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The ‘shiniest’ living thing in nature is an African fruit - welcome to the world of structural colors

The ‘shiniest’ living thing in nature is an African fruit - welcome to the world of structural colors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Unique blue fruit’s colour does not fade even after a century!

 

The ‘brightest’ thing in nature, the Pollia condensata fruit, does not get its blue color from pigment but instead uses structural color – a method of reflecting light of particular wavelengths- new research reveals. This obscure little plant has hit on a fantastic way of making an irresistible shiny, sparkly, multi-colored, iridescent signal to every bird in the vicinity.

 

Most colors around us are the result of pigments. However, a few examples in nature – including the peacock, the scarab beetle and now the Pollia condensata fruit – use structural colors as well. Fruits are made of cells, each of which is surrounded by a cell wall containing cellulose. However, the researchers found that in the Pollia condensata fruit the cellulose is laid down in layers, forming a chiral (asymmetrical) structure that is able to interact with light and provide selective reflection of only a specific color. As a result of this unique structure, it reflects predominately blue light. The scientists also discovered that each individual cell generates color independently, producing a pixelated or pointillist effect (like those in the paintings of Seurat). This color is produced by the reflection of light of particular wavelengths from layers of cellulose in the cell wall. The thickness of the layers determines which wavelength of light is reflected. As a result, some cells have thinner layers and reflect blue; others have thicker layers and reflect green or red.

 

Because of how it is created, the color of the Pollia condensata fruit does not fade. The researchers found that samples of the fruit in herbarium collections dating back to the 19th century were as colorful and shiny as ones grown today.

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First All-optical Switch Out Of Cadmium Sulfide Nanowires

First All-optical Switch Out Of Cadmium Sulfide Nanowires | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Computers may be getting faster every year, but those advances in computer speed could be dwarfed if their 1’s and 0’s were represented by bursts of light, instead of electricity. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made an important advance in this frontier of photonics, fashioning the first all-optical photonic switch out of cadmium sulfide nanowires. Moreover, they combined these photonic switches into a logic gate, a fundamental component of computer chips that process information. The research team began by precisely cutting a gap into a nanowire. They then pumped enough energy into the first nanowire segment that it began to emit laser light from its end and through the gap. Because the researchers started with a single nanowire, the two segment ends were perfectly matched, allowing the second segment to efficiently absorb and transmit the light down its length. “Putting switches together lets you make logic gates, and assembling logic gates allows you to do computation,” Piccione said. “We used these optical switches to construct a NAND gate, which is a fundamental building block of modern computer processing.” “We see a future where ‘consumer electronics’ become ‘consumer photonics".

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Absence of Bim and Puma lead to accumulation of self-reactive immune cells attacking many different organs

Absence of Bim and Puma lead to accumulation of self-reactive immune cells attacking many different organs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have discovered that a pair of molecules work together to kill so-called ‘self-reactive’ immune cells that are programmed to attack the body’s own organs. The finding is helping to explain how autoimmune diseases develop.

 

Autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis, develop when immune cells launch an attack on the body’s own cells, destroying important body organs or structures. Around one in 20 Australians is affected by autoimmune conditions, most of which are chronic illnesses with no cure.


Puma and Bim are so-called ‘BH3-only’ proteins that make cells die by a process called apoptosis. Defects in apoptosis proteins have been linked to many human diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Until now, there has been debate about how important the death of self-reactive cells is as a protection against autoimmune diseases. A recent study found that Puma and Bim lead to self-reactive immune cells accumulating and attacking many different body organs, causing various autoimmune diseases.

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Not so moist Mars: Clays may come from lava, not ancient water

Not so moist Mars: Clays may come from lava, not ancient water | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Hunting for Martians may be a tougher task than predicted. Clays, long thought to be a sure sign of a warmer and wetter past on the Red Planet, could merely signal earlier volcanic activity – which would have made some regions on Mars less favourable for life. Clay layers found across Mars suggest that during the Noachian period, from about 4.2 billion to 3.5 billion years ago, the planet was warm enough to host liquid water – necessary for life as we know it. Scientists thought Mars clays could have formed in one of two ways: through soil interacting with standing water on the surface, or from water bubbling up from below via hydrothermal vents.  But a new analysis of Martian meteorites hints that some clays may not have formed the way we think at all. Alain Meunier from the University of Poitiers in France has found that some Mars minerals from the Noachian period are a good chemical match to clays at the Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia, which formed from cooling of water-rich lava. What's more, these ancient Martian clays can be up to hundreds of metres thick, which is more likely to be associated with lava flows than soil interacting with water. One way to confirm where Mars clays came from is to check the soil texture with a high-resolution microscope. NASA's Curiosity rover has spent about a month in Gale Crater near the Martian equator, which holds a wealth of clay minerals. Curiosity has an onboard microscope, but it's not quite good enough to make the distinction. In general, Gale Crater's morphology – the fact that "it was a big deep hole in the ground" – fits better with the theory that it was a lake, not a volcano.

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Brainport vision device helps blind man to see with his tongue

Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind person to climb Everest and the Seven Summits, experiments in collaboration with the Brainport Vision Device, a revolutionary new technology enabling a blind person to see with his tongue. Mounted on Erik's head is a small video camera which translates visual information to a credit card-size tongue display. Four-hundred tiny pixels present electrical patterns on his tongue, which Erik's brain then interprets as a visual picture in three-dimensional space. He uses the device to read words and numbers on note cards, to play tic-tac-toe and stone-paper-scissors with his daughter, and to rock climb. To learn more about Erik, go to www.TouchTheTop.com .

 

http://tinyurl.com/pwz3vm

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Mihaela Cristina Radoi's curator insight, January 19, 6:02 AM

A blind person climbed the Seven Mountains (including Kilimanjaro and Everest) using the Brainport Vision Device, a technology enabling a blind person to see with his tongue. There are no frontieres, if there is will. 

Katherine Martinez's comment, February 24, 7:55 PM
This is about a blind men who uses a machine that connects to the tongue to make out patterns so that he can see. This is truly amazing. We have this now, imagine what other things we'll invented in the future. Maybe one day we can make the deaf hear without a cochlear implant.
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ENCODE explorer: A landmark in the understanding of the human genome

ENCODE explorer: A landmark in the understanding of the human genome | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Nature ENCODE: Explore the wealth of information about the project's key findings and numerous integrative analyses. Access the collected papers by exploring the thematic threads that run through them, with topics such as DNA methylation, RNA or machine learning.

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As Droughts Extend, Crops Wither

As Droughts Extend, Crops Wither | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This summer’s heat and rainlessness, which rivals the devastating 1988 drought, has left crops withering in the fields and farmers trying to calculate their losses. An analysis by The New York Times looks at the widely varying effects of this summer’s heat and drought on crops critical to the nation’s farm economy.

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Closing in on the Border Between Primordial Plasma and Ordinary Matter

Closing in on the Border Between Primordial Plasma and Ordinary Matter | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists taking advantage of the versatility and new capabilities of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), an atom smasher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, have observed first glimpses of a possible boundary separating ordinary nuclear matter, composed of protons and neutrons, from the seething soup of their constituent quarks and gluons that permeated the early universe some 14 billion years ago. Though RHIC physicists have been creating and studying this primordial quark-gluon plasma (QGP) for some time, the latest preliminary data come from systematic studies varying the energy and types of colliding ions to create this new form of matter under a broad range of initial conditions, allowing the experimenters to unravel its intriguing properties.

 

"2012 has been a banner year for RHIC, with record-breaking collision rates, first collisions of uranium ions, and first asymmetric collisions of gold ions with copper ions,” said Samuel Aronson, Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory. “These unique capabilities demonstrate the flexibility and outstanding performance of this machine as we seek to explore the subtle interplay of particles and forces that transformed the QGP of the early universe into the matter that makes up our world today.”

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Measuring animal discomfort and pain by assessing facial expressions

Measuring animal discomfort and pain by assessing facial expressions | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers working with animals often find it difficult to scientifically assess when their study subjects are in pain. Traditional methods rely on after-the-fact measurements involving weight loss or food and water consumption, or on subjective judgements such as how an animal moves. In an attempt to make pain assessment more scientific, geneticist Jeffrey Mogil at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and his colleagues developed the 'mouse grimace scale'.

 

The scale relies on the scoring of five ‘action units’ — such as narrowing of the eyes and bulging of the cheeks — between zero (not present) and two (obviously present), with the combined score indicating total pain. The scale rapidly caught on among veterinarians to assess post-operative pain. The rabbit grimace scale was prompted by the Swedish government, which wanted a way to assess how painful ear tattooing — a procedure commonly used to identify animals used in agriculture and breeding shows — is for rabbits. The rabbit scale has significant overlap with the existing mouse and rat scales. It involves looking for changes in whisker movement, ear position, cheek bulging, nose bulging and narrowed eyes on a scale from zero to two. In the study of ear tattooing, the researchers were unable to use ear position, so the highest possible score was eight.

 

Researchers are now working on scales for rhesus macaques, lambs, horses and pigs.

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Scientists cast doubt on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle

Scientists cast doubt on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, formulated by the theoretical physicist in 1927, is one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics. In its most familiar form, it says that it is impossible to measure anything without disturbing it. For instance, any attempt to measure a particle's position must randomly change its speed.

 

The principle has bedeviled quantum physicists for nearly a century, until recently, when researchers at the University of Toronto demonstrated the ability to directly measure the disturbance and confirm that Heisenberg was too pessimistic.


"We designed an apparatus to measure a property -- the polarization -- of a single photon. We then needed to measure how much that apparatus disturbed that photon," says Lee Rozema, a Ph.D. candidate in Professor Aephraim Steinberg's quantum optics research group at U of T, and lead author of a study published this week in Physical Review Letters.

 

The findings build on recent challenges to Heisenberg's principle by scientists the world over. Nagoya University physicist Masanao Ozawa suggested in 2003 that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle does not apply to measurement, but could only suggest an indirect way to confirm his predictions. A validation of the sort he proposed was carried out last year by Yuji Hasegawa's group at the Vienna University of Technology. In 2010, Griffith University scientists Austin Lund and Howard Wiseman showed that weak measurements could be used to characterize the process of measuring a quantum system. However, there were still hurdles to clear as their idea effectively required a small quantum computer, which is difficult to build.

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Exoplanets Put On Scale: New Planet-weighing Technique Found

Exoplanets Put On Scale: New Planet-weighing Technique Found | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Although there have been about 800 extra-solar planets discovered so far in our galaxy, the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown, as the most-common planet-finding technique provides only a general idea of an object’s mass. Previously, the only way to determine a planet’s exact mass was if it transits—has an orbit that periodically eclipses that of its host star. Former Carnegie scientist Mercedes López-Morales has, for the first time, determined the mass of a non-transiting planet.


Knowing a body’s mass is essential first to confirm it is a planet and if so, to determine whether it is rocky and possibly habitable or large and gassy. Until now, only the masses of transiting planets have been measured. Transiting planets are also the only type of extra-solar objects on which atmospheres have been detected.

 

López-Morales, along with her colleagues Florian Rodler and Ignasi Ribas of the Institute of Space Sciences, ICE (CSIC-IEEC, in Barcelona, Spain) measured the exact mass of a non-transiting planet. They did this using a new method that involves studying the carbon monoxide signature of the planet’s atmosphere—detecting, in the process, the atmosphere of this non-transiting planet.


The planet is called Tau Boo b, located in the constellation of Bootes, and it orbits a star about 50 light years from Earth that’s bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. The planet is similar in size to Jupiter and is so close to its star (only 8 stellar radii), that a year for this planet asts only 3.3 Earth days. Furthermore, its surface temperature reaches 1,500 ° C, making it inhospitable to life.


Discovered in 1996, Tau Boo b was one of the first planets originally detected by the radial velocity method. This planet does not transit, but its presence and characteristics were initially determined by the wobble of its host star. This technique only provides a rough indication of a detected planet’s mass.


In June 2011, López-Morales’ team conducted five hours of observations at near infrared wavelength (2.3 microns). They obtained data from the high-resolution spectrograph CRIRES, an instrument mounted on one of the four 8.2m Very Large Telescopes (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile.


The observations and subsequent data analysis revealed the presence of carbon monoxide in the planet's atmosphere. In addition, by studying the planet's orbital motion through the displacement of spectral lines of carbon monoxide, the team was able to calculate its exact mass—5.6 times Jupiter—a first using this particular method, and also a first for a non-transiting planet.

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ChronoZoom - The Arrow of Time Visualized

ChronoZoom - The Arrow of Time Visualized | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

ChronoZoom is an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing humanity, human prehistory, life, earth and the cosmos.

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Amino-acid deficiency underlies rare form of autism, pointing to a possible treatment with supplements

Amino-acid deficiency underlies rare form of autism, pointing to a possible treatment with supplements | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A rare, hereditary form of autism has been found — and it may be treatable with protein supplements. Genome sequencing of six children with autism has revealed mutations in a gene that stops several essential amino acids being depleted. The mutations are likely to account for only a very small proportion of autism cases. The children in the study came from three families with Middle Eastern ancestry; in each case the parents were first cousins. Studying such families makes the hunt for the rare recessive mutations underlying some forms of autism simpler than it would be among the general population.

 

In each family, the research team identified mutations that inactivate the enzyme BCKD-kinase, which normally prevents the body from breaking down branched-chain amino acids called leucine, isoleucine and valine after a meal. Humans cannot synthesize these amino acids and must obtain them from food. Thus, after eating, the children have low blood levels of the branched-chain amino acids. How this deficiency causes autism is still a mystery. Branched-chain amino acids enter the brain through specialized transporters in the fortress of brain-protecting cells known as the blood–brain barrier. The transporter proteins also shuttle other large amino acids into the brain, and when levels of the branched-chain amino acids are low, more of these other large molecules get through.

 

The research team has tried supplementing the diets of the children with this form autism, using muscle-building supplements that contain branched-chain amino acids. The researchers found that the supplements restored the children's blood levels of branched amino acids to normal. As for their autism symptoms, the “patients did not get any worse and their parents say they got better, but it’s ”anecdotal”.

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New Cancer Study Points to Tighter Pairing of Drugs and Patients - Treatment Within Reach?

New Cancer Study Points to Tighter Pairing of Drugs and Patients - Treatment Within Reach? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The first large and comprehensive study of the genetics of a common lung cancer has found that more than half the tumors from that cancer have mutations that might be treated by new drugs that are already in the pipeline or that could be easily developed. For the tens of thousands of Americans with that cancer — squamous cell lung cancer — the results are promising because they could foretell a new type of treatment in which drugs are tailored to match the genetic abnormality in each patient, researchers say.

 

The study is part of the Cancer Genome Atlas, a large project by the National Institutes of Health to examine genetic abnormalities in cancer. The study of squamous cell lung cancer is the second genetic analysis of a common cancer, coming on the heels of a study of colon cancer. The work became feasible only in the past few years because of enormous advances in DNA sequencing that allow researchers to scan all the DNA in a cell instead of looking at its 21,000 genes one at a time. The result has been a new comprehension of cancer as a genetic disease, defined by DNA alterations that drive a cancer cell’s growth, instead of a disease of a particular tissue or organ, like a breast, the prostate or a lung.

 

The new study compared tumor cells from 178 squamous cell lung cancer patients with the patients’ normal cells. More than 60 percent of the tumors had alterations in genes used to make enzymes that are particularly vulnerable to the new crop of cancer drugs. Many of the drugs are already available or are being tested on other cancers. These enzymes function like on-off switches for cell growth, said Dr. Roy S. Herbst of Yale Cancer Center, who was not an author of the new study. When they are mutated, the switches are stuck in an on position. About a dozen companies, Dr. Herbst added, have drugs that block these mutated enzymes.

 

The study also found a real surprise, Dr. Meyerson said, something that had not previously been seen in any cancer. About 3 percent of the tumors had a gene mutation that might allow them to evade the immune system. By coincidence, an experimental drug that unleashes the immune system was recently tested in lung cancer patients. Some of those who did not respond might have the mutation, he said.

 

Now the challenge is to put the findings to clinical use. A Pfizer drug, crizotinib, which targets a rearranged gene in some adenocarcinomas, entered clinical trials in 2008 for lung cancers with the rearrangement. The results were reported in 2009 and were published in 2010. Crizotinib was approved in 2011 for patients with the gene rearrangement. The rearrangement is so rare that about 1,500 patients were tested to find 82 whose cancer had it. They were the ones included in the study. For Pfizer, the experience was transformative. “The old way of doing clinical trials where patients are only tied together by the organ where their cancer originated, those days are passing,” said Dr. Mace Rothenberg, senior vice president of Pfizer oncology.

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Research Reveals Chimps Can Create Local Social Traditions

Research Reveals Chimps Can Create Local Social Traditions | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

By using five years of observation on neighboring communities of chimpanzees at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia, an international team of scientists has shown that chimpanzees are not only capable of learning from one another, but also use social information to form and maintain local traditions.

 

The specific behavior that the team focused on was the ‘grooming handclasp,’ a behavior where two chimpanzees clasp onto each other’s arms, raise those arms up in the air, and groom each other with their free arm. This behavior has only been observed in some chimpanzee populations. The question remained whether chimpanzees are instinctively inclined to engage in grooming handclasp behavior, or whether they learn this behavior from each other and pass it on to subsequent generations.

 

At Chimfunshi, wild- and captive-born chimpanzees live in woodlands in some of the largest enclosures in the world. The team collaborated with local chimpanzee caretakers in order to collect and comprehend the detailed chimpanzee data. Previous studies suggested that the grooming handclasp might be a cultural phenomenon, just like humans across cultures engage in different ways of greeting each other. However, these suggestions were primarily based on observations that some chimpanzee communities handclasp and others don’t – not whether there are differences between communities that engage in handclasping. Moreover, the early observations could have been explained by differences in genetic and/or ecological factors between the chimpanzee communities, which precluded the interpretation that the chimpanzees were exhibiting ‘cultural’ differences.

 

A new study shows that even between chimpanzee communities that engage in the grooming handclasp, subtle yet stable differences exist in the styles that they prefer: one chimpanzee group highly preferred the style where they would grasp each other’s hands during the grooming, while another group engaged much more in a style where they would fold their wrists around each other’s wrists.

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Microbes around hot undersea volcanoes uptake hydrogen and carbon dioxide and exhale methane

Microbes around hot undersea volcanoes uptake hydrogen and carbon dioxide and exhale methane | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In 2012, scientists completed a first-ever study with detailed data on the limits of life that thrives deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes, places called hydrothermal vents. The microbes that live in the ocean depths inhale hydrogen and carbon dioxide and exhale methane. There is a tremendous, enormous amount of microbial biomass living within the Earth’s crust in the sediments. Some estimates are that it’s about 1/3 of the total biomass. Others have suggested that it may even rival the biomass that’s living on the surface of the planet.

 

Astrobiologists think that if there is life in our solar system, say, on Mars, or on Europa, then it’s going to be similar kinds of life. Life that’s independent of sunlight and life that’s independent of oxygen. So by understanding the life and the constraints on the life that lives in these hydrothermal environments, it gives us some idea of what to expect we can expect on these other planets and how we might be able to model this life, using computer models.

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Hubble has spotted an ancient fully-formed galaxy that shouldn't exist

Hubble has spotted an ancient fully-formed galaxy that shouldn't exist | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The galaxy BX442 is so large, so fully-formed, that astronomers say it shouldn't exist at all. It's called a "grand-design" spiral galaxy, and unlike most galaxies of its kind, this one is very old. According to a new study conducted by researchers using NASA's Hubble Telescope, it dates back roughly 10.7-billion years — and that makes it the most ancient spiral galaxy we've ever discovered.

 

"The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding," said University of Toronto's David Law, lead author of the study. "Current wisdom holds that such ‘grand-design' spiral galaxies simply didn't exist at such an early time in the history of the universe."

 

The hallmark of a grand design galaxy is its well-formed spiral arms, but getting into this conformation takes time. When astronomers look at most galaxies as they appeared billions and billions of years ago, they look clumpy and irregular. A 10.7-billion-year-old entity, BX442 came into existence a mere 3-billion years after the Big Bang. That's not a lot of time on a cosmic time scale, and yet BX442 looks surprisingly put together. So much so, in fact, that astronomers didn't believe it at first, chalking their unusual observation up to the accidental alignment of two separate galaxies. But further investigations, conducted at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, revealed BX442 to be the real thing.

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Researchers develop technique to remotely control cockroaches

Researchers develop technique to remotely control cockroaches | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique that uses an electronic interface to remotely control, or steer, cockroaches.

 

The new technique developed by Bozkurt's team works by embedding a low-cost, light-weight, commercially-available chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter onto each roach (they used Madagascar hissing cockroaches). Weighing 0.7 grams, the cockroach backpack also contains a microcontroller that monitors the interface between the implanted electrodes and the tissue to avoid potential neural damage. The microcontroller is wired to the roach's antennae and cerci. The cerci are sensory organs on the roach's abdomen, which are normally used to detect movement in the air that could indicate a predator is approaching – causing the roach to scurry away. But the researchers use the wires attached to the cerci to spur the roach into motion. The roach thinks something is sneaking up behind it and moves forward. The wires attached to the antennae serve as electronic reins, injecting small charges into the roach's neural tissue. The charges trick the roach into thinking that the antennae are in contact with a physical barrier, which effectively steers them in the opposite direction.

 

 

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Sharks 'learn' skills by watching each other

Sharks 'learn' skills by watching each other | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Sharks have the ability to learn from each other's behaviour, US scientists have found.  The team compared the performance of inexperienced juvenile sharks working with both trained and untrained partners. The results showed that sharks working with trained partners could complete tasks more quickly and successfully.

The study is thought to be the first to demonstrate social learning in any cartilaginous fish.

 

The evidence came from a task-based experiment with juvenile sharks conducted in an underwater pen. The pen contained an "indicator zone" which functioned as the start area. In the other corner was a "target zone" in which there was a black and white marker that could be covered or exposed by the scientists. When the sharks swam into the indicator zone, the target was exposed. By swimming into the target zone and bumping the black and white target they earned a piece of barracuda, which was lowered into the pool. Members of each group were then paired up with "naive", untrained sharks and the pairs were introduced to the pool, observed and filmed. The study then isolated those sharks that had observed the demonstrators to see how they performed on their own. The juveniles that had been paired with "demonstrator sharks" completed a greater number of trials more quickly than those with untrained partners.

 

Social learning has already been widely demonstrasted among other species and animal groups including corvids, chimps and bats.

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Chemistry of Turning an Animal Transparent

Chemistry of Turning an Animal Transparent | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Discovered last year by researchers at Japan’s Riken Brain Science Institute, "Scale" is made from compounds commonly found in the biology lab, like urea and the detergent Triton X. Scale’s low cost means it can be used much more widely than previously developed sample-clearing agents, and it allows scientists to see deeper into tissue than ever before. The discovery enabled the Riken team to produce some of the most detailed maps of brain neurons ever published.

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Arctic ice loss adding equivalent to 20 additional years of greenhouse gas emissions

Arctic ice loss adding equivalent to 20 additional years of greenhouse gas emissions | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Melting of white Arctic ice, currently at its lowest level in recent history, is causing more absorption. Thirty years ago there was typically about eight million square kilometres of ice left in the Arctic in the summer, and by 2007 that had halved, it had gone down to about four million, and this year it has gone down below that. The volume of ice in the summer is only a quarter of what it was 30 years ago and that's really the prelude to this final collapse.

 

The polar ice cap acts as a giant parasol, reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere in what is known as the albedo effect. But white ice and snow reflect far more of the sun's energy than the open water that is replacing it as the ice melts. Instead of being reflected away from the Earth, this energy is absorbed, and contributes to warming.

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Harvard researchers found a new type of light beam propagating without spreading outwards: Needle beams

Harvard researchers found a new type of light beam propagating without spreading outwards: Needle beams | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An international, Harvard-led team of researchers have demonstrated a new type of light beam that propagates without spreading outwards, remaining very narrow and controlled along an unprecedented distance. This "needle beam," as the team calls it, could greatly reduce signal loss for on-chip optical systems and may eventually assist the development of a new class of powerful microprocessors.

 

The needle beam arises from a special class of quasiparticles called surface plasmons, which travel in tight confinement with a metal surface. The metallic stripes that carry these surface plasmons have the potential to replace standard copper electrical interconnects in microprocessors, enabling ultrafast on-chip communications.

 

One of the fundamental problems that has so far hindered the development of such optical interconnects is the fact that all waves naturally spread laterally during propagation, a phenomenon known as diffraction. This reduces the portion of the signal that can actually be detected. 

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Northwestern Researchers Set World Record for Highest Surface Area Material

Northwestern Researchers Set World Record for Highest Surface Area Material | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Named NU-109 and NU-110, the materials belong to a class of crystalline nanostructure known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that are promising vessels for natural gas storage for vehicles, catalysts, and other sustainable materials chemistry.

 

The materials’ promise lies in their vast internal surface area. If the internal surface area of one NU-110 crystal the size of a grain of salt could be unfolded, the surface area would cover a desktop. Put another way, the internal surface area of one gram of NU-110 would cover one-and-a-half football fields.

 

The research team, led by Omar Farha, research associate professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has synthesized, characterized, and computationally simulated the behavior of the two MOFs that display the highest experimental Brunauer-Emmett-Teller surface areas of any porous material on record, 7,000 m2/g; that is, one kilogram of the material contains an internal surface area that could cover seven square kilometers.

 

The extremely high surface area, which is normally not accessible due to solvent molecules that stay trapped within the pores, was achieved using a carbon dioxide activation technique. As opposed to heating, which can remove the solvent but also damage the MOF material, the carbon dioxide-based technique removes the solvent gently and leaves the pores completely intact.

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Scientists produce hydrogen for fuel cells using an inexpensive catalyst under real-world conditions

Scientists produce hydrogen for fuel cells using an inexpensive catalyst under real-world conditions | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

One of the first stages of developing the new renewable energy source under an industrially relevant environment. Until now, no inexpensive molecular catalyst was known to evolve H2 efficiently in water and under aerobic conditions. However, such conditions are essential for use in developing green hydrogen as a future energy source under industrially relevant conditions.

 

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have produced hydrogen, H2, a renewable energy source, from water using an inexpensive catalyst under industrially relevant conditions (using pH neutral water, surrounded by atmospheric oxygen, O2, and at room temperature).

 

Although H2 cannot be used as a ‘direct’ substitute for gasoline or ethanol, it can be used as a fuel in combination with fuel cells, which are already available in cars and buses. H2 is currently produced from fossil fuels and it produces the greenhouse gas CO2 as a by-product; it is therefore neither renewable nor clean. A green process such as sunlight-driven water splitting is therefore required to produce ‘green and sustainable H2’.

 

 

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A single gene controls variability of locomotion in vertebrates

A single gene controls variability of locomotion in vertebrates | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have found that one gene is responsible for variability in locomotion in horses and mice. Traits such as height are controlled by the interaction of up to 700 genes. So it came as quite a shock to researchers from Uppsala University (UU) and their international collaborators that the mutation of just a single gene is responsible for variability in locomotion in horses and mice. Furthermore, the research team discovered that this gene, DMRT3, is expressed in a previously unknown set of neurons in the spinal cord. These findings provide insight into the neural circuits that coordinate movement in vertebrates.

 

Horses were the perfect choice for the researchers to test the genetic basis of variability in locomotion. This is because there are several naturally occurring gaits that these animals can perform, including walking, trotting, cantering and galloping. Icelandic horses can tölt, which is a sort of ambling gait and they can also perform flying pace. The scientists wanted to know why some horses have more variability in their gait than others and whether it could be genetically explained. First they demonstrated that a single base change in DMRT3, which resulted in the production of a truncated form of the gene, was the mutation associated with pacing in horses. They developed a diagnostic screening test and found that this mutation is common among horses bred for harness racing, such as the Tenessee Walking Horse and the Paso Fino breeds.

 

The Swedish scientists further explored the function of DMRT3 in a mouse neurobiological model. They showed that the neural circuits of knockout mice lacking the gene did not develop properly and had an altered pattern of locomotion. But fascinatingly these mice could eventually move somewhat normally, suggesting that other neural circuits compensate for the loss of DMRT3. This shows how the nervous system is flexible and capable of adapting to the absence of key genes.

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