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Thursday, November 20, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

NASA's Swift mission probes an exotic object: 'Kicked' black hole or mega star?

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 02:50 PM PST

Astronomers have discovered an unusual source of light in a galaxy some 90 million light-years away. The dwarf galaxy Markarian 177 (center) and its unusual source SDSS1133 (blue) lie 90 million light-years away. The galaxies are located in the bowl of the Big Dipper, a well-known star pattern in the constellation Ursa Major.

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.

Giving LEDs a cozy, warm glow

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 08:24 AM PST

When the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded this October to three Japanese-born scientists for the invention of blue light emitting diodes (LEDs), the prize committee declared LED lamps would light the 21st century. Now researchers from the Netherlands have found a novel way to ensure the lights of the future not only are energy efficient but also emit a cozy warmth.

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.

Many older brains have plasticity, but in a different place

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 05:49 AM PST

Brain scientists have long believed that older people have less of the neural flexibility, or plasticity, required to learn new things. A new study shows that older people learned a visual task just as well as younger ones, but the seniors who showed a strong degree of learning exhibited plasticity in a different part of the brain than younger learners did.

Spooky alignment of quasars across billions of light-years

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 05:45 AM PST

New observations with ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to be aligned with the vast structures in the cosmic web in which they reside.

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