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Thursday, November 20, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Digging for answers: Gender inequality in archeology?

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 02:50 PM PST

On an archaeology field trip in New Mexico an undergraduate noticed something that struck her as an odd gender imbalance: The professor leading the dig was a man, while the graduate assistant and all but two of the 14 undergrads were women.

Spiraling Light, Nanoparticles and Insights Into Life’s Structure

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 02:48 PM PST

As hands come in left and right versions that are mirror images of each other, so do the amino acids and sugars within us. But unlike hands, only the left-oriented amino acids and the right-oriented sugars ever make into life as we know it.

Unique sense of 'touch' gives a prolific bacterium its ability to infect anything

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 12:17 PM PST

One of the world's most prolific bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, manages to afflict humans, animals and even plants by way of a mechanism not before seen in any infectious microorganism -- a sense of touch.

Environmental bleaching impairs long-term coral reproduction

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 12:15 PM PST

Bleaching — a process where high water temperatures or UV light stresses the coral to the point where it loses its symbiotic algal partner that provides the coral with color — is also affecting the long-term fertility of the coral.

Boosts in productivity of corn and other crops modify Northern Hemisphere carbon dioxide cycle

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 11:22 AM PST

In the Northern Hemisphere, there's a strong seasonal cycle of vegetation. Each year in the Northern Hemisphere, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide drop in the summer as plants "inhale," then climb again as they exhale after the growing season. During the last 50 years, the size of this seasonal swing has increased by as much as half, for reasons that aren't fully understood. Now a team of researchers has shown that agricultural production may generate up to a quarter of the increase in this seasonal carbon cycle, with corn playing a leading role.

New view of mouse genome finds many similarities, striking differences with human genome

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 10:27 AM PST

Looking across the genomes of humans and mice, scientists have found that, in general, the systems that are used to control gene activity in both species have many similarities, along with crucial differences. The results may offer insights into gene regulation and other systems important to mammalian biology, and provide new information to determine when the mouse is an appropriate model to study human biology and disease. They may also help explain its limitations.

'Green Revolution' changes breathing of the biosphere: Stronger seasonal oscillations in carbon dioxide linked to intensive agriculture

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 10:26 AM PST

The intense farming practices of the 'Green Revolution' are powerful enough to alter Earth's atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, boosting the seasonal amplitude in atmospheric carbon dioxide to about 15 percent over the past five decades. That's the key finding of a new atmospheric model, which estimates that on average, the amplitude of the seasonal oscillation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing at a rate of 0.3 percent every year.

Natural Gut Viruses Join Bacterial Cousins in Maintaining Health and Fighting Infections

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 10:24 AM PST

Microbiologists say they have what may be the first strong evidence that the natural presence of viruses in the gut — or what they call the 'virome' — plays a health-maintenance and infection-fighting role similar to that of the intestinal bacteria that dwell there and make up the "microbiome."

'Aquatic osteoporosis' jellifying lakes

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

A plague of "aquatic osteoporosis" is spreading throughout many North American soft-water lakes due to declining calcium levels in the water and hindering the survival of some organisms. The reduced calcium availability is hindering the survival of aquatic organisms with high calcium requirements and promoting the growth of nutrient-poor, jelly-clad animals.

Geologists shed light on formation of Alaska Range

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

Geologists have recently figured out what has caused the Alaska Range to form the way it has and why the range boasts such an enigmatic topographic signature. The narrow mountain range is home to some of the world's most dramatic topography, including 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain.

Prehistoric landslide discovery rivals largest known on surface of Earth

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 08:28 AM PST

A catastrophic landslide that rivals in size the largest known gravity slide on the surface of the Earth has been mapped in southwestern Utah by geologists. The Markagunt gravity slide, the size of three Ohio counties, covered at least 1,300 square miles and its full scope is still being mapped. It could prove to be larger than the Heart Mountain slide, the largest known on the Earth's surface.

Biochemists build largest synthetic molecular 'cage' ever

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 07:20 AM PST

Biochemists have created the largest protein ever that self-assembles into a molecular cage. Their designed protein, which does not exist in nature, is hundreds of times smaller than a human cell. The research could lead to 'synthetic vaccines' that protect people from the flu, HIV and perhaps other diseases. It could also lead to new methods of delivering pharmaceuticals inside of cells and the creation of new nano-scale materials.

'Fountain of youth' underlies Antarctic mountains: Why peaks buried in ice look so young

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 07:20 AM PST

Scientists have now explained why the ice-covered Gamburtsev Mountains in the middle of Antarctica looks as young as they do.

Seed dormancy, a property that prevents germination, already existed 360 million years ago

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 07:19 AM PST

Scientists have found that seed dormancy (a property that prevents germination under non-favorable conditions) was a feature already present in the first seeds, 360 million years ago.

A 3-D, talking map for the blind (and everyone else)

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 07:16 AM PST

Developers have built and tested a new kind of interactive wayfinder: 3-D maps that vocalize building information and directions when touched.

Ancient genetic program employed in more than just fins and limbs: Hox genes provide blueprint for a diversity of body plan features

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 05:49 AM PST

Researchers have found that the Hox gene program, responsible for directing the development of fins and limbs, is also utilized to develop other body part features of vertebrates, such as barbels and vents in fish. The research indicates that this genetic program, which dates back at least 440-480 million years, is older and more widely utilized than previously thought.

Scientists get to the heart of fool's gold as a solar material

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 03:25 PM PST

As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a research team explains why that is, in a discovery that suggests how improvements in this promising material could lead to inexpensive yet efficient solar cells.

Ancient New Zealand 'dawn whale' identified

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 03:24 PM PST

Palaeontologists are rewriting the history of New Zealand's ancient whales by describing a previously unknown genus of fossil baleen whales and two species within it. The two whales, which lived between 27-25 million years ago, were preserved in a rock formation near Duntroon in North Otago. At that time the continent of Zealandia was largely or completely under water and the whales were deposited on a continental shelf that was perhaps between 50 to 100 meters deep.

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