Fragments of Science
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Life found deep below Antarctic ice | Earth | Science News

Life found deep below Antarctic ice | Earth | Science News | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it

Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica. On January 28, a U.S. research team retrieved water from Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the ice surface. The water hosted a surprising bounty of living cells.

The scientists collected three 10-liter water samples from the lake. Preliminary tests conducted in mobile labs show that the cells are actively using oxygen. It may take months for biologists to identify the microbes present.

The microbes have been sealed off below the ice for at least 100,000 years.

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Marian Locksley's curator insight, February 2, 2013 3:20 AM

Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica. On January 28, a U.S. research team retrieved water from Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the ice surface. The water hosted a surprising bounty of living cells.

 

The scientists collected three 10-liter water samples from the lake. Preliminary tests conducted in mobile labs show that the cells are actively using oxygen. It may take months for biologists to identify the microbes present.

 

The microbes have been sealed off below the ice for at least 100,000 years.

Fragments of Science
The history, present and future and nature of science and their relationship
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New model for the origin of grid cells

New model for the origin of grid cells | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich neurobiologists present a new theory for the origin of the grid cells required for spatial orientation in the mammalian brain, which assigns a vital role to the timing of trains of signals they receive from neurons called place cells.

Nerve cells in the brain known as place cells and grid cells, respectively, play a crucial role in spatial navigation in mammals. Individual place cells in the hippocampus respond to only a few spatial locations. The grid cells in the entorhinal complex, on the other hand, fire at multiple positions in the environment, such that specific sets are consecutively activated as an animal traverses its habitat. These activation patterns give rise to a virtual map, made up of a hexagonal arrangement of grid cells that reflect the relative distances between particular landmarks in the real world. The brain is therefore capable of constructing a virtual map which encodes its own position in space.

The Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology 2015 went to the discoverers of this system, which has been referred to as the brain's GPS. However, the developmental relationship between place cells and grid cells, as well as the mechanism of origin of grid cells and their disposition in hexagonal lattices remain unclear. Now LMU neurobiologists Professor Christian Leibold and his coworker Mauro Miguel Monsalve Mercado have proposed a new theoretical model, which for the first time provides a plausible model based on known biological processes. The model implies that the development of grid cells and their response fields depend on synaptic input from place cells. The new findings are described in the journal Physical Review Letters.
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Wireless magnetic fields and actuator 'muscles' allow folding robots to move without batteries

Wireless magnetic fields and actuator 'muscles' allow folding robots to move without batteries | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The traditional Japanese art of origami transforms a simple sheet of paper into complex, three-dimensional shapes through a very specific pattern of folds, creases, and crimps. Folding robots based on that principle have emerged as an exciting new frontier of robotic design, but generally require onboard batteries or a wired connection to a power source, making them bulkier and clunkier than their paper inspiration and limiting their functionality. A team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has created battery-free folding robots that are capable of complex, repeatable movements powered and controlled through a wireless magnetic field.

"Like origami, one of the main points of our design is simplicity," says co-author Je-sung Koh, Ph.D., who conducted the research as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and SEAS and is now an Assistant Professor at Ajou University in South Korea. "This system requires only basic, passive electronic components on the robot to deliver an electric current - the structure of the robot itself takes care of the rest."
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Scientists discovered one of the brightest galaxies known

Scientists discovered one of the brightest galaxies known | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Thanks to an amplified image produced by a gravitational lens, and the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS a team of scientists from the Polytechnic University of Cartagena and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias have discovered one of the brightest galaxies known from the epoch when the universe had 20 percent of its present age.
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Cannibal cells may limit cancer growth

Cannibal cells may limit cancer growth | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
New research led by scientists at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge reveals a link between cell cannibalism and cancer biology. Cell cannibalism occurs when one cell surrounds, kills and digests another. This latest research reveals that cannibalism can be triggered by cell division; when one cell divides to form two. Since uncontrolled cell division is a key hallmark of cancer, this suggests that cannibalism may have a role to play in resisting cancer.
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Researchers demonstrate 'shape memory' effect in gold particles

Researchers demonstrate 'shape memory' effect in gold particles | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Germany have demonstrated for the first time the phenomena of shape memory and self-healing in gold microparticles. Achieved through defects-mediated diffusion in the particle, the discovery could one day lead to the development of micro- and nano-robots capable of self-repair; mechanically stable and damage-tolerant components and devices; and targeted drug delivery.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Science, was conducted by doctoral student Oleg Kovalenko and Dr. Leonid Klinger, led by Prof. Eugen Rabkin of the Technion Department of Materials Science and Engineering, together with Dr. Christian Brandl of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany (KIT).

Shape-memory materials are characterized by the ability to repair the damage caused to them (such as plastic deformation) and to recover their original shape. These materials can exist in two stable crystalline forms, or phases: austenite, which is the more symmetrical primary form stable at elevated temperatures; and martensite, which is a phase characterized by lower symmetry, but also by greater strength. A well-known example of transition between the two phases is the quenching of steel.
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Breaking through brain’s defence to let in meds

Breaking through brain’s defence to let in meds | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from harmful intruders. It guards the headquarters as a constant and reliable sentry. 
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Device to track epileptic seizures 'a game changer': researchers

Device to track epileptic seizures 'a game changer': researchers | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A new device developed in Melbourne that is like a fit bit for the brain and has the potential to predict and prevent epileptic seizures could give people with epilepsy more control over their lives, scientists say.
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Nanotechnology could turn windows into mirrors

Nanotechnology could turn windows into mirrors | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Imagine a window that could instantly turn into mirror — it could be possible thanks to a breakthrough in nanotechnology by Australian researchers.
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Hubble's hidden galaxy

Hubble's hidden galaxy | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Although IC 342 is bright, the galaxy sits near the equator of the Milky Way's disk, thick with glowing cosmic gas, bright stars, and dust.
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Seeing the colored light: Bee brains open way for better cameras

Seeing the colored light: Bee brains open way for better cameras | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Cameras in drones and robots have trouble dealing with detecting color when the light is changing. But bees, it turns out, have a mechanism that solves this problem and that can be used to improve cameras.
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'Little Cub' gives astronomers rare chance to see galaxy demise

'Little Cub' gives astronomers rare chance to see galaxy demise | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A primitive galaxy that could provide clues about the early universe has been spotted by astronomers as it begins to be consumed by a gigantic neighboring galaxy.

The Little Cub galaxy—so called because it sits in the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellation—is being stripped of the gas needed to continue forming stars by its larger companion. The find means scientists now have a rare opportunity to observe a dwarf galaxy as its gas is removed by the effects of a nearby giant galaxy to learn more about how this process happens.

As the Little Cub has remained almost pristine since its formation, scientists also hope its elements will reveal more about the chemical signature of the universe just minutes after the Big Bang.

The research, carried out by UC Santa Cruz and Durham University, UK, is being presented on Tuesday, July 4, at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting.
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New studies of ancient concrete could teach us to do as the Romans did

New studies of ancient concrete could teach us to do as the Romans did | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Around A.D. 79, Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote in his Naturalis Historia that concrete structures in harbors, exposed to the constant assault of the saltwater waves, become "a single stone mass, impregnable to the waves and every day stronger."

He wasn't exaggerating. While modern marine concrete structures crumble within decades, 2,000-year-old Roman piers and breakwaters endure to this day, and are stronger now than when they were first constructed. University of Utah geologist Marie Jackson studies the minerals and microscale structures of Roman concrete as she would a volcanic rock. She and her colleagues have found that seawater filtering through the concrete leads to the growth of interlocking minerals that lend the concrete added cohesion. The results are published today in American Mineralogist.
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Bizarro comet challenging researchers  

Bizarro comet challenging researchers   | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists pursue research through observation, experimentation and modeling. They strive for all of these pieces to fit together, but sometimes finding the unexpected is even more exciting. 
That's what happened to University of Central Florida's astrophysicist Gal Sarid, who studies comets, asteroids and planetary formation and earlier this year was part of a team that published a study focused on the comet 174P/Echeclus. It didn't behave the way the team was expecting. 
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Holograms taken to new dimension

Holograms taken to new dimension | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Using sophisticated algorithms and a new fabrication method, a University of Utah team of electrical and computer engineers has discovered a way to create inexpensive full-color 2-D and 3-D holograms that are far more realistic, brighter and can be viewed at wider angles than current holograms. The applications for this technology could be wide-ranging, from currency and identification badges to amusement rides, 3-D movies and pictures on a larger scale, and advertisements.
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When life gives you lemons, make bioplastics!

When life gives you lemons, make bioplastics! | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
From your phone case to airplane windows, polycarbonates are everywhere. Several million tons of polycarbonate are produced every year around the world. However, worries about the dangers of this material are increasing because of the toxicity of its precursors, especially bisphenol-A, a potential carcinogen.

Now, a team of chemists led by Arjan Kleij, ICIQ group leader and ICREA professor, developed a method to produce polycarbonates from limonene and CO2, both abundant and natural products. Besides, limonene is able to replace a dangerous building block currently used in commercial polycarbonates: bisphenol-A (also known as BPA). Although BPA has been repeatedly classified as a safe chemical by American and European agencies, some studies point out that it is a potential endocrine-disruptor, neurotoxic, and carcinogen. Some countries like France, Denmark and Turkey have banned the use of BPA in the production of baby bottles.
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Creating music by thought alone

Creating music by thought alone | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Neurologists have created a hands-free, thought-controlled musical instrument, which they've recently described in a report in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Researchers hope that this new instrument will help empower and rehabilitate patients with motor disabilities such as those from stroke, spinal cord injury, amputation, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
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Study indicates concrete construction waste can help rid the air of sulfur dioxide, a major pollutant

Study indicates concrete construction waste can help rid the air of sulfur dioxide, a major pollutant | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
New research reveals that sulfur dioxide, a major contributor to air pollution, is removed from the air by concrete surfaces. Stony Brook University researcher Alex Orlov, PhD, and colleagues discovered how concrete interacts and eliminates sulfur and nitrogen oxides. Their findings, published in the July edition of the Journal of Chemical Engineering, could be a significant step toward the practice of using waste concrete to minimize air pollution.

According to the World Health Organization, as many as seven million premature deaths of people worldwide may be linked to poor air quality and pollution. Sulfur dioxide emissions are among the most common pollutants into the air globally, with power plants emitting the most sulfur dioxide. Cement kilns also produce approximately 20 percent of all sulfur dioxide industrial emissions.

"Even though producing concrete causes air pollution, concrete buildings in urban areas can serve as a kind of sponge adsorbing sulfur dioxide to a high level," explained Dr. Orlov, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a faculty member of the Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research at Stony Brook University. "Our findings open up the possibility that waste concrete coming from building demolitions can be used to adsorb these pollutants."
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Solar minimum is coming | EarthSky.org

Solar minimum is coming | EarthSky.org | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Low ebb in the 11-year sunspot cycle expected 2019-2020. Want some basic information about the sunspot cycle and its effects? Watch this NASA ScienceCast.
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Vitamin D can boost immune system’s fight against one of the world’s biggest killers

Vitamin D can boost immune system’s fight against one of the world’s biggest killers | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
New research gives hope to millions of people from the developing world who are still at risk of contracting tuberculosis. Something as simple as a vitamin-D supplement could perhaps offer protection from the deadly disease, which killed approximately two million people in 2015.
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Milky Way's stellar speedsters are escapees from another galaxy

Milky Way's stellar speedsters are escapees from another galaxy | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The fastest moving stars in our galaxy may have been shot off the bow of a passing smaller galaxy.
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Meniscus-assisted technique produces high efficiency perovskite PV films

Meniscus-assisted technique produces high efficiency perovskite PV films | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A new low-temperature solution printing technique allows fabrication of high-efficiency perovskite solar cells with large crystals intended to minimize current-robbing grain boundaries. The meniscus-assisted solution printing (MASP) technique boosts power conversion efficiencies to nearly 20 percent by controlling crystal size and orientation.
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Hidden red dwarf discovered in dust of giant star

Hidden red dwarf discovered in dust of giant star | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
CW Leonis, a red giant star 500 times the size of the sun is located in the Leo constellation 300 light years away. This is an evolving star that is ejecting significant amounts of dust forming an enveloping cloud many times the size of our solar system. It has been the subject of hundreds of studies over the years, but only now has the existence of a smaller red dwarf star been found within the dust cloud.

From 1994 to 2000, using a one meter telescope at the Observatory of Torino, Professor Richard Smart at the University of Hertfordshire observed a minute wobble in the motion of CW Leonis that defied explanation. This wobble was very small - equivalent to the side of a 10p coin on the Moon as seen from the Earth - but it was detectable.

A recent study of the dust around CW Leonis revealed a swirl pattern that was hypothesised to be due to the presence of an unseen companion star. Introducing the companion resolved the 17-year-old mystery of the wobble.

The research has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).
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Record-breaking 45-qubit quantum computing simulation run at NERSC

Record-breaking 45-qubit quantum computing simulation run at NERSC | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
When two researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) announced in April that they had successfully simulated a 45-qubit quantum circuit, the science community took notice: it was the largest ever simulation of a quantum computer, and another step closer to simulating "quantum supremacy"—the point at which quantum computers become more powerful than ordinary computers.

The computations were performed at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Researchers Thomas Häner and Damien Steiger, both Ph.D. students at ETH, used 8,192 of 9,688 Intel Xeon Phi processors on NERSC's newest supercomputer, Cori, to support this simulation, the largest in a series they ran at NERSC for the project.

"Quantum computing" has been the subject of dedicated research for decades, and with good reason: quantum computers have the potential to break common cryptography techniques and simulate quantum systems in a fraction of the time it would take on current "classical" computers. They do this by leveraging the quantum states of particles to store information in qubits (quantum bits), a unit of quantum information akin to a regular bit in classical computing. Better yet, qubits have a secret power: they can perform more than one calculation at a time. One qubit can perform two calculations in a quantum superposition, two can perform four, three eight, and so forth, with a corresponding exponential increase in quantum parallelism. Yet harnessing this quantum parallelism is difficult, as observing the quantum state causes the system to collapse to just one answer.

So how close are we to realizing a true working prototype? It is generally thought that a quantum computer deploying 49 qubits—a unit of quantum information—will be able to match the computing power of today's most powerful supercomputers. Toward this end, Häner and Steiger's simulations will aid in benchmarking and calibrating near-term quantum computers by carrying out quantum supremacy experiments with these early devices and comparing them to their simulation results. In the mean time, we are seeing a surge in investments in quantum computing technology from the likes of Google, IBM and other leading tech companies—even Volkswagen—which could dramatically accelerate the development process.
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DNA of early Neanderthal gives timeline for new modern human-related dispersal from Africa

DNA of early Neanderthal gives timeline for new modern human-related dispersal from Africa | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Ancient mitochondrial DNA from the femur of an archaic European hominin is helping to resolve the complicated relationship between modern humans and Neanderthals. The genetic data recovered by the research team, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tübingen, provides a timeline for a proposed hominin migration out of Africa that occurred after the ancestors of Neanderthals arrived in Europe by a lineage more closely related to modern humans. These hominins interbred with Neanderthals already present in Europe, leaving their mark on the Neanderthals' mitochondrial DNA. The study, published today in Nature Communications, pushes back the possible date of this event to between 470,000 and 220,000 years ago.

Mitochondria are the energy-producing machinery of our cells. These mitochondria have their own DNA, which is separate from our nuclear DNA. Mitochondria are inherited from mother to child and can thus be used to trace maternal lineages and population split times. In fact, changes due to mutations in the mitochondrial DNA over time can be used to distinguish groups and also to estimate the amount of time that has passed since two individuals shared a common ancestor, as these mutations occur at predictable rates.
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