Πέμπτη, 27 Μαρτίου 2014

ScienceDaily: Top News

ScienceDaily: Top News

Canal between ears helps alligators pinpoint sound

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:22 PM PDT

Alligators can accurately pinpoint the source of sounds. But it wasn't clear exactly how they did it because they lack external auditory structures. A new study shows that the alligator's ear is strongly directional because of large, air-filled channels connecting the two middle ears. This configuration is similar in birds, which have an interaural canal that increases directionality.

Core skin bacterial community in humpback whales

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:22 PM PDT

Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, but they reside on nearly every surface humans encounter -- including the skin. Uncovering the role these microorganisms play in human health is a major focus of research in skin microbiology, but little is known about the identity or function of skin bacteria in other mammals. Researchers have now identified a core skin bacterial community that humpback whales share across populations, which could point to a way to assess the overall health of these endangered marine mammals.

No correlation between medical marijuana legalization, crime increase: Legalization may reduce homicide, assault rates

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT

A professor of criminology found that legalization of medical marijuana is not an indicator of increased crime. It actually may be related to reductions in certain types of violent crime. The study tracked crime rates across all 50 states between 1990 and 2006, when 11 states legalized marijuana for medical use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Since the time period the study covered, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Crows understand water displacement at the level of a small child: Show causal understanding of a 5- to 7-year-old child

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT

New Caledonian crows may understand how to displace water to receive a reward, with the causal understanding level of a 5- to 7-year-old child. Understanding causal relationships between actions is a key feature of human cognition. However, the extent to which non-human animals are capable of understanding causal relationships is not well understood. Scientists used the Aesop's fable riddle -- in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out-of reach-reward -- to assess New Caledonian crows' causal understanding of water displacement.

Cuvier's beaked whales set new breath-hold diving records: Whales dive to nearly two miles depth, for over two hours

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT

Scientists monitored Cuvier's beaked whales' record-breaking dives to depths of nearly two miles below the ocean surface and some dives lasted for over two hours.

Bamboo-loving giant pandas also have a sweet tooth

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:19 PM PDT

Despite the popular conception of giant pandas as continually chomping on bamboo, new research reveals that this highly endangered species also has a sweet tooth. Behavioral and molecular genetic studies demonstrate that the panda possesses functional sweet taste receptors and shows a strong preference for natural sweeteners.

Autism begins in pregnancy, according to study: Cortical layers disrupted during brain development in autism

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:19 PM PDT

Researchers have published a study that gives clear and direct new evidence that autism begins during pregnancy. The researchers analyzed 25 genes in post-mortem brain tissue of children with and without autism. These included genes that serve as biomarkers for brain cell types in different layers of the cortex, genes implicated in autism and several control genes.

The search for seeds of black holes

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 02:03 PM PDT

How do you grow a supermassive black hole that is a million to a billion times the mass of our sun? Astronomers do not know the answer, but a new study using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has turned up what might be the cosmic seeds from which a black hole will sprout. The results are helping scientists piece together the evolution of supermassive black holes -- powerful objects that dominate the hearts of all galaxies.

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 01:09 PM PDT

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. By inserting enzymes from trees into the bacterium scientists have boosted pinene production six-fold over earlier bioengineering efforts.

Major increase in West Antarctic glacial loss

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 12:37 PM PDT

Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to discharge into the ocean and global sea level to rise, according to new research.

Solar system has a new most-distant member

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 12:37 PM PDT

The Solar System has a new most-distant member, bringing its outer frontier into focus. New work reports the discovery of a distant dwarf planet, called 2012 VP113, which was found beyond the known edge of the Solar System. This is likely one of thousands of distant objects that are thought to form the so-called inner Oort cloud. The work indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, not yet seen, but possibly influencing the orbit of inner Oort cloud objects.

Keeping secrets in a world of spies and mistrust

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 12:37 PM PDT

A new article reviews developments in quantum cryptography and describes how we can keep our secrets secret even when faced with the double challenge of mistrust and manipulation.

Coal plant closure in China led to improvements in children's health

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:23 AM PDT

Decreased exposure to air pollution in utero is linked with improved childhood developmental and higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a key protein for brain development, according to a study of looking at the closure of coal-burning power plant in China.

Preoperative PET cuts unnecessary lung surgeries in half

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:23 AM PDT

PET changed patient management in 50 percent of lung cancer cases, a comprehensive statistical analysis reveals. Few studies have been able to pin down exactly what impact preoperative PET has on clinical decision-making and resulting treatment. Preliminary review of the data from this long-term, observational study was inconclusive, but after a more thorough statistical analysis accounting for selection bias and other confounding factors, the researchers were able to conclude that PET imaging eliminated approximately half of unnecessary surgeries.

Biological testing tool, ScanDrop, tests in fraction of time and cost of industry standard

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:23 AM PDT

A single instrument that can conduct a wide range of biological scans in a fraction of the time and cost of industry standard equipment has been developed. It uses considerably less material and ultra-sensitive detection methods to do the same thing. ScanDrop, is a portable instrument no bigger than a shoebox that has the capacity to detect a variety of biological specimen. For that reason it will benefit a wide range of users beyond the medical community, including environmental monitoring and basic scientific research.

Tumor suppressor gene linked to stem cells, cancer biologists report

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:23 AM PDT

Just as archeologists try to decipher ancient tablets to discern their meaning, cancer biologists are working to decode the purpose of an ancient gene considered one of the most important in cancer research. The p53 gene appears to be involved in signaling other cells instrumental in stopping tumor development. But the p53 gene predates cancer, so scientists are, for now, uncertain what its original function is.

Comprehensive 'roadmap' of blood cells revealed by researchers

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:22 AM PDT

An unprecedented look at five unique blood cells in the human body has been published in a new article, pinpointing the location of key genetic regulators in these cells and providing a new tool that may help scientists to identify how blood cells form and shed light on the etiology of blood diseases.

Resistance is not futile: Researchers engineer resistance to ionic liquids in biofuel microbes

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:22 AM PDT

Researchers have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels.

Gut metabolism changes -- not stomach size -- linked to success of vertical sleeve gastrectomy

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:22 AM PDT

It's not the size of the stomach that causes weight loss after a specific type of bariatric surgery, but rather a change in the gut metabolism, say researchers. They have found that following vertical sleeve gastrectomy, there is a change in bile acids that bind to a nuclear receptor called FXR. In the absence of FXR, the researchers showed, weight-loss success and improvement in diabetes from vertical sleeve gastrectomy is reduced.

Ancient sea creatures filtered food like modern whales

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:22 AM PDT

Ancient, giant marine animals used bizarre facial appendages to filter food from the ocean, according to new fossils discovered in northern Greenland. The new study describes how the strange species, called Tamisiocaris, used these huge, specialized appendages to filter plankton, similar to the way modern blue whales feed today.

First ring system around asteroid: Chariklo found to have two rings

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:18 AM PDT

Astronomers have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris.

Gout isn't always easy to prove: CT scans help catch cases traditional test misses

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:18 AM PDT

Gout is on the rise among U.S. men and women, and this piercingly painful and most common form of inflammatory arthritis is turning out to be more complicated than had been thought. The standard way to check for gout is by drawing fluid or tissue from an affected joint and looking for uric acid crystals, a test known as a needle aspirate. That usually works, but not always: In a new study, X-rays known as dual-energy CT scans found gout in one-third of patients whose aspirates tested negative for the disease.

New clue to autism found inside brain cells

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:16 AM PDT

The problems people with autism have with memory formation, higher-level thinking and social interactions may be partially attributable to the activity of receptors inside brain cells, researchers have learned. The receptor under study, known as the mGlu5 receptor, becomes activated when it binds to the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is associated with learning and memory. This leads to chain reactions that convert the glutamate's signal into messages traveling inside the cell.

3-D MRI scans may offer better way to predict survival after targeted chemo for liver tumors

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:16 AM PDT

Specialized 3-D MRI scans to precisely measure living and dying tumor tissue to quickly show whether highly toxic chemotherapy – delivered directly through a tumor's blood supply – is working, demonstrates a series of studies involving 140 American men and women with liver tumors. The findings are the first "proof of principle" that this technology can show tumors in three dimensions and accurately measure tumor viability and death, the researchers report.

Should whole-genome sequencing become part of newborn screening?

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:16 AM PDT

The possibility of making whole-genome sequencing part of routine screening programs for newborns raises ethical, legal and social issues that should be weighed carefully, according to researchers. The question is likely to stir debate in coming years in many of the more-than-60 countries that provide newborn screening, as whole-genome sequencing (WGS) becomes increasingly affordable and reliable.

Significant progress toward creating 'benchtop human' reported

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 10:53 AM PDT

Scientists are reporting significant progress toward creating "homo minutus" -- a benchtop human. Researchers have successfully developed and analyzed a liver human organ construct that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver.

Scientists track 3-D nanoscale changes in rechargeable battery material during operation

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:46 AM PDT

Scientists have made the first 3-D observations of how the structure of a lithium-ion battery anode evolves at the nanoscale in a real battery cell as it discharges and recharges. The details of this research could point to new ways to engineer battery materials to increase the capacity and lifetime of rechargeable batteries.

Parental addictions associated with adult children's arthritis

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:46 AM PDT

The adult offspring of parents who were addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to have arthritis, according to a new study. Investigators examined a group of 13,036 adults and found that 20.4 per cent of respondents had been diagnosed with arthritis by a medical professional. Investigators found that 14.5 per cent of all respondents reported having at least one parent whose drug or alcohol use caused problems while were under the age of 18 and still living at home.

Dark energy hides behind phantom fields

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:45 AM PDT

Quintessence and phantom fields, two hypotheses formulated using data from satellites are among the many theories that try to explain the nature of dark energy. Now researchers suggest that both possibilities are only a mirage in the observations and it is the quantum vacuum which could be behind this energy that moves our universe. Cosmologists believe that some three quarters of the universe are made up of a mysterious dark energy which would explain its accelerated expansion. The truth is that they do not know what it could be, therefore they put forward possible solutions.

Exercise training improves health outcomes of women with heart disease more than of men

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:43 AM PDT

In the largest study to ever investigate the effects of exercise training in patients with heart failure, exercise training reduced the risk for subsequent all-cause mortality or all-cause hospitalization in women by 26 percent, compared with 10 percent in men. While a causal relationship has previously been observed in clinical practice between improved health outcomes and exercise, this trial is the first to link the effects of exercise training to health outcomes in women with cardiovascular disease.

Secret to cutting sugary drink use by teens found by new study

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:43 AM PDT

A new study shows that teenagers can be persuaded to cut back on sugary soft drinks -- especially with a little help from their friends. A 30-day challenge encouraging teens to reduce sugar-sweetened drink use lowered their overall consumption substantially and increased by two-thirds the percentage of high-school students who shunned sugary drinks altogether.

Two spine surgeons are three times safer than one

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

A new team approach has improved safety -- reducing rates of major complications by two-thirds -- for complex spinal reconstructive surgery for spinal deformity in adult patients reviewed by a study. A new article gives a detailed description of the standardized protocol before, during, and after the surgery.

Last drinks: Brain's mechanism knows when to stop

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

Our brains are hardwired to stop us drinking more water than is healthy, according to a new brain imaging study. The study found a 'stop mechanism' that determined brain signals telling the individual to stop drinking water when no longer thirsty, and the brain effects of drinking more water than required.

Beer marinade could reduce levels of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

The smells of summer -- the sweet fragrance of newly opened flowers, the scent of freshly cut grass and the aroma of meats cooking on the backyard grill -- will soon be upon us. Now, researchers are reporting that the very same beer that many people enjoy at backyard barbeques could, when used as a marinade, help reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats.

An answer to the perennial question: Is it safe to pee in the pool?

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

Sanitary-minded pool-goers who preach 'no peeing in the pool,' despite ordinary and Olympic swimmers admitting to the practice, now have scientific evidence to back up their concern. Researchers are reporting that when mixed, urine and chlorine can form substances that can cause potential health problems.

Real-life CSI: What can investigators really tell from gunshot residue?

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:26 AM PDT

The popular TV series CSI is fiction, but every day, real-life investigators and forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence to determine what happened at crime scenes. Scientists say they have developed a more rapid and accurate method that could allow crime scene investigators to tell what kind of ammunition was shot from a gun based on the residue it left behind.

Sugary drinks weigh heavily on teenage obesity

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:26 AM PDT

New research shows sugary drinks are the worst offenders in the fight against youth obesity, and recommends that B.C. schools fully implement healthy eating guidelines to reduce their consumption. "This study adds to the mounting literature that shows the high concentration of sugar in soft drinks contributes to obesity in adolescents," says the lead author.

Invasive species in waterways on rise due to climate change

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:15 AM PDT

One of the most serious threats to global biodiversity and the leisure and tourism industries is set to increase with climate change according to new research. Researchers have found that certain invasive weeds, which have previously been killed off by low winter temperatures, are set to thrive as global temperatures increase.

Protocol for stroke patients guided by landmark study

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:15 AM PDT

Neurologists have long debated how to help prevent certain stroke patients from suffering a second stroke. Now research provides the first evidence for which course of treatment is truly best for patients with poor collateral blood vessel formation near the site of stroke: they should have their blood pressure lowered to normal levels.

Life expectancy gains allude overweight teens

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:15 AM PDT

Although people live longer today than they did 50 years ago, people who were overweight and obese as teenagers aren't experiencing the same gains as other segments of the population, according to a new study. The life expectancy of the average American born in 2011 was 78.7 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average lifespan has increased by more than a decade since 1950, but rising obesity rates threaten to take a toll on this progress.

Counting calories in the fossil record: How the biology of our modern ocean evolved

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

Why did the ancestors of clams and oysters flourish after one of the worst mass extinctions in Earth's history while another class of shelled creatures, the brachiopods, sharply decline? By using fossils to calculate the food intake of both groups, scientists are one step closer to solving one of paleontology's great mysteries and providing clues about how the biology of our modern ocean evolved.

Goats are far more clever than previously thought, and have an excellent memory

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers. The goats' ability to remember the task was tested after one month and again at 10 months. They learned the task within 12 trials and took less than two minutes to remember the challenge.

New septic shock biomarker test could boost better interventions

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

Septic shock is a severe systemic infection and major cause of death for old and young alike. Unfortunately, researchers say testing new drugs to stop the infection is confounded because clinical trials include patients who are either too sick to be saved by experimental therapies or not sick enough to warrant the treatments. A new study reports a new blood test helps solve the dilemma by identifying low-risk and high-risk patients.

Scientists visualize new treatments for retinal blindness

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

A new report may lead the way toward new treatments or a cure for a common cause of blindness -- proliferative retinopathies. Specifically, scientists have discovered that the body's innate immune system does more than help ward off external pathogens. It also helps remove sight-robbing abnormal blood vessels, while leaving healthy cells and tissue intact.

Altruistic side of aggressive greed

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

In many group-living species, high-rank individuals bully their group-mates to get what they want, but their contribution is key to success in conflict with other groups, according to a study that sheds new light on the evolutionary roots of cooperation and group conflict. In a series of mathematical models, researchers uncovered a mechanism for explaining how between-group conflict influences within-group cooperation and how genes for this behavior might be maintained in the population by natural selection.

Genetics can explain why infections can trigger onset of different types of rheumatoid arthritis

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:23 AM PDT

A new international study has revealed how genetics could explain why different environmental exposures can trigger the onset of different forms of rheumatoid arthritis. The findings could have important implications for the way that rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed and treated. Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious inflammatory form of arthritis that causes painful, swollen joints, and in severe cases, considerable disability. It is known to have strong genetic and environmental components.

Strong evidence for a new class of antidepressant drugs revealed by research

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:23 AM PDT

A chemical in the brain called galanin is involved in the risk of developing depression, scientists have shown for the first time. Galanin is a neuropeptide (a small protein) that was discovered and investigated over 30 years ago. This new research demonstrates that galanin is an important stress mechanism in the human brain that influences how sensitive or resilient people are to psychosocial stress.

Contaminated white dwarfs: Scientists solve riddle of celestial archaeology

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:22 AM PDT

A decades old space mystery has been solved by an international team of astronomers. The team put forward a new theory for how collapsed stars become polluted -- that points to the ominous fate that awaits planet Earth. Scientists investigated hot, young, white dwarfs -- the super-dense remains of Sun-like stars that ran out of fuel and collapsed to about the size of the Earth.

West Virginia chemical spill into Elk River contaminating air and water quality

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:20 AM PDT

The complexities and implications of the chemical spill into West Virginia's Elk River keep growing, according to a new study. The lack of data motivated researchers to take on essential odor-related research that went beyond their National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to better understand the properties of the chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, the major component in the crude mix of the spilled chemicals into the Elk River. It is used in the separation and cleaning of coal products.

Landslide in Washington State: USGS is working with partners to provide up-to-date information

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 10:26 PM PDT

A large landslide occurred in northwest Washington at about 11:00 am PDT on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Recent rain conditions and soil saturation led to the onset of the landslide. Landslide debris covered about 30 houses and 0.8 miles of State Route 530. Flow also dammed and partially blocked the North Fork Stillaguamish River, creating a potential for flooding at the blockage.

Male Eurasian jays know that their female partners' desires can differ from their own

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Researchers investigated the extent to which males could disengage from their own current desires to feed the female what she wants. The behavior suggests the potential for 'state-attribution' in these birds -- the ability to recognize and understand the internal life and psychological states of others.

Penicillin prescriptions risk under-dosing children, say experts

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Millions of children in the UK are potentially receiving penicillin prescriptions below the recommended dose for common infections, according to new research. The authors are calling for an urgent review of penicillin dosing guidelines for children -- which at the time of study had not changed in over 50 years -- after discovering wide variation in current prescribing practice.

Doctors raise blood pressure in patients

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Doctors routinely record blood pressure levels that are significantly higher than levels recorded by nurses, the first thorough analysis of scientific data has revealed. A systematic review has discovered that recordings taken by doctors are significantly higher than when the same patients are tested by nurses.

Knowing true age of your heart key to curbing lifetime heart disease risk

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Understanding the true age of your heart is key to curbing the lifetime risk of developing -- and dying from -- heart disease, say new consensus recommendations on how best to stave off the worldwide epidemic of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease deaths have almost halved over the past 40-50 years, particularly in high income countries, thanks largely to the identification of the common risk factors involved and national public health initiatives, say the authors.

Study yields 'Genghis Khan' of brown bears, and brown and polar bear evolution

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

By mining the genome of a recently sequenced polar bear, researchers developed Y chromosome-specific markers, and analyzed several regions of the Y chromosome from a broad geographic sample of 130 brown and polar bears. "This pattern in brown bears covers even larger geographic areas than analogous findings from humans, where the Y-chromosomal lineage of Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire, was spread across much of Asia," said experts.

Million suns shed light on fossilized plant

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:04 PM PDT

Scientists have used one of the brightest lights in the Universe to expose the biochemical structure of a 50 million-year-old fossil plant to stunning visual effect. The team of palaeontologists, geochemists and physicists investigated the chemistry of exceptionally preserved fossil leaves from the Eocene-aged 'Green River Formation' of the western United States by bombarding the fossils with X-rays brighter than a million suns produced by synchrotron particle accelerators.

X-rays film inside live flying insects -- in 3-D

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 04:08 PM PDT

Scientists have used a particle accelerator to obtain high-speed 3-D x-ray visualizations of flight muscles in flies. The team developed a CT scanning technique to allow them to film inside live flying insects.

Clean cooking fuel and improved kitchen ventilation linked to less lung disease

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 04:08 PM PDT

Improving cooking fuels and kitchen ventilation is associated with better lung function and reduced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to new research. The study followed 996 villagers from southern China for nine years to examine the effects of cleaner fuels and better kitchen ventilation on lung function and disease.

Brain differences in college-aged occasional drug users

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 04:07 PM PDT

Impaired neuronal activity has been found in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning among occasional 18- to 24-year-old users of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and prescription drugs such as Adderall. The brain differences, detected using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), are believed to represent an internal hard wiring that may make some people more prone to drug addiction later in life.

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