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Friday, December 5, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

X-ray laser reveals how bacterial protein morphs in response to light

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 01:03 PM PST

Researchers have captured the highest-resolution snapshots ever taken with an X-ray laser that show changes in a protein's structure over time, revealing how a key protein in a photosynthetic bacterium changes shape when hit by light. They achieved a resolution of 1.6 angstroms, equivalent to the radius of a single tin atom.

Response to viral infections depends on entry route of virus

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 12:27 PM PST

Insects can transmit viral diseases to humans. Therefore, understanding how insects cope with viral infection, and what immune mechanisms are triggered, can be important to stop diseases transmission. In a new study, researchers now show that the entry route of the virus changes how the insect host responds to it.

'How much -- and when?' Life-history trade-offs a factor in whole-organism performance

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:31 AM PST

In order to get a more complete picture about the evolution of performance, an examination of an organism's whole-organism performance capacities must include a consideration of its life-history trade-offs, scientists say. In a new article, the authors demonstrate that whole-organism performance capacities are subject to life-history trade-offs with other key determinants of fitness such as immunity, fecundity, behavior, and sexual signaling, and even with the expression of other kinds of whole-organism performance traits.

Source of volcanoes may be much closer than thought: Geophysicists challenge traditional theory underlying origin of mid-plate volcanoes

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:31 AM PST

Geophysicists point to a super-hot layer beneath the tectonic plates as the place of origin for volcanoes, as opposed to deep within the Earth's core.

Greenhouse gases linked to African rainfall

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:31 AM PST

Scientists may have solved a long-standing enigma known as the African Humid Period -- an intense increase in cumulative rainfall in parts of Africa that began after a long dry spell following the end of the last ice age and lasting nearly 10,000 years. It has been linked to greenhouse gas concentrations.

New research paves the way for nano-movies of biomolecules; Scientists use X-ray laser as ultra slow-motion camera

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

An international team has caught a light sensitive biomolecule at work with an X-ray laser. The study proves that X-ray lasers can capture the fast dynamics of biomolecules in ultra slow-motion.

Antarctica: Heat comes from the deep

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

The water temperatures on the West Antarctic shelf are rising. The reason for this is predominantly warm water from greater depths, which as a result of global change now increasingly reaches the shallow shelf. There it has the potential to accelerate the glacier melt from below and trigger the sliding of big glaciers.

Maintaining a reliable value of the cost of climate change

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

The Social Cost of Carbon puts a dollar value on the climate damages per ton of CO2 released, and is used by -- among others -- policymakers to help determine the costs and benefits of climate policies. A group of economists and lawyers urge several improvements to the government's Social Cost of Carbon figure that would impose a regular, transparent and peer-reviewed process to ensure the figure is reliable and well-supported by the latest facts.

Poisonous cure: Toxic fungi may hold secrets to tackling deadly diseases

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:10 AM PST

Take two poisonous mushrooms, and call me in the morning. While no doctor would ever write this prescription, toxic fungi may hold the secrets to tackling deadly diseases. A team of scientists has discovered an enzyme that is the key to the lethal potency of poisonous mushrooms. The results reveal the enzyme's ability to create the mushroom's molecules that harbor missile-like proficiency in attacking and annihilating a single vulnerable target in the human liver.

Why tool-wielding crows are left- or right-beaked

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:07 AM PST

New Caledonian crows show preferences when it comes to holding their tools on the left or the right sides of their beaks, in much the same way that people are left- or right-handed. Now researchers suggest that those bill preferences allow each bird to keep the tip of its tool in view of the eye on the opposite side of its head. Crows aren't so much left- or right-beaked as they are left- or right-eyed.

'Non-echolocating' fruit bats actually do echolocate, with wing clicks

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:07 AM PST

In a discovery that overturns conventional wisdom about bats, researchers have found that Old World fruit bats -- long classified as 'non-echolocating' -- actually do use a rudimentary form of echolocation. Perhaps most surprisingly, the clicks they emit to produce the echoes that guide them through the darkness aren't vocalizations at all. They are instead produced by the bats' wings, although scientists don't yet know exactly how the bats do it.

Innate immune system condemns weak cells to their death

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:06 AM PST

In cell competition the strong eliminate the weak, thereby ensuring optimal tissue fitness. Molecular biologists have now demonstrated that the innate immune system plays a key role in this important mechanism. However, cancer cells also make use of this: they can cause cells that are important for healthy tissue to die.

Electric eels deliver taser-like shocks

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 11:06 AM PST

The electric eel -- the scaleless Amazonian fish that can deliver an electrical jolt strong enough to knock down a full-grown horse -- possesses an electroshock system uncannily similar to a Taser. That is the conclusion of a nine-month study of the way in which the electric eel uses high-voltage electrical discharges to locate and incapacitate its prey.

Insecticides foster 'toxic' slugs, reduce crop yields

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 09:14 AM PST

Insecticides aimed at controlling early-season crop pests, such as soil-dwelling grubs and maggots, can increase slug populations, thus reducing crop yields, according to researchers. "Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world," said one expert. "Seed applications of neonicotinoids are often viewed as cheap insurance against pest problems, but our results suggest that they can sometimes worsen pest problems and should be used with care."

Researchers develop a system to reconstruct grape clusters in 3D, assess quality

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 07:30 AM PST

Software to help reconstruct grape clusters with three-dimensional computer vision techniques has been developed by scientists. The system helps to automatically assess different parameters that define the quality of the wine grape during harvest time.

Thirty new spider species found in one of China's richest biodiversity hotspots

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 06:11 AM PST

Scientists have devoted years to study the astounding diversity hidden in the depths of the Xishuangbanna tropical rain forests. One team now reveals 30 new spider species, which constitutes a minor share of what is yet to be found in this biodiversity hotspot.

Dirt provides new insight into Roman burials

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:43 AM PST

The first scientific evidence of frankincense being used in Roman burial rites in Britain has been uncovered by a team of archaeological scientists. The findings demonstrate that, even while the Roman Empire was in decline, these precious substances were being transported to its furthest northern outpost.

Localized climate change contributed to ancient southwest depopulation

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:43 AM PST

The role of localized climate change in one of the great mysteries of North American archaeology -- the depopulation of southwest Colorado by ancestral Pueblo people in the late 1200s -- has been detailed by researchers. In the process of their study, investigators address one of the mysteries of modern-day climate change: How will humans react?

Research could improve nuclear power plant safety, and stop your kettle furring up

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:41 AM PST

Taking inspiration from nature, researchers have created a versatile model to predict how stalagmite-like structures form in nuclear processing plants – as well as how lime scale builds up in kettles.

Uncovering one of humankind’s most ancient lineages

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:41 AM PST

Scientists have successfully discovered one of modern humans' ancient lineages through the sequencing of genes of the Southern African Khoisan tribespeople. This is the first time that the history of humankind populations has been analyzed and matched to Earth's climatic conditions over the last 200,000 years.

China agrees to enhance its role in global climate change mitigation: Turning the massive 'coal ship' around won’t be easy, experts say

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:40 AM PST

A rapid process of urbanization and an expanding middle class with increasingly western tastes will keep energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in China at high levels over the next 20 years. However, changes are unfolding in China that offer promise and opportunities for cutting emissions and for promoting sustainable energy and climate policies.

3-D printing to the rescue of gastronomy for frail seniors

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:40 AM PST

Researchers are now developing personalised food for elderly people with chewing or swallowing problems, by working on printable versions of meat and vegetables.

Natural substance in red wine has an anti-inflammatory effect in cardiovascular diseases

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:40 AM PST

A natural substance present in red wine, resveratrol, inhibits the formation of inflammatory factors that trigger cardiovascular diseases, a research team concludes. They report that resveratrol binds with the KSRP regulator protein and provides for its activation.

Smaller lidars could allow UAVs to conduct underwater scans

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 01:10 PM PST

A research team has designed a new approach that could lead to underwater imaging lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems. The new technology would allow modest-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry bathymetric lidars, lowering costs substantially.

Birds conform to local 'traditions'

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:25 AM PST

Birds learn new foraging techniques by observing others in their social network, 'copycat' behavior that can sustain foraging 'traditions' that last years, according to a study of how innovations spread and persist in wild great tits -- Parus major.

Study set to shape medical genetics in Africa

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

The first attempt to comprehensively characterize genetic diversity across Sub-Saharan Africa has been published by researchers. The study of the world's most genetically diverse region will provide an invaluable resource for medical researchers and provides insights into population movements over thousands of years of African history.

Peptide shows great promise for treating spinal cord injury, rat study shows

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

Scientists have developed a new chemical compound that shows extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury. The compound allowed paralyzed muscles to activate in more than 80 percent of the animals tested.

Parasites and the evolution of primate culture

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 05:39 AM PST

Learning from others and innovation have undoubtedly helped advance civilization. But these behaviors can carry costs as well as benefits. And a new study by an international team of evolutionary biologists sheds light on how one particular cost - increased exposure to parasites - may affect cultural evolution in non-human primates. The results of the study suggest that species with members that learn from others suffer from a wider variety of socially transmitted parasites, while innovative, exploratory species suffer from a wider variety of parasites transmitted through the environment, such as in the soil or water.

Archaeologists reveal layout of medieval city at Old Sarum

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 05:39 AM PST

Archaeologists have revealed for the first time the plan of a network of buildings in a once thriving medieval city at the historic site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury. A research team of students and academics carried out a geophysical survey of the ancient monument, scanning ground at the site with state-of-the-art equipment to map the remains of buried structures. They concentrated their survey around the inner and outer baileys of what was once a fortification, with its origins in the Iron Age and the Roman conquest. Their investigations reveal the layout of a settlement including structures from the late 11th century, contemporary with the construction of a cathedral and castle. The city was inhabited for over 300 years, but declined in the 13th century with the rise of New Sarum (Salisbury).

Potato and rapeseed: sources of future cardio-vascular health?

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 05:38 AM PST

Potato and rapeseed industry produce vast amounts of protein-rich by-products, which could be utilized in the production of high-quality foodstuffs, research suggests. A scientist has developed methods of producing bioactive peptides from the food industry by-products. The by-products of potato and rapeseed industry proved to be sources of diverse bioactive peptides, she notes.

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