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New Mexico Mammoths among best evidence for early humans in North America

Close up of the bone pile during excavation. This random mix of ribs, broken cranial bones, a molar, bone fragments, and stone cobbles is a refuse pile from the butchered mammoths. It was preserved beneath the adult mammoth’s skull and tusks. Image courtesy: Timothy Rowe / The University of Texas at Austin.

AUSTIN, TX.- About 37,000 years ago, a mother mammoth and her calf met their end at the hands of human beings. Bones from the butchering site record how humans shaped pieces of their long bones into disposable blades to break down their carcasses, and rendered their fat over a fire. But a key detail sets this site apart from others from this era. It’s in New Mexico – a place where most archaeological evidence does not place humans until tens of thousands of years later. A recent study led by scientists with The University of Texas at Austin finds that the site offers some of the most conclusive evidence for humans settling in North America much earlier than conventionally thought. The researchers revealed a wealth of evidence rarely found in one place. It includes fossils with blunt-force fractures, bone flake knives with worn edges, and signs of controlled fire. And thanks to carbon dating analysis on collagen extracted from the mammo ... More

Engineers repurpose 19th-century photography technique to make stretchy, color-changing films   Super-Earth skimming habitable zone of red dwarf   Enzyme, proteins work together to tidy up tail ends of DNA in dividing cells

By applying a 19th-century color photography technique to modern holographic materials, an MIT team has printed large-scale images onto elastic materials that when stretched can transform their color. Image courtesy of the researchers.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Imagine stretching a piece of film to reveal a hidden message. Or checking an arm band’s color to gauge muscle mass. Or sporting a swimsuit that changes hue as you do laps. Such chameleon-like, color-shifting materials could be on the horizon, thanks to a photographic technique that’s been resurrected and repurposed by MIT engineers. By applying a 19th-century color photography technique to modern holographic materials, an MIT team has printed large-scale images onto elastic materials that when stretched can transform their color, reflecting different wavelengths as the material is strained. The researchers produced stretchy films printed with detailed flower bouquets that morph from warm to cooler shades when the films are stretched. They also printed films that reveal the imprint of objects such as a strawberry, a coin, and a fingerprint. The team’s results provide the fi ... More

Schematic diagram of the newly discovered Ross 508 planetary system. Image courtesy: Astrobiology Center.

TOKYO.- A super-Earth planet has been found near the habitable zone of a red dwarf star only 37 light-years from the Earth. This is the first discovery by a new instrument on the Subaru Telescope and offers a chance to investigate the possibility of life on planets around nearby stars. With such a successful first result, we can expect that the Subaru Telescope will discover more, potentially even better, candidates for habitable planets around red dwarfs. Red dwarfs, stars smaller than the Sun, account for three-quarters of the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and are abundant in the neighborhood around the Sun. As such, they are important targets in the search for nearby extra-solar planets and extraterrestrial life. But red dwarfs are cool and don’t emit much visible light compared to other types of stars, making it difficult to study them. In the infrared wavelengths red dwarfs are brighter. So the Astrobiology Center in Japan developed an infrared observational instrument mounted on th ... More

Ci Ji Lim, an assistant professor of biochemistry and principal investigator on new research into DNA replication published recently in Nature. Image courtesy: Image courtesy: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

MADISON, WI.- Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have described the way an enzyme and proteins interact to maintain the protective caps, called telomeres, at the end of chromosomes, a new insight into how a human cell preserves the integrity of its DNA through repeated cell division. DNA replication is essential for perpetuating life as we know it, but many of the complexities of the process — how myriad biomolecules get where they need to go and interact over a series of intricately orchestrated steps — remain mysterious. “The mechanisms behind how this enzyme, called Polα-primase, works have been elusive for decades,” says Ci Ji Lim, an assistant professor of biochemistry and principal investigator on new research into DNA replication published recently in Nature. “Our study provides a big breakthrough in understanding DNA synthesis at the ends of chromosomes, and it generates new hypotheses abou ... More

Safe steps for using 'probiotics' to revive biodiversity   Scientists uncover mechanism that shapes centromere distribution   VegSense makes sense for forest studies

The planet's ecosystems are under severe threat, prompting marine scientists to take action and devise ways of preventing loss of biodiversity. Image courtesy: KAUST, Morgan Bennett Smith.

THUWAL.- Time is running out, say researchers who are proposing a framework to guide the safe use of microbes to restore global biodiversity loss. "Anthropogenic impacts have been causing the rapid decline of key ecosystems that are central to supporting our livelihoods," warns KAUST marine scientist Raquel Peixoto. "Restoring beneficial bacteria provides an emerging tool to improve wildlife health and resilience," she says. "If successful, this option could reboot healthy microbiomes and protect key and sensitive symbiotic relationships between hosts and their associated microbes." Although the application of "probiotics" has proven beneficial for treating some human, crop and aquaculture diseases, their wider use within ecosystems and wildlife has not been extensively explored. Regulations vary worldwide on how to assess probiotic safety and conversations are needed around the ethics of their more widespread use. Peixoto is the founder ... More

The uneven distribution of centromeres (magenta) in nuclei (green). Image courtesy: 2022 Sachihiro Matsunaga, The University of Tokyo.

TOKYO.- Since the 1800s, scientists have noted configuration of centromeres, a special chromosomal region that is vital for cell division, in the nucleus. Up until this point, however, the determining mechanisms and the biological significance of centromere distribution were poorly understood. A team led by researchers from the University of Tokyo and their collaborators recently proposed a two-step regulatory mechanism that shapes centromere distribution. Their findings also suggest that centromere configuration in the nucleus plays a role in maintaining genome integrity. The results were published in Nature Plants. During the process of cell division, special chromosomal domains called centromeres are pulled to the opposite ends of the cell. After cell division is completed and the cell nucleus is constructed, centromeres spatially distributed in the nucleus. If the distribution of centromeres pulled to the two poles remains unchang ... More

Rice University graduate student Daniel Gorczynski created an open-source app called VegSense to gather field data about understory vegetation using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset. Image courtesy: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University.

HOUSTON, TX.- Ecologists won’t always need expensive and bulky equipment to measure vegetation in the wild. Rice University scientists have discovered a modern heads-up display works pretty well. Rice researchers set up a Microsoft HoloLens as a mixed-reality sensor to feed VegSense, their application to measure understory vegetation, plant life that grows between the forest canopy and floor. A proof-of-concept study by graduate student Daniel Gorczynski and bioscientist Lydia Beaudrot shows VegSense could be a suitable alternative to traditional classical field measurements at a low cost. Their study in Methods in Ecology and Evolution shows the hardware-software combination excels at quantifying relatively mature trees in the wild, which is one measure of a forest’s overall health. Gorczynski came up with the idea to try HoloLens, commonly marketed as a productivity tool for manufacturing, health care and education. He developed the ope ... More

Legacy of ancient Ice Ages shapes how seagrasses respond to environmental threats today   Researchers study historical developments of the periodic system of chemical elements   Rapid loss of smell predicts dementia and smaller brain areas linked to Alzheimer's

Smithsonian biologist Emmett Duffy on a research boat in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Image courtesy: Sean Mattson/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Deep evolution casts a longer shadow than previously thought, scientists report in a new paper published the week of Aug. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Smithsonian scientists and colleagues looked at eelgrass communities—the foundation of many coastal marine food webs along the north Atlantic and Pacific coasts—and discovered their ancient genetic history can play a stronger role than the present-day environment in determining their size, structure and who lives in them. And this could have implications for how well eelgrasses adapt to threats like climate change. About a half-million years ago, when the world was warmer, some eelgrass plants made the difficult journey from their homes in the Pacific to the Atlantic. Not all the plants were hardy enough to make the journey across the Arctic. For those that succeeded, a series of ice ages during the Pleistocene Epoch further affected how far they cou ... More

Chemical space and the periodic system of chemical elements. Image courtesy: Thomas Endler / Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences.

BONN.- In the 1860s, the chemists, Lothar Meyer and Dmitri Mendeleev, independently presented the first periodic system. Since then, the well-known tabular arrangement of the elements has been the guiding principle of chemistry. A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Leipzig provides computational approaches based on extensive data sets from the Reaxys chemistry database that explain the development of the first periodic systems. Their results are relevant for both the history of science and the future expansion of chemical knowledge. In a recently published article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the scientists look back to the beginnings of the periodic system, whose structure is characterized by similarity and order relationships among the elements. Periodic tables arose from the know ... More

Assoc. Prof. Jayant Pinto is pictured with a “Sniffin’ Stick,” an aroma-loaded device used to test patients’ ability to identify scents for research on olfactory dysfunction and aging. Image courtesy: University of Chicago.

CHICAGO, IL.- Though we often undervalue our ability to smell compared to our abilities to see and hear, our olfactory sense provides our brain with critical information, from detecting potential dangers like smoke to recognizing the sweet smell of baking cookies. Researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine have discovered another reason to appreciate our sniffers. Not only can a decline in a person’s sense of smell over time predict their loss of cognitive function, it can foretell structural changes in regions of the brain important in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The findings, based on a longitudinal study of 515 older adults, could lead to the development of smell-test screening to detect cognitive impairment earlier in patients. “This study provides another clue to how a rapid decline in the sense of smell is a really good indicator of what's going to end up structurally occurring in specific regions of th ... More

Fiddler crab eye view inspires researchers to develop novel artificial vision   Study finds nickelate superconductors are intrinsically magnetic   Next-generation networks with fast changes and increased security

Researchers have developed an artificial vision system modeled after the fiddler crab eye structure, which is suitable for both land and underwater environments, and provides a panoramic imaging ability.

GWANGJU.- Artificial vision systems find a wide range of applications, including self-driving cars, object detection, crop monitoring, and smart cameras. Such vision is often inspired by the vision of biological organisms. For instance, human and insect vision have inspired terrestrial artificial vision, while fish eyes have led to aquatic artificial vision. While the progress is remarkable, current artificial visions suffer from some limitations: they are not suitable for imaging both land and underwater environments, and are limited to a hemispherical (180) field-of-view (FOV). To overcome these issues, a group of researchers from Korea and U.S., including Professor Young Min Song from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea, have now designed a novel artificial vision system with an omnidirectional imaging ability, which can work in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Their study was made available online o ... More

A muon, center, spins like a top within the atomic lattice of a thin film of superconducting nickelate. Image courtesy: Jennifer Fowlie/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

MENLO PARK, CA.- Electrons find each other repulsive. Nothing personal—it's just that their negative charges repel each other. So getting them to pair up and travel together, like they do in superconducting materials, requires a little nudge. In old-school superconductors, which were discovered in 1911 and conduct electric current with no resistance, but only at extremely cold temperatures, the nudge comes from vibrations in the material's atomic lattice. But in newer, "unconventional" superconductors—which are especially exciting because of their potential to operate at close to room temperature for things like zero-loss power transmission—no one knows for sure what the nudge is, although researchers think it might involve stripes of electric charge, waves of flip-flopping electron spins that create magnetic excitations, or some combination of things. In the hope of learning more by looking at the problem from a slightly different angle, researchers at Stanford University and the Depart ... More

Rice’s Eugene Ng, a co-principal investigator. Image courtesy: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University.

HOUSTON, TX.- Computer scientists from Rice University, in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington, have received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop runtime programmable networks that can respond to real-time changes rapidly and without interruption of service. At present, changing networks is intrusive, making it a challenge to address issues that require a fast response, such as reacting quickly to cyberattacks. “Runtime programmability aims to transform the way cloud infrastructure is used and operated due to its fast response to live changes,”said Rice’s Ang Chen, principal investigator on the four-year grant from NSF’s Division of Computer and Network Systems. Rice’s Eugene Ng, a co-principal investigator, said, “In today’s network programming paradigm, developing new features is already easier than ever, but deploying these new fea ... More

More News
Shining light on how bacteria interact
CAMBRIDGE.- The ways in which bacteria infect cells are important for understanding host-pathogen interactions. The knowledge also opens up a world of practical applications. For example, it can support the design of new antibacterials or vaccines. In the case of soil or marine bacteria, it can create strategies for rebalancing natural ecosystems. "I've always been fascinated by bacteria and how these tiny microbes have such a huge impact on us and our world," said Vivian Monzon, Ph.D. student in the Bateman group at EMBL-EBI. "I'm particularly interested in the nitty gritty of how bacteria infect cells." In her recent work, Monzon has been using machine learning to explore how bacteria interact with their environment. By analyzing data from the UniProt database and using AlphaFold, she has been trying to fill ... More

Iron buildup in brain linked to higher risk for movement disorders
SAN DIEGO, CA.- A disorder called hereditary hemochromatosis, caused by a gene mutation, results in the body absorbing too much iron, leading to tissue damage and conditions like liver disease, heart problems and diabetes. Scant and conflicting research had suggested, however, that the brain was spared from iron accumulation by the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels and tissue comprised of closely spaced cells that protects against invasive pathogens and toxins. But in a new study published in the August 1, 2022 online issue of JAMA Neurology, researchers at University of California San Diego, with colleagues at UC San Francisco, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Laureate Institute for Brain Research, report that individuals with two copies of the gene mutation (one i ... More

Researchers develop miniature lens for trapping atoms
GAITHERSBURG, MD.- Atoms are notoriously difficult to control. They zigzag like fireflies, tunnel out of the strongest containers and jitter even at temperatures near absolute zero. Nonetheless, scientists need to trap and manipulate single atoms in order for quantum devices, such as atomic clocks or quantum computers, to operate properly. If individual atoms can be corralled and controlled in large arrays, they can serve as quantum bits, or qubits — tiny discrete units of information whose state or orientation may eventually be used to carry out calculations at speeds far greater than the fastest supercomputer. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, together with collaborators from JILA — a joint institute of the University of Colorado and NIST in Boulder — have for the first time demonstrated that they ca ... More

New optical switch could lead to ultrafast all-optical signal processing
PASADENA, CA.- Engineers at Caltech have developed a switch-one of the most fundamental components of computing-using optical, rather than electronic, components. The development could aid efforts to achieve ultrafast all-optical signal processing and computing. Optical devices have the capacity to transmit signals far faster than electrical devices by using pulses of light rather than electrical signals. That is why modern devices often employ optics to send data; for example, think of the fiberoptic cables that provide much faster internet speeds than conventional Ethernet cables. The field of optics has the potential to revolutionize computing by doing more, at faster speeds, and with less power. However, one of the major limitations of optics-based systems at present is that, at a certain point, they still need to have e ... More

Glioblastoma cells invade the brain as neuronal free riders
HEIDELBERG.- Certain cells from glioblastomas, the most aggressive form of brain tumors, mimic characteristics and movement strategies of immature neurons to colonize the brain. Fundamental new results from researchers at Heidelberg University Hospital and Heidelberg Medical School (MFHD) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) provide the first detailed insights into the tumor's spreading mechanisms. Glioblastoma cells move through the healthy brain tissue, settle in a suitable location and then form malignant networks through which they reconnect with the "mother tumor." These invaders do not only share their molecular profile with the precursor cells of nerve cells, but they also migrate in the same movement patterns and, like these, establish contacts with healthy nerve cells of the brain. The resu ... More

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On a day like today, German chemist and academic Leopold Gmelin was born
August 02, 1788. Leopold Gmelin (2 August 1788 - 13 April 1853) was a German chemist. Gmelin was a professor at the University of Heidelberg He worked on the red prussiate and created Gmelin's test, and wrote his Handbook of Chemistry, which over successive editions became a standard reference work still in use. Gmelin's most important physiological work was the 1826 released digestion by experiments, which he made together with Friedrich Tiedemann. The work, which also described many new working techniques, contained groundbreaking insights into the gastric juice, in which they found hydrochloric acid, and bile, in which Gmelin and Tiedemann among others discovered cholesterol and taurine. Gmelin released the Handbook of theoretical chemistry, which was continued as the Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry until 1997 in about 800 volumes by the Gmelin Institute.


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