First-Time Comet Perishes
Comet ISON broke up as it passed the sun, its remnants a fading shadow of its former glory
Richard A. Kerr
How the Whale Became the Whale
Minke whale genome provides clues to how cetaceans have evolved to live in their watery world
Can plants grow on the moon? NASA plans test in 2015
A Window Into Your Veins
Researchers combine two techniques to better monitor blood flow and prevent obstructions
'Language Gene' Has a Partner
Researchers identify new player in pathway that may have given humans the gift of gab
The Milky Way Does the Wave
Motions of stars in our galactic neighborhood are more complicated than previously recognized
The First False Teeth
Hard parts of ancient eel-like creatures weren’t teeth after all
A New Way to Grow Quasicrystals
Until Daniel Shechtman came along, chemists defined crystals as materials in which atoms are arranged in a regular pattern that repeats itself
Robert F. Service
(Very) Early Bloomers
Fossilized pollen offers a new date for the first flowering plants
Corals, in Panoramic View
New "Global Reef Record" reveals world’s coral reefs to virtual divers
Rewired nerves control robotic leg
The power of thought alone is not enough to move inanimate objects — unless the object is a robotic leg wired to your brain, that is.
Erika Check Hayden
Earth's history to be rewritten
New research results provide evidence that the dating of a so-called “Great Oxygenation Event” needs a 700- million-year backwards recalibration.
In water as in love, likes can attract
A research team led by Berkeley Lab chemist Richard Saykally and theorist David Prendergast, working at the Advanced Light Source (ALS), has shown that, when hydrated in water, positively charged ions (cations) can actually pair up with one another
Understanding a new kind of magnetism
Using low-frequency laser pulses, a team of researchers has carried out the first measurements that reveal the detailed characteristics of a unique kind of magnetism found in a mineral called herbertsmithite
Девід Л. Чандлер
Lucy's Svelte Look
Well-studied skeleton cast in new light thanks to fleshed-out fossil record
Machinery of Life
Natural gears keep leafhopper legs moving like clockwork
How to regrow your head
Single gene switch makes worms regenerate their whole bodies from their tails
A GPS for Hurricanes
Satellite signals bouncing off ocean waves can help measure wind speeds in massive storms
Cheap, color, holographic video: Better holographic video displays
Yesterday in the journal Nature, researchers at MIT's Media Lab reported a new approach to generating holograms that could lead to color holographic-video displays that are much cheaper to manufacture than today's experimental, monochromatic displays.
Invasive Snails Protect Their Young With Odd Poison
Few predators will touch the hot pink eggs
Many kinds of snails are invading ecosystems all over the world, but the apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) has a unique advantage: Almost no predators will eat its eggs. That's because the bright pink objects (pictured) are filled with a neurotoxin that scares off every predator except for red fire ants. Now, researchers have discovered that the neurotoxin, called PcPV2, is unusual for animals. First, it's a so-called AB toxin, which is used by plants and bacteria. And second, the apple snail creates it in an unprecedented way, combining a pair of molecules that resemble those belonging to the immune system of other animals. As for the embryonic snails, cocooned in a toxic egg, they are equipped with enzymes that can degrade the neurotoxin and use it for nutrition during development, researchers reported last week in PLOS ONE. No one knows how the ants survive.
Models from big molecules captured in a flash
To learn how biological molecules like proteins function, scientists must first understand their structures. Almost as important is understanding how the structures change, as molecules in the native state do their jobs.
Minerals From Beyond
Some lunar deposits may be left over from impacting asteroids
New method for producing clean hydrogen
Duke University engineers have developed a novel method for producing clean hydrogen, which could prove essential to weaning society off of fossil fuels and their environmental implications.
The Inner Lives of Caterpillars
Scientists use high-resolution scanning technique to peer inside developing butterfly
Shhh, the Plants Are Talking
Study suggests plants may have a surprising way to communicate
Tiny robot flies like a fly
Engineers create first device able to mimic full range of insect flight
Egypt's King Khufu's harbour in Suez discovered
French-Egyptian archaeological mission discover the oldest commercial harbour from fourth dynasty Egyptian King Khufu at Wadi Al-Jarf area, 180 km south of Suez
Kepler spies water worlds
Pair of exoplanets sit in habitable zone of star far beyond the Solar System
A New Class of Supernova
These exploding stars are fainter, less energetic than typical supernovae
Seven Sexes on the Menu
Random arrangement of DNA determines whether microbe will be one of seven mating types
Cassini returns images of battered Saturn Moon
Following its last close flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured these raw, unprocessed images of the battered icy moon.
Jia-Rui C. Cook
'Franken-Tadpoles' See With Eyes on Their Backs
Researchers have found a way to transplant an eyeball onto a blind tadpole's spine that confers some degree of vision—the first evidence that functional sight can occur so far from the brain
Lost Land Beneath the Waves
The Indian Ocean and some of its islands, scientists say, may lie on top of the remains of an ancient continent pulled apart by plate tectonics between 50 million and 100 million years ago.
'Language Gene' More Active in Young Girls Than Boys
Scientists studying a gene linked to the evolution of vocalizations and language have for the first time found clear sex differences in its activity in both rodents and humans, with the gene making more of its protein in girls
Mussel Glue Could Help Repair Birth Defects
When it comes to hanging on tight, the lowly mussel has few rivals in nature. Researchers have sought the secrets behind the bivalve's steadfast grip on wet, slippery rock.
Do plants 'veto' bad genes?
Latest evidence fails to quell doubt about whether plants can access 'ancestral' genes outside their parents' DNA.
2013 – International Year of Water Cooperation
The objective of this International Year is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services.
Printed embryonic stem cells
Scientists 3D-print embryonic stem cells, pave the way for lab-made organ transplants
Genes mix faster than stories
Folk tales' 'DNA' shows that people would sooner have sex with strangers than tell their fables
How to Survive a Siberian Winter
A new study of indigenous Siberian peoples presented here earlier this month at a meeting on human evolution reveals how natural selection helped people adapt to the frigid north.
Axons' unexpected cytoskeleton structure
Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have discovered that periodic ring-shaped actin arrangements encircle the long axonal fibers of nerve cells
Can You Smell Yourself?
You might not be able to pick your fingerprint out of an inky lineup, but your brain knows what you smell like.
Sarah C. P. Williams
A material that most liquids won't wet
A nanoscale coating that's at least 95 percent air repels the broadest range of liquids of any material in its class, causing them to bounce off the treated surface, according to the University of Michigan engineering researchers who developed it.
From the Amazon rainforest to human body cells: Quantifying stability
When the world's largest tropical forest suddenly starts retreating in a warming climate, energy supply blacks out, or cells turn carcinogenic, complex-systems science understands this as a transition between two stable states. These transitions are obviously unwanted.
Earliest evidence of life found: 3.49 billion years ago
A group of US researchers studying some of the oldest rocks in the world in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, say they have found the oldest traces of life on Earth, dated at 3.49 billion years old.
Simple Physics May Limit the Size of Leaves
The narrow size range may have a simple explanation in the inner plumbing of trees, researchers say. If it's correct, the analysis would also explain why the tallest trees top out at about 100 meters.
Memory molecule dethroned
Two studies refute an enzyme’s essential role in remembering and forgetting.
Research shows rapid warming on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
In a discovery that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.
Pam Frost Gorder
Common physics among black holes
What we're seeing is that once any black hole produces a jet, the same fixed fraction of energy generates the gamma-ray light we observe with Fermi and Swift
Self-filling water bottle takes cues from desert beetle
Biomimicry is the term given to using nature as an inspiration for sustainable technology ideas, and a young company has joined the biomimicry brigade with its prototype self filling water bottle, which mimics the Namib desert beetle.
It Just Smells
Olfactory equivalent of white noise has no particular scent
A better route to xylan
Researchers find new access to abundant biomass for advanced biofuels
A Wet Way to Better Burning?
Researchers in New York state report creating a new long-lived catalyst that uses the energy in sunlight to generate hydrogen gas, a carbon-free fuel
Robert F. Service
Hopes linger for Mars methane
But negative signal from the Curiosity rover raises questions about planned European mission
ORCID - Connecting Research and Researchers
ORCID is an open, non-profit, community-based effort to create and maintain a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers.
Family tree links all 10,000 types of birds
The most comprehensive family tree for birds yet connects all living bird species — nearly 10,000 in total — and reveals surprising new details about their origins
Oceans Getting Too Hot to Handle?
Up to one-third of tropical phytoplankton could be pushed out of tropical latitudes by 2100, the authors estimate.
Jane J. Lee
Assembly of nano-machines mimics human muscle
For the first time, an assembly of thousands of nano-machines capable of producing a coordinated contraction movement extending up to around ten micrometers, like the movements of muscular fibers, has been synthesized by a CNRS team from the Institut Charles Sadron.
Astronomy digest: Planets of October
October was very fruitful for exoplanets: this month, astronomers announced such extraordinary events as the “super-diamond”, four-suns’ planet, compact solar system and the exoplanet next door. Here we offer our readers to make a glance on these amazing facts.
Magnetic nanoparticles used to control thousands of cells simultaneously
Using clusters of tiny magnetic particles about 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have shown that they can manipulate how thousands of cells divide, morph and develop finger-like extensions.
Symmetry breaking during flapping generates lift
Tiny cilia that circle the sea slug's body in three bands may flap passively and assist in movement. In this mode, the cilia are inert – unable to move themselves – and scientists don't fully understand what role they play in the sea slug's locomotion
Picking an ancient brain
Traces of an early arthropod’s neural tissue might be evidence of a long-running evolutionary arms race
Scientists Identify Mammal Model of Bladder Regeneration
While it is well known that starfish, zebrafish and salamanders can re-grow damaged limbs, scientists understand very little about the regenerative capabilities of mammals. Now, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine report on the regenerative process that enables rats to re-grow their bladders within eight weeks.
Physicists extend special relativity beyond the speed of light
Over the past 100 years, numerous experimental tests of special relativity have confirmed its validity. Now two physicists – James Hill and Barry Cox from the University of Adelaide in Australia – have shown that Einstein's theory of special relativity can be logically extended to allow for faster-than-light motion.
Cows of the Cretaceous
The hadrosaurids, or duck-billed dinosaurs, were among the most successful plant-eating dinos to roam the earth. They ranged widely in North America, Europe, and Asia during the Upper Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago to 65 million years ago. What was the secret to their success?
Bingo! Ancient Rushing Water on Mars
Billions of years ago, enough water flowed down from the rim of Gale crater to carry gravel to the middle of the crater floor
Richard A. Kerr
Animals engineered with pinpoint accuracy
More accurate genetic modification has created allergen-free cow's milk and pigs that could serve as a model for atherosclerosis
Hungry Monkeys Not Living Longer
A major study designed to determine whether caloric restriction works in primates suggests that it improves monkeys' health but doesn't extend their lives.
What Time Is It on Your Circadian Clock?
A Japanese group has come up with an alternative method of determining internal body time by constructing what it calls a molecular timetable based on levels in blood samples of more than 50 metabolites.
Voyager at 35: Break on through to the other side
Thirty-five years ago today, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, the first Voyager spacecraft to launch, departed on a journey that would make it the only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune and the longest-operating NASA spacecraft ever.
Changing Bodies but Not Personalities
What if your entire body changed as you aged, transforming you into a completely unrecognizable creature? Would you retain the personality of your youth? A new study in frogs suggests that you would.
Researcher use robot arm to print 3D sand structures
Researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia have built a programmable robot arm with a nozzle for a hand that allows for building structures out of sand mixed with water and binding agents, using a 3D printing technique.
Extreme plasma theories put to the test
The first controlled studies of extremely hot, dense matter have overthrown the widely accepted 50-year-old model used to explain how ions influence each other’s behavior in a dense plasma.
7 minutes of terror
The Curiosity rover prepares to plunge down to Mars
Plants to express human proteins
Plants are emerging as important biotechnology tools for the production of highly purified recombinant proteins. The Plastomics network dissected the process of foreign gene insertion into plants and their potential use as protein production reservoirs.
On the Same Plane
Scientists have discovered a distant solar system very much like our own, in which the orbits of all known planets lie in nearly the same plane and are aligned with the star's rotation.
Photovoltaics from any semiconductor
A technology that would enable low-cost, high efficiency solar cells to be made from virtually any semiconductor material has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratoryand the University of California Berkeley.
An Electric Car That Actually Goes Far?
So far, lithium-air batteries have been unstable, falling apart after a few charges. Now researchers report that they've made the first stable lithium-air batteries.
Robert F. Service
How to Paint the Moon
Lunar swirls—wispy splotches of lighter surface material tens of kilometers across—were enigmatic enough when first seen from Earth.
Richard A. Kerr
A magnetic monster’s dual personality
A second member of a rare breed of dead, spinning star has been identified thanks to an armada of space-based X-ray telescopes, including ESA’s XMM-Newton
Genes Suggest Three Groups Peopled the New World
Now the most comprehensive genetic study to date concludes that Native Americans do indeed descend from at least three groups of ancestors from Asia.
New way to generate terahertz radiation
Ehsan Afshari has developed a new method using the familiar and inexpensive CMOS chip technology, generating power levels high enough for some medical applications.
A Shotgun for Blood Clots
Researchers have designed a clump of tiny particles that rides the current of the bloodstream, seeks out life-threatening blood clots, and obliterates them.
Krystnell A. Storr
Poof! Planet-Forming Disk Vanishes Into Thin Air
Some 460 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, a thick disk of dust swirled around a young star named TYC 8241 2652 1, where rocky planets like our own were arising.
World's first single atom photo
In an international scientific breakthrough, a Griffith University research team has been able to photograph the shadow of a single atom for the first time.
Extensive water in Mars' interior
Scientists found that the amount of water in places of the Martian mantle is vastly larger than previous estimates and is similar to that of Earth's.
Rapid test uses origami technology
Complex laboratory investigations do produce reliable results, but they are not useful for point-of-care diagnostics. Biosensors based on paper are an interesting alternative.
Don't Go Into the Light
The Chilean wineberry has to make a tough choice: soak up the sun and chance being eaten, or shun the light and risk starving to death.
Krystnell A. Storr
Fuel Cell Runs on Brain Power
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed an implantable glucose fuel cell that can generate electricity from the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain.
Compact and flexible thermal storage
This new system can store three to four times the amount of heat that water can, so it only requires storage containers around a quarter the size of water tanks
Fuel cells operating directly on ethanol
Researchers at the Center for Energy Research at UC San Diego recently demonstrated the best performance for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) operating directly on ethanol without external reformation.
Fruitfly development, cell by cell
Multidirectional imaging of embryos allows researchers to track development of fruitflies in real time.
Friction almost vanishes in microscale graphite
In the phenomenon of superlubricity, two solid surfaces can slide past each other with almost no friction. The effect occurs when the solid surfaces have crystalline structures and their lattices are rotated in such a way as to cancel out the friction force.
Hide-and-Seek Goes Virtual
The researchers were surprised to discover that people tend not to search in places where they might normally hide something, findings that could lead to better ways to suss out where terrorists and criminals have hidden bombs or contraband.
Charles Q. Choi
A new way to discover pulsars
A team led by postdoctoral researcher Matthew Kerr of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), and Columbia University radio astronomer Fernando Camilo is reporting the use of new techniques for hunting pulsars.
Hubble Sees A Spiral Within a Spiral
One interesting feature of this galaxy is that its spiral arms wind all the way into the center, so that ESO 498-G5's core looks like a bit like a miniature spiral galaxy.
ESA/Hubble & NASA
Making microscopic machines using metallic glass
Researchers in Ireland have developed a new technology using materials called bulk metallic glasses to produce high-precision molds for making tiny plastic components.
Why great ideas come when you aren’t trying
History is rich with 'eureka' moments: scientists from Archimedes to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are said to have had flashes of inspiration while thinking about other things. But the mechanisms behind this psychological phenomenon have remained unclear.
Electronics Go Viral
A team of researchers has harnessed bacteria-infecting viruses to generate power by converting mechanical energy into electricity.
Robert F. Service
New nanostructure for batteries keeps going and going
A team led by materials scientist Yi Cui of Stanford and SLAC has found a solution: a cleverly designed double-walled nanostructure that lasts more than 6,000 cycles, far more than needed by electric vehicles or mobile electronics
Brain Implants Help Paralyzed Monkeys Get a Grip
By implanting electrodes in a movement control center in the brain and wiring them up to electrodes attached to muscles in the arm, researchers restored movement to monkeys with a temporarily paralyzed hand
NASA showcases method to grow algae-based biofuels
NASA recently showcased the latest research and technology development a method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and ultimately produce feedstock for refining biofuels without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer, or land.
Research team uses nanoparticles to make paper waterproof and magnetic
Researchers at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genoa, led by Roberto Cingolani, have devised a means for connecting cellulose fibers in ordinary paper with nanoparticles resulting in new desired properties, such as paper that is waterproof and magnetic, florescent or averse to bacteria.
Opioid receptors revealed
Two more structures join the parade of once-intractable proteins
Million-year-old ash hints at origins of cooking
Ash found in a South African cave hints that humans were cooking with fire one million years ago. The discovery is the earliest evidence yet found for use of this revolutionary technology, say the researchers behind the finding. But some experts caution that more proof is needed before we conclude that humans were cooking regularly at this date.
TARA OCEANS completes 60 000-mile journey to map marine biodiversity
HEIDELBERG, 27 March 2012 – The two-and-a-half-year TARA OCEANS expedition finishes on 31 March when the ship and crew reach Lorient, France. The arrival completes a journey of 60 000 miles across all the world’s major oceans to sample and investigate microorganisms in the largest ecosystem on the planet, reports Eric Karsenti in an editorial published today in Molecular Systems Biology.
European Union invests in flying cars
Through a project named myCopter, the European Union is investing €4.2 million to research the potential of Personal Aerial Vehicles (PAVs) for Europe’s most crowded cities
Ants recall nearby rivals by their stink
Weaver ants share a collective memory for the odor of ants in rival nests, and use that information to identify them and compete
With hybrid genes, grapevines beat blight
With a hybrid gene, grapevines can better defend themselves against Pierce’s disease, which threatens California’s wine industry
Souped-up cyclotrons offer isotope remedy
Canada's Chalk River nuclear research reactor is one of the world's main sources of medical isotopes, but is scheduled to be shut down in 2016
Signs of autism seen in brain at 6 months
A new study has discovered significant differences in brain development between infants who go on to develop autism and those who do not
Meet 'Amasia,' the Next Supercontinent
Over the next few hundred million years, the Arctic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea will disappear, and Asia will crash into the Americas forming a supercontinent that will stretch across much of the Northern Hemisphere
Higgs signal gains strength
Latest analyses from the Large Hadron Collider boosts case for particle
Ocean sensors gauge pH on global scale
A team of researchers has reported results from the broadest worldwide study of ocean acidification—or pH level—to date
Plant enzyme works day and night shifts
Researchers have discovered a plant enzyme that switches from storing energy during the day to transporting energy in the roots at night
The great Arctic oil race begins
Conservationists fear spills in icy waters as Norway awards oil-production licences
Did You Know That Earth Is Getting Lighter Every Day?
Earth is getting 50,000 tonnes lighter every year, even while 40,000 tonnes of space dust fall on our planet's surface during the same period. So, why are we losing so much weight? You will be surprised
Piecing together a genetic puzzle
The results help piece together a puzzle on the biological processes of genes and cells, and in particular on cell division
Study measures mammalian growth spurt
It takes 24 million generations for mouse-sized mammals to evolve into elephants — but shrinking back is much faster
To Russia, With Love
Stephen J. O'Brien, has left the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Laboratory of Genomic Diversity after 25 years as its head to help jump-start genome bioinformatics at St. Petersburg University in Russia
Metal Puts a Crimp in Deadly Bacterial Toxin
Researchers now report that doses of the metal manganese neutralize the poison, possibly leading to the first treatment that halts its insidious effects
Mission Possible: Graphene
Winners of the Cyberscreen Science Film Festival at Science Online 2012
Victory for crowdsourced biomolecule design
Players of the online game Foldit guide researchers to a better enzymePlayers of the online game Foldit guide researchers to a better enzyme
Leap second granted extra time
Clocks around the world are routinely adjusted to keep them ticking in synchrony with the rising and setting of the Sun – but is that effort just a waste of time?
Cosmic race ends in a tie
The result, if it stands up to scrutiny, would tighten the limits, suggested by some theories, on how ‘lumpy’ space-time can be
Dung beetles get down to walk the line
The meticulous insects pirouette atop their dung balls to get their bearings and correct navigational errors
Death of a Comet Captured for First Time
By stringing together SDO images scientists for the first time directly witnessed the death of a comet as it unfolded
Life-long intelligence in the genes
Study tracks cognitive stability from childhood to old age and reveals extent of genetic influence
A Guide to the Dark Side
Astronomers have made the largest map yet of dark matter in the universe
By stopping misfolds, genes keep us healthy
Researchers have identified a set of genes that prevent protein misfolding, a condition linked to a range of disorders, including Alzheimer’s and cancer
Minnows may inherit ideal temperatures
Fish can be preconditioned to grow fastest in the same water temperature their parents experienced, say researchers
‘Time cloak’ makes event vanish
Researchers have demonstrated a “temporal cloak”—albeit on a very small scale—in the transport of information by a beam of light
Chemical in cosmetics stalls tadpole brain
Even very low concentrations of a chemical commonly used in cosmetics hinders brain development in tadpoles, new research shows
News in brief
Brazilian stingless bee, supermassive black hole and why so many monkey faces?
Chromosome Caps Predict Life Span in Birds
The birds with the longest telomeres—the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes—live the longest, according to a new study
Octopuses rewrite their RNA to beat the cold
An octopus dwelling in the frigid waters of the Antarctic doesn't wear gloves on its tentacles, but it has found another way to endure the cold
Some of week’s images
We've seen how much wild cats love the iPad, but now the great apes are getting in on the fun as well. And others
Hydrogel heals third-degree burns
A new jelly-like material appears to promote the repair of severe burns, regenerating healthy, scar-free tissue in early experiments with animals
Pigeons Ace a Simple Math Test
Pigeons can learn abstract numerical rules, a skill that scientists had believed only primates possessed
365 days: Images of the year
Flying rhinos and furious rats vie with graphene knots and space technology in 2011’s most striking pictures
A wake-up call for dormant genes
The silenced copy of a gene could be reactivated to treat the neurodevelopmental disorder Angelman syndrome
How bacteria break a magnet
A magnetosensing bacterium bends its internal magnet to weaken it before cell division
Video animation: RNA interference
This animation introduces the principles of RNAi involving small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs)
Detectors home in on Higgs boson
Hunt gathers momentum as range narrows and hints of a possible signal emerge
Eugenie Samuel Reich
Why Tuberculosis Is So Hard to Cure
When microbes divide, you usually get more of the same: A cell splits up and creates two identical copies of itself. But a new study shows that's not true for mycobacteria, which cause tuberculosis (TB) in humans—and that may explain why the disease is so difficult to treat
Standing Tall to Beat the Heat?
Stand upright, cool off. That's long been touted as one of the benefits of our ancestors becoming bipedal in a hot and sunny world
Don't Worry, Little Planet
How often do stars eat their young? Almost never, according to a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal
Lasers track nanotubes in living cells
A new imaging tool that tracks carbon nanotubes in living cells and the bloodstream could advance their use for biomedical research and clinical medicine
Eggs have own biological clock
Aging mechanisms in worms’ reproductive cells differ compared with rest of body
Tina Hesman Saey
Voyagers detect birth pains of stars
Ageing spacecraft confirm that Lyman-alpha radiation comes from stellar nurseries in the Milky Way
Richard A. Lovett
Short Chromosomes Linked to Fatigue in Elderly
Short of breath? Short chromosomes may be to blame. A new study of elderly twins finds that those with longer DNA than their siblings retained more strength and physical endurance past age 70
Physicists set limit on dark matter mass
Physicists studied the seven dwarf galaxies circled in white here, in a view of the universe from NASA's Fermi gamma-ray space telescope
In Yakutia well-preserved baby mammoth was found
In Yakutia, were found the remains of the mammoth-teen. The finding is a very interesting for researchers of all areas, because not only preserved skin and bones, and muscles, but some internal organs
How Sharks Go Fast
Researchers have discovered what makes the shark almost impossible to outswim
A sense-mixing condition in which people taste colors or see smells tends to run in families, and recent studies have homed in on a selection of genes that may contribute to the phenomenon
Transplanted Neurons Curb Obesity
Immature neurons transplanted into the brains of obesity-prone mice can prevent the animals from becoming so fat
Host neurons obey transplants
Neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells can control native neurons in mice. Transplanted human neurons, derived from embryonic stem cells, can integrate with a network of mouse neurons in culture and the mouse brain.
Study of Flower Petals Shows Evolution at the Cellular Level
A new study of flower petals shows evolution in action, and contradicts more that 60 years of scientific thought. The findings are reported by a scientist from UC Santa Barbara and a research team from Harvard University in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week
Light switched on and off with few photons
The passage of a light beam through an optical fiber can be controlled by just a few photons of another light beam, new research demonstrates
2M nanorods crammed into cancer cell
Chemists have found a way to load more than 2 million tiny gold particles called nanorods into a single cancer cell. The breakthrough could speed development of cancer treatments that would use nanorods like tiny heating elements to cook tumors from the inside
‘Blue blooded’ deer will be breed in Uzhorod
Uzhgorod will breed red deer. Local mass media reportув that the program is mainly aimed at increasing the animal population and their trophy characteristics, organizing hunting events with taking into consideration ecological-economic and social peculiarities, developing hunting tourism, preserving biological variety of wild hunting fauna of Zakarpattia region
Millipede of the Seas
What has at least 25 pairs of legs and can turn on a dime? That's a question researchers have been asking themselves ever since they uncovered a strange set of footprints in the Burgess Shale
Leonardo's Formula Explains Why Trees Don't Splinter
The graceful taper of a tree trunk into branches, boughs, and twigs is so familiar that few people notice what Leonardo da Vinci observed: A tree almost always grows so that the total thickness of the branches at a particular height is equal to the thickness of the trunk. Until now, no one has been able to explain why trees obey this rule. But a new study may have the answer
Superconductor may hide long-sought secret
A new kind of superconductor can’t make up its mind about how to conduct electricity. Current passes through its interior without any resistance, as in a typical superconductor. But its skin behaves like a metal, conducting electricity but with some resistance
Tyrannosaurs were power-walkers
The image of a Tyrannosaurus rex racing after a jeep in the 1993 film Jurassic Park inspired a generation's ideas about the extinct predator, but for decades studies have concluded that dinosaurs could not move quickly
Sickle-cell mystery solved
Researchers discover how carriers of the sickle-cell anaemia gene are protected from malaria
Fundamental Constant May Depend on Where in the Universe You Are
A fundamental physical constant akin to the charge of the electron or the speed of light may depend on where in the universe you are, a team of astronomers reported. If true, that observation would overturn scientists' basic assumption that the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe. Other researchers are skeptical, however
First brain image of a dream created
The contents of a person’s dream have been revealed by brain scan for the first time, scientists report in the Nov. 8 Current Biology. By monitoring the brain of a man who has unusual control over his dreaming, the accomplishment brings researchers closer to understanding how the brain spins its nightly yarns
Tooth stranger than fiction
Крихітний, але здавалося б, лютий представник нині вимерлої групи ссавців клади Dryolestoids існував за часів динозаврів ще 100 мільйонів років тому. Палеонтологи нещодавно познаходили рідкісні черепа та інші кістки цих істот в Аргентині
The origin of orbs
Spiders responsible for the majestic feats of architecture called orb webs may have evolutionarily diverged from a single weaver. Though modern-day spiders spin silken snares of many different shapes and sizes, arachnids belonging to the Orbiculariae taxon can most likely trace their ancestry to a web designer of the prehistoric kind
The Viking Sunstone Revealed?
The Norse sagas mention a mysterious "sunstone" used for navigation. Now a team of scientists claims that the sunstones could have been calcite crystals and that Vikings could have used them to get highly accurate compass readings even when the sun was hidden
Jumping Rope by the Numbers
The problem is not the child's play that it might seem. Ever since the 1940s, physicists have described the movement of slender structures through fluids—such as a jump rope through air—as a flat plane whose speed is limited by drag. But it was not known how jump rope bends in the wind
Nanoparticle solar cells make light work
A type of solar cell first discovered 20 years ago could finally become commercially viable thanks to improvements reported in Science. This alternative design could lead to cheap, printable cells that would massively boost the worldwide use of solar power
Modern Humans' First European Tour
Our species, born in Africa, trekked to the limits of Western Europe by at least 41,000 years ago—and so shared the continent with Neandertals for thousands of years, according to two new studies published online in Nature
Rice seed yields blood protein
In a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe rice seeds that can produce substantial quantities of a blood protein called human serum albumin, or HSA
Culprit behind bat scourge confirmed
Researchers have confirmed that a recently identified fungus is responsible for white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that is sweeping through bat colonies in eastern North America
More clues in the genetics of schizophrenia
Two of the largest studies yet carried out on the genetics of schizophrenia in Chinese populations have turned up three genetic loci, or chromosomal regions, previously not known to be related to the disease
Organ engineering: possibilities and challenges ahead
The STAM paper describes potential materials for the in vitro assembly of cells and vesicles. Examples include the use of thermoresponsive polymer-grafted surfaces—such as poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)—for the generation of cell sheets made of cardiac myocytes, hepatocytes, or periodontal ligament cells
Asia Research News
Early hunters: Pre-Clovis weapon found in US
The tip of a bone point fragment found embedded in a mastodon rib from an archaeological site in Washington state shows that hunters were present in North America at least 800 years before Clovis
Embryo - when (and where) arms, legs grow
Biologists have identified a protein that plays a critical role in how early embryos develop, ensuring arms and legs grow in the right place at the right time
No worries: Nanoparticles are nothing new
Nanoparticles—long thought to be potentially hazardous to human health—have in reality been forming naturally for as long as humans have used silver, copper, and other metals for tools and jewelry
The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow? Maybe Not
The worst mass extinction of all time did far more than nearly denude the planet of life. This vast catastrophe—probably triggered about 252 million years ago by massive eruptions of the Siberian Traps volcanoes—destabilized life on Earth so drastically, according to a new study, that ecological aftershocks continued to hinder the recovery of life on land for millions of years
Internet responsible for 2 per cent of global energy usage
How much energy does the internet use? It's hard to know where to start. There's the electricity consumed by the world's laptops, desktops and smart phones. Servers, routers and other networking equipment suck up more power. The energy required to manufacture these machines also needs to be included. Yet no one knows how many internet-enabled devices are out there, nor how long they are used before being replaced
Brazilian scientists fight for cut of oil royalties
Last week, as Brazil celebrated its 8th annual National Week of Science and Technology, the country's government dampened scientists' hopes for a guaranteed cut of oil royalties for science, technology, innovation and education
Imaging scope may lead to fewer biopsies
Researchers at Cornell University are developing prototypes of multiphoton endoscopes that can be used in clinical settings to directly image tissues or tumors. The latest prototype — 4 cm in length and 3 mm in diameter—is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Turn any surface (skin!) into touchscreen
A wearable projection system turns paper, walls, and even skin into an iPad-like touchscreen. This allows users to control interactive applications by tapping or dragging their fingers, much as they would with touchscreens found on smartphones or tablet computers
Cycads not ‘living fossils’
Once thought to be the last remaining members of a plant lineage that went extinct with the dinosaurs, modern-day cycads are now believed to have diverged from a more recent common ancestor
Warning on neural technique
A chemical marker that is commonly used to identify newly generated cells in the brain may be distorting the results of studies of neurogenesis, according to research published inThe Journal of Neuroscience
Ancestor with an electrifying sixth sense
About 96 percent of vertebrates—30,000 land animals (including humans) and roughly an equal number of fish—descend from a common ancestor with a sixth sense: electroreception
Live view of neural stem cells with MRI
Neural stem cells are born deep in an area of the brain called the subventricular zone. As time goes on, the cells, also called neuroblasts, make their way to other areas of the brain where they mature into functioning neurons. The brain’s ability to regenerate its cells is of great interest to scientists
Oxygen blew up ancient amoebas
Giant armor-clad amoebas that once swam Paleozoic seas may have owed their monstrous size to something in the water: oxygen. A new look at the fossil record suggests that a spike in oxygen levels supersized many species of these fusulinids
Breathing life into an extinct ethnicity
The Taínos were the first Native Americans to meet European explorers in the Caribbean. They soon fell victim to the diseases and violence brought by the outsiders, and today no Taínos remain
Equation explains forces that repel water, oil
A new equation is the first to predict the hydrophobic interactions of molecules. Such interactions explain why oil and water don’t mix, how proteins are structured, and what holds biological membranes together
Liver-disease mutation corrected in human stem cells
A team of researchers has corrected a faulty gene in induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells derived from skin cells of people with an inherited metabolic liver disease. The researchers then developed the stem cells into something resembling liver cells. Their work is published in Nature
What do pendulums and elastic film share?
A coupled line of swinging pendulums has nothing apparently in common with an elastic film that buckles and folds under compression while floating on a liquid, but scientists have discovered a connection between the two
Biomarker for Huntington’s disease identified
Scientists on the trail of treatments for Huntington’s disease may have found a way to track their success. A new study reports that patients with Huntington’s disease have higher levels of expression of a gene called H2AFY in their blood compared with healthy people
Sulphur gives battery 10x more storage
By combining sulfur-coated hollow carbon nanofibers and an electrolyte additive, researchers have designed a battery that overcomes the storage challenges of current lithium-ion versions
New clues to how body fights viruses
Researchers have determined the structure of a protein that is the first line of defense in fighting viral infections, including influenza, hepatitis C, West Nile, rabies, and measles
How to make transistors ‘body compatible’
Unlike human devices, such as light bulbs and iPods, which send information using electrons, human bodies and all other living things send signals and perform work using ions or protons
Comets take pole position as water bearers
The tide of an ongoing debate about whether comets or asteroids supplied most of Earth's water has turned back to comets with the discovery that the Hartley 2 comet has a similar ratio of heavy water to ordinary water as Earth
A remarkable mosaic of atoms
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2011 to Dan Shechtman (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel) «for the discovery of quasicrystals»
Press Release Nobel Committe
Self-cleaning cloth breaks down chemicals
A new self-cleaning fabric made from cotton can kill bacteria and break down toxic chemicals such as pesticide residues when exposed to light. The new fabric has potential applications in biological and chemical protective clothing for health care, food processing, and farmworkers, as well as military personnel
2011 Medicine Nobel goes to immunology researchers
Three scientists who deciphered key aspects of the body’s defense against infection have won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Bruce Beutler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and Jules Hoffmann of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Institute in Strasbourg, France, will share half of the $1.5 million award for discovering the role of toll-like receptor proteins in immune reactions
Close-ups reveal a weirder Mercury
The first major release of results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which settled into orbit around Mercury last March, is forcing researchers to reconsider some of their most fundamental ideas about the nature and history of the Solar System's innermost planet
Nonlinear laser light at the nanoscale
By harnessing plasmonics to intensify light, engineers have created an ultra-compact, nanoscale light source that could ultimately find applications in data communications
‘Treg’ cells stop immune system meltdown
Researchers have uncovered new details about the genetic underpinnings of cells known as Tregs, which are currently being tested as treatments for diseases such as type I diabetes, arthritis and lupus
Genuflecting plant discovered in Brazil
The phenomenon, called geocarpy, allows Spigelia genuflex to ensure its seeds end up as close to the mother plant as possible, facilitating its propagation the following season. Peanuts are another example of geocarpy—a rare adaptation to growing in harsh or ephemeral environments
Bacteria encode secret messages
For millennia, people have written secret messages in invisible ink, which could only be read under certain lights or after developing with certain chemicals. Now, scientists have come up with a way of encoding messages in the colours of glowing bacteria
Australian Aborigine Hair Tells a Story of Human Migration
A lock of hair, collected by a British anthropologist a century ago, has yielded the first genome of an Australian Aborigine, along with insights into the earliest migration from the ancestral human homeland somewhere in northeast Africa
News in brief: Genes & Cells
How nanotubes trigger a cell’s gag reflex, the skulking 1918 flu and more in this week’s news.
Tina Hesman Saey
Penguins may sniff out relatives
In some sniff tests, Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) in the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago could discriminate between the odor of birds they knew and birds they weren’t familiar with, says Jill Mateo of the University of Chicago
Neutrinos Travel Faster Than Light, According to One Experiment
If it's true, it will mark the biggest discovery in physics in the past half-century: еlusive, nearly massless subatomic particles called neutrinos appear to travel just faster than light, a team of physicists in Europe reports. If so, the observation would wreck Einstein's theory of special relativity, which demands that nothing can travel faster than light
Fermilab faces life after the Tevatron
Like an old and celebrated race track, the giant particle accelerator known as the Tevatron is down to its final laps. Shortly after 2 p.m. on 30 September, with reporters watching by video link from a nearby auditorium, an operator at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, will divert the final bunches of protons and antiprotons speeding around the Tevatron's 6.3-kilometre ring, sending them barrelling into a solid metal block
Eugenie Samuel Reich
How the Milky Way got its spiral
In the field of cosmology, supercomputer simulations are the only laboratories for scientific experimentation, allowing astronomers to recreate a small-scale simulation or model of distant, violent events that occurred over billions of years, and observe that model in sped-up time, in order to make predictions that can be tested by actual observations of the universe
Longevity genes challenged
A widely touted — but controversial — molecular fountain of youth has come under fire yet again, with the publication of new data challenging the link between proteins called sirtuins and longer lifespan. Do sirtuins really lengthen lifespan?
Computers uncover new chemical bond
Computer modeling has helped chemists identify a previously unknown type of chemical bond. The University of Illinois research team dubbed the new state “recoupled pair bonding.” “This phenomena has implications for all of chemistry,” says Thom Dunning, who co-leads the research with research chemist David Woon
Gamers Crack Code That Could Lead to New AIDS Treatments
The enzyme in question is the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus retroviral protease, and researchers have been seeking ways of deactivating it as a way of developing new anti-HIV drugs. Unfortunately, the conventional efforts of computers and scientists have come up short for years
Gene Therapy May Thwart HIV
This past year, a Berlin man, Timothy Brown, became world famous as the first—and thus far only—person to apparently have been cured of his HIV infection. Brown's HIV disappeared after he developed leukemia and doctors gave him repeated blood transfusions from a donor who harbored a mutated version of a receptor the virus uses to enter cells
Weak link may halt breast cancer’s spread
The discovery of a weakness in breast cancer cells may help prevent the disease from spreading. Only a small proportion of the cells in a tumor—cancer stem cells—are responsible for spreading cancer and for disease relapse. While the cells are highly drug-resistant, scientists at Cardiff University have found a laboratory method that switches off the cells’ resistance to the anti-cancer agent TRAIL
Mouse mirrors severe form of autism
The first transgenic mouse model of a rare and severe type of autism is expected to improve understanding of the disorder and help researchers design more targeted treatments. The mouse exhibits not only the repetitive physical behaviors, altered social behaviors, but also mirrors behaviors linked to autism spectrum disorder in general, a surprising and encouraging findings, researchers say
Planet hunters find Tatooine-like system
NASA’s planet-hunting telescope has spotted one of touchstones of science fiction: a circumbinary, or a planet that orbits two stars. The discovery, announced in the journal Science, comes from the Kepler mission, which has been staring at 155,000 stars in the same patch of sky since its 2009 launch, looking for the slight dimming of light that occurs when a planet passes in front of its parent st
Amber inclusions showcase prehistoric feathers
A painstaking search through thousands of chunks of amber has unearthed 11 prehistoric feathers. They promise an unprecedented look at the history of these peculiar structures in both birds and non-avian dinosaurs
Glowing Kittens Fight Feline AIDS
Scientists have genetically modified cats by infecting their eggs with a virus containing a foreign gene—the first time this method has worked in a carnivore. Experts say the advance could make the cat a valuable new genetic model—and potentially protect it from an HIV-like virus
Sarah C. P. Williams
‘Power plants’ in cells linked to disease
Close contact between mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum may be linked to a variety of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Mitochondria—tiny sausage-shaped organelles within cells that contain their own DNA—act like miniature power plants, providing cells with the energy to move and divide
Miniature microscopes capture neurons in action
Scientists have developed a miniature fluorescence microscope small enough to implant in the head of a living mouse and gather images from its brain without hindering its movement. The 1.9-gram, 2.4-cubic-centimetre device is described today in Nature Methods
Sniffer dogs and lung cancer detection? Study shows it's possible!
Can the power of scent be used to detect cancer? A new study from Germany, presented in The European Respiratory Journal, has found that sniffer dogs can help physicians make early yet reliable detections of lung cancer in patients. It is the first study to ever make this discovery
Nanotech Electrical Motor Is Made From A Single Molecule
Researchers at Tufts University have put together a “molecular motor” that is only about a nanometer across. It’s not the first single-molecule motor ever made, but this one, unlike others, can be activated singly by the minute tip of a scanning electron microscope. They’re working with Guinness to get certified as the smallest motor in the world
Create retinas from ‘Jell-O’
A new method for creating 3D hydrogel scaffolds could aid in the development of new tissue and organs grown in a lab. Hydrogels—a substance similar to Jell-O—are highly flexible and absorbent networks of polymer strings that are frequently used in tissue engineering to act as a scaffold to aid cellular growth and development
Why influenza B only infects humans
Researchers say they now know why influenza B is limited to humans, a discovery that could lead to new drugs to fight seasonal flu epidemics. The findings also help explain why influenza B cannot be as virulent as A strains that incorporate new genes from influenza viruses that infect other species
Physicists Turn a Single Atom Into a Mirror
You can't get much smaller than this: physicists have fashioned a mirror from a single atom. The advance might lead to an atom-sized transistor for light, and experts say it bodes well for broader efforts to shrink optical elements to the nanometer scale
Could stem cells rescue an endangered species?
Scientists have made reprogrammed stem cells from an endangered rhinoceros and a monkey. Fatu, a female northern white rhinoceros who lives in a Kenyan conservation park, is one of just seven of her kind left in the world. But millions of her stem cells, stored in a freezer in California, might one day help boost her population's ranks
Lizard genome unveiled
Publication of the genome of the North American green anole lizard has filled a yawning genome-sequence gap in the animal lineage. The paper is the first to sequence the genome of a non-avian reptile. "This fills out a clade that has been completely ignored before," says lead author Jessica Alföldi of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Stone tools shed light on early human migrations
The discovery of stone axes in the same sediment layer as cruder tools indicates that hominins with differing tool-making technologies may have coexisted. The finding includes another important discovery: the hand axes, usually associated with the emergence around 1.5 million years ago of Homo erectus as the dominant hominin species, were found alongside primitive chopping tools that had already been in use for at least a million years
Humans share. Chimps do, too
Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center have shown chimpanzees have a significant bias for prosocial behavior. This, the study authors report, is in contrast to previous studies that positioned chimpanzees as reluctant altruists and led to the widely held belief that human altruism evolved in the last six million years only after humans split from apes
Multiple sclerosis: Origin of abnormal cells found
Researchers have discovered the source of cells involved in a phenomenon seen in the brains and spinal cords of people with multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Known as reactive astrogliosis, the condition is characterized by a large number of enlarged star-shaped cells
Hundreds of species of bacteria call the human gut their home. This gut "microbiome" influences our physiology and health in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand. Now, a new study suggests that gut bacteria can even mess with the mind, altering brain chemistry and changing mood and behavior
Solar cells could get quantum boost
Atoms' fuzzy energy levels could be exploited to enhance photovoltaics and semiconductor lasers, study suggests. Adding a bit of quantum fuzz could provide a free power boost to lasers and solar panels. Blurry atoms that can exist in two states at once should help such devices more efficiently harness energy from light, a new analysis suggests
Weak synapses may cause lines to blur
Neurons in the primary visual cortex respond selectively to lines and edges of visual images, allowing the brain to distinguish their orientation, according to a new study. The research, published in the journal Neuron, focuses on the crucial role inhibitory synapses play in recognizing orientation and may have implications for treating decreased cognitive function in the aging brain
Cause of Lou Gehrig’s disease found
Scientists have identified a common cause for all forms of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease that paralyzes its victims. The underlying disease process of ALS has long eluded scientists and prevented development of effective therapies. Scientists weren’t even sure all its forms actually converged into a common disease process
'Time Cells' Weave Events Into Memories
In the mind, as in the outside world, the flow of events contains individual experiences strung together in sequence yet separated by gaps in time. New research shows that during these gaps, neurons in a part of the brain called the hippocampus encode each "empty" moment as precisely as the surrounding events, allowing the brain to make detailed representations of time
'Jurassic Mother' Found in China
Way back in the Late Jurassic, 160 million years ago, your closest relative looked like a shrew. That's not an insult but an evolutionary truth that stems from a new fossil discovery that pushes back the earliest appearance of the peculiar group of mammals to which we, as well as many other mammal species, belong
Cat urine is a ‘turn-on’ for some rats
The same brain region that triggers a mating response in male rats also lights up when rats smell cat urine—if those rats are infected with the parasite Toxoplasma. Humans acquire the parasite by eating undercooked meat or "eating little bits of cat poop, which I suspect happens more often than people want to admit," says Patrick House
Climate change will hit genetic diversity
Climate change represents a threat not only to the existence of individual species, but also to the genetic diversity hidden within them, researchers say. The finding promises to complicate assessments of how climate change will affect biodiversity, as well as conservationists' task in preserving it
New candidates for oldest fossils
Researchers have found what could be the oldest microbial fossils yet documented. The traces, discovered in 3.4-billion-year-old Australian rocks, might help to resolve the question of when cellular life arose, and how it produced energy
New Computer Chip Modeled on a Living Brain Can Learn and Remember
IBM, with help from DARPA, has built two working prototypes of a "neurosynaptic chip." Based on the neurons and synapses of the brain, these first-generation cognitive computing cores could represent a major leap in power, speed and efficiency. A pair of brain-inspired cognitive computer chips unveiled today could be a new leap forward — or at least a major fork in the road — in the world of computer architecture and artificial intelligence
Goodnight, Old Moon
A new analysis of a lunar rock brought back by the 1972 Apollo 16 mission suggests that the moon could be tens of millions of years younger than previously thought. Another possibility, scientists say, is that current models of how the moon cooled in its early years may be totally wrong
Disorder attracts water to nanotubes
The unexpected observation is intriguing because carbon nanotubes may be central to the emerging fields of nanofluidics and nanofiltration, where nanotubes may be able to help maintain tiny flows or separate impurities from water. That’s because water forms an extensive network of hydrogen bonds, which gives it stability. Breaking those strong interactions requires energy. And since some bonds have to be broken in order for water to flow into small nanotubes, it would seem unlikely that water would do so freely
Optics used to track single cell’s growth
Researchers are using optics to measure a basic biological process: the growth of single cells. It’s a process that has been difficult to quantify using other methods. Engineers from the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences using small changes in the optical properties of single living cells to measure their growth
Honeycomb Carbon Crystals Possibly Detected in Space
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted the signature of flat carbon flakes, called graphene, in space. If confirmed, this would be the first-ever cosmic detection of the material - which is arranged like chicken wire in flat sheets that are one atom thick
Комп'ютери під нашу шкіру
A small electronic device slapped onto the skin like a temporary tattoo could bring us closer to a future that melds body and machine, a cyborg world where people have cell phones embedded in their throats and Internet browsers literally at their fingertips
Cod genome reveals unusual immune system
The sequencing of the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) genome has revealed an immune system never seen before in jawed vertebrates. The finding could be used to develop better vaccines and to improve disease management in farmed cod
Nanotubes used as chemical reactors
Researchers know that physical and chemical properties of molecules inserted into carbon nanotubes are different to the properties of free molecules, presenting a powerful mechanism for harnessing their functional properties, such as magnetic or optical, and for controlling their chemical reactivity
How Planets Can Survive a Supernova
When a star dies in a violent supernova, some of its planets may survive the blast but be ejected from orbit and sent wandering the galaxy, a new study suggests. The theory offers an explanation for the handful of free-roaming planets found so far, and it could mean many more such rogue worlds exist across the Milky Way
The Mystery of the Missing Fingerprints
In 2007, a Swiss woman in her late 20s had an unusually hard time crossing the U.S. border. Customs agents could not confirm her identity. The woman's passport picture matched her face just fine, but when the agents scanned her hands, they discovered something shocking: she had no fingerprints
In the Kyiv Kurdyumov Metal Physics Institute scientists have created a setting that allows to grow nanoscale objects with given settings for modern electronics. In the development are interested Ukrainian entrepreneurs in seeking to revive in Ukraine microelectronics. However, to introduce new cutting-edge technology is not yet possible. Why?
How exercise benefits nerve cells
Nerve cell communication gets better with use. A neuron’s electrical activity triggers other cells to come and slather on a protective coating that makes messages travel faster, a study published online August 4 in Science shows
On the trail of cell navigation
Cells seeking paths through the body’s tangle of tissues might adapt the navigational strategy of Hansel and Gretel. In the Brothers Grimm tale, the lost kids dropped pebbles and bread crumbs along a wooded trail to help lead them back out of a freaky forest. Instead of using markers telling them where to go, though, cells might leave behind repellent molecules telling them where not to go
Early Earth may have had two moons
Earth once had two moons, which merged in a slow-motion collision that took several hours to complete, researchers propose. Both satellites would have formed from debris that was ejected when a Mars-size protoplanet smacked into Earth late in its formation period. Whereas traditional theory states that the infant Moon rapidly swept up any rivals or gravitationally ejected them into interstellar space, the new theory suggests that one body survived, parked in a gravitationally stable point in the Earth–Moon system
Ukraine will launch its own satellite
Ukrainian government have been registered in the Verkhovna Rada a bill that expands the powers of the State Space Agency of Ukraine. In particular, he proposed to guide satellite. In SSAU argue that innovation will help in 2013 to launch the first Ukrainian satellite communications, through which may have its own navigation system
Placenta to the rescue
The placenta has long been thought of as a passive organ that simply enables a fetus to take up nutrients from its mother. But new research in mice shows that when calories are restricted, the placenta steps up to the plate – actively sacrificing itself to protect the fetal brain from damage
Modern Humans 10, Neandertals 1
Two animal species can rarely occupy the same niche. The same, it seems, goes for human populations. A new study of Neandertal and modern human sites in the south of France concludes that the moderns so greatly outnumbered their evolutionary cousins that Neandertals had little choice but to go extinct
Archaeopteryx no longer first bird
Analysis of fossil traits suggests that Archaeopteryx is not a bird at all. The latest discovery of a fossil that treads the line between birds and non-avian dinosaurs is leading palaeontologists to reassess the creature that has been considered the evolutionary link between the two
Polyhedron ‘cage’ acts as molecular trap
Researchers have sought to coerce molecules to form regular polyhedra—three-dimensional objects in which each side, or face, is a polygon—but without sustained success. Archimedean solids, discovered by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes, have attracted considerable attention in this regard
Gargantuan, farthest water mass found
A mass of water vapor in a quasar that is 30 billion trillion miles away is at least 140 trillion times that of all the water in the world’s oceans combined, and 100,000 times more massive than the sun
Particle Physicists Report Possible Hints of Long-Sought Higgs Boson
Physicists working with the world's largest atom smasher may have spotted evidence of the long-sought Higgs boson. At least that's the unofficial result that has the 800 physicists here for the biannual Europhysics Conference on High-Energy Physics abuzz
To convert biomass, pretreat with ammonia
Researchers have identified a potential pretreatment method that can make plant cellulose five times more digestible by enzymes that convert it into ethanol. Presently, ethanol or other biofuels can only be produced in usable quantities if the biomass—corn leaves, stalks, or switchgrass—is pretreated with costly, potentially toxic chemicals in an energy-intensive process
Quantum theory gets physical
New work finds physical basis for quantum mechanics. Physicists in Canada and Italy have derived quantum mechanics from physical principles related to the storage, manipulation and retrieval of information. The new work is a step in a long, ongoing effort to find fundamental physical motivation for the math of quantum physics, which describes processes in the atomic and subatomic realms with unerring accuracy but defies commonsense understanding
Google research chief pushes 'big data'
Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, discusses the future of Internet search tools, social networking and science. Peter Norvig says that he has the best job in the world. A world expert in artificial intelligence, he has been at Google — where he is now the director of research — since 2001
Shuffling the genetic deck
Two new genetic maps of African-Americans reveal that people of West African descent have more hot spots where chromosomes mix and match genes than people of European heritage do. Until recently scientists knew next to nothing about the process humans use to mix and match parents’ genes to create a unique combination in a child
Tina Hesman Saey
Giant Undersea Volcanoes Found Off Antarctica
A chain of giant undersea volcanoes has been found off Antarctica, scientists say. All told a dozen previously unknown peaks were discovered beneath the waves—some up to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) tall, according to the British Antarctic Survey
Richard A. Lovett
Separated at Birth?
A half-billion-year-old fossil "compound" eye (left)—likely from an ancient shrimplike predator—was surprisingly advanced for its time and gave its owner vision comparable to those of modern insects, such as the robber fly (right), a new study says
(Cellular) Death by Chocolate
Those extra slices of chocolate cake may do more than just add a few extra pounds—they can create a toxic environment that kills your cells. Now researchers say they have identified an important player in this process: a type of RNA previously thought only to modify other RNA molecules
Earth Has "Spare Tire"—And Ice Melt's Keeping It That Way
Waistline bulge has stopped slimming, thanks to massive melting. Earth isn't losing its "spare tire" as fast as it should be, according to new research—and it's definitely not because the planet's not getting enough water.
Pollen fossils unearth climate history
In the warmest period in Earth’s past 55 million years, Antarctica was ice-free and forested. The continent’s vast ice sheets, which today contain more than two-thirds of Earth’s freshwater, began forming about 38 million years ago
RICE U. (US)
Disabled Japanese Man Begins Robo-Suit Adventure
A disabled Japanese man on Friday embarked on an ambitious trip that will take him to a medieval French World Heritage site with the help of a cutting-edge robotic suit
Magnetic Nanoparticles Fry Tumors
Any parent fretting over a child's fever knows that temperatures just a few degrees above normal can kill. But cancer researchers have now found a way to make high temperatures heal
Mating Mites Trapped in Amber Reveal Sex Role Reversal
In a paper published March 1 in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, researchers Pavel Klimov and Ekaterina Sidorchuk describe an extinct mite species in which the traditional sex roles were reversed
Yeast gene makes old cells young again
Сhildren typically have the same life expectancy at birth, regardless of whether their father is 20 years old or 80. This must mean that the man's reproductive cells somehow reset their clocks, but how they do this has been a mystery. Now a gene that reverses ageing effects in yeast is providing some clues
Weevils evolved nut-and-screw joint
Back when hardware meant bony plates and flesh-rending teeth, a living version of the humble screw evolved naturally in, of all places, the leg joints of weevils
Ocean currents are scouring Antarctica’s floating Pine Island Glacier from below, causing it to melt ever faster.
Silver Ballpoint Pen Can Draw Functional Electronic Circuits on Paper
First mightier than the sword, now mightier than the laser. A plain rollerball pen filled with a conductive ink can draw circuits on a sheet of paper, where they can provide power to an LED display and an antenna, among other potential uses.
Question derive three-dimensional nanostructures is currently very topical, especially for the needs of microelectronics. But in practice, to solve this task very difficult, especially when considering the introduction into mass production.
New gene therapy fixes mistakes
A new type of gene therapy allows scientists to fix DNA defects directly. That’s a potentially revolutionary improvement on present gene therapy techniques, which introduce working genes to cells — but not into the genetic library itself. “This is a major leap of the technology,” says John Rossi, a molecular geneticist at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope in Duarte, Calif.
Tina Hesman Saey
Bone may display oldest art in Americas
Mammoth engraved on fossil may date from at least 13,000 year ago. An engraving of an Ice Age mammoth on a fossil bone possibly represents the oldest drawing in the Americas.
Blue light used to treat diabetes
Engineered cells in mice make protein that controls blood sugar. Attention, shoppers: The latest blue light special could help combat diabetes and some genetic diseases.
Tina Hesman Saey
City living marks the brain Neuroscientists study social risk factor for mental illness.
Epidemiologists showed decades ago that people raised in cities are more prone to mental disorders than those raised in the countryside. But neuroscientists have avoided studying the connection, preferring to leave the disorderly realm of the social environment to social scientists. A paper in this issue of Naturerepresents a pioneering foray across that divide.
China establishes national gene bank in Shenzhen
China established its first national gene bank on Friday in south China's city of Shenzhen with the support of the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), officials said.
What would you ask a Nobel Laureate?
The team from the Lindau office, Nature and Spektrum together with bloggers, the film crew, as well as attendees report from this extraordinary science meeting.
Lindau Nobel Community
New technique spins superlong nanowires
Fibers are millionths of a millimeter across and kilometers long.In a feat that puts Rumpelstiltskin to shame, scientists have spun a multitude of high tech materials into bundles of superfine nanowires that are more than 1000 meters long. The new technique, reported online June 12 in Nature Materials, easily produces uniform, orderly arrays of gossamer-thin materials that could have broad use in sensors, energy-harvesting devices and medical diagnostics
Voyager at the edge
Spacecraft finds unexpected calm at the boundary of Sun's bubble. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, and its partner, Voyager 2, are approaching the edge of the Sun's protective bubble
Brain has two slots for working memory
Mental version of RAM has an independent module in each hemisphere. Like side-by-side computer RAM cards, the left and the right hemispheres of the brain store information separately, a new study finds. The results help explain why people can remember only a handful of objects at one time, and suggest that people may be able to maximize their cognitive power by delivering information in equal doses to both sides of the brain, researchers suggest online the week of June 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists Prove Existence of 'Magnetic Ropes' That Cause Solar Storms
George Mason University scientists discovered recently that a phenomenon called a giant magnetic rope is the cause of solar storms. Confirming the existence of this formation is a key first step in helping to mitigate the adverse effects that solar storm eruptions can have on satellite communications on Earth.
Study Sheds Light On Red Tide Toxin
Researchers at Texas A&M University have determined why red tide algae in the Gulf of Mexico make toxin, a development that could prove beneficial to both human and marine life. Red tide refers to the periodic blooms of microscopic algae that usually crop up in late summer or early fall throughout the Gulf Coast states. Exposure to the algal blooms can kill marine life and pose health risks in humans.
Texas A&M University
Species spellchecker fixes plant glitches
Online tool should weed out misspellings and duplications. Completed in December 2010, the records were intended to help Enquist and his colleagues to discern trends in how forest trees in a wide variety of environments respond to climate change. But the data were clearly full of bogus names, making it impossible to count the species in a particular area, or their relative abundance.
Argentina: Cloned cow to produce "human milk"
Scientists in Argentina have cloned the world's first transgenic cow, using human genes that will allow the animal to produce the equivalent of mothers' milk.
Human cell becomes living laser
Scientists have for the first time created laser light using living biological material: a single human cell and some jellyfish protein. Jellyfish protein amplifies light in first biological laser.
Scientists Rush to Study Genome of Lethal E. coli
Some scientists are suggesting that a new class of pathogenic E. coli that is both enterohemorrhagic and enteroaggregative has been found. As the number of EHEC cases started to rise in Germany, reseachers from all the world cooperated to study this tragedy.
Artificial Tissue Promotes Skin Growth in Wounds
Victims of third-degree burns and other traumatic injuries endure pain, disfigurement, invasive surgeries and a long time waiting for skin to grow back. Improved tissue grafts designed by Cornell scientists that promote vascular growth could hasten healing, encourage healthy skin to invade the wounded area and reduce the need for surgeries.
Antiuniverse here we come
A controversial cosmic-ray detector destined for the International Space Station will soon get to prove its worth.
Eugenie Samuel Reich
Asteroid Model Shows Early Life Suffered a Billion-Year Battering
Geologists and planetary scientists at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference reported evidence of a prolonged pummeling by huge asteroids several billion years ago that would have dwarfed the one that killed off the dinosaurs.
Richard A. Kerr
Chaos promotes stereotyping
The idea that neglected environments encourage crime and antisocial behaviour has been around since the 1980s. Now, a study shows that messy surroundings also make people more likely to stereotype others.
Soyuz docks 50 years after Gagarin's voyage
A Soyuz craft adorned with a portrait of the first man in space docked with the International Space Station Thursday, days before the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering flight.
Antarctic microbes live life to the extreme
Patricio Segura Ortiz
You might not expect bacteria living in Antarctic ice to be well suited to life in a boiling kettle, but that is what Chilean scientists discovered during an expedition last year. The researchers have turned up more than 200 new species of microorganisms adapted to living in extreme environments.
Japan tsunami: Toll tops 10,000 two weeks after quake
The death toll from Japan's 11 March earthquake and tsunami has passed 10,000, police say. More than 17,440 people are listed as missing, and 2,775 as injured. Hundreds of thousands remain homeless. Meanwhile, the government says an investigation is under way to establish the source of the radiation leak at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, which left two workers in hospital.The death toll from Japan's 11 March earthquake and tsunami has passed 10,000, police say. More than 17,440 people are listed as missing, and 2,775 as injured. Hundreds of thousands remain homeless.
Water - A Chemical Solution: A Global Experiment
School students around the world will be invited to explore one of Earth’s most critical resources, water. The results of their investigations will contribute to a Global Experiment, which will possibly become the biggest chemistry experiment ever.
Japan quake may alter where U.S. builds nuke plants
Japan's nuclear crisis will influence where the United States builds future nuclear power plants, and the operation of a facility near New York City will be reviewed in the wake of the disaster, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Sunday.
By Vicki Allen and Lesley Wroughton
Major Clue in Long-Term Memory-Making
You may remember the color of your loved one's eyes for years. But how? Scientists believe that long-term potentiation (LTP) -- the long-lasting increase of signals across a connection between brain cells -- underlies our ability to remember over time and to learn, but how that happens is a central question in neuroscience.
New Insight Into the Brain's Ability to Reorganize Itself
When Geoffrey Murphy, Ph.D., talks about plastic structures, he's not talking about the same thing as Mr. McGuire in The Graduate. To Murphy, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Michigan Medical School, plasticity refers to the brain's ability to change as we learn.
Nanonets give rust a boost as agent in water splitting's hydrogen harvest
Coating a lattice of tiny wires called Nanonets with iron oxide – known more commonly as rust – creates an economical and efficient platform for the process of water splitting, an emerging clean fuel science that harvests hydrogen from water, Boston College researchers report in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Birds living near Chernobyl have smaller brains due to radiation, scientists warn
Birds living near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster have 5 per cent smaller brains caused by lingering background radiation, according to researchers. Scientists looked at 550 birds from 48 different species living in the exclusion zone surrounding the Ukranian power plant.
DAILY MAIL REPORTER
The Species Problem
Our ancestors had sex with at least two kinds of archaic humans at two different times and places—and those liaisons produced surviving children, according to the latest ancient DNA research. But were the participants in these prehistoric encounters members of separate species? Doesn't a species, by definition, breed only with others of that species?
Mixed results shown from dispersants in BP spill
Dispersants injected deep in the Gulf of Mexico to counter an oil gusher last spring seemed to keep some oil from fouling the water's surface, but the chemicals lingered underwater, raising concerns about long-term problems, a new study found. The first extensive research found a mixed bag of results.
Toxic Ash Clouds Might Be Culprit in Biggest Mass Extinction
Tiny particles embedded in ancient Canadian rocks have provided new clues about what might have triggered Earth's deadliest mass extinction. The ultimate cause, researchers say, might be globe-smothering clouds of toxic ash similar to that spewed by modern-day coal-fired power plants.
Salt-loving microbe forges its own path
The announcement of a third metabolic pathway raises possibility that there are more to be found. The discovery in a hardy microbe of a novel way of processing carbon shows that there are more ways for organisms to sustain life in the harshest of environments than previously thought.
Insights of the Decade: Reprogramming Cells
By prompting a cell to overexpress a few genes, researchers have discovered in the past decade how to turn a skin or blood cell into a pluripotent cell: one that has regained the potential to become any number of cells in the body. Scientists are already using the technique to make cell lines from patients with hard-to-study diseases, and ultimately they hope to grow genetically matched replacement cells and tissues—perhaps even entire organs.
Turtles Are Not Just Drifters
Biologists have long assumed that young loggerhead turtles simply catch a ride in the circulating currents of the North Atlantic Ocean, which takes them north, east, down along northern Africa, and finally back around to Florida again. Now seven turtles have demonstrated that they do more than simply follow the currents.
Transgenic Chickens Could Thwart Bird Flu, Curb Pandemic Risk
The chicken soup of the future might just be made from transgenic birds that can't get bird flu—if regulators decide they're safe and consumers don't object. U.K. scientists have created transgenic chickens that can't pass on avian influenza, a disease that decimates poultry flocks and that flu scientists fear could spawn an influenza pandemic among humans.
Hottest planet is hotter than some stars
Astronomers have found the hottest planet yet, a gas giant with a temperature of nearly 3200 °C, which is hotter than some stars. A collaboration called the Super Wide Angle Search for Planets (SuperWASP) announced hints of the planet's existence in 2006. Follow-up measurements confirmed the planet's presence in 2010.
Mediteranian Stone Age Sailors
Remains of Neolithic settlements dot the Mediterranean's islands and coastlines. Where did these seafaring migrants come from, or did indigenous peoples pick up technology from their neighbors as new ways of life, including farming, spread around the region?
Keeping Watch as the Old Kingdom Crumbled
With walls 7 meters thick and 4 meters high, the round stone fort was a potent symbol of ancient Egypt's power, more than 250 kilometers from its Nile Valley heartland. Egypt's Old Kingdom is one of the best known ancient cultures, thanks to hieroglyphic texts and the material culture buried in famous pyramids such as those at Saqqara and Giza.
Model Organisms and Human Health
Hundreds of scientists have collaborated in these two major studies, which have moved us far beyond the complete descriptions of the DNA molecules that make up the fly and worm genomes published a little more than a decade ago, an accomplishment that seemed amazing then.
Pandas Prefer Old Forests
Giant pandas voraciously consume bamboo and little else. But they are also fussy about where they live. Scientists have found that pandas prefer to roam in old-growth, or natural, forests—those that have never been logged or disturbed—a discovery they hope will influence conservation policies for the endangered animal.
The Dusty Swirls of the Whirlpool Galaxy
Like dancing fire dragons, two dusty spiral arms swirl around the core of the Whirlpool galaxy. The image, presented today at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, was obtained by subtracting known starlight from a photograph taken by Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer
Walking Speed Predicts Life Expectancy of Older Adults
Baby boomers who keep up the pace as they age are likely to outlive those who slow down. Although walking pace is a seemingly basic measure to make, it has been gaining traction in the gerontology world as a reliable marker for overall health and longevity for those 65 and older.
Hong Kong researchers store data in bacteria
A group of students at Hong Kong's Chinese University are making strides towards storing such vast amounts of information in an unexpected home: the E.coli bacterium better known as a potential source of serious food poisoning. Biostorage is a young field, having existed for about a decade.
Excavation Yields Tantalizing Hints of Earliest Marine Reptiles
The origins of marine reptiles are an enigma. Their ancestors came from the land, but scientists can only imagine what sort of animals ventured into the sea and evolved into the three successful lineages of marine reptiles. Answers may be entombed at Majiashan quarry, in a 150-meter-thick outcropping that spans 6 million years of geologic history.
Dedicated to Memory?
A decade ago, available evidence led to the conclusion that different forms of memory should be viewed as the outcome of plasticity within systems organized to perform particular information processing functions. A new study offers a partial answer: The MTL's perirhinal cortex binds featural elements into cohesive configural memories, and this function is supported by known plasticity mechanisms.
Bacteria and Asthma: Untangling the Links
Six years ago, Gary Huffnagle, an immunologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, conducted an experiment that reflects what happens to many of us early in life. He exposed mice to a triple whammy: yeast in their intestines, mold spores up their noses that migrated down the airways, and an antibiotic drug. he animals began showing signs of asthma; blood tests revealed disruption of their immune systems.
THE DARK GENOME - Insights of the Decade
Gene regulation has turned out to be a surprisingly complex process governed by various types of regulatory DNA, which may lie deep in the wilderness of so-called junk DNA that lies between genes. Far from being humble messengers, RNAs of all shapes and sizes are actually powerful players in how genomes operate.
Lost civilization under Persian Gulf?
A once fertile landmass now submerged beneath the Persian Gulf may have been home to some of the earliest human populations outside Africa, according to an article in the December issue of Current Anthropology. This 'Persian Gulf Oasis' may have been host to humans for over 100,000 years before it was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean.
Chilled light enters a new phase
The fuzzy dividing line between light and atoms has been blurred even further. Quantum physicists have created the first Bose-Einstein condensate using photons--a feat until now suspected to be possible only for atoms. The technique could be used to increase the efficiency of solar cells and lasers.
Insights of the Decade
In addition to naming the top scientific advances of 2010, Science's news team reviews some big ideas from the past decade. Junk DNA, pluripotent cells, new views of the prehistoric world based on DNA analysis, the confimation of water on mars and the development of metamaterials are discussed among other discoveries.
2010 BREAKTHROUGHS OF THE YEAR
In January the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers “regrets” about overstating the rate of glacier melting in the Himalayas. In March a new species of human discovered from ancient DNA. In October parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopt new targets to protect biodiversity and urge caution on geoengineering and more.
Ukrainian scientists no longer leaving the country but continue to grow old and die
The trend of departure of Ukrainian doctors of science abroad for permanent residence has come down to almost nothing. However, the trend of scientists aging is gaining in strength. In general, over the past five years, Ukraine has had a moderate outflow of scientists with doctoral degrees leaving for other countries - about 6 people annually.
Cultivating Young Academies: Germany’s Young Academy
This October, Germany celebrated the 20th anniversary of its reunification. Over the past two decades, the country has worked hard to reestablish its leadership in the sciences, investing heavily in R&D. This commitment has led to the growth of research institutions, graduate programs, and international collaborations.
Volker ter Meulen and Günter Stock
Italian Parliament Passes Controversial University Reforms
The latest attempt to reform Italy's archaic university system passed an important milestone last week when the Italian Parliament's lower house approved a proposed law aimed at eliminating nepotism in academic appointments as well as improving the quality of teaching and research. The reforms have been contested by much of Italy's university community.
What's Hiding the Universe's Brightest Explosions?
Some of the most powerful explosions in the universe are all but invisible to even the largest telescopes on Earth. Astronomers have long wondered why they can't see these so-called dark-bursts. The answer, it turns out, is surprisingly simple. But only about half of these burst afterglows give off visible light. The rest remain hidden to optical telescopes.
NASA: 2010 Meteorological Year Warmest Ever
The 2010 meteorological year, which ended on 30 November, was the warmest in NASA's 130-year record. The main driver for the increased warmth was the Arctic, where sea ice was absent during months when it should have normally covered the water. Water devoid of ice absorbs much more solar radiation.
Power Plants: Engineers Mimic Photosynthesis to Harvest Light Energy
Plants take advantage of quantum mechanics to harvest sunlight with near-perfect efficiency—though only roughly 2 percent of that captured sunlight ultimately gets stored as chemical energy. Now scientists are studying how this light-harvesting step ofphotosynthesis is optimized by nature to learn how to mimic it in engineered systems.
Saturn's Rings Are Evidence of an Ancient Moon's Death Spiral
A scientific study posits that the beautiful rings surrounding the planet Saturn were actually created from the death throes of an ancient moon. The origin of Saturn's rings has been a mystery for a long time. As our probes have gather more information about the makeup of Saturn's moons, the evidence just didn't match up with the existing theories.
How Swine Flu Killed the Healthy
The H1N1 pandemic virus that took the world by storm in 2009 may have had an unexpected accomplice. Some of the thousands who died may have been victims of their own immune systems. A protein called C4d usually helps destroy viruses, but researchers think that when it met the 2009 virus, it helped kill the host instead.
Optical wing generates lift from light
Physicists have demonstrated the optical analogue of an aerofoil — a 'lightfoil' that generates lift when passing through laser light. The demonstration, which comes more than a century after the development of the first aeroplanes, suggests that lightfoils could one day be used to manoeuvre objects in the vacuum of outer space using only the Sun's rays.
Mono Lake Bacterium Exhibits Exotic Arsenic-Driven Biological Activity
A bacterium isolated from California's Mono Lake can use arsenic, which is usually poisonous to life, as one of its key nutrient elements. The microbe can even take up arsenic into its biomolecules, replacing phosphorus as a structural building block in DNA and possibly in energy-carrying molecules.
The Curious Case of the Backwardly Aging Mouse
A research team has used genetic engineering to turn frail-looking mice into younger versions of themselves by stimulating the regeneration of certain tissues. The study helps explain why certain organs and tissues break down with age and, researchers say, offers hope that one day such age-related deterioration can be thwarted and even reversed.
Uncertain Future for Academy's Biology Experiment
Ask anyone familiar with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) how the organization can be reformed and the discussion quickly turns to the efforts of Georgii Georgiev. Georgiev founded and runs the academy's Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) program. Since 2003, MCB has awarded grants to groups based on their scientific track record. Between 2003 and 2009, the 100 groups chosen in the first funding round published 2000 papers in international peer-reviewed journals.
Earth Oceans Were Homegrown
Where did Earth's oceans come from? Astronomers have long contended that icy comets and asteroids delivered the water for them during an epoch of heavy bombardment that ended about 3.9 billion years ago. But a new study suggests that Earth supplied its own water, leaching it from the rocks that formed the planet.
Your Blood Holds Clues to Your Birthday
Researchers report in Current Biology that they can estimate someone's age—give or take about a decade—simply by analyzing a drop of blood. If validated, the new forensic technique could revive police investigations that have hit a dead end. The blood-age test relies on a peculiarity of T cells, immune cells that recognize and fight microbial invaders.
Shaving a Diamond
How do you cut the hardest thing on Earth? Jewelers know it can be done; they've been cutting diamonds for centuries with other diamonds. Materials scientists just didn't know why this worked. Now they do, thanks to a new computer simulation of two diamonds rubbing against each other under high pressure.
Turn off TV and talk to babies
Infants gain little to nothing from watching popular educational videos, according to a new study, which finds they learn best with face-to-face interaction with parents and other familiar figures. After watching a video designed to teach vocabulary for a month, the infants did not know any more of the words than children with no exposure to the video.
'Super-twisted' light swirls into view
Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the UK are the first to have created "super-twisted light" in the lab. The light could be used to detect minute quantities of biological molecules in solution. Indeed, super-twisted light could help scientists study the proteins responsible for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
Truth in numbers: study pinpoints 'critical mass' for research success
Concentrating research funding on a small number of large universities is not the best way to maximise research quality. Research shows that with respect to the size of research groups in a particular discipline, there is an upper threshold or critical mass above which quality does not improve significantly.
Rethinking Brain Evolution in Insects
As surprising at it may seem, wasps, bees, and even ants have relatively large and complex brains. A new study indicates that these insects didn't grow big brains to cope with social living; they evolved them millions of years earlier when they were solitary parasites.
New Antarctic Research Plan for Russia
Russia is planning to launch five new polar research ships as part of a $975 million effort to reassert its presence in Antarctica over the next decade. According to a government strategy document that lays out priorities for development around the South Pole until 2020, Moscow will also reconstruct five research stations and three seasonal bases there.
U.S. Firms Up ‘Critical Habitat’ for Polar Bears
The Interior Department designated 187,157 square miles of Alaskan seas and lands as critical to the survival of the polar bear on Wednesday. More than 95 percent of it is offshore, including some areas that may have large undersea oil deposits. Two populations of polar bears roam widely in the area.
Neandertal Children Developed on the Fast Track
A new study of the fossilized teeth of eight Neandertal children finds that their permanent teeth grew significantly faster and erupted earlier than those of our own species, Homo sapiens. Taken with recent studies the new data suggest Neandertal kids may have reached adulthood a few years faster than modern human children do.
Hayabusa probe succeeded in returning asteroid dust to Earth
A spacecraft that traveled to a near-Earth asteroid and attempted the unprecedented feat of sampling its surface directly for examination back on Earth looks to have succeeded in its task. JAXA confirmed on November 16
that one of the particle collectors from its Hayabusa probe is indeed loaded with particulate matter from Asteroid Itokawa.
Brain Tumors Grow Their Own Blood Supply
Scientists have found that tumors have yet another trick up their sleeve: They can create their own blood supply by morphing into blood vessels. The observations, reported by two separate teams online today in Nature, could explain why drugs designed to choke off blood to brain tumors often fail.
Caribbean Coral Die-off Worries Scientists
Unusually warm ocean temperatures in the summer and fall of 2005 caused a mass die-off of Caribbean corals that is the worst ever recorded there, according to new research published yesterday in the online journal PLoS ONE. Such events are also likely to become more common as global warming continues, concludes a team of 65 authors in 22 countries.
MicroRNAs mediate an early birth
The molecular changes that trigger the uterus to start contracting at the beginning of childbirth have been worked out in detail. The research could eventually help the design of therapies to prevent premature birth, a significant cause of infant mortality and disability in developed countries.
Cat Lap: Engineers Unravel the Mystery of How Felines Drink
One morning Roman Stocker was watching his cat, Cutta Cutta, drink, and began to wonder about the mechanism by which cats lap fluid into their mouths. After investigating the mechanism via high-speed videography, experimental simulation, visits to zoos and YouTube, researchers have produced a scientific description of cats' lapping mechanism.
Physicists Create Black Hole 'Light' in Lab
Thirty-six years ago, Stephen Hawking, the famed British theoretical physicist, predicted that black holes—from which no light should escape—could, paradoxically, emit light. No one has ever observed this "Hawking radiation," but now, a team of physicists may have created something very much like it in the lab.
Fish Sleep Soundly in Mucous Cocoons
Even the ocean has bedbugs. Tiny blood-sucking crustaceans roam the seas, nipping at the scales of passing fish. But the parrotfish has evolved an unusual defense, the fish spend up to an hour spinning cocoons from their own mucous before they settle down to slumber for the night. Sleeping without protection were 80% more likely to be bitten.
Titanium foams replace injured bones
Flexible yet rigid like a human bone, and immediately capable of bearing loads: A new kind of implant, made of titanium foam, resembles the inside of a bone in terms of its structural configuration. Not only does this make it less stiff than conventional massive implants. It also promotes in growth into surrounding bones.
Supercomputer Leaves Competition—And Users—in the Dust
China's new supercomputer,Tianhe-1A, is also the world's fastest, topping by 47% the current titleholder, the Jaguar XT5 system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. But while Chinese officials are hailing the 2.5-petaflops supercomputer as an example of indigenous innovation, some Chinese researchers are troubled by another fact: The number of their colleagues able to tap even a thimbleful of the machine's power is surely minuscule.
Richard Stone and Hao Xin
Time for Your Skin Transfusion?
Researchers have coaxed adult skin cells to morph into a variety of blood cells. The scientists transformed the cells into blood without first "reprogramming" them into cells that resemble embryonic stem cells, suggesting that this transformation might not be necessary for making replacement tissues.
Mouse-Sized Primates Shed Light on Human Origins
Tiny primate teeth discovered in the Sahara Desert may illuminate our own humble beginnings as creatures the size of mice. The 39-million-year-old fossils belong to a subgroup of primates known as anthropoids, which includes monkeys, apes, and humans.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
Some people wake up at the drop of a pin; others snooze through their alarms every morning. Whether you can sleep through noise has a lot to do with the brain waves you produce while you sleep, according to a new study published in Current Biology. It might one day be possible to manipulate these waves to ensure a good night’s rest.
Melinda Wenner Moyer
Celebrating World Science Day 2010: Science is UNESCO!
The UNESCO World Science Day for Peace and Development celebrated annually on 10 November is an occasion to celebrate SCIENCE. It is an opportunity to reflect upon the impact of science on society and its role in fostering international cooperation, peace, intercultural dialogue and the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.
Networking for Dolphins
Like a marine mammal version of Facebook, male and female bottlenose dolphins spend their days courting friends and building alliances. Two new studies show just how important such friendships are to dolphins—and the role friends and alliances play in life's biggest game: the race to reproduce.
Introducing the A-Train: Observing changes in key environmental phenomenon
The A-train formation of satellites barrels across the equator each day at around 1:30 p.m. local time each afternoon, giving the constellation its name; the "A" stands for "afternoon." Together, four of these satellites contain 15 separate scientific instruments that observe the same path of Earth's atmosphere and surface at a broad swath of wavelengths.
Dad's Diet May Give Children Diabetes
A pregnant mom who regularly chows down on cheeseburgers probably isn't doing her baby any good; she may even predispose him to obesity, according to some studies. Now, researchers have found the first direct evidence that a father's diet, not just his genes, can increase his offspring's risk of diabetes and other diseases, at least in rats.
Real-Time Holograms Beam Closer to Reality
Researchers in Arizona have devised a novel plastic film that can be used to generate holographic 3D images sent electronically from one location to another. The new telepresence setup doesn't work yet at full video speed—it can update images only every 2 seconds—but the technology opens the door for new applications.
Robert F. Service
Comet Revealed as a Giant Dog Bone
At about 10 a.m. this morning, the EPOXI spacecraft screamed by the icy nucleus of comet Hartley 2 at 43,000 kilometers per hour. The fifth comet ever imaged so close up, Hartley 2 looks a bit like a dog bone, or a dumbbell, or, more technically, a highly elongated triaxial thingy.
Richard A. Kerr
Review of Scientific Papers PM2010 World Congress in Florence, Italy, 10-14.10.2010. Iron Powder Manufacturing
Presented were 500 scientific papers, 1300 participants, 130 companies-exhibitors at the Congress. The author’s specialization is metal powder manufacturing and this short review is devoted to the most interesting papers of Section 4 Metal Powder Manufacturing. Taking into consideration that most USC members are scientists in biotechnologies, they would probably be interested in Section 9 PM Biomaterials (papers available upon request).
Dmytro Fedorov, USC Associated Member
Giant Virus May Be Ocean's Largest
Most viruses travel light. They carry only a handful of genes for making new viruses, relying on their hosts' machinery to do the rest. But the newly identified virus, known as the Cafeteria roenbergensis virus, is a pack rat: It lugs around a staggering 730,000 base pairs of DNA, including more than 500 gene-like regions.
Something to Sniff at: A New Device That Could Help Severely Paralyzed People
A new device allows paralyzed people to communicate with their noses. Scientists in Israel see the ability as a way to assist severely paralyzed people. The researchers found that, by sniffing, people could quickly and accurately raise or lower their nasal pressure enough to trigger a command, similar to pressing a button.
Neutron Star Breaks Mass Record
A neutron star located 4000 light-years away has broken a record: It's nearly twice the mass of the sun and about 20% more massive than any neutron star measured before. Such stars form when massive stars collapse in supernovas, leaving behind a dense, neutron-rich core. The record breaker was named J1614-2230.
Headless Dragonfly Trapped in Time
Just in time for Halloween comes this gruesome tale. About 100 million years ago in a forest in Myanmar, a dragonfly lost its head to a hungry lizard. But the lizard didn't get away. The ghoulish moment—decapitated dragonfly and parts of the fleeing lizard—were captured and entombed in sticky tree sap.
Solid Spheres: The most rigid nanoscale biological structures
The new nanospheres are formed in a self-organization process from very simple molecules based on aromatic dipeptides of the amino acid phenylalanine. They have a remarkably high elasticity modulus (275 GPa), which is higher than many metals and similar to the values found for steel.
EMBO recognizes 63 researchers for advances in life sciences
The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) today announced the recognition of outstanding research contributions by 63 life scientists from 14 countries. The researchers are awarded the life-long honour of EMBO membership, joining almost 1500 of the world’s leading molecular biologists.
Your brain can’t get enough love
Falling in love is more scientific than we may think, according to a new study, which finds that it not only elicits the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain. The love feeling affects sophisticated cognitive functions, such as mental representation, metaphors, and body image.
Our Ancient Ancestors Didn't Like It Hot
Contrary to what researchers long thought, our distant ancestors were not microbes that thrived in boiling hot springs or deep within giant ice sheets. A new evolutionary analysis of eukaryotes—the group of organisms that includes everything from mushrooms to humans—suggests that they descended from a group of microbes common in oceans and soils.
Climate Talks Still at Impasse, China Buffs Its Green Reputation
Delegates to a United Nations meeting herelast week made scant headway on a global strategy for reiningin greenhouse gas emissions. But amid the pessimism and recriminations, one nation won praise from observers for its efforts to boost energy efficiency and invest in green technologies: the host, China.
Why HIV/AIDS in Ukraine matters to us all
Ukraine is the country worst affected by HIV/AIDS in Europe. 440,000 people aged 15-49 are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. Three regions - Kyiv, Odessa and Donetsk - have recently crossed the threshold of 1% HIV infection among pregnant women, indicating the increasing generalisation of the epidemic.
Keep Looking for That Extinct Mammal
Don't give up too soon. That's one piece of advice from a comprehensive analysis of missing and extinct mammalian species. The study shows that most of these species turned up alive after only three or more thorough field searches. All told, 67 species once considered missing have since been rediscovered.
End of the world? Not so fast
For nearly half a century, Maya scholars have relied on a fixed numerical value called the GMT constant as a means of correlating the dates on the ancient Maya calendar with those on the Gregorian calendar. Gerardo Aldana from UC Santa Barbara challenges the accepted Gregorian dates of all Classic Mayan historical events including the prophecied end of the world in 2012.
Natural Immunity: What Happens When We Simply See a Sick Person
Humans have a natural aversion to those who are ill. When we see others who seem under the weather, we experience a powerful emotional response—disgust—and do our best to avoid those who might be contagious. Now a study shows that seeing sick people can even prompt changes in the immune system.
Giant penguin fossil found in Peru
Paleontologists have unearthed the 36-million-year-old fossil of an extinct penguin that was nearly five feet tall with reddish brown and grey feathers. The new species, Inkayacu paracasensis, or Water King, was about twice the size of an Emperor penguin, the largest penguin today.
Boys need language for self-control
Developing language skills appears to be more important for boys than girls in helping them to develop self-control and, ultimately, succeed in school. Thus, more emphasis should be placed on encouraging boy toddlers to “use their words”—instead of unruly behavior—to solve problems, says Claire Vallotton, assistant professor of child development at MSU.
Folklore Confirmed: The Moon's Phase Affects Rainfall
Most studies on the weather and moon phases appeared in the 1960s. One of the results was that researchers detected more peaks in rainfall in the days after the full and new moons. Recently, three researchers decided to revive the issue when they stumbled across a link between moon phases and stream runoff while working on another project.
Just How Small Is the Proton?
Physicists have been scratching their heads since July, when a research team announced that the proton, the basic building block of matter, is 4 percent smaller than previously thought. The finding, published in Nature, clashes with theoretical predictions based on quantum electrodynamics, or QED, the fundamental theory of the electromagnetic force.
How Fish Oil Fights Inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids, a main component of fish oil, have a reputation as potent anti-inflammatory agents. Now researchers think they know how the acids block this immune response. They've also found that omega-3s can help fight diabetes in obese mice, pointing the way to potential therapies in humans.
British university scientists win Nobel prize for physics for discovery of graphene
Two British-based scientists have shared the Nobel Prize for physics for their discovery of a new material that is only an atom thick and which could change the future of electronics. Russian-born Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, from Manchester University, won the prize for their 'groundbreaking experiments' with graphene.
3 share Nobel Prize in chemistry for finding new ways to bond carbon atoms
An American and two Japanese scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for finding new ways to bond carbon atoms together, methods now widely used to make medicines and in agriculture and electronics. It lets chemists join carbon atoms together, a key step in the process of building complex molecules.
Karl Ritter and Malin Rising
British IVF pioneer Robert Edwards wins Nobel prize
British scientist Robert Edwards, who devised the fertility treatment IVF, has been awarded this year's Nobel prize for medicine. His efforts in the 1950s, 60s and 70s led to the birth of the world's first "test tube baby" in July 1978. Nearly four million babies have been born following IVF.
City dwellers evolved to fend off TB
Over time, populations in areas with long urban histories have developed genetic resistance to diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy. Scientists analyzed DNA samples from 17 different human populations living across Europe, Asia, and Africa and historical literature of first cities or urban settlements in these regions.
Forget Mice, Elephants Really Hate Ants
A nose full of biting ants can really spoil your appetite. Especially if your nose is 3 meters long. African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana) avoid this discomfort by refusing to munch on acacia trees that house swarming ant colonies. Their aversion, a new study suggests, helps maintain the savanna's delicate balance between forest and prairie.
Drahomanov: Ukraine’s attache in Europe
Without a doubt, Drahomanov occupies a place of honor in the pantheon of Ukrainian historians. Considering this scholar’s diversified public and cultural practices, as well as his research per se, his status as a Ukrainian intellectual, whose interest balanced precariously between science and politics, becomes perfectly understandable.
Oleksii Yas, Ph.D. (History) is a senior research fellow with the Institute of Ukrainian History at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Florida Panthers Dodge Extinction
Fifteen years ago, Florida panthers were in a world of hurt. Only about two dozen of the beleaguered predators roamed in southern Florida, and because of inbreeding they suffered from various health problems. In 1995, biologists invigorated the panthers with some fresh blood, releasing eight cougars from Texas into south Florida.
Lasers control ‘Goldilocks’ molecules
Using lasers, physicists have been successful in cooling molecules down to temperatures near what’s known as absolute zero, about -460 degrees Fahrenheit. The development is a significant step toward the ultimate goal of using individual molecules as information bits in quantum computing.
Suzanne Taylor Muzzin
Chew on this: 3 genes led to jaws
A half-billion years ago, jawless vertebrates lacked the ability to chew food. Instead, their heads consisted of a flexible, fused basket of cartilage. An international team of researchers has published evidence that three genes in jawless vertebrates might have been key to the development of jaws in higher vertebrates.
The Sun Can Lob Curveballs
Scientists have discovered that powerful bursts of magnetism emanating from sunspots near the poles of the sun can be arced back toward Earth by the solar magnetic field. The finding creates another potential headache for people who run or rely on GPS satellites, telecommunications networks, and power grids.
Brands that promise the world make consumers feel betrayed
The everyday scenes of angry consumers confronting frontline service staff over poor service are fuelled by the promises that marketers make to them, shows research from the University of Bath. Failure of brands to live up to the expectations marketers have created in the minds of consumers leads to their angry, abusive or resentful behaviour.
The Dust That Drives Earthquakes
Scientists have uncovered several mechanisms that could make a fault lunge into earthquake mode. The heat from friction can melt its sides, or quartz grains can react with water to create a silica gel that slickens the rocks and makes them slide faster. Researchers took a closer look at fault gouge, the fine powder fault slabs create as they grind against each other.
Say Goodbye to Sunspots?
Scientists studying sunspots for the past 2 decades have concluded that the magnetic field that triggers their formation has been steadily declining. If the current trend continues, by 2016 the sun's face may become spotless and remain that way for decades—a phenomenon that in the 17th century coincided with a prolonged period of cooling on Earth.
Plants Near Chernobyl Appear to Grow a Shield
In April 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded and sent radioactive particles flying through the air, infiltrating the surrounding soil. Despite the colossal disaster, some plants in the area seem to have adapted well, flourishing in the contaminated soil.
SINDYA N. BHANOO
An undamaged Amazon produces its own clouds and rain
Studying the atmospheric aerosol particles, which impact cloud formation and particles, above a pristine forests, researchers discovered that when left alone the Amazon acts as its own 'bioreactor': clouds and precipitation are produced by the abundance of plant materials.
Cracking the chemistry of organic batteries
The discovery of a new way to pass electrons back and forth between two molecules could push forward development of organic batteries—lightweight energy storage devices that work without the need for toxic heavy metals. The research is also a necessary step toward creating artificial photosynthesis, where fuel could be generated directly from the sun.
Nanotubes help cells pass messages
Researchers have discovered a means of cell communication that may illuminate events ranging from embryo development to brain activity. Electrical signals can be transmitted between distant cells by means of nanotubes--ultrathin cables containing actin proteins--and "gap junctions" are involved in the process.
The beauty of flock patterns: A model system for group behavior of nanomachines
For the casual observer it is fascinating to watch the orderly and seemingly choreographed motion of hundreds or even thousands of fish, birds or insects. However, the formation and the manifold motion patterns of such flocks raise numerous questions fundamental to the understanding of complex systems.
Peer networking: boys vs. girls
Researchers examined peer relationships of third- through eighth-grade students at a Chicago school and found that girls in the younger grades did, indeed, tend to flock together in smaller, more intimate groups than boys. But that difference disappeared by the eighth grade.
Selfishness can sometimes help the common good
Scientists have overturned the conventional wisdom that cooperation is essential for the well-being of the whole population, finding proof that slackers can sometimes help the common good. The researchers studied populations of yeast and found that a mixture of ‘co-operators’ and ‘cheats’ grew faster than a more utopian one of only ‘co-operators’.
How to think yourself out of isolation
Changing how a person perceives and thinks about others is the most effective intervention for loneliness, according to a recent research review. The findings may help physicians and psychologists develop better treatments for loneliness, a known risk factor for heart disease and other health problems.
Scientists develop touch-sensitive "artificial skin"
Scientists from the University of California have used nanotechnology to develop an artificial skin that could eventually give the sense of touch back to people who have lost their limbs. Dubbed the e-skin, it is built from tiny nanowires made out of artificial material and its creators say it mimics the sensitivity of human touch.
In universe’s beginning, chaos reigned
A longstanding problem in physics has been to determine whether chaos is absolute or relative in systems governed by general relativity, where the time itself is relative. A new mathematical argument proves earlier conjecture that the expansion of the universe at the time of the big bang was highly chaotic.
Ancient beer brewed to include antibiotic
A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer. The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.
NASA panel weighs asteroid danger
A NASA panel is wrestling with a question, which is growing more pertinent as scientists' ability to find asteroids that pose a potential risk, termed near-Earth objects (NEOs), outstrips their capacity to track them accurately. The panel may recommend the launch of a survey telescope into a solar orbit similar to that of Venus.
Eugenie Samuel Reich
UCSF unveils model for implantable artificial kidney to replace dialysis
UCSF researchers today unveiled a prototype model of the first implantable artificial kidney, in a development that one day could eliminate the need for dialysis. The device would include thousands of microscopic filters as well as a bioreactor to mimic the metabolic and water-balancing roles of a real kidney.
Making climate data free for all
Meteorologists are meeting this week to hammer out a solution to one of the thorniest problems in climate science: how to make raw climate data freely available to all. It follows years of discussion within the climate-science community, which wants to draw disparate climate data together into a single, comprehensive repository to streamline research.
Tiny 'Flying Saucers' Could Save Earth From Global Warming
Using a trick of sunlight itself, tiny metallic disks could be levitated to the stratosphere where they would shade Earth's surface and counteract the effects of global warming, a new paper proposes. But even the scientist who dreamed up the idea says the little saucers should be used only as a last resort.
Solid Gold, Thanks to Bacteria
Thin biofilm, found by researchers evevloping gold grains in a Queensland mine, dissolves the gold on contact, creating toxic gold ions that can break down the bacteria's cell walls. But the bacteria fight back by transforming the ions into metallic gold nanoparticles that later coalesce into lace-like crystals across the surface.
Accepted Notion of Mars as Lifeless Is Challenged
For all the triumph of NASA’s 1976 Viking mission, there was one major disappointment: The landers failed to find carbon-based molecules that could serve as the building blocks of life. Now, some scientists say that such building blocks were indeed in the soil, but that they were inadvertently destroyed before they could be detected.
The skin disease that cures itself
Cells that can get the better of a rare skin disorder have helped scientists to explain the disease. Curiously, some patients' cells can eliminate the disease-causing mutation that underlies ichthyosis, and as a result have healthy patches of skin speckled all over their bodies.
What makes us happy can make us sad
Most of us spend much of our time and effort focused on individual achievements such as work, hobbies, and schooling. However this research suggests that the events that end up being most important in our lives, the events that bring us the most happiness and also carry the potential for the most pain, are social events.
Which Ray?: Conflicting Data on High-Energy Cosmic Rays Leave Their Source--or Sources--Unresolved
Nature certainly has a way of one-upping the fruits of human ingenuity. Extreme astrophysical objects have long been known to accelerate the particles that make up cosmic rays to whopping energies that make the Large Hadron Collider look like a child's slingshot. After striking the atmosphere, rays send forth a shower of less energetic secondary particles. From these secondary showers, astrophysicists try to determine the specific source of these cosmic speed freaks.
A Few Drug-Resistant Bacteria May Keep the Whole Colony Alive
Drug-resistant mutant bacteria produce compounds called indoles that can protect large numbers of nonresistant colony mates. New treatment strategies should follow. Just a few resistant mutants can protect large numbers of normal bacteria that would have been thought to be susceptible to the drug therapy.
These Materials Can't Be Stretched Thin
Materials that grows fatter when stretched and thinner when released are called auxetics, but scientists haven't totally figured out how they work. A new mathematical model may help. Researchers say the model can accurately predict the properties of these materials, opening the way for a number of applications
Caterpillars Sign Their Own Death Warrants
When a tobacco plant is attacked by moth cateripllars it sends out a chemical distress call to another insect species called "big-eyed bugs," which soon arrive on the scene to attack them. Now, researchers have discovered that the alarm signal goes out at lightning speed—and in a strange twist, the caterpillars appear to help make the call.
Iceman May Have Been Buried in a Ceremony
Researchers have long thought that Ötzi, the 5000-year-old Iceman found in the Alps in 1991, died wounded and alone, perhaps the victim of a raging blizzard. But a provocative new paper tells a radically different story. The first comprehensive map of Ötzi’s body and belongings suggests he was ceremoniously buried by his fellows.
Roots of world poverty misunderstood
Few people worldwide become or remain poor because of alcoholism, drug use, or idleness, says Anirudh Krishna. "Laziness is not particularly a trait of those who are poor." What’s more common is people succumbing to dangers that are largely preventable. Too much focus is spent on finding new ways to lift people out of poverty instead of coming to terms with why they became poor in the first place, according to his new book.
Giving Birth, Asteroid Style
Calling asteroids rocky is a misnomer. Recent space missions have shown them to be surprisingly loose agglomerations of pebbles that can barely hold themselves together gravitationally. And that may explain the phenomenon of asteroid pairs. Аsteroids can literally spin themselves apart, as in the simulations above, essentially giving birth.
Neighboring Solar System Resembles Ours
Astronomers have found the most populous alien solar system yet—and it looks a bit like ours. In a study published this month in Astronomy & Astrophysics, researchers say they have confirmed five new planets orbiting HD 10180, a star located only 127 light-years away in the southern constellation Hydrus.
50 Years Ago: Photographs of an Antarctic Odyssey
In 1959, Robert A. McCabe ventured to Antarctica as a freelance photojournalist. For the 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s and Robert Falcon Scott’s race to the South Pole, he has published a book of photographs and journal entries called “DeepFreeze! A Photographer’s Antarctic Odyssey in the Year 1959.”
Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s
In 2003, a group of scientists and executives from the NIH, FDA, the drug and medical-imaging industries, universities and nonprofit groups joined in a project that experts say had no precedent: a collaborative effort to find the biological markers that show the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain. Now, the effort is bearing fruit with a wealth of recent scientific papers on the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
Notes from Underground
A common perception of Russian culture has fueled speculation about an underlying symbiosis between a predisposition to focus on negative feelings or experiences and a tendency toward depression. Grossmann and Kross have examined this purported linkage by contrasting self-reflective measures in Russians and Americans.
Google Earth zooms in on dangerous climate change
A new interactive Google Earth map showing the impacts of a 4 °C warmer world was launched today by the Government, in partnership with the Met Office. Pushing the barriers with Google Earth technology, the multi platform, interactive map highlights some of the changes that may occur if the global average temperature rises by 4 °C above the pre-industrial climate average. The UK Government is committed to keeping global temperatures as low as practical to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
Fears rise over fires in Chernobyl forests
Experts say the harm caused by the radioactive fallout from a large forest fire in the Chornobyl zone would be limited. As fires burn across Ukraine amid a heat wave, international and local experts have warned of the high risk of a wildfire in the highly radioactive 30-kilometer radius around the closed nuclear power plant.
How Tiny Drips Can Crumble a Building
It doesn't take a flood to destroy a building. Mere moisture over many years can do the same. Now, materials scientists have found a way to predict how moisture works its way through a given building and location, something that should lead to better assessments of the health of historic structures.
How Locusts Are Like Magnets
A flock of pigeons swooping through a city and a swarm of hungry locusts descending on a field may have more in common than you think. According to soon-to-be-published research in Physical Review E, the same math may describe the way both types of critters switch directions in a group.
New model gives quantum theory a shove
Physicists recently developed a new theoretical model to explain how, under certain rare conditions, more than one electron can simultaneously occupy the same quantum state. Their model may help explain how matter behaves at the edges of black holes and contribute to the ongoing scientific quest for a unified theory of quantum gravity.
In a Video Game, Tackling the Complexities of Protein Folding
In a match that pitted video game players against the best known computer program designed for the task, the gamers outperformed the software in figuring out how 10 proteins fold into their three-dimensional configurations. In addition to the acuity of human pattern-recognition skills, the players outperformed the best software tools in other ways as well.
The antilaser: Physicists conceive a "perfect absorber"
Fifty years after physicists invented the laser, scientists have conceived its opposite — the “antilaser.” No one has yet reported building an antilaser, but a theoretical description of one appears in a paper published in Physical Review Letters. The antilaser could be useful one day, for instance in new types of optical switches for computers.
Building a Framework to Read Animal Emotion
Pet owners might like to think they can judge the moods of their cats or dogs with ease, but finding true scientific methods to evaluate animal emotion is difficult. Because it is difficult to otherwise judge an animal’s emotional state, the researchers devised a model that correlates emotional state to decision making.
SINDYA N. BHANOO
The downside of high heels
Stilettos, wedges, and pumps may be fashionable, but prolonged wearing of and walking in high heels can contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis, a new study suggests. ”Based on this information, wearing high heels puts individuals at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis. And it seems to be that the higher the heel height, the greater the risk.”
'Spontaneous generation' of prions observed
Metal wires 'catalyse' appearance of rogue proteins from healthy brain tissue. After an epic series of experiments, a group of researchers has observed and reproduced what could be the spontaneous generation of prions — rogue misfolded proteins that have been implicated in the destruction of the central nervous system.
Thinnest metallic lines in the world speeds up miniaturisation of electronic devices
The thinnest, smoothest metallic lines in the world helps speed up miniaturisation of electronic devices. New method creates super-thin, high integrity, continuous metal lines that surpass today’s semiconductor industry requirements. At line widths of just 7 nm, their line width roughness, which are the variations in thickness along the line itself, stands at 2.9 nm.
Sequence DNA using graphene nanopores
Researchers have developed a new, carbon-based nanoscale platform to electrically detect single DNA molecules. Using electric fields, the tiny DNA strands are pushed through nanoscale-sized pores in a graphene nanopore platform that ultimately may be important for fast electronic sequencing of the four chemical bases of DNA based on their unique electrical signature.
The Core of Neptune, Here on Earth
Strange things are probably happening to the water deep inside Neptune and Uranus. The ultrahigh temperatures and pressures may be forcing it into new phases beyond the standard solid, liquid, and gas. Since we can't visit those planets to figure out what's really going on, an international team of researchers plans to create similar conditions here on Earth.
Pristine Impact Crater Discovered in Egypt Desert
What may be the best-preserved small impact crater ever seen on Earth has been discovered in the remote Egyptian desert, scientists announced Thursday. Based on the size and characteristics of the bowl-shaped crater, the researchers think it was caused by the impact of an iron meteorite about 4.3 feet (1.3 m.) in diameter traveling at 7,920 mph (11,732 kph).
The Promise Of A Pain Free Delivery For The Needle-Phobic
Researchers at Emory University and engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology successfully immunized mice using a vaccine patch made up of 100 “microneedles” containing a freeze dried version of the flu vaccine that dissolves into the skin together with the needles in just a few minutes.
Cigarette Smoke Jolts Hundreds of Genes, Researchers Say
Doctors have long noticed a link between smoking and cancers found in organs beside the lungs, including kidney, colon and bladder cancers. Now, a new study shows lighting up a cigarette changes a person's gene activity across the body. The findings may be a clue to why smoking affects overall health - from heart disease to combating infections.
Hundreds of dead penguins dot Brazil's beaches
Hundreds of penguins that apparently starved to death are washing up on the beaches of Brazil. Scientists are investigating whether strong currents and colder-than-normal waters have hurt populations of the species that make up the penguins' diet, or whether human activity may be playing a role.
Elephant tooth fossil found in Brazil
Scientists in Brazil say a fossil of an elephant's tooth found in the Amazon jungle proves the presence of pachyderms in South America some 45,000 years ago, a report said on Tuesday. Previous evidence showed that elephants had reached Costa Rica, in Central America, but no further south.
Meerkats Have Their Own Traditions
In January, the height of summer in the Kalahari Desert, some meerkats poke their noses out of their burrows as early as 5 a.m. Other groups sleep up to an hour later. Meerkats move between groups, so the differences aren't genetic, which is further evidence, the team says, that nonhumans can have traditions, too.
Global population study launched by Royal Society
The UK's Royal Society is launching a major study into human population growth and how it may affect social and economic development in coming decades. The world's population has risen from two billion in 1930 to 6.8 billion now, with nine billion projected by 2050. It is led by Nobel laureate Sir John Sulston of Human Genome Project fame.
A Color-Coded Guide to the Brain
A new brain mapping technique uses viruses to illuminate neurons in beautiful colors, and can give us detailed visuals of how information travels through the brain. A team at Princeton led by Lynn Enquist is pioneering a way to use viruses to target specific neurons and make them glow in bright colors when stimulated by a laser.
Face to Face With Human Mobility Research
The 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic attracted interest from the growing number of scientists studying how people move and interact with one another. "It's our mobility patterns that spread epidemics," notes Alessandro Vespignani, who moderated an ESOF session today on how probing human movement can elucidate the dynamics of infectious diseases.
The right kind of elitism: National academies
National academies can be pivotal in speaking up for science, both to those in power and to the public. Britain's Royal Society is 350 years old this year, and stands today as a relatively successful model of what an independent national academy can achieve, having made itself both highly regarded in the corridors of power and prominent in public debates on major science-related issues.
Giant Magma Blobs Ripple Earth's Surface
Hot blobs of magma - the searing liquid rock beneath the Earth's crust - can spread slow-moving ripples that soar hundreds of meters high across the Earth's surface, a new study suggests. This phenomenon, may shed light on relatively rapid unexplained pre-historical sea level rises that are one of geology's oldest mysteries.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill puts ocean-current modelling to the test
A research ocean circulation model is being tested to the limit by the BP spill. Researchers examine satellite images of the spill to figure out where the oil is, on the basis of that location, they deploy numerical particles that trace the oil in the simulations, and then watch how the currents move the particles. They validate their predictions using physical data from satellite and oceanographic sensors.
A pandemic of hindsight? N1H1 influenza
We must learn lessons from the handling of the flu pandemic to improve future research and public-health responses to emerging diseases, but retrospective hindsight and recriminations are not the answer. This week, the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly is scheduled to vote on a resolution expressing alarm over WHO's handling of the H1N1 pandemic.
'Choosy' women set high standards for sperm
The female reproductive system may be rejecting sperm it doesn't find good enough to create a pregnancy. University of Adelaide Professor Sarah Robertson, who is leading the research, says tests discovered that females have an in-built quality control system, that assesses if the male partner is quality enough to invest her reproductive energy in. "Some combinations of men and women might not be compatible and it's possible that the immune systems of some women aren't responding correctly to their partner's triggering molecules."
Survival rate up to 100% for late stage treatment of Anthrax infections
IQ Therapeutics B.V., Groningen, the Netherlands, announced this week that in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch it has obtained outstanding results for the treatment of inhalation anthrax. In a rabbit model up to 100% survival could be achieved with extended time to treatment (48 hours post infection) with a combination of two specific monoclonal antibodies.
Proposed kill quotas for whales too high: scientists
The International Whaling Commission starts a key meeting Monday to debate catch quotas which could replace a moratorium on hunting though a key scientific committee will say the catch limits are too high, sources said. The IWC's own scientific committee is set to say that the proposed numbers are not sustainable.
Marlowe Hood (AFP)
New technique transforms iPS cells into natural tumor killers
A technique for producing natural killer T (NKT) cells, known for their role in suppressing tumor growth, has been successfully demonstrated for the first time using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The research team used mature NKT cells that had already undergone gene rearrangement to derive their iPS cells.
Earth's Colorful Atmospheric Layers Photographed from Space
A spectacular image taken by astronauts on the International Space Station shows the various layers of Earth's atmosphere during sunset over the Indian Ocean. A brilliant sequence of colors denotes each of the layers of Earth's atmosphere, which are visible here because the picture was taken while the space station had an edge-on, or limb, view of the Earth. From this vantage point, the Earth's curvature can also be made out.
Flower power makes tropics cooler, wetter
The world is a cooler, wetter place because of flowering plants, according to new climate simulation results published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B
. The effect is especially pronounced in the Amazon basin, where replacing flowering plants with non-flowering varieties would result in an 80 percent decrease in the area covered by ever-wet rainforest. The simulations demonstrate the importance of flowering-plant physiology to climate regulation.
World's biggest radiotelescope launched in Netherlands
Scientists in the Netherlands unveiled the largest radiotelescope in the world on Saturday, saying it was capable of detecting faint signals from almost as far back as the Big Bang. The LOFAR (LOw Frequency ARray) consists of 25,000 small antennas measuring between 50 centimetres and two metres across, instead of a traditional large dish.
US experiment hints at 'multiple God particles'
Finding the Higgs boson is the primary aim of the £6bn ($10bn) Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment near Geneva. But recent results from the LHC's US rival suggest physicists could be hunting five particles, not one. The data may point to new laws of physics beyond the current accepted theory - known as the Standard Model.
Better Rice Through Fungi
More than 80% of plant species make friends with a common fungus. In return for sugar, the fungus helps the plants extract nutrients from the soil. But rice plants, a primary food source for billions of people, don’t have this special relationship. A new study suggests that the fungus will bond with rice, increasing the plant's growth rate by up to five times.
Kelli Whitlock Burton
Depth of Himalayan Mountain Roots Revealed
An epic collision between two ancient continents pushed the Himalayas up from the Earth's surface. A new study reveals how deep the unseen wreckage penetrated underground. Researchers cracked open rocks from the mountain range and uncovered a mineral called majorite that is formed at least 125 miles (200 km) below the Earth's surface.
Ostriches: ancient flying birds began to forage on ground, lost the ability to fly over time
Scientists had long thought the world's largest flightless birds, the ratites shared a common flightless ancestor. Genetic analysis done in 2008 suggested that flightless birds actually shared a common flying ancestor. And new genetic research confirms that view and suggests a reason why the birds became grounded independently after dispersing geographically.
Charles Q. Choi
The Brilliant Wings of Butterflies
Butterflies owe their brilliant looks to photonic nanostructures—crystalline structures in their wings that reflect light and repeat every few nanometers. Now scientists have figured out how these structures create such vivid colors. Engineers can use these unique light reflecting properties to produce more efficient solar cells and even new cosmetics and paints.
Archival Ukrainica in Canada reference book published (19 April 2010)
A reference book entitled "Archival Ukrainica in Canada" was presented at the Canadian Embassy in Ukraine on April 19, 2010. The reference book contains the information about documents on Ukrainian cultural heritage and documents of foreign origin stored in the archives, museums and libraries of Canada that are related to the history of Ukraine and Ukrainians.
Snakes in mysterious global decline
Researchers examined records for 17 snake populations covering eight species over the last few decades, and found most had declined markedly. For reasons that are not entirely clear, some populations shrank in number abruptly around 1998. Writing in the journal Biology Letters, the researchers describe the findings as "alarming."
Mystery of Saturn's midget moons cracked
For decades, researchers have puzzled over the origin of Saturn's baby moons. According to conventional models, these moons are so small that collisions with comets should have blown them to pieces long ago. Now a group of researchers in France and Britain think they have the answer — and it lies in the planet's icy rings.
Where Did the Flu Go? It's Hiding
The influenza virus is known to evolve rapidly, adapting to new hosts and swapping genes to become more virulent. A genetic analysis reveals that in the United States, not all strains of influenza die off at the end of winter. Some move to South America, and some migrate even farther.
Renewing the Post-Soviet Steppe
Ukraine's steppe has largely disappeared, but Ukrainian researchers, conservationists, and farmers are devising plans to restore the vital grasslandswhile making money. Bringing back Ukraine's steppe faces obstacles, including competing conservation interests and widespread public disinterest. "People don't understand that the steppe is important for our country," says Tatiana Sova, director of steppe reserves in the Luhansk region.
520-Day Mars Flight Simulation Begins
An international team of researchers climbed into a set of windowless steel capsules Thursday to start a 520-day simulation of a flight to Mars intended to help real space crews of the future cope with the confinement, stress and fatigue of interplanetary travel. The six-member, all-male crew of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese will follow a tight regimen of experiments and exercise under video surveillance.
Discovery of stem cell illuminates human brain evolution, points to therapies
UCSF scientists have discovered a new stem cell in the developing human brain. The cell produces nerve cells that help form the neocortex – the site of higher cognitive function—and likely accounts for the dramatic expansion of the region in the lineages that lead to man, the researchers say.
Parasite plants rob genes from their hosts
A research team at the RIKEN Plant Science Center, and the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Tokyo, has uncovered the first ever evidence of nuclear gene transfer from host to parasite plant species. The discovery, reported in Science this week, hints at a greater role for horizontal gene transfer in plant evolution.
Genome comparison tools found to be susceptible to slip-ups
The tools used to align genomes from different species have serious quality-control issues, according to a study published online this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology. "We discovered that there's a disturbingly low level of agreement between genome alignments produced by different tools," said corresponding author Martin Tompa, a UW professor of computer science and engineering and of genome sciences. "What this should suggest to biologists is that they should be very cautious about trusting these alignments in their entirety."
A Crack in the Mirror Neuron Hypothesis of Autism
Brain cells thought to underlie our ability to understand one another work just fine in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to the authors of a controversial new study. Other researchers had proposed that these cells, called mirror neurons, malfunction in people with ASD, disrupting their ability to understand what someone else is experiencing. If the results hold up, researchers will need another way to explain the social deficits that characterize the disorder.
BP oil spill reaches delicate wetlands of Louisiana
Wildlife under serious threat as thick oil reaches coastal sanctuaries in Louisiana. Thick sheets of crude oil spread through the delicate wetlands of Louisiana today, as the BP oil spill continued to threaten the American coastline.
Hubble catches planet being devoured by its star
The Hubble space telescope has discovered a planet in our galaxy in the process of being devoured by the star that it orbits, according to a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Using a new instrument called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph that was installed on Hubble in 2009, the researchers observed how the planet was whipped into an elongated shape by gravitational forces.
Computer Program Self-Discovers Laws of Physics
In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum’s swings. Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.
Monkeys' art of war has lessons for human conflict
Studying animal conflicts could help shed light on human wars – that is the hope from a study of the choices that monkeys make when deciding to fight or remain at peace. To answer this question Flack and colleagues decided to look for strategies suggested by the data alone. They made no assumption about the reasons for the monkeys' behaviour and looked only at patterns of behaviour leading up to fights.
The real Avatar: body transfer turns men into girls
Last time you checked you were a conservatively dressed, 28-year-old man. But you look down and notice that you now have the legs of a 10-year-old girl and appear to be wearing a skirt. This experience – facilitated by a virtual-reality headset and some brief arm-stroking – is enough to make men in their mid-20s react as if this new body is their own. They feel that way even when they subsequently move outside the girl's perspective and watch her being attacked.
X-Ray Vision, Without the Radiation
X-ray-like imaging without the harmful radiation and cell phones with more bandwidth are closer to reality now that researchers have developed a novel type of lens that works with terahertz frequencies. The new lens is a metamaterial, an artificial material with a structure made from many tiny parts, and it could drastically expand what lenses can do.
A Financial Trick in the Familiar Biodiversity Tale
The abundance of vertebrates - mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish - decreased by about one-third between 1970 and 2006. The big hope of the biodiversity world is the idea of quantifying the economic benefits that nature brings, and then persuading people and governments and businesses that these economic benefits make preservation of said ecosystems a wise policy option.
Blind mice see the light
Protein from algae could one day be used in treatments for blindness. Blind mice have been made to sense light by inserting a protein derived from algae into their eyes. The light-sensitive protein, called channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), is used by algae to sense light for photosynthesis. A similar method could one day be used to treat certain forms of blindness in humans, the researchers hope.
Biotech Crops Good for Farmers and Environment, Academy Finds
Fourteen years after genetically engineered crops began to take off in the United States, the overall benefits to farmers are clear, according to a new report from the NRC. The shift from conventionally grown crops has paid off economically and environmentally, says the panel. "We can stop arguing about whether the environmental and economic impacts are significant," says agricultural economist Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes of the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Radiation Accident a ‘Wake-Up Call’ For India's Scientific Community
The improper disposal of a derelict gamma-ray research device at the University of Delhi has resulted in the death of a scrap-metal worker—and drawn scrutiny of how India's academic institutions handle radioactive materials. India's accident is the latest in a series of radioactive mishaps worldwide.
Bad habits can age you by 12 years, study suggests
Four common bad habits combined — smoking, drinking too much, inactivity and poor diet — can age you by 12 years, sobering new research suggests. The findings are from a study that tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years, and they highlight yet another reason to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
World's biggest beaver dam discovered in northern Canada
A Canadian ecologist has discovered the world's largest beaver dam in a remote area of northern Alberta, an animal-made structure so large it is visible from space. Researcher Jean Thie said Wednesday he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.
Michel Comte and Jacques Lemieux
Whatever Happened to the Hole in the Ozone Layer?
Three British scientists shocked the world when they revealed on May 16th, 1985 - 25 years ago - that aerosol chemicals, among other factors, had torn a hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole. Today, the size of the hole has stabilized, thanks to decades of aerosol-banning legislation. But, scientists warn, some danger still remains.
Government sends skimmers, other gear to oil spill
The government has sent skimmers, booms and other resources to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that's become far worse than initially thought and threatens the fragile marshlands along the shore, a Coast Guard official said Thursday.
Ice asteroids likely source of Earth's water: study
Astronomers have for the first time detected ice and organic compounds on an asteroid, a pair of landmark studies released on Wednesday says. The discovery bolsters the theory that comets and asteroids crashing into Earth nearly four billion years ago seeded the planet with water and carbon-based molecules, both essential ingredients for life.
Substance in chilli peppers key to killing pain
Studying chilli peppers is helping scientists create a new type of painkiller which could stop pain at its source. The team found that blocking the production of a substance similar to capsaicin, which is found in the human body at sites of pain, can stop chronic pain.
Amorous slug, orange snake among finds on Borneo
A lungless frog, a frog that flies and a slug that shoots love darts are among 123 new species found in Borneo since 2007 in a project to conserve one of the oldest rain forests in the world.
Dreams Linked to Better Memories
Some researchers have speculated that dreams might improve memory. Now, a new study provides some of the first experimental evidence: People who dreamed about a virtual reality maze they'd encountered a few hours earlier were quicker to find a way out when tested a second time.
Empty skies proved that airports cause pollution, say researchers
Scientists have used the no-flying period caused by the ash cloud to show for the first time that airports are themselves significant causes of pollution. Although long suspected, the fact that mass take-offs and landings are large pollution sources could never be proved before, because aircraft pollution could not be measured as separate from the pollution caused by vehicles operating near by.
Longer-Lasting Flowers: Fresh Ideas from New Research
Tomorrow's fragrant bouquets and colorful potted plants might last longer, thanks to floriculture research by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Cai-Zhong Jiang. His investigations might help boost the vase life of favorite cut flowers and shelf life of prized potted plants.
Animals thrive without oxygen at sea bottom
Living exclusively oxygen-free was thought to be a lifestyle open only to viruses and single-celled microorganisms. A group of Italian and Danish researchers has now found three species of multicellular animal, or metazoan, that apparently spend their entire lives in oxygen-starved waters in a basin at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
Seafarers' Scourge Provides Hope for Biofuel Future
For centuries, seafarers were plagued by wood-eating gribble that destroyed their ships, and these creatures continue to wreak damage on wooden piers and docks in coastal communities.
Essential Oils to Fight Superbugs
Essential oils could be a cheap and effective alternative to antibiotics and potentially used to combat drug-resistant hospital superbugs, according to research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh.
Geraniums Could Help Control Devastating Japanese Beetle
Geraniums may hold the key to controlling the devastating Japanese beetle, which feeds on nearly 300 plant species and costs the ornamental plant industry $450 million in damage each year, according to scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Europe to expand list of harmful chemicals
Europe will expand its list of potentially highly dangerous chemicals to 135 from a current 29 by the year 2012, the European commissioners for the environment and for industry said Thursday.
Tryptophan-Enriched Diet Reduces Pig Aggression
Feeding the amino acid tryptophan to young female pigs as part of their regular diet makes them less aggressive and easier to manage, according to a study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators.
Single gene powers hybrid tomato plants: study
A mutation in a single gene can turn hybrid tomato plants into super producers capable of generating more and much sweeter fruit without genetic engineering, scientists said in a study released on Sunday.
Broader smile, longer life: study
The broader your smile and the deeper the creases around your eyes when you grin, the longer you are likely to live, according to a study published in Psychological Science this week.
Malaysia to switch to biofuel next year
Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm oil producer, will make it mandatory for all vehicles to use biofuel from next year, the government announced Wednesday.
Climate change puts Australian reef on 'knife edge'
The world's southernmost coral reef is on a "knife-edge" after warmer seas blamed on climate change bleached large parts of it for the first time, an Australian scientist warned on Wednesday.
'World's Most Useful Tree' Provides New Low-Cost Water Purification Method for Developing World
A low-cost water purification technique published in Current Protocols in Microbiology
could help drastically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease in the developing world. The procedure, which uses seeds from the Moringa oleifera
tree, can produce a 90.00% to 99.99% bacterial reduction in previously untreated water, and has been made free to download as part of access programs under John Wiley & Sons' Corporate Citizenship Initiative.
New Zealand's GM cattle under fire
Scientists in New Zealand whose work with genetically modified (GM) animals had been threatened by a High Court ruling have been given a reprieve. But they say that the case highlights the legislative challenges their research faces.
Turkish law could cripple bioscience
In most countries, molecular biologists can place an order for a particular genetic strain of fly and be working on it within weeks. The same is true in Turkey — for now.
Taiwan scientist unveils rapid, low-cost TB test kit
A Taiwan scientist on Sunday unveiled what he said is the first low-cost and efficient test kit for identifying tuberculosis bacteria, killer of more than 1.5 million people worldwide every year.
Scientists scent breakthrough in truffle trafficking
One of Europe's gastronomic jewels, the fabled black Perigord truffle, has been genetically unravelled, a feat that could doom fakers who pass off inferior truffles as the real thing, scientists said on Sunday.
Teams set for first taste of Antarctic lakes
The pitch-black lakes hidden beneath Antarctica's ice sheet will finally start to release their secrets next year. At a meeting last week, scientists from Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States described their plans to explore the planet's last uncharted ecosystems by drilling into three very different examples of these subglacial lakes.
Atom microscope is boon for materials science
Materials scientists dream of one day being able to place a sample of unknown substance under a microscope and name individual atoms and the structure they form.
Maths behind Internet encryption wins top award
The Abel prize — considered the 'Nobel' prize of mathematics — has been awarded to John Tate, recently retired from the University of Texas at Austin, for his work on algebraic number theory, the mathematical discipline that deals with connections between whole numbers and lies at the heart of Internet security.
NIH Announces Genetic Testing Registry
The National Institutes of Health announced that it is creating a public database that researchers, consumers, health care providers, and others can search for information submitted voluntarily by genetic test providers. The Genetic Testing Registry (GTR) aims to enhance access to information about the availability, validity, and usefulness of genetic tests.
Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter
The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.
GARANCE BURKE and SETH BORENSTEIN
Cosmos has billions more stars than thought
Astronomers may have underestimated the tally of galaxies in some parts of the Universe by as much as 90 percent, according to a study reported on Wednesday in Nature, the weekly British science journal.
Methane-eating microbes make their own oxygen
Researchers have discovered a possible new species of bacteria that survives by producing and 'breathing' its own oxygen. The finding suggests that some microbes could have thrived without oxygen-producing plants on the early Earth — and on other planets — by using their own oxygen to garner energy from methane (CH4).
Amanda Leigh Mascarelli
Australian scientists in TB drug breakthrough
Australian scientists said Wednesday they had discovered a drug which could cure tuberculosis at its non-infectious stage and could be the first major breakthrough on the disease in 50 years.
Swine flu virus not so new, study finds
The H1N1 swine flu virus may have been new to humanity in many ways but in one key feature its closest relative was the 1918 pandemic virus, researchers reported on Wednesday.
Progress Has Been Made in War on Cancer, but Still Many Challenges
Although there have been achievements in the battle against cancer, including a decrease in the rate of death and new diagnoses, cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., with a need for continued improvement in the areas of prevention, detection and treatment, according to a commentary in the March 17 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on cancer.
Nanoparticle kit could diagnose disease early
A detection kit that uses nanoparticles to seek out tiny amounts of disease-related enzymes could offer sensitive and fast diagnoses of cancer, HIV and other diseases.
Molecular Brake for the Bacterial Flagellar Nano-Motor
Biozentrum researchers have now discovered that Escherichia coli bacteria harness a sophisticated chemosensory and signal transduction machinery that allows them to accurately control motor rotation, thereby adjusting their swimming velocity in response to changing environments.
Elite English universities gain in 2010 funding round
Top research-performing institutions in the UK, including the universities of Cambridge and Oxford and Imperial College London, are the winners in this year's allocation of £1.6 billion (US$2.5 billion) in public funds for research to the UK's 130 universities. But the move to give a few elite institutions a larger share of research cash means a smaller share for other universities — including those producing research rated world class.
Worries over electronic waste from the developing world
Public-health problems and environmental degradation caused by recycling of old computer equipment could skyrocket in the next two decades, as increasingly wealthy consumers in countries such as India and China ditch their obsolete hardware.
Richard A. Lovett
Cloves Are 'Best' Natural Antioxidant, Spanish Study Finds
Using spices eaten in the Mediterranean diet as natural antioxidants is a good way forward for the food industry, given the beneficial health effects of these products. This has been shown by researchers from the Miguel Hernández University (UMH), who have put the clove in first place.
New TB Booster Shows Promise
A booster shot appears to improve tuberculosis (TB) resistance in previously vaccinated adults, according to new research in South Africa.
New Lentil Being Readied for Market
"Essex," a new lentil variety developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, has a lot to offer: high seed yields for growers, nitrogen-fixing bacteria for wheat crops, and a tasty source of protein for consumers to add to soups, salads and other fare.
Formula for Making Teeth Will Soon Be Found, Researchers Say
Each cusp of our teeth is regulated by genes which carefully control the development. A similar genetic puzzle also regulates the differentiation of our other organs and of all living organisms. A team of researchers at the Institute of Biotechnology of the University of Helsinki has developed a computer model reproducing population-level variation in complex structures like teeth and organs. The research takes a step towards the growing of correctly shaped teeth and other organs.
An Organic Approach to Pest Control: Releasing Super-Sexed (but Sterile) Male Insects
An improved method for sustainable pest control using "super-sexed" but sterile male insects to copulate with female ones is being developed by agricultural researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The scientists thus hope to offer yet another efficient and promising avenue for supplying produce to the market by eliminating pests without damage to the environment.
Water Oxidation Advance Boosts Potential for Solar Fuel
Emory University chemists have developed the most potent homogeneous catalyst known for water oxidation, considered a crucial component for generating clean hydrogen fuel using only water and sunlight.
New Fund Will Help Young Leaders
On March 18th, 2010 at the Metropolitan's Chambers of the Sofiya Kiyivskaya National Reserve, Bohdan Hawrylyshyn presented his new idea – a charitable fund in his name. Fund homepage: http://bhfoundation.com.ua/
DNA Nanotechnology Breakthrough Offers Promising Applications in Medicine
A team of McGill Chemistry Department researchers led by Dr. Hanadi Sleiman has achieved a major breakthrough in the development of nanotubes -- tiny "magic bullets" that could one day deliver drugs to specific diseased cells. Sleiman explains that the research involves taking DNA out of its biological context. So rather than being used as the genetic code for life, it becomes a kind of building block for tiny nanometre-scale objects.
Frogs, Foam and Fuel: Solar Energy Converted to Sugars
For decades, farmers have been trying to find ways to get more energy out of the sun. Unfortunately, the allocation of light energy into products we use is not as efficient as we would like. Now engineering researchers at the University of Cincinnati are doing something about that.
Analytical Eye: Viewing Through the Data Jungle
Unmanageable volumes of data accumulate in our digitized working world. Scientists are developing analytical techniques that make use of our ability to identify complex data relationships by means of pictorial images.
Italian molecular cookery 'ban' condemned
An Italian decree that bans a plethora of food additives from restaurant kitchens has been dismissed as unscientific and irrational by food scientists contacted by Nature.
Who Does What on Wikipedia?
The quality of entries in the world's largest open-access online encyclopedia depends on how authors collaborate, University of Arizona Professor Sudha Ram finds.
Scientists find "mother" of all skin cells
Scientists have found the "mother," or origin, of all skin cells and say their discovery could dramatically improve skin treatments for victims of serious wounds and burns.
Scientists find new way to help crops fight pests
An international team of scientists has managed to transfer disease resistance from one plant family to another, offering broader protection from potentially costly and destructive pests.
Scientists say UK risks losing innovation edge
Britain risks decades of slow economic decline unless it invests heavily in research, which at the moment is one of the country's few genuine areas of economic competitive advantage, leading scientists said on Tuesday.
IBM makes Earth-friendly plastic from plants
IBM researchers on Tuesday said they have discovered a way to make Earth-friendly plastic from plants that could replace petroleum-based products tough on the environment.
Scientists find why "sunshine" vitamin D is crucial
Most Vitamin D is made by the body as a natural by-product of the skin's exposure to sunlight. It can also be found in fish liver oil, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, or taken as a supplement.
Leaf Veins Inspire a New Model for Distribution Networks
A straight line may be the shortest path from A to B, but it's not always the most reliable or efficient way to go. In fact, depending on what's traveling where, the best route may run in circles, according to a new model that bucks decades of theorizing on the subject. A team of biophysicists at Rockefeller University developed a mathematical model showing that complex sets of interconnecting loops -- like the netted veins that transport water in a leaf -- provide the best distribution network for supplying fluctuating loads to varying parts of the system. It also shows that such a network can best handle damage.
Gut bacteria gene complement dwarfs human genome
Researchers have unveiled a catalogue of genes from microbes found in the human gut. The information could reveal how 'friendly' gut bacteria interact with the body to influence nutrition and disease.
Andrew Bennett Hellman
Soil bacteria could yield drug to treat roundworm
A bacterial protein used in a common pesticide kills intestinal parasitic roundworms in mice and may become a treatment option for humans, researchers say.
EU authorises GMO potatoes
The European Commission on Tuesday approved the cultivation of genetically-modified potatoes, but environmentalists and some European ministers slammed the so-called "frankenfoods".
Scientists urge rethink on "narrow" health goals
Families in some poor nations are trapped in cycles of illness and poverty as authorities fail to tackle chronic health problems or meet goals on child health and tuberculosis, scientists said on Tuesday.
Scientists Turn Light Into Electrical Current Using a Golden Nanoscale System
Material scientists at the Nano/Bio Interface Center of the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated the transduction of optical radiation to electrical current in a molecular circuit. The system, an array of nano-sized molecules of gold, respond to electromagnetic waves by creating surface plasmons that induce and project electrical current across molecules, similar to that of photovoltaic solar cells.
German paper chase to end
Sometimes less is more — at least in grant proposals. That's the hope of the DFG, Germany's main research-funding agency, which plans to drastically restrict the number of papers that researchers can list in their grant applications.
WWF welcomes new protected areas in Ukraine
Environmental group WWF on Wednesday welcomed Ukraine's decision to designate large swathes of land as protected, but warned that key areas, such as the Danube delta, were still under threat.
Indonesia aims to be world's breadbasket
Following Brazil's trail, Indonesia is encouraging foreign and local investors to lease huge swathes of fertile countryside and help make the country a major food producer.
Small dogs originated in Middle East
Small domesticated dogs probably originated in the Middle East more than 12,000 years ago as the descendants of grey wolves, according to a gene study published on Wednesday.
EU leaders to discuss Danube region
EU leaders and ministers are meeting today in Budapest to discuss economic and environmental developments for the Danube region.
Red Sea corals mapped in unprecedented detail
Using a combination of satellite, aerial and ship-based techniques, a team of US scientists has mapped little-known coral reefs along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastline.
Richard A. Lovett
Molecule With Promising Semiconductor Properties Created
A team of chemists from the University of New Hampshire has synthesized the first-ever stable derivative of nonacene, creating a compound that holds significant promise in the manufacture of flexible organic electronics such as large displays, solar cells and radio frequency identification tags.
US scientists warn of fraud of stem cell 'banks'
"Umbilical cords contain blood-forming stem cells at a level that would maintain the blood-forming capacity of a very young child," Weissman told reporters at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Of Swine, Birds and Humans: Pandemic H1N1 Flu
Current research suggests that pandemic H1N1 influenza of swine origin has distinct means of transmission from the seasonal flu, yet does not result in the pathogenic severity of avian flu viruses.
Will Coral Reefs Disappear?
Will coral reefs disappear? This is the title of a symposium presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual conference in San Diego, California. And it's a topic that should not be taken lightly.
Predicting Effectiveness of Flu Vaccination Campaigns
A new study published in Vaccine describes a new method that assesses the impact and cost-effectiveness of a range of vaccination options. The model was applied to the 2009 influenza H1N1 outbreak and predicted accurately in real-time when the epidemic would peak and who should be prioritized for vaccination.
New Method for Measuring Fluid Flow in Algae Could Herald Revolution for Fluid Mechanics
In the words of Todd Squires, of the University of California, Santa Barbara "Nature has long inspired researchers in fluid mechanics to explore the mechanical strategies used by living creatures. Where better to look for innovative solutions to a technological challenge than to organisms that have had millions of years to devise strategies for related challenges?"
New Perspective for Understanding the Mechanisms of Catalytic Conversion
The oxidation of toxic carbon monoxide (CO) to carbon dioxide occurs every day in millions of cars. Despite being one of the most studied catalytic processes, the exact mechanism of interaction between the carbon monoxide molecule and the catalyst, often platinum, is not fully understood. An important step in the reaction is the adsorption of CO on the surface of the catalyst. A team of scientists from the ESRF and the ETH in Zurich (Switzerland) has managed to see how the electrons in the platinum reorganize as the adsorption is taking place and why catalysts are "poisoned," i.e. why their activity is reduced.
Biotech firm launches new fuel enzyme
A Danish biotechnology company on Tuesday launched a new enzyme which it said will make it possible to turn agricultural waste into biofuel at a competitive price.
Danube countries agree to protect 'Amazon of Europe'
Ministers from the 14 countries of the Danube basin adopted here Tuesday a plan to clean up and protect the historic river seen by green groups as Europe's lifeline and the "Amazon of Europe".
Scientists recreate Big Bang heat of 4 tln degrees C
US physicists have created matter at around four trillion degrees Celsius, the hottest temperature ever reached in a laboratory, simulating a "quark soup" scientists believe existed at the universe's birth.
Australia's cane toads face death by cat food
Australia's vile and poisonous plague of cane toads may finally have met its match -- and it comes in a tin of cat food.
After years spent trying to batter, gas, run over and even freeze the toxic toads out of existence, scientists say just a dollop of Whiskas could stop the warty horde.
Study shows how viruses changed human evolution
Italian scientists said on Friday they had found evidence of how viruses helped change the course of human evolution and said their discovery could help in the design of better drugs and vaccines.
Rethinking Renewable Energy Strategy
Researchers at Queen's University suggest that policy makers examine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions implications for energy infrastructure as fossil fuel sources must be rapidly replaced by windmills, solar panels and other sources of renewable energy.
Biofuels Policy Fails to Achieve Goals, Warn Experts
US biofuel policies will fail to achieve the intended environmental, energy and agricultural goals, warns authors of an article in the journal Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy (AEPP).
Fewer Honey Bee Colonies and Beekeepers Throughout Europe
The number of bee colonies in Central Europe has decreased over recent decades. In fact, the number of beekeepers has been declining in the whole of Europe since 1985. This is the result of a study that has now been published by the International Bee Research Association, which for the first time has provided an overview of the problem of bee colony decline at the European level.
Measuring Rainfall With Mobile Phone Antennas
As rain interferes with radio signals, researchers have been able to measure rainfall using data supplied by the mobile telecommunications company Orange. The new method offers greater spatial resolution than traditional point measurements provided by rain gauges. In the future, this could be combined with intelligent control systems for sewer networks so as to reduce water pollution in urban areas.
Mechanical Forces Could Affect Gene Expression
University of Michigan researchers have shown that tension on DNA molecules can affect gene expression---the process at the heart of biological function that tells a cell what to do.
'Good' Bacteria Keep Immune System Primed to Fight Future Infections
Scientists have long pondered the seeming contradiction that taking broad-spectrum antibiotics over a long period of time can lead to severe secondary bacterial infections. Now researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine may have figured out why.
How Certain Hormones Control Aspects of Root Branching in Plants
Roots are the most underestimated parts of a plant, even though they are crucial for water and nutrient uptake and consequently growth. In a world of changing water availability and an ever-increasing human population, it will therefore be crucial to understand how root development is controlled in plants. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, now described that the plant hormone auxin together with an increased cell cycle activity leads to a boost in root branching in the common thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana.
Universal DNA Reader Will Advance Faster, Cheaper Sequencing Efforts
Arizona State University scientists have come up with a new twist in their efforts to develop a faster and cheaper way to read the DNA genetic code. They have developed the first, versatile DNA reader that can discriminate between DNA's four core chemical components - the key to unlocking the vital code behind human heredity and health.
Scientists Synthesize Unique Family of Anti-Cancer Compounds
Yale University scientists have streamlined the process for synthesizing a family of compounds with the potential to kill cancer and other diseased cells, and have found that they represent a unique category of anti-cancer agents. Their discovery appears in this week's online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Silicon whiskers catch rays well
New device could make solar cells cheaper.
Roll out the micro-carpet — a new solar-cell design based on a blanket of silicon rods could produce electricity at a fraction of the cost of conventional solar devices.
Spherical Cows Help to Dump Metabolism Law
Apparently, the mysterious "3/4 law of metabolism" -- proposed by Max Kleiber in 1932, printed in biology textbooks for decades, explained theoretically in Science in 1997 and described in a 2000 essay in Nature as "extended to all life forms" from bacteria to whales -- is just plain wrong.
Code Defends Against 'Stealthy' Computer Worms
Self-propagating worms are malicious computer programs, which, after being released, can spread throughout networks without human control, stealing or erasing hard drive data, interfering with pre-installed programs and slowing, even crashing, home and work computers. Now a new code, or algorithm, created by Penn State researchers targets the "stealthiest" of these worms, containing them before an outbreak can occur.
India's transgenic aubergine in a stew
India's government has refused to allow commercial cultivation of what would have been the country's first genetically modified (GM) food crop. The decision has been welcomed by green activists, but some scientists say that it will set back Indian plant-biotechnology research.
The new book about Ukraine
The new book about Ukraine in Europe: Questions and Answers /Authored and edited by Dr. Olexiy Haran, University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy seeks to provide answers to questions foreigners often ask about Ukraine.
Natural Gas Supplies Could Be Augmented With Methane Hydrate
Naturally occurring methane hydrate may represent an enormous source of methane, the main component of natural gas, and could ultimately augment conventional natural gas supplies, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. Although a number of challenges require attention before commercial production can be realized, no technical challenges have been identified as insurmountable.
Researchers Track Evolution and Spread of Drug-Resistant Bacteria Across Hospitals and Continents
An international team of researchers has used high resolution genome sequencing to track a particularly virulent strain of MRSA as it traveled between South America, Europe and Southeast Asia. The findings shed light on how these deadly bacteria are able to spread from patient to patient in a single hospital and, on a larger scale of geography and time, between countries and entire continents.
Project set to map marks on genome
Consortium sets sights on the differences that make us different.
At one time, sequencing the whole human genome seemed almost impossible. But even as it was being completed, biologists were realizing that the genes encoded within it would reveal little about what makes each of us unique.
High Above, Insects Travel On Sky Superhighways
Every year, an enormous migration takes place in Western Europe. Millions of moths fly for days, riding wind currents southward in the fall and north in the spring.
Scientists thought these insects were simply blown to their destinations, but now they've discovered something remarkable: The moths actually select the fastest wind currents, and even change course to shorten their trip.
Test of "artificial pancreas" offers diabetes hope
Scientists have used an "artificial pancreas" system of pumps and monitors to improve blood sugar control in diabetes patients in the first study to show the new device works better than conventional treatment.
Scientists Create New Way to Screen Libraries of 10 Million or More Compounds
The search for new drug compounds is probably worse than looking for a needle in a haystack because scientists are limited in the size of the haystacks they can rummage through -- time and money make it virtually impossible to screen or search through super-large libraries of potential compounds. This is a serious problem, because there is enormous interest in identifying synthetic molecules that bind to proteins for applications in drug discovery, biology, and proteomics, and larger libraries should mean higher odds of success.
Helpful Yeast Battles Food-Contaminating Aflatoxin
Pistachios, almonds and other popular tree nuts might someday be routinely sprayed with a yeast called Pichia anomala. Laboratory and field studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Sui-Sheng (Sylvia) Hua have shown that the yeast competes successfully for nutrients--and space to grow--that might otherwise be used by an unwanted mold, Aspergillus flavus.
Who Is Most Likely to Take Precautions During a Pandemic?
A study that looked at how people behave during pandemics has identified key demographic and psychological factors that may predict protective behaviours. The study is published online January 30 2010, in the British Journal of Health Psychology.
Epigenetics Could Help Researchers Determine Any Risks Associated With Low-Dose Radiation
There remains a lack of consensus amongst the medical and scientific communities about any cancer risk from low level radiation, particularly low-dose radiation delivered from computed tomography (CT) scans. However, the study of epigenetics may play a role in determining whether or not future trends of diseases can in fact be linked to utilization of CT, according to an article in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR).
Transgenic Tomatoes Last Longer
The scientists identified two enzymes that accumulate in tomatoes at critical stages during the fruit’s ripening and which promote excessive softening that accounts for as much as 40 percent of post-harvest fruit loss. They used genetic engineering to "silence" the enzymes, making tomatoes twice as firm.
Key Milestone Reached on Road to Graphene-Based Electronic Devices
Researchers in the Electro-Optics Center (EOC) Materials Division at Penn State have produced 100mm diameter graphene wafers, a key milestone in the development of graphene for next generation high frequency electronic devices. Graphene is a 2-dimensional layer of tightly bound carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal arrays. Sheets of graphene are the building blocks of graphite. Due to its phenomenal electronic properties, graphene has been considered as a leading material for next generation electronic devices in the multibillion dollar semiconductor industry.
Signing Contracts on the Telephone
Researchers at Fraunhofer SIT have developed a digital signature for Internet telephony that allows the legally binding archiving of calls. At the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (Hall 2, Stand E41) the experts will be demonstrating how the VoIPS software works.
Does Slum Tourism Make Us Better People?
Slum tourism is a growth industry with more and more wealthy travellers opting to visit the poorest parts of the world. What is it that is prompting slum tourism? Is it a new trend? What impact does slum tourism have on the people who opt for this kind of 'holiday'? Do they become better people as a result and does the experience prompt a call to action for social change?
Genetically modified seeds 'are everywhere'
GENETICALLY modified crops are everywhere, it seems - even in Europe. Strict laws designed to keep the European Union free of unauthorised GM crops and products are not working, and are posing problems for the EU's €150 billion livestock industry, according to farmers' representatives. They say that supplies of animal feed for poultry and pigs are being refused entry at European ports when found to contain even trace amounts of unauthorised GM material.
Doctors Develop Life-Saving, Low-Cost Ventilators for Emergency, Rural and Military Use
A group of UK anaesthetists have designed and tested three prototype low-cost ventilators that could provide vital support during major healthcare emergencies involving large numbers of patients or casualties. The devices, detailed in a paper published online by Anaesthesia, could also be used where resources are limited, such as in developing countries, remote locations or by the military.
Plant flavanoid may help prevent leukemia
Eating foods like celery and parsley which contain the naturally occurring flavanoid apigenin may help prevent leukemia, Dutch scientists said Thursday.
The findings suggest apigenin could hold promise for preventing leukemia, Peppelenbosch said.
Water vapour could be behind warming slowdown
Mysterious changes in the stratosphere may have offset greenhouse effect.
A puzzling drop in the amount of water vapour high in the Earth's atmosphere is now on the list of possible culprits causing average global temperatures to flatten out over the past decade, despite ever-increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Mouse Skin Cells Turned Directly Into Neurons
Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have succeeded in transforming mouse skin cells in a laboratory dish directly into functional nerve cells with the application of just three genes. The cells make the change without first becoming a pluripotent type of stem cell -- a step long thought to be required for cells to acquire new identities.
Altered microbe makes biofuel
Bacterium could work directly on grass or crop waste.
In a bid to overcome the drawbacks of existing biofuels, researchers have engineered a bacterium that can convert a form of raw plant biomass directly into clean, road-ready diesel.
Fossil feathers reveal dinosaurs' true colours
Pigment-storage sacs found in fossils give hints about hue.
Pristine fossils of dinosaur feathers from China have yielded the first clues about their colour.
A team of palaeontologists led by Michael Benton of the University of Bristol, UK, and Zhonghe Zhou of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, has discovered ancient colour-producing sacs in fossilized feathers from the Jehol site in northeastern China that are more than 100 million years old.
Nutrition Has a Direct Influence on the Immune System
Bonn researchers have discovered an elementary mechanism which regulates vital immune functions in healthy people. In situations of hunger which mean stress for the body's cells, the body releases more antimicrobial peptides in order to protect itself. The scientists will publish their results in the journal Nature.
Colliding Particles Can Make Black Holes
You've heard the controversy. Particle physicists predict the world's new highest-energy atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, might create tiny black holes, which they say would be a fantastic discovery. Some doomsayers fear those black holes might gobble up Earth--physicist say that's impossible--and have petitioned the United Nations to stop the $5.5 billion LHC
. Curiously, though, nobody had ever shown that the prevailing theory of gravity, Einstein's theory of general relativity, actually predicts that a black hole can be made this way. Now a computer model shows conclusively for the first time that a particle collision really can make a black hole.
Birdlike Dinosaur Was Adept Glider
How did birds learn to fly? The first flight tests of a foam model of a four-winged, feathered dinosaur suggest that early birds may have started their aviation careers by gliding down from trees.
Biodiversity talks get under way
Delegates begin to hammer out a new strategy for the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Renewed efforts to preserve the world's biodiversity should be led by an ambitious long-term vision, which could include halting extinctions by 2050.
Human Brain Uses a Grid to Represent Space
'Grid cells' that act like a spatial map in the brain have been identified for the first time in humans, according to new research by UCL scientists which may help to explain how we create internal maps of new environments.
Stunning New Look at the Cat's Paw Nebula
This striking new image shows the vast cloud of gas and dust known as the Cat’s Paw Nebula
or NGC 6334. This glowing nebula resembles a gigantic pawprint of a celestial cat out on an errand across the Universe
. This complex region of gas and dust, where numerous massive stars
are born, lies near the heart of the Milky Way galaxy
, about 5500 light-years away. It covers an area on the sky slightly larger than the full Moon
. The whole gas cloud is about 50 light-years across.
Early humans wiped out Australia's giants
Climate not to blame for the extinction of Australia's big animals.
Humans, not climate change, caused the mass extinction of Australia's giant animals, such as huge kangaroos, tens of thousands of years ago.
Prairie dogs chat with advanced 'language'
On first appearances they seem to be little more than a kind of nervous ground squirrel with a loud squeak, but new research is revealing that prairie dogs are in fact some of nature's most talkative creatures.
The Neural Advantage of Speaking 2 Languages
The ability to speak a second language isn’t the only thing that distinguishes bilingual people from their monolingual counterparts—their brains work differently, too. Research has shown, for instance, that children who know two languages more easily solve problems that involve misleading cues. A new study published in Psychological Science reveals that knowledge of a second language—even one learned in adolescence—affects how people read in their native tongue.
Bee decline linked to falling biodiversity
The decline of honeybees seen in many countries may be caused by reduced plant diversity, research suggests.
Bees fed pollen from a range of plants showed signs of having a healthier immune system than those eating pollen from a single type, scientists found.
Face Recognition Ability Inherited Separately from IQ
Recognizing faces is an important social skill, but not all of us are equally good at it. Some people are unable to recognize even their closest friends (a condition called prosopagnosia), while others have a near-photographic memory for large numbers of faces. Now a twin study by collaborators at MIT and in Beijing shows that face recognition is heritable, and that it is inherited separately from general intelligence or IQ.
Endangered Species: Humans Might Have Faced Extinction 1 Million Years Ago
New genetic findings suggest that early humans
living about one million years ago were extremely close to extinction
The genetic evidence suggests that the effective population—an indicator of genetic diversity—of early human species back then, including Homo erectus
, H. ergaster
and archaic H. sapiens
, was about 18,500 individuals (it is thought that modern humans evolved from H. erectus
), says Lynn Jorde
, a human geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. That figure translates into a total population of 55,500 individuals, tops.
The fickle Y chromosome
The male sex chromosome, long dismissed as the underachieving runt of the genome, has now been fully sequenced in a common chimpanzee. And comparison with its human counterpart — the only other Y chromosome to have been sequenced in such detail — reveals a rate of change that puts the rest of the genome to shame.
Jiminy cricket, pollinator caught in the act
Birds do it, bees do it, and apparently crickets do it too. Using night-vision cameras, scientists have documented cricket pollination of an orchid on the island of Réunion. The sighting is the first report of flower pollination by an orthopteran insect, a member of the order that includes katydids, grasshoppers and locusts, researchers report online January 11 and in an upcoming issue of the Annals of Botany. And the cricket itself — a species of raspy cricket — is new to science.
Understanding Why Leopards Can't Change Their Spots
The leopard cannot change its spots, nor can the tiger change its stripes, but a new research report published in the January 2010 issue of the journal Genetics tells us something about how cats end up with their spots and stripes. It demonstrates for the first time that at least three different genes are involved in the emergence of stripes, spots, and other markings on domestic cats.
Giant Magnetic Loop Sweeps Through Space Between Stellar Pair
Astronomers have found a giant magnetic loop stretched outward from one of the stars making up the famous double-star system Algol. The scientists used an international collection of radio telescopes to discover the feature, which may help explain details of previous observations of the stellar system.
Mystery Behind Galaxy Shapes Solved
Galaxies come in many shapes and sizes, but until recently astronomers have been at a loss to explain why.
Now scientists have used dark matter theory to predict the menagerie of galaxies found in the universe. Their new model reproduces 13 billion years' worth of cosmic evolution, resulting in a surprisingly accurate tally of the different kinds of galaxies we see.
Discovery pushes back date of first four-legged animal
The oldest known tracks of a four-limbed land animal could rewrite part of vertebrate evolution.
Some prints, showing individual digits, were found in limestone slabs unearthed in a quarry near Zachełmie, Poland, dated to about 395 million years ago — more than 18 million years before tetrapods were thought to have evolved.
Chemists crack complex compound
One of the most daunting challenges for synthetic chemists has finally been conquered. The effort to make palau'amine in the lab sparked heated competition for more than a decade between leading researchers, even though it may have little potential as a drug.
New Evidence Of Culture In Wild Chimpanzees
A new study of chimpanzees living in the wild adds to evidence that our closest primate relatives have cultural differences, too. The study, reported online on October 22nd in Current Biology, shows that neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda use different tools to solve a novel problem: extracting honey trapped within a fallen log.
Gingko Doesn't Slow Cognitive Decline in Elderly
Having trouble remembering to take your Ginkgo supplement
? The pills themselves might not help with that forgetfulness—or any other age-related cognitive decline, according to a new study published online Tuesday in JAMA
, The Journal of the American Medical Association
Tidal Forces Trigger Tremors on San Andreas Fault
Sid Perkins, Science News
The subtle changes in stress caused by tides in Earth’s crust can trigger small, deep quakes along a seismically active portion of California’s San Andreas fault, a new analysis suggests.
Ancient clone saw out the last ice age
Clones of an ancient bush have been discovered in California by botanists who reckon the original plant first grew at the height of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago.
Microbial encyclopaedia guided by evolution
Sequencing project reveals microbial cache of protein families.
Sequencing neglected microbes could accelerate the discovery of new protein families and biological traits, a study published today suggests.
When Fire Approaches, Chimps Keep Their Cool
When primatologist Jill Pruetz found herself threatened by wildfires in the savannas of Fongoli, Senegal, in 2006 she had two options: stay with the chimpanzees she was studying, or run. She chose the chimps. The primates were calm, and--with her in tow--they carefully made their way around the blaze. "I was very surprised at how good they were at judging the threat and predicting the behavior of fire," says Pruetz. The chimps' actions, she would later report, set them apart from other nonhuman animals--and they may reveal the evolutionary origins of how we came to master fire.
Feathered Dinosaurs Were Venomous Predators
Early dinosaurs weren’t just covered in feathers. They were also poisonous.
Analysis of skulls belonging to different species of Sinornithosaurus, a group of feathered predatory theropods that lived 125 million years ago in what is now northeast China, shows skeletal features reminiscent of modern rear-fanged snakes and lizards.
Cassini Captures Sunshine Gleaming off Lake on Titan
The Cassini Spacecraft has captured the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid on the part of the moon
dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins.
Mom and Dad not equally to blame for some bad genes
Depending which parent passes on a trait, disease risk could go up or down
Great. Just in time for the holidays, researchers are fueling the debate about which side of the family is responsible for your more undesirable traits.
Icy Moons of Saturn and Jupiter May Have Conditions Needed for Life
Scientists once thought that life could originate only within a solar system's "habitable zone," where a planet would be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface. But according to planetary scientist Francis Nimmo, evidence from recent NASA missions suggests that conditions necessary for life may exist on the icy satellites of Saturn and Jupiter.
Tool Use Found in Octopuses
After years of surprising scientists with their cleverness and smarts, some octopuses appear to also use tools.
Veined octopuses observed off the coast of Indonesia carried coconut shell halves under their bodies, and assembled them as necessary into shelters — something that wasn’t supposed to be possible in their corner of the animal kingdom.
Panda genome unveiled
What’s black and white and read all over? The giant panda genome. All 2.4 billion DNA base pairs of a 3-year-old female panda named Jingjing have been cataloged, researchers report online December 13 in Nature. The information will help researchers understand panda traits such as finicky diets. A thorough understanding of panda genetics may aid conservation efforts for the endangered bear.
Alien Gases in Our Atmosphere
The next breath you take could have come from beyond Pluto. Researchers studying the composition of ancient gases trapped in deep wells in New Mexico have found convincing evidence that some of our planet's atmosphere originated in the far reaches of the solar system. The discovery could change long-standing thinking about how Earth's atmosphere evolved.
Noninvasive Technique to Rewrite Fear Memories Developed
Researchers at New York University have developed a non-invasive technique to block the return of fear memories in humans. The technique, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature, may change how we view the storage processes of memory and could lead to new ways to treat anxiety disorders.
DNA Sheds New Light on Horse Evolution
Ancient DNA retrieved from extinct horse species from around the world has challenged one of the textbook examples of evolution -- the fossil record of the horse family Equidae
over the past 55 million years.
The big spill: Flood could have filled Mediterranean in less than two years
Discovery of distinctive channel, calculations of possible water movement suggest fast and furious flow formed the sea
A cataclysmic flood could have filled the Mediterranean Sea — which millions of years ago was a dry basin — like a bathtub in the space of less than two years. A new model suggests that at the flood’s peak water poured from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean basin at a rate one thousand times the flow of the Amazon River, according to calculations published in the Dec. 10 Nature.
At Stanford, nanotubes + ink + paper = instant battery
Dip an ordinary piece of paper into ink infused with carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires, and it turns into a battery or supercapacitor. Crumple the piece of paper, and it still works. Stanford researcher Yi Cui sees many uses for this new way of storing electricity.
Dark Matter Discovered? Don't Bet on It
Rumors are swirling around the blogosphere that a team of physicists may have finally detected particles of dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity appears to hold galaxies together. If those rumors are true, the discovery would surely be one of the most important of all time. But don't book tickets to Stockholm just yet. Given the same team's previously published negative results and the relatively modest increase in the size of their data set since then, experts say, it's all but certain that the new find is of marginal statistical significance.
New Findings Say Mars Methane Comes from Life or Water — or Both
A new paper that will be published Wednesday rules out the possibility that methane is delivered to Mars by meteorites, boosting the idea that the short-lived gas perhaps could be generated by either life or water, or maybe even both. Microorganisms living in the Martian soil could be producing methane gas as a by-product of their metabolic processes, or methane might be created as a result of reactions between volcanic rock
and water. Either way, the prospect is exciting.
Frog embryos listen for bad vibrations to avoid snakes
To escape being a snake's lunch, tree frog embryos listen out for bad vibrations.
The jelly-coated eggs of the Central American red-eyed tree frog are laid on vegetation overhanging ponds and can hatch up to three days early if they sense that a snake is approaching. Michael Caldwell at Boston University and colleagues wanted to know how they distinguished between predators and false alarms like torrential rain.
Life on Mars Theory Boosted by New Methane Study
Scientists have ruled out the possibility that methane is delivered to Mars by meteorites, raising fresh hopes that the gas might be generated by life on the red planet, in research published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Rudiments of Language Discovered in Monkeys
Campbell’s monkeys appear to combine the same calls in different ways, using rules of grammar that turn sound into language.
Whether their rudimentary syntax echoes the speech of humanity’s evolutionary ancestors, or represents an emergence of language unrelated to our own, is unclear. Either way, they’re far more sophisticated than we thought.
The hunt for a perfect fishy father
Female scissortail sergeants assess potential partners with 'test' eggs.
Female fish often entrust males with eggs for safekeeping — but how can they be sure that the males are up to the task?
An ecologist has now come up with evidence to support a 17-year-old hypothesis suggesting that some females try out potential mates with a small batch of 'test' eggs before breeding with them.
Tomatoes can 'eat' insects
Garden vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes have been found to be deadly killers on a par with Venus fly traps, according to research.
Botanists have discovered for the first time that the plants are carnivorous predators who kill insects in order to "self-fertilise" themselves.
What Exalts Stradivarius? Not Varnish, Study Says
In a finding that is sure to add to one of the longest-running debates in music, a detailed analysis of the varnish on five instruments made by Antonio Stradivari
reveals that he coated the wood with a rather humdrum mix of oil
and resin. Those looking to the varnish as the secret to the master Italian violin maker’s renown, the study suggests, had best look elsewhere.
Single-Atom Transistor Discovered
Researchers from Helsinki University of Technology (Finland), University of New South Wales (Australia), and University of Melbourne (Australia) have succeeded in building a working transistor, whose active region composes only of a single phosphorus atom in silicon.
Deep structure imaged under Hawaii
Seismic experiment gives best evidence yet for mantle plumes.
Geologists have obtained the best image yet of a plume of hot rock that rises from Earth's deep mantle and fuels the volcanoes of the Hawaiian islands.
Targeting microRNA knocks out hepatitis C
Blocking a small molecule, a new drug reduces levels of the virus, chimp study shows
If the Bible’s David were a modern doctor, he might appreciate a new strategy aimed at stopping a Goliath health threat: Bringing down the hepatitis C virus with the help of tiny, precisely targeted molecules.
Tina Hesman Saey
Antarctica was climate refuge during great extinction
The cool climate of Antarctica was a refuge for animals fleeing climate change during the biggest mass extinction
in Earth's history, suggests a new fossil study. The discovery may have implications for how modern animals will adapt to global warming.
Fatherless Mice Live Longer
The key to a long life might be having two mothers and no father, at least for mice. A team of researchers has found that the rodents live nearly 30% longer when they are genetically engineered to carry genes from two females but no males. The finding may be a step toward understanding why the females of many mammalian species outlive their male counterparts.
Smallest orchid in the world is found
Tiny transparent flower from Ecuador one of 60 new species discovered by botanist
The smallest species of orchid in the world has been discovered hidden among the roots of a larger plant in a nature reserve in Ecuador.
Loneliness is contagious, study suggests
Staying socially connected may be just as important for public health as washing your hands and covering your cough. A new study suggests that feelings of loneliness can spread through social networks like the common cold.
“People on the edge of the network spread their loneliness to others and then cut their ties,” says Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School in Boston, a coauthor of the new study in the December Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “It’s like the edge of a sweater: You start pulling at it and it unravels the network.”
Elusive triangular snowflakes explained
Dust particles, wind and aerodynamics could steer some flakes toward a three-sided fate
Flurries of questions about mysterious triangle-shaped snowflakes may soon subside, thanks to new research on snowflake formation. Most snowflakes are hexagons because of the arrangement of hydrogen bonds in the water molecule. But the new study, appearing online at arxiv.org (http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.4267
) and in an upcoming issue of The Microscope
, suggests that after hexagonal flakes, oddball triangular flakes are the most prevalent.
New Fossil Plant Discovery Links Patagonia to New Guinea in a Warmer Past
Fossil plants are windows to the past, providing us with clues as to what our planet looked like millions of years ago. Not only do fossils tell us which species were present before human-recorded history, but they can provide information about the climate and how and when lineages may have dispersed around the world. Identifying fossil plants can be tricky, however, when plant organs fail to be preserved or when only a few sparse parts can be found.
Greening of Sahara Desert Triggered Early Human Migrations out of Africa
A team of scientists from the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and the University of Bremen (Germany) has determined that a major change in the climate of the Sahara and Sahel region of North Africa facilitated early human migrations from the African continent.
Map of fundamental brain receptor opens doors to treatments.
Map of fundamental brain receptor opens doors to treatments.
The full structure of a fiendishly complicated and important brain protein has been determined by researchers, potentially enabling the development of new treatments for a wealth of neurological disorders.
Royal Society marks 350th anniversary by publishing documents
Original documents recording landmark moments in the history of science have been published online to mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society.
For the first time, papers published by the world's oldest scientific institution have been made available to the public via the internet.
Coral Reefs Act Like Sunscreen
Living on a coral reef is a bit like living in a tanning bed. As the sun's rays shine through the water and reflect off the reef, they strike corals, their symbiotic photosynthetic algae, and other inhabitants from above and below. So what keeps these creatures from being fried? A new study suggests that coral acts as a sunscreen, absorbing UV light and limiting the harm it inflicts on the reef's denizens.
'Simple' bacterium shows surprising complexity
The inner workings of a supposedly simple bacterial cell have turned out to be much more sophisticated than expected.
An in-depth "blueprint" of an apparently minimalist species has revealed details that challenge preconceptions about how genes operate. It also brings closer the day when it may be possible to create artificial life.
Ladybugs Taken Hostage by Wasps
Are ladybugs being overtaken by wasps? A Université de Montréal entomologist is investigating a type of wasp (Dinocampus coccinellae) present in Quebec that forces ladybugs (Coccinella maculata) to carry their larvae. These wasps lay their eggs on the ladybug's body, a common practice in the insect world, yet they don't kill their host.
Kaguya Discovers a Lava Tube on the Moon
Future lunar astronauts may want to brush up on their spelunking skills: the first lava tube has been discovered on the moon.
In a recent paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, Junichi Haruyama and colleagues report that they have discovered a mysterious hole in the lunar surface in high resolution images from the Kaguya spacecraft. The hole is 65 meters in diameter and is located in the volcanic
Marius Hills region on the near side of the moon
, right in the middle of a long sinuous rille. Sinuous rilles are thought to be formed by flowing lava, either on the surface or in enclosed lava tubes
Video: Saturn’s Spectacular Aurora in Action
How can you not love Cassini? The latest treat NASA’s spacecraft has provided us is the first ever movie of Saturn’s incredible aruroras.
Cute New Chameleon Discovered While Being Eaten by Snake
A new species of chameleon, measuring just 6 inches from snout to tail, has been discovered in east Tanzania’s mountains.
Differentiated from other species by the pattern of scales on its head and the flat shape of its nose appendage, it was first spotted while being eaten by a tree snake. The snake dropped the reptile, and it was collected by scientists.
New hydrogen-storage method discovered
Scientists at the Carnegie Institution have found for the first time that high pressure can be used to make a unique hydrogen-storage material. The discovery paves the way for an entirely new way to approach the hydrogen-storage problem. The researchers found that the normally unreactive, noble gas xenon combines with molecular hydrogen (H2) under pressure to form a previously unknown solid with unusual bonding chemistry.
One for the Ages: Bristlecone Pines Break 4,650-Year Growth Record
Bristlecone pine trees dot the White Mountains in eastern California, giving the stark and rocky landscape one of its few highly visible signs of life. These gnarly-barked trees can survive at altitudes of up to 3,470 meters, although their growth rate at these heights is limited because of cold temperatures.
LHC smashes protons together for first time
The Large Hadron Collider bashed protons together for the first time on Monday, inaugurating a new era in the quest to uncover nature's deepest secrets.
Housed in a 27-kilometre circular underground tunnel near Geneva, Switzerland, the LHC is the world's most powerful particle accelerator, designed to collide protons together at unprecedented energies.
In the Dark: Unusual Deep-Sea Species Documented
The darkest reaches of the ocean have long been thought of as a desolate biome. But as researchers send equipment down to document these mysterious depths, they are quickly learning not only that it is teaming with life, but also that it boasts surprising diversity.
Early Volcanoes Minted Nickel
Those spare nickels in your pocket might not be there without the help of ancient volcanoes that blasted sulfur dioxide into the sky billions of years ago. The discovery solves a mystery that has dogged researchers for decades, says geochemist Edward Ripley of Indiana University, Bloomington, who was not affiliated with the study.
Europe puts brakes on fusion project
The European Union (EU) is backing away from a 2018 start date for ITER, a multi-billion-euro fusion reactor under construction in the south of France.
At an ITER council meeting on 18–19 November, which was held near the reactor's site in St Paul-lez-Durance, delegates from the EU told the project's six other member states that the start date was no longer realistic, according to a source close to the negotiations. The two-day meeting concluded earlier this afternoon.
Physicists Move One Step Closer to Quantum Computing
Physicists at UC Santa Barbara have made an important advance in electrically controlling quantum states of electrons, a step that could help in the development of quantum computing. The work is published online November 20 on the Science Express Web site.
Indonesian 'hobbits' are a separate species
Tiny ‘hobbits’ whose remains were discovered on a remote Indonesian island are a new human species and not just dwarfs, new evidence suggests.
Ripples in space divide classical and quantum worlds
WHY can't we be in two places at the same time? The simple answer is that it's because large objects appear not to be subject to the same wacky laws of quantum mechanics that rule subatomic particles. But why not - and how big does something have to be for quantum physics no longer to apply? Ripples in space-time could hold the answer.
Heart Disease Found in Egyptian Mummies
Hardening of the arteries has been detected in Egyptian mummies, some as old as 3,500 years, suggesting that the factors causing heart attack and stroke are not only modern ones; they afflicted ancient people, too.
Keeping the young Earth cosy
Nitrogen now stored in the planetary crust and mantle may have prevented the early Earth from freezing, scientists suggest. The study lends weight to the idea that on geological timescales atmospheric pressure helps to regulate climate and habitability of Earth-like planets.
Right-Handed Chimpanzees Provide Clues to the Origin of Human Language
Most of the linguistic functions in humans are controlled by the left cerebral hemisphere. A study of captive chimpanzees at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Atlanta, Georgia), reported in the January 2010 issue of Elsevier's Cortex, suggests that this "hemispheric lateralization" for language may have its evolutionary roots in the gestural communication of our common ancestors. A large majority of the chimpanzees in the study showed a significant bias towards right-handed gestures when communicating, which may reflect a similar dominance of the left hemisphere for communication in chimpanzees as that seen for language functions in humans.
Potential Treatment for Huntington's Disease
Investigators at Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham), the University of British Columbia's Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics and the University of California, San Diego have found that normal synaptic activity in nerve cells (the electrical activity in the brain that allows nerve cells to communicate with one another) protects the brain from the misfolded proteins associated with Huntington's disease.
LHC to Finally Start Next Week, Again
CERN is reporting that the Large Hadron Collider could circulate particle beams through both of its pipes in just over a week
. If all goes well, the first collisions would begin soon after that.
Lunar Impactor Finds Clear Evidence of Water Ice on Moon
There is water on the moon, NASA confirmed today, and lots of it.
In the first look at results from the LCROSS mission, which sent a probe crashing into the Cabeus crater near the moon’s south pole, NASA’s main investigator said their instruments clearly detected water, despite the underwhelming plume.
Can A Plant Be Altruistic?
Although plants have the ability to sense and respond to other plants, their ability to recognize kin and act altruistically has been the subject of few studies. The authors explored kin recognition in Impatiens pallida (yellow jewelweed). By moving their resources into leaves, these plants not only positively affected their own growth, but also negatively affected their competitors' growth. This is the first instance where researchers demonstrated that a plant's response to an aboveground cue is dependent upon the presence of a belowground cue.
Mini ice age took hold of Europe in months
JUST months - that's how long it took for Europe to be engulfed by an ice age. The scenario, which comes straight out of Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, was revealed by the most precise record of the climate from palaeohistory ever generated.
NASA Reproduces A Building Block Of Life In Laboratory
NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, a key component of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces this essential ingredient of life.
Planets May Affect the Chemistry of Their Stars
Planets are, by and large, at the mercy of their stars. Not only do stars provide a ready energy source of radiated light and heat, but the mass and gravitational pull of stars flat-out dwarfs the summed masses and pulls of any orbiting companions. In our solar system, which has more planets—regardless of where one stands on the Pluto debate—than any other planetary system we know of so far, the sun still makes up more than 99.8 percent
of its system's mass.
Bad Decisions May Be Contagious
Like the flu, a person's emotional state can be contagious. Watch someone cry, and you'll likely feel sad; think about the elderly, and you'll tend to walk slower. Now a study suggests that we can also catch someone else's irrational thought processes.
Scientists unveil plant DNA barcode
Scientists meeting at the third International Barcode of Life conference in Mexico City this week have agreed on a region of DNA that will be used to identify plants by genus in a new system of codification.
Antarctica Glacier Retreat Creates New Carbon Dioxide Store; Has Beneficial Impact On Climate Change
Large blooms of tiny marine plants called phytoplankton are flourishing in areas of open water left exposed by the recent and rapid melting of ice shelves and glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula. This remarkable colonisation is having a beneficial impact on climate change. As the blooms die back phytoplankton sinks to the sea-bed where it can store carbon for thousands or millions of years.
Stone Age humans crossed Sahara in the rain
Wet spells in the Sahara may have opened the door for early human migration. According to new evidence, water-dependent trees and shrubs grew there between 120,000 and 45,000 years ago. This suggests that changes in the weather helped early humans cross the desert on their way out of Africa.
Signature of Antimatter Detected in Lightning
Designed to scan the heavens thousands to billions of light-years beyond the solar system, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has now recorded some more down-to-Earth signals. During its first 14 months of operation, the flying observatory has detected 17 gamma-ray flashes associated with terrestrial lightning storms.
Baguette-toting bird stalls atom smasher
This is too weird: A bird reportedly has dropped a "bit of baguette" onto the world's largest atom smasher, causing the machine to short out for a period of time.
Early Scents Really Do Get Etched in the Brain
Common experience tells us that particular scents of childhood can leave quite an impression, for better or for worse. Now, researchers reporting the results of a brain imaging study online on November 5th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, show that first scents really do enjoy a "privileged" status in the brain.
The DNA of the domesticated horse shows evolution at work
THE genomes of many mammals have now been completed, including the cow, the dog, the chimpanzee and, of course, the human. This week it was the turn of the horse to have its DNA sequence decoded. With it emerged further evidence of how horses have been close human companions and, like other mammals that share an evolutionary history with man, how they could help the understanding of hereditary diseases. But there was also a surprise: horses have a newly forming part in their genetic make-up which shows the evolutionary process in action in a way that has not been seen before.
Early Life Hedged Its Bets to Survive
By forcing bacteria to evolve in ever-changing conditions, scientists have induced a behavior in which colonies formed by microbes with identical genes take radically different forms, as if one sibling in a set of identical quadruplets could sprout gills.
Hydrogen Peroxide May Tell Time For Living Cells
If a circadian rhythm is like an orchestra -- the united expression of the rhythms of millions of cells -- a common chemical may serve as the conductor, or at least as the baton.
Study Suggests Handedness May Affect Body Perception
There are areas in the brain devoted to our arms, legs, and various parts of our bodies. The way these areas are distributed throughout the brain are known as "body maps" and there are some significant differences in these maps between left- and right-handed people. For example, in left-handed people, there is an equal amount of brain area devoted to the left and right arms in both hemispheres. However, for right-handed people, there is more cortical area associated with right arm than the left.
El Niño Cycles Threaten Some New World Monkey Populations
El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean wreak havoc on monkey populations, either in the midst of the periodic hot and dry spells or in their chilly aftermath, according to the results of a new study.
Supernova mystery solved?
Two astrophysicists believe that they have dispelled the mystery surrounding an object at the centre of a distant supernova remnant.
Tiny Laser-scanning Microscope Images Brain Cells In Freely Moving Animals
By building a tiny microscope small enough to be carried around on a rats` head, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, have found a way to study the complex activity of many brain cells simultaneously while animals are free to move around. With this new technology scientists can actually see how the brain cells operate while the animal is behaving naturally, giving rise to immense new insights into the understanding of perception and attention.
How Did the Chinese Create Snow?
"Everybody complains about the weather," the old saying goes, "But nobody does anything about it." That is, until now. A Nov. 1 snowfall in Beijing — the city's earliest since 1987 — is due, Chinese scientists say to a campaign of "cloud seeding" to encourage precipitation. If true, it's the wettest success yet in a long-standing effort to artificially bring moisture to the parched northern regions of China. So how'd they do it?
Gene Therapy Repairs Injured Human Donor Lungs For The First Time
For the first time, scientists in the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University Health Network have successfully used gene therapy to repair injured human donor lungs, making them potentially suitable for transplantation into patients. This technique could significantly expand the number of donor lungs by using organs that are currently discarded, and improve outcomes after transplantation.
Did Ancient Earth Go Nuclear?
A surge of oxygen littered early Earth with millions of tiny nuclear reactors, blasting ancient life with radiation. That's the scenario a team of researchers has proposed to account for the disappearance of a radioactive mineral from the geological record. If true, this primordial nuclear age could have played a role in the evolution of early life forms.
By Phil Berardelli
Gamma-ray observations shrink known grain size of spacetime
Tininess of speed differences between photons from a gamma-ray burst uphold special relativity theory
Smaller dots, Georges, please. In their efforts to unify quantum theory and gravity, theoretical physicists have likened spacetime to a Georges Seurat painting, composed of tiny dots or lumps that meld to form a seemingly smooth picture. But if spacetime really does have a grainy structure on the smallest scales, the cosmic painter may need to get finer brushes, a new study reveals.
By Ron Cowen
Birds Use Light, Not Magnetic Field, to Migrate
A cell in the eye may be worth two in the beak, at least when it comes to a migratory bird’s magnetic compass. In European robins, a visual center in the brain and light-sensing cells in the eye — not magnetic sensing cells in the beak — allow the songbirds to sense which direction is north and migrate correctly, a new study finds. The study, appearing Oct. 29 in Nature, may improve conservation efforts for migratory birds.
By Laura Sanders, Science News
Rot-resistant Wheat Could Save Farmers Millions
CSIRO researchers have identified wheat and barley lines resistant to Crown Rot -- a disease that costs Australian wheat and barley farmers $79 million in lost yield every year.
To Mosquitoes, We Smell Like Bird
After its favorite birds have migrated away, the mosquito that transmits the West Nile virus starts snacking on people. Now researchers think they know why. Humans and birds produce a common smell that the mosquitoes find irresistible.
By Martin Enserink
Secrets In A Seed: Clues Into The Evolution Of The First Flowers
Approximately 120-130 million years ago, one of the most significant events in the history of the Earth occurred: the first flowering plants, or angiosperms, arose. In the late 1800s, Darwin referred to their development as an "abominable mystery." To this day, scientists are still challenged by this "mystery" of how angiosperms originated, rapidly diversified, and rose to dominance.
High testosterone linked to miserly behaviour
If you're looking to haggle, steer clear of big,
beefy salesmen. The same hormone responsible for their brawn may also
reduce their generosity, new research suggests.
"Our broad conclusion is that testosterone causes men essentially to be stingy," says Karen Redwine,
a neuro-economist at Whittier College in California, who presented the
work at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in Chicago last
A previous study of 17 City of London traders found that morning testosterone levels correlated with each day's gains and losses,
with more of the hormone associated with a profit. But that study
didn't establish a cause-effect relationship between testosterone and
To make this case, Redwine and her colleague Paul Zak,
at the Claremont Graduate University in California, gave a
testosterone-containing gel to 25 male university students, and then
tested their generosity. All the participants also got a placebo cream
with no testosterone, either a few days before or after the
testosterone boost. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew
which was which until the end of the study.
The testosterone cream worked. The next day, twice as
much of the potent sex hormone coursed through the veins of volunteers,
students then played a simple economic game with another participant
via a computer. One volunteer is tasked with splitting $10 with another
volunteer in any way he likes. The other volunteer either accepts the
offer or rejects it as unfair, in which case no one gets any money.
Each volunteer played this game in both roles, on and off the
the testosterone cream caused a 27 per cent reduction in the generosity
of the offers, from averages of $2.15 to $1.57, Redwine and Zak found.
more potent variant of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), exerted
an even stronger influence on behaviour. Men with the most DHT in their
bloodstream offered their partners a paltry $0.55 of the $10, while men
with the least amount of DHT tendered $3.65, on average.
was also associated with a propensity to punish unfair offers. Men with
the highest levels rejected offers below $4, while men with low levels
of the androgen only punished if the offer was below $2.15, the
There are two ways of looking at the findings,
Redwine says. On one hand, testosterone pushed men to demand a larger
split of the money, whether they were making an offer or deciding to
accept or reject one.
by rejecting unfair offers, testosterone-fuelled volunteers are
actually enforcing a social order that calls for a 50-50 split. "People
are selfish, but they're selfless as well, and it's not understood why
the behaviour shifts," she says.
biological factor could be the dynamics between testosterone and
another hormone called oxytocin. Sometimes called the cuddle chemical,
oxytocin also influences generosity. In a 2007 study, Zak's team found
that oxytocin administration boosted generosity in the same game by 80 per cent.
notes that testosterone blocks the action of oxytocin in the brain.
"It's possible that by creating these alpha males we actually inhibited
oxytocin," she says.
by Ewen Callaway
ONCE upon a time, biofuels were thought of as a solution to
fossil-fuel dependence. Now they are widely seen as a boondoggle to
agribusiness that hurts the environment and cheats taxpayers. A report
commissioned by the United Nations endorses neither extreme. It gives
high marks to some crop-based fuels and lambasts others. Meanwhile, two
papers published in Science, a leading research journal,
provide further reasons for caution. One suggests that the knock-on
effects of growing biofuel crops, in terms of displaced food crops and
extra fertiliser (an important source of a greenhouse gas called
nitrous oxide), make the whole enterprise risky. The other points out a
dangerous inconsistency in the way the Earth’s carbon balance-sheet is
drawn up for the purposes of international law.
The UN report gives ethanol from sugar cane (which Brazil makes) a
clean bill of health. In some circumstances it does better than just
“zero emission”. If grown and processed correctly, it has “negative
emission”—pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere, rather than adding it.
America’s use of maize for biofuel is less efficient. Properly planted
and processed, it does cut emissions; done poorly, it is more polluting
than petrol. As to biodiesel palm oil grown on cleared tropical forest,
when the destruction of the trees and release of CO2 from the cleared
soil are accounted for, the crop is filthy—and worse than that if the
forest was growing in peat, as is often the case.
The amount of ethanol produced for transport tripled from 17 billion
litres in 2000 to 52 billion litres in 2007 and is set to rise further.
But the world’s population is also rising, so competition for land
between fuel and food is hotting up. This competition is the subject of
Jerry Melillo’s paper in Science. Dr Melillo, of the Woods
Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and his colleagues have attempted to
model how an expansion of biofuels might change world agriculture
during the 21st century. They concentrate on the likely
future—cellulosic biofuels made from whole plants such as fast-growing
grasses, rather than the food-cum-biofuel crops of today. They reckon
Africa is the best place to grow biofuels, and the one that will lead
to most carbon capture in the long run. But they also show that the
widespread growth of biofuel crops is likely to cause a net global
release of greenhouse gases during the first half of the century, as
land is cleared and fertilisers are scattered liberally. In the right
circumstances the CO2 account, they reckon, could move into profit by
mid-century, but the nitrous oxide account never does.
Tim Searchinger’s Science paper, meanwhile, looks at the
way the accounts are drawn up in the here and now. Dr Searchinger, who
works at Princeton University, and his collaborators point out that the
rules for assessing compliance with the Kyoto protocol (which are also
included in the version of America’s climate bill that passed the House
of Representatives) are biased in favour of biofuels because they fail
to account for emissions from land cleared to grow such fuels. Combine
that observation with Dr Melillo’s modelling and you have a recipe for
some perverse incentives indeed.
Sadly, settled international standards on biofuels or on a trading
system that includes their carbon-cutting benefits are probably a long
way off. Two more items on the “too busy to do” list of the Copenhagen
conference on climate change.
Mantis Shrimp Eyes Might Inspire New High-Def Devices
In the marvelously sensitive eyes of mantis shrimps, scientists have
found cells that could inspire an overhaul of humanity’s comparatively
clumsy communications hardware.
Mechanical analogs of their eyes “are among the most important and
commonly used optical components, and the cellular structure we
describe significantly outperforms these current optics,” write
researchers in a study published Sunday in Nature Photonics.
Mantis shrimps are reef-dwelling marine crustaceans who trace their
evolutionary lineage straight back to the Cambrian age 500 million
years ago, before vertebrates had even evolved. They’re so biologically
unique that biologists call them “shrimps from Mars.”
They possess the animal kingdom’s most complicated eyes, capable of
distinguishing between 100,000 colors — 10 times as many as humans — and seeing circular polarized light, or CPL, which can’t be detected by any other creature.
That ability was described in a study published last March in Current Biology. In the Nature Photonicspaper, researchers unveil the biological underpinning of this optical
wizardry, which is performed by specialized cells arranged in tightly
packed tubular bundles. The cells change the rotation of photons as
they pass through, converting CPL’s tight spirals to the
straightforward, up-and-down wavelength of linear polarized light.
This lets mantis shrimp eyes process CPL. The same trick is
performed by devices called quarter-wave plates, which convert
polarized light signals inside DVD and CD players. Quarter-wave plates
are also used inside satellite transmitters and other high-tech
communication systems, which rely on the data-dense, loss-free
transmission properties of circular polarized light.
But even our best quarter-wave plates can only detect circular
polarized light in a few colors. The quarter-wave plates of mantis
shrimps work across the visual spectrum, for any color of CPL. And if
human engineers can mimic their designs, they might create “a new
category of optical devices,” the researchers write.
“The level of structural complexity and precision obtainable through
natural self-assembly of biological materials far surpasses any current
material manufacturing capabilities,” they conclude.
By Brandon Keim
The pure vacuum of a thermos is not the best possible insulator for
keeping your soup warm. Last year a team found theoretically that a
structure known as a photonic crystal could block heat flow even more
effectively than vacuum. In the October Physical Review B they
present a complete theory explaining the phenomenon and reveal that the
structure's insulating ability is surprisingly independent of its
structural details. Their work suggests that photonic crystals, which
have promising applications in communications and computing, might one
day be used for their thermal properties, perhaps in devices that turn
the sun's heat into usable energy.
Hot soup in a thermos is surrounded by a vacuum between the inner
and outer walls, which prevents heat from conducting directly through
the sides, as it would if the walls were a one-piece solid. But the
soup still loses heat by "glowing" in infrared light because the light
radiated through the walls takes energy away with it.
Shanhui Fan of Stanford University in California and his colleagues
wondered if photonic crystals--periodic structures famous for blocking
narrow frequency ranges of light--could block the broad range of
infrared frequencies radiated by a warm body. Last year they studied a
stack of alternating silicon and vacuum layers theoretically,
calculating the thermal conductance--the ease with which infrared
photons could pass through. The team evaluated different
layer-thicknesses, numbers of layers, and temperatures and showed that
for a 100-micron-thick stack containing 10 one-micron-thick silicon
layers, at room temperature and above, the thermal conductance plunged
to about half that of a vacuum . So soup in a photonic crystal thermos would stay hot longer than in a normal thermos.
In their new paper, the team undertakes a complete theoretical
analysis of the problem, rather than solving specific cases. Photonic
crystal theorists usually calculate the narrow ranges of frequency
blocked by the structure, the so-called band gaps. But given the very
large number of gaps over the wide range of thermal radiation, Fan and
his colleagues used a different approach, which they call a statistical
theory. They calculated the fraction of all frequencies that the
photonic crystal allows through. They found that this fraction, and
therefore the thermal conductance, doesn't depend on the thickness of
the individual layers but only on how fast light travels in the solid
layers--the solid's index of refraction. This result was unusual, says
Fan. "Normally, for a photonic crystal, for other applications, the
detail of the structure is very important." But with such a large swath
of frequency, structure-induced increases or decreases in the sizes of
the many band gaps appear to largely cancel out and leave the
transmitted fraction unchanged.
Steven Johnson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the
results suggest researchers have less control than they thought. "The
conductance is mainly determined by the available materials and not by
the layer geometry," so researchers have fewer ways of fine-tuning the
The team plans to study photonic crystals with irregular structures,
which they think could be even better insulators. Fan says that
controlling heat flow with photonic crystals could be useful for
researchers trying to capture the sun's heat as an energy source. "The
issue of allowing optical radiation to pass through while keeping heat
within is very important for solar-thermal applications," he says.
 W. T. Lau, J.-T. Shen, G. Veronis, S. Fan, and
P. V. Braun, "Tuning Coherent Radiative Thermal Conductance in
Multilayer Photonic Crystals," Appl. Phys. Lett. 92, 103106 (2008)
Nothing to Fear From the Big Bald Wolf
Shortly after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National
Park in 1995, Daniel MacNulty was puzzled by something. The breeding
pair in one of the packs frequently stopped during their elk hunts to
rest. "They sat on the sidelines while their offspring did the work,"
says MacNulty, an ecologist from Michigan Technological University in
Houghton. "After their kids made the kill, they would amble up to
Laziness? Not at all. The two were almost 5 years old, which MacNulty
has learned is fairly old age for wolves. His new study is one of the
first to look at the effects of aging in predators, and it raises
questions about current methods of controlling wolf populations. "It's
an exciting paper and should become a classic," says ecologist John
Fryxell of the University of Guelph in Canada.
MacNulty has followed 94 radio-collared wolves in Yellowstone for 13
years, closely monitoring their hunts for two 30-day periods during
each of those years. His research on these individual canids shows that
wolves age rapidly. Indeed, by age 2 they're in their hunting prime,
drawing on youthful endurance and sudden bursts of speed to take down
elk. But just as quickly, they lose that talent, MacNulty's team reports online in Ecology Letters.
"Wolves are old when they're 4," he says. The median life span for
wolves in Yellowstone is 6 years, although some have lived as long as
10. Those older wolves manage to survive because the younger ones in
their pack pick up the slack, killing elk and letting all the pack
members feed. Older wolves are also heftier and may come in at the end
of a hunt to use their weight to help pull down the elk, says MacNulty.
As one might expect, aging predators are good news for prey. The
wolves' kill rate on elk in Yellowstone declined significantly as the
number of geriatric hunters in the wolf population increased. And that
could have cascading effects on the ecosystem. For instance, elk may
linger and browse on woody plants when elderly wolves are around. More
browsing could slow the recovery of willows and aspen trees, which have
come back since the wolves' reintroduction.
Fryxell says ecologists are starting to realize that age needs to be
included in models of predator-prey abundance. Game managers should pay
attention as well. Most managers who want to boost numbers of elk and
deer think all you need to do is kill wolves, says ecologist
Christopher Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz. "But
this study shows you're probably increasing your problem, since you'll
end up with younger wolves that kill more prey." That's because when a
pack vanishes or is weakened and loses its territory, he says, younger
wolves often move in. "You're better off leaving the wolves alone."
By Virginia Morell
Time-keeping Brain Neurons Discovered
Keeping track of time is one of the brain's most important tasks. As
the brain processes the flood of sights and sounds it encounters, it
must also remember when each event occurred. But how does that happen?
How does your brain recall that you brushed your teeth before you took
a shower, and not the other way around?
For decades, neuroscientists have theorized that the brain "time
stamps" events as they happen, allowing us to keep track of where we
are in time and when past events occurred. However, they couldn't find
any evidence that such time stamps really existed -- until now.
An MIT team led by Institute Professor Ann Graybiel has found groups
of neurons in the primate brain that code time with extreme precision.
"All you do is time stamp everything, and then recalling events is
easy: you go back and look through your time stamps until you see which
ones are correlated with the event," she says.
That kind of precise timing control is critical for everyday tasks
such as driving a car or playing the piano, as well as keeping track of
past events. The discovery, reported in this week's issue of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to new
treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's disease, where the ability
to control the timing of movements is impaired.
Construction of time
The research team trained two macaque monkeys to perform a simple
eye-movement task. After receiving the "go" signal, the monkeys were
free to perform the task at their own speed. The researchers found
neurons that consistently fired at specific times -- 100 milliseconds,
110 milliseconds, 150 milliseconds and so on -- after the "go" signal.
"Soon enough we realized we had cells keeping time, which everyone
has wanted to find, but nobody has found them before," says Graybiel,
who is also an investigator in MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain
Research. The neurons are located in the prefrontal cortex and the
striatum, both of which play important roles in learning, movement and
The new work is an elegant demonstration of how the brain represents
time, says Peter Strick, professor of neurobiology at the University of
Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the research. "We have sensory
receptors for light, sound, touch, hot and cold, and smell, but we
don't have sensory receptors for time. This is a sense constructed by
the brain," he says.
Key to the team's success was a new technique that allows
researchers to record electrical signals from hundreds of neurons in
the brain simultaneously, and a mathematical way to analyze the brain
signals, spearheaded by team members Naotaka Fujii of the RIKEN Brain
Institute in Japan and Dezhe Jin of Penn State. Though this study
focused on the prefrontal cortex and striatum, Graybiel says she
expects other regions of the brain may also have neurons that keep time.
Graybiel suggests that the new research could help patients with
Parkinson's disease, who often behave as if their brains' timekeeping
functions are impaired: they have trouble performing tasks that require
accurate rhythm, such as dancing, and time appears to pass more slowly
for them. Rhythmic stimuli such as tapping can help them to speak more
Targeting the timekeeping neurons with neural prosthetic devices or
drugs -- possibly including the natural brain chemicals dopamine and
serotonin -- may help treat those Parkinson's symptoms, she says.
Future studies in this area could shed light on how the brain
produces these time stamps and how this function can control behavior
and learning. The work also raises questions regarding how the brain
interprets the passage of time differently under different
"Sometimes time moves quickly, and in some situations time seems to
slow down. All of this ultimately has a neural representation," says
Funding: National Eye Institute, National Parkinson Foundation,
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Huck Institutes of the Life
Sciences at Penn State University.
Jin DZ, Fujii N, Graybiel AM. Neural representation of time in corticobasal ganglia circuits
. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, Week of Oct. 19 2009
Underwater town breaks antiquity record
A settlement that long ago sank into the
Mediterranean Sea has been identified as the world's oldest underwater
town. Pavlopetri, off the southern coast of the Pelopennese in Greece, has been dated to around 3000 BC.
Although Pavlopetriwas found in 1967, the Greek government has just announced that
5000-year-old pottery fragments have been recovered from the town,
forcing a rethink of when it was first occupied.
the government has also revealed that a further 9000 square metres of
buildings, streets, and graves – plus what looks like a large
ceremonial building called a megaron – have been discovered. This
suggests that Pavlopetri may have been an important trading port, and
provides new clues about how Neolithic people lived.
can find scattered huts or Palaeolithic caves [on the sea bed] which
are much older, but not towns with streets, and rows of houses sharing
common walls," says Nic Flemming of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, who first discovered Pavlopetri in the 1960s and dated it to around 1500 BC.
we've got here is something that's 2000 or even 3000 years older than
most of the submerged cities that have been studied. And its uniqueness
is not just its age, but the fact that it was used as a port."
settlements of similar age have been found on land, no such towns have
been found on the coast. "This was effectively a massive town, with a
hinterland of scattered farms in the hills, plus copper mines," says
was a crossroads for seafaring, a critical transport point between the
mainland and Crete, and a rich agricultural district. In terms of
understanding what was happening at that time, it's extremely exciting."
new-found buildings and structures were discovered using
sector-scanning sonar, a technique originally developed for the oil and
gas industry, but recently turned to underwater archaeology: for
example, it was used to identify an ancient stone circle on the bottom of Lake Michigan.
More to come
because the site is submerged, organic material such as wood or food –
long since disappeared from towns from the same period that are still
above the waves – may also have been preserved. "Once we start
excavating this site we should learn a lot about what it was like to
live in a Bronze Age town," says Jon Henderson of the University of Nottingham, UK, who co-directed the underwater survey. (Henderson talks about the work further in videos on the University of Nottingham website.)
Pavlopetri is thought to have sunk as a result of the frequent earthquakes that afflict the region.
a rare find, and it is significant because, as a submerged site, it was
never reoccupied and therefore represents a frozen moment of the past,"
adds Elias Spondylis of the Greek culture ministry.
by Linda Geddes
Geologist Analyzes Earliest Shell-covered Fossil Animals
The fossil remains of some of the first animals with shells,
ocean-dwelling creatures that measure a few centimeters in length and
date to about 520 million years ago, provide a window on evolution at
this time, according to scientists. Their research indicates that these
animals were larger than previously thought.
John Moore, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth Science at UC
Santa Barbara, and his collaborators, analyzed fossils from the epoch
called the Early Cambrian. During this important time in the history of
the earth, there was a tremendous diversification of animal life in the
oceans. Many of the major animal groups that are still alive today
appeared at this time, as well as many unusual groups that went
extinct. In particular, the Cambrian marked the first widespread
occurrence of animals with shells or other hard parts. Many of these
early animals had complex external armors containing dozens to
thousands of tiny pieces. When the animals died, the armor fell apart.
From the resulting jumbled puzzle pieces, Moore and his research team
discerned what the animals were like, and how they are related to other
"In our study, we focused on a strange Cambrian creature, called Cambrothyra," said Moore. He explained that Cambrothyrafossils look like tiny jars or vases, a few tenths of a millimeter
long. They have been found in only a few locations in central China.
The research team collected rocks from China's Shaanxi Province and
brought them back to the lab where they extracted the fossils from the
"While some scientists once thought that each little jar-like structure of Cambrothyra was the shell of a tiny single-celled protist, our work instead supports the hypothesis that Cambrothyrawas an animal, probably a few centimeters long, that was covered with
an armor that was made up of hundreds of separate tiny, jar-shaped
pieces," said Moore. "In particular, Cambrothyra seems to be
related to another unusual Cambrian animal, the chancelloriids, which
were attached to the sea floor and looked a bit like barrel cacti --
although they were animals rather than plants which suggests that Cambrothyra may have been a relative." Cambrothyraalso shares similarities with a different Cambrian group, the
halkieriids. This animal looked like a slug covered with armor. It
traveled around the sea floor and thus may help support the idea that
chancelloriids and halkieriids are closely related to each other,
despite very different appearances.
Moore presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Geological
Society of America in Portland, Ore., today. He completed the work in
collaboration with his advisor Susannah Porter, assistant professor in
the Department of Earth Science at UCSB; Michael Steiner of the Freie
Universität, Berlin; and Guoxiang Li of the Nanjing Institute of
Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Drug clears the fog of a sleepless night
A sleepless night can leave your memory in tatters, but research in
mice raises the possibility that a drug could counteract the problem.
anyone who has ever been deprived of sleep knows all too well how
tiredness can affect the brain, the molecular mechanism behind it has
eluded researchers. "One of the main problems is that sleep deprivation
does a lot of things to the brain, and it's easy to get caught in a
mish-mash of different effects," says Christopher Vecsey of Brandeis
University in Massachusetts.
Vecsey was part of a team, led by
Ted Abel at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, that
examined the effects of sleep deprivation on a region of the brain
called the hippocampus. This is well known to have an important role in
learning and memory.
The researchers monitored the levels of
several molecules in the hippocampi of mice that had been deprived of
sleep for five hours. Sleepy mice showed increased levels and activity
of an enzyme called PDE4, which acts on a particular suite of molecules
that help to consolidate long-term memories.
To confirm that
PDE4 was actively impairing memory, the team treated sleep-deprived
mice with rolipram, a drug that stops PDE4 from working, and then
assessed how well they remembered a fear stimulus. "When we treated
[mice] with the drug we found that the memory deficits that they
normally would have had with sleep deprivation were prevented," Vecsey
says. The results are published in Nature1.
and other drugs that inhibit PDE4 are already being researched for
their role in disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple
sclerosis. "The problem is that they do have side effects," Vecsey
The team's results pointed towards only one particular
form of the PDE4 enzyme being affected by sleep deprivation. "If we can
design drugs that target this form specifically, successful treatments
for some of the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation could be
possible," Vecsey says. Such drugs could then be used to boost memory
in people with sleep disturbances. But, he says, "it's important to
keep in mind also that the type of effects we were examining here are
just one aspect of what sleep deprivation can cause in the brain."
"People knew that sleep deprivation affects learning and memory, but
left it there because they didn't really know how it works," says Peter
Giese, who studies the biology of memory at the Institute of Psychiatry
at King's College London. "This paper is the next milestone because it
provides a mechanism."
"It's interesting that not every
pathway is affected by sleep deprivation, which was not really known,"
he adds. "It could have been that all pathways are affected, which
would have been a much more complicated result."
- Vecsey, C. G. et al. Nature461, 1122-1125 (2009). | Article
How City Noise is Shaping Bird Song
Did you know birds sing in dialect?
They do. The song of a great tit from the countryside is a far cry from
that of his city cousin. And some song dialects can change nearly as
fast as human slang—the Indigo Bunting changes tune from year to year.
To investigate the cultural evolution of such songsresearchers have recently completed a study of adjacent White-crowned
sparrow dialects from 1969 to 1998 in San Francisco. Biologist David
Luther of the University of Maryland and ornithologist Luis Baptista of
the California Academy of Sciences hypothesized that the pressures of
urban noise would tend, over time, to eliminate the lower ranges of the
bird's song and cause the sparrows to prefer to learn songsat the higher range. Simply put, birds that sang too low would be
drowned out by rumbling buses, honking cars, or other typical city
And that's exactly what they found.
The lowest frequencies of bird
song in the Summer of Love were lower than those to be found during the
Dotcom craze. And since sparrows are relatively short-lived—average
lifespan of just two years—this effect spanned generations. Much like humans, the sparrows seem to be raising their voices to be heard over the sounds of the city.
At least one birdsong dialect
died out entirely, though there were some bilingual birds, and the
so-called San Francisco dialect came to dominate all songs, likely
because it was tuned higher.
It seems that the need for
effective communication in the local environment is the fundamental
driver of cultural traits that are passed on from one generation to the
next. Ya hear that?!
Junk food turns rats into addicts
Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the
behaviors of rats addicted to heroin, a new study finds. Pleasure
centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets
became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume
more and more food. The results, presented October 20 at the Society
for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, may help explain the changes in the
brain that lead people to overeat.
“This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity
and drug addiction have common neurobiological underpinnings,” says
study coauthor Paul Johnson of the Scripps Research Institute in
To see how junk food affects the brain’s natural reward system — the
network of nerve cells that release feel-good chemicals — Johnson
started at the grocery store. He loaded up on typical Western fare,
including Ho Hos, sausage, pound cake, bacon and cheesecake. Johnson
fed rats either a standard diet of high-nutrient, low-calorie chow, or
unlimited amounts of the palatable junk food. Rats that ate the junk
food soon developed compulsive eating habits and became obese. “They’re
taking in twice the amount of calories as the control rats,” says
Johnson’s coauthor Paul Kenny, also of Scripps.
Johnson and Kenny wanted to know if this overeating affected the
pleasure centers of the rats’ brains, the regions responsible for drug
addiction. The researchers used electrical stimulations to activate
these reward centers and induce pleasure. Rats could control the amount
of feel-good stimulation by running on a wheel — the more they ran, the
more stimulation they got. The rats fed junk food ran more, indicating
that they needed more brain stimulation to feel good.
After just five days on the junk food diet, rats showed “profound
reductions” in the sensitivity of their brains’ pleasure centers,
suggesting that the animals quickly became habituated to the food. As a
result, the rats ate more food to get the same amount of pleasure. Just
as heroin addicts require more and more of the drug to feel good, rats
needed more and more of the junk food. “They lose control,” Kenny says.
“This is the hallmark of addiction.”
To see how strong the drive to eat junk food was, the researchers
exposed the rats to a foot shock when they ate the high-fat food. Rats
that had not been constantly exposed to the junk food quickly stopped
eating. But the foot shock didn’t faze rats accustomed to the junk food
— they continued to eat, even though they knew the shock was coming.
“What we have are these core features of addiction, and these animals are hitting each one of these features,” Kenny says.
These reward pathway deficits persisted for weeks after the rats
stopped eating the junk food, the researchers found. “It’s almost as if
you break these things, it’s very, very hard to go back to the way
things were before,” Kenny says. When the junk food was taken away and
the rats had access only to nutritious chow (what Kenny calls the
“salad option”), the obese rats refused to eat. “They starve themselves
for two weeks afterward,” Kenny says. “Their dietary preferences are
Scientists are interested in determining the long-term effect of
altering the reward system. “We might not see it when we look at the
animal,” says obesity expert Ralph DiLeone of Yale University School of
Medicine. “They might be a normal weight, but how they respond to food
in the future may be permanently altered.”
By Laura Sanders
Tool-making Human Ancestors Inhabited Grassland Environments Two Million Years Ago
In an article published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONEon October 21, 2009, Dr Thomas Plummer of Queens College at the City
University of New York, Dr Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Natural History and colleagues report the oldest
archeological evidence of early human activities in a grassland
environment, dating to 2 million years ago. The article highlights new
research and its implications concerning the environments in which
human ancestors evolved.
Scientists as far back as Charles Darwin have thought that
adaptation to grassland environments profoundly influenced the course
of human evolution. This idea has remained well-entrenched, even with
recent recognition that hominin origins took place in a woodland
environment and that the adaptive landscape in Africa fluctuated
dramatically in response to short-term climatic shifts.
During the critical time period between 3 and 1.5 million years ago,
the origin of lithic technology and archeological sites, the evolution
of Homo and Paranthropus, selection for endurance running, and novel
thermoregulatory adaptations to hot, dry environments in H. erectus have all been linked to increasingly open environments in Africa.
However, ecosystems in which grassland prevails have not been
documented in the geological record of Pliocene hominin evolution, so
it has been unclear whether open habitats were even available to
hominins, and, if so, whether hominins utilized them. In their new
study, Plummer and colleagues provide the first documentation of both
at the 2-million-year-old Oldowan archeological site of Kanjera South,
Kenya, which has yielded both Oldowan artifacts and well-preserved
faunal remains, allowing researchers to reconstruct past ecosystems.
The researchers report chemical analyses of ancient soils and
mammalian teeth, as well as other faunal data, from the
~2.0-million-year-old archeological sites at Kanjera South, located in
western Kenya. The principal collaborating institutions of the Kanjera
project are QueensCollege of the City University of New York, the
Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program, and the
NationalMuseums of Kenya. The findings demonstrate that the recently
excavated archeological sites that preserve Oldowan tools, the
oldest-known type of stone technology, were located in a
grassland-dominated ecosystem during the crucial time period.
The study documents what was previously speculated based on indirect
evidence -- that grassland-dominated ecosystems did, in fact, exist
during the Plio-Pleistocene (ca. 2.5-1.5 million years ago) and that
early human tool-makers were active in open settings. Other recent
research shows that the Kanjera hominins obtained meat and bone marrow
from a variety of animals and that they carried stone raw materials
over surprisingly long distances in this grassland setting. A
comparison with other Oldowan sites shows that by 2.0 million years
ago, hominins, almost certainly of the genus Homo, lived in a wide
range of habitats in East Africa, from open grassland to woodland and
Plummer and colleagues conclude that early Homo was flexible in its
habitat use and that the ability to find resources in both open and
wooded habitats was a key part of its adaptation. This strongly
contrasts with the habitat usage of older species of Australopithecus
and appears to signify an important shift in early humans' use of the
Funding from the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust,
the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the
Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Research Award
Program, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Kanjera field and
laboratory research is gratefully acknowledged. Logistical support was
provided by the Human Origins Program of the Smithsonian Institution.
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis,
decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
- Plummer TW, Ditchfield PW, Bishop LC, Kingston JD, Ferraro JV, et al. Oldest Evidence of Toolmaking Hominins in a Grassland-Dominated Ecosystem. PLoS ONE, 2009; 4(9): e7199 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007199
Prehistoric Clovis culture roamed southwards
Scientists have discovered a site containing the most extensive
evidence seen so far in Mexico for the Clovis culture. The find extends
the range of America's oldest identifiable culture, which roamed North
America about 13,000 years ago.
The bed of artefacts in the
state of Sonora in northwest Mexico also includes the bones of an
extinct cousin of the mastodon called a gomphothere. The beast was
probably hunted and killed by the Clovis people, known for their
distinctive spear points, who mysteriously disappeared within about 500
years of leaving their first archeological traces.
Intact Clovis camp sites and extensive evidence of hunting has been
found across the United States, with the highest concentration of sites
just north of the Mexican border, in the San Pedro River basin of
southeastern Arizona. But relatively little is known about their
activities in what is now Mexico, despite about 25 discoveries of
Clovis tools and other artefacts being made in the region during the
A team led by Vance Holliday of the University of
Arizona in Tucson, in collaboration with Guadalupe Sanchez-Miranda of
the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City,
uncovered the new Clovis site at El Fin Del Mundo — which translates to
'the end of the Earth' — roughly 100 kilometres northwest of
Hermosillo, on isolated ranch land.
Team member Susan Mentzer of the University of Arizona presented the
findings at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America
this week in Portland, Oregon. Radiocarbon dating and other analyses of
buried artefacts and bones suggested that they were left there nearly
13,000 years ago, and that the site was once close to a stream.
gomphothere was a juvenile, Mentzer said, and was a kind that had two
rather than four tusks. Chips of rock were discovered in the bone bed,
and the site included a variety of tools, including scrapers and
blades. More dating and analysis is under way on specimens from the
Pre-Columbian Societies Knew a Thing About Extracting Gold
When Spanish conquistadors seized the Inka emperor Atawalpa in 1532,
they demanded an enormous ransom of silver and gold. For weeks, llama
trains carried tons of gold and silver statues, cups, and other objects
to the Europeans, who then ordered them melted down to ingots for
transport back to Spain. Such an enormous stash suggests that the
Andean people knew sophisticated metallurgy, but there has been little
evidence to support this. Now a team of geologists and archaeologists
have found clues that these indigenous people refined gold with mercury
amalgamation, an important metallurgical technique that is still in use
To extract precious metals from ore, workers mix liquid mercury with
finely ground gold or silver ore, creating an amalgam or alloy. They
then separate out the heavier amalgam and heat it to boil away the
mercury, arriving at almost-pure silver or gold. The Romans knew of
mercury amalgamation in the 1st century, but it was not widespread in
Europe until the 12th century. Polish engineer-archaeologist Arthur
Posnansky insisted as far back as 1945 that amalgamation was used near
the famed Incan site of Machu Picchu, but archaeologists have always
vigorously disputed these claims, noting that much of Posnansky's work
was overly credulous. Instead, experts believed that the process was
nonexistent in the Americas until colonist Bartolomé de Medina
developed a variant in Mexico in 1557.
But William Brooks, a geologist based in Reston, Virginia, couldn't
believe that societies, which produced large quantities of gold, lacked
techniques to recover it from placer gold, the minute gold flakes in
stream beds found along coastal Peru. So Brooks and colleagues in Peru
and Colombia analyzed residual mercury levels in seven samples of
pre-European-contact gold foil--three from the Sicàn culture, which
existed between 750 C.E. and 1375 C.E. in Peru, and four from Colombia.
The team found signs of amalgamation similar to those seen in
contemporary gold foil in southeastern Peru, it reports today at the
Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. "We
think this technique was used throughout the Andes, probably centuries
before it was commonly used in Europe," Brooks says.
The researchers' work has not escaped criticism, however. Almost all
known Sicàn gold artifacts were looted from elite burial sites, which
makes their context uncertain, says Izumi Shimada of Southern Illinois
University in Carbondale, director of the Sicàn Archaeological Project.
Moreover, he says, both artifacts and bodies in the tombs were often
"painted from head to foot in cinnabar," a brilliant vermillion pigment
made from a mercury-sulfur compound, which could have contaminated the
scientists' measurements. To confirm mercury amalgamation, Shimada
says, "would require an independent testing of items recovered from a
Brooks agrees that contamination is a potential issue and says that the
museums preparing their samples carefully removed the cinnabar
deposits. If there were still cinnabar contamination, however, Brooks
says he would have expected random variations between samples instead
of the consistent measurements his team observed. Also, amalgamation,
he says, just makes sense: "They had to have some way to produce all
that gold, and an obvious candidate is the metallurgical technique used
everywhere else in the world."
By Charles C. Mann
Brain transplant bird points to origin of communication
Creating chimeras with the higher brain of a songbird
and the hindbrain of a non-singer may one day shed light on the
evolution of birdsong, and even human speech.
"The goal is to get a non-singing animal that can actually learn how to imitate sounds," says Erich Jarvis,
a neuroscientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The
chimera would have the hindbrain of a quail and the forebrain of the
zebra finch. "I knew when I started this project that it was one of
those crazy ones."
people and songbirds learn how to communicate in infancy by listening
to adults and imitating their sounds. In the embryo, neurons from
learning centres in the higher brain, or forebrain, connect up with
neurons in the hindbrain that control vocal muscles in the throat.
These connections are absent in non-singing birds such as quails, which
simply squawk. A quail's call is innate and is not learned from a
team is investigating how forebrain neurons are normally guided to the
hindbrain in a songbird by doing brain transplants on bird embryos that
are 2 days old – the size of a pen tip. Jarvis announced his first
results at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meetingin Chicago last week. The team has removed the tissue from a quail
embryo that gives rise to the forebrain and replaced it with the same
tissue from a finch embryo. They found that some of the finch neurons
make a beeline for the quail's hindbrain.
team do not yet know if the neurons can successfully connect with the
hindbrain, however, and so far all the chimeric birds have died just
probably because the two species develop too differently, Jarvis says.
Quail chicks are more mature when they hatch compared with finch
chicks, which are relatively helpless. The team are considering
switching quails for a species that develops at a similar pace to
researchers have used partial brain transplants between quails and
chickens to show that the midbrain directs the innate squawking or
crowing in non-singing birds. This is the first time, however, that
transplants have been used to investigate song learning in songbirds.
by Ewen Callaway
Family Tree For Cattle, Other Ruminants Created
Pairing a new approach to prepare ancient DNA with a new scientific
technique developed specifically to genotype a cow, an MU animal
scientist, along with a team of international researchers, created a
very accurate and widespread "family tree" for cows and other
ruminants, going back as far as 29 million years.
This genetic information could allow scientists to understand the
evolution of cattle, ruminants and other animals. This same technique
also could be used to verify ancient relatives to humans, help farmers
develop healthier and more efficient cattle, and assist scientists who
are studying human diseases, according to the research, which is being
published in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"We studied 678 different animals, representing 61 different
species, and using the new Illumina cow 'SNP chip,' or 'snip chip,' we
were able to generate some very precise genetic data for which the chip
was not designed," said Jerry Taylor, a professor of animal science in
the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource and lead
author of the study. "Our SNP chips allow scientists to examine
hundreds of thousands of points on an animal's genome simultaneously.
When we applied this technique to 48 recognized breeds of cattle, we
were able to construct a family tree and infer the history of cattle
domestication and breed formation across the globe."
The research revealed the history of European cattle, with
domesticated cattle moving sequentially through Turkey, the Balkans and
Italy, then spreading through Central Europe and France, and ending in
Britain. The scientists also found evidence supporting a second route
of ancient cattle into Europe by way of the Iberian Peninsula.
The applications for this technology and information discovered in
the research could help solve a number of problems and answer questions
about evolution, including how humans are related to extinct hominids
and how different plant species are related to each other, Taylor said.
Based on the findings, animal scientists can begin to study
evolution of certain breeds. For example, if breeds of cattle with high
amounts of intramuscular fat, which is known as marbling, are closely
related to each other, then they likely share the same gene variations
to create the marbling, which is a trait some beef consumers prefer. On
the other hand, if those same cattle are not closely related, different
genetic variants might be at work. Understanding how different genetic
variations allow high levels of marbling, feed efficiency and disease
resistance in cattle could have a large economic impact for farmers who
raise cattle throughout the world.
"This also provides us an opportunity to identify animal models for
human disease since, for example, an excess amount of intramuscular fat
in humans is associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes,"
Taylor said. We're all interested in reconstructing our ancestry. This
is essentially the same thing, except that we're able to zoom out by
millions of years and include relatives who are long gone. The amazing
thing about this technique is that it is very fast and extremely cheap.
For relatively small amounts of money, we can generate the data that
will allow us to recreate millions of years of evolutionary history."
We will be billions of dollars poorer when coral dies
The world's coral reefs save us $172 billion every year, but they're on the brink of collapse (PDF) because of political inertia, an ecological economist has told the global Diversitas biodiversity conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
The claim was made by Pavan Sukhdev, an economist based at United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, UK. Sukhdev is head of a European Commission study called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), an international project to raise awareness about the economic benefits of biodiversity.
Previously, it had been estimated that coral reefs "earn" nearly $30 billion a year (PDF) by attracting tourists, protecting commercial fish species and protecting coasts from storm surges.
investigate the economic value of coral reefs further, Sukhdev and his
colleagues reviewed 80 studies carried out between 1995 to 2009. Their
work suggests that a single hectare of coral reef can be worth from
$130,000 to $1.2 million a year.
However, discussing the economic value of coral reefs is like fiddling while Rome burns, says Sukhdev. "The entire ecosystem is on the point of collapse,"
he says. "Unless negotiators in Copenhagen [in Denmark, at the UN
climate talks in December] agree to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide to
350 parts per million, they will sentence the world's coral reefs to
death." Politicians are currently hoping to limit CO2 to 450 parts per million, he says. "Frankly, it does look pretty bleak."
most cost-effective and easiest way to save our coral reefs is to
reduce deforestation and boost reforestation," says Sukhdev. "I hope
that politicians going to Copenhagen give the proposals to cut
deforestation put forward by REDD-Plus the attention they deserve." REDD-Plusis a scheme supported by the United Nations Collaborative Programme on
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in
Stephen Mangi, an environmental economist based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK, says that it's crucial that researchers start placing economic values on the ecosystem services they study.
terms of policy implications, I think it is crucial for science to link
directly into policy, and the provision of monetary values is one way
to achieve this," says Mangi. "Money is universally understood by
policy makers, economists, scientists and politicians, hence it would
help policy makers make sensible and defendable decisions when weighing
up alternative and competing management options for marine ecosystems."
we do lose our coral reefs, we'll never be able to recreate the
services they provide free of charge, says Sukhdev. "How could we
afford to feed the 500 million people who depend on coral reefs for the
fish they eat?" he asks. "And how do you recreate the joy of diving on
a coral reef?"
by Shanta Barley
Conservation: Minimum Population Size Targets Too Low To Prevent Extinction?
Conservation biologists are setting their minimum population size targets too low to prevent extinction.
That's according to a new study by University of Adelaide and
Macquarie University scientists which has shown that populations of
endangered species are unlikely to persist in the face of global
climate change and habitat loss unless they number around 5000 mature
individuals or more.
The findings have been published online in the journal Biological Conservation.
"Conservation biologists routinely underestimate or ignore the
number of animals or plants required to prevent extinction," says lead
author Dr Lochran Traill, from the University of Adelaide's Environment
"Often, they aim to maintain tens or hundreds of individuals, when
thousands are actually needed. Our review found that populations
smaller than about 5000 had unacceptably high extinction rates. This
suggests that many targets for conservation recovery are simply too
small to do much good in the long run."
A long-standing idea in species restoration programs is the
so-called '50/500' rule. This states that at least 50 adults are
required to avoid the damaging effects of inbreeding, and 500 to avoid
extinctions due to the inability to evolve to cope with environmental
"Our research suggests that the 50/500 rule is at least an order of
magnitude too small to effectively stave off extinction," says Dr
Traill. "This does not necessarily imply that populations smaller than
5000 are doomed. But it does highlight the challenge that small
populations face in adapting to a rapidly changing world."
Team member Professor Richard Frankham, from Macquarie University's
Department of Biological Sciences, says: "Genetic diversity within
populations allows them to evolve to cope with environmental change,
and genetic loss equates to fragility in the face of such changes."
Conservation biologists worldwide are battling to prevent a mass
extinction event in the face of a growing human population and its
associated impact on the planet.
"The conservation management bar needs to be a lot higher," says Dr
Traill. "However, we shouldn't necessarily give up on critically
endangered species numbering a few hundred of individuals in the wild.
Acceptance that more needs to be done if we are to stop 'managing for
extinction' should force decision makers to be more explicit about what
they are aiming for, and what they are willing to trade off, when
allocating conservation funds."
Traill et al. Pragmatic population viability targets in a rapidly changing world
. Biological Conservation
, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.09.001
Giant Impact Near India — Not Mexico — May Have Killed Dinosaurs
A huge, mysterious basin off the coast of India could be the largest, multi-ringed impact crater ever found on Earth. And if a new study is right, this impact may supercede the one that created the Chicxulubcrater off Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula as what may have been responsible
for killing the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Sankar Chatterjee of
Texas Tech University and a team of researchers have been studying a
500-kilometer-wide (300-mile-wide) depression on the Indian Ocean
seafloor which was likely created by a bolideperhaps 40 kilometers (25 miles) in diameter. Such an event would have
triggered worldwide climate changes, including intensified volcanism,
that led to mass extinction.
Since the 1990's the leading candidate for what killed the dinosaurs was a ten-kilometer-wide (six-mile-wide) asteroid thought to have carved out the Chicxulub crater.
This impact may have done the job, but if not, 300,000 later the impact
that created the Shiva basin surely would have finished off large life
The massive Shiva basin, a submerged depression west of India that
is intensely mined for its oil and gas resources. Some complex craters
are among the most productive hydrocarbon sites on the planet.
“If we are right, this is the largest crater known on our planet,” Chatterjee said. “A bolide of this size, creates its own tectonics.”
However, some geologists have disputed whether the Shiva depression
was created by an impact, or if it is just a hole in Earth's crust,
possibly created by volcanism. Christian Koeberl, a geochemist at the
University of Vienna in Austria, has been adamant in the past that
Shiva is not an impact crater. He said not only is there no evidence of
impact in the case of Shiva, there is no crater structure. He calls
Shiva, "a figment of imagination."
"There's not even ambiguous evidence, or inconclusive evidence,"
says Koeberl. "There are a couple of people that keep pushing for some
crater in the Indian Ocean, but this is inconsistent not only with the
regional geology and geophysics, but also with anything we know about impact cratering."
But Chatterjee feels sure that Shiva is an impact crater and said
the geological evidence is dramatic. Shiva's outer rim forms a rough,
faulted ring some 500 kilometers in diameter, encircling the central
peak, known as the Bombay High, which would be 3 miles tall from the
ocean floor (about the height of Mount McKinley). Most of the crater
lies submerged on India's continental shelf, but where it does come
ashore it is marked by tall cliffs, active faults and hot springs. The
impact appears to have sheared or destroyed much of the 30-mile-thick
granite layer in the western coast of India.
If the huge depression was created by an impact, Earth's crust at
the point of collision would have been vaporized, leaving nothing but
ultra-hot mantle material to well up in its place. It is likely that the impact enhanced the nearby Deccan Traps volcaniceruptions that covered much of western India. What's more, the impact broke the Seychelles islands off of the Indian tectonic plate, and sent them drifting toward Africa.
The team hopes to go India later this year to examine rocks drill
from the center of the putative crater for clues that would prove the
strange basin was formed by a gigantic impact.
“Rocks from the bottom of the crater will tell us the telltale sign
of the impact event from shattered and melted target rocks. And we want
to see if there are breccias, shocked quartz, and an iridium anomaly,”
Chatterjee said. Asteroids are rich in iridium, and such anomalies are thought of as the fingerprint of an impact.
by Nancy Atkinson
Scientists Remove Amyloid Plaques From Brains Of Live Animals With Alzheimer's Disease
A breakthrough discovery by scientists from the Mayo Clinic in
Jacksonville, FL, may lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease
that actually removes amyloid plaques — considered a hallmark of the
disease — from patients' brains.
This discovery, published online in The FASEB Journal, is
based on the unexpected finding that when the brain's immune cells
(microglia) are activated by the interleukin-6 protein (IL-6), they
actually remove plaques instead of causing them or making them worse.
The research was performed in a model of Alzheimer's disease
established in mice.
"Our study highlights the notion that manipulating the brain's
immune response could be translated into clinically tolerated regimens
for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases," said Pritam Das,
co-author of the study, from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.
Das and colleagues made this unexpected discovery when they
initially set out to prove that the activation of microgila trigger
inflammation, making the disease worse. Their hypothesis was that
microglia would attempt to remove the plaques, but would be unable to
do so, and in the process cause excessive inflammation. To the surprise
of the researchers, when microglia were activated by IL-6, they cleared
the plaques from the brains.
To do this, the researchers over-expressed IL-6 in the brains of
newborn mice that had yet to develop any amyloid plaques, as well in
mice with pre-existing plaques. Using somatic brain transgenesis
technology, scientists analyzed the effect of IL-6 on brain
neuro-inflammation and plaque deposition. In both groups of mice, the
presence of IL-6 lead to the clearance of amyloid plaques from the
brain. Researchers then set out to determine exactly how IL-6 worked to
clear the plaques and discovered that the inflammation induced by IL-6
directed the microglia to express proteins that removed the plaques.
This research suggests that manipulating the brain's own immune cells
through inflammatory mediators could lead to new therapeutic approaches
for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly
"This model is as close to human pathology as animal models get.
These results give us an exciting lead to newer, more effective
treatments of Alzheimer's disease," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D.,
Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This study
demonstrates that investment in experimental biology is the best way to
approach the challenge posed by an aging population to the cost of
- Paramita Chakrabarty, Karen Jansen-West, Amanda Beccard, Carolina
Ceballos-Diaz, Yona Levites, Christophe Verbeeck, Abba C. Zubair,
Dennis Dickson, Todd E. Golde, and Pritam Das. Massive gliosis
induced by interleukin-6 suppresses A deposition in vivo: evidence
against inflammation as a driving force for amyloid deposition. The FASEB Journal, 2009; DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-141754
Do Three Meals A Day Keep Fungi Away? Protective Effect Of Being Warm-blooded
The fact that they eat a lot – and often – may explain why most people
and other mammals are protected from the majority of fungal pathogens,
according to research from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of
The research, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases,
showed that the elevated body temperature of mammals – the familiar
98.6º F or 37º C in people – is too high for the vast majority of
potential fungal invaders to survive.
"Fungal strains undergo a major loss of ability to grow as we move
to mammalian temperatures," said Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., chair
and professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein. Dr.
Casadevall conducted the study in conjunction with Vincent A. Robert of
the Utrecht, Netherlands-based Fungal Biodiversity Center, also known
as Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures.
"Our study makes the argument that our warm temperatures may have
evolved to protect us against fungal diseases," said Dr. Casadevall.
"And being warm-blooded and therefore largely resistant to fungal
infections may help explain the dominance of mammals after the age of
There are roughly 1.5 million fungal species. Of these, only a few
hundred are pathogenic to mammals. Fungal infections in people are
often the result of an impaired immune function. By contrast, an
estimated 270,000 fungal species are pathogenic to plants and 50,000
species infect insects. Frogs and other amphibians are prone to fungal
pathogens, one of which, chytridiomycosis, is currently raging through
frogs worldwide. Fungi are also important in the decomposition of
In their study, the researchers investigated how 4,082 different
fungal strains from the Utrecht collection grew in temperatures ranging
from chilly – 4º C or 39º F – to desert hot – 45º C or 113º F. They
found that nearly all of them grew well in temperatures up to 30º C.
Beyond that, though, the number of successful species declined by 6
percent for every one degree centigrade increase. Most could not grow
at mammalian temperatures. Those that did well in hotter conditions
were often from warm-blooded sources.
Dr. Casadevall noted that the current study covered thousands of
fungal strains and made use of a computerized database of the Utrecht
collection. In the past, this type of research would have required
retrieving this information manually, which Dr. Casadevall noted would
have been a very time-consuming task.
"This was possible only because we could use bioinformatic tools to
analyze the records in the culture collection," he said. "There is no
way to do a study like this without such technology given the enormous
numbers of samples and the labor involved."
The results of the study, he added, could help explain why mammals
maintain a seemingly energy-wasteful lifestyle requiring a great deal
of food. By contrast, reptiles need only eat once a day or even less
"The payoff, however, may be that mammals are much more resistant to
soil and plant-borne fungal pathogens than are reptiles and other
cold-blooded vertebrates," said Dr. Casadevall.
This stronger immunity to fungi could explain why mammals rose to
dominance after the dinosaur extinction event 65 million years ago.
Indeed, the fungal bloom that occurred then may be one reason for the
extinction of dinosaurs, a possibility outlined in a 2004 Fungal Genetics and Biology paper from Dr. Casadevall.
- Vincent A. Robert, Arturo Casadevall. Vertebrate Endothermy Restricts Most Fungi as Potential Pathogens. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2009; 091014103031021 DOI: 10.1086/644642
- Arturo Casadevall. Fungal virulence, vertebrate endothermy, and dinosaur extinction: is there a connection?Fungal Genetics and Biology, 2005; 42 (2): 98 DOI: 10.1016/j.fgb.2004.11.008
200,000-year-old Cut Of Meat: Archaeologists Shed Light On Life, Diet And Society
Contestants on TV shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen know that
their meat-cutting skills will be scrutinized by a panel of unforgiving
judges. Now, new archaeological evidence is getting the same scrutiny
by scientists at Tel Aviv University and the University of Arizona.
Their research is providing new clues about how, where and when our
communal habits of butchering meat developed, and they're changing the
way anthropologists, zoologists and archaeologists think about our
evolutionary development, economics and social behaviors through the
Presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
new finds unearthed at Qesem Cave in Israel suggest that during the
late Lower Paleolithic period (between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago),
people hunted and shared meat differently than they did in later times.
Instead of a prey's carcass being prepared by just one or two persons
resulting in clear and repeated cutting marks — the forefathers of the
modern butcher — cut marks on ancient animal bones suggest something
Different rules of the game
"The cut marks we are finding are both more abundant and more
randomly oriented than those observed in later times, such as the
Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods," says Prof. Avi Gopher of TAU's
Department of Archaeology. "What this could mean is that either one
person from the clan butchered the group's meat in a few episodes over
time, or multiple persons hacked away at it in tandem," he interprets.
This finding provides clues as to social organization and structures in
these early groups of hunters and gatherers, he adds.
Among human hunters in the past 200,000 years, from southern Africa
to upstate New York or sub-arctic Canada, "there are distinctive
patterns of how people hunt, who owns the products of the hunt, how
carcasses are butchered and shared," Prof. Gopher says. "The rules of
sharing are one of the basic organizing principles of hunter-gatherer
cultures. From 200,000 years ago to the present day, the patterns of
meat-sharing and butchering run in a long clear line. But in the Qesem
Cave, something different was happening. There was a distinct shift
about 200,000 years ago, and archaeologists and anthropologists may
have to reinterpret hunting and meat-sharing rituals."
Meat-sharing practices, Prof. Gopher says, can tell present-day
archaeologists about who was in a camp, how people dealt with danger
and how societies were organized. "The basic logic of butchering large
animals has not changed for a long time. Everyone knows how to deal
with the cuts of meat, and we see cut marks on bones that are very
distinctive and similar, matching even those of modern butchers. It's
the more random slash marks on the bones in Qesem that suggests
Where's the beef?
The Qesem Cave finds demonstrate that man was at the top of the food
chain during this period, but that they shared the meat differently
than their later cousins. The TAU excavators and Prof. Mary Stiner of
the University of Arizona (Tucson) hypothesize that the Qesem Cave
people hunted cooperatively. After the hunt, they carried the
highest-quality body parts of their prey back to the cave, where the
meat was cut using stone-blade tools and then cooked on the fire.
"We believe this reflects a different way of butchering and sharing.
More than one person was doing the job, and it fits our expectations of
a less formal structure of cooperation," says Prof. Gopher. "The major
point here is that around 200,000 years ago or before, there was a
change in behavior. What does it mean? Time and further excavations may
Qesem, which means "magic" in Hebrew, was discovered seven miles
east of Tel Aviv about nine years ago during highway construction. It
is being excavated on behalf of TAU's Department of Archaeology by
Prof. Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai in collaboration with an
international group of experts. The cave contains the remains of animal
bones dating back to 400,000 years ago. Most of the remains are from
fallow deer, others from wild ancestors of horse, cattle, pig, and even
some tortoise. The data that this dig provides has been invaluable:
Until now there was considerable speculation as to whether or not
people from the late Lower Paleolithic era were able to hunt at all, or
whether they were reduced to scavenging, the researchers say.
- Mary C. Stiner, Ran Barkai, Avi Gopher. Cooperative hunting and meat sharing 400-200 kya at Qesem Cave, Israel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; 106 (32): 13207 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900564106
Cell invasion caught on camera
Despite being surrounded by a supposedly unbreachable defensive
line, the body's central nervous system can still be attacked by
autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
researchers led by Alexander Flügel, director of the Institute for
Multiple Sclerosis Research at the University Medical Centre in
Göttingen, Germany, have watched in real time as T cells — blood cells
linked to the immune response — penetrate the central nervous system of
rats and manifest as a disease.
"There's a question about how
immune cells that attack the brain get entry because [it] is shielded
by the blood-brain barrier," Flügel says. Histological studies have
clearly shown immune cells can enter brain tissue, but no one has seen
this happen until now. "Our question was, can we visualize this
process?" he says.
To answer this question Flügel's team
labelled some disease-causing T cells with green fluorescent protein
and introduced them into the veins of rats. Then, using infrared lasers
in a technique called two-photon imaging, they watched the movements of
the cells as they caused experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an
animal model of multiple sclerosis. The work is reported in Nature1.
recently has the technology needed for all these elements become
sophisticated enough to make this work possible, says Flügel.
the researchers found that some assumptions about how T cells gain
entry to the nervous system are misplaced. Textbook knowledge, says
Flügel, is that the cells roll along blood vessels then attach and
migrate into the nervous-system tissue.
Instead, as illustrated in the linked videos, his team found that after rolling along the the inside of the vessel, the cells stop then crawl backagainst the flow of blood before exiting the vessel. Also, once they
have passed through the vessel they do not immediately infiltrate the
nervous-system tissue. Rather, they continue to crawl along the outside
of the vessels until they meet another type of blood cell, called
phagocytes. Only then do they enter the nervous system and begin to manifest the disease.
findings both improve researchers' understanding of how some treatments
work and identify which structures involved in the movement of the T
cells might be useful to target with future therapies.
- Bartholomäus, I. et al. Nature advance online publication "doi:10.1038/nature08478"http://www.nature.com/uidfinder/10.1038/nature08478 (2009).
Wired Science News for Your Neurons Scientists Make Desktop Black Hole
Two Chinese scientists have successfully made an artificial black
hole. Since you’re still reading this, it’s safe to say that Earth
hasn’t been sucked into its vortex.
That’s because a black hole doesn’t technically require a massive,
highly concentrated gravitational field that prevents light from
escaping, as postulated by Albert Einstein. It just needs to capture
light — or, to be more precise, electromagnetic radiation, of which
visually perceived light is one form.
Together, the patterns completely absorbed microwave radiation coming from any direction, and converted their energy to heat.
Like a near-black hole designed earlier this year and made from photon-absorbing carbon nanotubes, the material could be used in solar energy panels.
By Brandon Keim
Brain has its own predictive text function
Researchers believe the reason that dyslexics struggle to read at speed is
that they are missing the ability, and hope their discovery could lead to
new treatments for the condition.
The British neuroscientists found that the reason most people can predict
words and sentences as they are being scanned by the eye.
Rather than read every word and sentence to the end before coming up with its
meaning, the brain makes an educated guess and then moves on.
As we become more literate, the brain becomes ever more adept at predicting
sentences and therefore quicker at reading.
Traditionally it was thought that a part of the brain known as the angular
gyrus acted like a "dictionary" that translates letters and words
into meaning, said Professor Cathy Price, a cognitive neuroscientist at
University College London.
"In fact, we have shown that its role is more in anticipating what our
eye will see – more akin to the predictive texting function on a mobile
phone," she said.
"We think this brings us a step closer to our understanding of dyslexia.
It has changed my knowledge of how reading occurs."
The discovery, published in the journal Nature, came after a unique study into
former guerrilla fighters in Colombia.
The team scanned the brains of illiterate adult rebels, who had had no
education, before and after they had undertaken a five year reading and
They found that for those participants who had learnt to read, the density of
grey matter - where the 'processing' is done - was higher in several areas
of the left hemisphere of the brain.
These were the areas that are responsible for recognising letter shapes and
translating the letters into speech sounds and their meanings.
Reading also increased the strength of the "white matter"
connections between the different processing regions.
Particularly important were the connections to and from the angular gyrus,
which is at top left of the brain, it was found.
Scientists have known for over 150 years that this brain region is important
for reading, but the new research has shown that its role had been
Previously, it was thought that the angular gyrus recognised the shapes of
words prior to finding their sounds and meanings. In fact, the researchers
showed that the angular gyrus is not directly involved in translating visual
words into their sounds and meanings.
Instead, it supports this process by providing predictions of what the brain
is expecting to see.
By Richard Alleyne
Kew seed bank has 10% of all plants – and counting
IT'S pink, grows in China, and wild Asian elephants love it. The Yunnan banana (Musa iterans)
is also the 24,200th wild plant species banked by the Kew Millennium
Seed Bank Partnership. It marks the point at which the bank has reached
its initial target of collecting 10 per cent of the world's known wild
Set up in 2000, the seed bank at Kew Gardens in Londonis the world's largest for wild plants. The idea is that the seeds can
all be accessed in one place to help researchers hunt for potential medicinal species and crops resilient to climate change.
"We have every reason to be proud, but there's much
left to be done," says Paul Smith, head of the partnership. Its next
target is to have banked one-quarter of the world's wild species by
other large collection is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway,
which collects crops to preserve them in case of disease.
Chimpanzees Help Each Other On Request But Not Voluntarily
The evolution of altruism has long puzzled researchers and has mainly
been explained previously from ultimate perspectives—"I will help you
now because I expect there to be some long-term benefit to me".
However, a new study by researchers at the Primate Research Institute
(PRI) and the Wildlife Research Center (WRC) of Kyoto University shows
that chimpanzees altruistically help conspecifics, even in the absence
of direct personal gain or immediate reciprocation, although the
chimpanzees were much more likely to help each other upon request than
The findings are published October 14 in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.
Shinya Yamamoto and colleagues studied six pairs of chimpanzees
(three mother-offspring pairs and three non-kin adult pairs) in two
different experiments, designed to test whether the chimpanzees would
transfer a tool to a conspecific even if doing so would bring no
immediate benefit to themselves. In each case, two chimpanzees would be
situated in two adjacent, transparent booths, either in a straw-use
situation where the chimpanzee would need access to a straw to be able
to drink the juice box available to it, or in a stick-use situation
where the chimpanzee would need access to a stick to drag a juice
reward back into the booth.
In the first experiment, the two chimpanzees would have access to
the opposite tool needed to obtain the reward in their booth—the
chimpanzee that needed the straw would have access to the stick and
vice-versa. In the second experiment, the mother-offspring pairs were
tested in a situation where there was no opportunity for reciprocation
because each individual was assigned a fixed role—giver or
recipient—for 24 trials (one week's worth) before the roles were
The researchers found that the chimpanzees did spontaneously
transfer tools in order to help their partner. This tool transfer
occurred predominantly after the partner had actively solicited help
(by poking its arm through a hole in the booth, for example, or by
clapping), even when there was no hope of reciprocation from the
partner (as in experiment 2) and even when the two animals were
"Communicative interactions play an important role in altruism in
chimpanzees," said Dr Yamamoto. "While humans may help others without
being solicited, the chimpanzees rarely voluntarily offered an
effective tool to a struggling partner. Indeed, simple observation of
another's failed attempts did not elicit voluntary helping in
Helping upon request may be a more economical and effective
strategy. Altruistic behavior by definition produces no direct
immediate benefit to the actor; making a request is a clear indicator
to the actor that the recipient requires help, minimizing the risk to
the actor of unnecessarily behaving altruistically. In this sense,
"help upon request" is an ideal strategy since the helping is always
helpful and not wasted. This type of altruism may have initially driven
the prevalence and development of altruism during human evolution.
One important question for future research is whether
high-frequency, voluntary altruism is a behaviour unique to humans.
Some new world monkeys have demonstrated unsolicited prosociality
suggesting that voluntary altruism evolved in phylogeneticallydiverse
taxa but for now, there seems to be no consensus on what is the
decisive factorin explaining species differences.
- Yamamoto S, Humle T, Tanaka M. Chimpanzees Help Each Other upon Request. PLoS ONE, 2009; 4 (10): e7416 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007416
Rare Frog Species Bear the Brunt of Chytrid, a Deadly Fungal Disease
By Carina Storrs
Threats to wildlife survival, such as habitat loss and climate change,
tend to strike some species harder than others, and the threat of chytrid
, a deadly amphibian fungus, appears to be no different. A study published in this month's Ecology Letters
finds that rarer species were more likely to disappear
, leading to loss of frog biodiversity
in Central America.
The study compares frog
surveys taken at eight different sites in Costa Rica and Panama. Karen Lips
, an associate professor of biology at the University of Maryland, College Park, along with Kevin Smith
and Jonathan Chase
at Washington University in St. Louis, found that the average number of
frog species at the eight sites dropped from 45 to 23 after the
appearance of the chytrid fungus. Rare species that were only present
at one or a few of the sites were disproportionately wiped out, making
up more than half of the species lost.
"All species can get infected [but] the point is that not everything
completely disappears," says Lips, who conducted the frog surveys that
were used in the study.
Although abundant species enjoy safety in numbers, factors other than
abundance could help protect certain frogs after the deadly skin fungus
hits their homes. Terrestrial
species fared better than frogs living in wet habitats, where the
fungus thrives. In addition, certain genes or differences in skin
chemistry may allow some species to be less susceptible to chytrid,
Lips says. Even with these advantages, frogs still die from chytrid
just at slower rates. Once the fungus arrives at a site, it remains in
the soil and never really goes away. "I think, in time, species will
continue to go extinct," she says.View a slide show of some of the frogs hit hardest by chytrid
Butterfly is pupae-sniffing cradle-snatcher
Male zebra longwing butterflies sit on the pupae of
females for up to 10 days before they hatch, ensuring they get first
dibs at reproducing with them. But how do they know that they're
sitting on a female?
It turns out that the female pupae of Heliconius charithoniaemit a pheromone as they approach puberty that betrays their gender
before they've hatched. This allows males to perch on them, waiting for
them to hatch. As soon as the females emerge, the males fertilise them.
Estrada at the University of Texas in Austin, and colleagues, extracted
the chemicals found in the cuticles of 10 pupae and volatile organic
compounds released by 12 other pupae in their laboratory.
The only chemical that was unique to female pupae was the pheromone monoterpene linalool oxide. Males emitted a variant, linalool.
researchers then painted pupae with both odours. Male butterflies
rarely perched on female pupae that had been daubed in male-specific
linalool. In contrast, they happily re-perched on pupae daubed in
linalool oxide 65 per cent of the time. This was almost as often as
they returned to untouched female pupae.
"This paper offers insights into an unusual mating behaviour in Heliconius butterflies," says Chris Jiggins, who studies the species at the University of Cambridge.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1476
by Shanta Barley
Europa's proposed ocean could be rich in oxygen
If there are any fish on Jupiter’s moon Europa, they can breathe easy.
hunting for signs of life beyond Earth have long been drawn to Europa
because several features of the moon’s icy surface — including its
bright color, networks of long fractures and crater-free terrain —
suggest that the moon contains a vast ocean buried under the ice. Now
one researcher has calculated that the proposed ocean may receive about
100 times more oxygen than previous models indicated — enough to
support respiration by 3 million tons of fish or their Europan
Oxygen, generated by charged particles striking water
molecules on the moon’s surface, would take 1 to 2 billion years to
begin seeping into the ocean, calculated Richard Greenberg of the
University of Arizona in Tucson. That delay would have been critical
for supporting life because it would have allowed time for primitive
organisms to develop the ability to use oxygen. If oxygen instead had
been immediately released into the ocean, it would have destroyed
fledgling life through the well-known process oxidation, commented
Jonathan Lunine, also of the University of Arizona, who was not part of
Greenberg reported the findings October 9 at the
annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for
Theorists had previously calculated that the
charged particles striking Europa would produce oxygen within the top
few centimeters of the moon’s crust. Small impacts from space debris
would then kick up material that would bury this oxygenated layer to a
depth of a few meters. The new part of the story, said Greenberg, came
when he considered Europa’s youthful, nearly crater-free appearance.
The paucity of craters indicates that the crust is continually
resurfaced. Today’s crust is only 50 million years old, even though the
moon formed soon after the solar system’s birth 4.56 billion years ago.
a period of about 50 million years, a layer of ice 300 meters thick
slowly rose from below, eventually covering the moon’s surface and
erasing old craters, Greenberg suggested. As a result of this facelift,
Europa’s oxygenated layer grew increasingly thick, until after about 1
to 2 billion years the entire ice layer was oxygen-rich, Greenberg
said. At that point, ice melting at the bottom of the frozen layer
began delivering oxygen into the proposed buried ocean at a faster rate
than previously estimated, resulting in about 100 times more oxygen in
By Ron Cowen
Physicists Measure Elusive 'Persistent Current' That Flows Forever
Physicists at Yale University have made the first definitive
measurements of “persistent current,” a small but perpetual electric
current that flows naturally through tiny rings of metal wire even
without an external power source.
The team used nanoscale cantilevers, an entirely novel approach, to
indirectly measure the current through changes in the magnetic force it
produces as it flows through the ring. “They’re essentially little
floppy diving boards with the rings sitting on top,” said team leader
Jack Harris, associate professor of physics and applied physics at
Yale. The findings appear in the October 9 issue of Science.
The counterintuitive current is the result of a quantum mechanical
effect that influences how electrons travel through metals, and arises
from the same kind of motion that allows the electrons inside an atom
to orbit the nucleus forever. “These are ordinary, non-superconducting
metal rings, which we typically think of as resistors,” Harris said.
“Yet these currents will flow forever, even in the absence of an
Although persistent current was first theorized decades ago, it is
so faint and sensitive to its environment that physicists were unable
to accurately measure it until now. It is not possible to measure the
current with a traditional ammeter because it only flows within the
tiny metal rings, which are about the same size as the wires used on
Past experiments tried to indirectly measure persistent current via
the magnetic field it produces (any current passing through a metal
wire produces a magnetic field). They used extremely sensitive
magnetometers known as superconducting quantum interference devices, or
SQUIDs, but the results were inconsistent and even contradictory.
“SQUIDs had long been established as the tool used to measure
extremely weak magnetic fields. It was extremely optimistic for us to
think that a mechanical device could be more sensitive than a SQUID,”
The team used the cantilevers to detect changes in the magnetic
field produced by the current as it changed direction in the aluminum
rings. This new experimental setup allowed the team to make
measurements a full order of magnitude more precise than any previous
attempts. They also measured the persistent current over a wider range
of temperature, ring size and magnetic field than ever before.
“These measurements could tell us something about how electrons
behave in metals,” Harris said, adding that the findings could lead to
a better understanding of how qubits, used in quantum computing, are
affected by their environment, as well as which metals could
potentially be used as superconductors.
Authors of the paper include Ania Bleszynski-Jayich, William Shanks,
Bruno Peaudecerf, Eran Ginossar, Leonid Glazman and Jack Harris (all of
Yale University) and Felix von Oppen (Freie Universität Berlin).
- A. C. Bleszynski-Jayich, W. E. Shanks, B. Peaudecerf, E. Ginossar, F. von Oppen, L. Glazman, and J. G. E. Harris. Persistent Currents in Normal Metal Rings. Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1126/science.1177734
Orangutans Unique In Movement Through Tree Tops
Movement through a complex meshwork of small branches at the heights of
tropical forests presents a unique challenge to animals wanting to
forage for food safely. It can be particularly dangerous for large
animals where a fall of up to 30m could be fatal. Scientists found that
dangerous tree vibrations can be countered by the orangutan's ability
to move with an irregular rhythm.
Professor Robin Crompton, from the University of Liverpool's School
of Biomedical Sciences, explained that these challenges were similar to
the difficulties engineers encountered with London's 'wobbly'
Millennium Bridge: "The problems with the Millennium Bridge were caused
by large numbers of people walking in sync with the slight sideways
motion of the bridge. This regular pattern of movement made the swaying
motion of the bridge even worse. We see a similar problem in the
movement of animals through the canopy of tropical forests, where there
are highly flexible branches.
"Most animals, such as the chimpanzee, respond to these challenges
by flexing their limbs to bring their body closer to the branch.
Orangutans, however, are the largest arboreal mammal and so they are
likely to face more severe difficulties due to weight. If they move in
a regular fashion, like their smaller relatives, we get a 'wobbly
bridge' situation, whereby the movement of the branches increases."
Dr Susannah Thorpe, from the University of Birmingham's School of
Biosciences, added: "Orangutans have developed a unique way of coping
with these problems; they move in an irregular way which includes
upright walking, four-limbed suspension from branches and tree-swaying,
whereby they move branches backwards and forwards, with increasing
magnitude, until they are able to cross large gaps between trees."
The team studied orangutans in Sumatra, where the animal is
predicted to be the first great ape to become extinct. This new
research could further understanding into the way orangutans use their
habitat, which could support new conservation programmes.
Dr Thorpe continued: "If the destruction of forest land does not
slow down, the Sumatran orangutan could be extinct within the next
decade. Now that we know more about how they move through the trees and
the unique way that they adapt to challenges in their environment we
can better understand their needs. This could help with reintroducing
rescued animals to the forests and efforts to conserve their
The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
First woman wins Nobel Prize for economics
Americans Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson won the Nobel Prize
for economics for work on how community institutions can prevent
conflict, the Nobel Committee announced Monday.
Ostrom becomes the first woman to win the prize in its 40-year history.The award was a "great surprise... I'm still a little bit in shock," she said by phone at the news conference announcing the prize. Ostrom, a professor of political science at Indiana University, was
praised "for her analysis of economic governance, especially the
Ostrom's work shows that local communities often
manage common resources -- such as woods, lakes and fish stocks --
better on their own than when outside authorities impose rules, the
"Bureaucrats sometimes do not have the correct
information, while citizens and users of resources do," she said to
explain the significance of her work.
The committee highlighted
her research on a dam in Nepal as an example, saying her research has
moved analysis of nonmarket institutions "from the fringe of economic
analysis to the very center." Ostrom said she had not yet thought about what she would do with her half of the $1.4 million prize.
Williamson, a professor in the graduate school at the University of
California, Berkeley, was cited "for his analysis of economic
governance, especially the boundaries of the firm." Williamson's
work examines why large corporations tend to arise -- and why they do
not -- based on the cost and complexity of transactions, according to
the Nobel committee.
"He has taught us to regard markets, firms,
associations, agencies and even households from the perspective of
their contribution to the resolution of conflict," the panel said.
Forbes magazine said, "He authored 'The Economic Institutions of
Capitalism' in 1975, a landmark text of the 'new institutional
economics' movement that challenged the idea of firms as simple
profit-making machines. He focused on the contracts and transactions
that could explain the structure and boundaries of companies."
Williamson did not speak at the announcement ceremony.
"At some fundamental level, they are really both addressing the
fundamental issue of how we create human cooperation through the design
of appropriate institutions," committee member Tore Ellingsen said. "They want to understand nonmarket institutions. ... Both laureates
look at such institutions very much as conflict-resolution mechanisms,"
While the two professors' work has much in common at an "abstract level," their methods are different, Ellingsen said.
Ostrom works from case studies to derive general patterns, while Williamson uses theoretical reasoning. The global financial crisis did not affect the committee's
deliberations "that much," committee member Beril Holmlund said, noting
that Nobel prizes "tend not to be for work done last year."
Counting Elephants by Voice
By putting microphones in the jungle, researchers are better able to perform the surprisingly tricky task of counting elephants.
Sure, pachyderm polling doesn’t seem difficult. They’re not exactly
hard to see. But covering hundreds of square miles, day after day,
requires time, money and personnel — all of which are in short supply
in the developing countries where elephants live.
Enter the Elephant Listening Projectat Cornell University. Using acoustic monitoring and analysis
techniques originally developed for counting birds by song, it tracks
elephants in the jungles of Central Africa.
In a paper published in the September African Journal of Ecology,
project researchers describe the calibration of their model at a
Central African Republic site. First they personally observed forest
clearings where elephants were known to gather, counting the animals
they saw and the noises they made. The researchers then turned these
observations into a framework for interpreting recordings made by
microphones installed throughout the forest.
The same approach “provides an opportunity to improve management and
conservation of many acoustically active taxa whose populations are
currently under-monitored,” wrote the researchers.
In addition to being relatively inexpensive and geographically
comprehensive, bioacoustic monitoring offers other advantages over
traditional animal counts. It can give detailed ecological snapshots, counting anything that makes a noise.
For the elephant counts, each monitor covered a square mile of
ground, “a dramatic increase in coverage over dung survey transects.”
In other words, it’s a lot easier to listen to elephants than gather
By Brandon Keim
Major Step Forward In Cell Reprogramming, Researchers Report
A team of Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers has made a
major advance toward producing induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS
cells, that are safe enough to use in treating diseases in patients.
“This demonstrates that we’re halfway home, and remarkably we got
halfway home with just one chemical,” said Kevin Eggan, an HSCI
principal faculty member who is the senior author of the paper being
published online today by the journal Cell Stem Cell.
“There are four genes that do this, and with just one chemical we
replaced half the genes,” said Eggan, who is also an assistant
professor in Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative
Biology. “The one chemical replaces those two genes in different ways
at different times in the experiment. The experiments we performed not
only led to discovery of the chemical, but they also explained how it
works,” he said.
The chemical that the team used is a small molecule that members
named RepSox in honor of another Boston team. It replaces Sox2 and
cMyc, two of the four genes currently being used to reprogram adult
skin cells into an embryonic-like state. Because cMyc is a tumor
promoter and iPS cells created using it could never be used to treat
patients, researchers have been looking for ways to turn back the
cellular clock without the use of genes.
Lee Rubin, director of translational medicine at HSCI and the other
senior author on the research team, said that “our goals were to try to
as discretely and specifically as possible guide the cells through the
deprogramming process” from the adult state to the embryonic-like state.
Finding a way to produce safe iPS cells that are the biological
equivalent of embryonic stem cells is especially important because the
cells can then be created from the cells of individual patients for
transplantation into those patients. Thus, a patient with Parkinson’s
disease might be treated with neurons created from his own cells,
theoretically eliminating the need for immunosuppressive drugs, or the
possibility of rejection of the transplanted cells. Similarly,
patient-specific iPS cells could be used to create muscle for damaged
hearts, or other individualized treatments.
Additionally, iPS cells derived from the skin cells of patients with
specific diseases can be used as a source of differentiated cells to
study those disease processes in a laboratory dish, and manipulated to
find better drug targets and more effective therapeutics.
“This discovery is exciting because it demonstrates the feasibility
of using chemicals to make safer patient-specific stem cells for
transplantation medicine,” said Justin K. Ichida, a postdoctoral fellow
in Eggan’s lab and the first author on the study. “One of the most
important things we learned from this study is that, with respect to
molecular pathways, there may be several ways to convert one type of
cell into another. By using a nonbiased chemical screening approach, we
uncovered a previously unknown way to make stem cells. The big
challenge over the next decade will be to figure out how to make the
right cells for disease treatment. This approach will be important for
achieving that goal.”
Other co-first authors on the study are Joel Blanchard, Kelvin Lam,
and Esther Y. Son. Additional contributors include Julia E. Chung,
Dieter Egli, Kyle M. Loh, Ava C. Carter, Francesco P. Di Gorgio,
Kathryn Koszak, Danwei Huangfu, Hidenori Akutsu, and David R. Liu.
The study was funded in part by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the Stowers Medical Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute , and the New York Stem Cell Foundation
In search of true stem-like cells
The next tools for reprogramming cells to an embryonic-like state
might just be a camera and a set of fluorescently tagged antibodies.
Researchers imaged more than a million human cells in vitro
as they changed from skin tissue cells, known as fibroblasts, into
colonies of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. As expected, many
similar-looking colonies appeared, but only very few consisted of fully
reprogrammed iPS cells. After assessing which were which, researchers
led by Thorsten Schlaeger and George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell
Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts went back and worked out how to
predict which colonies would produce high-quality iPS cell lines by
analyzing the images.
Robert Blelloch, who studies
reprogramming at the University of California San Francisco, sees
immediate practical applications. "It means that you can focus down on
the most promising colonies and not assay everything." Currently, he
says, many evaluations of techniques to boost reprogramming rates lump
some partially reprogrammed cells together with fully reprogrammed
ones. With better markers of pluripotency, he says, "you can look at
the dish and count" and be more confident of your results.
The analysis shows that individual markers for proteins such as
alkaline phosphatase, SSEA-4, GDF-3, hTERT and NANOG that are sometimes
used to assess reprogramming rates can be misleading. Instead,
Schlaeger and colleagues identify a series of markers that can
differentiate cells from similar-looking colonies into three types; two
could form teratomas, a type of tumour, in immunocompromised mice — a
standard assay for testing iPS cells, but only one of these shows
epigenetic modifications indicating true iPS cells.
these [kinds of] molecular criteria are going to be the best way to
characterize iPS cells," says James Ellis, who directs the Ontario
Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Facility in Toronto. Lead author
Schlaeger isn't so sure: "It's too early to tell if this could replace
the teratoma assay." For now, he says, an assessment of how cells will
behave is more informative than a collection of markers.
Schlaeger thinks that more researchers can use live imaging and
antibodies to find more markers in reprogramming human iPS cells. When
studying reprogramming in mouse cells, scientists routinely observe the
expression of important genes by adding in tags that make the proteins
produced by the genes to flouresce, and so allows them to see when a
gene is active. This technique is much more difficult in human cells,
so the Harvard researchers stained antibodies using a fluorescent dye
instead. These fluorescently tagged antibodies could be added directly
to growing cells to reveal the presence of particular molecules on cell
surfaces. An automated microscope scanned and recorded images as the
cells grew. "It's surprisingly easy," Schlaeger says. "It worked the
first time we did it."
The antibodies and live cells weren't by themselves sufficient,
however, to pinpoint truly reprogrammed colonies. Standard techniques
for inducing cells to pluripotency rely on viruses to insert copies of
four reprogramming genes into cells, and the researchers also tied
expression of each of these genes to expression of green fluorescent
protein. As cells reprogram, they turn on their own pluripotency
machinery and silence the introduced genes; the subsequent dimming of
GFP is an important marker of reprogramming. This means the live-image
technique can't be used to evaluate newly reported reprogramming
techniques that use protein factors and leave cells' genomes intact —
an approach that may decrease risk of tumours and unpredictability.
The live-imaging approach may be of even more use in studying the
beginning of reprogramming rather than the end product, says Schlaeger.
"It allows us to identify earlier stages, so we can look at molecular
events in these very rare cells." The technique allows researchers to
watch just-emerging cell clusters and watch as markers turn on and off.
extremely important to follow the fate of human iPS cells as they
reprogram," says Ellis. "This is really the first paper to do that on
single human iPS cell colonies induced using the standard retrovirus
vector reprogramming approach."
- Chan, E. M. et al. Nature Biotechnol. doi:10.1038/nbt.1580 (2009).
Argentina's forests dwindle
Argentina, often perceived as a vast fertile territory, is losing its
native forests. Nearly 40% of animal and plant species in the country's
arid and semi-arid ecosystems are in danger from habitat loss, a new
"If deforestation continues at this rate, by 2036 we will only have
small patches of native forests" left in the country, says Elena María
Abraham, director of the Argentinean Institute of Arid Lands Research
Abraham announced the new numbers on
biodiversity threats — compiled over 20 years of laboratory and field
studies — last month, at a meeting in Buenos Aires of the parties to
the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
1914, Argentina was estimated to have more than 106 million hectares of
native forests; by 1996, when a national action programme against
desertification began, only 36 million hectares remained. Today, the
country's forests are vanishing at a rate of more than 829,000 hectares
a year, mainly where agriculture is pushing into native forests.
are not just concerned about losing particular species. "By losing
ecosystems, we lose what cannot be seen — diversity within, which
allows one species to endure climatic changes or severe impacts on
their environments," says Daniel Tomasini, the environment coordinator
for the United Nations Development Program in Argentina, based in
Life without trees
Abraham and others are also calling attention to the inter