road towards restoring dead species, research of which is still in its infancy. Reporting on the experiment is published in Genome Research.  

While it’s not suggested this advance will suddenly bring the species back from the dead, the researchers indicate their methods could help further genetic research of extinct animals, such as mammoths.  

“Resurrecting the Tasmanian tiger or the woolly mammoth is not a trivial task, and will require a deep knowledge of both the genome and transcriptome regulation of such renowned species, something that only now is starting to be revealed”, says Dr Emilio Mármol Sánchez, a palaeogeneticist who led the study.  

Average monthly surface air temperature for earth in 250 million years in the future if all the continents come together to form the next supercontinent (pangea ultima)
Average monthly surface air temperature for Earth in 250 million years in the future if all the continents come together to form the next supercontinent (Pangea Ultima). Credit: Alex Farnsworth

If humanity survives climate change and asteroid strikes, this is what will get us 

Nearly all mammals on Earth will be wiped out, say Bristol University researchers

Fortunately, it won’t be for another 250 million years. 

The reason isn’t climate change or a huge meteor, but rather the smashing together of the world’s continents to form a new supercontinent – Pangea Ultima. 

Using supercomputers to model the supercontinent, the study published in Nature Geoscience simulates the movement of the continents as a result of tectonic patterns over million-year timescales. These shifts will result in more volcanic eruptions spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the same time, the gradual brightening of the sun during this massive timescale will create a planet that is all but uninhabitable without evolutionary adaptations for most mammals on the planet today. 

“The newly-emerged supercontinent would effectively create a triple whammy, comprising the continentality effect, hotter sun and more CO2 in the atmosphere, increasing heat for much of the planet,” says lead researcher, Dr Alexander Farnsworth. “The result is a mostly hostile environment devoid of food and water sources for mammals.” 

In Pangea Ultima, temperatures would range from 40-50°C every day, combined with high humidity, making it almost impossible for humans as we are today to function.  

“Humans – along with many other species – would expire due to their inability to shed this heat through sweat, cooling their bodies,” says Farnsworth. 

Illustration looking towards trappist-1 (the star), showing several planets in silhouette
This illustration shows what the TRAPPIST-1 system of planets. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Potentially habitable exoplanet’s atmospheric revelation bad news for life 

Canadian researchers have peered at an Earth-sized exoplanet 40 light years away to try and understand the nature of its atmosphere.  

While several exoplanets occupy the habitable zone surrounding the star TRAPPIST 1, at least one of them – TRAPPIST 1b – has no atmosphere. The study led by scientists from Université de Montréal and published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters used the James Webb Space Telescope to make spectroscopic observations of the star system. The likely absence of an atmosphere, however, does not rule out the possibility one had previously been there, according to one of the study’s co-authors Professor Nicolas Cowan of McGill University. 

“[TRAPPIST-1] might have sterilised all of its planets billions of years ago, when they were young,” he says.  

“This is why it is so important to study these planets with JWST: they could be habitable or they could be airless rocks. Secondly, red dwarf stars are more spotty and have more flares than stars like the Sun. This makes it extra hard to know whether we’re actually detecting a terrestrial exoplanet’s atmosphere, or just seeing stellar contamination in our data. We really need intensive observations of this star in order to make sense of the transit spectra we are obtaining with JWST.” 

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