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 general election, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in swing states for either the presidential election or competitive contests for the U.S. Senate, plus those states holding presidential or vice-presidential debates during the week. Competitive states will be determined based on the percentage chance to win at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times. Those that show the two major party candidates having probabilities to win between 20% and 80% inclusive will count as swing states.
As of September 29th, the presidential swing states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Virginia, while the states with competitive races for the U.S. Senate are Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin. New Hampshire and Ohio have been removed from the list because Nate Silver calculates that President Obama has a better than 80% chance of winning both, while North Dakota has been dropped because Nate estimates that Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp has less than a 20% likelihood of winning.
Tonight's edition highlights the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from universities in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Virginia.
This week's featured story comes from CNN on YouTube.
Mars Rover finds evidence of water on Mars
NASA rover Curiosity finds what appears to be an ancient riverbed on Mars. CNN's Chad Myers has more.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
Cigarettes, Global Warming, & Life on Mars: Getting Ready For The Next Right-Wing War on Science
by Attorney at Arms
This week in science: Water is thick enough
On Mars: Sol 52 Update
NASA Television on YouTube: Dragon Awaits on This Week @NASA
October 7 is the launch date for SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. This will be the first of 12 contracted flights by SpaceX to resupply the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services contract and will restore an American capability to transport cargo to and from the orbiting laboratory. Also, Curiosity Finds Streambed; New ISS Crew; Endeavour in L.A.; Extreme Hubble; Webb's Mirrors; Milky Way's Halo; and more!
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: The Sound of Earthsong
A NASA spacecraft has recorded eerie-sounding radio emissions coming from our own planet. These beautiful "songs of Earth" could, ironically, be responsible for the proliferation of deadly electrons in the Van Allen Belts.
There is a related story under "Science is Cool."
University of Arizona: Looking Into the Abyss of Space and Time
Scientists have observed what happens to matter as it spirals into a black hole 6 billion times the mass of our sun and 50 million light years away. The discoveries mark another step toward understanding the most bizarre objects in the universe, which include our very own black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
By Jennifer Chu/MIT and Daniel Stolte/UANews
September 27, 2012
The point of no return: In astronomy, it’s known as a black hole – a region in space where the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.
At the heart of most galaxies may reside black holes that can be billions of times more massive than our sun. Such supermassive black holes are so powerful that activity at their boundary can ripple throughout their host galaxies.
Now, an international team including University of Arizona researchers has for the first time measured the edge of a black hole at the center of a distant galaxy. Also called the event horizon, this edge is the closest distance at which matter can approach before being irretrievably pulled into the black hole.
Indiana University: IU Astronomy, Pervasive Technology Institute get 'big picture' with collaboration on new camera
Bigger, sharper images to be refined, processed, stored at IU
Sept. 26, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Recording light from millions of light years away and then sending it to the Indiana University Data Center at the corner of 10th Street and the State Road 45/46 Bypass, a new camera at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona's Sonoran desert will image an area of sky five times that of the full moon, yet still focus at the equivalent of seeing a baseball from 30 miles away.
Space.com via MSNBC: Scientists add 3-D twist to pictures from moon probe
Artificial stereo images provide better perspective on lunar surface structure
updated 9/25/2012 8:00:51 PM ET
Scientists are creating eye-popping new views of the moon in 3-D with the help of a prolific NASA lunar probe currently orbiting Earth's nearest neighbor.
The new 3-D moon pictures were assembled from photos snapped by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been snapping high-resolution views of the moon's surface from lunar orbit since 2009. The spacecraft does not have a stereo camera aboard to take 3-D anaglyph images of the moon, but scientists were able to stitch together photos of the same region— taken from different angles and orbits — to artificially create the three-dimensional lunar views.
“Anaglyphs are used to better understand the 3-D structure of the lunar surface,” said Sarah Mattson, a scientist with the University of Arizona and Arizona State University team that invented the new moon photo technique, in a statement. “This visualization is extremely helpful to scientists in understanding the sequence and structures on the surface of the moon in a qualitative way.”
University of Arizona: Study: Better Odds That Life Crashed to Earth From Space
New findings provide the strongest support yet for the idea that basic life forms are distributed throughout the universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments cast forth by disruptions such as planet and asteroid collisions.
By Morgan Kelly/Princeton University and Daniel Stolte/UANews
September 24, 2012
Chunks of rock laced with ingredients for life or early life forms could have traveled among our solar system and others much more frequently than previously thought possible, an international team of researchers including Renu Malhotra in the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has discovered.
The researchers report in the journal Astrobiology that under certain conditions, there is a high probability that life came to Earth – or spread from Earth to other planets – during the solar system's infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid material.
The findings provide the strongest support yet for "lithopanspermia," the idea that basic life forms are distributed throughout the universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments cast forth by disruptions such as planet and asteroid collisions. Eventually, another planetary system's gravity traps these roaming rocks, which can result in a mingling that transfers any living cargo.
Arizona State University: Extreme climate change linked to early animal evolution
Posted: September 28, 2012
An international team of scientists has uncovered new evidence linking early animal evolution to extreme climate change.
A dramatic rise in atmospheric oxygen levels has long been speculated as the trigger for early animal evolution. In the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature, researchers for the first time offer evidence of a causal link between trends in early biological diversity and shifts in Earth system processes.
The fossil record shows a marked increase in animal and algae fossils roughly 635 million years ago. Researchers believe that oceanic oxygen levels spiked suddenly at this time, in the wake of a severe glaciation, reaching the level necessary to allow animals to flourish. The new evidence pre-dates previous estimates of a life-sustaining oxygenation event by more than 50 million years.
Colorado State University: CSU report looks at impact of new energy development and exploration on wildlife
September 27, 2012
New technology, a desire to produce domestic energy and concerns over climate change have spurred a rapid increase in oil and natural gas, bioenergy, wind, solar and geothermal energy production.
These developments are putting novel pressures on terrestrial ecosystems, but the impacts to wildlife have largely been overlooked.
A new report by Joseph Northrup and George Wittemyer of the Warner College of Natural Resources bridges this divide by summarizing current knowledge on energy production’s impacts on wildlife and related mitigation strategies. The paper also highlights gaps in scientists’ understanding of the repercussions of these rapid and novel ecosystem alterations, and calls for increased research to address these knowledge gaps.
North Carolina State University: Life in the Extreme: Uranium Toxicity Response Different in Nearly Genetically Identical Microorganisms
September 24, 2012
Life in extreme environments – hot acids and heavy metals, for example – can apparently make very similar organisms deal with stress in very different ways, according to new research from North Carolina State University.
One single-celled organism from a hot spring near Mount Vesuvius in Italy fights uranium toxicity directly – by eating the heavy metal and acquiring energy from it. Another single-celled organism that lives on a “smoldering heap” near an abandoned uranium mine in Germany overcomes uranium toxicity indirectly – essentially shutting down its cellular processes to induce a type of cellular coma when toxic levels of uranium are present in its environment.
Interestingly, these very different responses to environmental stress come from two organisms that are 99.99 percent genetically identical.
In a paper published this week online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, NC State researchers show that these extreme organisms – basic life forms called Archaea that have no nucleus and that are so tiny they can only be seen under a microscope – can teach us a lot about how living things use different mechanisms to adapt to their surroundings.
University of Colorado, Boulder: New CU-Boulder study clarifies diversity, distribution of cutthroat trout in Colorado
September 24, 2012
A novel genetic study led by the University of Colorado Boulder has helped to clarify the native diversity and distribution of cutthroat trout in Colorado, including the past and present haunts of the federally endangered greenback cutthroat trout.
The study, led by CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Jessica Metcalf, was based largely on DNA samples taken from cutthroat trout specimens preserved in ethanol in several U.S. museums around the country that were collected from around the state as far back as 150 years ago. The new study, in which Metcalf and her colleagues extracted mitochondrial DNA from fish to sequence genes of the individual specimens and compared them with modern-day cutthroat trout strains, produced some startling results.
The biggest surprise, said Metcalf, was that the cutthroat trout native to the South Platte River drainage appears to survive today only in a single population outside of its native range -- in a small stream known as Bear Creek that actually is in the nearby Arkansas River drainage. The strain from Bear Creek is thought to have been collected from the South Platte River drainage in the 1880s by an early hotelier who stocked the fish in a pond at the Bear Creek headwaters to help promote an early tourist route up Pikes Peak.
North Carolina State University: New Fish Species Offers Literal Take on ‘Hooking Up’
September 27, 2012
Fishing hooks aren’t the only hooks found in east-central Mexican waters.
A new species of freshwater fish described by a North Carolina State University researcher has several interesting – and perhaps cringe-inducing – characteristics, including a series of four hooks on the male genitalia.
Females of the new species – the llanos mosquitofish, or Gambusia quadruncus – also have distinguishing characteristics, including a colorful anal spot.
University of Florida: New UF study shows river turtle species still suffers from past harvesting
September 25, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers studying river turtles in Missouri found populations of the northern map turtle have not recovered from harvesting in the 1970s.
Scientists used data collected by Florida Museum of Natural History herpetology curator Max Nickerson in 1969 and 1980 as a baseline, then surveyed the same stretch of river in the Ozarks in 2004 to determine the northern map turtles had not recovered from a previous 50 percent population loss caused by harvesting, likely for food. River turtles help ecosystems function by cycling nutrients and maintaining food web dynamics. Assessment of the northern map turtle, a protected species in some states, is essential as increasing human populations and global warming further alter its habitat. The study was published Sept. 14 in Volume 3 of Copeia, and is scheduled to appear online this week.
“The importance of river turtles is really underplayed,” said lead author Amber Pitt, a Clemson University postdoctoral research fellow who conducted research for the study as a UF graduate student. “River turtles are long-lived, rely on the same water resources that we do and can serve as indicators of water quality. People should be concerned if turtles are impacted by poor water quality because we are likely being affected, too.”
University of Florida: UF biologist discovers mammal with salamander-like regenerative abilities
September 26, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A small African mammal with an unusual ability to regrow damaged tissues could inspire new research in regenerative medicine, a University of Florida study finds.
For years biologists have studied salamanders for their ability to regrow lost limbs. But amphibian biology is very different than human biology, so lessons learned in laboratories from salamanders are difficult to translate into medical therapies for humans. New research in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature describes a mammal that can regrow new body tissues following an injury. The African spiny mouse could become a new model for research in regenerative medicine.
“The African spiny mouse appears to regenerate ear tissue in much the way that a salamander regrows a limb that has been lost to a predator,” said Ashley W. Seifert, a postdoctoral researcher in UF’s biology department. “Skin, hair follicles, cartilage — it all comes back.”
That’s not the case in other mammals, he said. Usually scar tissue forms to fill the gap created by a wound.
University of Arizona: Electronics That Vanish in the Body
UA physician and biomaterial expert Dr. Marvin J. Slepian is part of a team that has developed biodegradable electronics that could revolutionize medicine, environmental monitoring and consumer electronics.
By Liz Ahlberg/University of Illinois and Daniel Stolte/UANews,
September 28, 2012
Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also biocompatible and capable of dissolving completely in water – or in bodily fluids.
Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University, the University of Arizona and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices.
“We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics,” said John A. Rogers, University of Illinois engineering professor, who led the multidisciplinary research team. “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”
Arizona State University: Bees decrease food intake, live longer when given compound found in red wine
Posted: September 23, 2012
The idea that drinking red wine may provide health benefits – or possibly even extend your life – is an appealing thought for many people. Now, there may be added attraction. Researchers have found that when given resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, bees consume less food.
Previous scientific studies on resveratrol show that it lengthens the lifespan of diverse organisms ranging from unicellular yeast to fruit flies and mice. Since bees are social animals like humans, a team of scientists from Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Harvard Medical School, decided to test the effects of the chemical on the honey bee.
Their research has confirmed that not only does this compound extend the lifespan of honey bees by 33 to 38 percent, it also changes the decisions that bees make about food by triggering a “moderation effect” when they eat.
University of Florida: UF researchers developing device to detect brain bleeding in pre-term infants
September 26, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nearly one-third of premature babies develop bleeding in the brain after birth, a problem associated with serious long-term effects such as cerebral palsy, seizures and blindness.
But some of these devastating complications could be prevented if physicians could catch and treat such brain hemorrhaging, also called intraventricular bleeding, when it begins. To this end, University of Florida researchers from the colleges of Medicine and Engineering have received a two-year, $694,000 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in collaboration with EGI Inc. to develop a device that not only monitors preemies’ fragile brains, but also detects intraventricular bleeding as soon as it starts. The research also will give physicians a more detailed understanding and timeline of how and when brain hemorrhages typically occur in babies.
“When we look at preterm babies with intraventricular hemorrhages, we detect them after the fact, so we really don’t know what is happening in the brain at the time of the hemorrhage,” said Dr. Michael Weiss, a neonatologist and an associate professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine who has teamed with biomedical engineer Dr. Rosalind Sadleir, of the College of Engineering, on the project. “If we can identify the exact moment when a bleed occurs, we may be able to develop therapies that can help prevent bad outcomes from happening.”
Iowa State University: ISU researchers advancing gene targeting techniques in new paper published in Nature
Posted Sep 28, 2012 11:10 am
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University researchers are helping to advance new techniques that allow scientists to site-specifically mutate and edit the genes of living organisms.
The two researchers, co-authors of a study published this week in the journal Nature, are breaking ground in making custom changes to the genome of live zebrafish by utilizing site-directed molecular scissors known as transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs).
Through the TALENs system, researchers for the first time are able to cut out portions of zebrafish DNA and insert artificial replacements. That allows researchers to deactivate – and possibly activate – targeted genes, opening new possibilities to study genetics during early development as well as adult life.
The innovation could have sweeping applications in agriculture and the study of human disease, said Ying Wang, a postdoctoral research associate in genetics, development and cell biology and one of the co-first authors of the study.
Purdue University: Scientists have way to control sugars that lead to diabetes, obesity
September 25, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Scientists can now turn on or off the enzymes responsible for processing starchy foods into sugars in the human digestive system, a finding they believe will allow them to better control those processes in people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Bruce Hamaker, a professor of food science and director of the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University, said the four small intestine enzymes, called alpha-glucosidases, are responsible for generating glucose from starch digestion. Each enzyme functions differently, breaking down starches into different sugars at different rates. Someone missing one or more of those enzymes creates glucose improperly.
Influx of glucose to the blood increases insulin release from the pancreas, which allows the body to remove the sugar. When the body's tissues cannot respond well to insulin, the blood sugar is not lowered, a situation seen in type 2 diabetics. Even in non-diabetics, excess sugars not burned by the body as energy may be stored as fat, an issue for people prone to obesity.
"In diabetics, you don't want this roller coaster of blood-glucose levels. Their bodies can't regulate glucose that well," Hamaker said. "If you can selectively inhibit these enzymes, it opens up the possibility of moderating glucose to the body as well as directing glucose release into different parts of the small intestines for certain physiologic responses."
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: UNC Lineberger scientists lead cancer genome analysis of breast cancer
Team identifies genetic causes and similarity to ovarian cancer
September 23, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - A team of scientists with The Cancer Genome Atlas program reports their genetic characterization of 800 breast tumors, including finding some of the genetic causes of the most common forms of breast cancer, providing clues for new therapeutic targets, and identifying a molecular similarity between one sub-type of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Their findings, which offer a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms behind each sub-type of breast cancer, are reported in the September 23, 2012 online edition of the journal Nature.
Charles Perou, PhD, corresponding author of the paper, says, “Through the use of multiple different technologies, we were able to collect the most complete picture of breast cancer diversity ever. These studies have important implications for all breast cancer patients and confirm a large number of our previous findings. In particular, we now have a much better picture of the genetic causes of the most common form of breast cancer, namely Estrogen-Receptor positive/Luminal A disease. We also found a stunning similarity between Basal-like breast cancers and ovarian cancers.”
Colorado State University: Professors address Colorado's historic wildfire season
September 27, 2012
Warner College of Natural Resources experts were the center of international attention at the International Disaster Risk Congress Global Risk Forum in Davos, Switzerland recently discussing Colorado's historic wildfire season.
The presentation highlighted the social factors and consequences associated with wildfire disasters that are often overshadowed by the ecological impacts. The ecological factors that often drive wildfire behavior are well documented - unusually warmer temperatures, drought conditions and poor forest health related to insects and disease. According to Manfredo, the real crux of wildfire crisis now and even more so in the future, is the expanding settlement of people in high fire-hazard areas - creating associated risks of loss to residences, infrastructure and disruption of economic activities.
“The growing concern about fire is as much a social problem as it is an ecological one,” said Manfredo. “With more people living in fire hazard zones and a growing number of fires, statistics are showing the costs of fire mitigation and restoration is growing dramatically – which can have exponential ramifications to society.”
Purdue University: Cutting livestock greenhouse gases requires effort from rich and poor countries
September 27, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Regulating livestock greenhouse gas emissions could shift livestock production to unregulated, less developed countries unless those poorer nations can be enticed to preserve their forested lands, according to a Purdue University economic study.
Agriculture and deforestation account for about one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, with methane from livestock production being the most important type of farm-related emission. Alla Golub, a Purdue research economist at the Center for Global Trade Analysis in Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics, Thomas Hertel, a Purdue distinguished professor of Agricultural Economics and executive director of the Global Trade Analysis Project, and Benjamin Henderson, livestock policy officer at Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations modeled policies aimed at reducing emissions from livestock.
"Emissions from agriculture have not gotten as much attention as those from fossil fuels combustion. But when the world gets serious about tackling climate policy, livestock will be an important part of that discussion," Hertel said. "Livestock sectors are the most important contributors to non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions and would be seriously affected if a tax or regulations were implemented."
University of Virgina: Salt Marsh Carbon May Play Role in Slowing Climate Warming, Study Shows
September 24, 2012
A warming climate and rising seas will enable salt marshes to more rapidly capture and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, possibly playing a role in slowing the rate of climate change, according to a new study led by a University of Virginia environmental scientist and published in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature.
Carbon dioxide is the predominant so-called “greenhouse gas” that acts as sort of an atmospheric blanket, trapping the Earth’s heat. Over time, an abundance of carbon dioxide can change the global climate, according to generally accepted scientific theory. A warmer climate melts polar ice, causing sea levels to rise.
A large portion of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is produced by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels to energize a rapidly growing world human population.
“We predict that marshes will absorb some of that carbon dioxide, and if other coastal ecosystems – such as seagrasses and mangroves – respond similarly, there might be a little less warming,” said the study’s lead author, Matt Kirwan, a research assistant professor of environmental sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Iowa State University: Iowa State researchers study clam shells for clues to the Atlantic’s climate history
Posted Sep 28, 2012 9:00 am
AMES, Iowa – Two Iowa State University graduate students are just back from the Gulf of Maine with another big catch of clam shells.
Shelly Griffin and Madelyn Mette recently boarded a lobster boat, dropped a scallop dredge into 30 meters of ocean water and pulled up load after load of Arctica islandica.
“These are the clams that end up in clam chowder,” said Alan Wanamaker, an assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Wanamaker studies paleoclimatology, the variations and trends of past climates and environments, with the goal of better understanding future climate changes.
Arizona State University: The power of play: Do games benefit us beyond entertainment?
Posted: September 26, 2012
About 65 percent of American households play video games. Some are dedicated PC gamers, while others find thrills in online competition through consoles like Xbox and PlayStation. Even more people play games to pass the time on their smartphones or tablets, considerably extending the reach of games into our everyday lives.
But can games benefit us beyond simple entertainment? Researchers at Arizona State University are exploring different ways that games can enhance and facilitate learning.
“To me, games are an invitation with a contract,” says Sasha Barab, a professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. “There’s an invitation to engage in your own becoming, but there’s a contract because you have to do something.”
Arizona State University: Gut reaction: Morality in food choice
Personal ethics can be a powerful motivator when it comes to food choices.
Posted: September 25, 2012
We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” It turns out the old adage might be true on more than just a physical level. The food you choose may also reflect your personal ethics.
Whether we like it or not, buying food has moral implications ranging from environmental sustainability to social justice to animal welfare. Was the apple you ate at lunch grown in your state, or even your country? How much land and water did it take to produce? Was the farmer who picked it making a fair wage?
Several researchers at Arizona State University are examining the ethical aspects of food production and consumption. They are helping consumers navigate the maze of moral choices involved in filling their plates and their bellies. And they are finding that being morally mindful can lead to better nutrition, as well.
Discovery News: 'Jesus Wife' Papyrus Deemed a Fake
Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi
Fri Sep 28, 2012 02:25 PM ET
The "Jesus Wife" papyrus, a fragment of Coptic script containing a suggestion that Jesus may have been married, is a "clumsy forgery," the Vatican said.
"At any rate, a fake," Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, wrote in an editorial that accompanied an article by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani.
The brownish-yellow, tattered fragment, about one and a half inches by three inches, was unveiled last week by Harvard Professor Karen L. King at an international congress of Coptic Studies, held every four years and hosted this year by the Vatican's Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome.
annetteboardman is taking a well-deserved night off.
Purdue University: Signature of long-sought particle that could revolutionize quantum computing seen by Purdue physicist
September 25, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University physicist has observed evidence of long-sought Majorana fermions, special particles that could unleash the potential of fault-tolerant quantum computing.
Leonid Rokhinson, an associate professor of physics, led a team that is the first to successfully demonstrate the fractional a.c. Josephson effect, which is a signature of the particles.
"The search for this particle is for condensed-matter physicists what the Higgs boson search was for high-energy particle physicists," Rokhinson said. "It is a very peculiar object because it is a fermion yet it is its own antiparticle with zero mass and zero charge."
Colorado State University: Electrical engineering faculty co-author Nature Photonics paper
September 27, 2012
Two Colorado State University faculty members are featured in this month's Nature Photonics journal for their role in helping to create a really stable and short-wavelength light source with laser-like properties that will help improve everything from medical equipment to the environment.
Sandra Biedron and Stephen Milton, both in CSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, are co-authors of a paper detailing the first operational results of the world’s first soft X-ray, fully coherent and stable free-electron laser (FEL) user facility produced by using electrons near the speed of light. The FERMI@Elettra FEL is located at the Sincrotrone Trieste laboratory in Basovizza, Italy.
This next-generation synchrotron light source, a “seeded” free-electron laser, produces very clean - coherent in both the transverse and longitudinal planes - and stable - minimal intensity fluctuations - light.
University of Florida: UF/IFAS research into bacterial disease could lead to natural herbicide
September 26, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists are researching a natural herbicide that could be used in traditional and organic farming.
The herbicide, a chemical called thaxtomin, occurs naturally in Streptomyces bacteria that cause potato scab, a major disease of potatoes worldwide.
A study describing a key step in the process that could lead to its commercial production is published in the current issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
In the study, the researchers describe an enzyme in the bacteria that is essential to producing the herbicide and showed that without the enzyme, thaxtomin production doesn’t occur.
Iowa State University: NSF adds three years, $12 million to ISU-based Center for Biorenewable Chemicals
Posted Sep 27, 2012 8:30 am
AMES, Iowa – Engineers and scientists are working together in new ways to invent catalysts that lead to industrial chemicals from biorenewable resources. Industrial partnerships are expanding. Startup companies are launching. Education partnerships are reaching teachers and students. And an international reputation is growing.
They’re all steps the National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State University has made over its initial four years. That progress has led to the NSF augmenting the center (known as CBiRC, “See-burk”) with three additional years and $12 million.
The center’s vision is to transform the industrial chemical industry – a $400 billion-a-year business in the United States – from one based on petroleum to one based on biorenewable resources. To do that, the center has asked researchers who study chemical or biological catalysts to start working together to develop new and sustainable technologies that produce the industrial chemicals used in everything from building materials to personal-care products.
North Carolina State University: Researchers Demonstrate Cheaper Way To Produce NFO Thin Films
September 24, 2012
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated a less-expensive way to create textured nickel ferrite (NFO) ceramic thin films, which can easily be scaled up to address manufacturing needs. NFO is a magnetic material that holds promise for microwave technologies and next-generation memory devices.
Specifically, this is the first time researchers have used a chemical deposition process to create NFO thin films that are “textured” – meaning they have an aligned crystalline structure. Arraying the crystalline structure in an orderly fashion is important because it maximizes the magnetic properties of the material.
Using a chemical deposition process also makes it easier to modify, or “dope,” the NFO by adding additional materials, such as zinc. By doping the NFO, researchers can optimize the material for various applications. For example, adding zinc allows the NFO to retain its magnetic properties at higher temperatures.
University of Arizona: UA Engineering Leads $5.5M DOE Project to Create Low-Cost Solar Energy
Solar power may be clean and renewable, but solar panels are inefficient and do not work at night. Could concentrated solar power be the salty solution?
By Pete Brown, College of Engineering
September 28, 2012
The University of Arizona College of Engineering will lead a $5.5 million, five-year research project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, to develop more affordable and efficient concentrated solar power systems.
Concentrated solar power, or CSP, is generated by mirrors, called heliostats, that focus sunlight on a receiver containing a heat transfer fluid that absorbs the energy, which is then used to produce steam to spin electric turbines.
The award was made as part of the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative, in an effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other energy sources by 2020. About 80 percent of the funding will go to the multidisciplinary UA Engineering research team, which will conduct the research in partnership with Arizona State University Poly and Georgia Tech.
Arizona State University: ASU scientists bring the heat to refine renewable biofuel production
Posted: September 27, 2012
Perhaps inspired by Arizona’s blazing summers, Arizona State University scientists have developed a new method that relies on heat to improve the yield and lower the costs of high-energy biofuels production, making renewable energy production more of an everyday reality.
ASU has been at the forefront of algal research for renewable energy production. Since 2007, with support from federal, state and industry funding, ASU has spearheaded several projects that utilize photosynthetic microbes, called cyanobacteria, as a potential new source of renewable, carbon-neutral fuels. Efforts have focused on developing cyanobacteria as a feedstock for biodiesel production, as well as benchtop and large-scale photobioreactors to optimize growth and production.
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Iowa: Total knee replacements: Effective, costly, and booming
UI study shows total knee replacement surgeries have more than doubled over past 20 years
By: Jennifer Brown
2012.09.26 | 09:33 AM
Total knee replacement is a very common and safe surgery that’s used to relieve severe pain and disability caused by knee osteoarthritis, and to improve patients’ quality of life. However, it’s also very expensive at approximately $15,000 per procedure. With an estimated 600,000 total knee replacements performed annually in the United States, the aggregate annual cost for total knee replacement (also known as total knee arthroplasty or TKA) is $9 billion.
Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine studied trends in TKA surgeries over a 20-year period from 1991 to 2010 and found a tremendous growth in the number of TKAs performed on the U.S. Medicare population. The study, published Sept. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests the growth is driven by both the increase in the number of older Americans and increased demand among older adults for total knee replacements.
“For policymakers, a main finding of the study was the dramatic growth we saw in the number of first time TKAs done in this population of Medicare patients,” says Peter Cram, UI professor of internal medicine and lead study author. “The growth was driven by an aging population—there simply are many more adults over age 65 now than there were 20 years ago—and within this population, demand of this procedure has doubled.”
Cram notes that the growth also reflects the success of the total knee replacements as well as an increased desire by older adults to maintain a more active lifestyle.
University of Iowa: Avoiding unexpected deliveries
UI study helps prevent the 'stork' reality of unintended pregnancies
By: Debra Venzke
2012.09.25 | 08:36 AM
It’s easy to tune out a lot of things, but when a 7-foot-tall white stork with a bright orange beak, oversized feet, aviator goggles, and plastic baby strapped to its chest appears at a football game, bar, or on TV—that’s hard to ignore.
Most of us are familiar with the fairy tale version of the stork who delivers neatly bundled babies to doorsteps. Researchers at the University of Iowa gave the story book stork a new twist by placing it at the center of a comprehensive social marketing campaign designed to prevent unintended pregnancies. The project was called Until You’re Ready, AvoidtheStork.com.
The campaign was part of the research arm of the Iowa Initiative, a program that aims to reduce the high rate of unintended pregnancies among Iowa women ages 18-30 through networking, research, and public outreach.
The research program, conducted in conjunction with the University of Northern Iowa, University of Iowa, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, included five studies designed to increase knowledge, persuade adult women to seek and access contraception if they wish to delay or prevent pregnancy, and improve family planning behaviors.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Massachusetts Academy of Sciences Names 2012 Fellows
September 25, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst alumna and astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman is among the new class of Fellows of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences (MAS) elected by their peers to its prestigious community of scientists, engineers, research physicians and others who are deeply concerned about science and science education in the Commonwealth.
University of Massachusetts Amherst biology professor Peg Riley, president and founder of MAS, announced the academy’s latest fellows. In addition to Coleman, they include Irving Epstein of Brandeis University, Robert Dorit of Smith College, Ward Watt of Stanford University, Mandana Sassanfar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Junior Academy of Sciences, Megan Rokup of the Broad Institute, James Hamilton and Paul Trunfio of Boston University and Riley of UMass Amherst.
Riley says, “Each year, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences honors distinguished individuals through its fellowship awards. They join an elite group of professional scientists and science educators who are recognized for extraordinary scientific accomplishments and service to the science community and the public. The academy is thrilled to welcome these stellar individuals to its elite group. They are crucial to the future success of the academy and it is an honor to announce their commitment and involvement.”
Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech receives funding to integrate research ethics education into international STEM collaborations
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 25, 2012 – Virginia Tech is one of five universities to be awarded funding by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) to integrate research ethics education into international collaborations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Supported by a $398,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the CGS project will enhance the preparation of future scientists and engineers for the ethical challenges that often arise in global research.
“Increasingly, graduate students need to have a strong awareness of cultural norms and research policies around the world,” said Karen DePauw, vice president and dean for graduate education. “The ability to resolve complex issues that arise in international research is critical to the success of U.S.-trained scientists and engineers. Through this project, we will help prepare students for research integrity as they pursue international research and work in culturally diverse research settings.”
Science Writing and Reporting
Huffington Post: Naming the Nobels: Predicting the World's Most Prestigious Prizes in Science
Citation Analyst, Thomson Reuters
Posted: 09/28/2012 10:25 pm
In two weeks, the eyes of the world's research community will be fixed firmly on Stockholm for the announcement of the Nobel Prizes. In celebration, Thomson Reuters released its annual list of Citation Laureates, esteemed scientists whose contributions to medicine, physics, chemistry and economics make them likely contenders for a Nobel Prize.
Over a decade ago, Thomson Reuters began publishing its annual list of scientists considered candidates worthy of a Nobel Prize. The primary factor pointing to their nomination was their record of citations in scientific literature. At high frequency, citations are a strong indicator of peer esteem and research influence -- citations represent a formal repayment of intellectual debts by members of the scientific community.
Over the years, interest in the Thomson Reuters method of forecasting Nobel Prizes has grown and, in 2002, the company officially began releasing its picks. Since then, 26 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates have gone on to receive a Nobel Prize. Last year, all nine of the winners in medicine, physics, chemistry, and economics were identified as Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates, either in 2008 or 2010. Thomson Reuters is the only organization to predict the Nobel Prizes quantitatively, and it does so through citation data from its Web of Knowledge research database.
The most fireworks over the winner will be over the Laureate for the Economics Prize, at least among the people on your list. Some political faction will make hay over the choice, while someone else's ox will be gored. People on the political Left should root for Atkinson and Deaton, while those on the Right should root for Ross. That would seem to make Shiller a safe choice, right? Don't count on it. He told the truth about the housing bubble back when people on the Right were denying there was any such thing.
Of course, the firestorm over the Economics prize will be nothing compared to the one over the Peace Prize. That always ticks people off!
Arizona State University: Krauss talks science each month with Simons on 'Horizon'
Posted: September 25, 2012
ASU physicist and author Lawrence Krauss will be a regular monthly guest on the Eight, Arizona PBS show "Arizona Horizon," where he and host Ted Simons will talk about current issues in science.
“We live in extraordinary times with rapid advances in science and technology that touch just about everyone in some way,” said Krauss, director of ASU’s Origins Project. “Understanding what these advances mean, how they fit in our lives, and how they impact upon the decisions we may make as individuals and as a society are some of the goals for these segments.”
Science is Cool
Arizona State University: Are we losing our humanity?
With all of the technological advances that have changed the way we communicate in our daily lives, are we, as a society, losing our humanity?
Posted: September 28, 2012
Fans of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" know and love Data, the android whose overarching desire in “life” is to be human – to be able to feel emotions, to experience love.?
But Data lacks, and will never have, the one element that makes us truly human – the soul.? ?
In an effort to promote conversation and thinking about humanities, ASU is launching “The Top 10 Questions Humanities Will Answer This Year.” Each month a new question will be posed and answered in different formats by individuals across the globe and from multiple perspectives.
The first question is: Are we losing our humanity?
Space.com via CBS News: Sounds of space: NASA records audible "chorus" beyond Earth
By Elizabeth Howell
September 25, 2012, 9:48 AM
A NASA spacecraft has made the clearest record yet of choruses of noise in the Earth's magnetosphere.
The chirps and whoops were captured by one of NASA's two recently launched Radiation Belt Storm Probes spacecraft, whose mission is to understand more about space weather.
"My wife calls it 'alien birds,'" joked experiment principal investigator Craig Kletzing, an astronomer at the University of Iowa.