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Friday, November 7, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Panel-powered car under development

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:42 AM PST

A car powered by its own body panels could soon be driving on our roads after a recent breakthrough in nanotechnology research. Researchers have developed lightweight 'supercapacitors' that can be combined with regular batteries to dramatically boost the power of an electric car.

Golden approach to high-speed DNA reading

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:42 AM PST

High-speed reading of the genetic code should get a boost with the creation of the world's first graphene nanopores -- pores measuring approximately 2 nanometers in diameter -- that feature a "built-in" optical antenna. Researchers have invented a simple, one-step process for producing these nanopores in a graphene membrane using the photothermal properties of gold nanorods.

To eat fish or not to eat fish: Pregnant, breastfeeding women ask the question

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:40 AM PST

To eat fish or not to eat fish? That is the question for pregnant and breastfeeding women. An expert clarifies this complicated issue in a new article.

Cockroach cyborgs use microphones to detect, trace sounds

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:40 AM PST

Researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.

Exquisite ancient horse fossil preserves uterus with unborn foal

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:40 AM PST

A specimen of the ancient horse Eurohippus messelensis has been discovered in Germany that preserves a fetus as well as parts of the uterus and associated tissues. It demonstrates that reproduction in early horses was very similar to that of modern horses, despite great differences in size and structure.

Sustainability, astrobiology illuminate future of life in the universe and civilization on Earth

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:17 AM PST

Two astrophysicists argue that questions about the future of life on Earth and beyond may soon be resolvable scientifically, thanks to new data about the Earth and about other planets in our galaxy, and by combining the earth-based science of sustainability with the space-oriented field of astrobiology.

Vegan diet best for weight loss even with carbohydrate consumption, study finds

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:17 AM PST

People shed more weight on an entirely plant based diet, even if carbohydrates are also included, a study has concluded. Other benefits of eating a vegan diet include decreased levels of saturated and unsaturated fat, lower BMIs, and improved macro nutrients.

Oranges highly allergenic for one toddler, study reports

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:29 AM PST

A two and-a-half year-old girl in Pennsylvania has suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction to eating an orange -- the first time such a case has been reported in a toddler. "She ate an orange, and within a few minutes had developed severe anaphylaxis," said allergist and study author. "Her lips and tongue swelled, she broke out in hives and couldn't breathe well. Her parents immediately got her to an emergency room, and she was flown by helicopter to a pediatric intensive care unit."

Tricky take-off kept pterodactyls grounded

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:29 AM PST

A new study, which teamed cutting-edge engineering techniques with paleontology, has found that take-off capacity may have determined body size limits in extinct flying reptiles.

Less nitrite in meat products reduces levels of nitrosamines

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:27 AM PST

The less nitrite added to processed meat, the lower the levels of potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines formed in the products. The formation of nitrosamines can be reduced even further by adding e.g. erythorbic acid, scientists report.

New bioenergetic organelle found in plants

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:26 AM PST

To date, it was thought that mitochondria and chloroplasts were the only plant cell components able to produce chemical energy. However, according to a new article, another organelle has been identified by researchers, the chromoplast, able to synthetize energy for its metabolism.

Tiger mosquito found in Andalusia thanks to a collaborative citizens' project

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:26 AM PST

Thanks to a mobile phone app, the tiger mosquito has been discovered for the first time to be present in Andalusia. The insect transmits diseases like chikungunya and dengue fever. This was made possible by public participation via the "" app and subsequent verification by entomologists collaborating in the project.

Mediterranean diets have lasting health benefits

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:26 AM PST

The health benefits of switching to a Mediterranean style diet and upping the amount of time spent exercising for a period of just eight weeks can still be seen a year after stopping the regime, a new study has shown.

Machine vision for catch quality assurance

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:24 AM PST

Robots equipped with machine vision enable us to classify catches on board vessels with high levels of accuracy – saving fishing crews time and money. When pelagic fish such as herring and mackerel are coming to market, auctions are hectic and time is short. Price is determined by the volume of the catch and its weight distribution.

Bats identified as hosts of Bartonella mayotimonensis

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:24 AM PST

Modern sequencing techniques have shown that bats can carry a bacterial species previously been shown to cause deadly human infections in USA. There are more than 1,100 species of bats on Earth. The numbers of bats are estimated to outnumber every other group of mammals. "Bats are also highly mobile and long-lived, so they are ideal as pathogen reservoirs. A plethora of pathogenic viruses such as Ebola are known to colonize bats," the study's lead author says.

Zebrafish stripped of stripes

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:20 AM PST

Within weeks of publishing surprising new insights about how zebrafish get their stripes, the same group is now able to explain how to "erase" them.

Groundbreaking clinical trial to test blood pressure drug that reverses diabetes in animal models

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:20 AM PST

New research has shown that the common blood pressure drug verapamil completely reverses diabetes in animal models. Now, thanks to a three-year, $2.1 million grant, researchers will begin conducting a potentially groundbreaking clinical trial in 2015 to see if it can do the same in humans.

Blight-resistant american chestnut trees take root

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:20 AM PST

Scientists are growing the first American chestnut trees that can withstand the blight that virtually eliminated the tree from the eastern United States.

Antibiotics: On-the-spot tests reduce unnecessary prescriptions

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 05:35 PM PST

Fast, on-the-spot tests for bacterial infections may help to reduce excessive antibiotic use. A systematic review found that when doctors tested for the presence of bacterial infections they prescribed fewer antibiotics.

Piglet brain atlas new tool in understanding human infant brain development

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 05:34 PM PST

A new online tool will further aid studies into postnatal brain growth in human infants based on the similarities seen in the development of the piglet brain. Through a cooperative effort, multi-disciplinary researchers have developed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based brain atlas for the four-week old piglet that offers a three-dimensional averaged brain and anatomical regions of interest.

Mosquitofish genitalia change rapidly due to human impacts

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 01:52 PM PST

Human environmental changes can markedly -- and rapidly -- affect fish shape, specifically the shape of mosquitofish genitalia in the Bahamas. These findings indicate that sometimes the impacts of human activities on the traits of organisms can be predictable, suggesting that management, restoration and conservation efforts could be useful.

Ah-choo! Expect higher grass pollen, allergen exposure in coming century

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 12:45 PM PST

There will be notable increases in grass pollen production and allergen exposure up to 202 percent in the next 100 years, leading to a significant, worldwide impact on human health due to predicted rises in carbon dioxide and ozone due to climate change. This is the conclusion of researchers who say that while CO2 stimulates reproduction and growth in plants, ozone has a negative impact on plant growth.

Small New Zealand population initiated rapid forest transition c. 750 years ago: Drier forests lost within decades, instead of centuries as previously thought

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 12:45 PM PST

Human-set fires by a small Polynesian population in New Zealand about 750 years ago may have caused fire-vulnerable forests to shift to shrub land over decades, rather than over centuries, as previously thought.

ADHD-air pollution link: Breathing dirty air during pregnancy raises odds of childhood ADHD-related behavior problems

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 12:45 PM PST

Prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a component of air pollution, raises the odds of behavior problems associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, at age 9, according to researchers.

A fraction of the global military spending could save the planet's biodiversity, say experts: Only one in four protected areas is well managed

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 12:45 PM PST

A fundamental step-change involving an increase in funding and political commitment is urgently needed to ensure that protected areas deliver their full conservation, social and economic potential, according to an new article.

New coral species off California discovered

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 11:11 AM PST

A research team has discovered a new species of deep-sea coral and a nursery area for catsharks and skates in the underwater canyons located close to the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries off the Sonoma coast.

Humans, baboons share cumulative culture ability

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 11:10 AM PST

The ability to build up knowledge over generations, called cumulative culture, has given humankind language and technology. While it was thought to be limited to humans until now, researchers have recently found that baboons are also capable of cumulative culture.

Genesis of genitalia: We have one. Lizards have two. Why?

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 10:19 AM PST

When it comes to genitalia, nature enjoys variety. Snakes and lizards have two. Birds and people have one. And while the former group's paired structures are located somewhat at the level of the limbs, ours, and the birds', appear a bit further down. In fact, snake and lizard genitalia are derived from tissue that gives rise to hind legs, while mammalian genitalia are derived from the tail bud. But despite such noteworthy contrasts, these structures are functionally analogous and express similar genes. Researchers have now discovered how functionally analogous genitalia can arise from divergent tissue.

First amphibious ichthyosaur discovered, filling evolutionary gap

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 10:19 AM PST

The first fossil of an amphibious ichthyosaur has been discovered in China. The fossil represents a missing stage in the evolution of ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles from the Age of Dinosaurs about 250 million years ago.

Coexist or perish, new wildfire analysis says: Changing wildfire paradigm from fighting to coexistence

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 10:19 AM PST

An international team of fire experts have concluded that it is time to stop fighting fires and instead develop strategies to live with fire. In many areas, fire management is difficult or impossible, and interferes with fire's key role in the ecosystem. Instead, we should develop zoning & building codes and evacuation protocols to allow people to live with fire, just as we now live with earthquake and tornado hazards.

Increase in ozone-destroying substances, but Montreal Protocol on track

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 10:19 AM PST

Scientists have shown a recent increase in atmospheric hydrogen chloride, a substance linked to destruction of the ozone layer.

Giant groundhog-like creature: Newly discovered fossil is a clue to early mammalian evolution

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 10:19 AM PST

A newly discovered 66–70 million-year-old groundhog-like creature, massive in size compared to other mammals of its era, provides new and important insights into early mammalian evolution.

Engineered for tolerance, bacteria pump out higher quantity of renewable gasoline

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 09:20 AM PST

An international team of bioengineers has boosted the ability of bacteria to produce isopentenol, a compound with desirable gasoline properties. The finding is a significant step toward developing a bacterial strain that can yield industrial quantities of renewable bio-gasoline.

How corals can actually benefit from climate change effects

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 09:20 AM PST

New research explains how mod­erate increases in ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion and tem­per­a­ture can enhance the growth rates of some reef-forming corals. Authors of a new report attribute the coral's pos­i­tive response to mod­er­ately ele­vated carbon dioxide to the fer­til­iza­tion of pho­to­syn­thesis within the coral's algal sym­bionts, which may pro­vide the coral with more energy for cal­ci­fi­ca­tion even though the sea­water is more acidic.

Understanding of global freshwater fish, fishing too shallow, scientists say

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:26 AM PST

Inland fish have to make a bigger splash. What sounds counter-intuitive to an activity commonly perceived as quiet is the broad recommendation of scientists recommending that small-scale fishing in the world's freshwater bodies must have a higher profile to best protect global food security.

Mouse model that reproduces noonan syndrome created

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:26 AM PST

A single mutation in the mouse genome -- within the K-Ras gene -- reproduces the main alterations found in humans of this rare syndrome, which include short stature, facial dysmorphia, cardiac dysfunction and haematological alterations. Researchers are able to prevent the development of symptoms via prenatal treatment with MEK inhibitors The discovery opens avenues to novel therapeutic strategies for the disease.

High-fat diet postpones brain aging in mice

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:26 AM PST

New research suggests that signs of brain aging can be postponed in mice if placed on a high-fat diet. In the long term, this opens the possibility of treatment of children suffering from premature aging and patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Population boom, droughts contributed to collapse of ancient Assyrian Empire

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:25 AM PST

Researchers have drawn parallels between decline of Assyrian civilization and today's situation in Syria and Iraq. There's more to the decline of the once mighty ancient Assyrian Empire than just civil wars and political unrest. Archaeological, historical, and paleoclimatic evidence suggests that climatic factors and population growth might also have come into play.

Renewable energy support programs: New studies examine how and when they work

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:23 AM PST

Scientists have quantitatively analyzed the effects of various schemes to support renewable energy generation and, consequently, to reduce carbon emissions and end fossil fuel dependence.

Mosquito feeding study may help stem dangerous viruses

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:23 AM PST

Mosquitoes bite male birds nearly twice as often as they bite females, a finding that may help scientists understand how to stem some viruses from spreading to humans. This marks the first step for scientists to try to determine why mosquitoes bite men more often than women in some parts of the world and vice versa in other areas, said one researcher.

Breaking down BPA and similar pollutants with sunlight, nanoparticles and graphene

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:13 AM PST

Many pollutants with the potential to meddle with hormones -- with bisphenol A, better known as BPA, as a prime example -- are already common in the environment. In an effort to clean up these pollutants found in the soil and waterways, scientists are now reporting a novel way to break them down by recruiting help from nanoparticles and light.

Longhorn beetle inspires ink to fight counterfeiting

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:12 AM PST

From water marks to colored threads, governments are constantly adding new features to paper money to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters. Now a longhorn beetle has inspired yet another way to foil cash fraud, as well as to produce colorful, changing billboards and art displays. Researchers report a new kind of ink that mimics the beetle's color-shifting ability in a way that would be long-lasting and difficult to copy.

Could non-gluten proteins play a role in Celiac disease?

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:12 AM PST

Although gluten-free foods are trendy among the health-conscious, they are necessary for those with celiac disease. But gluten, the primary trigger for health problems in these patients, may not be the only culprit. Scientists are reporting that people with the disease also have reactions to non-gluten wheat proteins. The results could help scientists better understand how the disease works and could have implications for how to treat it.

Analyzing heat waves: Extreme heat waves may become the norm

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:12 AM PST

Scientists have developed a new index to measure the magnitude of heat waves. According to the index projections, under the worst climate scenario of temperature rise nearing 4.8pC, extreme heat waves will become the norm by the end of the century.

X-ray vision of photosynthesis: New technique facilitates analysis of biomolecules in a near-natural state

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:12 AM PST

Photosynthesis is one of the most important processes in nature. The complex method by which all green plants harvest sunlight and thereby produce the oxygen in our air is still not fully understood. Researchers have used DESY's X-ray light source PETRA III to investigate a photosynthesis subsystem in a near-natural state.

Your own energy 'island'? Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:11 AM PST

When researchers talk about "islanding," or isolating, from the grid, they are discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids -- small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

How important is long-distance travel in spread of epidemics?

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 06:35 AM PST

When modeling the spread of epidemics, such as the Ebola outbreak, scientists must take into account the long-distance hops now possible with international air travel. But how important are such long-distance jumps? A new model by biophysicists shows that how common long-range jumps are makes a big difference in the dispersal of a disease, that is, whether you get slow, rippling versus rapid metastatic spread.

New dietary supplement beats calcium, vitamin D for bone strength

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 06:33 AM PST

A new study reveals that a new dietary supplement is superior to calcium and vitamin D when it comes to bone health in post-menopausal women.

Simple but extremely sensitive magnetometer developed

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 05:44 AM PST

An innovative magnetometer that can replace conventional technology in applications such as neuroimaging, mineral exploration and molecular diagnostics has been developed by scientists. Its manufacturing costs are between 70 and 80 per cent lower than those of traditional technology, and the device is not as sensitive to external magnetic fields as its predecessors. The design of the magnetometer also makes it easier to integrate into measuring systems.

Enough water in the future? Swiss research identifies solutions to potential user conflicts

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 05:44 AM PST

The Swiss water economy is not optimally prepared to cope with the forthcoming changes in terms of climate and society. Nevertheless, new research concludes that Switzerland will have enough water if regional collaboration is expanded, if sustainable solutions to water conflicts are found and if water protection efforts are continued.

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