Mike McRae
Mike McRae
Mike McRae is a part-time Journalist at ScienceAlert. He has been telling science stories in one form or another for more than 20 years, and expertly navigates a broad range of subjects, from health and neuroscience to the weirdness of quantum physics.Source
Canberra, Australia
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We Just Found an 11-Million-Year-Old Ancestor That Hints How Humans Began to Walk

We Just Found an 11-Million-Year-Old Ancestor That Hints How Humans Began to Walk

The fact we can confidently balance on top of a pair of meat-sticks without toppling over is the very symbol of human evolution. Yet just how we came to stand upright in the first place remains a hotly debated topic. Now we have a new piece in the puzzle. Recently discovered fossils left by a relative who lived during the Miocene some 11.6 million years ago has provided compelling new evidence that our journey onto open ground could be compared to a toddler learning to walk, rather than a baby rising from a crawl. Thanks to an assortment of well-preserved hominid bones uncovered from a...

November 7, 2019
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Dust From Asteroid That Ended Dinosaur Reign Closes Case on Impact Extinction Theory

Dust From Asteroid That Ended Dinosaur Reign Closes Case on Impact Extinction Theory

Having dominated the planet's surface for hundreds of millions of years, dinosaur diversity came to a dramatic conclusion some 66 million years ago at the hot end of an impact with what is today Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. It's a theory  that it's hard to imagine any room for doubt remains that this is indeed what happened. Were it a cold case, it'd be rubber-stamped and filed under 'Solved' by now.But scientists are a nitpicky bunch, and a tiny gap in the chain of evidence linking signs of a global apocalypse with the scene of the crime has been begging to be closed.An international team...

Feb 28
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In a Mind-Bending New Paper, Physicists Give Schrodinger's Cat a Cheshire Grin

In a Mind-Bending New Paper, Physicists Give Schrodinger's Cat a Cheshire Grin

"I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice. "But a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"It's an experience eminent physicist can relate to. Together with fellow Israeli physicist Daniel Rohrlich, he's shown theoretically how a particle might show its face in a corner of an experiment without needing its body anywhere in sight. To be more precise, their analysis argues information could be transferred between two points without an exchange of particles.The theory dates  when researchers based in the US and Saudi Arabia suggested a kind of...

Dec 12
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Groundbreaking New Laser System Cuts Through Earth's Atmosphere Like It's Nothing

Groundbreaking New Laser System Cuts Through Earth's Atmosphere Like It's Nothing

To artists and romantics, the twinkling of stars is visual poetry; a dance of distant light as it twists and bends through a turbulent ocean of air above our heads.Not everybody is so enamoured with our atmosphere's distortions. To many scientists and engineers, a great deal of research and ground-to-satellite communication would be a whole lot easier if the air simply wasn't there. Losing our planet's protective bubble of gases isn't exactly a popular option. But Australian and French researchers have teamed up to design the next best thing – a system that guides light through the...

Jan 23
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Scientists Warn of an 'Imminent' Stratospheric Warming Event Around The North Pole

Scientists Warn of an 'Imminent' Stratospheric Warming Event Around The North Pole

Every winter in the Northern Hemisphere, a cold wind circles the North Pole like water around a drain. It's an annual weather pattern meteorologists keep an anxious eye on – any significant changes could suggest Europe is in for a serious cold snap. Right now, that wind is ripping in two. Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter, and Bath have come up with a new way to predict the knock-on effects of various changes to this major air current high up in the , 10 to 50 kilometres (6 to 30 miles) overhead.Ironically, the cause of this chill is a sudden burst of heat seeping into...

Jan 12
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Our Cells Have a Mysterious 'Quantum Sense'. For The First Time, Scientists See It in Action

Our Cells Have a Mysterious 'Quantum Sense'. For The First Time, Scientists See It in Action

Seeing our world through the eyes of a migratory bird would be a rather spooky experience. Something about their visual system allows them to 'see' our planet's magnetic field, a clever trick of quantum physics, and biochemistry that helps them navigate vast distances. Now, for the first time ever, scientists from the University of Tokyo have directly observed a hypothesised to be behind birds', and many other creatures', talents for sensing the direction of the planet's poles.Importantly, this is evidence of quantum physics directly affecting a biochemical reaction in a cell – something...

Jan 9
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Genes in The Placenta Appear to Determine a Baby's Risk of Developing Schizophrenia

Genes in The Placenta Appear to Determine a Baby's Risk of Developing Schizophrenia

After tracing the origins of to genes while in utero, scientists have now zeroed in on the combination of risk factors that could predict which infants are at greatest risk of developing the condition later in life. The findings of schizophrenia as a genetic disorder, with a fate determined by complications that can arise during pregnancy. Researchers from the Lieber Institute for Brain Development at Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina in the US analysed the relationship between key genes and cognitive development in the first few years after birth. "By...

Feb 10
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Scientists Capture Incredibly Rare Footage of Deep-Sea Fish Devouring a Whole Shark

Scientists Capture Incredibly Rare Footage of Deep-Sea Fish Devouring a Whole Shark

Feasts are rare on the barren landscape of the ocean depths. So researchers couldn't believe their luck when they stumbled on a feeding frenzy of deep-sea sharks chowing down on a fallen off the US coast in July 2019. But they never imagined they would also capture footage of one of those sharks becoming the prey for another deep-sea creature.With their rover hovering nearby, a late arrival took advantage of the submersible's shadow. Nobody might blame a wary fish for holding back while ravenous sharks feed, but this heavyweight had plans to turn one of the diners into its dinner. by the US...

Dec 12
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Geologists Think They've Found an Alaskan Version of Yellowstone's Supervolcano

Geologists Think They've Found an Alaskan Version of Yellowstone's Supervolcano

Mount Cleveland looks like the kind of volcano you made for a grade four science project and filled with vinegar and bicarb. More geological zit than powder keg, it pops and oozes every decade or so to thicken its igneous skin. There are five more like it nearby, making up what's known as the . Today, most of them are quiet. But geologists are wondering if together this innocent cluster of volcanoes far from the Alaskan mainland represents something far more Earth-shattering.Researchers from institutions across the US are set to at the at American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2020 , arguing that...

Dec 6
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More Than 500 Genes Linking Depression And Anxiety Discovered in New Study

More Than 500 Genes Linking Depression And Anxiety Discovered in New Study

Find any two people with a diagnosis of , and there's  one of them will also experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.While the triggers for each condition are undoubtedly complex, it's clear the  can play a strong part in setting us up for a lifetime of bad mental health. A new study led by researchers from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia has now identified 509 genes shared by both psychiatric disorders.Studies to identify genes associated with mood disorders and have uncovered a vast library of candidates in the past. But most of these are like...

Apr 17
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