Τετάρτη, 2 Ιουλίου 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Five-legged kangaroo? Telling the tale of a kangaroo's tail

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 04:33 PM PDT

Kangaroos may be nature's best hoppers. But when they are grazing on all fours, which is most of the time, their tail becomes a powerful fifth leg, says a new study. It turns out that kangaroo tails provide as much propulsive force as their front and hind legs combined as they eat their way across the landscape.

How do ants get around? Ultra-sensitive machines measure their every step

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 04:32 PM PDT

How do ants manage to move so nimbly whilst coordinating three pairs of legs and a behind that weighs up to 60 percent of their body mass? Scientists have recently developed a device that may reveal the answer and could even help design micro-robots in the future. Researchers used an elastic polycarbonate material to produce a miniature force plate. Springs arranged at right angles to each other enabled forces to be measured across the plate in the micro-Newton range.

More people means more plant growth, NASA data show

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 04:20 PM PDT

Ecologist Thomas Mueller uses satellite data to study how the patterns of plant growth relate to the movement of caribou and gazelle. The research sparked an idea: Would the footprint of human activity show up in the data? Mueller teamed up with university and NASA colleagues to find out. Their new analysis shows that on a global scale, the presence of people corresponds to more plant productivity, or growth.

Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insects' chewing

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 03:38 PM PDT

Previous studies have suggested that plant growth can be influenced by sound and that plants respond to wind and touch. Now, researchers, in a collaboration that brings together audio and chemical analysis, have determined that plants respond to the sounds that caterpillars make when eating plants and that the plants respond with more defenses.

Net-zero energy test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 03:38 PM PDT

The NIST net-zero energy test house in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.

Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 02:01 PM PDT

Researchers have devised an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. The transformation from carbon dioxide and water to formic acid was powered by a commercial solar panel.

Behind a marine creature's bright green fluorescent glow

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 02:01 PM PDT

Probing the mysterious glow of light produced naturally by animals, scientists have deciphered the structural components related to fluorescence brightness in the primitive sea creature known as amphioxus. The study carries implications for a variety of industries looking to maximize brightness of natural fluorescence, including applications in biotechnology such as adapting fluorescence for biomedical protein tracers and tracking gene expression in the human body.

Kudzu can release soil carbon, accelerate global warming

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:57 AM PDT

Scientists are shedding new light on how invasion by exotic plant species affects the ability of soil to store greenhouse gases. The research could have far-reaching implications for how we manage agricultural land and native ecosystems. Since soil stores more carbon than both the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined, the repercussions for how we manage agricultural land and ecosystems to facilitate the storage of carbon could be dramatic.

New compound blocks 'gatekeeper' enzyme to kill malaria

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:57 AM PDT

Researchers are homing in on a new target for malaria treatment, after developing a compound that blocks the action of a key 'gatekeeper' enzyme essential for malaria parasite survival. The compound, called WEHI-916, is the first step toward a new class of antimalarial drugs that could cure and prevent malaria infections caused by all species of the parasite, including those resistant to existing drugs.

Cellular gates for sodium, calcium controlled by common element of ancient origin

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:55 AM PDT

Researchers have spotted a strong family trait in two distant relatives: The channels that permit entry of sodium and calcium ions into cells share similar means for regulating ion intake. The new evidence is likely to aid development of drugs for channel-linked diseases ranging from epilepsy to heart ailments to muscle weakness.

Video games could provide venue for exploring sustainability concepts

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:29 AM PDT

Video games have the potential to educate the public and encourage development of creative solutions to social, economic and environmental problems related to global sustainability issues such as pollution, drought or climate change. "Video games encourage creative and strategic thinking, which could help people make sense of complex problems," said one author.

New bridge design improves earthquake resistance, reduces damage and speeds construction

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:29 AM PDT

Researchers have developed a new design for the framework of columns and beams that support bridges, called 'bents,' to improve performance for better resistance to earthquakes, less damage and faster on-site construction.

Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:28 AM PDT

A new generation of miniature biological robots is flexing its muscle. Engineers have demonstrated a class of walking 'bio-bots' powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function.

Tags reveal Chilean devil rays are among ocean's deepest divers

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:28 AM PDT

Thought to dwell mostly near the ocean's surface, Chilean devil rays (Mobula tarapacana) are most often seen gliding through shallow, warm waters. But a new study reveals that these large and majestic creatures are actually among the deepest-diving ocean animals.

Separating finely mixed oil and water: Membrane can separate even highly mixed fine oil-spill residues

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:28 AM PDT

Whenever there is a major spill of oil into water, the two tend to mix into a suspension of tiny droplets, called an emulsion, that is extremely hard to separate -- and that can cause severe damage to ecosystems. But researchers have discovered a new, inexpensive way of getting the two fluids apart again. Their newly developed membrane could be manufactured at industrial scale, and could process large quantities of the finely mixed materials back into pure oil and water.

Chinese herbal extract may help kill off pancreatic cancer cells

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:26 AM PDT

The herbal extract triptolide has been used on human pancreatic cancer cells and tissue in culture by researchers. Administration of the herb decreased GRP78 protein in the cells, thereby reducing cancer cell survival and facilitating cell death. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer—the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.—can be devastating. Due in part to aggressive cell replication and tumor growth, pancreatic cancer progresses quickly and has a low five-year survival rate (less than 5 percent).

Bringing the bling to antibacterials: New way to combat bacterial biofilm formation with titanium encrusted with gold nanoparticles

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Bacteria love to colonize surfaces inside your body, but they have a hard time getting past your skin. Surgeries to implant medical devices give such bacteria the opportunity needed to gain entry into the body cavity, allowing the implants themselves to act then as an ideal growing surface for biofilms. Researchers are looking to combat these dangerous sub-dermal infections by upgrading your new hip or kneecap in a fashion appreciated since ancient times – adding gold.

Insect diet helped early humans build bigger brains: Quest for elusive bugs spurred primate tool use, problem-solving skills

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Figuring out how to survive on a lean-season diet of hard-to-reach ants, slugs and other bugs may have spurred the development of bigger brains and higher-level cognitive functions in the ancestors of humans and other primates, suggests new research.

Reducing deer populations may reduce risk of Lyme disease

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 08:15 AM PDT

Reduced deer populations can lead to a reduction in Lyme disease cases, researchers in Connecticut have found that after a 13-year study was conducted. White-tailed deer serve as the primary host for the adult blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) -- the vector for Lyme disease. The study found that the number of resident-reported cases of Lyme disease per 100 households was strongly correlated to deer density in the community.

Key to adaptation limits of ocean dwellers: Simpler organisms better suited for climate change

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 07:15 AM PDT

The simpler a marine organism is structured, the better it is suited for survival during climate change, researchers have discovered this in a new meta-study. For the first time biologists studied the relationship between the complexity of life forms and the ultimate limits of their adaptation to a warmer climate.

New analysis of 'swine flu' pandemic conflicts with accepted views on how diseases spread

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 07:15 AM PDT

New analysis of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the US shows that the pandemic wave was surprisingly slow, and that its spread was likely accelerated by school-age children.

Enlightening cancer cells with optogenetics

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 07:13 AM PDT

The first application of optogenetics to cancer research has been conducted on engineered cell surface receptors activated by light, researchers report. Small algal protein domains serve as synthetic light sensors in human cells.

New spawning reefs to boost native fish in St. Clair River

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 07:13 AM PDT

Construction of two new fish-spawning reefs is about to begin in the St. Clair River northeast of Detroit, the latest chapter in a decade-plus effort to restore native species such as lake sturgeon, walleye and lake whitefish. The new reefs will be built this summer and fall at two locations on the St. Clair. The goal of the project is to boost fish populations by providing river-bottom rock structures suitable for spawning.

Foodborne bacteria can cause disease in some breeds of chickens after all

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 06:14 AM PDT

Contrary to popular belief, the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is not a harmless commensal in chickens but can cause disease in some breeds of poultry according to research. Campylobacter jejuni is the most frequent cause of foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in the world and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it affects approximately 1.3 million people per year in the United States. Chicken is the most common source of infections.

Biology labs: Managing the data jungle

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 05:54 AM PDT

Many biology labs fight with a glut of measurement data. New software aims to make this a thing of the past: it simplifies laboratory experiment evaluation and unifies how data is saved. It even identifies measurement errors on the spot.

Traffic noise is dangerous for your health: Solutions exist for dense cities

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 05:53 AM PDT

Traffic noise is the second biggest environmental problem in the EU, according to WHO. After air pollution, noise is affecting health the most. But legislation regarding noise pollution is insufficient. A new report shows how negative health effects of noise can be reduced. Several means are easiest to apply in dense cities.

JNK protein's key role in tissue regeneration

Posted: 01 Jul 2014 05:53 AM PDT

The major role that JNK protein plays in tissue regeneration in adult organisms has been identified by researchers. The study used planarians -— a type of worm able to regenerate any part of its body -— to address the question. To date, it has been known that JNK was involved in the control of cell proliferation and death, but little was known about the role it plays in tissue and organ regeneration.

Gas-charged fluids creating seismicity associated with a Louisiana sinkhole

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 04:34 PM PDT

In August 2012, the emergence of a very large sinkhole at the Napoleonville Salt Dome in Louisiana offered scientists the opportunity to detect, locate and analyze a rich sequence of 62 seismic events that occurred one day prior to its discovery.

With climate change, heat more than natural disasters will drive people away

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 01:45 PM PDT

Increases in the average yearly temperature took a detrimental toll on people's economic well-being and resulted in permanent migrations, whereas natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes had a much smaller to nonexistent impact on permanent relocations. The results suggest that the consequences of climate change will likely be more subtle and permanent than is popularly believed.

Earth-Kind roses analyzed for salt tolerance

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 01:45 PM PDT

A greenhouse study evaluated 18 Earth-Kind rose cultivars' response to two salinity levels at electrical conductivity of 1.2 and 10.0 dS·m-1. 'Belinda's Dream,' 'Climbing Pinkie,' 'Mrs. Dudley Cross,' 'Reve d'Or,' and 'Sea Foam' were found to be good selections for planting in landscapes with high soil salinity, while 'Cecile Brunner' and 'Else Poulsen' were not recommended.

Oil palm plantations threaten water quality, scientists say

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 01:42 PM PDT

Indonesia pays a price for a lucrative crop used in many household products. Palm plantations damage freshwater streams that supply drinking water to millions of people. Found in thousands of products, from peanut butter and packaged bread to shampoo and shaving cream, palm oil is a booming multibillion-dollar industry.

'Molecular movies' will enable extraordinary gains in bioimaging, health research

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 01:41 PM PDT

An imaging technology more powerful than anything that has existed before, and is fast enough to observe life processes as they actually happen at the molecular level, has been created by scientists. This technology will allow creation of improved biosensors to study everything from nerve impulses to cancer metastasis as it occurs.

'Microbe sniffer' could point way to next-generation bio-refining

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 01:40 PM PDT

A new biosensor could help optimize bio-refining processes that produce fuels, fine chemicals and advanced materials. It works by sniffing out naturally occurring bacterial networks that are genetically wired to break down wood polymer. "Nature has already invented microbial processes to degrade lignin--the tough polymer in wood and plant biomass that currently stymies industrial bio-refining," says a microbiologist researcher.

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