Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and ScottyUrb, guest editors maggiejean and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.
Between now and the end of the primary/caucus season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week (or in the upcoming weeks if there is no primary or caucus that week). Tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from universities in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wyoming (list from Politics1.com).
This week's featured story comes from the Washington Post with video from CNN.
Neil Armstrong, first man to step on the moon, dies at 82
By Paul Duggan, Updated: Saturday, August 25, 4:00 PM
Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who marked an epochal achievement in exploration with “one small step” from the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969, becoming the first person to walk on the moon, died Aug. 25 in the Cincinnati area. He was 82.
Armstrong, first man on the moon, dies
His family announced the death in a statement and attributed it to “complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.”
A taciturn engineer and test pilot who was never at ease with his fame, Mr. Armstrong was among the most heroized Americans of the 1960s Cold War space race. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he is noted for saying as he stepped on the moon.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died, his family said Saturday. He was 82.
A moment of silence, please.
And now, many moments of science over the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
If We Could Land a Man on the Moon...
Neil Armstrong, August 5 1930-August 25 2012
Women in Science: Maria Mitchell 1818-1889
by Desert Scientist
The Perpetual Ocean still holds a few surprises
Breaking: Neil Armstrong Has Passed Away (Updated X4)
What Curiosity Can Do, Part 2.
Arctic sea ice extent crashes to record low
* NEW DAY * - Most Important Invention of the 20th Century
This week in science: An ill wind blows
Bill Maher DESTROYS the GOP and their platform
Getting to Know Your Solar System (19): Jupiter (Vol. 1)
Insane in the Chromatophores
During experiments on the axons of the Woods Hole squid (loligo pealei), we tested our cockroach leg stimulus protocol (an iPod) on the squid's chromatophores. The results were both interesting and beautiful.
Above video featured in: Squid Skin Busts a Move: Gotta-See Video
on Discovery News.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
CNN: Four legendary astronauts are awarded the Congressional G...
Astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin are presented the Congressional Gold Medal.
Although CNN posted this video today, this ceremony took place on November 16, 2011, according to the Associated Press via the Miami Herald
Space.com on YouTube: Neil Armstrong's 'One Small Step' That Changed The World | Video
When Apollo 11 touched down on the Lunar surface the whole world stopped. Relive the moment when humanity took its giant leap forward.
NASA Television on YouTube: Curiosity's First Drive on This Week @NASA
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has made its first footprints on Mars. Curiosity completed a short drive during which rover drivers at The Jet Propulsion Laboratory commanded Curiosity to move forward, perform a series of turns and move in reverse. The six-wheeled one-ton rover traveled roughly 20 feet from the spot where it made its landing in early August. Meanwhile the Curiosity science team has named the landing site after the late Ray Bradbury, an influential author and a huge proponent of Mars exploration. Bradbury, who passed away earlier this year, would have been 92 on the day of the announcement. Also, NASA has selected a new mission, set to launch in 2016, that will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars, Engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center are testing early scale models of NASA's Space Launch System, The Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle undergoes its first vertical drop test and more!
Space.com on YouTube: hubble Telescope's Hidden Treasures Revealed | Video
Astronomer Joe Liske (aka Dr J) presents the winners of the Hidden Treasures image processing competition, a 2012 contest that challenged the public to find spectacular Hubble Space Telescope images that were never released. See the results here.
Space.com on YouTube: 2299 Alien Planets Orbiting One Sun? | Video
That's what the Harvard mind of Alex Parker devised when he put together an animation of most of the Kepler Space Telescope's planet candidates orbiting one star. Distance from each planets actual host star and relative speed is preserved.
Space.com on YouTube: What's Inside Mars? NASA's InSight Mission Will Probe Deep | Video
Launching in 2016 and based on the successful Phoenix lander, NASA's next Mars mission will look for clues to the formation of the red planet and its rocky siblings. Why, for example, does Mars exhibit little or no plate tectonics?
Space.com on YouTube: NASA Finds Dinosaur Footprint - On NASA Property | Video
A cretaceous-era nodosaur track was found by dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford at the Goddard Space Flight Center in 2012.
NASA Explorer on YouTube: NASA | Yellowstone Burn Recovery
A combination of lightning, drought and human activity caused fires to scorch more than one-third of Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1988. Within a year, burn scars cast a sharp outline on the 793,880 acres affected by fire, distinguishing wide sections of recovering forest, meadows, grasslands and wetlands from unburned areas of the park. After more than two decades, satellite instruments can still detect these scars from space.
Landsat Project Scientist Jeff Masek has been studying the recovery of the forest after the 1988 Yellowstone fires. In the video below, he talks about how Landsat satellites detect the burn scars from space and distinguish them from healthy, un-burned forest and from new growth.
NPR: How The Smokey Bear Effect Led To Raging Wildfires
by Christopher Joyce
The history of fire in the American Southwest is buried in a catacomb of rooms under the bleachers of the football stadium at the University of Arizona.
Here rules professor Thomas Swetnam, tree ring expert. You want to read a tree ring? You go to Tom. He's a big, burly guy with a beard and a true love for trees.
Tree sections are stacked floor to ceiling. They're like rounds chopped from a carrot, the carrot being a tree trunk. They're the size of dinner plates. When the football team scores, they rattle on their shelves.
Growth rings tell how old the sectioned tree was. But when Swetnam holds up one, he points to something else: fire scars.
NPR: Telescope Innovator Shines His Genius On New Fields
by Joe Palca
August 23, 2012
You may not be familiar with the name Roger Angel, but if there were ever a scientist with a creative streak a mile wide, it would be he.
Angel runs the mirror lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I dropped by in January as Angel and his colleagues were about to cast one of their enormous mirrors 25-feet across. The process Angel invented solves a problem that had confounded telescope makers: how to make a mirror that big out of a solid block of glass.
Angel solved the problem with a design the creates a piece of glass with a hollow, honeycomb interior. The process involves loading glass onto a honeycomb-shaped mold in a giant rotating furnace. When the temperature reaches 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit - a point known as high fire - the glass melts and slumps into the mold.
Science Magazine: Generation Gaps Suggest Ancient Human-Ape Split
by Ann Gibbons on 13 August 2012, 3:05 PM
We aren’t the only primates with a big generation gap. Human parents are, on average, a whopping 29 years older than their kids. That had been considered unusually long for a primate, but a new study reveals that chimpanzees and gorillas have their own large generation gaps, about 25 years and 19 years, respectively. The findings also indicate that our ancestors split from those of chimpanzees at least 7 million to 8 million years ago, more than 1 million years earlier than previously thought.
If the ancestors of humans, chimps, and gorillas parted company earlier than expected, it would give more validity to claims that the fossils purporting to be the earliest members of the human family, such as the 6 million to 7 million-year-old Sahelanthropus tchadensis from Chad, really are hominins, the group that includes humans and their ancestors but not the African apes. The longer generation times will also influence evolutionary models on skeletal and dental development that assume that human ancestors had more rapid growth patterns, similar to apes, than to living humans.
The study has yielded "the most accurate estimates of generation length yet possible for wild chimpanzees and gorillas," says paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was not involved in the work. While these precise dates for both generation times and the split between lineages may be modified as more data is collected from more apes, adds evolutionary biologist Wen-Hsiung Li of the University of Chicago, the new work is significant because it "provides a novel approach to the long-standing issue of the divergence time between human and chimp."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Georgia Tech: More Clues About Why Chimps and Humans Are Genetically Different
Posted August 23, 2012
Ninety-six percent of a chimpanzee’s genome is the same as a human’s. It’s the other 4 percent, and the vast differences, that pique the interest of Georgia Tech’s Soojin Yi. For instance, why do humans have a high risk of cancer, even though chimps rarely develop the disease?
In research published in September’s American Journal of Human Genetics, Yi looked at brain samples of each species. She found that differences in certain DNA modifications, called methylation, may contribute to phenotypic changes. The results also hint that DNA methylation plays an important role for some disease-related phenotypes in humans, including cancer and autism.
“Our study indicates that certain human diseases may have evolutionary epigenetic origins,” says Yi, a faculty member in the School of Biology. “Such findings, in the long term, may help to develop better therapeutic targets or means for some human diseases.“
BBC: Bugs sunbathe to 'stay healthy'
By Ella Davies Reporter, BBC Nature
Bugs that sunbathe do so to stay healthy and fight off germs, according to scientists.
Western boxelder bugs are considered 'pests' by some in the US where large groups sheltering from cool weather can enter homes.
The insects are known to release strong-smelling chemical compounds when grouping together in sunlit patches.
Researchers have found that these chemicals help to protect the bugs by killing the germs that live on leaves.
BBC: Scotland's kittiwake population 'still failing to breed'
Breeding colonies of kittiwakes are going, says a RSPB Scotland report
Scotland's internationally important kittiwake population continues to have breeding problems, a report by RSPB Scotland has suggested.
It said one breeding colony was extinct and others were predicted to go within three years.
Numbers have more than halved since the mid 1980s across the UK, and the Scottish breeding population has dropped by almost two-thirds.
The figures come from the RSPB ahead of a full report due in the autumn.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for thes stories.
Wired Science: Tiny Green Bug May Be First Photosynthetic Animal
By Mark Brown, Wired UK
August 20, 2012
Pea aphids may have an unprecedented ability to harvest sunlight, and use the energy for metabolic purposes. It would make it the only species of animal known to have photosynthesis-like powers.
It comes down to carotenoids, which are a type of pigment used in animals for crucial functions like vision, bone growth and vitamin production. All known animals obtain these by eating the plants, algae and fungi that naturally synthesize the orange-red compounds.
Back in 2010, University of Arizona biologists researcher Nancy Moran and Tyler Jarvik discovered that pea aphids can make their own carotenoids, like a plant. “What happened is a fungal gene got into an aphid and was copied,”said Moran in a press release.
University of Arizona: UA Surgeons First to Remove Whole Pancreas Combined with Auto-Islet Transplant
Chronic pancreatitis is a disease that progressively destroys pancreatic tissue, causing pain that frequently requires hospitalization and severely compromises quality of life.
By Jo Marie Gellerman, Department of Surgery
August 24, 2012
University of Arizona surgeons at The University of Arizona Medical Center have performed the world’s first fully robotic total pancreatectomy with a successful simultaneous autologous islet transplant on a woman suffering from chronic pancreatitis.
“Robotically removing the whole pancreas is more complex than removing part of the organ because the gland is in close proximity with the digestive tract, biliary tract and major arteries and veins such as aorta, inferior vena cava and portal vein,” explained Galvani.
“Other attempts to perform this procedure robotically have been made, but were incomplete,” said Gruessner. “We are the first to successfully perform all three stages of the procedure robotically: removing the entire pancreas, reconstructing the gastrointestinal tract and transplanting the islets.”
Arizona State University: Obesity patients report positive life changes after weight loss surgery
Health issues that study respondents reported improvements in included diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol level and sleep apnea. Respondents also cited increased mobility as one of the positive aspects of having surgery to lose weight.
Posted: August 21, 2012
New research shows that people who have bariatric surgery to treat obesity report an overall improvement in quality of life – from their social lives to health conditions – after surgery. Researchers from Arizona State University presented their findings on Aug. 20 at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
The paper, “Social and Health Changes Following Bariatric Surgery,” examines how patients who had the surgery fared afterward.
“We thought there would be more negative reactions to the surgery, but the response was very positive,” said study co-author Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld, ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics professor. “Most people had improvements in chronic health problems.”
Georgia Tech: Automated Worm Sorter Detects Subtle Differences in Tiny Animals Used in Genetic Research
Posted August 19, 2012
Research into the genetic factors behind certain disease mechanisms, illness progression and response to new drugs is frequently carried out using tiny multi-cellular animals such as nematodes, fruit flies or zebra fish. Often, progress relies on the microscopic visual examination of many individual animals to detect mutants worthy of further study.
Now, scientists have demonstrated an automated system that uses artificial intelligence and cutting-edge image processing to rapidly examine large numbers of individual Caenorhabditis elegans, a species of nematode widely used in biological research. Beyond replacing existing manual examination steps using microfluidics and automated hardware, the system’s ability to detect subtle differences from worm-to-worm – without human intervention – can identify genetic mutations that might not have been detected otherwise.
By allowing thousands of worms to be examined autonomously in a fraction of the time required for conventional manual screening, the technique could change the way that high throughput genetic screening is carried out using C. elegans.
University of Georgia: West Nile numbers up this year; UGA gives tips on mosquito protection
August 24, 2012
Athens, Ga. - Entomologists and public health officials are worried that a near record number of Georgians will be sickened with West Nile virus in 2012. The virus usually peaks between Aug. 15 and Sep. 15 in Georgia but had an earlier start this year.
"Having 14 human cases by mid-August is very unusual," said Elmer Gray, a public health entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "We're just entering peak mosquito season-and certainly peak West Nile virus season-and it will keep going on until the days start cooling off and getting shorter."
Nationwide, public health officials have reported 1,118 West Nile virus diagnoses in 38 states, with Texas bearing the brunt of the outbreak with 537 cases and 16 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health officials in Dallas County, Texas, have declared a public health emergency as they grapple with the mosquito-born, flu-like illness, according to a news release issued by Dallas County.
BBC: Science adviser warns climate target 'out the window'
By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News
One of the government's most senior scientific advisers has said that efforts to stop a sharp rise in global temperatures were now "unrealistic".
Prof Sir Bob Watson said that any hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C was "out the window".
He said that the rise could be as high as 5C - with dire consequences.
Sir Bob added the Chancellor, George Osborne, should back efforts to cut the UK's CO2 emissions.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Alaska, Fairbanks: Experiment Farm finds corn thrives in Fairbanks
While the Midwest corn yields are suffering immensely due to the worst drought in 50 years, corn is thriving in, of all places, Fairbanks, Alaska.
At the Fairbanks Experiment Farm on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, Meriam Karlsson, horticulture professor, is not very surprised at the abundant corn crop. It’s a little earlier than usual, but the ears are beautiful…and tasty.
“All it needs is heat,” Karlsson said. She started the corn in the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences greenhouse and got the transplants in the ground as early in May as she could. “It usually produces by the end of August so it’s a little early,” she said.
LiveScience: Natural Disasters in Ancient Egypt Revealed
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 16 August 2012 Time: 12:36 PM ET
Researchers say they've traced a record of ancient Egypt's droughts and fires with fossil pollen and charcoal deposits preserved in the Nile Delta. The record provides evidence for historic climate catastrophes, including a huge drought linked to the downfall of Egypt's Old Kingdom, the era sometimes known as the Age of the Pyramids.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
KVOA-TV via MSNBC at MSN: Sleep expert says blue light from screens may keep us up at night
By Ian Cross
updated 8/22/2012 1:49:43 PM ET
TUCSON - Addicted to your iPad? Tethered to your tablet? You're not alone! Millions of us are, and doctors say that could be the reason why so many of us are having problems falling asleep at night.
Sure, these gadgets have made us masters at multi-tasking: surfing the web, checking and sending emails at all hours, and texting late into the night - but the price we pay in lost productivity the following day may not be worth it.
Why so late? Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy with University of Arizona Medical Center says: blame it on the blue light!
LiveScience: Most Neanderthals Were Right-Handed Like Us
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Right-handed humans vastly outnumber lefties by a ratio of about nine to one, and the same may have been true for Neanderthals. Researchers say right-hand dominance in the extinct species suggests that, like humans, they also had the capacity for language.
A new analysis of the skeleton of a 20-something Neanderthal man confirms that he was a righty like most of his European caveman cousins whose remains have been studied by scientists (16 of 18 specimens). Dubbed "Regourdou," the skeleton was discovered in 1957 in France, not far from the famous network of caves at Lascaux.
BBC: English language 'originated in Turkey'
By Jonathan Ball BBC News
Modern Indo-European languages - which include English - originated in Turkey about 9,000 years ago, researchers say.
Their findings differ from conventional theory that these languages originated 5,000 years ago in south-west Russia.
The New Zealand researchers used methods developed to study virus epidemics to create family trees of ancient and modern Indo-European tongues to pinpoint where and when the language family first arose.
Their study is reported in Science.
LiveScience via MSNBC: Opening secret tomb of China's first emperor waits for science
No one has ever been in mausoleum from 210 B.C. on hill guarded by poisonous mercury
By Clara Moskowitz
Buried deep under a hill in central China, surrounded by an underground moat of poisonous mercury, lies an entombed emperor who's been undisturbed for more than two millennia.
The tomb holds the secrets of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died on Sept. 10, 210 B.C., after conquering six warring states to create the first unified nation of China.
The answers to a number of historical mysteries may lie buried inside that tomb, but whether modern people will ever see inside this mausoleum depends not just on the Chinese government, but on science.
BBC: Bornais finds shed light on Iron Age and Viking life
By Steven McKenzie BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter
Powerful figures from the late Iron Age through to the end of the Vikings were drawn to a sandy plain on South Uist, according to archaeologists.
Bornais, on the west side of the island, has the remains of a large farmstead and a major Norse settlement.
The area has produced large numbers of finds, including what have been described as exotic items from abroad.
Green marble from Greece, ivory from Greenland and bronze pins from Ireland have been among the finds.
A piece of bone marked with an ogham inscription, an ancient text that arrived in Scotland from Ireland, was also found.
LiveScience: Grave of King Richard III May Be Hidden Under Parking Lot
Date: 23 August 2012
King Richard III of England had the honor of being memorialized in a William Shakespeare play after his death in battle in 1485. Now, modern-day archaeologists are on the hunt for the medieval king's physical resting place.
The University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society have joined forces to search for the grave of Richard III, thought to be under a parking lot for city council offices. The team will use ground-penetrating radar to search for the ideal spots to dig.
Xinhua: Estimated 30,000 antiques to be salvaged from sunken ship
English.news.cn 2012-08-19 17:19:40
GUANGZHOU, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- More than 30,000 pieces of antiques are expected to be salvaged from Nan'ao-1, an ancient merchant vessel that sank about 500 years ago off the coast of Guangdong Province.
Upon the conclusion of an underwater archaeological mission, about 10,000 pieces of newly salvaged antiques will be exhibited in the Nan'ao Museum in Shantou, said Huang Yingtao, director of the museum.
The salvage operation, which started in June, was suspended due to the effects of typhoon Kai-Tak, which made landfall in the coastal area of Guangdong at noon on Friday.
This round of underwater archaeological work on Nan'ao-1 will finish by the end of September, said Cui Yong, head of the team of archaeologists.
CTV: Early trade post found under Edmonton power plant
Published Friday, Aug. 10, 2012 1:22PM EDT
Construction crews in Edmonton have found evidence of the city’s first settlement, believed to date back to 1802.
What construction crews thought was just a trench is now being considered the discovery of the city’s first fur trading fort, under the city’s Rossdale Power Plant.
Archeologists digging at the site discovered what is believed to be the remains of a trading post’s outer stockade wall trench.
The discovery was made underneath the concrete floor of the power plant’s demolished machine shop, a few hundred metres from where a known burial ground was previously found on the Rossdale Power Plant property.
BBC: Scott's wrecked ship Terra Nova found off Greenland
By Paul Rincon Science editor, BBC News website
The wreck of the ship that carried Captain Robert Scott on his doomed expedition to the Antarctic a century ago has been discovered off Greenland.
The SS Terra Nova was found by a team from a US research company.
Scott and his party set off from Cardiff aboard the Terra Nova in 1910 with the aim of becoming the first expedition to reach the South Pole.
The ship had a life after the polar trek, sinking off Greenland's south coast in 1943.
It had been on a journey to deliver supplies to base stations in the Arctic when it was damaged by ice. The Terra Nova's crew was saved by the US Coast Guard cutter Southwind.
Associated Press via MSNBC: Israeli archaeologist unearths secrets of Nazi death camp
Infamous Sobibor was buried, but little by little, map of site where 250,000 died comes out
By Aron Heller
KIRYAT MALACHI, Israel — When Israeli archaeologist Yoram Haimi decided to investigate his family's unknown Holocaust history, he turned to the skill he knew best: He began to dig.
After learning that two of his uncles were murdered in the infamous Sobibor death camp, he embarked on a landmark excavation project that is shining new light on the workings of one of the most notorious Nazi killing machines, including pinpointing the location of the gas chambers where hundreds of thousands were killed.
Sobibor, in eastern Poland, marks perhaps the most vivid example of the "Final Solution," the Nazi plot to wipe out European Jewry. Unlike other camps that had at least a facade of being prison or labor camps, Sobibor and the neighboring camps Belzec and Treblinka were designed specifically for exterminating Jews. Victims were transported there in cattle cars and gassed to death almost immediately.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
Arizona State University: Multiple factors, including climate change, led to ancient Maya collapse
Posted: August 21, 2012
A new analysis of complex interactions between humans and the environment preceding the 9th century collapse and abandonment of the Central Maya Lowlands in the Yucatán Peninsula points to a series of events – some natural, like climate change; some human-made, including large-scale landscape alterations and shifts in trade routes – that have lessons for contemporary decision-makers and sustainability scientists.
In their revised model of the collapse of the ancient Maya, social scientists B.L. “Billie” Turner and Jeremy “Jerry” A. Sabloff provide an up-to-date, human-environment systems theory in which they put together the degree of environmental and economic stress in the area that served as a trigger or tipping point for the Central Maya Lowlands.
The co-authors described the Classic Period of the Lowland Maya (CE 300-800) as a “highly complex civilization organized into networks of city-states,” in their perspective article published Aug. 21 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Arizona State University: Medieval best-seller explores morality through science
"The Moral Treatise on the Eye" combines scientific thought with concepts of moral theology. This blending of disciplines is part of what appealed to ASU English professor Richard Newhauser, who recently published a translation of the text.
Posted: August 22, 2012
Imagine a stick partially submerged in a pool of water. It appears to be broken at the point where water meets air, but in fact it is in one piece. This optical illusion is called refraction: as light passes from one medium to another, it bends and changes speed based on each medium’s refractive index, causing the stick in water to appear bent.
Most people are familiar with the scientific definition of refraction. But have you ever considered it as a moral concept? Say there’s a man on the street digging through a dumpster. You might see him as being “broken.” But as refraction teaches us, things are not always as they appear.
The idea that scientific principles might also have philosophical applications is explored in "The Moral Treatise on the Eye," a text written in the late 13th century by Peter of Limoges. "The Moral Treatise" is a compilation of short narratives, or exempla, meant to help preachers deliver sermons. Each chapter offers a piece of knowledge about the field of optics. Peter of Limoges first explains the concept scientifically, and then gives a moral or religious interpretation, like in the refraction example.
University of Georgia: UGA researchers develop new method to detect, analyze DNA and RNA
August 24, 2012
Athens. Ga. - University of Georgia researchers have employed specially designed nanomaterials to develop a new, label-free DNA detection method that promises to reduce the cost and complexity of common genetic tests.
Their discovery may be used to help clinicians diagnose certain cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. It can detect the presence of viruses in tissue. And it can be used for a variety of forensic applications, such as paternity testing or crime scene DNA analysis.
Led by Yiping Zhao, professor of physics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the university's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, and Ralph Tripp, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, the researchers proved the efficacy of their new DNA analysis method by experimenting with short strands of RNA called microRNA. While their approach may be used on all forms of DNA and RNA, researchers focused on microRNA because it holds great promise as a target for future therapeutics.
Bloomberg: U.S. Oil Imports to Seen Hitting 20-Year Low 42% of Use
By Kasia Klimasinska
Aug 23, 2012 12:46 PM ET
A boom in oil production from the shale formations of North Dakota and Texas has the U.S. on a course to cut its reliance on imported crude oil to about 42 percent this year, the lowest level in two decades.
Dependence on crude purchased from foreign countries is on a pace to decline from last year, Adam Sieminski, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, said during a Bloomberg Government lunch yesterday in Washington.
Higher oil prices and increased use of a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing has producers including Continental Resources Inc. (CLR), Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO) and Hess Corp. (HES) boosting production from oil-rich geologic formations. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping millions of gallons of water into the ground to free oil and natural gas and has been widely used in shale-rock formations such as the Bakken of North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas.
Hat/tip to Inspired by Nature for this article.
University of Georgia: Biofuel from biomass one step closer to reality thanks to discovery to manipulate ‘hot’ microbes
August 23, 2012
Athens, Ga. - The single most important barrier to the use of lignocellulosic biomass such as switchgrass, populus, sorghum and miscanthus for production of biofuels is the resistant nature of the biomass itself. The problem lies in the conversion or degradation of complex biomass to make products of interest.
New research from scientists at the University of Georgia who are members of Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) provides a genetic method for manipulating a group of organisms, called Caldicellulosiruptor, that have the ability to use biomass directly at temperatures over 160 Fahrenheit. The ability to modify the microbes to make the needed fuel products is a required first step for modern industrial fermentations. This allows researchers to combine the natural ability to consume renewable plant materials with an altered improved ability to make what is needed.
"The most formidable barrier to the use of biomass, such as switchgrass, to biofuels is the ability to break down the biomass. Plants have evolved over millions of years to resist degradation by microbes, and that is exactly what we want to do," said Janet Westpheling, a microbial geneticist in the department of genetics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a scientist of BESC. "The ability to manipulate the genetics of organisms that can use biomass directly is essential to making them useful. We began with a group of bacteria that can use biomass for growth and will use genetics to teach them to make ethanol."
Georgia Tech: Self-Charging Power Cell Converts and Stores Energy in a Single Unit
Posted August 21, 2012
Researchers have developed a self-charging power cell that directly converts mechanical energy to chemical energy, storing the power until it is released as electrical current. By eliminating the need to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy for charging a battery, the new hybrid generator-storage cell utilizes mechanical energy more efficiently than systems using separate generators and batteries.
At the heart of the self-charging power cell is a piezoelectric membrane that drives lithium ions from one side of the cell to the other when the membrane is deformed by mechanical stress. The lithium ions driven through the polarized membrane by the piezoelectric potential are directly stored as chemical energy using an electrochemical process.
By harnessing a compressive force, such as a shoe heel hitting the pavement from a person walking, the power cell generates enough current to power a small calculator. A hybrid power cell the size of a conventional coin battery can power small electronic devices – and could have military applications for soldiers who might one day recharge battery-powered equipment as they walked.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Minister Günay has one more surprise of artifact
ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
After announcing the return of historical I.znik tiles of Bursa’s Sinan Pasa Mosque, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Günay says he will reveal within a month another artifact. ‘This is a different thing,’ he says.
Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Günay announced on Aug. 13 the return of stolen historical Iznik tiles dating back to the 16th century, which had been stolen from Sinan Pasa Mosque in the northwestern province of Bursa a decade ago. Günay also told Anatolia news agency that he would give more good news about a significant Turkish artifact within a month. “This time it is not a sculpture or a tile, but a different thing,” he said.
He said Turkey’s historical richness was endless but unfortunately its value had not been appreciated enough in the past, so Turkish cultural and historical artifacts had been taken abroad by two different methods.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Arizona: Grant Supports State Museum Efforts to Return American Indian Items
The Arizona State Museum has been awarded nearly $90,000 from the National Park Service to support the museum's efforts to return human remains and sacred cultural items to American Indian tribes.
By Alexis Blue, University Communications
August 22, 2012
The Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus is home to hundreds of thousands of Native American artifacts. Among the museum's collections are thousands of human remains and funerary objects, which the museum is diligently working on returning to the American Indian tribes to which they rightfully belong.
To support those efforts, the National Park Service recently awarded the Arizona State Museum a federal grant of just under $90,000, which will help the museum work with human remains and artifacts excavated from state trust lands, primarily in the Tucson Basin. These include remains and objects from 70 archaeological sites, said Patrick Lyons, the museum’s associate director.
The grant was part of more than $1.6 million awarded by the National Park Service to museums and tribes across the country to help them with the documentation and return of human remains and cultural objects, a process known as repatriation.
Like all museums that receive federal funding, the Arizona State Museum is required to repatriate certain cultural objects under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA. Enacted in 1990, the federal law requires all museums that receive federal dollars to return specified items, including human remains and sacred objects, to the tribes with whom they are culturally affiliated.
Arizona State University: WaterMatch website connects companies, universities to promote water reuse
Posted: August 23, 2012
CH2M HILL’s WaterMatch, a grassroots, goodwill initiative that promotes the reuse of municipal effluent for industrial and agricultural use, is expanding through collaborations with companies and universities around the world. Arizona State University and Intel are among the targets for this expansion in the U.S.
CH2M HILL, a program management, construction management and design firm located in Denver, developed WaterMatch as a free website that uses social networking and geospatial mapping to connect water generators with water users. “We are expanding WaterMatch and the grassroots water reuse revolution to promote progress through partnerships and projects on the ground,” said Jan Dell, vice president at CH2M HILL. “We invite companies, municipalities and universities to join us in this effort.”
CH2M HILL launched WaterMatch in 2011. Recognizing the importance of water reuse and the low rates of implementation around the world, corporations and universities are partnering with WaterMatch to promote reuse and sustainable water management through a variety of actions. WaterMatch has more than 21,000 potential water reuse sources and is growing daily...
Georgia Tech: Constructing A More Diverse Board of Directors: A Guide to Achieving Diversity
Posted August 24, 2012
In today’s globally competitive marketplaces, businesses are looking for any and every advantage over their competitors. According to Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business Professor Seletha Butler’s article, All on Board! Strategies for Constructing Diverse Board of Directors, published recently in the Virginia Law & Business Review, the board of directors of companies should be more inclusive, reflecting “the demographics and composition of the global marketplace that the companies serve.”
“Diversity improves the governance of a board of directors for several reasons,” said Butler. In citing prior research, she references a number of reasons for diversity, including: “(1) access to and utilization of untapped talent in order to include the best available human resources; (2) women and minorities have greater independence from management and therefore reduce the risk of management being self-serving; (3) diverse boards generate more information; . . . (5) diverse boards signal credibility of positive corporate behavior . . . .”
Butler suggests that U.S. companies need to take action soon due to the competitive global environment as other countries are implementing diversity protocols and policies that could leave American companies behind. She further argues for an inclusive U.S. corporate structure that can be the inclusiveness model for the global business environment.
Arizona State University: Program aims to improve access to STEM classes for blind, visually impaired students
Posted: August 20, 2012
Arizona State University is kicking off a pilot program aimed at improving access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes for students who are blind or visually impaired.
Called 3D-IMAGINE (Image Arrays to Graphically Implement New Education), the program will use three-dimensional materials to enhance independent learning. Researchers are seeking as many program participants as possible from both ASU and the wider community.
Beginning biology (100) and astronomy (113) lab classes each will have one section using new, 3-D tactile boards designed specifically for students who are blind or visually impaired. However, sighted students may use the materials as well.
Arizona State University: ASU professor helps elevate engineering education in Africa
Posted: August 23, 2012
Africa is rich in natural resources but significantly lacking in educational resources. That deficiency is making it difficult for the continent to benefit from what its natural bounty – especially vast troves of valuable minerals – could do to boost economic development and quality of life.
Arizona State University engineer Terry Alford has been working with colleagues to help remedy the situation by bringing advanced training in materials science and engineering to African universities and technology centers.
Oklahoma State University: OSU Welcomes 60 to the Freshman Research Scholars Program
Thursday, 23 August 2012 13:23
Sixty incoming Oklahoma State University freshmen representing 35 majors from Aerospace Engineering to Secondary Education will receive anearly, hands-on introduction to university-level research in the Freshman Research Scholars Program (FRS), which was recently recognized by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for excellence in undergraduate research programming. In this unique first-look at academic inquiry students will expand their education beyond the classroom by engaging in cutting-edge research under the guidance of some of the most innovative faculty on campus.
The program's $1,000 scholarships had been funded entirely by the Robberson Trust endowment. But due to increased popularity and a surge of applications, this year each of the participating colleges united to match the endowment contribution, doubling the program's funding and allowing more students to benefit from the experience.
FRS students will learn basic research ethics and methodology while working closely with their mentors and graduate assistants to design and conduct projects of their choosing. In the fall, students will participate in major-related orientation courses taught by experienced faculty researchers. As a capstone to the FRS experience, students will share the results of their research at a peer-level colloquium in the spring.
Oklahoma State University: OSU participates in international UAS tradeshow
Monday, 20 August 2012 17:08
Oklahoma State University faculty and students attended the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's (AUVSI) 2012 North American trade show in Las Vegas to promote OSU's educational and research capabilities in unmanned aerial systems.
OSU has the first (and currently only) UAS degree option at the graduate level in the nation. The option provides students with a recognized emphasis in instruction and research and supplies them with hands-on analysis, design, construction and flight testing of UAS platforms.
OSU also maintains one of the world's leading UAS research programs. Current UAS research projects include: development of unmanned flight inspection systems for the FAA and Air Force, bird-like UAVs, quiet UAVs and quad-copters. Scales of the vehicles range from micro air vehicles that fit in the palm of your hand to those with 40-foot wing spansthat weigh over 2,000 pounds.
Science Writing and Reporting
Arizona State University: ASU named one of nation's best, 'greenest' schools
For the fourth consecutive year, ASU was named as one of the nation's "greenest universities." The university also was ranked 71st for "best quality of life."
Posted: August 21, 2012
The Princeton Review has listed Arizona State University as one of “the best 377 colleges” in the United States and one of the best western colleges in its 2013 just-released guide.
For the fourth consecutive year, ASU was named as one of the nation’s “greenest universities.” The university also was ranked 71st for “best quality of life.”
The Princeton Review selects the colleges and universities featured in its guide primarily based on its high opinion of their academics. Its staff also monitors colleges continuously and annually collects data on schools, meets with or talks to hundreds of college administrators, and considers feedback about colleges from students, parents and educators. Only about 15 percent of America’s 2,500 four-year colleges are profiled in the book.
University of Wyoming: National Publication Ranks UW among Top Outdoor Schools
August 20, 2012
Opportunities to participate in activities ranging from rock climbing and fly fishing to whitewater kayaking and cross-country skiing have landed the University of Wyoming in Outside magazine’s rankings of its top 25 schools.
UW is ranked 15th in the list of schools that appeal to the magazine’s readers.
The magazine also cites academic programs in recreation and park administration, botany and zoology, where students help manage a fishery. It notes the non-credit lessons in areas such as fly fishing, cross-country skiing and avalanche safety, and mentions UW’s agreement with the National Outdoor Leadership School for crossover classes, allowing students to go abroad to study adventure topics for credit; a backpacking course in Australia is a popular option.
Science is Cool
Popular Mechanics: 8 Labs & Science Relics Worth a Visit
Excited about The Oatmeal’s quest to create a Tesla museum in New York? Here are eight other science pilgrimages you could make.
By Laura Kiniry
Cartoonist Matthew Inman, the man behind The Oatmeal and avid Nikola Tesla fan, started a fundraising campaign this week aimed at purchasing the inventor’s former Long Island lab and turning it into the first U.S. Tesla museum. After just one day, the effort blew up on Reddit and garnered the support of Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk. While we await its opening, here are 8 other laboratories and houses of mad science that are definitely worth a trip.