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Unborn lizards can erupt from their eggs days early if vibrations hint at a threat from a hungry predator

Unborn lizards can erupt from their eggs days early if vibrations hint at a threat from a hungry predator | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers have long known that an array of factors can affect when eggs laid by all kinds of creatures finally hatch. Some fish eggs, for instance, hatch only at certain light or temperature levels, while fungal infections can prompt lizard eggs to crack open early. Chemical or physical signals sent by predators can prompt some frog embryos to speed up their breakouts, while others delay hatching in a bid to stay safe. In lizards and other reptiles, however, such "environmentally cued hatching" strategies aren't well understood.

 

That curtain began to lift a bit a few years ago, when Doody and student Philip Paull of Monash University in Australia began studying a population of delicate skinks (Lampropholis delicata) in a park near Sydney. There, the common lizards laid white, leathery eggs the size of aspirin capsules in rock crevices. The eggs generally incubate for 4 to 8 weeks before hatching, but Doody got a surprise in 2010, when he and Paull were plucking eggs from the crevices to make measurements. "They started hatching in our hands, at just a touch—it shocked us," Doody recalls. "It turned into a real mess, they were just hatching everywhere."

 

Soon, Doody launched a more systematic study of the phenomenon. In two lab experiments, the researchers compared the hatching dates for skink eggs exposed to vibrations with those of eggs that weren't shaken. And in three field experiments, they poked and prodded eggs with a small stick, or squeezed them gently with their fingers to measure how sensitive the eggs were to the kinds of disturbances a predator, such as a snake, might cause. They also measured how far the premature hatchlings could dash.


Together, the experiments offer "compelling evidence" that embryonic skinks can detect and respond to predator-like signals, the authors write in the March 2013 issue of Copeia. The vibrated laboratory eggs, for instance, hatched an average of 3.4 days earlier than the unshaken controls. And in the field, the hatching of disturbed eggs was "explosive," they note; the newborns often broke out of the egg and then sprinted more than one-half meter to nearby cover in just a few seconds. "It's amazing," Doody says. "It can be hard to see because it happens so quick."

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Hubble's Greatest Discoveries Weren't Planned – They Were Surprises

Hubble's Greatest Discoveries Weren't Planned – They Were Surprises | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It was already 28 years ago that the Hubble Space Telescope was launched and deployed in low-Earth orbit, where it remains today. Outfitted with a 2.4 meter mirror, a slew of instruments designed for viewing stars, planets, nebulae and galaxies, Hubble became humanity's first civilization-class space telescope. Although it had a number of science goals, its most ambitious was what gave rise to its name: it was the Hubble telescope because it was built to measure the Hubble expansion rate of the Universe. But what Hubble wound up teaching us went far beyond anything it was designed for, and that was due to a combination of three factors. First, Hubble was overbuilt for its mission. Second, Hubble was repaired, upgraded, and serviced. And third, the people administering Hubble had the foresight to green-light some very bold, ambitious proposals. This review article summarizes what we have learned.

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Thanks to Gaia we Know that there are 1.7 Billion Stars in our Galaxy

Thanks to Gaia we Know that there are 1.7 Billion Stars in our Galaxy | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A multitude of discoveries are on the horizon after this much awaited release, which is based on 22 months of charting the sky. The new data includes positions, distance indicators and motions of more than one billion stars, along with high-precision measurements of asteroids within our Solar System and stars beyond our own Milky Way Galaxy.

 

"The observations collected by Gaia are redefining the foundations of astronomy," says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.Preliminary analysis of this phenomenal data reveals fine details about the make-up of the Milky Way's stellar population and about how stars move, essential information for investigating the formation and evolution of our home Galaxy.

 

"Gaia is an ambitious mission that relies on a huge human collaboration to make sense of a large volume of highly complex data. It demonstrates the need for long-term projects to guarantee progress in space science and technology and to implement even more daring scientific missions of the coming decades."

 

Gaia was launched in December 2013 and started science operations the following year. The first data release, based on just over one year of observations, was published in 2016; it contained distances and motions of two million stars.

 

The new data release, which covers the period between 25 July 2014 and 23 May 2016, pins down the positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars, and with a much greater precision. For some of the brightest stars in the survey, the level of precision equates to Earth-bound observers being able to spot a Euro coin lying on the surface of the Moon.

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Cutting Dying in Half: Lung Cancer Patients Live Longer With Immune Therapy

Cutting Dying in Half: Lung Cancer Patients Live Longer With Immune Therapy | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Odds of survival can greatly improve for people with the most common type of lung cancer if they are given a new drug that activates the immune system along with chemotherapy, a major new study has shown. The findings, medical experts say, should change the way doctors treat lung cancer: Patients with this form of the disease should receive immunotherapy as early as possible.

 

“What it suggests is that chemotherapy alone is no longer a standard of care,” said Dr. Leena Gandhi, a leader of the study and director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at the Perlmutter Cancer Center at New York University Langone Health.

Immunotherapy has been making steady gains against a number of cancers. Four such drugs, called checkpoint inhibitors, which unleash the patient’s own immune system to kill malignant cells, have been approved so far.

 

They cost more than $100,000 a year, can have serious side effects and help only some patients, generally fewer than half. But when the drugs work, responses can be long-lasting, and researchers are rushing to find ways to combine treatments to improve their effects and to determine which formulation is best for each patient.

 

“I’ve been treating lung cancer for 25 years now, and I’ve never seen such a big paradigm shift as we’re seeing with immunotherapy,” said Dr. Roy Herbst, Chief of Medical Oncology at the Yale Cancer Center. He was not involved in the pembrolizumab study.

 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally, causing 1.7 million deaths a year. In the United States, it is expected to kill more than 154,000 people in 2018. Patients in the study had an advanced stage of non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer. The immune-activating drug was a checkpoint inhibitor called pembrolizumab, or Keytruda, made by Merck, which paid for the study. The chemotherapy was a drug called pemetrexed, plus either carboplatin or cisplatin.

 

Dr. Gandhi said chemotherapy alone had only a “modest benefit,” and could add only a few months of life, with most patients surviving about a year or less. The combination treatment is a significant improvement, she said. It is already approved as a first-line treatment for this disease, so it should be covered by health insurers.

 

She was scheduled to present the results on Monday in Chicago at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, and they were also published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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Fossils of new species of horned dinos found in Utah

Fossils of new species of horned dinos found in Utah | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have unearthed two new species of giant plant-eating horned dinosaurs in southern Utah, US. The creatures lived on the "lost continent" of Laramidia in the Late Cretaceous period, some 68 to 99 million years ago.

 

Laramidia was formed when a shallow sea flooded part of what is now North America and divided the continent in two. The findings were published in the journal Plos One.

 

The scientists say the newly found dinos lived in the subtropical swampy environment. They were close relatives of the dinosaur Triceratops, and belonged to the family known as ceratopsians. Ceratops means horned face in Greek.


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A switch in ocean circulation that helped end the Ice Age

A switch in ocean circulation that helped end the Ice Age | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Changes in the circulation of the North Pacific Ocean about 15,000 years ago released large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, helping warm the planet and end the last Ice Age, according to research by scientists at the University of St Andrews.

 

The new study, published today (23 April) in Nature Geoscience, also found that the changes in circulation resulted in a reduction of the amount of oxygen in the deep ocean. The findings will help scientists understand the processes controlling the exchange of CO2 and oxygen between the ocean and atmosphere.

 

The researchers measured the chemical composition of the shells of tiny fossil plankton, called foraminifera, which they used to reconstruct the exchange of CO2 between the North Pacific Ocean and atmosphere at the end of the last Ice Age, a time when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased. They found the North Pacific released large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere about 15,000 years ago, a time when ocean currents in the Atlantic were also changing rapidly. Findings showed that the release of CO2 by the North Pacific was caused by a change in its circulation and could explain a drop in oxygen levels in the Pacific Ocean seen at the same time, first discovered over 20 years ago. Scientists are observing a similar loss of oxygen from the ocean as the climate changes today.

 

Lead author, Dr. Will Gray from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews, formerly of University College London, said: "Last week we saw worrying new studies showing us the ocean currents in the North Atlantic are slowing down. In our study we see very rapid changes in the climate of the North Pacific that we think are linked to past changes in ocean currents in the Atlantic. This gives us an example of the way that different parts of the climate system are connected, so that changes in circulation in one region can drive changes in CO2 and oxygen all the way over on the other side of the planet."

 

Dr. Gray added: "The North Pacific Ocean is very big and just below the surface the waters are brimming with CO2; because of this, we really need to understand how this region can change in the future, and looking into the past is a good way to do that."


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Broad Institute sequences its 100,000th whole human genome on National DNA Day

Broad Institute sequences its 100,000th whole human genome on National DNA Day | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In a dramatic sign of the surge of genomic information available for research around the world, on National DNA Day the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will sequence its 100,000th whole human genome, adding to a global total that is approaching one million.

 

National DNA Day, Wednesday, April 25, commemorates the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953 and marks the 15th anniversary of the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003.

 

The 100,000th whole human genome sequenced at the Broad Institute will be from aproject focused on Asian and African patients affected with birth defects, as part of theGabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program (Kids First). Kids First is a federally-funded initiative supported by the NIH Common Fund focused on discovering genetic causes for childhood cancer and structural birth defects. The program will create the Kids First Data Resource, including a rich database for clinical and genetic sequence data from thousands of patients (along with their parents) affected with these conditions from around the world.

 

Scientists use genome sequencing data — which is drawn from samples donated by patients with their consent and stripped of identifying information — to research the underlying causes of devastating diseases, as well to identify pathways for potential treatments.

 

“The Human Genome Project kicked off an extraordinary transformation in biology and in our understanding of disease,” said Eric S. Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute and a principal leader of the Human Genome Project. “Today, information is driving medicine, and we are beginning to understand human medicine as an information science. It is bringing together extraordinary experimental and computational scientists to answer questions that we could not conceive only a few years ago. This revolution will lead to many more new treatments and cures to help patients.”

 

“What amazing timing to have these two milestones converge on such an important day for genomic science,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins. “When we announced completion of that first human genome sequence in April 2003, it would have been almost impossible to imagine that just 15 years later, a single genome center could produce 100,000 whole genomes. It is truly gratifying to see how genome sequencing is being used in a wide variety of applications — to understand the pathway of disease, and inform treatment strategies that enhance effectiveness and minimize risk.”

 

The amount of genomic data available for research doubles about every eight months. Since 2009, when the Broad had sequenced just 12 whole human genomes, the Broad Institute has generated more than 70 petabytes of genetic sequence and analysis data — the equivalent of more than 1.2 billion hours of streaming music files. This includes data from whole genomes (which represent the complete DNA sequence) as well as data from approximately 360,000 exomes (covering only the protein-coding genes), and beyond.

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Graphene Sets a New Record on Squeezing Light Down to One Atom Limit

Graphene Sets a New Record on Squeezing Light Down to One Atom Limit | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

​In a recent study published in Science, researchers at ICFO - The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, along with other members of the Graphene Flagship, reached the ultimate level of light confinement. They have been able to confine light down to a space one atom, the smallest possible. This will pave the way to ultra-small optical switches, detectors and sensors.

 
Light can function as an ultra-fast communication channel, for example between different sections of a computer chip, but it can also be used for ultra-sensitive sensors or on-chip nanoscale lasers. There is currently much research into how to further shrink devices that control and guide light.
 
New techniques searching for ways to confine light into extremely tiny spaces, much smaller than current ones, have been on the rise. Researchers had previously found that metals can compress light below the wavelength-scale (diffraction limit), but more confinement would always come at the cost of more energy loss. This fundamental issue has now been overcome.
 
“Graphene keeps surprising us: nobody thought that confining light to the one-atom limit would be possible. It will open a completely new set of applications, such as optical communications and sensing at a scale below one nanometer,” said ICREA Professor Frank Koppens at ICFO - The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, who led the research.
 
This team of researchers including those from ICFO (Spain), University of Minho (Portugal) and MIT (USA) used stacks of two-dimensional materials, called heterostructures, to build up a new nano-optical device. They took a graphene monolayer (which acts as a semi-metal), and stacked onto it a hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) monolayer (an insulator), and on top of this deposited an array of metallic rods. They used graphene because it can guide light in the form of plasmons, which are oscillations of the electrons, interacting strongly with light.
 
“At first we were looking for a new way to excite graphene plasmons. On the way, we found that the confinement was stronger than before and the additional losses minimal. So we decided to go to the one atom limit with surprising results,” said David Alcaraz Iranzo, the lead author from ICFO.
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A New Kind of Science: A 15-Year View

A New Kind of Science: A 15-Year View | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Stephen Wolfram looks back at his bold take on the computational universe.
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World's hardest material, diamond, is flexible when produced as nano-needles

World's hardest material, diamond, is flexible when produced as nano-needles | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Diamond, the world's hardest natural material, is also flexible when made into nanoscale needles, according to a paper published in Science today about a surprising discovery by an international team of scientists that includes Prof Subra Suresh, President of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).

The research team demonstrated that diamond nano-needles - about a thousand times thinner than a strand of human hair - can be bent and stretched up to nine per cent, before bouncing back to their original state when pressure is removed.

 

Bulk diamond, in sizes easily visible to the naked eye, would be expected to stretch by well below one per cent, while a similar lack of deformability is also observed for other typically strong and brittle materials, and attempts to flex them cause them to break.

The scientists predict that their discovery may lead to new applications in bioimaging and biosensing, drug delivery, data storage, opto-electronic devices and ultra-strength nanostructures. Using elastic strains induced by mechanical deformation, such as bending, also opens up new avenues to tailor electrical, magnetic, optical and other physical properties.

 

Published 20 Apr 2018 in the journal Science, the finding was made by an interdisciplinary team whose senior author is Prof Subra Suresh, President and also Distinguished University Professor at NTU Singapore. Other corresponding authors include Prof Yang Lu and Prof Wenjun Zhang from the City University of Hong Kong, Dr Ming Dao from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in United States, with other co-authors from Hong Kong, United States and South Korea.

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New microscope captures 3D movies of cells inside living organisms in unprecedented details

New microscope captures 3D movies of cells inside living organisms in unprecedented details | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In a new study in the April 20 issue of Science, researchers from Howard Hughes Medical Institute's (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus, Harvard Medical School and collaborating institutions report the development of a microscope capable of capturing 3-D images and videos of cells inside living organisms in unprecedented detail.

 

“It’s like ‘Star Trek.’ It’s the age of exploration again." - Gokul Upadhyayula, HMS instructor of pediatrics said. Adapting a technique used by astronomers to study distant stars, the research team, led by Nobel laureate and Janelia group leader Eric Betzig, showcased the new technology by generating a series of stunning movies: cancer cells crawling through blood vessels, spinal nerve cells wiring up into circuits, immune cells cruising through a zebrafish’s inner ear and much more.

 

The resolution of the microscope is powerful enough to even capture subcellular details such as the dynamics of miniscule bubbles known as vesicles, which transport molecular cargo through to the cell. “This is the miracle of being able to see what we have never been able to see before. It’s simply incredible,” said study co-author Tomas Kirchhausen, HMS professor of cell biology, the Springer Family Chair of pediatrics and a senior investigator at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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Finding the Flyways for Migrating Birds

Finding the Flyways for Migrating Birds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Birds fly hundreds of miles every night when they migrate south for winter. Now it seems all North American land birds use one of just three routes when they seek out the sun. Different bird species often converge on the most efficient routes, resulting in clustered routes called “flyways”, not that dissimilar to a human highway.

 

The flyways of water birds are well-established, but land birds migrate at night and less is known about the paths they follow. So Frank La Sorte and his colleagues from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, mapped the flyways of 93 land birds, from the 2-gram ruby-throated hummingbird to the 500-gram broad-winged hawk. All fly at night and roost and feed during the day.

 

Using a database called eBird that stores reports from birdwatchers, the team created maps showing spring and autumn migration routes. Three flyways emerged: an eastern route used by 45 species, a central one with 17 and a western one with 31.

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Dinosaurs ended - and originated - due to a mass extinction

Dinosaurs ended - and originated - due to a mass extinction | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It is commonly understood that the dinosaurs disappeared with a bang – wiped out by a great meteorite impact on the Earth 66 million years ago.

 

But their origins have been less understood. In a new study, scientists from MUSE - Museum of Science, Trento, Italy, Universities of Ferrara and Padova, Italy and the University of Bristol show that the key expansion of dinosaurs was also triggered by a crisis – a mass extinction that happened 232 million years ago.

 

In the new paper, published today in Nature Communications, evidence is provided to match the two events – the mass extinction, called the Carnian Pluvial Episode, and the initial diversification of dinosaurs.

 

Dinosaurs had originated much earlier, at the beginning of the Triassic Period, some 245 million years ago, but they remained very rare until the shock events in the Carnian 13 million years later.

 

The new study shows just when dinosaurs took over by using detailed evidence from rock sequences in the Dolomites, in north Italy – here the dinosaurs are detected from their footprints.

First there were no dinosaur tracks, and then there were many.

 

This marks the moment of their explosion, and the rock successions in the Dolomites are well dated. Comparison with rock successions in Argentina and Brazil, here the first extensive skeletons of dinosaurs occur, show the explosion happened at the same time there as well.

 

Lead author Dr Massimo Bernardi, Curator at MUSE and Research associate at Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said: “We were excited to see that the footprints and skeletons told the same story. We had been studying the footprints in the Dolomites for some time, and it’s amazing how clear cut the change from ‘no dinosaurs’ to ‘all dinosaurs’ was.”

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Experts Sign Open Letter Slamming Europe’s Proposal to Recognize AI Robots as Legal Persons

Experts Sign Open Letter Slamming Europe’s Proposal to Recognize AI Robots as Legal Persons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries have signed an open letter denouncing the European Parliament’s proposal to grant personhood status to intelligent machines. The EU says the measure will make it easier to figure out who’s liable when robots screw up or go rogue, but critics say it’s too early to consider robots as persons—and that the law will let manufacturers off the liability hook.

 

This all started last year when the European Parliament proposed the creation of a specific legal status for robots: The parliament said the law would apply to “smart robots,” which it defined as robots having the capacity to learn through experience and interaction, the ability to acquire autonomy through its sensors, the capacity to adapt its behavior and actions to the environment, among other criteria. By virtue of this proposal, the EU is responding to rapid advances in robotics and AI, and the potential risks imposed on humans and human property. The fear isn’t a robot uprising (at least not yet), but more mundane risks, such as autonomous vehicles and drones accidentally smashing into people, a factory robot crushing an absent-minded worker, or a Roomba giving your cat an unexpected shave.

 

As we venture into this brave new world of ubiquitous robotics and AI, it’s an open question as to who will be liable for these sorts of mishaps. Should we blame the manufacturer? The owner? The bot itself? Or should it be some combination of these? The EU is understandably worried that the actions of these machines will be increasingly incomprehensible to the puny humans who manufacture and use them. The resulting “black box,” it is argued, will preclude us from understanding what exactly went wrong and who should be liable.

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Analysis: Why scientists think 100% of global warming is due to humans

Analysis: Why scientists think 100% of global warming is due to humans | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In its 2013 fifth assessment report, the IPCC stated in its summary for policymakers that it is “extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature” from 1951 to 2010 was caused by human activity. By “extremely likely”, it meant that there was between a 95% and 100% probability that more than half of modern warming was due to humans.

 

This somewhat convoluted statement has been often misinterpreted as implying that the human responsibility for modern warming lies somewhere between 50% and 100%. In fact, as NASA’s Dr Gavin Schmidt has pointed out, the IPCC’s implied best guess was that humans were responsible for around 110% of observed warming (ranging from 72% to 146%), with natural factors in isolation leading to a slight cooling over the past 50 years.

 

Similarly, the recent US fourth national climate assessment found that between 93% to 123% of observed 1951-2010 warming was due to human activities.

 

These conclusions have led to some confusion as to how more than 100% of observed warming could be attributable to human activity. A human contribution of greater than 100% is possible because natural climate change associated with volcanoes and solar activity would most likely have resulted in a slight cooling over the past 50 years, offsetting some of the warming associated with human activities.

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Como formuló Macron en su visita a Washington, NO HAY un segundo planeta tierra (al menos en bastantes años) 

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Spectacular Fans of Feathers Define the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise Courtship Ritual

Spectacular Fans of Feathers Define the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise Courtship Ritual | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This short video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology documents the spectacular plumage and mating dance of the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise. In order to catch the attention of its female counterpart, the male Bird-of-Paradise flips its cape of black feathers into a large ruff that surrounds its head, while also fanning out an iridescent azure blue skirt of feathers from its breast. In a paper published by Timothy G. Laman and Edwin Scholes, this Indonesian bird was recently confirmed as a separate species based on its courtship behavior. You can learn more about the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise in another video from Cornell and watch more videos about all things avian on the Lab’s YouTube channel. (via The Kid Should See This)

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Nearly visible macroscopic objects show entanglement for the first time

Nearly visible macroscopic objects show entanglement for the first time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The elusive quantum mechanical phenomenon called entanglement has now been made a reality in objects almost macroscopic in size. Results published in Nature show how two vibrating drumheads, the width of a human hair, can display the spooky action.

 

In 1935, Einstein observed that quantum mechanics, the then recently developed fundamental theory of nature, implies the existence of a “spooky action at a distance”, which soon became known as “entanglement”. It allows objects to affect each other across arbitrary distances without any direct interaction. The phenomenon defies both classical physics and our common-sense understanding of reality.

Nowadays, entanglement is considered a cornerstone of quantum mechanics, and has previously been vindicated in experiments with microscopic systems such as light or atoms. Entanglement is also the key resource for a host of potentially transformative quantum technologies, such as quantum computation and information transmission, in the decades to come.

Quantum entanglement is, however, extremely fragile, and it will disappear if the entangled particles interact with their surroundings, through thermal disturbances, for example. For long it was considered nonsensical that entanglement could occur between objects larger than atoms or molecules.

A team led by Professor Mika Sillanpää at Aalto University Department of Applied Physics have now proved otherwise. Their results have been published in Nature, the most esteemed scientific journal in the world.

In their laboratory measurements, the researchers managed to bring two distinct and moving objects, nearly visible to the naked eye, into an entangled quantum state where they feel each other through the “spooky action” with which Einstein was famously uncomfortable . The objects in the experiments were two vibrating drumheads fabricated from metallic aluminium on a silicon chip. The drumheads are truly massive and macroscopic compared to the atomic scale: their diameter is similar to the width of a thin human hair.

 

Eliminating all forms of noise is crucial for the experiments, which is why they have to be conducted at extremely low temperatures near absolute zero, at -273 °C. Remarkably, the experimental approach allows the unusual state of entanglement to persist for long periods of time, in this case up to half an hour.

 

'These measurements are challenging but extremely fascinating. In the future, we will attempt to teleport the mechanical vibrations. In quantum teleportation, properties of physical bodies can be transmitted across arbitrary distances using the channel of "spooky action at a distance",' explains Dr. Caspar Ockeloen-Korppi, the lead author on the work, who also performed the measurements.

 

The results demonstrate that it is now possible to have control over large mechanical objects in which exotic quantum states can be generated and stabilized. Not only does this achievement open doors for new kinds of quantum technologies and sensors, it can also enable studies of fundamental physics in, for example, the poorly understood interplay of gravity and quantum mechanics.

 
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Human-like walking mechanics evolved before the genus Homo

Human-like walking mechanics evolved before the genus Homo | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ever since scientists realized that humans evolved from a succession of primate ancestors, the public imagination has been focused on the inflection point when those ancestors switched from ape-like shuffling to walking upright as we do today. Scientists have long been focused on the question, too, because the answer is important to understanding how our ancestors lived, hunted and evolved.

 

A close examination of 3.6 million year old hominin footprints discovered in Laetoli, Tanzania suggests our ancestors evolved the hallmark trait of extended leg, human-like bipedalism substantially earlier than previously thought.

 

"Fossil footprints are truly the only direct evidence of walking in the past," said David Raichlen, PhD, associate professor at the University of Arizona. "By 3.6 million years ago, our data suggest that if you can account for differences in size, hominins were walking in a way that is very similar to living humans. While there may have been some nuanced differences, in general, these hominins probably looked like us when they walked."

 

Raichlen will present the research at the American Association of Anatomists annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, held April 21-25 in San Diego.

 

The species that comprises modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, emerged roughly 200,000-300,000 years ago. The genusHomo is thought to have emerged about 2-2.5 million years ago. The term hominin is used to refer to a broader set of ancestors that existed before that, although there is debate about the nature of the species included in that grouping and the relationships among them.

 

It is thought that hominins began walking on two legs around 7 million years ago, but based on the way other primates evolved, it is considered likely that these early ancestors retained a crouched, bent-legged walking posture for some time.


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Extinct Irish Elk could be resurrected by cloning

Extinct Irish Elk could be resurrected by cloning | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

“Another megafauna to fall victim to the ending of an ice age was the Irish elk. Calling this animal an elk is actually a misnomer, as recent DNA analysis has shown that it was actually a deer — in fact, the largest deer to have ever lived,” the website writes.

“Its antlers alone measured as much as 12 feet across. As with other animals that lived in the icy north during the Pleistocene, preserved specimens of the Irish elk can be readily found in melting permafrost, making it a prime candidate for being cloned.”

The skulls, with their colossal antlers, are often mounted on the walls of castles and hunting lodges.

 

While the science of cloning is still in its infancy, many scientists now believe it's only a matter of time before it becomes a viable option. According to Mother Nature Network, to “successfully clone an extinct animal, scientists need to find animal DNA that is almost entirely intact.”Thus, some species will make better candidates for resurrection than others.

 

Because of the many well-preserved fossils of this majestic seven foot tall creature that exist around the world, it makes an obvious candidate for scientists experimenting with the cloning process. 

According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the Irish elk with its "arresting size and singular appearance is of great significance to paleontologists because of the way in which the animal has become involved in evolutionary debates down through the years."

 

The website lists a theory that the Irish elk finally went extinct when the antlers became so large that the animals could no longer hold up their heads, or got entangled in the trees. To read more about the Irish elk, visit here.

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Researchers use machine learning AI to discover nearly 6,000 unknown viruses

Researchers use machine learning AI to discover nearly 6,000 unknown viruses | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have used artificial intelligence (AI) to discover nearly 6,000 previously unknown species of virus. The work, presented on 15 March at a meeting organized by the US Department of Energy (DOE), illustrates an emerging tool for exploring the enormous, largely unknown diversity of viruses on Earth.

Although viruses influence everything from human health to the degradation of trash, they are hard to study. Scientists cannot grow most viruses in the lab, and attempts to identify their genetic sequences are often thwarted because their genomes are tiny and evolve fast.

In recent years, researchers have hunted for unknown viruses by sequencing DNA in samples taken from various environments. To identify the microbes present, researchers search for the genetic signatures of known viruses and bacteria — just as a word processor’s ‘find’ function highlights words containing particular letters in a document. But that method often fails, because virologists cannot search for what they do not know. A form of AI called machine learning gets around this problem because it can find emergent patterns in mountains of information. Machine-learning algorithms parse data, learn from them and then classify information autonomously.

“Previously, people had no method to study viruses well,” says Jie Ren, a computational biologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “But now we have tools to find them.”

For the latest study, Simon Roux, a computational biologist at the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, California, trained computers to identify the genetic sequences of viruses from one unusual family, Inoviridae. These viruses live in bacteria and alter their host’s behaviour: for instance, they make the bacteria that cause cholera, Vibrio cholerae, more toxic. But Roux, who presented his work at the meeting in San Francisco, California, organized by the JGI, estimates that fewer than 100 species had been identified before his research began.

Roux presented a machine-learning algorithm with two sets of data — one containing 805 genomic sequences from known Inoviridae, and another with about 2,000 sequences from bacteria and other types of virus — so that the algorithm could find ways of distinguishing between them.

Next, Roux fed the model massive metagenomic data sets. The computer recovered more than 10,000 Inoviridae genomes, and clustered them into groups indicative of different species. The genetic variation between some of these groups was so wide that Inoviridae is probably many families, he said.
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Machine Learning algorithm can predict evolution of chaotic models without knowing the equations

Machine Learning algorithm can predict evolution of chaotic models without knowing the equations | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Half a century ago, the pioneers of chaos theory discovered that the “butterfly effect” makes long-term prediction impossible. Even the smallest perturbation to a complex system (like the weather, the economy or just about anything else) can touch off a concatenation of events that leads to a dramatically divergent future. Unable to pin down the state of these systems precisely enough to predict how they’ll play out, we live under a veil of uncertainty.

 

But now artificial intelligence is here to help. In a series of results reported in the journals Physical Review Letters and Chaos, scientists have used machine learning — the same computational technique behind recent successes in artificial intelligence — to predict the future evolution of chaotic systems out to stunningly distant horizons. The approach is being lauded by outside experts as groundbreaking and likely to find wide application.

 

“I find it really amazing how far into the future they predict” a system’s chaotic evolution, said Herbert Jaeger, a professor of computational science at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. The findings come from veteran chaos theorist Edward Ott and four collaborators at the University of Maryland. They employed a machine-learning algorithm called reservoir computing to “learn” the dynamics of an archetypal chaotic system called the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky equation. The evolving solution to this equation behaves like a flame front, flickering as it advances through a combustible medium. The equation also describes drift waves in plasmas and other phenomena, and serves as “a test bed for studying turbulence and spatiotemporal chaos,” said Jaideep Pathak, Ott’s graduate student and the lead author of the new papers.

 

The algorithm knows nothing about the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky equation itself; it only sees data recorded about the evolving solution to the equation. This makes the machine-learning approach powerful; in many cases, the equations describing a chaotic system aren’t known, crippling dynamicists’ efforts to model and predict them. Ott and company’s results suggest you don’t need the equations — only data. “This paper suggests that one day we might be able perhaps to predict weather by machine-learning algorithms and not by sophisticated models of the atmosphere,” Kantz said.

 

Besides weather forecasting, experts say the machine-learning technique could help with monitoring cardiac arrhythmias for signs of impending heart attacks and monitoring neuronal firing patterns in the brain for signs of neuron spikes. More speculatively, it might also help with predicting rogue waves, which endanger ships, and possibly even earthquakes.

 

Ott particularly hopes the new tools will prove useful for giving advance warning of solar storms, like the one that erupted across 35,000 miles of the sun’s surface in 1859. That magnetic outburst created aurora borealis visible all around the Earth and blew out some telegraph systems, while generating enough voltage to allow other lines to operate with their power switched off. If such a solar storm lashed the planet unexpectedly today, experts say it would severely damage Earth’s electronic infrastructure. “If you knew the storm was coming, you could just turn off the power and turn it back on later,” Ott said.

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Researchers create super sponge that mops up oil spills

Researchers create super sponge that mops up oil spills | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Australian scientists say new polymer can remove crude oil and diesel from seawater.

 

Oil spills could be soaked up by a new floating substance that combines waste from the petroleum industry and cooking oil, according to new research led by South Australia’s Flinders University.

 

The new polymer, made from sulphur and canola cooking oil, acted like a sponge to remove crude oil and diesel from seawater, according to a new study published in the Advanced Sustainable Systems journal. The polymer can be squeezed to remove the oil and then reused.

 

The lead researcher, Dr Justin Chalker, said it had the potential to be a cheap and sustainable recovery tool in areas affected by oil spills. “We anticipate that when we get to economies of scale we will be able to compete in price with other materials that are used to soak up oil,” said Chalker, senior lecturer in synthetic chemistry at Flinders University.

 

“Our goal is for this to be used globally. It is inexpensive, and we have an eye for it to be used in parts of the world such as the Amazon Basin in Ecuador and the Niger Delta that don’t have access to solutions to oil spills.”

 

The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation says about 7,000 tons of crude oil were spilt into oceans last year.

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Unprecedented wave of large-mammal extinctions linked to ancient humans, study finds

Unprecedented wave of large-mammal extinctions linked to ancient humans, study finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and other recent human relatives may have begun hunting large mammal species down to size — by way of extinction — at least 90,000 years earlier than previously thought, says a new study published in the journal Science.

Elephant-dwarfing wooly mammoths, elephant-sized ground sloths and various saber-toothed cats highlighted the array of massive mammals roaming Earth between 2.6 million and 12,000 years ago. Prior research suggested that such large mammals began disappearing faster than their smaller counterparts — a phenomenon known as size-biased extinction — in Australia around 35,000 years ago.

 

 

With the help of emerging data from older fossil and geologic records, the new study estimated that this size-biased extinction started at least 125,000 years ago in Africa. By that point, the average African mammal was already 50 percent smaller than those on other continents, the study reported, despite the fact that larger landmasses can typically support larger mammals. But as humans migrated out of Africa, other size-biased extinctions began occurring in regions and on timelines that coincide with known human migration patterns, the researchers found. Over time, the average body size of mammals on those other continents approached and then fell well below Africa’s. Mammals that survived during the span were generally far smaller than those that went extinct.

 

The magnitude and scale of the recent size-biased extinction surpassed any other recorded during the last 66 million years, according to the study, which was led by the University of New Mexico’s Felisa Smith. “It wasn’t until human impacts started becoming a factor that large body sizes made mammals more vulnerable to extinction,” said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Kate Lyons, who authored the study with Smith and colleagues from Stanford University and the University of California, San Diego. “The anthropological record indicates that Homo sapiens are identified as a species around 200,000 years ago, so this occurred not very long after the birth of us as a species. It just seems to be something that we do.

 

“From a life-history standpoint, it makes some sense. If you kill a rabbit, you’re going to feed your family for a night. If you can kill a large mammal, you’re going to feed your village.” By contrast, the research team found little support for the idea that climate change drove size-biased extinctions during the last 66 million years. Large and small mammals seemed equally vulnerable to temperature shifts throughout that span, the authors reported.

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Concepts in Light Microscopy of Viruses

Concepts in Light Microscopy of Viruses | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This review gives an overview of recent technology for imaging cells and viruses by light microscopy, in particular fluorescence microscopy in static and live-cell modes. The review lays out guidelines for how novel fluorescent chemical probes and proteins can be used in light microscopy to illuminate cells, and how they can be used to study virus infections. Discussed are advantages and opportunities of confocal and multi-photon microscopy, selective plane illumination microscopy, and super-resolution microscopy. The authors emphasize the prevalent concepts in image processing and data analyses, and provide an outlook into label-free digital holographic microscopy for virus research.


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Structure of the herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes

Structure of the herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The herpesvirus family includes herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores, and type 2 (HSV-2), which causes genital herpes. Herpesviruses comprise a large DNA genome enclosed in a large and complex protein cage called a capsid (see the Perspective by Heldwein).

 

Scientists now used electron microscopy to determine a high-resolution structure of the HSV-1 capsid bound to the tegument proteins that occupy the space between the capsid and the nuclear envelope. The structure suggests how these components may play a role in viral transport. Another team of researchers describes a higher-resolution structure of an HSV-2 capsid, providing insight into how the shell assembles and is stabilized.

 

Since Hippocrates first described the cutaneous spreading of herpes simplex lesions, many other diseases—chickenpox, infectious mononucleosis, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma—have been found to be associated with the nine known human herpesviruses. Among them, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1, causes cold sores), type 2 (HSV-2, causes genital herpes), and varicella-zoster virus (causes chickenpox and shingles)—which all belong to the α-herpesvirus subfamily—can establish lifelong latent infection within our peripheral nervous system.

 

A prominent feature of these neurotropic viruses is the long-range (up to tens of centimeters) axonal retrograde transport of the DNA-containing viral capsid from nerve endings at sites of infection (such as the lips) to neuronal cell bodies at the ganglia to establish latency or, upon reactivation, anterograde transport of the progeny viral particles from the ganglia to nerve terminals, resulting in reinfection of the dermis. Capsid-associated tegument complexes (CATCs) have been demonstrated to be involved in this cytoskeleton-dependent capsid transport. Because of the large size (~1300 Å) of HSV-1 particles, it has been difficult to obtain atomic structures of the HSV-1 capsid and CATC; consequently, the structural bases underlying α-herpesviruses’ remarkable capability of long-range neuronal transport and many other aspects of its life cycle are poorly understood.

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For the first time, researchers created a Bose–Einstein condensate of light coupled with metal electrons

For the first time, researchers created a Bose–Einstein condensate of light coupled with metal electrons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at Aalto University, Finland are the first to create a Bose–Einstein condensate of light coupled with metal electrons, so-called surface plasmon polaritons.

 

Nearly a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose predicted that quantum mechanics can force a large number of particles to behave in concert as if they were only a single particle. The phenomenon is called Bose–Einstein condensation, and it took until 1995 to create the first such condensate of a gas of alkali atoms.

 

Although Bose–Einstein condensation has been observed in several systems, the limits of the phenomenon need to be pushed further: to faster timescales, higher temperatures, and smaller sizes. The easier creating these condensates gets, the more exciting routes open for new technological applications. New light sources, for example, could be extremely small in size and allow fast information processing.

 

In experiments by Aalto researchers, the condensed particles were mixtures of light and electrons in motion in gold nanorods arranged into a periodic array. Unlike most previous Bose–Einstein condensates created experimentally, the new condensate does not need to be cooled down to temperatures near absolute zero. Because the particles are mostly light, the condensation could be induced in room temperature.

 

‘The gold nanoparticle array is easy to create with modern nanofabrication methods. Near the nanorods, light can be focused into tiny volumes, even below the wavelength of light in vacuum. These features offer interesting prospects for fundamental studies and applications of the new condensate,’ says Academy Professor Päivi Törmä.

 

The results are published in the journal Nature Physics: 

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41567-018-0109-9

 

The research article: T.K. Hakala, A.J. Moilanen, A.I. Väkeväinen, R. Guo, J.-P. Martikainen, K.S. Daskalakis, H.T. Rekola, A. Julku, P. Törmä. Bose-Einstein Condensation in a Plasmonic Lattice.

 

Open access to the article: https://rdcu.be/LGrb.

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