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Friday, February 6, 2015

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Drug-resistant bacteria lurk in subway stations, high school students discover

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 02:49 PM PST

Forget commuters and rats, New York City's subway system is crowded with microbes. After spending her vacation swabbing benches and turn styles beneath the city, high school students found bacteria impervious to two major antibiotics.

Organic food reduces pesticide exposure

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 02:48 PM PST

A new study is among the first to predict a person's pesticide exposure based on information about their usual diet.

Another breastfeeding benefit: Preparing baby's belly for solid food

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 02:46 PM PST

Researchers found that a baby's diet during the first few months of life has a profound influence on the composition, diversity, and stability of the gut microbiome. These factors influence the baby's ability to transition from milk to solid foods and may have long-term health effects.

Seafloor volcano pulses may alter climate: Strikingly regular patterns, from weeks to eons

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 11:29 AM PST

A new study shows that undersea volcanoes flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years -- and, that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. The pulses -- apparently tied to short- and long-term changes in earth's orbit, and to sea levels -- may help trigger natural climate swings.

Tiny termites can hold back deserts by creating oases of plant life

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 11:29 AM PST

Termite mounds can help prevent the spread of deserts into semi-arid ecosystems and agricultural lands. The results of a new study not only suggest that termite mounds could make these areas more resilient to climate change than previously thought, but could also inspire a change in how scientists determine the possible effects of climate change on ecosystems.

Carnivorous mushroom reveals human immune trick: How we punch our way into cancer cells

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 11:29 AM PST

Edible oyster mushrooms have an intriguing secret: They eat spiders and roundworms. And they do so using proteins that can punch their way into cells, leaving tidy but deadly holes. It's a trick that our immune cells also use to protect us, destroying infected cells, cancerous cells, and bacteria.

Why do new strains of HIV spread slowly?

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 11:29 AM PST

Most HIV epidemics are still dominated by the first strain that entered a particular population. New research offers an explanation of why the global mixing of HIV variants is so slow.

Genetics lab unravels mystery whale killing at sea

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 11:12 AM PST

Fisheries scientists happened onto a killer whale attack too late to tell what species had been the target. So they recovered all that was left -- a whale lung -- and probed its DNA to for clues to where it came from. It turned out to be the first documentation of killer whales attacking a rarely seen pygmy sperm whale.

Improving genome editing with drugs

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 11:12 AM PST

Scientists have discovered a way to enhance the efficiency of CRISPR genome editing with the introduction of a few key chemical compounds. This has important potential implications for correcting disease-causing genetic mutations.

Similar statistics play role in decision-making and World War II code breaking

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 10:12 AM PST

"The brain reaches a decision by combining samples of evidence in much the way a good statistician would," says a researcher. He demonstrates this theory by monitoring the decision-making process in rhesus monkeys to determine how much and what information they need to confidently choose a correct answer.

In a crisis, the bigger your social network, the better

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:31 AM PST

Researchers examined social networks in the late pre-Hispanic Southwest and found that communities that were more connected with their neighbors had a better chance of being able to successfully manage a crisis than did communities with fewer outside connections.

Microbiome linked to type 1 diabetes: Shift in microbiome species diversity prior to disease onset

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:30 AM PST

In the largest longitudinal study of the microbiome to date, researchers have identified a connection between changes in gut microbiota and the onset of type 1 diabetes. The study, which followed infants who were genetically predisposed to the condition, found that onset for those who developed the disease was preceded by a drop in microbial diversity -- including a disproportional decrease in the number of species known to promote health in the gut.

After merger, chimpanzees learned new grunt for 'apple'

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:30 AM PST

Chimpanzees have special grunts for particular types of foods, and their fellow chimps know exactly what those calls mean. Now, by studying what happened after two separate groups of adult chimpanzees moved in together at the Edinburgh Zoo, researchers have made the surprising discovery that our primate cousins can change those referential grunts over time, to make them sound more like those of new peers.

Satellite science improves storm surge forecasting around the world

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:28 AM PST

A new online resource which will help coastguards, meteorological organisations and scientific communities predict future storm surge patterns has been created. The freely-accessible database of storm surge data has been compiled through the multi-partner, international eSurge project, which was launched in 2011 with the aim of making available observational data to improve the modelling and forecasting of storm surges around the world using advanced techniques and instruments. 

Tracking glaciers with accelerators

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:27 AM PST

Geologists once thought that, until about 18,000 years ago, a mammoth glacier covered the top two-thirds of Ireland. Recently, however, they found evidence that it wasn't just the top two-thirds: The Irish glacier was much larger, completely engulfing the country and extending far offshore.

Using solar energy to improve desalination process

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 08:15 AM PST

 A new process to decompose waste desalination brine using solar energy, which neutralizes ocean acidity and reduces environmental impact, has been proposed.

Methane seepage from Arctic seabed occurring for millions of years

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 07:19 AM PST

Natural seepage of methane offshore the Arctic archipelago Svalbard has been occurring periodically for at least 2.7 million years. Major events of methane emissions happened at least twice during this period, according to a new study.

Heavy rainfall events becoming more frequent on Big Island, Hawaii

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 06:52 AM PST

A recent study determined that heavy rainfall events have become more frequent over the last 50 years on Hawai'i Island. For instance, a rare storm with daily precipitation of nearly 12 inches, occurring once every 20 years by 1960, has become a rather common storm event on the Big Island of Hawai'i -- returning every 3-5 years by 2009.

New type of membrane permits cheaper and more efficient water purification

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 06:52 AM PST

New selective membranes in the form of thin hollow straws can improve water purification. The membranes make it possible to purify water in a single process step, while preliminary treatment is always required in existing water treatment plants. The most important benefits of the new membranes are that they can make the provision of drinking water easier and therefore cheaper and can improve the removal of micropollutants such as pharmaceutical residues.

Norwegian lemmings dress loudly and scream even louder to survive

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 06:51 AM PST

Researcher looks at why the Norwegian lemming is so boldly colored and brave. The conspicuous, bold colors of the Norwegian lemming's fur and its loud barks serve as warnings to predators that it is not a creature to be messed with. This ferocity makes it unique among small rodents.

Lyme disease costs up to $1. 3 billion per year to treat, study finds

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 06:50 AM PST

New research suggests that a prolonged illness associated with Lyme disease is more widespread and serious in some patients than previously understood.

15-million-year-old mollusk protein found

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:37 AM PST

Scientists have found 'beautifully preserved' 15-million-year-old thin protein sheets in fossil shells from southern Maryland. The team collected samples from Calvert Cliffs, along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay, a popular fossil collecting area. They found fossilized shells of a snail-like mollusk called Ecphora that lived in the mid-Miocene era.

Preventing greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:37 AM PST

A novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power plant emissions has been developed by a multi-institution team of researchers. The approach could be an important advance in carbon capture and sequestration.

Neanderthals disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula before than from the rest of Europe

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:35 AM PST

Until a few months ago different scientific articles dated the disappearance of the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) from Europe at around 40,000 years ago. However, a new study shows that these hominids could have disappeared before then in the Iberian Peninsula, closer to 45,000 years ago.

Octopus robot makes waves with ultra-fast propulsion

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:30 AM PST

Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot, which can zoom through water with ultra-fast propulsion and acceleration never before seen in human-made underwater vehicles. Most fast aquatic animals are sleek and slender to help them move easily through the water but cephalopods, such as the octopus, are capable of high-speed escapes by filling their bodies with water and then quickly expelling it to dart away. Inspired by this, scientists built a deformable octopus-like robot with a 3D printed skeleton with no moving parts and no energy storage device, other than a thin elastic outer hull.

Randomness of megathrust earthquakes implied by rapid stress recovery after the Japan earthquake

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:30 AM PST

Stress recovery following the 2011 M9.0 Tohoku-oki earthquake has been significantly faster than previously anticipated; specifically, the stress-state at the plate interface returned within just a few years to levels observed before the megathrust event. In addition, since there is no observable spatial difference in the stress state along the megathrust zone, it is difficult to predict the location and extent of future large ruptures.

Shade coffee is for the birds

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:29 AM PST

The conservation value of growing coffee under trees instead of on open farms is well known, but hasn't been studied much in Africa. So biolgists studied birds in the Ethiopian home of Arabica coffee and found that "shade coffee" farms are good for birds, but some species do best in forest.

Malocclusion and dental crowding arose 12,000 years ago with earliest farmers

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 11:46 AM PST

Hunter-gatherers had almost no malocclusion and dental crowding, and the condition first became common among the world's earliest farmers some 12,000 years ago in Southwest Asia.

Record keeping helps bacteria's immune system fight invaders

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 11:45 AM PST

Bacteria have a sophisticated means of defending themselves, and they need it: more viruses infect bacteria than any other biological entity. Two experiments provide new insight at the heart of bacterial adaptive defenses in a system.

Mapping of the canary genome

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 09:59 AM PST

Nature lovers are fascinated by the increasing number of singing birds when spring is approaching. Scientists also take advantage of this seasonal phenomenon because they are able to investigate the underlying mechanism; however the evolutionary and molecularbiological background is largely unknown. Biologists have now sequenced the genome of the canary.

Attention: How eyes reveal the brain's focus

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 09:58 AM PST

A primate's ability to pay attention to, or tune out, particular sights and sounds is crucial for success and survival. Researchers looked into monkeys' eyes for insight into how the brain processes distractions. They found that neural activity and changes to pupil size in response to distractors can predict how well the brain helps focus on a goal.

Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 07:26 AM PST

As many places in the US and Europe increasingly turn to biomass rather than fossil fuels for power and heat, scientists are focusing on what this trend might mean for air quality -- and people's health. One such study on wood-chip burners' particulate emissions, which can cause heart and lung problems. The scientists say the findings could help manufacturers reduce the negative impact of this fuel in the future.

Visual system primed to see objects in discrete units

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 04:52 AM PST

Human beings are born with a visual system already predisposed to see (and mentally representing) objects as discrete perceptual units. Movement is an important visual feature, but how early in a child's development is it represented independently from the object itself? And what function does this skill serve in the development of cognitive abilities? New research shows that this skill develops very early in infancy. In fact, its presence in mice suggests a genetic basis for it.

Caterpillar to butterfly: New light shed on diet, steroid hormones and development

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 04:52 AM PST

Researchers have discovered an exciting new link between nutrition and development in fruit flies that involves a direct association between the brain and parts of the insect organ secreting the important hormone. It helps to explain when and how caterpillars turn into butterflies and may help us to understand how and when children develop into adults.

Puget Sound salmon face more ups and downs in river flows

Posted: 03 Feb 2015 12:59 PM PST

Climate change projections predict increased climate variability, which is already appearing in the form of more pronounced fluctuations in salmon rivers around Puget Sound, Wash. That poses increased risks for threatened Chinook salmon, a new study finds.

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