The mountain that moved

Heart Mountain in Wyoming was part of a 100-km long mountain range, but somehow became detached and moved about 100 km to the southwest.

heart mountain (photo credit: )
heart mountain
(photo credit: )
'Moving mountains" means doing the impossible. Yet at least once in the past, one mountain in fact moved a good distance. This took place around 50 million years ago, in the area of the present-day border between Montana and Wyoming. Heart Mountain was part of a 100-km long mountain range, but somehow became detached and moved about 100 km to the southwest. This "migrating mountain" has garnered interest from geologists and geophysicists around the world, who have tried to solve the mystery behind the largest known instance of land movement on the face of any continent. Dr. Einat Aharonov of the Weizmann Institute's environmental sciences and energy research department, working in collaboration with Dr. Mark Anders of New York's Columbia University, recently published a paper in Geologythat offers an explanation. Their explanation is based on dikes - vertical cracks in rock that fill with hot lava boiling up from deep in the earth. In Heart Mountain, these dikes formed a 3-km deep passage for the lava, through the limestone aquifer (a porous, water-soaked layer). There, the sizzling lava would have heated the water to extreme temperatures, causing tremendous pressure. The scientists developed a mathematical model - based on the number of dikes in the mountain and their structure - that allowed them to calculate the temperature and pressure that would have been created deep within the base of the mountain. The results showed that the hot lava would have turned the water in the aquifer into a sort of giant pressure cooker, releasing enough force to move Heart Mountain to its present site. SCRATCH MY BACK, I'LL SCRATCH YOURS It was once thought that only humans gestured to direct another person's attention, but such "referential" gesturing was recently observed in wild chimpanzees. Anthropology Prof. John Mitani of the University of Michigan and colleagues observed male chimps habitually using "directed scratches" to request grooming of specific areas on the body. The findings suggest that our closest living relatives may be capable of mental-state attribution; making inferences about the knowledge of others. Up until now, scientists saw directed scratching only in captive chimps and language-trained apes who interacted with humans. "The more we learn, the more we see chimpanzees employing remarkable, seemingly human-like behaviors," Mitani says. To reach their conclusions, Pika and Mitani studied the social grooming habits of male chimps in the Ngogo community in Uganda's Kibale National Park. During observation, male chimps routinely scratched a certain spot on themselves in view of their grooming partner, usually in a loud, exaggerated manner. In the majority of cases (64 percent) the groomer responded immediately by moving to groom the exact spot the gesturer had just scratched, Mitani said. The behavior appeared often between males with strong social bonds, and Mitani surmised that further study might reveal that males who don't display such friendly relations do not engage in the behavior as often. They observed male chimps because they groom each other more frequently than females do. MATH ROBOTS High school pupils who learn robotics improve their general performance at school - and this is more true in girls than in boys. This was reported at a recent conference on robotics organized by ORT educational Institutions, Tel Aviv University and the Engineers' Bureau. Studying the methodology involved in studying, building and operating robots for a year significantly improved the pupils' abilities in mathematics (as shown by matriculation scores in the six ORT schools involved) compared to pupils who didn't work with robots. The study was conducted by TAU engineering doctoral student Eli Kolberg under the supervision of Prof. Yoram Reich and Prof. Ilya Levine of the university's engineering faculty. ORT, established in 1949, now includes almost 160 educational institutions around the country. EMPATHIC MICE A new study at Canada's McGill University shows that the capacity for empathy - previously suspected but unproven even among higher primates - is also evident in lower mammals. In research published recently in Science, psychology Prof. Jeffrey Mogil and colleagues discovered that mice which were familiar to each other and able to see one another in pain were themselves more sensitive to pain than those tested alone. The results, which for the first time show a form of "emotional contagion" between animals, sheds light on how social factors can play a role in pain management. The findings are unprecedented not only in what they tell us about animals, but may ultimately be relevant to understanding pain in humans. "Since we know that social interaction plays an important role in chronic pain behavior," Mogil said, "then the mechanism underlying such effects can now be elucidated to explain why we are so affected by those around us." HAPPY PHOTO FINISH If you feel blue, try looking through family albums. It has been found in a new British study to make people happier than eating chocolate, listening to music, watching TV or drinking an alcoholic beverage. Psychologist Peter Naish of the Open University found that viewing photographs consistently improved the mood of 11% of the subjects in mood-measuring tests, while groups that tried to eat, listen, watch or drink their way to happiness registered just a 1% increase. Looking at photos of the people you love and sights you've seen not only improves mood, but also induces relaxation, brightness, calmness and alertness, and even strengthens one's sense of being valued. Naish said he had thought looking at photo albums would be beneficial, but was amazed by its ability to produce shifts in specific factors.