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Sticky Feet: Ants have incredibly sticky feet, they can hang onto ceilings carrying 100 times their body weight

But if they are stuck down so successfully - how do they ever get them unstuck? Chris Clemente is studying the mechanisms that ants and other insects (especially cockroaches) use to stick and unstick, and also to walk down as well as up walls. He also considers the applications that this might one day help to develop a 'supersuper glue' and to improve the movement of robots.

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Sandy Honess's curator insight, March 14, 2013 9:24 AM

This is amazing.  Asian weaver ant.   Fluid filled ant feet makes them stick.  This guy would make a great speaker at pest management events. I wish he was here in the States.  

 

 

Sandy Honess's curator insight, March 14, 2013 9:40 AM

This is amazing.  I have never viewed a breakdown of how ants and roaches travel and can hold on to smooth surfaces, upside down, like this expert has demonstrated.    

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20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

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Genome analysis reveals that herders moved en masse from Russia to Central Europe around 4,500 years ago

Genome analysis reveals that herders moved en masse from Russia to Central Europe around 4,500 years ago | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Analysis of the genomes of 69 ancient Europeans has revealed that herders moved en masse from Russia into Central Europe around 4,500 years ago. These migrants may be responsible for the expansion of Indo-European languages, which make up the majority of spoken tongues in Europe today.


Data from the genomes of 69 ancient individuals suggest that herders moved en masse from the continent's eastern periphery into Central Europe. These migrants may be responsible for the expansion of Indo-European languages, which make up the majority of spoken tongues in Europe today.


An international team has published the research in the journal NatureProf David Reich and colleagues extracted DNA from remains found at archaeological sites around the continent. They used a new DNA-enrichment technique that greatly reduces the amount of sequencing needed to obtain genome-wide data.


Their analyses show that 7,000-8,000 years ago, a closely related group of early farmers moved into Europe from the Near East, confirming the findings of previous studies. The farmers were distinct from the indigenous hunter-gatherers they encountered as they spread around the continent. Eventually, the two groups mixed, so that by 5,000-6,000 years ago, the farmers' genetic signature had become melded with that of the indigenous Europeans.


But previous studies show that a two-way amalgam of farmers and hunters is not sufficient to capture the genetic complexity of modern Europeans. A third ancestral group must have been added to the melting pot more recently.


Prof Reich and colleagues have now identified a likely source area for this later diaspora. The Bronze Age Yamnaya pastoralists of southern Russia are a good fit for the missing third genetic component in Europeans. The team analysed nine genomes from individuals belonging to this nomadic group, which buried their dead in mounds known as kurgans.


The scientists contend that a group similar to the Yamnaya moved into the European heartland after the invention of wheeled vehicles, contributing up to 50% of ancestry in some modern north Europeans. Southern Europeans on the whole appear to have been less affected by the expansion.

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Air pollution in India reduces life expectancy of over half of India's population by more than 3 years

Air pollution in India reduces life expectancy of over half of India's population by more than 3 years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

India’s air pollution, ranked among the world’s worst, is reducing the life expectancy of over half of the country’s population by more than three years, according to a new study.


Researchers from the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale wrote in this month’s Economic & Political Weekly that more than 660 million Indians live in areas where fine-particulate matter pollution exceeds levels considered safe by Indian standards. If India reverses this trend to meet standards, those 660 million people would gain about 3.2 years onto their lives—saving a total of 2.1 billion life-years.


“India’s focus is necessarily on growth. However for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution,” said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. “This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely. Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases the incidence of sick days and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods.”


The new figures come after World Health Organization estimates showed 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India, including the worst-ranked city, Delhi. India has the highest rate of death caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world.


Rohini Pande, a study co-author and director of Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School, said, “The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution. It is in India’s power to change this in cost-effective ways that allow hundreds of millions of its citizens to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Reforms of the current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth.”

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Germ-killing molecules identified in alligator blood

Germ-killing molecules identified in alligator blood | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Thick armor and jaws packed full of teeth aren't the only defences that alligators and crocodiles have. They also have formidable immune systems and some of the protective molecules that enable this have now been identified. Their discovery in the blood of the American alligator might even pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics.


Crocodilians have existed on Earth for at least 37 million years. Over the course of their evolution, they have developed a very strong defence against infection. "They inflict wounds on each other from which they frequently recover without complications from infection despite the fact that the environments in which they live are less than sterile," says Barney Bishop of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, co-author of the new study.


American alligators have an enviable innate immune system, the "primitive" first line of defence that is shared by all vertebrates. In 2008, chemists in Louisiana found that blood serum taken from the reptiles destroyed 23 strains of bacteria and depleted reserves of the HIV virus. The germ-killing molecules were identified as enzymes that break down a type of lipid.


Although their results have yet to lead to any new antibiotics, enzymes aren't the only pathogen-busting molecules that alligators have up their sleeve. Bishop's group has now identified and isolated peptides known as a CAMPs or cationic antimicrobial peptides. These molecules are positively charged so the team developed nanoparticles to electrostatically pick them out of the complex mix of proteins in alligator blood plasma.


In total, the group fished out 45 peptides. Of these, they chemically synthesised eight and evaluated their antimicrobial properties. Five killed some of the E.colibacteria they were presented with, while the other three destroyed most of theE.coli and also showed some activity against bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause inflammation and sepsis, and Staphylococcus aureus, which can trigger skin infections, sinusitis and food poisoning. So far, the strains have performed well, says Bishop. Identifying novel antimicrobial peptides is urgently needed because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, says Guangshun Wang at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. "Because of the novelty of the sequences," he says, "these peptides provide new templates for developing antimicrobials to combat superbugs."

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Dazzling display of light by auroras on Saturn

Dazzling display of light by auroras on Saturn | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists first observed Saturn’s auroras in 1979. Decades later, these shimmering ribbons of light still fascinate. For one thing they’re magnificently tall, rising hundreds of miles above the planet’s poles. And unlike on Earth where bright displays fizzle after only a few hours, auroras on Saturn can shine for days. Auroras are produced when speeding particles accelerated by the sun’s energy collide with gases in a planet’s atmosphere. The gases fluoresce, emitting flashes of light at different wavelengths. Watch the video to see an edge-on view of Saturn’s northern and southern lights courtesy of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

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World-leading SuperSTEM microscope that can see single atoms is unveiled

World-leading SuperSTEM microscope that can see single atoms is unveiled | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new super powerful electron microscope that can pinpoint the position of single atoms was unveiled today at the Science and Technology Research Council's Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire. The microscope will help scientists push boundaries even further in fields such as advanced materials, healthcare and power generation.


The £3.7 million Nion Hermes Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope, one of only three in the world, is housed in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) SuperSTEM facility at Daresbury.


The microscope not only allows imaging of unprecedented resolution of objects a million times smaller than a human hair, but also analysis of materials. This means that researchers will not only be able to clearly identify the atoms, but observe the strength of the bonds between them. This will improve understanding of their electronic properties when in bulk and how they may perform when used.


Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark, said: "The UK is a world leader in the development and application of STEM (Scanning Transition Electron Microscope) techniques, and this new super-powerful microscope will ensure we remain world-class.


"From developing new materials for space travel to creating a better, cheaper treatment for anaemia, this new super-powerful microscope lets UK scientists examine how materials behave at a level a million times smaller than a human hair. This exciting research will help lead to breakthroughs that will benefit not only our health but the environment too."


Professor Susan Smith, Head of STFC's Daresbury Laboratory, said: "SuperSTEM is home to real world-leading, even Nobel prize winning, research. It will be exciting to see what ground-breaking findings this new microscope will reveal, as it enables our UK academics, and their collaborators within the world-wide scientific community, to expand the frontiers of materials science."

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Some long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are coding for peptides

Some long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are coding for peptides | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers have come full circle and predicted that some long non-coding RNAs can give rise to small proteins that have biological functions. A recent study describes how researchers have used ribosome profiling to identify several hundred long non-coding RNAs that may give rise to small peptides.


Not so long ago researchers thought that RNAs came in two types: coding RNAs that make proteins and non-coding RNAs that have structural roles. Then came the discovery of small RNAs that opened up whole new areas of research. Now researchers have come full circle and predicted that some long non-coding RNAs can give rise to small proteins that have biological functions. A recent study in The EMBO Journal describes how researchers have used ribosome profiling to identify several hundred long non-coding RNAs that may give rise to small peptides.


"We have identified hundreds of open reading frames in the long non-coding RNAs of humans and zebrafish that may give rise to functional proteins using ribosome profiling," says Antonio Giraldez, one of the lead authors of the study and a professor at Yale University School of Medicine in the United States.


Ribosome profiling allows scientists to measure how much RNA is translated into protein. The method allows direct quantification of the messenger RNA fragments protected by the ribosome after digestion with the enzyme nuclease. The nucleases destroy the bonds between the exposed nucleotides that make up RNA and which are not protected by the protein-making machinery of the ribosome. What is left behind is a measurable amount of RNA destined to produce protein.


The researchers were able to visualize translation and the movement of the ribosome every three nucleotides, which corresponds to the size of each codon on the RNA producing an amino acid. This was possible by combining the high resolution of ribosome profiling with a bioinformatic tool developed in the Giraldez laboratory called ORFScore.


"Crucial to our study was the parallel use of a second computational method that relies on a bioinformatic tool called micPDP," says Giraldez. "micPDP revealed that the RNAs identified by ribosome profiling correspond to peptides that have been conserved over the course of evolution. This strongly suggests that these genes encode proteins that have specific functions in these animals."


As a further validation of their method, the scientists went one step further and used mass spectrometry to detect and characterize almost 100 of the peptides coded by the RNAs. "We have identified hundreds of open reading frames in the long non-coding RNAs of humans and zebrafish that may give rise to functional proteins using ribosome profiling," says Antonio Giraldez, one of the lead authors of the study and a professor at Yale University School of Medicine in the United States.


Ribosome profiling allows scientists to measure how much RNA is translated into protein. The method allows direct quantification of the messenger RNA fragments protected by the ribosome after digestion with the enzyme nuclease. The nucleases destroy the bonds between the exposed nucleotides that make up RNA and which are not protected by the protein-making machinery of the ribosome. What is left behind is a measurable amount of RNA destined to produce protein. 


"Crucial to our study was the parallel use of a second computational method that relies on a bioinformatic tool called micPDP," says Giraldez. "micPDP revealed that the RNAs identified by ribosome profiling correspond to peptides that have been conserved over the course of evolution. This strongly suggests that these genes encode proteins that have specific functions in these animals."


As a further validation of their method, the scientists went one step further and used mass spectrometry to detect and characterize almost 100 of the peptides coded by the RNAs.

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Researchers discover a gene for human brain size - only found in humans

Researchers discover a gene for human brain size - only found in humans | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

About 99 percent of human genes are shared with chimpanzees. Only the small remainder sets us apart. However, we have one important difference: The brain of humans is three times as big as the chimpanzee brain. During evolution our genome must have changed in order to trigger such brain growth. Wieland Huttner, Director and Research Group Leader a the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), and his team identified for the first time a gene that is only present in humans and contributes to the reproduction of basal brain stem cells, triggering a folding of the neocortex. The researchers isolated different subpopulations of human brain stem cells and precisely identified, which genes are active in which cell type. In doing so, they noticed the gene ARHGAP11B: it is only found in humans and in our closest relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisova-Humans, but not in chimpanzees. This gene manages to trigger brain stem cells to form a bigger pool of stem cells. In that way, during brain development more neurons can arise and the cerebrum can expand. The cerebrum is responsible for cognitive functions like speaking and thinking.


Wieland Huttner’s researchers developed a method that isolates and identifies special subpopulations of brain stem cells from the developing human cerebrum. No one has managed to do this so far. The scientists first isolated different stem and progenitor cell types from fetal mice and human cerebrum tissue. In contrast to the big and folded human brain, the brain of mice is small and smooth. After the isolation, the researchers compared the genes that are active in the various cell types and were able to identify 56 genes that are only present in humans and which play a role in brain development. “We noticed that the gene ARHGAP11B is especially active in basal brain stem cells. These cells are really important for the expansion of the neocortex during evolution,” says Marta Florio, PhD student in Wieland Huttner’s lab, who carried out the main part of the study.


The human-specific gene also works in mice: In the further course of the study, the researchers focused on the function of this special gene. The researchers suspected that if it was responsible for a bigger pool of brain stem cells in humans and thereby for an expanded cerebrum, then this human-specific gene should trigger a similar development in the smaller brain of a mouse. They introduced the gene into mice embryos and indeed: Under the influence of the human-specific gene, the mice produced significantly more brain stem cells and in half of all cases even a folding of the neocortex, which is typical for human brains. All these results suggest that the gene ARHGAP11B plays a key role in the evolutionary expansion of the human neocortex.

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Age-related leukemia almost inevitable: 70% of people over 90 have genetic mutations that could lead to leukemia

Age-related leukemia almost inevitable: 70% of people over 90 have genetic mutations that could lead to leukemia | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It is "almost inevitable" that your blood will take the first steps towards leukemia as you age, researchers show. The cancer is often associated with children, but some types become more common with age. The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, showed 70% of healthy people in their 90s had genetic errors that could lead to leukemia. The researchers warn that the number of cases could soar as life expectancy increases.


The team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, outside Cambridge, analysed the blood of 4,219 people. They focused on accurately testing for errors in the DNA that are linked to the blood cancers. If one blood cell in a hundred carried such a mutation they would pick it up.


The results were a surprise. They suggest 20% of people in their 50s have potentially cancerous mutations rising to 70% in people in their 90s. One of the researchers, Dr George Vassiliou, told the BBC News website: "We had suspected people had these mutations, but didn't expect they would be an almost inevitable consequence of aging. "What it is saying is that a lot more people than expected are starting on the path to leukemia, but thankfully only a few make it to the end."

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Programmable pop-up materials can morph on command into shapes 100 fold taller than original

Programmable pop-up materials can morph on command into shapes 100 fold taller than original | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A less-than-paper-thin sheet of a stunning new nanomaterial can expand 100x into any pre-programmed, customized 3d shape. In doing so, it can lift 175 times its own weight.


Normally you can rely on solid objects to hold their shape: aeroplane wings are skinny teardrops, paper is flat and chairs are good for sitting on. But the US air force has found a way to change that. They have made flat surfaces pop into complex 3D shapes when heated – an ability that could find uses in fields from medicine to flight.


"Think of an antenna that changes its radiation properties depending on its shape, or morphing wings where the shape dictates the function," says Taylor Ware at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Although confined to the lab for now, the technique has the potential to make shape-shifting objects.



To build their morphing device, the team used a thin film of liquid crystal elastomers – a material made of elastic polymers that also contains a crystal lattice. Polarised laser light then changes the way the units that make up the lattice are aligned. Because the crystal's thermal properties are not the same in all directions, heating the new arrangement makes some parts of the lattice expand and others contract.


Ordering the crystals just so makes different parts expand and contract against each other such that heating a flat sheet to 175 degrees Celsius makes it morph into a predetermined 3D shape that can be 100 times as tall as the film is thick. Ware says there may be other ways to trigger the shape change that are less extreme, although also less effective, including the application of organic solvents, and potentially even water.

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Yale researchers reverse type 2 diabetes and associated fatty liver disease in rats

Yale researchers reverse type 2 diabetes and associated fatty liver disease in rats | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Yale researchers developed a controlled-release oral therapy that reversed type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease in rats, according to a study published on Feb. 26 by Science.


Existing therapies for type 2 diabetes, and the closely associated conditions of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), have had limited success at treating the root causes of these diseases. Building on earlier research, the Yale team — led by Dr. Gerald I. Shulman, the George R. Cowgill Professor of Physiological Chemistry, and professor of medicine and cellular & molecular physiology at Yale School of Medicine — decided to investigate whether an agent that had originally been used for weight loss more than 70 years ago could be reformulated to safely treat NAFLD/NASH and type 2 diabetes in rodent models of these diseases.


Based on their earlier studies, the researchers determined that toxicity associated with the agent — mitochondrial protonophore 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) — was related to its peak plasma concentrations. They discovered that DNP’s efficacy in reducing liver fat and liver inflammation could be achieved with plasma concentrations that were more than a 100-fold less than the toxic levels.


“Besides reversing fatty liver disease in a rodent model of NALFD, a low-dose intragastric infusion of DNP that was 100-fold lower than toxic levels also significantly reduced blood glucose, triglyceride, and insulin concentrations in a rodent model of NAFLD and type 2 diabetes”, said Shulman, who is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


In the next phase of the study, Shulman and his team developed a new oral, controlled-release form of DNP, known as CRMP, which maintained the drug at concentrations that were more than a 100-fold lower than the toxic threshold. Administered once daily, CRMP delivered similar positive results, reversing fatty liver, insulin resistance, and hyperglycemia in rat models of NAFLD and type 2 diabetes, as well as liver inflammation and liver fibrosis in a rodent model of NASH, with no adverse effects.


“Given these promising results in animal models of NAFLD/NASH and type 2 diabetes we are pursuing additional preclinical safety studies to take this mitochondrial protonophore approach to the clinic” said Shulman.

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DNA recovered from underwater British site may rewrite history of farming in Europe

DNA recovered from underwater British site may rewrite history of farming in Europe | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Hunter-gatherers may have brought agricultural products to the British Isles by trading wheat and other grains with early farmers from the European mainland. That’s the intriguing conclusion of a new study of ancient DNA from a now submerged hunter-gatherer camp off the British coast. If true, the find suggests that wheat made its way to the far edge of Western Europe 2000 years before farming was thought to have taken hold in Britain.


The work confronts archaeologists “with the challenge of fitting this into our worldview,” says Dorian Fuller, an archaeobotanist at University College London who was not involved in the work.


For decades, archaeologists had thought that incoming farmers from the Middle East moved into Europe beginning about 10,500 years ago and replaced or transformed hunter-gatherer populations as they moved west, not reaching Britain until about 6000 years ago. But that worldview had already undergone some modifications. Recent discoveries, for example, have shown some incoming farmers coexisted with the hunter-gatherers already living in Europe rather than quickly replacing them. In 2013, researchers reported that, beginning about 6000 years ago, farmers and hunter-gatherers had both buried their dead in the same cave in Germany and continued to do so for 800 years, suggesting that the two groups were in close contact.  More controversially, researchers claimed that about 6500 years ago hunter-gatherers in Germany and Scandinavia may have acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers.

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Study provides new data on chemical gardens, whose formation is a mystery for science

Study provides new data on chemical gardens, whose formation is a mystery for science | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Recent research which has counted with the participation of the University of Granada Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences has yielded new data on chemical gardens, mysterious formations produced when certain solid salts (copper sulfate, cobalt chloride) are added to an aqueous solution of sodium silicate.


Self-contained chemical gardens are formed through the self-assembly of mineral precipitates generated during certain chemical reactions, and they produce coloured forms that resemble vegetable structures. The first researcher who watched them was Johann Rudolf Glauber in 1646, and since then their formation has been a veritable mystery for the scientific community.


Besides their popularity in chemistry experiments for massive audiences, self-contained chemical gardens present analogies with a variety of natural systems, such as the ice channels formed underneath sea ice or the hydrothermal chimneys at the bottom of the oceans where it is believed that life on earth could have originated.

Their growth patterns are being studied today fundamentally to produce new self-structuring materials, or to understand their role in the origin of life, thanks to the energy they can store.


To produce a chemical garden in the lab, one typically introduces a metallic salt in an alkaline solution within a container. This leads to the growth of a series of irregular, tubular, multi-coloured structures thanks to the combined action of different physical processes (osmotic pressure, gravity effects, reactions and diffusion). The fact that these different processes interact in a complex way without any sort of control whatsoever provokes the irregularity, and above all the impossibility of reproducing the obtained three-dimensional forms obtained in this process. This precludes detailed understanding of the growth mechanisms of these structures.


In this context, researchers from the Non-linear Physical Chemistry Unity at the Free University of Brussels, and from the University of Granada Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences have demonstrated that it is possible to obtain an important collection of reproducible structures by having the chemical gardens grow in a confined, almost bi-dimensional environment, by injecting a reagent inside another one between two horizontal plaques. The horizontal confinement of the reactor reduces the effects of gravity, while the injection of one reagent within another reduces the effects of osmotic pressure. Besides, the control of the initial concentrations of the reagents, and of the flow of injection allows for the study of the relative importance of chemical processes and transport within the selection of the shape in the precipitate.


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Ultra-cold mirrors could reveal gravity's quantum side

Ultra-cold mirrors could reveal gravity's quantum side | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An experiment not much bigger than a tabletop, using ultra-cold metal plates, could serve up a cosmic feast. It could give us a glimpse of quantum gravity and so lead to a "theory of everything": one that unites the laws of quantum mechanics, governing the very small, and those of general relativity, concerning the monstrously huge.


Such theories are difficult to test in the lab because they probe such extreme scales. But quantum effects have a way of showing up unexpectedly. In a strange quantum phenomenon known as the Casimir effect, two sheets of metal held very close together in a vacuum will attract each other.


The effect occurs because, even in empty space, there is an electromagnetic field that fluctuates slightly all the time. Placing two metal sheets very close to one another limits the fluctuations between them, because the sheets reflect electromagnetic waves. But elsewhere the fluctuations are unrestricted, and this pushes the plates together.

James Quach at the University of Tokyo suggests that we might be able to observe the equivalent effect for gravity. That would, in turn, be direct evidence of the quantum nature of gravity: the Casimir effect depends on vacuum fluctuations, which are only predicted by quantum physics.


But in order to detect it, you would need something that reflects gravitational waves – the ripples in space-time predicted by general relativity. Earlier research suggested that superconductors (for example, metals cooled to close to absolute zero such that they lose all electrical resistance) might act as mirrors in this way.


"The quantum properties of superconductors may reflect gravitational waves. If this is correct, then the gravitational Casimir effect for superconductors should be large," says Quach. "The experiment I propose is feasible with current technology."


It's still unclear if superconductors actually reflect gravitational waves, however. "The exciting part of this paper has to do with a speculative idea about gravitational waves and superconductors," says Dimitra Karabali at Lehman College in New York. "But if it's right, it's wonderful."

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Strong Link Between California Drought & Climate Change Revealed Today

Strong Link Between California Drought & Climate Change Revealed Today | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Rain and snow have graced the West recently, causing many residents to breathe a sigh of relief about possible easing of the severe drought conditions that have worsened there over the past three-plus years. Complacency about drought and climate change is not warranted, say Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh and his research team from Stanford.


In “Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California,” an article just published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Diffenbaugh and colleagues reveal proof of a somewhat counterintuitive hypothesis: higher temperatures, not necessarily precipitation shortages, drive the phenomenon of drought.


Diffenbaugh heads the Climate and Earth System Dynamics research group in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford, where he’s an associate professor and a senior fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. He was behind last September’s conclusions that climate change is occurring 10 times faster now than at any time in the past 65 million years. He has also said that at its current pace, climate change will involve a 5- to 6-degree Celsius rise by 2100.

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Cigarettes kill 2 out of 3 of its users, large study finds

Cigarettes kill 2 out of 3 of its users, large study finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

“Smoking Kills” is more than just a catchy PSA or smoking cessation campaign slogan—it’s verifiable fact. Since the mid-1900s, study after study has generated compelling evidence linking smoking to increased mortality rates. Arguably, the most influential of these is the 1956 publication of smoking data on the “British Doctors Study,” which presented compelling evidence that over half of smokers would eventually die due to smoking-related complications. A new study published in BMC Medicine asserts that this mortality rate may even be as high as 66 percent, meaning that two out of three smokers will eventually die from conditions associated with their smoking.


This study, put together by investigators from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, followed 204,953 men and women over 45 years old from New South Wales, Australia. These participants were categorized into groups of smokers, past smokers, and never smokers.


Person-years are a measure of time used in epidemiological studies, in which the years studied for all participants in a study are added together. For example, if three people were studied for 10 years each, 30 total person years would be reported in the study. In the study published in BMC Medicine, a total of 874,120 person-years were examined, and during those person-years, 5,593 deaths occurred among the study population.


Epidemiological outcomes are typically reported in terms of “Relative Risk”, which describes the proportion of the risk of an outcome that can be attributed to a specific factor. In this study, the relative risk of death (known as mortality) for male and female smokers showed that they were approximately 2.76 and 2.95 times more likely to die than never smokers. Quitting helps; male and female past smokers were 1.27 and 1.39 times more likely to die than never smokers. These numbers, while not surprising given the large body of data on the risks of smoking, are nonetheless a staggering reminder of the quantifiable risks of smoking.

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Light simultaneously imaged as a wave and a particle for the first time

Light simultaneously imaged as a wave and a particle for the first time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For the first time ever, scientists have photographed light behaving simultaneously as both a particle and a wave. The image is a momentous achievement, providing direct observation of both behaviors simultaneously for the first time, after decades of attempts by the scientific community. Previous research projects have successfully observed wave-like behaviors and particle-like behaviors in light, but not at the same time.


The dual behavior of light, which is demonstrated through quantum mechanics and was first proposed by Albert Einstein, was only possible to capture by scientists at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, due to an unorthodox imaging technique. The scientists generated the image with electrons, making use of EPFL’s ultrafast energy-filtered transmission electron microscope. This gave them a rare advantage over other institutions, as EPFL has one of only two microscopes in the world.


The image was achieved first by firing a pulse of laser light at a miniscule metallic nanowire, adding energy to charged particles in the nanowire and making them vibrate. The light waves  travel along the nanowire in opposite directions, like lanes of cars on a road, but when they meet from opposite directions they form a new wave the appears as if it is “standing in place”, effectively confined to the nanowire. This wave, which radiates around the nanowire, was the light source that was imaged.


The scientists fired a stream of electrons in close proximity to the nanowire, and imaged their interaction with this “standing wave”. As they came into contact with the light, their changes in behavior acted as a visualization of the light’s behavior. The electrons that interacted with the light, or photons, either slowed down or sped up, together forming a visualization of the light’s wave. However, the changes in speed also appeared as an exchange of quanta – packets of energy – between the electrons and the photons.  These packets were the tell-tale sign of the light behaving as a particle.

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A Binary Star Passed Through Our Solar System Just 70,000 Years Ago

A Binary Star Passed Through Our Solar System Just 70,000 Years Ago | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Astronomers have reported the discovery of a star that passed within the outer reaches of our Solar System just 70,000 years ago, when early humans were beginning to take a foothold here on Earth. The stellar flyby was likely close enough to have influenced the orbits of comets in the outer Oort Cloud, but Neandertals and Cro Magnons – our early ancestors – were not in danger. But now astronomers are ready to look for more stars like this one.


Lead author Eric Mamajek from the University of Rochester and collaborators report in The Closest Known Flyby Of A Star To The Solar System (published in Astrophysical Journal on February 12, 2015) that “the flyby of this system likely caused negligible impact on the flux of long-period comets, the recent discovery of this binary highlights that dynamically important Oort Cloud perturbers may be lurking among nearby stars.”


The star, named Scholz’s star, was just 8/10ths of a light year at closest approach to the Sun. In comparison, the nearest known star to the Sun is Proxima Centauri at 4.2 light years. At present, Scholz’s star is 20 light years away, one of the 70 closest stars to our Solar System. However, the astronomers calculated, with a 98% certainty, that Scholz’s passed within 0.5 light years, approximately 50,000 Astronomical Units (A.U.) of the Sun.


In 1984, the paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski postulated that a dim dwarf star, now widely known on the internet as the Nemesis Star, was in a very long period Solar orbit. The elliptical orbit brought the proposed star into the inner Solar System every 26 million years, causing a rain of comets and mass extinctions on that time period. By no coincidence, because of the sheer numbers of red dwarfs throughout the galaxy, Scholz’s star nearly fits such a scenario. Nemesis was proposed to be in a orbit extending 95,000 A.U. compared to Scholz’s nearest flyby distance of 50,000 A.U. Recent studies of impact rates on Earth, the Moon and Mars have discounted the existence of a Nemesis star (see New Impact Rate Count Lays Nemesis Theory to Rest, Universe Today, 8/1/2011).



But Scholz’s star — a real-life Oort Cloud perturber — was a small red dwarf star star with a M9 spectral classification. M-class stars are the most common star in our galaxy and likely the whole Universe, as 75% of all stars are of this type. Scholz’s is just 15% of the mass of our Sun. Furthermore, Scholz’s is a binary star system with the secondary being a brown dwarf of class T5. Brown Dwarfs are believed to be plentiful in the Universe but due to their very low intrinsic brightness, they are very difficult to discover … except, as in this case, as companions to brighter stars.


The astronomers reported that their survey of new astrometric data of nearby stars identified Scholz’s as an object of interest. The star’s transverse velocity was very low, that is, the stars sideways motion. Additionally, they recognized that its radial velocity – motion towards or away from us, was quite high. For Scholz’s, the star was speeding directly away from our Solar System. How close could Scholz’s star have been to our system in the past? 


Scholz’s star is an active star and the researchers added that while it was nearby, it shined at a dimly of about 11th magnitude but eruptions and flares on its surface could have raised its brightness to visible levels and could have been seen as a “new” star by primitive humans of the time.Scholz’s star is an active star and the researchers added that while it was nearby, it shined at a dimly of about 11th magnitude but eruptions and flares on its surface could have raised its brightness to visible levels and could have been seen as a “new” star by primitive humans of the time.

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Dr. Google joins Mayo Clinic

Dr. Google joins Mayo Clinic | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The deal to produce clinical summaries under the Mayo Clinic name for Google searches symbolizes the medical priesthood's acceptance that information technology has reshaped the doctor-patient relationship. More disruptions are already on the way.


If information is power, digitized information is distributed power. While “patient-centered care” has been directed by professionals towards patients, collaborative health – what some call “participatory medicine” or “person-centric care” ­– shifts the perspective from the patient outwards.


Collaboration means sharing. At places like Mayo and Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, the doctor’s detailed notes, long seen only by other clinicians, are available through a mobile app for patients to see when they choose and share how they wish. mHealth makes the process mundane, while the content makes it an utterly radical act.


About 5 million patients nationwide currently have electronic access to open notes. Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a few other institutions are planning to allow patients to make additions and corrections to what they call “OurNotes.” Not surprisingly, many doctors remain mortified by this medical sacrilege.


Even more threatening is an imminent deluge of patient-generated health data churned out by a growing list of products from major consumer companies. Sensors are being incorporated into wearables, watches, smartphones and (in a Ford prototype) even a “car that cares” with biometric sensors in the seat and steering wheel. Sitting in your suddenly becomes telemedicine.


To be sure, traditional information channels remain. For example, a doctor-prescribed, Food and Drug Administration-approved app uses sensors and personalized analytics to prevent severe asthma attacks. Increasingly common, though, is digitized data that doesn’t need a doctor at all. For example, a Microsoft fitness band not only provides constant heart rate monitoring, according to a New York Times review, but is part of a health “platform” employing algorithms to deliver “actionable information” and contextual analysis. By comparison, “Dr. Google” belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting.

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Breaking Research: Separable short- and long-term memories can form after a momentous occasion

Breaking Research: Separable short- and long-term memories can form after a momentous occasion | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Imagine that you are a starving fruit fly, desperately searching for food in a new area. Suddenly, you encounter a mysterious new odor and discover a nearby source of life-sustaining food. After a single experience such as this, flies can instantly form an association between that new odor and food, and will follow the odor if it encounters it again (Figure 1-1). Yamagata et al. took advantage of this instinctual behavior to study how the fly brain stores a long-term memory after one event.

They trained groups of flies to associate a particular odor (A) with a sugar reward by presenting them with both stimuli at the same time. They confirmed that the flies formed a memory by giving them a choice between odor A and a different odor (B), and found that flies preferably flocked to an area scented with odor A.

They also identified a large group of dopamine neurons (known as PAM neurons) that were activated by the sugar reward. If the researchers activated the PAM neurons instead of providing sugar when the flies encountered odor A, the flies still associated that odor with a reward (Figure 1-2).

Now the question: how does PAM neuron activity paired with an odor form a long-term memory?  The researchers found that the PAM neurons could actually be grouped into two types. When they activated one type, which they dubbed stm-PAM, the flies only formed a short-term memory. The researchers tested their memory immediately after training and found most of the flies hanging around odor A. But 24 hours later, the memory was gone.

Surprisingly, when the researchers activated the other type of PAM neurons during training (called ltm-PAM), the flies only formed a long-term memory! The flies weren’t particularly interested in odor A immediately after training, but 24 hours later the flies flocked toward it. This incredible result showed that long-term memory doesn’t necessarily require a short-term counterpart. So, instead of the reward pathway forming a short-term memory that later transforms into a long-term memory, this sugar reward formed two complementary memories.

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Unique Sulawesi frog gives birth to live tadpoles

Unique Sulawesi frog gives birth to live tadpoles | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Frogs exhibit an amazing variety of reproductive behaviors, ranging from brooding their eggs in their mouths to carrying tadpoles on their backs. Fewer than a dozen species of 6,000+ worldwide have developed internal fertilization, and some of these give birth to froglets instead of eggs. One species that has internal fertilization, a fanged frog from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, has been observed to give direct birth to tadpoles, which is unique among amphibians.


University of California, Berkeley, herpetologist Jim McGuire was slogging through the rain forests of Indonesia's Sulawesi Island one night this past summer when he grabbed what he thought was a male frog and found himself juggling not only a frog but also dozens of slippery, newborn tadpoles. He had found what he was looking for: direct proof that the female of a new species of frog does what no other frog does. It gives birth to live tadpoles instead of laying eggs.


A member of the Asian group of fanged frogs, the new species was discovered a few decades ago by Indonesian researcher Djoko Iskandar, McGuire's colleague, and was thought to give direct birth to tadpoles, though the frog's mating and an actual birth had never been observed before.


"Almost all frogs in the world -- more than 6,000 species -- have external fertilization, where the male grips the female in amplexus and releases sperm as the eggs are released by the female," McGuire said. "But there are lots of weird modifications to this standard mode of mating. This new frog is one of only 10 or 12 species that has evolved internal fertilization, and of those, it is the only one that gives birth to tadpoles as opposed to froglets or laying fertilized eggs."


Iskander, McGuire and Ben Evans of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, named the species Limnonectes larvaepartus and fully describe it in this week's issue of the journal PLOS ONE.


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The Siberian crater saga is more widespread — and scarier — than anyone thought

The Siberian crater saga is more widespread — and scarier — than anyone thought | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

At the end of last summer came news of a bizarre occurrence no one could explain. It was a massive crater that just one day showed up. Early estimates placed it at nearly 100 feet in diameter, nestled deep in Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula, a place called “the ends of the Earth.”


The mystery deepened. The Siberian crater wasn’t alone. There were two more, ratcheting up the tension in a drama that hit its climax as a probable explanation surfaced. Global warming had thawed the permafrost, which had caused methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode. “Gas pressure increased until it was high enough to push away the overlaying layers in a powerful injection, forming the crater,” one German scientist said at the time.


Now, however, researchers fear there are more craters than anyone knew — and the repercussions could be huge. Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven craters, five of which are in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported. Dozens more Siberian craters are likely still out there, said Moscow scientist Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Oil and Gas Research Institute, calling for an “urgent” investigation.


He fears that if temperatures continue to rise — and they were five degrees higher than average in 2012 and 2013 — more craters will emerge in an area awash in gas fields vital to the national economy. “It is important not to scare people, but to understand that it is a very serious problem and we must research this,” he told the Siberian Times. “… We must research this phenomenon urgently, to prevent possible disasters.”


One potential disaster relates to the explosions themselves. No one has been hurt in any of the blasts, but given the size of some of the craters, it’s fair to say the methane bursts are huge. Researchers are nervous about even studying them. Who knows when a methane geyser will shoot off again?

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Scientists have witnessed a direct connection between CO2 and thermal radiation that heats the Earth

Scientists have witnessed a direct connection between CO2 and thermal radiation that heats the Earth | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For the first time, scientists have witnessed a direct connection between rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an increase in the amount of thermal radiation striking Earth’s surface. The work affirms a cornerstone of the theory that humans have contributed to worldwide warming in recent decades, the researchers report online February 25 in Nature.


Carbon dioxide, like other greenhouse gases, can absorb and reradiate infrared light back down to Earth. This process traps thermal energy around the planet that would otherwise escape into space. To uncover how large an effect recent CO2 increases have had on Earth’s energy balance, climate scientist Daniel Feldman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and colleagues monitored the amount of thermal radiation hitting two sites in Alaska and Oklahoma on cloudless days. Because CO2 emits light within a signature range of wavelengths, the researchers could differentiate between energy balance changes caused by CO2 and those caused by other factors, such as water vapor.


Over 10 years of near-daily observations, the team found that a rise in CO2 concentrations of 22 parts per million boosted the amount of incoming thermal radiation from CO2 by 0.2 watts per square meter, an increase of about 10 percent. The researchers say their results agree with the theoretical predictions of CO2-driven warming used in simulations of future climate.

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Bees, Like People, Can Be Fooled by False Memories

Bees, Like People, Can Be Fooled by False Memories | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Memory is a notoriously slippery ally. It’s alarmingly easy to purposely distort recall, even in people with the unusual ability to remember minute details, going back to childhood. Absent manipulation, it is still extraordinarily difficult to be a reliable witness. Studying faults in memory, though, can reveal how it functions—even in such seemingly simple organisms as bees.


The latest work, published in Current Biology, looks at how bees, like humans, can be prone to false memories. Previously, researchers had manipulated the electrical zings of specific mouse brain cells to give rodents a false memory of an event that never happened. But naturally occurring false memory hasn’t been shown in non-humans before. 


Honeybees and bumblebees are favorite subjects in the study of learning and memory because they rely on color, scent and taste to help them find flowers and, therefore, food. They forage, so they are also good at using sensory cues to map their surroundings. In the new study, U.K.-based researchers tested bumblebees’ false memory formation using differently colored fake flowers.

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Approaching Titan a Billion Times Closer

Remember the Titan (Landing): Ten years ago today, Jan. 14, 2005, the Huygens probe touched down on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. 

This new, narrated movie was created with data collected by Cassini's imaging cameras and the Huygens Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR). The first minute shows a zoom into images of Titan from Cassini's cameras, while the remainder of the movie depicts the view from Huygens during the last few hours of its historic descent and landing. 

It was October 15, 1997, when NASA's Cassini orbiter embarked on an epic, seven-year voyage to the Saturnian system. Hitching a ride was ESA's Huygens probe, destined for Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The final chapter of the interplanetary trek for Huygens began on 25 December 2004 when it deployed from the orbiter for a 21-day solo cruise toward the haze-shrouded moon. Plunging into Titan's atmosphere, on January 14 2005, the probe survived the hazardous 2 hour 27 minute descent to touch down safely on Titan’s frozen surface. Today, the Cassini spacecraft remains in orbit at Saturn. Its mission will end in 2017, 20 years after its journey began. More information and images from the mission at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

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Seasonal flu vaccine could also protect against H7N9 avian flu

Seasonal flu vaccine could also protect against H7N9 avian flu | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new research has found that antibodies that protect against H7N9 avian flu have been isolated in individuals who received seasonal flu vaccinations. The research conducted by University Of Chicago Medical Centre explained that antibodies protection, which emerged in China account for a small percentage of the total immune response, but appear to neutralise H7 viruses and represent promising new targets for therapeutic development against a wide range of influenza strains.


Patrick Wilson, co-senior author said that the normal immune response to flu vaccination offers protection against dangerous and highly unique strains of influenza such as H7N9, so they will now develop ways of amplifying this response. Carole Henry, author of the study said that they observed that antibodies induced by flu vaccination offer cross-protection against H7N9, although they are not always protective, H7-reactive antibodies can be found in almost everyone that's been vaccinated. Wilson concluded that they will exploit this response on a larger scale to make vaccines or therapeutics that offer broad protection against influenza strains.


The study is published in the journal of Clinical Investigation.

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