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 Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah.
This week's featured story comes from Space.com.
Nearby Alien Planet May Be Capable of Supporting Life
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
June 25, 2014 04:48pm ET
A newfound alien world might be able to support life — and it's just a stone's throw from Earth in the cosmic scheme of things.
An international team of astronomers has discovered an exoplanet in the star Gliese 832's "habitable zone" — the just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on a world's surface. The planet, known as Gliese 832c, lies just 16 light-years from Earth. (For perspective, the Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light-years wide; the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away.)
Gliese 832c is a "super-Earth" at least five times as massive as our planet, and it zips around its host star every 36 days. But that host star is a red dwarf that's much dimmer and cooler than our sun, so Gliese 832c receives about as much stellar energy as Earth does, despite orbiting much closer to its parent, researchers said.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
Climate scientist's accusers grasping at straws in libel case
This week in science: tangled webs
University of Alabama at Birmingham: UAB Professor Combines Pedestrian Safety with Technology to Help Birmingham-area Children
A pedestrian simulator developed by University of Alabama at Birmingham professor David Schwebel is helping area children learn how to cross the street in a safe, yet realistic environment.From the press release:
Pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of death in children in the United States and around the world, and a pedestrian simulator developed by University of Alabama at Birmingham psychology professor David Schwebel is helping area children learn how to cross the street in a safe environment.
In a 2014 report of cities where people walking are more likely to be killed by vehicles, Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition ranked the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area sixth.
Schwebel developed his simulator after realizing that safe pedestrian behavior requires sophisticated cognitive-perceptual skills. Knowing that these skills are still developing in children, he recognized that they would be particularly vulnerable in pedestrian situations.
A special program at NASA headquarters, helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The program, moderated by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, featured NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden , members of Congress and others, highlighting the progress of the last 50 years and the civil rights challenges that still confront us. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law July 2, 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson -- the namesake of NASA's Johnson Space Center. Also, Orion Chute Test, Cryogenic fuel tank and 3D printer testing, Carbon --observing mission previewed, Curiosity completes a Martian Year and more!
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: NASA to Launch Carbon Observatory
NASA is about to launch a satellite dedicated to the study of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) will quantify global CO2 sources and sinks, and help researchers predict the future of climate change.
NASA Goddard: NASA | Goddard Goes to Mars
The Martian climate remains one of the solar system's biggest mysteries: although cold and dry today, myriad surface features on Mars carved by flowing water attest to a much warmer, wetter past. What caused this dramatic transition? Scientists think that climate change on Mars may be due to solar wind erosion of the early atmosphere, and NASA's MAVEN mission will test this hypothesis. Project Manager David F. Mitchell discusses MAVEN and the Goddard Space Flight Center's role in sending it to the Red Planet.
On June 24, 2014, NASA's Curiosity rover completes her first Martian year (687 Earth days). Hear team members describe how the mission accomplished its main goal to find a past habitable environment on the Red Planet and the ongoing science studies.
JPL/NASA: Cassini Saturn Arrival
On June 30, 2004 (PDT), as mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory held their collective breath, the international Cassini-Huygens mission successfully arrived in orbit around Saturn. NASA's Cassini spacecraft delivered the European Space Agency's Huygens probe to Titan in early 2005. Cassini completed its four-year primary mission in 2008 and went on to perform dozens more flybys of Titan, Enceladus and Saturn's other icy moons through its 10th anniversary in 2014. The mission may continue through 2017.
Cornell University: Lisa Kaltenegger searches for another 'pale blue dot'
By Kathy Hovis
June 25, 2014
Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, leader of a research group at the Max Planck Institute, joins the faculty of Cornell’s astronomy department July 1 as an associate professor to work on a question that is thousands of years old – are we alone in the universe?
“The search for another ‘pale blue dot,’ which Carl Sagan influenced profoundly, is what makes it a great honor for me to work – and to walk a little bit in his footsteps – at the astronomy department of a great interdisciplinary university like Cornell,” Kaltenegger said.
Kaltenegger’s research focuses on the search and characterization of planets outside the solar system, so-called exoplanets.
University of Colorado: Solar flare satellite strengthens partnership between CU-Boulder, aerospace industry
June 25, 2014
A NASA-funded miniature satellite built by University of Colorado Boulder students to scrutinize solar flares erupting from the sun’s surface is the latest example of the university’s commitment to advancing aerospace technology and space science through strong partnerships with industry and government.
The $1 million Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS), led by CU-Boulder faculty in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, recently was selected by NASA for launch in January 2015 from the International Space Station.
The tiny satellite, known as a CubeSat, was designed and built by CU-Boulder students, but it sports a unique onboard control system developed by Boulder-based Blue Canyon Technologies that provides unprecedented accuracy and precision for orienting the satellite toward the sun.
University of Colorado: CU-Boulder and NCAR researchers seek to reduce deadly air pollution from cooking emissions
June 24, 2014
A $1.5 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will help researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Center for Atmospheric Research measure pollution from residential cooking and better understand a problem that kills millions of women and children each year in the developing world.
According to the EPA, more than 3 billion people worldwide rely on the burning of wood, plant matter, coal and waste for cooking or heating. Exposure to cookstove emissions, particularly indoor exposure, ranks as one of the five worst overall health risk factors in poor developing countries, with the World Health Organization estimating 4.3 million premature deaths per year due to exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves.
“We’re hoping to figure out how to reduce women and children’s exposure to air pollutants in sub-Saharan Africa through technology and getting people to think about changes to their behavior,” says Mike Hannigan, associate professor of mechanical and environmental engineering at CU-Boulder. Hannigan is the principal investigator on the EPA grant to measure and model air quality and climactic impacts of residential biomass and coal combustion for cooking in west Africa.
“This problem is bigger than malnutrition, and it’s a social justice issue because it’s disproportionately happening in the developing world and is particularly harmful to women and children,” he said.
Colorado State University: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from corn
June 28, 2014
In a unique farm-level study, researchers at Colorado State University and the University of Minnesota and have shown that best farming practices can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of corn production.
Detailed production data from farmers in and around southwest Minnesota were analyzed to model carbon emissions under various scenarios while maintaining high yields. The study evaluated thousands of scenarios and found that by applying fertilizer at optimal rates and using tillage practices that minimally disturb the soil, greenhouse gas emissions from corn production can be dramatically reduced.
In 2011, researchers collected and analyzed detailed, three-year survey data from 40 large, family owned farms supplying corn to a biorefinery in southwest Minnesota. The original study showed the respondents had a 25 percent lower carbon footprint than the U.S. average.
Cornell University: Pest attacks can lead to bigger crop yields
AVF investigators Georg Jander and Katja Poveda have received $498,000 in USDA funding to harness potato plants' natural response to environmental stress. Their findings could deliver a sustainable pest control strategy that works with invading pests to increase crop yields and reduce insect damage.
By Sheri Englund
June 24, 2014
Most farmers fight a constant battle against damaging insects. In a plant science version of “keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” Cornell researchers are working with a common potato pest to see if they can activate the natural defenses of potato plants by managing the bugs, rather than eradicating them.
The researchers aim to harness the plants’ physiological responses to environmental stress – such as infestation – as a sustainable pest control strategy that increases yields and reduces insect damage at the same time.
A team member’s previous research had identified one Colombian potato variety that responds to moth damage with robust yields. The AVF fieldwork pinpointed a second variety that is an effective trap crop. By growing a decoy plant that the moths especially like to eat alongside the potato with powerful natural defenses, farmers are able to control the amount of damage to the majority of their crop – enough damage to activate the extra growth, without excessively taxing the plant. This push-pull strategy could help farmers around the world get bigger harvests from each acre of existing farmland, without pesticides, say the researchers.
Cornell University: Kill flies by alternating pesticides, monitoring need
By Krishna Ramanujan
June 24, 2014
Old-fashioned fly swatters may be the most foolproof housefly killer, but for dairy farms, insecticides are the practical choice. Flies spread disease and a host of pathogens that cost farms hundreds of millions of dollars in annual losses.
Unfortunately, with the repeated use of the same insecticides, flies develop resistance through genetic mutations that make these products less effective.
Cornell entomologist Jeff Scott and colleagues have analyzed levels of resistance to six insecticides in flies, and they have identified the mutations that led to resistance in houseflies from cattle farms in nine states around the country.
North Carolina State University: Researchers Develop Genetic Control Mechanism for Major Livestock Pest
June 19, 2014
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique to control populations of the Australian sheep blowfly – a major livestock pest in Australia and New Zealand – by making female flies dependent upon a common antibiotic to survive.
Dr. Max Scott, professor of entomology at NC State, and his research team genetically modified lines of female Australian sheep blowflies (Lucilia cuprina) so that they required doses of tetracycline in order to live. Female blowflies that did not receive the antibiotic died in the late larval or pupal stages, before reaching adulthood. Several genetically modified lines lacking tetracycline showed 100 percent female deaths.
Scott says that the gene construct responsible for lethality in antibiotic-free diets is female-specific. Interestingly and unexpectedly, the genetically modified female larvae containing the tetracycline lethality genes also took on a crimson color due to overexpression of the linked red fluorescent protein “marker gene.” This allows scientists to tell which larvae will be females and which will be males.
North Carolina State University via Science Daily: Trap-jaw ants spreading in southeastern United States
June 18, 2014
Trap-jaw ant species are active hunters with venomous stings and jaws powerful enough to fling themselves through the air. According to new research, they are also spreading into new territory in the southeastern United States. A new paper is designed to help scientists identify which species of trap-jaw ants they're dealing with. While the paper draws on previously published research, it also includes new findings.
Colorado State University: Iconic Galapagos blue-footed boobies survival threatened
June 28, 2014
Blue-footed boobies are on the decline in the Galapagos. A new study published in Avian Conservation and Ecology indicates numbers of the iconic birds, known for their bright blue feet and propensity to burst into dance to attract mates, have fallen more than 50 percent in less than 20 years.
The drastic drop in population seems to be linked to an unexplained disappearance of sardines from the boobies’ diet. This in turn has adult boobies electing not to breed - leading to an ongoing population decline due to lack of new chicks being born.
University of Alabama at Birmingham: Fruits and vegetables: good for health, not necessarily a weight loss method
by Nicole Wyatt
une 25, 2014
It is a commonly recommended weight-loss tactic to increase the feeling of being full by consuming more fruits and vegetables, but that may be another diet recommendation dead-end, according to a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The recommended daily serving amount for adults is 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables, says the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate initiative.
Kathryn Kaiser, Ph.D., instructor in the UAB School of Public Health, and a team of investigators at UAB, including Andrew W. Brown, Ph.D., Michelle M. Bohan Brown, Ph.D., James M. Shikany, Dr.PH., and David B. Allison, Ph.D., and Purdue University investigators performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of data of more than 1200 participants in seven randomized controlled trials that focused on increasing fruit and vegetable intake to see effects on weight loss. Their results show that increased fruit and vegetable consumption per se does not reduce body weight.
University of Florida: New infections cause dormant viruses to reactivate
June 26, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The famous slogan is “A diamond is forever,” but that phrase might be better suited to herpes: Unlike most viruses, which succumb to the immune system’s attack, herpes remains in the body forever, lying in wait, sometimes reactivating years later.
Researchers have long wondered what causes herpes viruses — two strains of which are linked to cancer — to reactivate after remaining dormant once the initial infection resolves. Now a team of researchers, including two University of Florida scientists, has discovered that interactions with other infections later in life can trigger these dormant viruses to resurface and cause disease.
Understanding more about how specific pathogens interact with each other could help scientists devise new and better ways to combat these infections and the diseases they cause, the researchers write in a paper published today (June 26) in the journal Science.
University of Florida: UF part of research team that finds equine influenza virus in camels
June 24, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found evidence that an influenza A virus can jump from horses to camels – and humans could be next.
The One Health Center of Excellence for Research and Training in UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, in collaboration with U.S. and Mongolian institutions, has identified the first known case of an equine influenza virus in camels. Their findings will be published in the December issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, but an ahead of print version of the report is available here.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve been amazed at all the cross-species jumps of influenza. Now we’re finding yet another,” said Gregory C. Gray, center director and environmental and global health professor in UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions.
University of Florida: Offer kids whole grains; they’ll eat them, UF/IFAS study shows
June 23, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many parents presume their children will shun whole grains because they think they don’t like them, a University of Florida researcher says, but a new UF study may start to debunk that idea.
If whole grains are offered, kids eat them, according to a new study by researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Specifically, former graduate student Allyson Radford and two faculty members found children ate whole- and refined-grain foods in equal amounts.
“We tried to choose foods we thought kids would enjoy, such as cereal bars, macaroni and cheese and SunChips and found that they ate the ready-to-eat snack foods the most,” said Radford, one of the study’s authors. “We were interested to see if they would eat the whole-grain foods as much as the refined-grain foods, and so we were pleasantly surprised that they would eat the same amount whether the food was whole or refined.”
Florida Atlantic University via Science Daily: Crab, other crustacean shells, may hold key to preventing, treating inflammatory bowel disease
June 24, 2014
Microparticles in crab, shrimp and lobster shells have anti-inflammatory mechanisms that that could lead to the development of novel preventive and therapeutic strategies for those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease. Since these shells are abundant and a major waste in the seafood industry, they may provide an alternative to costly drugs that don't always work.
University of Maryland: University of Maryland Scientists Identify New Microbes Linked to Severe Diarrhea
June 27, 2014
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In a finding that may one day help control a major cause of death among children in developing countries, a team of researchers led by faculty from the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland School of Medicine has identified microorganisms that may trigger diarrheal disease and others that may protect against it. These microbes were not widely linked to the condition previously.
"We were able to identify interactions between microbiota that were not previously observed, and we think that some of those interactions may actually help prevent the onset of severe diarrhea," says O. Colin Stine, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
A much better understanding of these interactions is important, Stine adds, as they could lead to possible dietary interventions. Moderate to severe diarrhea (MSD) is a major cause of childhood mortality in developing countries and ranks as one of the top four causes of death among young children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
University of Mississippi: Natural Products Laboratory receives green light to begin extracting CBD-oil
By Brittain Thompson
June 17, 2014
On May 6, The Natural Products Laboratory at The University of Mississippi was given the green light to begin refining cannabis into a CBD-oil concentrate by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
This puts parents of children suffering from severe cases of epilepsy, as defined in Harper Grace’s law signed by Gov. Phil Bryant on April, 17, one step closer to having legal access to a less invasive option in treating their children.
CBD-oil, noted to hold fewer reported side-effects than medicinal marijuana, is a concentrate extracted from cannabis plants with low THC levels, the defining psychoactive compound of marijuana, and high cannabidiol, CBD, levels that have shown promise in treating those diagnosed with epilepsy. The other large difference between CBD-oil and typical current medical marijuana treatments is that the oil will be administered orally rather than smoked.
Cornell University: Immune cells found to prevent bone marrow transplant rejection
By Krishna Ramanujan
June 26, 2014
Cornell researchers have identified a type of immune system cell that prevents a patient’s body from attacking donor cells after a bone marrow transplant, a condition called graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
Such transplants are given in patients with, for example, leukemia or lymphoma or when chemotherapy destroys bone marrow.
These immune cells, called innate memory phenotype CD4+ T-cells, make a protein that suppresses the immune system from attacking newly introduced tissue.
Cornell University: For cancer patients, sugar-coated cells are deadly
A normal cell exhibits a close gap between the cell membrane and the extracellular matrix, and a relatively uniform distribution of glycopolymers and integrins in the membrane. On a cancer cell, long glycopolymers result in an expanded membrane-extracellular matrix gap, clustering of integrins and membrane bending. These physical effects lead to cell signaling pathways for enhanced cell survival.
By Anne Ju
June 25, 2014
Every living cell’s surface has a protein-embedded membrane that’s covered in polysaccharide chains – a literal sugar coating. On cancer cells, this coating is especially thick and pronounced.
A Cornell researcher has found that a cancer cell’s sugary outside is anything but sweet. The thick, slimy coating that would feel like a slug’s skin is a crucial determinant of the cell’s survival, it turns out. Consisting of long, sugar-decorated molecules called glycoproteins, the coating causes physical changes in the cell membrane that make the cell better able to thrive – leading to a more lethal cancer.
Matthew Paszek, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, led the study on glycoprotein-induced cancer cell survival, published online in Nature June 25.
University of North Carolina: Doctors not adequately informing patients of cancer screening pros, cons, study finds
June 26, 2014
Though cancer screening has come a long way, physicians still do not thoroughly discuss with patients the advantages and disadvantages of these procedures before decisions are made to undergo the screenings, according to a new study co-authored by a physician from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The study, “Lack of Shared Decision Making in Cancer Screening Discussions: Results from a National Survey,” published online by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that doctors frequently tell patients the advantages of cancer screening procedures for breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, but much less often discuss disadvantages. These practices run counter to established shared decision-making guidelines.
“Cancer screening and a number of other medical services are not all just plain benefit,” said study co-author Dr. Michael Pignone, adjunct professor of health behavior at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and professor of medicine in UNC’s School of Medicine.
“People should really know what they’re getting into,” he said.
Colorado State University: Gamers know grammar, and aren't afraid to use it
June 20, 2014
Gamers use good grammar? Surprising as it might sound, that's one the findings from studies of online gaming chat led by a CSU researcher.
The studies found that millennials – notorious for misused language and sloppy typing – are actually more accomplished communicators than many of us believed.
“Online chat – especially in games – is often thought of as eroding the typing and self-expression skills of younger people, but our study shows that they are very expressive and do pay attention to how they communicate both with text and non-verbally with their avatars,” said Rosa Mikeal Martey, the study’s lead author and a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Journalism and Technical Communication.
University of Buffalo via Science Daily: 'Bad' video game behavior increases players' moral sensitivity: May lead to pro-social behavior in real world
June 27, 2014
New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated. The current study found such guilt can lead players to be more sensitive to the moral issues they violated during game play. Other studies have established that in real life scenarios, guilt evoked by immoral behavior in the "real-world" elicits pro-social behaviors in most people.
"Rather than leading players to become less moral," Grizzard says, "this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others."
University of Utah: Are You Guilty of Posting Rude Comments to Online News Sites?
New study confirms that uncivil behavior is common online, but its sources challenge stereotypes
June 26, 2014 – Anyone who’s ever ventured into the comments section of a news website has likely observed some unfriendly exchanges. Now research from the University of Utah and the University of Arizona has confirmed just how common such behavior is.
In a new study published in the Journal of Communication, researchers analyzed more than 6,400 reader comments posted to the website of the Arizona Daily Star, the major daily newspaper in Tucson, Arizona. They found that more than 1 in 5 comments included some form of incivility, with name-calling as the most prevalent type.
“We tracked six different kinds of uncivil language, but name-calling was far and away the most common,” said Kevin Coe, assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah and one of the study’s authors. “Many people just can’t seem to avoid the impulse to go after someone else.”
The study also showed that these types of commenters do not fit the stereotype of a few angry individuals who spend hours at their computers blasting others and making baseless claims. In fact, incivility was more common among infrequent commenters. Equally surprising, uncivil commenters were just as likely to use evidence in support of their claims as were the more respectful individuals.
Cornell University: Robots learn from (even bad) human language
By Bill Steele
June 24, 2014
Robots are getting smarter, but they still need step-by-step instructions for tasks they haven't performed before. Before you can tell your household robot, “Make me a bowl of ramen noodles,” you'll have to teach it how to do that. Since we're not all computer programmers, we'd prefer to give those instructions in English, just as we'd lay out a task for a child.
But human language can be ambiguous, and some instructors forget to mention important details. Suppose you told your household robot how to prepare ramen noodles, but forgot to mention heating the water or tell it where the stove is.
In his Robot Learning Lab, Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science, is teaching robots to understand instructions in natural language from various speakers, account for missing information and adapt to the environment at hand.
Cornell University: Girls’ perceptions drive sexual behavior
By Karene Booker
June 23, 2014
Genetic factors related to how sexually mature a girl thinks she is influence her sexual behavior, above and beyond her actual physical development, reports a new study.
The study, published in June in Developmental Psychology (Vol. 50:6), is the first to directly test the link between pubertal timing and involvement in specific sexual behaviors, disentangling the genetic and environmental influences shaping adolescent sexual timing and behavior, the authors say. Their findings indicate that unique genetic factors influencing how mature girls think they are predict their engagement in dating, romantic sex and casual sex, whereas genetic factors associated with the timing of puberty predict the age when girls first become sexually active.
“We’ve known for a long time that when kids go through puberty is strongly influenced by genetic factors, but there’s more to puberty than just biology,” says Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and recipient of this year’s Young Investigator’s Award from the Society for Research on Adolescence.
“Dramatic social and environmental changes take place as kids transition into the new roles that come with sexual maturity; it turns out that how girls interpret and respond to these changes is also genetically influenced,” Mendle says.
Colorado State University: Preserving cultural heritage during war - it's all in the cards
By Taylor Jaquez
June 27, 014
War has its casualties, and for centuries combat zones have stacked the cards against cultural heritage preservation.
But a novel project by CSU’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) to raise awareness among troops of the cultural heritage of regions where they are serving is gaining new popularity with help from George Clooney.
annetteboardman is taking a well-deserved night off.
University of Wisconsin via Science Daily: The shocking truth about electric fish: Genomic basis for the convergent evolution of electric organs
June 26, 2014
Scientists have found how the electric fish's jolt evolved. Biologists identified the regulatory molecules involved in the genetic and developmental pathways that electric fish have used to convert a simple muscle into an organ capable of generating a potent electrical field.
Utah State University: Utah State Scientists Part of International Sheep Genome Sequencing Team
June 19, 2014
An international team of researchers has sequenced the sheep genome for the first time, providing insight into how the animal evolved and providing a valuable resource for future research. Noelle Cockett, Utah State University executive vice president and provost and professor in the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences, is one of more than 70 co-authors whose research on the sheep genome was published in the June 6 edition of the journal Science. Chunhua Wu, a postdoctoral fellow in Cockett’s lab is also among the study’s co-authors.
“The sheep genome sequence project spanned seven years and included at least a hundred people from across the world,” Cockett said. “Each person contributed their expertise in a particular aspect of the project, including collecting samples from key animals, harvesting the DNA and RNA, setting up the sequencing reactions and aligning the sequences into the assembly.”
Having a fully sequenced sheep genome is predicted to advance research in human and veterinary medicine, as well as act as an important resource for those involved in livestock production. The team’s research compared the newly sequenced sheep genome with known genetic traits of other animals, including goats, cattle and humans. By pinpointing where key changes were found in the sheep DNA, scientists were able to identify the genetic mutations that make domesticated sheep unique from their close relative, the goat, and other mammals.
“The final step was the most time consuming because this was the very first arrangement of the entire sheep genome sequence in a continuous line,” Cockett said.
University of Royal Halloway London (UK) via Science Daily: New theory on cause of ice age 2.6 million years ago
New research has provided a major new theory on the cause of the ice age that covered large parts of the Northern Hemisphere 2.6 million years ago.
June 27, 2014
New research in the journal Nature's Scientific Reports has provided a major new theory on the cause of the ice age that covered large parts of the Northern Hemisphere 2.6 million years ago.
The study, co-authored by Dr Thomas Stevens, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, found a previously unknown mechanism by which the joining of North and South America changed the salinity of the Pacific Ocean and caused major ice sheet growth across the Northern Hemisphere.
The change in salinity encouraged sea ice to form which in turn created a change in wind patterns, leading to intensified monsoons. These provided moisture that caused an increase in snowfall and the growth of major ice sheets, some of which reached 3km thick.
Monash University (Australia) via Science Daily: Australia: Victoria's volcano count rises
June 26, 2014
Geologists have discovered three previously unrecorded volcanoes in volcanically active southeast Australia. The new research gives a detailed picture of an area of volcanic centers already known to geologists in the region.
University of Maryland: Redox, UMD, Microsoft, Trans-Tech to Develop Transformational Natural Gas Fuel Cells Through $5 Million in ARPA-E Funding
June 23, 2014
COLLEGE PARK, Md. —Redox Power Systems LLC, the University of Maryland, Microsoft Corporation and Trans-Tech Inc. (a subsidiary of Skyworks Solutions Inc.) are teaming to develop transformational fuel cells through a $5 million cooperative agreement funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, company and university officials jointly announce today.
The goal of the project is to further advance Redox’s high-performance fuel cells and drive them to market-readiness for a broader range of applications than the company’s 25 kW Cube product, including low-cost distributed power generation (and heating and cooling) for homes, and for Microsoft—which is providing additional support for the project—energy-efficient datacenters. The technological advances resulting from this project will open the door for additional applications such as transportation.
“This project will finally make fuel cells an affordable technology,” said Professor Eric Wachsman, University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, who is also a Redox co-founder. “All of the elements we are going to work on—lower temperature, higher power density, faster startup time and load following—these will make fuel cells easier to sell by bringing their cost down even further. It accelerates everything.”
University of Cambridge (UK) via Science Daily: New superconductor world record set
June 26, 2014
A new record for a trapped field in a superconductor, beating a record that has stood for more than a decade, could herald the arrival of materials in a broad range of fields. Researchers managed to 'trap' a magnetic field with a strength of 17.6 Tesla -- roughly 100 times stronger than the field generated by a typical fridge magnet -- in a high temperature gadolinium barium copper oxide (GdBaCuO) superconductor, beating the previous record by 0.4 Tesla.
SUNY Binghamton: Physicists’ findings improve advanced material
By Rachel Coker
Published on June 26, 2014
A new technique developed by a Binghamton University physicist and his colleagues will improve the quality of flexible, conductive, transparent glass. (The sort that’s needed for Minority Report-style giant computer displays.)
Louis Piper’s research focuses on metal oxides, a class of materials that includes some of the best insulators as well as some of the best conductors in use today. He and his colleagues, writing this month in the journal Applied Physics Letters, suggest a new method for manufacturing amorphous indium gallium zinc oxide (a-IGZO), a ceramic that looks like glass and can behave like metal, or even like silicon.
Companies such as Sharp and LG already use a-IGZO in some high-end displays. It’s also found in Apple’s new iPad Air. But it has been difficult to maintain transparency and conductivity: In some samples, Piper said, the material took on a brown or yellow tinge that would harm the display’s performance.
University of Southern Mississippi: Southern Miss Research Team Studying New Cancer Drug Therapy
June 26, 2014
Polymer researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi are conducting studies that could revolutionize the drug delivery process for cancer patients.
A research team under the direction of Dr. Daniel Savin is hoping to create a cancer treatment that will deliver drug therapies to targeted locations, instead of current treatments that impact almost every organ in the body.
“The idea here is we want to create a polymeric vehicle that can do the same job, but only deliver to the cancer tumor,” said Savin, assistant professor of polymer science.
Cornell University: Move over, silicon? New transistor material tested
By Anne Ju
June 27, 2014
For the ever-shrinking transistor, there may be a new game in town. Cornell researchers have demonstrated promising electronic performance from a semiconducting compound with properties that could prove a worthy companion to silicon.
New data on electronic properties of an atomically thin crystal of molybdenum disulfide are reported online in Science June 27 by Kin Fai Mak, a postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. His co-authors are Paul McEuen, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics; Jiwoong Park, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology; and physics graduate student Kathryn McGill.
Recent interest in molybdenum disulfide for transistors has been inspired in part by similar studies on graphene – one atom-thick carbon in an atomic formation like chicken wire. Although super strong, really thin and an excellent conductor, graphene doesn’t allow for easy switching on and off of current, which is at the heart of what a transistor does.
North Carolina State University: ‘Sensing Skin’ Quickly Detects Cracks, Damage in Concrete Structures
June 23, 2014
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Eastern Finland have developed new “sensing skin” technology designed to serve as an early warning system for concrete structures, allowing authorities to respond quickly to damage in everything from nuclear facilities to bridges.
“The sensing skin could be used for a wide range of structures, but the impetus for the work was to help ensure the integrity of critical infrastructure such as nuclear waste storage facilities,” says Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.
“The idea is to identify problems quickly so that they can be addressed before they become big problems and – in the case of some critical infrastructure – so that public safety measures can be implemented,” Pour-Ghaz says.
The skin is an electrically conductive coat of paint that can be applied to new or existing structures. The paint can incorporate any number of conductive materials, such as copper, making it relatively inexpensive.
Science Crime Scenes
University of Central Florida via Science Daily: Who's your daddy? Team programs computer to find out
June 19, 2014
A facial recognition tool has been programed by researchers that promises to be useful in rapidly matching pictures of children with their biological parents and in potentially identifying photos of missing children as they age. The researchers said: "We wanted to see whether a machine could answer questions, such as 'Do children resemble their parents?' 'Do children resemble one parent more than another?' and 'What parts of the face are more genetically inspired?'"
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Alabama at Birmingham: UAB study says it is time to abandon obesity myths
by Bob Shepard
June 23, 2014
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say it is time to abandon some popular but erroneous obesity myths. In an article published June 23 in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, the research team presents nine obesity myths and 10 commonly held but unproven presumptions that the authors suggest lead to poor policy decisions, inaccurate public health recommendations and wasted resources.
The work is an expansion of a study first published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 31, 2013.
“Obesity is a topic on which many views are strongly held in the absence of scientific evidence to support those views, and some views are strongly held despite evidence to contradict those views,” said David Allison, Ph.D., associate dean for science in the UAB School of Public Health and senior author of the paper. “We refer to the former as presumptions and the latter as myths.”
SUNY Stony Brook: Professor Crease Argues for Science-based Policymaking in “Daily Star” Article
June 20, 2014
Robert P. Crease, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, argues that 21st-century politics shifts away from science-based policymaking in an article featured in The Daily Star. He states that today’s politicians tend to ignore scientific findings and instead make values the center of public-policy debates, which could be potentially disastrous.
“Today, acting against scientific evidence is politically expedient: it offers left-wing and right-wing politicians alike an opportunity to adopt an anti-elite, populist image and court a dissatisfied public,” he writes. “But this approach endangers public health and the planet, and some scientists are beginning to worry about the possibility of a new ‘dark age of political feudalism.’”
Crease acknowledges that science is far from perfect, but argues that scientists have struggled to institutionalize a process that involves extensive observation, experimentation and independent review. He fears today’s politicians, who are only interested in posturing as they proclaim noble goals that are based on intuition and cannot be achieved.
University of Colorado: CU-Boulder, Harvard and Northwestern launch center to study how educational leaders use research
June 25, 2014
The Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education has awarded nearly $5 million to the University of Colorado Boulder, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University and Northwestern University to create a new center that will study how educational leaders—including school district supervisors and principals—use research when making decisions and what can be done to make research findings more useful and relevant for those leaders.
“We know very little about how people in district offices and schools actually use evidence from research studies to inform their decisions,” said CU-Boulder School of Education Professor Bill Penuel, lead investigator for the project.
The new National Center for Research in Policy and Practice aims to change that by focusing on three areas: measuring current research use in schools, identifying what conditions affect when research is used, and determining ways that research could be made more meaningful for educational leaders through long-term partnerships between researchers and practitioners.
University of Southern Mississippi: Southern Miss Strives to Lessen Environmental Impact
By Nikki Smith
June 25, 2014
As part of the Office of Sustainability’s Climate Action Plan, The University of Southern Mississippi is working toward climate neutrality -- a net zero carbon footprint by 2050. The goal is to have zero impact on the environment from campus operations.
According to Haley McMinn, assistant director of sustainability at Southern Miss, the vast majority of carbon emissions on campus come from building operations, large square footage and transportation.
“It is an important and necessary goal that our institution and our office takes very seriously,” McMinn said. “In an environmental and economic climate where things are beginning to change, resources are getting more expensive and budgets are getting tighter, it is imperative that we succeed to remain viable as an institution for decades to come.”
University of North Carolina: Pushing for environmental change that also makes economic sense
June 18, 2014
When she was still in high school, Jenna Koester of Burlington, N.C., sat in on a UNC summer school class on environment and society.
“I remember that the discussion was about the environmental disaster that caused Easter Island to become uninhabitable to humans,” she said.
Koester was invited to attend by Greg Gangi, associate director for education at the Institute for the Environment, who was hoping to recruit Koester to major in environmental science.
“He talked to me about the opportunities that UNC could provide to someone with my interests. I was sold, and Dr. Gangi has been my adviser ever since,” said Koester, who majored in environmental science and mathematics and graduated in May.
Science Writing and Reporting
Cornell University: Francis Moon publishes history of innovation book
June 23, 2014
Francis Moon, the Joseph C. Ford Professor of Engineering Emeritus, has published his ninth book, “Social Networks in the History of Innovation and Invention” (Springer 2013).
The book uses network theory to examine the growth of new technologies and scientific theories including the steam engine, internal combustion engine, aviation, radio, air conditioning and chaos theory. He proposes that new innovations are as much a result of the growth of social networks of people and institutions rather than the genius of a single inventor.
University of Utah: Why do Scientists Still Debate About Nature and Nurture?
June 23, 2014 – If scientists agree it’s not nature versus nurture; rather, it’s the interaction of nature and nurture, why does a debate still exist?
“Now, in 2014, the scientists who study the nature and nurture of depression can’t agree,” said James Tabery, historian and philosopher at the University of Utah. “They argue at scientific conferences, in journal editorials and in news reports covering the controversy. How can scientists from all over the world look at the same data and results but then reach such different conclusions?”
According to Tabery’s new book, “Beyond Versus: The Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture,” scientists can’t agree because they’re not just arguing about data and results. Rather, they’re engaged in a fundamentally philosophical debate about what “the interaction of nature and nurture” actually means.
Science is Cool
Auburn University: Auburn’s golden eagle Tiger, War Eagle VI, dies June 18 at age 34
June 18, 2014
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Famed golden eagle Tiger, a symbol of the Auburn University spirit for nearly 30 years, died June 18, 2014. At 34, she was believed to be among the oldest golden eagles in captivity.
On Aug. 31, 2000, Tiger, who was also known as War Eagle VI, was the first eagle to fly free in Jordan-Hare Stadium. For seven years, she flew at home football games and was retired following her 2006 flight at the Auburn-Georgia game.
Nova is War Eagle VII, and he, along with Spirit, an American bald eagle, now fly during pregame ceremonies at home football games.
Cornell University: Youth sports 'spill over' to career success
By H. Roger Segelken
June 17, 2014
So you weren’t team captain – in fact, you mostly warmed the bench – and the Tinytown Tigers never led the league.
No matter. Proudly list high school sports experience on every résumé, now and for the next 50 years of your career. Past participation in competitive team sports marks you as a winner in the competition for better jobs, a Cornell biodata analysis has determined.
“Research with current workers and with retirees tell us: Participation in competitive youth sports ‘spills over’ to occupationally advantageous traits that persist across a person’s life,” says Kevin M. Kniffin, postdoctoral research associate in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.