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Nature of unknown gamma-ray sources revealed

Artistic representation of an active galaxy jet. Image courtesy: M. Kornmesser/ESO.

BEIJING.- An international team of astronomers has unveiled the nature of hundreds of gamma-ray emitting sources, discovering that most of them belong to the class of active galaxies known as blazars. Their recent study was published in The Astronomical Journal. One of the most intriguing challenges in modern gamma-ray astronomy is searching for low-energy counterparts of unidentified gamma-ray sources. Unidentified sources constitute about 1/3 of all celestial objects detected by the Fermi satellite to date, the most recent gamma-ray mission with unprecedented capabilities for observing the high energy sky. Since the largest population of known gamma-ray sources are blazars, astronomers believe they can also classify most unidentified gamma-ray sources as blazars. However, they can completely understand their nature only by observing blazar candidates at visible frequencies. Blazars are extremely rare, black hole-powered galaxies. They host a supermassive black hole in their central regions tha ... More

Life on Mars: simulating Red Planet base in Israeli desert   Oldest footprints of pre-humans identified in Crete   Ocean life helps produce clouds, but existing clouds keep new ones at bay

A couple of astronauts from a team from Europe and Israel walk in spacesuits during a training mission for planet Mars at a site that simulates an off-site station at the Ramon Crater in Mitzpe Ramon in Israel's southern Negev desert. Jack Guez / AFP.

MITZPE RAMON (AFP).- Inside a huge crater in Israel's sun-baked Negev desert, a team wearing space suits ventures forth on a mission to simulate conditions on Mars. The Austrian Space Forum has set up a pretend Martian base with the Israeli space agency at Makhtesh Ramon, a 500-metre (1,600-foot) deep, 40 kilometre (25 mile) wide crater. The six so-called "analogue astronauts" will live in isolation in the virtual station until the end of the month. "It's a dream come true," Israeli Alon Tenzer, 36, told AFP. "It's something we've been working on for years." The participants -- from Austria, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain -- all had to pass gruelling physical and psychological tests. During their mission, they will conduct tests including on a drone prototype that functions without GPS, and on automated wind- and solar-powered mapping vehicles. The mission will also aim to study human behaviour and the effect of isolation on the astronauts. "The group's cohesion and their ability to w ... More

Tracks in the sand: One of over 50 footprints of predecessors of early humans identified in 2017 near Trachilos, Crete. Dating techniques have now shown them to be more than six million years old. Image: University of Tübingen.

TÜBINGEN.- The oldest known footprints of pre-humans were found on the Mediterranean island of Crete and are at least six million years old, says an international team of researchers from Germany, Sweden, Greece, Egypt and England, led by Tübingen scientists Uwe Kirscher and Madelaine Böhme of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen. Their study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports. The footprints from fossilized beach sediments were found near the west Cretan village of Trachilos and published in 2017. Using geophysical and micropaleontological methods, researchers have now dated them to 6.05 million years before the present day, making them the oldest direct evidence of a human-like foot used for walking. "The tracks are almost 2.5 million years older than the tracks attributed to Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) from Laetoli in Tanzania," Uwe Kirscher say ... More

First author Gordon Novak pictured with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chemical-sensing equipment used in the study. Image courtesy: Gordon Novak.

MADISON, WI.- Stand on the ocean’s shore and take a big whiff of the salt spray and you’ll smell the unmistakably pungent scent of the sea. That ripe, almost rotting smell? That’s sulfur. Marine plankton breathe more than 20 million tons of sulfur into the air every year, mostly in the form of dimethyl sulfide (DMS). In the air, this chemical can transform into sulfuric acid, which helps produce clouds by giving a site for water droplets to form. Over the scale of the world’s oceans, this process affects the entire climate. But new research from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others reveals that more than one-third of the DMS emitted from the sea can never help new clouds form because it is lost to the clouds themselves. The new findings significantly alter the prevailing understanding of how marine life influences clouds and may change the way scientists predict ... More

Plant proteins to 'meat' changing consumer demands   New species of mollusk discovered by museum curator   Tree-dwelling mammals endured after asteroid strike destroyed forests

Professor Jason Stokes from UQ’s School of Chemical Engineering. Image courtesy: Megan Pope.

BRISBANE.- For many people, nothing beats the taste and texture of a big juicy burger, but how do you recreate that eating experience with sustainable plant-based protein? That is the culinary quest of University of Queensland engineers and food scientists as part of a three-year Australian Research Council project in partnership with US-based Motif FoodWorks, Inc., a food technology company on a mission to make plant-based food taste better and be more nutritious. Professor Jason Stokes from UQ’s School of Chemical Engineering said attributes like taste, texture, and smell combined are primary drivers for consumers when considering a meat-free option. It's not just the taste, it has to be the texture as well, so the team wanted to understand the mechanics that occur during eating and stimulate them in a laboratory," Professor Stokes said. “People want to continue to eat meat but supplement their diet with a plant-based protein for en ... More

Amoria thorae, a new species of the carnivorous volute family of marine snails, was named in honor of long-time Brisbane resident Mrs. Thora Whitehead. Image courtesy: Dr John Healy, Queensland Museum.

BRISBANE.- A donation of an extensive and scientifically important shell collection to Queensland Museum has led to the discovery of a new species of mollusk by a museum curator. Amoria thorae, a new species of the carnivorous volute family of marine snails, was named in honor of long-time Brisbane resident Mrs. Thora Whitehead, whose collection was recently donated to the museum. The new species is so rare, scientists have yet to see a live specimen. Presently it is known from only a handful of specimens, all just empty shells, trawled in the 1970's within a narrow distribution area from northern News South Wales to south east Queensland. Queensland Museum Curator Marine Environments (Mollusks) Dr. John Healy said he long knew of a possible new species of carnivorous marine snail from the mid-eastern coast of Australia. "I'd seen a shell of this marine snail illustrated in a book, but not officially described, so you can imagine my delight ... More

An asteroid strike 66 million years ago wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs and devastated the Earth’s forests, but tree-dwelling ancestors of primates may have survived it. Image courtesy: Daniel Field.

NEW HAVEN, CT.- An asteroid strike 66 million years ago wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs and devastated the Earth’s forests, but tree-dwelling ancestors of primates may have survived it, according to a new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution. Overall, the study supports the hypothesis that the widespread destruction of forests following the asteroid’s impact favored ground-dwelling mammals over their arboreal counterparts, but it also provides strong evidence that some tree-dwelling taxa also survived the cataclysm, possibly nesting in branches through the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event. “We can’t fully understand the composition of life on Earth today without considering the fallout from the asteroid’s impact, which altered the evolutionary trajectories of many animal lineages,” said study co-author Eric Sargis, professor of anthropology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, direct ... More

Vaccines prevent severe Covid, even from Delta: study   Radio signals from distant stars suggest hidden planets   The complex dynamics of stem cell tethers and slings

In this file photo taken on August 19, 2021 (FILES) In this file photo a nurse fills a syringe with Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic on August 19, 2021 at Tournament House in Pasadena, California. Robyn Beck / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- Vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of Covid-19, even against the Delta variant, a vast study in France has shown. The research published Monday -- focusing on prevention of severe Covid and death, not infection -- looked at 22 million people over 50 and found those who had received jabs were 90 percent less likely to be hospitalised or die. The results confirm observations from the US, the UK and Israel, but researchers say it is the largest study of its kind so far. Looking at data collected starting in December 2020, when France launched its jab campaign, the researchers compared the outcomes of 11 million vaccinated people with 11 million unvaccinated subjects. They formed pairs matching an unvaccinated individual with a vaccinated counterpart from the same region and of the same age and sex, tracking them from the date of the vaccinated person's second jab to July 20. Starting 14 days after a second dose, a vaccinated subjects' risk of severe Covid was reduc ... More

The team focused on red dwarf stars, which are much smaller than the Sun and known to have intense magnetic activity that drives stellar flares and radio emission. Image: Unsplash.

BRISBANE.- Using the world’s most powerful radio antenna, scientists have discovered stars unexpectedly blasting out radio waves, possibly indicating the existence of hidden planets. The University of Queensland’s Dr Benjamin Pope and colleagues at the Dutch national observatory ASTRON have been searching for planets using the world’s most powerful radio telescope Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) situated in the Netherlands. “We’ve discovered signals from 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which are best explained by the existence of planets orbiting them,” Dr Pope said. “We’ve long known that the planets of our own solar system emit powerful radio waves as their magnetic fields interact with the solar wind, but radio signals from planets outside our solar system had yet to be picked up. “This discovery is an important step for radio astronomy and could potentially lead to the discovery of planets throug ... More

Part of the team's research is focused on understanding why cancer cancer cells outperform normal cells in their ability to migrate around the human body. Image courtesy: KAUST; Anastasia Serin.

THUWAL.- An innovative experiment design shows, in real time and at the scale of a single molecule, how stem cells slow their rolling inside the circulatory system by growing long tethers that attach to the inner surfaces of blood vessels. The strategy could help researchers to improve stem cell transplantations and to find new treatments for metastasizing cancers. Many cells in the human body travel through blood vessels from one organ to another to carry out specific functions. For example, immune cells migrate to inflamed tissue and cancer cells spread to new organs. Stem cells also travel to new locations to develop into different tissues. "This stem cell 'homing," where cells migrate to their new place of residence, is also essential for successful bone marrow transplantation for treating various diseases," explains Satoshi Habuchi, who led the study. Homing is a multistep process in which cells slowly roll over the inner lining of blood vessels, then adhere to the lining once they reach t ... More

The new-new kids on the block: hybrid lizards   How to better identify dangerous volcanoes   A cryptography game-changer for biomedical research at scale

Anolis sagrei. The study also connects evolutionary mechanisms of biological invasion (i.e., hybridization) to environmental change. Image courtesy: Day’s Edge Productions.

ST. LOUIS, MO.- There are many different kinds of anoles, but they tend not to mix. Females recognize the colorful, extendable neck flap of an amorous male of the same species, or the pattern of his head-bobbing dance. As a result, the Jets and the Sharks of the anole world almost never connect. Some lizards take it even further. There is a kind of hybridization, called intraspecific hybridization, that is puzzlingly rare in anoles, at least in their native ranges. In Cuba, where brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) are from, lizards from a particular population tend not to mate and create offspring with lizards from another population. To stick with "West Side Story," even among the Jets—but in genetically distinct groups within the Jets—they tend not to hybridize. The story is different in new geographic territory, though. New research from Washington University in St. Louis begins to unravel one of the major mysteries of invasion biology: why anima ... More

The more water is dissolved in the magma, the greater the risk that a volcano will explode. Image: Ása Steinarsdóttir, Unsplash.

ZURICH.- Volcanologists have long been troubled by two questions: When exactly will a volcano erupt next? And how will that eruption unfold? Will the lava flow down the mountain as a viscous paste, or will the volcano explosively drive a cloud of ash kilometres up into the atmosphere? The first question of “when” can now be answered relatively precisely, explains Olivier Bachmann, Professor of Magmatic Petrology at ETH Zurich. He points to monitoring data from the Canary Island of La Palma, where the Cumbre Vieja volcano recently emitted a lava flow that poured down to the sea. Using seismic data, the experts were able to track the rise of the lava in real time, so to speak, and predict the eruption to within a few days. The “how”, on the other hand, is still a major headache for volcanologists. Volcanoes on islands such as La Palma or Hawaii are known to be unlikely to produce huge explosions. But this question is much m ... More

Personalized medicine is set to revolutionize healthcare, yet large-scale research studies towards better diagnoses and targeted therapies are currently hampered by data privacy and security concerns.

LAUSANNE.- Predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory medicine, known as P4, is the healthcare of the future. To both accelerate its adoption and maximize its potential, clinical data on large numbers of individuals must be efficiently shared between all stakeholders. However, data is hard to gather. It’s siloed in individual hospitals, medical practices, and clinics around the world. Privacy risks stemming from disclosing medical data are also a serious concern, and without effective privacy preserving technologies, have become a barrier to advancing P4 medicine. Existing approaches either provide only limited protection of patients’ privacy by requiring the institutions to share intermediate results, which can in turn leak sensitive patient-level information, or they sacrifice the accuracy of results by adding noise to the data to mitigate potential leakage. Now, researchers from EPFL’s Laboratory for Data Security ... More

More News
Building out of concrete, but without pouring concrete
LAUSANNE.- “People are hesitant to reuse concrete due to a variety of concerns,” says Corentin Fivet, a tenure-track assistant professor at EPFL and head of the Structural Exploration Lab (SXL) within the Smart Living Lab. “But we wanted to show that those concerns are largely unfounded. Blocks of concrete that are selected for reuse are just as reliable and useful as new blocks.” Fivet has been studying potential applications of the circular economy in the construction industry for years. His team at SXL, which is part of EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), initially looked at metal and now also turns its attention to concrete. This project in particular involved building a 10m-wide footbridge out of 25 blocks of concrete taken from walls destined to be torn down. The project engineer ... More

Detecting retinal diseases with advanced AI technology
MELBOURNE.- Retinal examinations can detect a number of diseases that affect the eye. Fundus photography is a process of taking photographs of the interior of the eye through the pupil and is a way to screen and monitor such retinal diseases. The introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to fundus photography has improved the platform and enabled it to detect and monitor retinal diseases on a large scale. The Comprehensive AI Retinal Expert (CARE) system was developed by an international group of researchers from Sun Yat-sen University, Beijing Eaglevision Technology (Airdoc), Monash University, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Beijing Tongren Eye Centre and Capital Medical University. Associate Professor Zongyuan Ge from the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems E ... More

New images lead to better prediction of shear thickening
RALEIGH, NC.- For the first time, researchers have been able capture images providing unprecedented details of how particles behave in a liquid suspension when the phenomenon known as shear thickening takes place. The work allows us to directly understand the processes behind shear thickening, which had previously only been understood based on inference and computational modeling. Shear thickening is a phenomenon that can occur when particles are suspended in a low-viscosity solution. If the concentration of particles is high enough, then when stress is applied to the solution it becomes very viscous – effectively behaving like a solid. When the stress is removed or dissipates, the suspension returns to its normal fluid-like viscosity. This phenomenon can be seen in popular YouTube ... More

Corrosion can improve materials' durability
ITHACA, NY.- When it comes to the integrity of structural alloys, a little corrosion may sometimes be a good thing. Cornell researchers used advanced atomic modeling to explore the ways environment can influence the growth of cracks in alloys such as aluminum and steel – knowledge that could help engineers better predict, and possibly postpone, the failure of structures. And by removing atoms from the tip of a crack, the modeling showed the researchers could prevent a crack from propagating, essentially improving the material’s mechanical performance. The team’s paper, “Dissolution at a Ductile Crack Tip,” was published in Physical Review Letters. The lead author is Wenjia Gu, Ph.D. ’20. “People have been modeling crack growth and fracture for a long time, but the actual process by which it occurs has not rea ... More

Climate change may already impact majority of humanity: study
PARIS (AFP).- The effects of climate change could already be impacting 85 percent of the world's population, an analysis of tens of thousands of scientific studies said Monday. A team of researchers used machine learning to comb through vast troves of research published between 1951 and 2018 and found some 100,000 papers that potentially documented evidence of climate change's effects on the Earth's systems. "We have overwhelming evidence that climate change is affecting all continents, all systems," study author Max Callaghan told AFP in an interview. He added there was a "huge amount of evidence" showing the ways in which these impacts are being felt. The researchers taught a computer to identify climate-relevant studies, generating a list of papers on topics from disrupted butterfly migration to heat-related hum ... More

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Precision Oncology: New research looks at integrative molecular profiles

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Arthur Harden was born
October 12, 1865. Sir Arthur Harden, (12 October 1865 - 17 June 1940) was a British biochemist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1929 with Hans Karl August Simon von Euler-Chelpin for their investigations into the fermentation of sugar and fermentative enzymes. He was a founding member of the Biochemical Society and editor of its journal for 25 years. At Manchester, Harden had studied the action of light on mixtures of carbon dioxide and chlorine, and when he entered the Institute he applied his methods to the investigation of biological phenomena such as the chemical action of bacteria and alcoholic fermentation. He studied the breakdown products of glucose and the chemistry of the yeast cell, and produced a series of papers on the antiscorbutic and anti-neuritic vitamins.


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