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Giant impact could have formed the Moon more rapidly, scientists reveal in new simulations

Image courtesy: Dr Jacob Kegerreis.

DURHAM.- Scientists from Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology used the most detailed supercomputer simulations yet to reveal an alternative explanation for the Moon's origin, with a giant impact immediately placing a Moon-like body into orbit around Earth. The researchers simulated hundreds of different impacts, varying the angle and speed of the collision as well as the masses and spins of the two colliding bodies in their search for scenarios that could explain the present-day Earth-Moon system. These calculations were performed using the SWIFT open-source simulation code, run on the DiRAC Memory Intensive service ("COSMA"), hosted by Durham University on behalf of the DiRAC High-Performance Computing facility. The extra computational power revealed that lower-resolution simulations can miss out on important aspects of large-scale collisions, allowing researchers to discover features that weren't accessible ... More

Caltech alum wins Nobel Prize in Physics   Laughing gas found in space could mean life   Pain relief without side effects and addiction

John Clauser at a yacht club. Clauser enjoys sailboat racing in his spare time. Image courtesy: John Dukat.

PASADENA, CA.- Caltech alumnus John Clauser (BS '64) has received the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Alain Aspect of the Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France, and Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna, Austria, "for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science," according to the award citation. Entanglement, first put forth as a thought experiment by Albert Einstein and other scientists in the 1930s, occurs when two particles, such as photons or electrons, remain connected, or correlated, even when separated by great distances. Einstein famously did not believe the phenomenon at first, calling it "spooky action at a distance," because the particles would appear to communicate faster than the speed of light, in violation of his special theory of relativity. Clauser and the late Stuart Freedman were the first to prove exper ... More

The TRAPPIST-1 system, where we may soon have more information about the atmospheres of rocky, Earth-like planets from the James Webb Space Telescope. Image courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

RIVERSIDE, CA.- Scientists at UC Riverside are suggesting something is missing from the typical roster of chemicals that astrobiologists use to search for life on planets around other stars—laughing gas. Chemical compounds in a planet's atmosphere that could indicate life, called biosignatures, typically include gases found in abundance in Earth's atmosphere today. "There's been a lot of thought put into oxygen and methane as biosignatures. Fewer researchers have seriously considered nitrous oxide, but we think that may be a mistake," said Eddie Schwieterman, an astrobiologist in UCR's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. This conclusion, and the modeling work that led to it, are detailed in an article published in The Astrophysical Journal. To reach it, Schwieterman led a team of researchers that determined how much nitrous oxide living things on a planet similar to Earth could possibly produce. They then made models simulating that plane ... More

Doctoral candidate and co-lead author Philipp Seemann was one of the FAU researchers who have discovered substances that provide very effective pain relief, but without the addictive and sedative effects of drugs currently available.

ERLANGEN.- New substances that activate adrenalin receptors instead of opioid receptors have a similar pain relieving effect to opiates, but without the negative aspects such as respiratory depression and addiction. This is the result of research carried out by an international team of researchers led by the Chair of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at FAU. Their findings, which have now been published in the journal Science, are a milestone in the development of non-opioid pain relief. They are a blessing for patients suffering from severe pain, but they also have serious side effects: Opioids, and above all morphine, can cause nausea, dizziness and constipation and can also often cause slowed breathing that can even result in respiratory failure. In addition, opiates are addictive—a high percentage of the drug problem in the U.S. is caused by pain medication, for example. In order to tackle the unwanted medical and social effects of opioids, resear ... More

Harpoon heads, sweeping tails: How predatory mosquito larvae capture prey   Researchers discover new molecular driver of retinoblastoma   Driving high? Chemists make strides toward a marijuana breath analyzer

A Sabethes cyaneus larva attacks a prey larva by using its tail to sweep the prey toward its head. Image courtesy: Annals of the Entomological Society of America (2022). DOI: 10.1093/aesa/saac017.

ANNAPOLIS, MD.- With striking high-speed video footage, scientists have for the first time detailed how predatory mosquito larvae attack and capture prey in aquatic habitats. Published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, this new research sheds light on behavior that has long proven too small and too fast to study, until now. Before taking flight, mosquitoes spend their youth in water, anywhere from flood plains to flowerpots. While most mosquito larvae eat algae, bacteria, and other microorganisms, some are predators that feed on other aquatic insects—including other mosquito larvae. These predatory species have been a source of fascination for Robert G. Hancock, Ph.D., professor of biology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, for much of his career, he says. He first observed their strikes under a microscope in a medical entomology class as an undergraduate. "It was so incredibly fast," he says. "The only thing that we ... More

Inactive remnant of retinoblastoma tumor following successful intra-arterial chemotherapy. Image courtesy: UT Southwestern Medical Center.

DALLAS, TX.- Despite decades of medical advances, children who develop the pediatric eye cancer retinoblastoma often lose their vision or an eye due to a lack of specific, targeted therapies and a poor molecular understanding of the cancer. Now researchers at UT Southwestern and the University of Miami have discovered that a molecule—estrogen-related receptor gamma, or ESRRG—becomes hyperactive and promotes tumor cell survival in retinoblastoma. Blocking ESRRG, the team reported in Science Advances, kills retinoblastoma cells. "Our discovery could lead to innovative new treatments for this cancer that take advantage of this dependence of retinoblastoma on ESRRG," said study leader J. William Harbour, M.D., Chair and Professor of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern. Before joining UTSW last year, Dr. Harbour served as Vice Chair for Translational Research at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Retinoblastoma ... More

Neil Garg, the Kenneth N. Trueblood Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department. Image courtesy: UCLA.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- A UCLA chemist and colleagues are now a step closer to their goal of developing a handheld tool similar to an alcohol Breathalyzer that can detect THC on a person’s breath after they’ve smoked marijuana. In a paper published in the journal Organic Letters, UCLA organic chemistry professor Neil Garg and researchers from the UCLA startup ElectraTect Inc. describe the process by which THC introduced, in a solution, into their laboratory-built device can be oxidized, creating an electric current whose strength indicates how much of the psychoactive compound is present. With the recent legalization or decriminalization of marijuana in many states, including California, the availability of a Breathalyzer-like tool could help make roadways safer, the researchers said. Studies have shown that consumption of marijuana impairs certain driving skills and is associated with a significantly elevated risk of accidents. In 2020, Garg and U ... More

Coral select algae partnerships to ease environmental stress   Scientists identify potential source of 'shock-darkened' meteorites, with implications for hazardous asteroid deflection   Scientists identify pathway that triggers mice to scratch when they see others do the same

Reefscape in Kaneohe Bay, Hawai'i, with snorkeler. Image courtesy: Mariana Rocha de Souza.

HONOLULU, HI.- Corals live symbiotically with a variety of microscopic algae that provide most of the energy corals require, and some algae can make coral more resilient to heat stress. In assessing one of the main reef builders in Hawai'i, Montipora capitata (rice coral), researchers from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa found that the symbiont community in those corals varied significantly in different parts of Kaneohe Bay. In the study, published recently in Royal Society Open Science, researchers tagged and collected 600 rice coral colonies across Kāne'ohe Bay, off the windward side of O'ahu, Hawai'i. They identified the algal symbionts in the colonies, and collected environmental data such as temperature and sedimentation in each part of the bay. While scientists have known that corals host a diversity of symbionts, it has been unclear if the algae species change from one area to another, and what would drive those changes. Cla ... More

On the morning of Feb. 15, 2013, a meteor fell to Earth over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The resulting meteorites were of a certain type that until now didn't have an obvious near-Earth asteroid source. Image courtesy: Alex Alishevskikh.

TUCSON, AZ.- University of Arizona planetary scientists identified a potential source of a special kind of meteorite. Its characteristics could explain certain discrepancies in how near-Earth asteroids are classified. When the Chelyabinsk fireball exploded across Russian skies in 2013, it littered Earth with a relatively uncommon type of meteorite. What makes the Chelyabinsk meteorites and others like them special is their dark veins, created by a process called shock darkening. Yet, planetary scientists have been unable to pinpoint a nearby asteroid source of these kinds of meteorites – until now. In a new paper published in the Planetary Science Journal, University of Arizona scientists identified an asteroid named 1998 OR2 as one potential source of shock-darkened meteorites. The near-Earth asteroid is about 1 1/2 miles wide and made a close approach to Earth in April 2020. When pieces of asteroids break off into space and then land on ... More

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a pathway in the brains of mice, independent of the visual cortex, that is activated when the animals see other mice scratching.

ST. LOUIS, MO.- Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a pathway in the brains of mice that is activated when the animals see other mice scratching. The researchers had previously reported that the urge to scratch an itch after seeing other mice scratching is hardwired in the brain. Now they have found that this so-called "contagious itching" is controlled through a visual pathway, that surprisingly, operates independently of the visual cortex, the area of the brain that processes visual information. The new findings advance understanding of the triggers that spur itching, and eventually may point to solutions to quell itch-related conditions in people. The work also provides more evidence that some cells in the retina not previously linked to vision actually may assist us as we see. The new study is published Oct. 4 in the journal Cell Reports. "This contagious itch—which is a reflex response ... More

Warmer stream temperatures in burned-over Oregon watershed didn't result in fewer trout   Spin flips show how galaxies grow from the cosmic web   Time-restricted eating improves health of firefighters

Steelhead trout. Image courtesy: Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, OR.- The number of trout in a southern Oregon stream system showed no decline one year after a fire burned almost the entire watershed, including riparian zone trees that had helped maintain optimal stream temperatures for the cold-water fish. The research by Oregon State University sheds light on the ability of steelhead, cutthroat and rainbow trout to endure the higher water temperatures expected to accompany climate change and its manifestations, including increased frequency, extent and severity of wildfires. "It's crucial that we improve our understanding of the factors that influence how fish respond to postfire changes in stream temperature," said the study's leader, Dana Warren, a researcher in the OSU colleges of Forestry and Agricultural Sciences. "The loss of streamside cover during a fire can lead to substantial increases in stream temperature, but the effects of changes to stream thermal regimes on salmonid fishes can be co ... More

Examples of SAMI galaxies with central bulge and surrounding disc. Image courtesy: Hyper Supreme-Cam Subaru and Pan-STARSS.

CANBERRA.- The alignment between galaxy spins and the large-scale structure of the universe reveals the processes by which different components of galaxies form. The large-scale structure of the universe is traced by the distribution of galaxies. This "cosmic web" consists of giant filamentary structures linking massive clusters of galaxies. A new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society finds that galaxies with bigger bulges tend to spin perpendicular to the filaments in which they are embedded, while galaxies with smaller bulges tend to spin parallel to these filaments. "It all relates to the mass of the bulge," says astrophysicist Dr. Stefania Barsanti from the Australian National University, lead author of the paper and a member of the ASTRO 3D Centre of Excellence. "Galaxies which are mostly disk, with a low-mass bulge, tend to have their spin axis parallel to the nearest filament. This is because they form mai ... More

Journal cover image of Cell Metabolism illustrating a firefighter wearing a cape that represents eating within a time-restricted window. Image courtesy: Cell Metabolism.

LA JOLLA, CA.- Firefighters are the heroes of our society, protecting us around the clock. But those 24-hour shifts are hard on the body and increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. In collaboration with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego Health conducted a clinical trial and found that time-restricted eating improved measures of health and well-being in firefighters. The lifestyle intervention only required the firefighters to eat during a 10-hour window and did not involve skipping meals. The new findings, published in Cell Metabolism on October 4, 2022, may also have implications for shift workers, such as military personnel; health care, food service, and transportation professionals; telecommunications staff; and new parents, whose schedules often mimic shift work when caring for a new baby. "Doctors and researchers are always thi ... More

More News
Finding an RNA target and tool to fight premature aging
THUWAL.- Progeroid syndromes are a group of rare genetic disorders that cause signs of premature aging in children and young adults, such as Werner Syndrome and Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome. Patients affected by progeroid syndromes develop symptoms and pathologies usually associated with aging, such as heart disease, cataracts, type II diabetes and osteoporosis. This aging is characterized by the progressive loss of nuclear architecture and an underlying tissue-specific genetic program, but the causes behind this are still unknown. Now, scientists have identified a promising new target for treating these syndromes by preventing the loss of nuclear architecture. The target is called long interspersed nuclear element-1 (L1) RNA—a family of repeat sequences encompassing about ... More

With fractured genomes, Alzheimer's neurons call for help
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- A new study by researchers in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT provides evidence from both mouse models and postmortem human tissue of a direct link between two problems that emerge in Alzheimer’s disease: a buildup of double-stranded breaks (DSBs) in the DNA of neurons and the inflammatory behavior of microglia, the brain’s immune cells. A key new finding is that neurons actively trigger an inflammatory response to their genomic damage. Neurons have not been known to signal the brain’s immune system in Alzheimer’s disease, says study lead author Gwyneth Welch PhD ’22, a former MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences graduate student in the lab of senior author Li-Huei Tsai. “This is a novel concept in neuroscience: the idea that neuro ... More

Study offers a powerful computer-modeling approach to cell simulations
LAWRENCE, KS.- A milestone report from the University of Kansas appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes a new technique for modeling molecular life with computers. According to lead author Ilya Vakser, director of the Computational Biology Program and Center for Computational Biology and professor of molecular biosciences at KU, the investigation into computer modeling of life processes is a major step toward creating a working simulation of a living cell at atomic resolution. The advance promises new insights into the fundamental biology of a cell, as well as faster and more precise treatment of human disease. "It is about tens or hundreds of thousands of times faster than the existing atomic resolution techniques," Vakser said. "This provides unprecedente ... More

Learning on the edge
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Microcontrollers, miniature computers that can run simple commands, are the basis for billions of connected devices, from internet-of-things (IoT) devices to sensors in automobiles. But cheap, low-power microcontrollers have extremely limited memory and no operating system, making it challenging to train artificial intelligence models on “edge devices” that work independently from central computing resources. Training a machine-learning model on an intelligent edge device allows it to adapt to new data and make better predictions. For instance, training a model on a smart keyboard could enable the keyboard to continually learn from the user’s writing. However, the training process requires so much memory that it is typically done using powerful computers at a data center, before t ... More

Great Salt Lake on path to hyper-salinity, mirroring Iranian lake, new research shows
LOGAN, UT.- Starved for freshwater, the Great Salt Lake is getting saltier. The lake is losing sources of freshwater input to agriculture, urban growth and drought, and the drawdown is causing salt concentrations to spike beyond even the tolerance of brine shrimp and brine flies, according to Wayne Wurtsbaugh from Watershed Sciences in the Quinney College of Natural Resources. Deciphering the ecological and economic consequences of this change is complex and unprecedented, and experts are closely observing another stressed saline lake for clues on what to expect next—Lake Urmia in Iran. This "sister lake" offers obvious, and troubling, parallels to the fate of the Great Salt Lake, according to new research from Wurtsbaugh and Somayeh Sima from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran. The h ... More

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Voyage of discovery to Australia's Cocos (Keeling) Islands

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Francis Peyton Rous was born
October 05, 1879. Francis Peyton Rous (October 5, 1879 - February 16, 1970) was an American pathologist at the Rockefeller University known for his works in oncoviruses, blood transfusion and physiology of digestion. A medical graduate from the Johns Hopkins University, he was discouraged to become a practicing physician due to severe tuberculosis. After three years of working as an instructor of pathology at the University of Michigan, he became dedicated researcher at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research for the rest of his career. His discovery in 1911 that a chicken tumor was caused by a virus (later named Rous sarcoma virus) led to more discoveries and understanding of the role of viruses in the development of certain types of cancer. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in 1966, 55 years after his initial discovery and he remains the oldest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.


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