Established in 2020 Sunday, December 5, 2021

Beads of glass in meteorites help scientists piece together how solar system formed

An artist's conception shows dust and debris floating around a young star—similar to how the early days of our solar system might have looked. Illustration courtesy: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook.

CHICAGO, IL.- Ever since scientists started looking at meteorites with microscopes, they’ve been puzzled—and fascinated—by what’s inside. Most meteorites are made of tiny beads of glass that date back to the earliest days of the solar system, before the planets were even formed. Scientists with the University of Chicago have published an analysis laying out how these beads, which are found in many meteorites, came to be—and what they can tell us about what happened in the early solar system. “These are big questions,” said UChicago alum Nicole Xike Nie, PhD’19, a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science and first author of the study. “Meteorites are snapshots that can reveal the conditions this early dust experienced—which has implications for the evolution of both Earth and other planets.” The beads of glass inside these meteorites are called chondrules. Scientists think ... More

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Wrangling an octopus-like viral replication machine   Three-dimensional imaging with optical frequency combs   Chemical pollutants disrupt reproduction in anemonefish, study finds

The Lassa’s virus polymerase casts the shadow of an octopus in images with its many moving components. Image courtesy: Maria Rosenthal/Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Tomas Kouba/EMBL, Creative Team/EMBL.

GRENOBLE.- Endemic in Western African countries, Lassa virus is transmitted to humans through food or household items that are contaminated with the urine or feces of Mastomys rats. Even though many people who become infected with Lassa virus are asymptomatic, one in five infections results in severe haemorrhagic disease, attacking vital organs like the liver, spleen, and kidneys. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists Lassa fever as a significant public health threat with high epidemic potential and no effective countermeasures. Lassa fever has no vaccine, and only one drug—a broad-spectrum antiviral called ribavirin, which has limited efficacy. Even though researchers are working on a vaccine, an effective antiviral is needed to reduce the number of severe cases and deaths. This is where structural biology can help. To understand the intricate mechanism of viral replication, structural biologists focus on a key component: the viral polymerase. In an infected cell, this enzyme replicates ... More

Dual-comb digital holography. The regular train of pulses of a frequency-comb generator illuminates an object (here two coins in reflection). Image: DOI: 10.1038/s41566-021-00892-x.

GARCHING BEI MÜNCHEN.- Holography is a powerful technique of photography of a light field without a lens for 3D imaging and display. Now, scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Quantum Optics are moving holography forward by implementing it with optical frequency combs. Thousands of holograms over all colors of the rainbow can be recorded. Via digital processing, each hologram provides a three-dimensional image of the scene in which the focusing distance can be chosen at will. Combining all these holograms renders the geometrical shape of the three-dimensional object with high precision and no ambiguity. At the same time, other diagnostics can be performed by the frequency combs: Here, the scientists show molecule-selective imaging of a cloud of ammonia vapor. Reporting in Nature Photonics, an international team of scientists in the group of Nathalie Picqué at the Max-Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching, Germany, demonstrates a new i ... More

The sex of anemonefish is dependent on environmental cues, allowing researchers to study how environmental chemicals can affect their reproduction. Image courtesy: Ed Clint.

CHAMPAIGN, IL.- Ocean pollution is unfortunately becoming more commonplace, raising concerns over the effect of chemicals that are leaching into the water. In a new study, researchers have discovered how these chemicals can affect the reproduction in common anemonefish Amphiprion ocellaris. Endocrine disrupting chemicals—which interfere with how the body's hormones work—can obstruct normal reproduction in animals. Bisphenol A and 17a-Ethinylestradiol (EE2) are two common chemicals of this nature. BPA is an endocrine disruptor and is found in a lot of different plastics like water bottles and EE2, commonly found in birth control pills, enters into the ocean from human waste and wastewaters of manufacturing plants and hospitals. "In Indonesia, for example, there are beautiful coral reefs found below a lot of garbage, so anything that enters the water is affecting the fish," said Jose Gonzalez, a former undergraduate researcher in the Rhodes group. "There have been previous studies that have es ... More

Researcher outlines how whales' sensory systems have evolved through imaging technology   Study reveals that giant planets could reach 'maturity' much earlier than previously thought   Combined heat and power as a platform for clean energy systems

According to Racicot's review, it is thought that the first completely marine whales used low-frequency communication, which could travel long distances. Image courtesy: Javier Yaya Tur.

NASHVILLE, TN.- If you've ever had an ear infection that made you dizzy or unbalanced, the infection likely was affecting your vestibular complex—part of the intricate system of hard and soft tissues that make up the inner ear. Knowledge of this structure has been made possible through computed tomography scans—imaging technology that continues to shape our understanding of evolution across species. In a review of a century of research on sensory systems of whales, Rachel Racicot, research assistant professor of biological sciences, describes advances in the field and key questions that remain. The article, "Evolution of whale sensory ecology: Frontiers in nondestructive anatomical investigations" was published in the journal The Anatomical Record. "Anatomy and morphology are areas of research where we are making huge discoveries, especially when we can include fossils to help inform our understanding of evolution, function and ... More

Artist's impression of the planetary system V1298 Tau. Image courtesy: Gabriel Pérez Díaz, SMM (IAC).

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LA LAGUNA.- An international team of scientists, in which researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias participate together with other institutions from Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, UK, and Mexico, has been able to measure the masses of the giant planets of the V1298 Tau system, just 20 million year old. Masses for such young giant planets had not been obtained previously, and this is the first evidence that these objects have already reached their final size at very early stages of their evolution. For this study they have used radial velocity measurements from the HARPS-N spectrographs, at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM), and CARMENES, at the Calar Alto Observatory. The results were published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The study, led by the IAC researcher Alejandro Suárez Mascareño, reports the measurement of the masses of two giant planets that orbit the young solar-type star V1298 Tau. They were discovered in 2019 ... More

(L to R) Engineer Marvin Carter and researcher Marilyn Brown outside the Georgia Tech Physical Plant. Image courtesy: Robert Felt, Georgia Tech.

ATLANTA, GA.- The state of Georgia could dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, while creating new jobs and a healthier public, if more of its energy-intensive industries and commercial buildings were to utilize combined heat and power (CHP), according to the latest research from Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy. The paper, digitally available now and in print on December 15 in the journal Applied Energy, finds that CHP—or cogeneration—could measurably reduce Georgia's carbon footprint while creating green jobs. Georgia ranks 8th among all 50 states for total net electricity generation and 11th for total carbon dioxide emissions, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. "There is an enormous opportunity for CHP to save industries money and make them more competitive, while at the same time reducing air pollution, creating jobs and enhancing public health," said principal investigator Marilyn Br ... More

Cannabis impacts sperm counts, motility in two generations of mice   Mapping RNAs   Snake photo posted on Instagram leads to the discovery of a new species from the Himalayas

Human sperm counts have declined by as much as 59% in recent decades, according to some estimates. Image: Roman Kasyan, Unsplash.

PULLMAN, WA.- An intense but short-term exposure to cannabis vapor lowered sperm counts and slowed sperm movement, or motility, not only in the directly exposed male mice but also in their sons. The Washington State University study, published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, builds on other human and animal studies, showing that cannabis can impede male reproductive function. The current study uses more controlled circumstances than human studies, which often have to rely on surveys, and is the first known reproductive study to use vaporized whole cannabis in mice, which is the more common form humans use. Previous animal studies use other administration methods such as injections of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis. More research needs to be done, but the study's generational findings should give cannabis users pause, said Kanako Hayashi, the paper's corresponding author. "This is a warning flag. You may ta ... More

Overview of ClusterMap workflow. Image courtesy: Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

BOSTON, MASS.- Spatial transcriptomics — the study of all RNA molecules in a cell — is a tool that allows scientists to measure all the gene activity in a tissue and map where the activity is occurring. It is critical to understanding gene expression and the function, or malfunction, of tissues. One of the biggest challenges in spatial transcriptomics is accurately segmenting cells to assign specific RNAs to individual cells for single-cell analysis. Today, most approaches require time-intensive manual staining or, for machine learning-enabled approaches, manually annotated datasets for model training. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a new computational approach which can automatically identify important biological landmarks from in situ transcriptomics. The technique incorporates the physical location and gene identity of RNAs. The framework, dubbed Cluste ... More

The snake, which Virendar encountered along a mud road on a summer evening, belongs to a group commonly known as Kukri snakes, named so because of their curved teeth that resemble the Nepali dagger "Kukri." Image: Pensoft Publishers.

SOFIA.- Intrigued by a photo shared on Instagram, a research team from India discovered a previously unknown species of kukri snake. Staying at home in Chamba because of the COVID-19 lockdown, Virendar K. Bhardwaj, a master student in Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, started exploring his backyard, photographing everything he found there and posting the pictures online. His Instagram account started buzzing with the life of the snakes, lizards, frogs, and insects he encountered. One of those photos—a picture of a kukri snake—popped up in the feed of Zeeshan A. Mirza (National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore) and immediately caught his attention. After a chat with Harshil Patel (Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat), he decided to get in touch with Virendar and find out more about the sighting. The snake, which Virendar encountered along a mud road on a summer evening, belongs to a group commonly known as Kukri snakes, named so because of their curved teeth that ... More

Tracing European conflicts using lead isotopes in paints used by Dutch masters   Some polycrystal grain boundaries feel the heat more than others   How does the climate crisis affect the Antarctic fur seal?

Prof. Dr. Katrien Keune and Prof. Dr. Gareth R. Davies. Image courtesy: YvonneCompier.

AMSTERDAM.- A team of researchers from Vrije University, Conservation & Science, Rijksmuseum and the University of Amsterdam has found that it is possible to trace conflicts in Europe by analyzing lead isotopes in paint used by Dutch master painters. They have published their results in the journal Science Advances. As part of their effort, the researchers looked at paintings done by Dutch masters during the 1600s and the supply chain that provided them with paint. They noted that during times of stress, such as when war broke out in Europe, certain types of paints became difficult to obtain, which led the painters to use paints from other places. Such paints, they note, contained different lead isotopes. In their work, the researchers focused on the isotopes in white paint. They chose white because Flemish artists were known for their natural subjects, and to achieve that natural look they used special techniques that involved mixing different amount ... More

Researchers from the The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science use electron energy loss spectroscopy to understand local thermal behavior at grain boundaries in polycrystals.

TOKYO.- Polycrystals are solid materials that are made up of lots of small crystals. The points where the crystals meet are known as grain boundaries (GBs). GBs are important because they can affect the way the solid behaves. However, conventional analysis techniques are unable to measure the nanoscale detail at GBs. Now, researchers from The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science have used electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) to investigate the effect of heating on the GBs of strontium titanate (SrTiO3). Their findings were published in Nano Letters. GBs affect the way ions move through a material, the way it conducts and reacts to heat, and the way it responds when forces are applied. They therefore play an import role in deciding whether a material is suited to a particular purpose. The coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) indicates how the size of a material changes when it is heated. If this is different ar ... More

The Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) is a marine mammal that only lives in the Southern Ocean. Image courtesy: Lluís Cardona (UB-IRBio).

BARCELONA.- The climate crisis is limiting the availability of krill—small crustaceans that are vital in the marine food chain—during summer in some areas of the Antarctica. This involves a decrease in the food abundance for female Antarctic fur seals in summer and a decrease in their reproductive success. Moreover, the predation of pups by the leopard seal has also increased due to a lower abundance of penguins, the main prey of this voracious Antarctic predator. However, the impact of the climate crisis on the Antarctic fur seal in winter has been ignored to date, when the cold, wind and ice make it harder to study the Antarctic ecosystems. Thanks to satellite tracking, we know how this marine mammal is distributed over the winter months in the Antarctica, as well as its relationship with krill and the Antarctic icefield during this period, according to an article published in the journal Scientific Reports by the experts Lluís Cardona, Manel Gazo, David March, Massimiliano Drago and D ... More

The greatest blessing granted to mankind come by way of madness, which is a divine gift. Socrates

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A package of policies can help smallholder farmers adapt to a changing climate
PRINCETON, NJ.- In the grasslands of Nepal's Chitwan Valley, local farmers rely on the production of rice and other grains to generate household income. But their livelihoods are under threat, as Nepal is experiencing the effects of climate change at a much faster rate than the global average. As these effects worsen, it is unclear what smallholder farmers in Nepal and other South Asian countries will do. They may choose to migrate or, due to a lack of resources, may be forced to live in seemingly unhospitable regions. The researchers from Princeton and IIASA investigated how different climate scenarios and policy interventions could impact these smallholder farmers, or farmers who maintain less than five acres of land. Today, over 500 million households fall into this category. They found that without any policy interventions ... More

Research finds nasal problem plagued long-nosed crocodile relatives
JONESBORO, AR.- Research published in the journal Anatomical Record finds that humans have more in common with endangered crocodiles than we think—namely, a deviated septum. Gharials are some of the rarest crocodylians on Earth and members of a group of animals that once roamed the planet with the dinosaurs. Native to India, gharials resemble American alligators and crocodiles, but with bulging eyes and an extremely long and thin snout that allows them to cut through water when hunting prey. In males, this snout houses an even longer nose that ends in an enlarged bulb. At first glance, these unusual animals appear to have little in common with humans. However, a new study led by Jason Bourke, Ph.D., assistant professor of basic sciences at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCO ... More

Microfabricated thin-film electrodes show therapeutic promise
LIVERMORE, CA.- Earlier this year, thin-film microgrid arrays developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and used in neurologist Jon Kleen's patients at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) showed that hippocampal brain activity consisted of waves that traveled bi-directionally during behavioral tasks. These thin-film microgrid arrays are designed not just to sit on the surface of the brain, as they did when measuring the hippocampal brain waves, but are flexible enough to make intimate contact with the topography of the brain's surface. More recently, in a paper published in the Journal of Neural Engineering, researchers found that this flexibility, combined with higher-density grid spacing, provides greater levels of detail about how the brain works, while also providing the ability to stimulat ... More

Boosting thermopower of oxides via artificially laminated metal/insulator heterostructure
TOKYO.- Thermoelectric materials have the ability to generate electricity when a temperature difference is applied to them. Conversely, they can also generate a temperature gradient when current is applied to them. Therefore, these materials are expected to find use as power generators of electronic devices and coolers or heaters of temperature control devices. To develop these applications, a thermoelectric material showing high thermoelectric voltage (called thermopower S), even on applying low thermal energy, is required. However, conventional thermoelectric materials exhibit high conversion efficiency at high temperatures, whereas there are only a few candidates that show high conversion performance at below room temperature. Recently, a team of researchers from Tokyo Tech, led by Associate Professor Taka ... More

Green information technologies: Superconductivity meets spintronics
BONN.- When two superconducting regions are separated by a strip of non-superconducting material, a special quantum effect can occur, coupling both regions: The Josephson effect. If the spacer material is a half-metal ferromagnet, novel implications for spintronic applications arise. An international team has now, for the first time, designed a material system that exhibits an unusually long-range Josephson effect. Here, regions of superconducting YBa2Cu3O7 are separated by a region of half-metallic, ferromagnetic manganite (La2/3Sr1/3MnO3) one micron wide. With the help of magneto-transport measurements, the researchers were able to demonstrate the presence of a supercurrent circulating through the manganite—this supercurrent is arising from the superconducting coupling between both superconducting regions, and thus a ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Werner Heisenberg was born
December 05, 1901. Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 - 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. He is known for the uncertainty principle, which he published in 1927. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics". Heisenberg also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles.

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