Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, 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, health, energy, and the environment.
Between now and the end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the Green Papers or the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar. Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Texas.
This week's featured story comes from University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Luzuriaga: Case of second baby apparently cleared of HIV offers more hope for early therapy
UMMS pediatric infectious disease specialist and immunologist member of research teams following both children
By Lisa M. Larson
UMass Medical School Communications
March 06, 2014
News that a second baby born with HIV appears to have been cleared of infection after early and aggressive treatment is further evidence that early therapy may be the key to achieving remission, said immunologist Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine, who is working on both cases.
“Twenty years ago, I don’t think we would have thought we’d get to the point where we’d talk about a functional cure,” Dr. Luzuriaga said in a plenary talk delivered as part of the “Towards a Cure” Symposium at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, according to coverage in the Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger. “However, many years of research have led to the understanding that viral reservoirs, which serve as the barrier to cure, are laid down very early in infection, leading to the concept that initiating treatment within hours of birth will be necessary to eradicate infection.”
At the same conference last year, Luzuriaga and colleagues Hannah Gay, MD, from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Deborah Persaud, MD, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, announced the first case of a baby functionally cured of its HIV infection after receiving therapeutic antiretroviral treatment just 30 hours after birth. The child, born in Mississippi, was born to an HIV-infected mother who did not have prenatal care. The therapy continued until about 18 months of age, when the child was lost to follow-up and off the drugs. Months later, the child returned to the hospital and researchers found no evidence of viral rebound. Details on the case were published last October in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Luzuriaga and colleagues report that the child remains in remission, and off drugs, for almost two years. Meanwhile, a baby born in Long Beach to an HIV-infected mother who was not taking her medication was given the same therapy, beginning at four hours of age. Nine months later, the team reports that this baby, too, appears clear of the virus. The child has not been taken off therapy, but doctors are trying to asceratin (sic) when they may do so.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
WATCH THIS SPACE!
Scientific Facts & Theories
This week in science: One day only!
Models Wrong About Fukushima Plume in Pacific?
Doug's Archaeology on Wordpress: The Actual Amount of National Science Foundation Funding for Archaeology
March 6, 2014
Early this week I published data on National Science Foundation funding for archaeology. This is what that data looks like:
These numbers were based off of the Archaeology, Anthropology (Archaeology-related), Systematic Anthropological Collections and Archaeometry programs of funding. It shows an increase in funding for archaeology by the NSF. However, this does not capture the complexity of funding for archaeology.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Discovery News: Are We Finally Ready To Clone A Mammoth?
Everyone keeps asking scientists when they're going to clone a woolly mammoth. It's not the easiest thing to do, but they are working on it! Trace is here to discuss with you how we're planning on bringing back extinct animals, and how recent discoveries are helping this process.
University of Massachusetts Medical School: Clinical psychologist welcomes changes to FDA nutrition labels
The revised nutrition labels proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, featuring prominent calorie counts and more realistic portion sizes, are a welcome change to clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto, PhD, as she helps teach weight loss patients about healthy eating habits.Also read Expert’s Corner: Sherry Pagoto on bold new changes for nutrition labels.
University of Massachusetts: Kennedy Support for STEM
Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, chair of the state's STEM Advisory Council, visited UMass Amherst's Life Sciences Labs and spoke with students from the Integrated Concentration in Science program (iCons) about the challenges facing science education.
University of Massachusetts: Protein Homeostasis: Therapeutic Strategies and Anti-Infective Medicines at UMass Amherst
A key research group at UMass Amherst, Models to Medicine (M2M) Center, the lab of Peter Chien of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, focuses on protein misfolding research and its impact on human health. M2M is part of the campus's Institute for Applied Life Sciences.
NASA's Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal was announced March 4. The $17.5 billion budget supports NASA's new strategic plan to drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics and space exploration. The budget enables NASA to continue fostering growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry, stay on target to launch American astronauts from U.S. soil by 2017, keep utilizing the International Space Station until at least 2024 and carry out even more ambitious missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Also, Budget highlighted at Capitol Hill luncheon, Next ISS crew trains in Russia, Flight test boosters arrive at KSC, Goddard Memorial Symposium and 5 year anniversary of Kepler launch!
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: A Telescope Bigger than a Galaxy
Astronomers have figured out how to use the gravity of distant galaxies to bend light and magnify images, allowing them to see deeper into the cosmos than ever before.
JPL/NASA: What's Up for March 2014
Watch starlight get blocked by a passing asteroid, planets march across the sky and a lunar eclipse preview.
Hubble Telescope: Tonight's Sky: March 2014
Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." In March, the constellations of spring mark the change of seasons.
Discovery News: Can Astronauts Return to Earth Without Russia?
The crisis in Ukraine is causing some tension between the United States and Russia. If Russia decided that they don't want to bring American astronauts on the International Space Station back to Earth, are they stranded? Trace breaks down a few alternate ways we could bring astronauts back home.
NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino congratulates the filmmakers and actors of the Academy Award-winning film "Gravity" on their achievement.
NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman congratulates the cast and crew of the Academy Award-winning film "Gravity" on their achievement. Coleman lived aboard the International Space Station during Expedition 27, while "Gravity" was being filmed, and spoke with the film's star, Sandra Bullock, from space. Coleman thanks the filmmakers for "sharing that world and that view with everyone."
University of Texas: UT Austin to Become Partner in Construction of World’s Largest Telescope
March 7, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas System Board of Regents Friday authorized UT Austin to spend $50 million in research reserves to participate in building the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will be the world’s largest telescope when it’s completed in 2020. The project will give students, researchers and faculty the opportunity to make groundbreaking discoveries in astronomy.
The Giant Magellan Telescope, or GMT, will be built in Chile, in the foothills of the Andes, because the extremely dry climate is optimal for providing the sharpest images.
The telescope’s seven mirrors will comprise about 3,900 square feet, which is about the size of a basketball court. Compared to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the UT Austin’s McDonald Observatory in west Texas, the GMT will have six times the light-gathering power and the ability to produce images 10 times sharper.
The total cost of the telescope is expected to be about $1.05 billion. UT Austin has set a goal to contribute 10 percent of the construction costs, or roughly $100 million.
LiveScience: Doing the Math on Polar Sea Ice Melt
By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
March 07, 2014 03:56pm ET
NEW YORK — Antarctica may be the last place one would expect to find a mathematician, but Ken Golden isn't your average mathematician.
Golden, a mathematician at the University of Utah, is using math to model the melting of the polar ice caps. He has been on multiple expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, where he studies how the microscopic structure of ice affects the large-scale melting of the ice caps.
"We're using pretty sophisticated mathematics to better understand the role of sea ice in the climate system, and, ultimately, to improve our projections of climate change," Golden said in a talk Wednesday (March 6) at the Museum of Math in New York City.
LiveScience: Almost Completely Frozen, Great Lakes Near Record
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
March 05, 2014 05:32pm ET
Overall, winters may become milder as the planet warms, but this season has been a stunningly cold outlier for eastern North America. Case in point? The frozen Great Lakes.
Yesterday (March 4), the Great Lakes hit 91 percent ice cover, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. That's the most ice since the record of 94.7 percent was set in 1979, the lab said in a statement.
Except for Lake Ontario, nearly all the Great Lakes are frozen stiff, just like everyone on the East Coast. In fact, if the months of below-normal temperatures and freezing winds persist, the Great Lakes could meet or break their 1979 record, the lab said. The ice hasn't been this widespread since 1994, when 90.4 percent of the Great Lakes were under ice. The average ice cover is usually just above 50 percent, and only occasionally passes 80 percent, according to the lab.
LiveScience: Draft UN Report: Global Warming Could Cost $1.45 Trillion
By Denise Chow, Staff Writer
March 06, 2014 09:30am ET
The effects of global warming could cost the world $1.45 trillion in economic damages, with the planet's crop production projected to decline up to two percent every decade, according to news coverage of a new UN report.
Florida Atlantic University: FAU Researcher Unravels Mystery of Sea Turtles’ ‘Lost Years’
BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 5, 2014) – Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D., associate professor of biological science at Florida Atlantic University, and Kate Mansfield, Ph.D., a co-investigator at the University of Central Florida, are the first to successfully track neonate sea turtles in the Atlantic Ocean waters during what had previously been called their “lost years.” Findings from the study appear today in the journal Proceeding of the Royal Society B .
The “lost years” refer to the time after turtles hatch and head out to sea until they are seen again upon returning to near-shore waters as large juveniles. The time at sea is often called the “lost years” because not much has been known about where the young turtles go and how they interact with their oceanic environment, until now.
“Prior to tagging these threatened sea turtles, all we knew about this part of their life’s journey came from one turtle that had been followed for three days,” Wyneken said. “From the time they leave our shores, we don’t hear anything about them until they are found near the Canary Islands. Those waters are a bit like nursery school for them, as they stay for about four to eight years. There’s a whole lot that happens crossing the Atlantic that we knew nothing about.”
University of Florida: Healthier processed food? Essence of strawberry could be the key
March 3rd, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists believe they have pinpointed the exact compounds in strawberries that give the fruit its delightfully unique flavor – findings that will allow UF breeders to create more flavorful varieties even faster.
What’s more, the researchers believe that eventually, those naturally occurring compounds will be used to make processed foods taste sweeter, using far less sugar and no artificial sweeteners. And if fruits and vegetables taste better, people will be more likely to eat them, the researchers say.
After looking at 35 strawberry varieties over two growing seasons, conducting extensive biochemical testing and hosting consumer taste panels, they identified 30 compounds directly tied to strawberry flavors that consumers adore.
And they also identified six volatile compounds that add to humans’ perception of sweetness in the fruit – independent of any type of sugar contained in the fruit.
University of Massachusetts Medical School: Data from UMMS-led registry shows national norms for timing of hip and knee replacements
UMass Medical School Communications
March 07, 2014
New data from a federally funded research registry led by UMass Medical School has pinpointed “typical” patient pain and function scores at which most patients undergo joint replacement surgery. The data was gathered through more than 125 orthopedic surgeons on 15,000 joint replacement patients across the United States.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to quantify the point at which most patients and surgeons together make the decision to proceed with a total knee or hip replacement,” said David Ayers, MD, the Arthur M. Pappas, MD, Chair in Orthopedics, chair and professor of orthopedics & physical rehabilitation and director of the Musculoskeletal Center of Excellence. “We studied the typical orthopedic practice in the United States and found that we were able to statistically identify a point, based on a national sample of patients’ reported levels of pain and functional impairment, that surgeons offer surgery and patients decide to move forward.”
The uniformity of pain and function scores across such a wide population offers, for the first time, possible national benchmarks that patients and surgeons can use in shared decision-making and for comparison to assess where a patient falls on a spectrum and whether they meet these national “norms” for the timing of surgery.
University of Illinois: Most U.S. infant death rates not likely to fall enough to meet goal
March 6, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The infant mortality rate set forth as a national goal in the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 initiative is likely to be attained by only one demographic group – highly educated white mothers, the authors of a new study say.
Healthy People is an ongoing campaign to improve the health of all Americans by 2020 and an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People’s objectives include decreasing the national mortality rate during the first year of life from the current 6.7 to fewer than 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births.
However, only the demographic group comprising children of white women with a high school education or greater is likely to achieve the targeted rate, predict researchers Shondra Loggins and Flavia Cristina Drumond Andrade at the University of Illinois.
University of Illinois: Team models photosynthesis and finds room for improvement
March 3, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Teaching crop plants to concentrate carbon dioxide in their leaves could increase photosynthetic efficiency by 60 percent and yields by as much as 40 percent, researchers report in a new study.
The team used a computer model to simulate how adding genes from a type of photosynthetic algae known as cyanobacteria might influence photosynthetic efficiency in plants. Cyanobacteria contain small structures, called carboxysomes, which concentrate carbon dioxide at the site of photosynthesis.
“Photosynthesis is the most studied of all plant processes, so we really know this in great detail and can represent it well in silico,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen Long, who led the study with postdoctoral researcher Justin McGrath. “We’ve modeled the whole system, and added all the components in a cyanobacterial system one at a time to our computer simulation to see if they give us an advantage.”
University of Texas: Childhood Adversity Launches Lifelong Relationship and Health Disadvantages for Black Men
March 3, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — African American men who endured greater childhood adversity are likely to experience disadvantages in health and relationships over time, according to new sociology research from The University of Texas at Austin.
The study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, helps to explain why African American men are less healthy than white men.
“Exposure to childhood adversity may cause stress and lead to a sequence of stressors over time that take a cumulative toll on relationships,” says Debra Umberson, professor of sociology and a faculty associate in the Population Research Center. “In addition, childhood adversity may trigger an enduring pattern of psychological and physiological vulnerability to stress that undermines relationships in adulthood. Past research, including some of my own, has shown that bad relationships often lead to worse physical health.”
Texas A&M: Plant pathologist finds connections between plant and human health
By Olga Kuchment
March 5, 2014
Libo Shan has landed her dream job, and she’s on a quest to help others succeed, too.
Shan’s research, in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, aims to improve the health of plants and even has implications for humans. In 2013, the associate professor won the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Award for Early Career Research. Though Shan is an accomplished researcher, at the core of her work is bringing up the next generation of biologists.
“I want to see more talented undergraduates going into our field,” Shan says. “Biology is the most fascinating science. We will never stop addressing its questions.”
Texas A&M: Researcher examines rehabilitative care for hip fractures in veterans
by Rae Lynn Mitchell
March 3, 2014
Physical therapy for hip fracture patients With limited resources available for postoperative care, there is some debate regarding the most effective setting for patient recovery following surgical treatments. This is particularly true for our nation’s veterans and treatment for hip fractures since recovery generally requires rehabilitation services. However, there are no established guidelines for determining the best care setting.
Tiffany Radcliff, Ph.D., associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, co-authored a study recently published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development that modeled patients’ settings for post-hip fracture rehabilitative care and what factors play the largest role.
“Approximately 1,200 hip fracture surgeries are performed every year in VA hospitals,” said Radcliff. “Veterans with hip fractures are a clinically important subset of patients who usually require rehabilitation care following surgery.” According to Radcliff, we often think of frail older women having hip fractures. Most veterans with hip fractures are men and they tend to be younger and sicker than patients treated in other care systems.
Texas A&M: Researchers identify novel process involved in development of diabetes-induced heart failure
by Holly Lambert
March 3, 2014
Researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine have discovered a novel mechanism in diabetes-induced heart failure, which will provide an alternative target for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients.
Globally, diabetes affects more than 285 million individuals and by 2030, that number is expected to rise to 439 million. Diabetes increases the risk of heart failure – the leading cause of death in diabetic patients. Most commonly, diabetic patients develop diabetic cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disorder of heart function independent of hypertension or coronary disease. Symptoms of DCM are not present in more than 75 percent of patients with this condition and specific treatment strategies do not exist.
“A heart that does not function well, does not pump well and will eventually lead to heart failure,” said Kenneth M. Baker, M.D., FAHA, FIACS, professor and vice chair at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “Mechanistically, there is a lack of understanding of this condition, resulting in a lack of treatment options, a devastating reality for millions of patients with diabetes-induced heart disease.”
University of Texas: Binge Drinking May Double Older People’s Risk of Dying, Study Shows
March 6, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — Studies have shown that moderate drinking, such as sipping a relaxing glass of wine with dinner, may be beneficial to your health. Yet a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin shows that binge drinking may shorten lifespan, even for those who are overall moderate drinkers.
The study, to be published in the May online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that older adults who engage in binge drinking have double the odds of dying within the next 20 years in comparison with moderate drinkers in the same age bracket who don’t engage in binge drinking. Results are currently available at Early View.
“Binge drinking is increasingly being recognized as a significant public health concern,” says Charles Holahan, professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently concluded that binge drinking is ‘a bigger problem than previously thought.’ Ours is one of the first studies to focus explicitly on an older population in examining binge drinking among, on average, moderate drinkers.”
University of Florida: For older drivers, study finds, one drink may be one too many
March 6th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You may have only had one glass of wine with dinner, but if you’re 55 or older, that single serving may hit you hard enough to make you a dangerous driver.
So, baby boomers, what you suspected is true: you can’t party like you used to.
Sara Jo Nixon, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida and doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar tested how drinking legally non-intoxicating levels of alcohol affect the driving skills of two age groups: 36 people ages 25 to 35 and 36 people ages 55 to 70. They found that although neither age group imbibed enough alcohol to put them over the legal driving limit, a blood alcohol level of 0.08, just one drink can affect the driving abilities of older drivers.
Based on the study findings published in the journal Psychopharmacology in February, the researchers say it could be time to reassess legal blood alcohol levels for all drivers.
University of Florida: UF researchers find drug therapy that could eventually reverse memory decline in seniors
March 5th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It may seem normal: As we age, we misplace car keys, or can’t remember a name we just learned or a meal we just ordered. But University of Florida researchers say memory trouble doesn’t have to be inevitable, and they’ve found a drug therapy that could potentially reverse this type of memory decline.
The drug can’t yet be used in humans, but the researchers are pursuing compounds that could someday help the population of aging adults who don’t have Alzheimer’s or other dementias but still have trouble remembering day-to-day items. Their findings will be published in today’s (March 5) issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
The kind of memory responsible for holding information in the mind for short periods of time is called “working memory.” Working memory relies on a balance of chemicals in the brain. The UF study shows this chemical balance tips in older adults, and working memory declines. The reason? It could be because their brains are producing too much of a chemical that slows neural activity.
Times of Israel: Ahead of Purim, 12 relics of 9,000-year-old ancestor worship from Judean Desert, Hills to go on display at Israel Museum for first time
By Ilan Ben Zion
March 5, 2014,
With vacant sockets and jaws agape, they stare at you like the skulls of the dead. They are 9,000-year-old masks found in the Judean Desert and Hills, and they are going on display for the first time next week at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Rare, prehistoric rock art which could be more than 4,000 years old has been discovered in the Brecon Beacons.
The Bronze Age discovery was made late last year by national park geologist Alan Bowring.
Experts claim the stone probably served as a way marker for farming communities.
Biblical Archaeology: Severed Hands: Trophies of War in New Kingdom Egypt
As published in Strata in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review
Archaeological investigations have uncovered pits containing altogether 16 severed right hands. Photo: Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo and the Institute for Egyptology.
Excavations conducted in a Hyksos palace at Tell el-Daba (ancient Avaris) in Egypt have for the first time provided archaeological evidence for a gruesome practice previously known only from texts and temple reliefs.1 Archaeological investigations led by Manfred Bietak and Irene Forstner-Müller in the northern part of the palace, which in its late phase has been attributed to King Khayan of the 15th Dynasty (c. 1600 B.C.), have uncovered pits containing altogether 16 severed right hands.
Al-Ahram (Egypt): New Kingdom tombs discovered in Egypt's Aswan
Four rock-hewn New Kingdom tombs uncovered in Aswan may change the history of Elephantine Island
East Aswan inhabitants have accidentally stumbled upon what is believed to be a set of rock-hewn tombs on Elephantine Island, which displays a wide range of monuments from the prehistoric period to the Greco-Roman era.
Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online on Monday that early studies on the tombs' wall paintings reveal that they are dated to the New Kingdom era, which makes a very important discovery that may change the history of Elephantine Island.
Archaeologists excavating Ohio Hopewell mounds occasionally come across the remains of people who had been buried with separate human skulls. Hopewell artisans also sculpted representations of decapitated heads and headless human torsos.
Does this mean Ohio’s ancient American Indians were headhunters?
Mark Seeman, professor emeritus at Kent State University, says that these decapitated heads were battle trophies. But Timothy Lloyd, an archaeologist at the University of Albany, points out that some of the bodies and skulls belonged to women, who seldom were warriors in indigenous societies.
LiveScience: Ancient Egyptian Soldier's Letter Home Deciphered
By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor
March 05, 2014
A newly deciphered letter home dating back around 1,800 years reveals the pleas of a young Egyptian soldier named Aurelius Polion who was serving, probably as a volunteer, in a Roman legion in Europe.
In the letter, written mainly in Greek, Polion tells his family that he is desperate to hear from them and that he is going to request leave to make the long journey home to see them.
Culture 24 (UK): Executed Vikings were inexperienced raiders who oozed smelly pus, say archaeologists
As the British Museum opens its Vikings exhibition to the public, Scandinavian skeletons are causing a stir again
By Ben Miller
06 March 2014
The bony discovery of 50 young male skeletons, decapitated and lumped in an old quarry pit before being found by diggers on an Olympic relief road in Weymouth five years ago, became an even more gripping story following scientific examinations revealing that this mass grave carried executed Vikings.
David Score, of excavators Oxford Archaeology, called the test results “thrilling”, while Angus Campbell, the then-leader of Dorset County Council who is now the county’s Lord Lieutenant, admitted organisers “never would have dreamed of finding a Viking war grave.”
Such is the significance of this burial that a book, Given to the Ground, has just been published, written by some of the experts involved. Meanwhile, the British Museum’s major new Norse exhibition – the first in more than 30 years to be held on Vikings there – altered its layout to include some of the skeletons.
The Hindu (India): ASI salvages history from urbanisation
Thanks to the efforts of a vigilant retired professor, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has managed to salvage a part of India’s numismatic history dating back to the 8 Century A.D. from the seemingly all-consuming sweep of urbanization.
Last month, the ASI excavated remains of a rectangular structure considered to be a mint of 8 Century vintage after a brief exploratory survey yielded 31 pieces of terracotta coin moulds for casting coins of King Mihira Bhoja, the ruler of the Pratihara dynasty between 836 and 885 A.D.
LiveScience: Leapin' Lizards! Medieval Arabs Ate the Scaly Creatures
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
Medieval desert-dwelling Arabs in Saudi Arabia ate lizards after the advent of Islam, which generally prohibits eating reptiles, new research suggests.
News Letter (UK): Carrickfergus castle dig extended
An archaeological excavation at Ireland’s best-preserved Anglo Norman castle has been extended after the discovery of a secret tunnel.
Experts from Queen’s University had been commissioned to spend three weeks conducting exploratory digs at Carrickfergus Castle in a bid to find out more about the 800-year-old fortification on the shores of Belfast Lough.
University of Illinois: Native American city on the Mississippi was America's first 'melting pot'
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants.
Cahokia was an early experiment in urban life, said Thomas Emerson, who led the new analysis. Emerson is Illinois state archaeologist and the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois.
Researchers have traditionally thought of Cahokia as a relatively homogeneous and stable population drawn from the immediate area, he said.
“But increasingly archaeologists are realizing that Cahokia at AD 1100 was very likely an urban center with as many as 20,000 inhabitants,” he said. “Such early centers around the world grow by immigration, not by birthrate.”
The Spokesman-Review: Bones found after Wanapum Dam drawdown at least ‘hundreds’ of years old, coroner says
March 7, 2014
QUINCY, Wash. – Bones found along the shoreline of Crescent Bar Island on Tuesday are old and will be turned over to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation
“These bones are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old,” Grant County Coroner Craig Morrison said Thursday morning.
Archaeologists have discovered a previously unknown First World War ‘battlefield’ – on the south coast of England. The discovery is of huge archaeological and historical significance.
Located near Gosport, Hampshire, the site appears to have been used for highly realistic mock battles – in preparation for more lethal encounters some 150 miles away on the Western Front.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of Florida: UF to begin new St. Augustine work after gift of more than 97,000 artifacts
March 4th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida begins its 20th season of archaeological fieldwork since 1976 this week in St. Augustine at the site of America’s first colony, founded by explorer Pedro Menendez in 1565.
Though the original colony lasted only nine months, researchers have uncovered more than 97,000 artifacts left behind by Spanish immigrants, valued at nearly $3.5 million and recently donated by the Fraser family to the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. Now researchers will begin unearthing the colony’s fortifications to better understand its defenses, said Kathleen Deagan, retired distinguished curator of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum.
“These artifacts are the only evidence we have as to how people lived in the colony and what objects they used,” Deagan said. “The documents from the period only briefly describe the settlers’ time at the site. There is nothing there about their lives and how people coped with being in a new, strange place. Now that we know more about their lives within the colony, we want to understand how they defended it.”
LiveScience: Giant Virus Resurrected from Permafrost After 30,000 Years
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
March 03, 2014 03:00pm ET
A mysterious giant virus buried for 30,000 years in Siberian permafrost has been resurrected.
The virus only infects single-celled organisms and doesn't closely resemble any known pathogens that harm humans.
Even so, the new discovery raises the possibility that as the climate warms and exploration expands in long-untouched regions of Siberia, humans could release ancient or eradicated viruses. These could include Neanderthal viruses or even smallpox that have lain dormant in the ice for thousands of years.
Florida International University: Marine scientists identify lobsters’ ancestors
Posted by Evelyn Perez
02/25/2014 at 9:55 am
Scientists have long believed that lobster-like crustaceans first appeared on planet Earth about 360 million years ago. But FIU marine scientist Heather Bracken-Grissom contends the ancestor of our favorite mealtime decapod actually may have started roaming the planet at least 12 million years earlier.
Using fossil records and DNA testing, a team of international scientists led by Bracken-Grissom has determined the first lobster-like crustacean appeared on planet Earth approximately 372-409 million years ago.
“This is the most complete study of lobsters to date. One hundred and seventy-three species were analyzed, including commercially important species such as Maine lobster, Florida’s spiny lobsters and the redswamp crayfish, which Louisiana is famous for,” Bracken-Grissom said. “We also included some very rare species, recently discovered in the 1970s, who had never been included in an analysis before. It was interesting to include them because we got to see where they fell in the lobster tree of life.”
LiveScience: Volcanoes Guard Ice Age Secrets
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
March 07, 2014 08:40am ET
Standing eye level with oncoming lava, in a snow pit he is digging at Tolbachik volcano in Russia, Ben Edwards is hoping his world doesn't violently explode in the next few minutes.
Several years of watching lava trundle over ice and snow has taught Edwards, a volcanologist at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, that he's probably safe — at this spot, the volcano's incandescent rock rarely sparked the kind of blasts typically seen when lava meets water.
Finished with the snow pit, Edwards clambers out and waits for water to start trickling out of the deep walls. "There was no obvious meltwater at Tolbachik, so we think the water drains immediately from the [lava-snow] interface, down under the snow," Edwards said.
LiveScience: Wastewater Injection Triggered Oklahoma's Earthquake Cascade
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
March 07, 2014 01:58pm ET
One of Oklahoma's biggest man-made earthquakes, caused by fracking-linked wastewater injection, triggered an earthquake cascade that led to the damaging magnitude-5.7 Prague quake that struck on Nov. 6, 2011, a new study confirms.
The findings suggest that even small man-made earthquakes, such as those of just a magnitude 1 or magnitude 2, can trigger damaging quakes, said study co-author Elizabeth Cochran, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
"Even if wastewater injection only directly affects a low-hazard fault, those smaller events could trigger an event on a larger fault nearby," she told Live Science.
Texas A&M: Harris publishes dark matter results enabled by process, material research
By: Deana Totzke
March 5, 2014
Dr. Rusty Harris, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, recently joined the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) collaboration in announcing a new threshold of dark matter detection with extremely improved background rejection capabilities.
Dark matter is the nearly unseen material that is hypothesized to not interact with matter that we observe through normal means (e.g. electromagnetic or nuclear forces), but is present in such large quantities that it has a significant impact on gravitational observation in the universe.
An intense search has been underway for nearly 20 years to validate the hypothesis, and it is considered one of the most urgent unanswered questions in physics.
University of Houston: New Therapies Targeting Cancer, Alzheimer’s Goal of UH Physicist
Margaret Cheung Named Fellow of American Physical Society
By Lisa Merkl
March 6, 2014
Working toward new therapies to target cancer and Alzheimer’s, University of Houston (UH) physicist Margaret Cheung strives to understand the physics that govern how ordinary matter becomes life-like. Cheung was recently named a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Her award was presented March 4 at the annual meeting of the APS Division of Biological Physics in Denver.
“If we can understand how life functions at a molecular level in the clutter of a cellular environment, then we can use this knowledge for drug design to intercept pathways of biological processes inside cells at a nano level before symptoms develop,” Cheung said. “Understanding the structures and enzymatic activity of proteins inside a cell is important to shed light on preventing, managing or curing certain diseases at a molecular level.”
Cheung, an associate professor of physics in the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, has been performing research in the field of biophysics since 1997, studying the behavior of biological molecules in cells. Honoring her years of hard work and dedication, the APS citation commends her for contributions to modeling and simulations necessary to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the folding, structure and function of protein in a cellular environment.
University of Massachusetts: Now Using Renewable Materials, Super Adhesive Echoes Geckos
UMass Amherst team creates ‘Green Geckskin,’ a reusable, sustainable adhesive
March 4, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – Traditional adhesives, usually petroleum-based and often intended for a single use, present a sticky situation for sustainability, but now the University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors of Geckskin, the reusable material able to hold hundreds of pounds with an index-card-sized swatch, have re-designed this remarkable adhesive using renewable materials.
“Green Geckskin” is the latest product trademarked by UMass Amherst from the polymer science and engineering team of Professor Al Crosby and researcher Michael Bartlett, who with others including biologist Professor Duncan Irschick, first introduced the flexible adhesive Geckskin in 2012. It mimics a gecko’s ability to strongly attach its toes yet easily detach from walls and ceilings, over and over. Bartlett and Crosby describe the new development in a recent issue of Advanced Materials.
The UMass Amherst polymer scientists are excited about possible new uses for Green Geckskin. For example, Bartlett and Crosby demonstrate that their adhesives made from renewable materials could be used to easily attach and release a solar panel to provide a portable charge for an electronic device at many different locations, from bus stop to office window, over the course of a day.
Science Crime Scenes
Florida International University: Chemistry student develops fast, easy, cheap explosives detection
Posted by Ayleen Barbel Fattal
03/04/2014 at 3:29 pm
FIU chemistry doctoral student Kelley Peters is revolutionizing on-site explosives detection techniques with a new, simple, fast and inexpensive technology for first responders.
Her research focuses on designing presumptive and confirmatory methods for the rapid analysis of multiple explosive compounds including black powder, smokeless powder and fertilizer-based explosives such as ammonium nitrate.
These types of explosives are used in terrorist attacks. However, the current methods of detection – canines and machines – can only detect if an explosive is present, not what type of explosive it is.
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
The Guardian (UK): Down Pompeii: emergency meeting called after collapses in ancient city
Collapse of tomb wall and supporting arch prompts Italy's culture minister to summon officials
Italy's culture minister demanded explanations on Sunday after more collapses this weekend in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii raised concerns about the state of one of the world's most treasured archaeological sites.
Pompeii, preserved under ash from a volcanic eruption in 79AD and rediscovered in the 18th century, has been hit by a series of collapses in recent months and years which have sparked international outcry over the neglect of the site.
Italy says it will unblock 2m euros (£1.6m) in emergency funding to save the ancient city of Pompeii, after flooding caused walls to collapse.
A number of structures, including the Temple of Venus and Roma, were damaged by heavy rainfall on Sunday and Monday.
The decay prompted calls for action from the European Union and the United Nations.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Florida International University: Students explore diversity of agriculture at USDA forum
Posted by Evelyn Perez
03/04/2014 at 10:51 am
FIU students Randy Juste and Christian Gonzalez were two of only 30 university students from diverse fields of study selected nationwide to attend the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this year’s forum, “The Changing Face of Agriculture,” introduced students to contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research and agriculture policy in today’s real world environment.
The students toured USDA headquarters, as well as its Agricultural Research Service and National Research and Conservation Service facilities. They also met with the USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden, and Chief Economist Joseph Glauber – and participated in a dialogue with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Administrator Rajiv Shah.
University of Massachusetts, Boston: UMass Boston Professor on Jobs for Adults With Intellectual Disabilities: ‘Needle Hasn’t Changed’
Study: 34% of Working-Age Adults with Intellectual Disabilities Employed; More than Half Not Employed and Not Looking
March 03, 2014
Despite the education, training, and employment goals of the decade-old Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement acts, the vast majority of adults with intellectual disabilities are not finding jobs.
According to a University of Massachusetts Boston survey published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, only 34 percent of intellectually disabled adults are employed. Compare that to the 76 percent of adults without disabilities that the Department of Labor says are employed. Even more telling, 56 percent of those in the survey sample were not working and not seeking employment. About 28 percent have never held a job.
“The needle hasn’t changed,” says Gary Siperstein, one of the co-authors of the study and the director of UMass Boston’s Center for Social Development and Education. “In 1966, when I entered the field of vocational rehabilitation, the emphasis was on how schools can prepare people for the world of work. Have we moved too far away from that?”
University of Texas: Austin Technology Incubator Generates Thousands of Jobs and Millions in Economic Impact, Report Finds
March 5, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), and the private companies it has nurtured, generated 6,520 jobs and produced $880 million in economic benefit for Texas during the past decade, according to a new study of the business incubator’s success.
ATI’s contributions have come as Central Texas has experienced an economic and high-tech boom. The report detailing these successes comes as the region prepares to host the 21st annual SXSW Interactive Festival, which draws global attention to the area’s tech industry.
“ATI companies have generated significant economic benefits for the state of Texas, and specifically for Travis County and the City of Austin,” concludes the report, which was published by the Bureau of Business Research at The University of Texas at Austin and drawn from an analysis by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Texas A&M: Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator visits Texas A&M University
Karsting addresses Texas agricultural exports, overseas capacity building, more
March 6, 2014
COLLEGE STATION – U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Phil Karsting recently visited the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.
He met with Texas A&M AgriLife administrators, personnel from the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and a group of students.
Karsting, who works in Washington, D.C., came to College Station after his trip to Austin to speak at the Texas Global Business Summit, where he was on a panel discussing the possible benefits of a new Trans-Pacific Partnership. The partnership is a trade agreement currently being negotiated between the U.S and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Texas A&M: Researcher identifies key factors to ensuring successful strategic change in healthcare systems
by Rae Lynn Mitchell
March 5, 2014
Change is an important part of the growth and development of any organization to ensure success. As the needs of clientele change and the surrounding environment evolves, so do the needs of the organization. However, there are many elements within an organization that if not met can be the determining factors as to whether or not change will be successful.
Bita Kash, Ph.D., M.B.A., FACHE, associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health recently published an article in the Journal of Healthcare Management on the most relevant factors that contribute to successful strategic change implementation in healthcare systems.
In the study, “Success Factors for Strategic Change Initiatives: A Qualitative Study of Healthcare Administrators Perspectives,” Kash and the research team identified various organizational change initiatives that occurred within two major health systems. These initiatives ranged from IT implementation and the integration of a new electronic health record system, to new building projects for on-site development and a cost effectiveness initiative to improve resource management.
Florida International University: New program created to produce high-quality STEM teachers
Posted by Joel Delgado
03/05/2014 at 3:55 pm
Some education experts have sounded the alarm in recent years, pointing to a shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educators throughout the country. FIU has answered the call and wants to be a part of the solution.
On Feb. 27, the university launched FIUTeach – the product of a five-year, $1.45 million grant to the university from the National Math and Science Institute (NMSI). The program will produce qualified math and science teachers in Miami for years to come.
“We’re going to join forces in this initiative to enhance the recruitment and preparation of math and science teachers for communities that are as diverse as ours,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said at the program’s kickoff event at the Stocker AstroScience Center. “We look forward to many successes ahead with this initiative. Let’s not just talk it now, let’s walk it.”
University of Massachusetts, Boston: UMass Boston and New England Aquarium Partnership Strengthens Research Efforts
March 06, 2014
This week, UMass Boston and the New England Aquarium launched a first-of-its-kind partnership to encourage even more collaborative research between the two institutions. While scientists from both institutions have worked together in the past, this partnership will create more avenues for collaboration.
As a part of this partnership, researchers from the New England Aquarium will teach courses at UMass Boston. Twelve researchers have already been named faculty members at UMass Boston’s School for the Environment. The two institutions will also be able to share lab facilities in Boston and at their field stations.
“With the New England Aquarium field station in Lubec, ME and the UMass Boston field station on Nantucket, we are going to bracket the entire Gulf of Maine,” says New England Aquarium Vice President for Research Scott Kraus.
University of Massachusetts, Boston: UMass Boston Shines a Light on the Science of Children from Birth to Age 8
“We need early care and education leaders in higher education who are rooted in the unique developmental needs and learning opportunities of the youngest children and their families.”
Office of Communications
March 03, 2014
The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success heard from Anne Douglass, assistant professor of early care and education at UMass Boston, who provided remarks at a public information gathering session on Friday, February 28 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC.
Douglass emphasized the importance of early educator preparation, and professional development that is focused on the workplace context for a continuum of pre-service through in-service quality improvement efforts. She cited compelling evidence from other disciplines that a positive workplace context is essential for quality improvement and the transfer of learning to practice.
Douglass recommended the IOM Committee further develop this evidence base with a research agenda that includes the workplace context as an essential element in quality improvement. She also emphasized the establishment of advanced leadership pathways in higher education, to meet the urgent need for faculty, scholars, and leaders in the field with early childhood expertise.
Texas A&M: Integrated Biology, Mathematics, Statistical Experiences Add Up to Expanded Opportunity for Aggies
March 4, 2014
Ten years ago, the Texas A&M University College of Science made a commitment to students in its most popular undergraduate major, biology, embarking on a new approach to traditional teaching involving more mathematics and statistics.
In 2004, Texas A&M earned selection by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as one of five sites for a bold, nationwide experiment -- Integrated Undergraduate Research Experiences in Biological and Mathematical Sciences, an initiative designed to enhance higher education in the biological, physical, mathematical and information sciences and better reflect the profound changes that have occurred in biological research and communication during the past two decades.
Texas A&M's version of the NSFs revolutionary statement, the Undergraduate Program in Biological and Mathematical Sciences (UBM), integrates curricula in the three departments involved in the $1.75 million grant (biology, mathematics and statistics). Moreover, since 2010, Texas A&M has been partnering with Prairie View A&M University in the comprehensive effort to offer unprecedented opportunity for hands-on research in a variety of burgeoning life sciences-related areas, from protein analysis and biological clocks to cardiovascular dynamics and population ecology.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Florida: UF veterinary oncologist captures real-life journey as cancer survivor in new book
March 5th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sarah Boston, D.V.M., D.V.Sc., waited four weeks for pathology test results to confirm that she had thyroid cancer. As a veterinary surgical oncologist at the University of Florida, her animal patients typically have these results in four days.
Her insights and frustrations as a cancer patient and survivor led the Calgary, Canada native to chronicle her personal observations in writing, which in turn has led to yet another role — that of a soon-to-be-published author.
Boston’s book, titled “Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved my Life” is expected to be released by Canadian publishing company House of Anansi Press in June 2014.
University of Illinois: Question of race not simple for Mexican Americans, author says
March 5, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — About half of Latinos check “white” in response to the question about race on the U.S. Census. About half check “other race.”
They identify they are Latino in response to a previous question just for that purpose.
Their choice of “white” or “other race” may have little to do with their skin color, their use of English or Spanish, or their comfort within the larger culture, contrary to common assumptions, says Julie A. Dowling, a University of Illinois professor of Latina and Latino studies.
Those are assumptions drawn from the experience of European Americans, but they don’t match with the experience of Latinos, particularly those of Mexican origin in Texas, according to Dowling, the author of the new book “Mexican Americans and the Question of Race” (University of Texas Press).
Science is Cool
Texas A&M: Norman Borlaug to be enshrined in U.S. Capitol on March 25
Posted on March 7, 2014 by Angel Futrell
The State of Iowa will install a bronze statue of Norman Borlaug, Ph.D., the famous agricultural scientist and humanitarian who saved millions of lives worldwide, in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 25, the centennial anniversary of Dr. Borlaug’s birth.
Borlaug’s guiding mission in life was that “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world” and he worked tirelessly to improve agriculture, nutrition, and the food system for people around the globe. Borlaug founded The World Food Prize in 1986 with the hope that it would come to be seen as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” to recognize and inspire breakthrough achievements in feeding the world. His prodigious achievements earned him the title, “Father of the Green Revolution,” and his statue being installed in the U.S. Capitol will be of great significance to people and farmers everywhere.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders made the announcement today, and Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, along with Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, President of Borlaug’s World Food Prize Foundation, held a press conference to celebrate this momentous occasion and kick off Borlaug Centennial events.