Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors ScottyUrb, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and jlms qkw, guest editors maggiejean and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.
Between now and the end of the primary/caucus season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week (or in the upcoming weeks if there is no primary or caucus that week). Tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia.
This week's featured stories come from MSNBC and the Detroit News, respectively.
How big is that supermoon anyway?
May 5, 2012
Tonight's "supermoon" is the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, due to the fact that the moon is near the closest point in its orbital path around Earth. But just how much bigger and brighter does it look? That's a tricky question.
Most reports say the moon looks 14 percent bigger than usual, which is close to the truth but isn't quite right. They also say it's 30 percent brighter than usual, which isn't right, either. James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, ran the numbers to come up with an explanation that seems to make the most sense.
Royal Oak— More than 4,000 Democratic faithful caucused throughout the state today to cast their votes for President Barack Obama as their Democratic nominee.I was one of the 33 who voted for President Obama at that caucus.
Unlike the Feb. 28 presidential primary in Michigan where GOP candidates aggressively stumped the state, the caucuses were a relatively quiet affair with an incumbent president who is uncontested. Obama was on the ballot in February, but it's the caucuses Saturday the party recognizes as the official vote to award Michigan's more than 200 delegates to Democratic National Convention in September in Charlotte, N.C.
Obama received 4,126 votes in Michigan's Democratic Party caucuses and 11 votes went to "uncommitted" — the only non-Obama option. That means all Michigan's delegates will be awarded to the incumbent president who will face presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in November.
Democrats caucused at more than 200 sites statewide that also served as local party organization meetings. At the Royal Oak senior center, all 33 voters raised their hands in support for Obama.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
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by jim in IA
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by CT yanqui
This week in science: jokers are wild
15 Minute Science -- It's Only A Supermoon
WKBW-TV: 1,000 Year Old Vase Found At Goodwill
By WKBW News
Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW) - Goodwill Industries of Western New York receives about 50,000 pounds in donations per day...and sometimes they find something a little extra special.
"This is a vase we found in our warehouse," Dan Victori with Goodwill Industries of Western New York said.
It's not just any old flowering pot.
"The vase could be anywhere from 1,000 to 1500 years old. A note inside the vase said it was found at the Spiro Mounds in 1970. We did research to discover that was an old Indian burial grounds," Victori said.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Michigan: Mowing down the competition: Supermileage Team aims to break fuel barriers
Written by Jennifer Judge Hensel
Published on May 01, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Can a car really get 3,300 miles to the gallon? The University of Michigan's Supermileage Team is on its way to proving it can—with a lawnmower engine.
"We are taking something that is in your backyard and turning it into something that's sleek, modern and high-performance," said mechanical engineering senior Laura Pillari, project manager and co-founder of the team.
The new student team will compete in its first competition this summer, the SAE International Supermileage Challenge, in Marshall, Mich. The competition challenges student teams to design and construct a single-person, fuel-efficient vehicle with a small four-stroke engine.
University of Michigan on YouTube: Survey shows fracking generates mixed opinions
University of Michigan professor Barry Rabe's recent survey of public opinion shows that people in Pennsylvania are sometimes at odds with the lawmakers.
Michigan State University on YouTube: MSU Faculty conversations: Wade Fisher
Wade Fisher, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, talks about his research in elementary particle physics.Also see the press release accompanying this video.
Purdue University: Purdue researcher helps robots 'see' in 3-D like humans
May 2, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Zygmunt Pizlo and his research team glide across a parquet dance floor - not in some club for a night on the town, but in his Purdue University Visual Perception Lab as part of critical research for a technology that is ready to be licensed and commercialized.
They're moving so a robot named Capek can "watch" them and conceptualize the research team's actions as members move around objects like desks and chairs. The goal is to simulate visual perception in the robot so it can "see" more like humans.
"Enabling robots and other machines to see the world in 3-D like humans is one of the biggest challenges in robotics and artificial intelligence," said Pizlo, a professor in the Purdue Department of Psychological Sciences. "Research in the field of robotic vision has typically focused on recording and analyzing 2-D images, but really it is about 3-D visual perception - being able to understand the 3-D scene in front of the robot so that it can decide what needs to be done with an object that is in its field of view. Should the robot walk around it? Pick it up?"
NASA Television on YouTube: SpaceX Rocket Test Fired on This Week @NASA
NASA commercial partner, SpaceX, is a step closer on its planned journey to the International Space Station. After its rollout to Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was lifted into place for a static engine fire test simulating launch. The exercise ended with all nine engines firing at full power for two seconds. The successful test clears the way for Falcon 9's upcoming demonstration flight to the ISS as part of NASA's plan for private companies to take over cargo delivery to the orbiting complex. Also, Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin participated in traditional ceremonies at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia before departing for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to complete training for their launch to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft later this month and more!
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: A Star Turns Inside Out
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has mapped the debris of a supernova and discovered that the explosion may have turned the original star inside out. Peering into the heart of the inverted star, astronomers have found the atoms of life itself.
Indiana University: STAR TRAK
May 2, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- On May 20, people in the western two-thirds of North America will be able to watch the moon pass in front of the sun, creating a partial solar eclipse low in the western sky just before sunset. Those within a 200-mile-wide path across the southwestern United States will see a rare annular eclipse, in which the moon appears entirely within the sun's disk...
Venus will be at its maximum brilliance at the beginning of May, blazing high in the western sky in evening twilight and setting more than three hours after the sun. But the fall of Venus from this perch during the rest of the month will be dramatic. By month's end, the planet will be just a few degrees above the western horizon after sunset, disappearing a half hour later. It will make a historic transit across the face of the sun on June 5-6.
As evening twilight fades during May, bright yellow Saturn will come into view in the southeastern sky. It will be highest in the south around midnight at the beginning of the month and two hours earlier by month's end. The white star Spica will be about 5 degrees to Saturn's right (west) and about the same brightness. Saturn's rings will be tilted 13 degrees to our line of sight. Its largest moon, Titan, will be due south of the planet on May 4 and 20 and due north on May 12 and 28.
Oregon State University via Science Daily: Jurassic Pain: Giant 'Flea-Like' Insects Plagued Dinosaurs 165 Million Years Ago
May 1, 2012
It takes a gutsy insect to sneak up on a huge dinosaur while it sleeps, crawl onto its soft underbelly and give it a bite that might have felt like a needle going in -- but giant "flea-like" animals, possibly the oldest of their type ever discovered, probably did just that.
And a few actually lived through the experience, based on the discovery by Chinese scientists of remarkable fossils of these creatures, just announced in Current Biology, a professional journal.
These flea-like animals, similar but not identical to modern fleas, were probably 10 times the size of a flea you might find crawling on the family dog -- with an extra-painful bite to match.
University of Alberta (Canada) via Science Daily: Old Fish Makes New Splash: Coelacanth Find Rewrites History of the Ancient Fish
May 2, 2012
Coelacanths, an ancient group of fishes that were once thought to exist only in fossils, made headlines in 1938 when one of their modern relatives was pulled alive from the ocean. Now coelacanths are making another splash -- and University of Alberta researchers are responsible for the discovery.
Lead U of A researcher Andrew Wendruff identified coelacanth fossils that he says are so dramatically different from previous finds, they shatter the theory that coelacanth evolution was stagnant in that their body shape and lifestyle changed little since the origin of the group.
Wendruff says his one-metre-long, fork-tailed coelacanth was one of an "offshoot" lineage that lived 240 million years ago. It falls between the earliest coelacanth fossils dating back 410 million years and the latest fossils dated about 75 million years ago, near the end of the age of dinosaurs.
University of Iowa via Science Daily: Largest Known Crocodile Could Swallow a Human
May 4, 2012
A crocodile large enough to swallow humans once lived in East Africa, according to a University of Iowa researcher. "It’s the largest known true crocodile,” says Christopher Brochu, associate professor of geoscience. “It may have exceeded 27 feet in length. By comparison, the largest recorded Nile crocodile was less than 21 feet, and most are much smaller.”
Brochu’s paper on the discovery of a new crocodile species was just published in the May 3 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The new species lived between 2 and 4 million years ago in Kenya. It resembled its living cousin, the Nile crocodile, but was more massive.
American Museum of Natural History via Science Daily: Were Dinosaurs Undergoing Long-Term Decline Before Mass Extinction?
May 1, 2012
Despite years of intensive research about the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs about 65.5 million years ago, a fundamental question remains: were dinosaurs already undergoing a long-term decline before an asteroid hit at the end of the Cretaceous? A study led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History gives a multifaceted answer.
The findings, published online May 1 in Nature Communications, suggest that in general, large-bodied, "bulk-feeding" herbivores were declining during the last 12 million years of the Cretaceous. But carnivorous dinosaurs and mid-sized herbivores were not. In some cases, geographic location might have been a factor in the animals' biological success.
"Few issues in the history of paleontology have fueled as much research and popular fascination as the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs," said lead author Steve Brusatte, a Columbia University graduate student affiliated with the Museum's Division of Paleontology. "Did sudden volcanic eruptions or an asteroid impact strike down dinosaurs during their prime? We found that it was probably much more complex than that, and maybe not the sudden catastrophe that is often portrayed."
University of Michigan: Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss could rival impacts of climate change, pollution
Written by Jim Erickson
Published on May 02, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Loss of biodiversity appears to impact ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, according to a new study from an international research team.
The study is the first comprehensive effort to directly compare the impacts of biological diversity loss to the anticipated effects of a host of other human-caused environmental changes.
The results highlight the need for stronger local, national and international efforts to protect biodiversity and the benefits it provides, according to the researchers, who are based at nine institutions in the United States, Canada and Sweden.
University of Michigan: Older adults with diabetes live long enough to benefit from interventions and research, U-M study says
Survival rates strong even for patients who reside in nursing homes or who have multiple health issues that make self-management difficult
May 2, 2012
Middle-aged and older adults with diabetes showed substantial survival rates in a new University of Michigan Health System study of retirees.
Survival rates were strong even for adults living in nursing homes or who have multiple health issues like dementia and disabilities that make self-managed care for diabetes difficult.
The findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology and revealed even older adults may benefit from interventions that can prevent or delay the complications of diabetes, which include poor vision, nerve damage, heart disease and kidney failure.
University of Michigan: How does the immune system fight off threats to the brain? New U-M research yields fresh insight
Finding of an amplification defense mechanism may help research on brain infections, tumors & autoimmune attacks – and settle a debate in immunology
April 30, 2012
Like a police officer calling for backup while also keeping a strong hold on a suspected criminal, immune cells in the brain take a two-tier approach to fighting off a threat, new research from the University of Michigan Health System finds.
For the first time, the scientists managed to capture that reaction in action, showing how certain immune cells locked onto a model of virus-infected brain cells, while also sending signals to neighboring uninfected cells to let them know about the immune attack.
The findings may help research on how the brain fights off viruses and tumors. It also aids the search for ways to harness the immune response to attack and kill brain tumor cells -- or to calm the overzealous self-attack that occurs in people with certain autoimmune diseases.
University of Michigan: About one baby born each hour addicted to opiate drugs in U.S., U-M study shows
More mothers using drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, giving birth to babies in drug withdrawal, results of study published in JAMA
April 30, 2012
Ann Arbor -- About one baby is born every hour addicted to opiate drugs in the United States, according to new research from University of Michigan physicians.
In the research published April 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, U-M physicians found that diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome, a drug withdrawal syndrome among newborns, almost tripled between 2000 and 2009.
By 2009, the estimated number of newborns with the syndrome was 13,539 – or about one baby born each hour, according to the study that U-M researchers believe is the first to assess national trends in neonatal abstinence syndrome and mothers using opiate drugs.
Michigan State University: Researchers show prebiotic can reduce severity of colitis
Published: May 03, 2012 E-mail Editor ShareThis
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Researchers at Michigan State University have shown a prebiotic may help the body's own natural killer cells fight bacterial infection and reduce inflammation, greatly decreasing the risk of colon cancer.
Prebiotics are fiber supplements that serve as food for the trillions of tiny bacteria living in the gut. When taken, they can stimulate the growth of the "good" bacteria. The evolution of prebiotic supplements (as well as probiotics, which are actual bacteria ingested into the system) provide new therapeutic targets for researchers and physicians.
In research published in the Journal of Nutrition, MSU's Jenifer Fenton reports that mice given the prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharide, or GOS, saw the severity of their colitis (one of the main forms of inflammatory bowel disease) significantly reduced.
Wayne State University: Life beyond barriers harnesses scientific skill, creative thinking to help people overcome physical obstacles
Partnership between Urban Science, Wayne State University College of Engineering and Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan aims to eliminate challenges
May 4, 2012
Life Beyond Barriers, an initiative that combines the power of medicine, science, engineering and entrepreneurship to enhance the quality of life for those in need through research, collaboration and product development, was launched at an event held for partners and supporters.
Life Beyond Barriers, created in partnership through Urban Science, the Wayne State University (WSU) College of Engineering and Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, combines world-class resources in the medical and biotechnological engineering fields to develop solutions that help people around the world overcome the physical challenges they face every day. WSU students on the Life Beyond Barriers development team are empowered with the ability to bring their products to market, producing a new generation of inventive entrepreneurs.
"From the invention of the wheelchair to the latest technology in prosthetics, so many strides have been made to improve peoples' lives," said Blake Mathie, vice president, operations, Life Beyond Barriers. "Our goal is to discover and develop game-changing solutions like these through a grassroots approach, connecting some of the brightest minds in academia, engineering and medicine with people who recognize the need for such products."
Indiana University: Sloppy shipping of human retina leads IU researchers to discover new treatment path for eye disease
After 9,000 research papers on disease in 10 years, new underlying mechanism uncovered
May 3, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Sloppy shipping of a donated human retina to an Indiana University researcher studying a leading cause of vision loss has inadvertently helped uncover a previously undetected mechanism causing the disease. The discovery has led researchers to urge review of how millions of dollars are spent investigating the cause of a type of age-related macular degeneration called choroidal neovascularization.
Working at IU's Biocomplexity Institute, postdoctoral researcher Abbas Shirinifard had hit a brick wall trying to develop detailed computer simulations of the behaviors and interactions of the cells and membranes composing the rear of the retina and its supporting vasculature. In choroidal neovascularization (CNV), blood vessels that supply the eye with oxygen and nutrients and originate in the choroid just behind the eye abruptly break into the retina and disrupt it. Blindness can follow in a matter of months.
A serendipitous accident in which a donated human retina from an eye bank was severely shaken during shipping inspired Shirinifard to try again with a series of new simulations. Upon examination of the eye, Shirinifard and Biocomplexity Institute senior microscopist Sherry Clendenon found that regions of the retina with invading blood vessels had separated from their underlying membrane, while regions that had stayed attached showed much less invasion, suggesting that adhesion might be an essential but overlooked mechanism in maintaining the retina's structure.
Indiana University: IU's Drosophila Stock Center reaches historic milestone with chromosome deletions of fly genome
May 1, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center, a clearinghouse for genetically defined lines of fruit flies that serves scientists in 2,600 laboratories worldwide, has reached a milestone with completion of the most comprehensive set of chromosome deletions for any multicellular organism on earth.
Scientists studying the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) use chromosomes with deleted stretches of DNA to map harmful mutations to extremely small groups of side-by-side genes.
"The best way to discover the function of a gene is to break it and then find out what goes wrong," said IU research scientist Kevin Cook, senior author on a recent paper in Genome Biology that announced the achievement. "If you have a mutation that causes a disease or defect in the fly when both chromosomes carry the mutation, you can identify the broken gene by making an abnormal fly with the mutation and a deletion. The mutated gene must be one missing from the deletion chromosome. Since we know exactly which stretch of DNA is missing in every deletion, we can map mutations with exquisite resolution just by breeding flies."
University of North Carolina: UNC study shows potential to revive abandoned cancer drug by nanoparticle drug delivery
by Ellen de Graffenreid
May 02, 2012
Current nanomedicine research has focused on the delivery of established and novel therapeutics. But a UNC team is taking a different approach.
Schematic of a lipid-polymer nanoparticle containing wortmanninThey developed nanoparticle carriers to successfully deliver therapeutic doses of a cancer drug that had previously failed clinical development due to pharmacologic challenges. They report their proof of principle findings in the April 30, 2012 early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Wortmannin is a drug that was highly promising as a cancer drug, but its successful preclinical studies did not translate into clinical efficacy because of challenges such as high toxicity, low stability and low solubility (unable to be dissolved in blood).
University of North Carolina: UNC Nutrition Research Institute study identifies gene associated with male infertility
April 30, 2012
Fifteen of every 100 couples in the world who want to have children find it difficult or impossible to conceive. In about half those couples, the male partner is infertile. Now researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis have found a possible genetic cause for some cases of male infertility.
A study led by Amy Johnson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate working under institute director Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D., has found that a genetic variant, called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), is associated with human sperm motility. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of men are affected.
The SNP commonly occurs within the gene for human choline dehyrdogenase (CHDH) and can influence the amount of choline required in an individual’s diet. Choline, a nutrient used to form cell membranes, is found in eggs, meats and wheat germ, among other foods.
University of Michigan: Global warming: New research emphasizes the role of global economic growth
Written by Diane Swanbrow
Published on May 01, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—It's a message no one wants to hear: To slow down global warming, we'll either have to put the brakes on economic growth or transform the way the world's economies work.
That's the implication of an innovative University of Michigan study examining the evolution of atmospheric COv(2), the most likely cause of global warming.
The study, conducted by José Tapia Granados and Edward Ionides of U-M and Óscar Carpintero of the University of Valladolid in Spain, was published online in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Policy. It is the first analysis to use measurable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to assess fluctuations in the gas, rather than estimates of COv(2) emissions, which are less accurate.
"If 'business as usual' conditions continue, economic contractions the size of the Great Recession or even bigger will be needed to reduce atmospheric levels of COv(2)," said Tapia Granados, who is a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research.
Purdue University: Modern hybrid corn makes better use of nitrogen, study shows
April 30, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Today's hybrid corn varieties more efficiently use nitrogen to create more grain, according to 72 years of public-sector research data reviewed by Purdue University researchers.
Tony Vyn, a professor of agronomy, and doctoral student Ignacio Ciampitti looked at nitrogen use studies for corn from two periods – 1940-1990 and 1991-2011. They wanted to see whether increased yields were due to better nitrogen efficiency or whether new plants were simply given additional nitrogen to produce more grain.
"Corn production often faces the criticism from society that yields are only going up because of an increased dependency on nitrogen," said Vyn, whose findings were published in the early online version of the journal Field Crops Research. "Although modern hybrids take up more total nitrogen per acre during the growing season than they did before, the amount of grain produced per pound of nitrogen accumulated in corn plants is substantially greater than it was for corn hybrids of earlier decades. So, in that sense, the efficiency of nitrogen utilization has gradually improved."
Scientific Computing: Ancient Network of Rivers, Lakes found in Arabian Desert
Satellite images have revealed that a network of ancient rivers once coursed their way through the sand of the Arabian Desert, leading scientists to believe that the region experienced wetter periods in the past. The images are the starting point for a major, potentially ground-breaking, research project led by the University of Oxford into human evolutionary heritage. The research team will look at how long-term climate change affected early humans and animals who settled or passed through, and what responses determined whether they were able to survive or died out.
Until now, this part of the world has been largely ignored by scholars despite its critical location as a bridge between Africa and Eurasia. In a project funded by €2.34 million from the ERC (European Research Council), a multidisciplinary team of researchers will study the effects of environmental change in the Arabian Peninsula over the last two million years. The systematic study of the Pleistocene to Holocene periods will be unique in its length and level of detail.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Purdue University: Tiny 'spherules' reveal details about Earth's asteroid impacts
April 25, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers are learning details about asteroid impacts going back to the Earth's early history by using a new method for extracting precise information from tiny "spherules" embedded in layers of rock.
The spherules were created when asteroids crashed into the Earth, vaporizing rock that expanded into space as a giant vapor plume. Small droplets of molten and vaporized rock in the plume condensed and solidified, falling back to Earth as a thin layer. The round or oblong particles were preserved in layers of rock, and now researchers have analyzed them to record precise information about asteroids impacting Earth from 3.5 billion to 35 million years ago.
"What we have done is provide the foundation for understanding how to interpret the layers in terms of the size and velocity of the asteroid that made them," said Jay Melosh, an expert in impact cratering and a distinguished professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, physics and aerospace engineering at Purdue University.
University of Michigan: Alzheimer’s smell test not ready for prime time
U-M/VA researchers review evidence but finds poor support for use of olfactory identification test
May 3, 2012
Current research does not support the use of smell tests for predicting Alzheimer’s dementia, according to a comprehensive review by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars at the University of Michigan and the VA Center for Clinical Management Research.
The paper was published online this week in the journal Laryngoscope.
“Smell tests have been touted as a possible way of predicting Alzheimer’s dementia because of a reported association with decreased sense of smell,” says Gordon Sun, M.D., a general otolaryngologist and RWJF/US Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Our team set out to determine whether these beliefs are based on existing high-quality evidence.”
University of Michigan: African-Americans face roadblocks to HIV therapy, untreated depression makes it worse
Written by Laura Bailey
Published on May 02, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—African-Americans with HIV are much less likely to adhere to drug therapy than others with the disease, according to a University of Michigan study.
Moreover, untreated depression may greatly hinder adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all low-income, HIV-infected patients, regardless of race.
The study is the first known to indicate a true racial disparity in antiretroviral therapy adherence, says Rajesh Balkrishnan, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the College of Pharmacy. Less than 30 percent of African-American HIV patients in the one-year study sustained optimal adherence to ART, compared to 40 percent of other HIV patients.
"Our results show an alarming disparity in the quality of pharmaceutical care provided to African-American Medicaid enrollees with HIV," Balkrishnan said. "These enrollees have much lower adherence rates to ARTs and a 10 percent higher incidence of depression."
Michigan State University: Clinical trial could reverse scourge of cerebral malaria for survivors
MSU is teaming up on a clinical trial in Africa with Bio-Signal Group, which has created a portable, wireless EEG monitoring device, called microEEG.
Published: May 01, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University researchers, with the help of a groundbreaking medical device, are starting a clinical trial in Africa they hope will provide relief for the hundreds of thousands of children who survive cerebral malaria but are left stricken with epilepsy or other neurologic disorders.
The impact of those disorders via loss of human potential and lack of societal contribution is immeasurable, said Gretchen Birbeck, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Birbeck is leading the trial in the central African nation of Malawi that will use levetiracetam, or LVT, an anti-seizure medication used in the United States and other developed nations. However, the drug has never been tested to target cerebral malaria seizures.
Nature (UK): Human migrations: Eastern odyssey
Humans had spread across Asia by 50,000 years ago. Everything else about our original exodus from Africa is up for debate.
One day some 74,000 years ago, in a swampy valley in the south of India, dawn never came. In the half-light, greyish dust sifted down, blanketing the ground and turning trees to ghosts. Far to the east, a volcano called Toba on the Indonesian island of Sumatra had unleashed one of the greatest eruptions ever known, flinging thousands of cubic kilometres of rock into the atmosphere and spreading a pall of ash across southern Asia.
Clive Oppenheimer, a volcanologist at the University of Cambridge, UK, has studied the ash deposits in India's Jurreru Valley to reconstruct the events that followed. Within days, the trees shed their whitened foliage; rains later swept ash into layers several metres thick on the valley floor. Eventually, the lakes and swamps vanished, perhaps because the climate had become drier and cooler. Toba had transformed a lush habitat into a wasteland.
The catastrophe had witnesses. Archaeologists digging beneath the ash layer have found stone artefacts indicating that humans were living in the valley before the eruption. But were they modern humans — people like us — or some other, now extinct, branch of the human lineage?
Nature (UK): Ancient migration: Coming to America
For decades, scientists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic to America. They were wrong — and now they need a better theory
The mastodon was old, its teeth worn to nubs. It was perfect prey for a band of hunters, wielding spears tipped with needle-sharp points made from bone. Sensing an easy target, they closed in for the kill.
Almost 14,000 years later, there is no way to tell how many hits it took to bring the beast to the ground near the coast of present-day Washington state. But at least one struck home, plunging through hide, fat and flesh to lodge in the mastodon's rib. The hunter who thrust the spear on that long-ago day didn't just bring down the mastodon; he also helped to kill off the reigning theory of how people got to the Americas.
Science: Ancient American Skeletons Safe From Reburial, But Only for the Moment
by Ann Gibbons
on 1 May 2012, 4:12 PM
A federal court judge in San Francisco granted a temporary restraining order Friday to prevent the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), from handing over 9000-year-old human bones to Native Americans, in the latest twist in an unusual custody battle for two human skeletons that are among the earliest found in the Americas. Three University of California professors filed a lawsuit last week to prevent UCSD from transferring the bones, which have been described as better preserved than those of the Kennewick Man, another ancient skeleton that has been the center of debate and lawsuits.
The restraining order will be in effect until Friday, 11 May, when Judge Richard Seeborg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California will decide whether to extend it until the case is settled, according to Jim McManis, an attorney in San Jose, California, who represents the professors pro bono.
Daily Gossip: Iceman Carries The Oldest Red Blood Cells In The World
Posted by Angel Libby
On May 3, 2012 10:50am in World
While some scientists dedicate their lives into preparing for the future, some keep going back as much as technology and evidence allows for. Our history as civilization continues to mesmerize and bring new developments, as scientists keep tracing human history back in time. In recent news, scientists found the oldest red blood cells in the world in a 5300-year-old iceman.
Der Spiegel (Germany): Bronze Age Espionage
Did Ancient Germans Steal the Pharaoh's Chair Design?
By Matthias Schulz
Roughly 3,500 years ago, folding chairs remarkably similar to ones found in Egypt suddenly became must-have items in parts of northern Europe. Scholars are now looking into this potential case of ancient industrial espionage.
When Tutankhamen died, his tomb was filled with all manner of precious objects, including two folding chairs. The more attractive one is made of ebony and has ivory inlays.
Such ingenious chairs were already being used in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. The brilliantly simple design consists of two movable wooden frames connected to each other with pins and with an animal hide stretched between -- a kind of ur-camping stool.
It isn't surprising, given the advanced nature of their society, that the Egyptians were familiar with such comfortable seating. Astonishing, however, is that the gruff chieftains of northern Europe also sat on such chairs.
Naharnet (Lebanon): Lima's Sacred, Pre-Inca 'Huacas' Fall Prey to Growth
by Naharnet Newsdesk
On a street corner, under a garbage dump, at a construction site -- pre-Inca archeological sites abound in Lima, where the ruins of hundreds of sacred places, or "huacas", are at the mercy of urban growth and public indifference.
In the middle of the Miraflores residential district, one of Lima's best restaurants opens onto the terrace of an ancient pyramid, offering fine food in a 1,500 year-old setting bathed in artificial lighting.
The Huaca Pucllana, the city's archeological star, has been impeccably preserved thanks to a partnership with the restaurant, but the rare public-private initiative is an exception to the rule.
The Local (Germany): Students find rare Roman temple on practice dig
Published: 4 May 12 10:40 CET
Archaeology students got a taste of the real thing during a digging lesson, when they stumbled upon what was this week confirmed to be a Roman temple – in an area not previously thought to have been populated.
Lecturers at Bonn University had set up a mock archaeological dig at a building site on campus to teach hopeful historians digging techniques. What they did not expect to find were the 2,000-year-old foundations of a building, nestled into the dense, clayish mud.
While the initial discovery was made in March, it was only in the past fortnight that the team realised the foundations were from a temple from the Roman era, the floor of which was scattered with broken pottery dating as far back as 800 BC.
N.Y. Times: Map’s Hidden Marks Illuminate and Deepen Mystery of Lost Colony
By THEO EMERY
For centuries, the Tidewater coast of North Carolina has held one of early America’s oldest secrets: the fate of more than 100 English colonists who vanished from their island outpost in the late 1500s.
Theories abound about what happened to the so-called Lost Colony, ranging from sober scholarship to science fiction. Some historians believe that the colonists might have been absorbed into American Indian tribes. Other explanations point to darker fates, like disease, an attack by Spaniards or violence at the hands of Indians. The wild-eyed fringe hints at cannibalism and even alien abduction.
The Jakarta Globe (Indonesia): Old Village, Burial Site Discovered In Jambi
May 01, 2012
Jambi. Archeologists on Monday announced they had found remnants of an ancient village and a burial complex in the Merangin Geopark in Jambi.
“In the framework of our research, we found ruins of an ancient village and a burial complex,” said Yusuf Martun, the coordinator for the archeology division of the Merangin Geopark research team. “Their conditions are precarious because they were located somewhere in the middle of the jungle.”
Yusuf was unable say how old the central Sumatra settlement or burial site were but estimated them to be at least hundreds of years old. He cited details of the burial practice for his estimate.
Michigan Technological University: Archaeologist, Chemical Engineer Unite in a War on Rust
By John Gagnon
Industrial archaeology studies the past and seeks to enshrine it as heritage. In that undertaking, archaeologist Tim Scarlett, of Michigan Technological University’s Department of Social Sciences, has his eyes focused far into the future: he wants an ironclad way to preserve artifacts in order “to curate into perpetuity.”
Scarlett’s world is filled with discarded items on industrial sites, where he unearths iron: nails, forge and blacksmith wastes, tools, and scrap iron—all artifacts whose very nature is to corrode and break down, a process that spells ruin for preservationists.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Chinese artifact theft investigators nab 2 suspects
Fitzwilliam Museum theft appeared on TV's Crimewatch; additional arrests in similar caseThis story was also written about in the Examiner.com article: Professional thieves target Chinese artifacts for the second time in two weeks
British police have arrested two suspects in conjunction with the recent theft of 18 rare Chinese artifacts from the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge.
"Officers from Cambridgeshire, along with officers from the Metropolitan Police, carried out two warrants at addresses in London," according to a police statement issued Wednesday.
The Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University saw the loss of eighteen ancient Chinese artifacts on Friday night in a daring heist police believe was pulled off by professional thieves. The heist was strongly reminiscent of a similar theft of Chinese artifacts that took place just two weeks earlier at Durham University.”
The Fitzwilliam Museum theft saw the loss of eighteen items including a Ming jade cup from the 14th century, eight pieces from the Qing dynasty, a 17th century jade elephant, and many other precious, and irreplaceable, items.
"The eighteen items stolen are mostly jade and are part of the museum's permanent collection," said Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Daber, who is leading the investigation. "The items stolen are very valuable and are of great cultural significance so we are absolutely committed to recovering them and bringing those who stole them to justice. This is an exceptional crime that we are taking very seriously.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
Indiana University: With NOvA building complete, IU physicists, astronomer ready to construct particle detector
IU responsible for major component of $283 million experiment
April 30, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The laboratory is now built, and Indiana University physicists are ready to help assemble within it the world's largest PVC structure. It's all part of NOvA, an advanced neutrino experiment designed to help explain why the universe was created with more matter than antimatter.
With the opening May 27 of NOvA -- the NuMI Off-Axis Electron Neutrino Appearance far detector building -- in northern Minnesota, scientists are ready to begin piecing together the 15,000-ton particle detector that will study neutrinos produced at Fermilab in Chicago, which are then sent 500 miles in under three milliseconds to the new far detector building. Among those ready to assist are 14 IU scientists responsible for the detector's most critical element, a liquid scintillator that comprises 70 percent of the total detector mass and that will be used to collect light from particle interactions in the detector.
"With the laboratory now complete, we've begun installing the major detector components," said Mark Messier, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics who also serves as spokesperson for NOvA. "This includes the delivery system for the liquid scintillator, which is a major IU responsibility overseen by IU astronomy professor Stuart Mufson and physics professor James Musser."
University of Michigan: Smart gas sensors for better chemical detection
Written by Katherine McAlpine
Published on May 01, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.— Portable gas sensors can allow you to search for explosives, diagnose medical conditions through a patient's breath, and decide whether it's safe to stay in a mine.
These devices do all this by identifying and measuring airborne chemicals, and a new, more sensitive, smart model is under development at the University of Michigan. The smart sensor could detect chemical weapon vapors or indicators of disease better than the current design. It also consumes less power, crucial for stretching battery life down a mineshaft or in isolated clinics.
In the gold standard method of gas detection, chemicals are separated before they are measured, said Xudong "Sherman" Fan, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
"In a vapor mixture, it's very difficult to tell chemicals apart," he said.
Michigan State University: MSU invention could help pharmaceutical industry save money
MSU chemists Merlin Bruening and Gregory Baker have invented a protein purifier that could save pharmaceutical companies time and money.
Published: April 30, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Two Michigan State University researchers have invented a protein purifier that could help pharmaceutical companies save time and money.
The details of the invention, which appear in a recent issue of the journal Langmuir, demonstrate that MSU chemists Merlin Bruening and Greg Baker’s high-performance membranes are highly suitable for protein purification, a crucial step in the development of some new drugs.
Purifying proteins, the process of isolating a single, desired protein from all others, is an expensive, time-consuming hurdle that contributes to the high cost of some prescription drugs. Obtaining pure proteins, however, is a necessary step to increasing these drugs’ effectiveness and safety. Streamlining the process could help manufacturers reduce costs, speed new drugs to consumers and reduce pharmaceutical costs, Bruening said.
University of Michigan: Fuel economy slipped as gas prices dipped throughout April
Written by Bernie DeGroat
Published on May 03, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—After recently topping 24 miles per gallon for the first time ever, fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States slipped back below that mark last month, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased in April was 23.9 mpg, down from 24.1 in March, but the same as in February. Despite the drop, fuel economy is up 3.8 mpg (or 19 percent) from October 2007, the first month of monitoring by UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.
"The decline likely reflects the slight reduction in the price of gasoline during the second half of April," Sivak said.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
The Guardian (UK): Archaeologists accuse MoD of allowing US company to 'plunder' shipwreck
Experts take legal advice in effort to block lucrative deal on underwater excavation of HMS Victory
May 5, 2012
The Ministry of Defence is facing a legal battle and parliamentary questions after letting a US company excavate a British 18th-century warship laden with a potentially lucrative cargo.
Lord Renfrew is among leading archaeologists condemning a deal struck over HMS Victory, considered the world's mightiest ship when she sank in the Channel in 1744.
In return for excavating the vessel's historic remains, which may include gold and silver worth many millions of pounds, Odyssey Marine Exploration is entitled to receive "a percentage of the recovered artefacts' fair value" or "artefacts in lieu of cash".
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Michigan State University: Researchers give long look at who benefits from nature tourism
April 27, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Using nature’s beauty as a tourist draw can boost conservation in China’s valued panda preserves, but it isn’t an automatic ticket out of poverty for the human inhabitants, a long-term study at Michigan State University shows.
The policy hitch: Often those who benefit most from nature-based tourism endeavors are people who already have resources. The truly impoverished have a harder time breaking into the tourism business.
The study, published in the current edition of PLoS One, looks at nearly a decade of burgeoning tourism in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China. China, like many areas in the world, is banking on tourism over farming to preserve fragile animal habitat while allowing people to thrive.
But until now, no one has taken a close look at the long-term economic implications for people.
Michigan State University: Stun guns not safe for citizens, but benefit police, study finds
Groundbreaking research by MSU criminologist William Terrill suggests stun guns are not safe for citizens being apprehended by police, but do benefit the officers.
Published: May 01, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The use of stun guns by police significantly increases the chances of citizen injury, yet also protects the officers more than other restraint methods, according to the most comprehensive research to date into the safety of stun guns in a law enforcement setting.
William Terrill, lead researcher on the project and Michigan State University criminologist, said the federally funded research presents a dilemma for police agencies weighing use of the controversial weapon. Nationally, some 260,000 electronic control devices, or stun guns, are in use in 11,500 law enforcement agencies.
“The findings are quite complex, in that citizen injuries increased but officer injuries decreased,” Terrill said. “Police agencies have to balance the findings. They have to consider whether this is a trade-off they can accept.”
Purdue University: Links between animal health and food safety studied
May 4, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The head of Purdue University's Department of Animal Sciences was on a team of experts that examined the relationship between the health of agricultural animals and consumers' increasing demand for safe food. The report will be released Monday (May 7) in Washington, D.C.
Alan Mathew co-wrote "Healthy Animals Make Confident Consumers" with five other members of a task force organized by the nonprofit Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.
"This was our attempt to review the literature regarding animal health and food safety and determine what research needs to be conducted to determine the connection between the care and health of food animals and food safety," Mathew said.
Purdue University: Climate change, biofuels mandate would cause corn price spikes
April 23, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A study from Purdue and Stanford university researchers predicts that future climate scenarios may cause significantly greater volatility in corn prices, which would be intensified by the federal biofuels mandate.
The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that severely hot conditions in corn-growing regions and extreme climate events that are expected to impact supply would cause swings in corn prices. When coupled with federal mandates for biofuel production, the price volatility could increase by about 50 percent over the period from 2020-2040 as compared to recent history.
"There could be quite a substantial increase in yield volatility, and that's due to the increased frequency and intensity of the high temperatures throughout the Corn Belt," said Thomas Hertel, a Purdue distinguished professor of agricultural economics. "Closer integration of the corn and energy markets through the ethanol industry could aid in buffering these shocks, but this would not occur in the presence of a mandate."
University of North Carolina: Online retailers, shipping companies give minors access to alcohol, study finds
May 07, 2012
Minors can easily purchase alcohol online as a result of poor age verification by Internet alcohol vendors and shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS, according to a new study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.
The study, published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that 45 out of 100 orders attempted by underage buyers were successful, even though they provided their real underage driver license when asked. Only 28 percent of orders placed by minors were rejected because of age verification.
“With just a few clicks on their computer or smartphone, kids can order alcohol delivered to their home.” said Rebecca Williams, Ph.D., research associate at UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and lead author of the study. “We were amazed at how easy it was for minors to buy alcohol online. Using their real ID and a prepaid Visa card, they could place an order for alcohol in just a few minutes and often have it delivered to their door in a matter of days without anyone ever trying to verify their age.”
The Courier & Press: Summer need not be a bummer
Camps let kids explore, learn, play
By Katharine McKinney Special to The Courier & Press
Posted May 5, 2012 at noon
You don't have to travel across the world to make your way through a Roman bath or excavate an Egyptian pyramid. Not if you are a Time Detective at Angel Mounds' day camp. Students ages 6-12 have a chance to relive history through one of four camps designed to give an intensive and experiential walk through the lives of the ancients.
The Angel Mounds camps are among hundreds of camps offered this summer for youths throughout the region. The camps not only offer a safe place to spend the summer, but they also provide virtual getaways. This is a sampling of some of the camps being offered.
Haley Tallman, Sectional Archaeology Program developer, said it takes a great deal of planning to get these camps off the ground. "We work on it a little bit all year long … especially during the slow months in the winter. During the weeks of the day camps themselves we are there very late at night, setting up for the next day."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Michigan State University: Conference brings together researchers in math, science education
Published: May 03, 2012 E-mail Editor ShareThis
EAST LANSING, Mich. — More than 100 faculty and graduate students at Michigan State University are expected to come together May 8-9 for a discussion about improving mathematics and science education.
The CREATE for STEM Institute is holding the conference on campus in an effort to connect and build stronger collaborations among the many MSU researchers working on projects related to teaching and learning in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), at the K-12 and college levels.
Michigan State University: MSU gets perfect score in first organic land grant report
Published: May 03, 2012
Organic Farming Research Foundation announced the release of the first Organic Land Grant Assessment Report, measuring research, education and outreach in the federally funded Land Grant system.
The system, initiated by President Abraham Lincoln's visionary Land Grant Law, includes universities, research stations and Cooperative Extension. The Top Six campuses scoring a perfect '8' include Michigan State University, Colorado State University, University of Florida, University of Minnesota, University of Tennessee and Washington State University.
Marshall University: Students recognized at international scientific meeting
May 3, 2012
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two Marshall University students received special recognition for their research at this year’s international Experimental Biology conference held April 21-25 in San Diego.
M. Allison Wolf, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate from Parkersburg, received first place in her group in a poster competition held as part of the conference’s Diet and Cancer mini-symposium. The mini-symposium was funded by the American Society of Nutrition.
In addition, Aaron M. Dom, a first-year medical school student from Wellersburg, Pa., was invited to do a special oral “blitz” presentation about his research on how a synthetic drug called MG624 can prevent new blood vessel growth in small cell lung cancer and could potentially serve as a therapy for the disease.
Science Writing and Reporting
Michigan State University: Museum publishes book on creative expression, health care
Published: May 03, 2012
Michigan State University Museum announces the publication of "Siyazama: Art, AIDS and Education in South Africa," a book that explores the intersection of creative expression, education and health care.
The book launch in the U.S. coincides with the national conference of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare conference May 2-5 in Detroit.
West Virginia University: WVU journalism student receives Young Botanist Award from the Botanical Society of America
May 2, 2012
Studying both journalism and biology at West Virginia University, senior Codi Yeager has been recognized for both her interests in plant biology and writings about botanical science.
Yeager is the recipient of a Young Botanist Award, given by the Botanical Society of America. The purpose of these awards is to offer individual recognition to outstanding graduating seniors in the plant sciences and to encourage their participation in the Botanical Society of America.
This is the first award given to a journalist-botanist by the society, emphasizing the importance of communicating plant science to the public. Yeager’s academic background and investigative approach made her well qualified to write accurate and engaging articles about botanical subjects for her journalism internships, utilizing her interdependent journalism major and biology minor.
Science is Cool
It's Archaeology Week in Utah.
So if you're interested in what ancient peoples from this neck of the woods did for hunting, food preparation and other lifestyle activities, now is the time to dive into Utah history.
On Saturday, head down to the Rio Grand Depot, where the Utah State History Department is located. There, a fair of sorts will be set up with displays, workshops, crafts demonstrations and activities free and open to the public.
Among the activities are atlatl and dart throwing. Atlatl is a Native American weapon used to throw spears while hunting. Children can try to grind corn by hand. Navajo tacos will be available for sale.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Purdue University: Celebrity deaths have special place in social media world
April 24, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Retweeting, status updates and other social media posts about the latest celebrity death are more than fans saying good-bye, says a Purdue University mass media effects expert.
"Fans lack the usual channels through which people would normally use to express their sorrow and grief," says Glenn Sparks, professor of communication. "We can't phone the celebrity's family to express our grief. We can't offer to bring meals to the house. We're generally not invited to attend the funeral services. In short, while we still care immensely and have deep emotional involvement with the person, we have none of the usual social outlets for our emotional expression. That's where social media may be playing an increasingly important role."