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Friday, October 31, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Running robots of future may learn from world's best two-legged runners: Birds

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:41 PM PDT

With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature's most energy efficient bipeds -- running birds. Their skills may have evolved from the time of the dinosaurs and they may now be superior to any other bipedal runners -- including humans.

Urban seismic network detects human sounds

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:39 PM PDT

When listening to the Earth, what clues can seismic data reveal about the impact of urban life? Although naturally occurring vibrations have proven useful to seismologists, until now the vibrations caused by humans haven't been explored in any real depth. Researchers have described their efforts to tap into an urban seismic network to monitor the traffic of trains, planes, automobiles and other modes of human transport.

Testing of filters to contain radioactive materials

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:39 PM PDT

If released in significant quantities, radioactive materials pose a potential threat to people and the environment. Now, new research is helping the nuclear industry ensure that radioactive materials continue to be safely contained and that standards of safety are continuously improved.

Plump turtles swim better: First models of swimming animals

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:37 PM PDT

Bigger is better, if you're a leatherback sea turtle. For the first time, researchers have measured the forces that act on a swimming animal and the energy the animal must expend to move through the water.

Ammonium source in open ocean tracked by researchers

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:56 AM PDT

To understand the extent to which human activities are polluting Earth's atmosphere and oceans, it's important to distinguish human-made pollutants from compounds that occur naturally. A new study finds that deposition of ammonium, a source of nitrogen pollution, over the open ocean comes mostly from natural marine sources, and not from human activity.

Tiny carbon nanotube pores make big impact

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:56 AM PDT

Scientists have created a new kind of ion channel based on short carbon nanotubes, which can be inserted into synthetic bilayers and live cell membranes to form tiny pores that transport water, protons, small ions and DNA. These carbon nanotube "porins" have significant implications for future health care and bioengineering applications.

Teeth, sex and testosterone reveal secrets of aging in wild mouse lemurs

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:56 AM PDT

Mouse lemurs can live at least eight years in the wild -- twice as long as some previous estimates, a long-term longitudinal study finds.

Scientists generate first human stomach tissue in lab with stem cells

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:56 AM PDT

Scientists used pluripotent stem cells to generate functional, three-dimensional human stomach tissue in a laboratory -- creating an unprecedented tool for researching the development and diseases of an organ central to several public health crises, ranging from cancer to diabetes. Scientists used human pluripotent stem cells -- which can become any cell type in the body -- to grow a miniature version of the stomach.

New frog discovered inhabiting I-95 corridor from Connecticut to North Carolina

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:54 AM PDT

More than a half century after claims that a new frog species existed in New York and New Jersey were dismissed, a team of scientists has proven that the frog is living in wetlands from Connecticut to North Carolina and are naming it after the ecologist who first noticed it.

Combing the atmosphere to measure greenhouse gases

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

By remotely 'combing' the atmosphere with a custom laser-based instrument, researchers have developed a new technique that can accurately measure -- over a sizeable distance -- amounts of several of the major 'greenhouse' gases implicated in climate change.

Clean smell doesn't always mean clean air

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Scientists are taking a closer look at aerosol formation involving an organic compound -- called limonene -- that provides the pleasant smell of cleaning products and air fresheners. This research will help to determine what byproducts these sweet-smelling compounds are adding to the air while we are using them to remove germs and odors.

Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Mimicking natural evolution in a test tube, scientists have devised an enzyme with a unique property that might have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth.

Contamination likely explains 'food genes in blood' claim

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Laboratory contaminants likely explain the results of a recent study claiming that complete genes can pass from foods we eat into our blood, according to a molecular biologist who re-examined data from the controversial research paper.

Parasite-schizophrenia connection: One-fifth of schizophrenia cases may involve the parasite T. gondii

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:34 AM PDT

Many factors, both genetic and environmental, have been blamed for increasing the risk of a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Some, such as a family history of schizophrenia, are widely accepted. Others, such as infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite transmitted by soil, undercooked meat and cat feces, are still viewed with skepticism. A new study used epidemiological modeling methods to determine the proportion of schizophrenia cases that may be attributable to T. gondii infection. The work suggests that about one-fifth of cases may involve the parasite.

Mechanism that allows differentiated cell to reactivate as a stem cell revealed

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

A study, performed with fruit flies, describes a gene that determines whether a specialized cell conserves the capacity to become a stem cell again. Unveiling the genetic traits that favor the retention of stem cell properties is crucial for regenerative medicine.

Meiotic cell division 'the other way round'

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

Meiosis is the two-step series of cell divisions that make sexual reproduction and genetic diversity possible. Researchers have now dived into the process of meiosis in specific plant species and revealed that these plants display an inversion of the standard meiotic phases.

Nanosafety research: The quest for the gold standard

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

Toxicologists have evaluated several thousand studies on the risks associated with nanoparticles and discovered no end of shortcomings: poorly prepared experiments and results that don't carry any clout. Scientists are now developing new standards for such experiments within an international network.

Thousands of substances ranked according to potential exposure level

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

An overwhelming number of chemicals from household and industrial products are in the environment -- and hundreds are in our bodies. But for most of them, scientists have yet to determine whether they cause health problems. Now they've taken the first step toward doing that by estimating which substances people are exposed to the most.

Why plants don't get sunburn

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

Plants rely on sunlight to make their food, but they also need protection from its harmful rays, just like humans do. Recently, scientists discovered a group of molecules in plants that shields them from sun damage. Now scientists report on the mechanics of how these natural plant sunscreens work.

Strong bonds with pets may help foster resiliency in military-connected children

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:43 AM PDT

Developing resiliency has important benefits for children, especially those from military families faced with significant challenges such as parental deployment and frequent moves. New research supports the idea that, along with other key resources, strong attachments to animals may help military-connected children develop resiliency and other positive developmental traits.

New solar power material converts 90 percent of captured light into heat

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:54 AM PDT

A multidisciplinary engineering team developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants designed to absorb and convert to heat more than 90 percent of the sunlight it captures. The new material can also withstand temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius and survive many years outdoors in spite of exposure to air and humidity.

Upgrading infrastructure could reduce flood damage

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:54 AM PDT

The severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized, according to a new study.

Genome sequencing of the jujube tree completed

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:54 AM PDT

The complete, high quality sequencing of the jujube genome has been announced by researchers. Jujube is the most economically important member of the Rhamnaceae family, and the jujube genome is particularly difficult to sequence due the high level of heterozygosity and other complicating factors. It is the first time that a genome in the Rhamnaceae, Buckthorn, family has been sequenced.

Nestling birds struggle in noisy environments

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:53 AM PDT

Unable to fly, nestling birds depend on their parents for both food and protection: vocal communication between parents and offspring helps young birds to determine when they should beg for food and when they should crouch in the nest to avoid a predator seeking an easy meal. A group of researchers has found that ambient, anthropomorphic noise -- from traffic, construction and other human activities -- can break this vital communications link, leaving nestlings vulnerable or hungry.

Nano ruffles in brain matter

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:52 AM PDT

Researchers have deciphered the role of nanostructures around brain cells in the central nervous system. An accumulation of a protein called amyloid-beta into large insoluble deposits called plaques is known to cause Alzheimer's disease. One aspect of this illness that has not received much attention is which role the structure of the brain environment plays. How do macromolecules and macromolecular assemblies, such as polysaccharides, influence cell interaction in the brain?

Genome sequenced of enterovirus D68 circulating in St. Louis

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:50 AM PDT

The genome of enterovirus D68 sampled from patients treated at St. Louis Children's Hospital has been sequenced by researchers. Nationwide, the virus has spread rapidly in recent months and caused severe respiratory illness in young children, with some patients requiring hospitalization.

Advances in Graves' disease, including a new mouse model

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:49 AM PDT

A unique mouse model of Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, has been developed by scientists, and new research findings may help improve the treatment of Graves' disease, experts report.

Diets high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts among factors to lower first-time stroke risk

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:41 AM PDT

Eating Mediterranean or DASH-style diets, regularly engaging in physical activity and keeping your blood pressure under control can lower your risk of a first-time stroke, experts say. Additionally, these experts not updated prevention guidelines that focus on lowering stroke risk among women.

Evolution of competitiveness: Scientists explain diversity in competitiveness

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:40 AM PDT

Virtually all organisms in the living world compete with members of their own species. However, individuals differ strongly in how much they invest into their competitive ability. Some individuals are highly competitive and eager to get access to high-quality resources, while others seem to avoid competition, instead making prudent use of the lower-quality resources that are left over for them. Moreover, the degree of competitiveness in animal and human societies seems to fluctuate considerably over time. A new study sheds some new light on these findings.

Healthy fractions of oats efficiently recovered; leads to development of new food applications

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:36 AM PDT

Methods to broaden the use of oats in, for example, snacks and beverages, have been uncovered by a researchers. Fractions with 56% beta-glucan and 73% protein were obtained.

The secret life of the sea trout

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:36 AM PDT

Sea trout, also known as brown trout, live complicated lives. Like salmon, they begin their lives in a river, hatched from eggs that were laid in small nests, called redds. As the young fish mature, they go through several developmental stages, all of which involve substantial physiological changes. The most important stage from this perspective is when the fish becomes a smolt, after about 2 years. Entering the smolt stage is like being given a passport out to the sea, because the physiological changes allow the fish to tolerate salt water.

Why some butterflies sound like ants

Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:33 AM PDT

Ant nests can offer a lot to organisms other than just ants. They are well-protected, environmentally-stable and resource-rich spaces -- in many ways everything a tiny creature could ask for in a home. For the insects that squat inside ant nests, though, survival means finding ways to live with the ants -- by foiling the chemical cues ants use to distinguish friend from foe, for instance.

Bee's knees for identifying genetic triggers of novel adult traits

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 06:40 PM PDT

Scientists have long sought to identify the specific DNA changes that can trigger new traits, allowing species to adapt. For development of the embryo, it is usually the master control regions of a gene that dominate, but what about in an adult? Researchers have now found that adults play by a different set of rules, relying on the contributions of novel genes -- called taxonomically restricted genes, TRGs are only found in a given species -- found in honeybees.

High milk intake linked with higher fractures and mortality, research suggests

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 06:40 PM PDT

A high milk intake in women and men is not accompanied by a lower risk of fracture and instead may be associated with a higher rate of death, suggests observational research. Women who drank more than three glasses of milk a day had a higher risk of death than women who drank less than one glass of milk a day.

Bringing offshore wind energy on shore to power industry, homes and businesses

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 06:38 PM PDT

Feeding the world's energy appetite may take innovative approaches in the future. A new book examines methods to bring offshore wind energy on shore to power industry, homes and businesses.

A battle for ant sperm

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 06:38 PM PDT

New research shows that sexual conflict between two ant species can drive an evolutionary battle, leading to competing adaptations in which female ants of one species manhandle sperm away from the unwitting males of a different species.

Scientists discover exact receptor for DEET that repels mosquitoes

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:57 AM PDT

The odorant receptor that makes DEET repellant to mosquitoes has been identified by a research team. DEET has been the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, and more than 200 million people worldwide use DEET, the scientists say.

Figuring out how we get the nitrogen we need

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:57 AM PDT

Chemists have taken a crucial step toward unlocking the mystery of how bacteria use an enzyme called nitrogenase to convert nitrogen -- an essential component of all living systems -- from the inert molecule found in the atmosphere to a form that living systems can use.

Relationship between diet, inflammation and cancer: Key factor found

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:54 AM PDT

A category of lipids known as sphingolipids may be an important link in the relationship between diet, inflammation and cancer, a team of scientists has found. They have provided evidence that a sphingolipid metabolite called sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) found in both mammalian food products and generated by normal human cells can contribute to inflammation of the colon, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and inflammation-associated colon cancer, whereas soy and plant-type sphingolipids called sphingadienes may protect against these conditions.

DNA sequences used to look back in time at key events in plant evolution

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:26 AM PDT

Scientists have revealed important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet. From strange and exotic algae, mosses, ferns, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables we eat and the ornamental plants adorning our homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.

Salt-loving plants may be key to global efforts for sustainable food production

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:26 AM PDT

Farmland is vanishing in part because the salinity in the soil is rising as a result of climate change and other human-made phenomena. Researchers propose a new concept for breeding salt- tolerant plants as a way to contribute to global efforts for sustainable food production.

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