Denver Museum of Nature Science curator discovers real reason turtles have shells

July 16, 2016

It is common knowledge that the modern turtle shell is largely used for protection. No other living vertebrate has so drastically altered its body to form such an impenetrable protective structure as the turtle. However, a new study by an international group of paleontologists suggests that the broad ribbed proto shell on the earliest partially shelled fossil turtles was initially an adaptation, for burrowing underground, not for protection. Paleontologist Tyler Lyson from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is among the scientists that helped make this discovery. Read more

Physicists discover family of tetraquarks

July 8, 2016

Physicists in the Syracuse University College of Arts and Sciences have made science history by confirming the existence of a rare four-quark particle and discovering evidence of three other “exotic” siblings.

Their findings are based on data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest, most powerful particle accelerator, located at the CERN science laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.

Professor Tomasz Skwarnicki and Ph.D. student Thomas Britton G’16, both members of the Experimental High-Energy Physics Group at Syracuse and the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) collaboration at CERN, have confirmed the existence of a tetraquark candidate known as X(4140). They also have detected three other exotic particles with higher masses, called X(4274), X(4500) and X(4700). Read more

Erasing unpleasant memories with a genetic switch

June 30, 2016

Researchers from KU Leuven (Belgium) and the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (Germany) have managed to erase unpleasant memories in mice using a ‘genetic switch’. Their findings were published in Biological Psychiatry.

Dementia, accidents, or traumatic events can make us lose the memories formed before the injury or the onset of the disease. Researchers from KU Leuven and the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology have now shown that some memories can also be erased when one particular gene is switched off. Read more

Scientists train for future missions on Mars using diverse flora in Utah

June 9, 2016

Future Martian explorers might not need to leave the Earth to prepare themselves for life on the Red Planet. The Mars Society have built an analogue research site in Utah, USA, which simulates the conditions on our neighbouring planet.

Practicing the methods needed to collect biological samples while wearing spacesuits, a team of Canadian scientists have studied the diverse local flora. Along with the lessons that one day will serve the first to conquer Mars, the researchers present an annotated checklist of the fungi, algae, cyanobacteria, lichens, and vascular plants from the station in their publication in the open-access journal Biodiversity Data Journal. Read more

Rapid eye movement sleep: Keystone of memory formation

May 16, 2016

For decades, scientists have fiercely debated whether rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the phase where dreams appear – is directly involved in memory formation.

Now, a study published in Science by researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (McGill University) and the University of Bern provides evidence that REM sleep does, indeed, play this role – at least in mice.

“We already knew that newly acquired information is stored into different types of memories, spatial or emotional, before being consolidated or integrated,” says Sylvain Williams, a researcher and professor of psychiatry at McGill. Read more

Brain’s stopping system may be at fault for derailed train of thought

April 19, 2016

Have you had the experience of being just on the verge of saying something when the phone rang? Did you then forget what it is you were going to say? A study of the brain’s electrical activity offers a new explanation of how that happens.

Published in Nature Communications, the study comes from the lab of neuroscientist Adam Aron at the University of California San Diego, together with collaborators at Oxford University in the UK, and was led by first author Jan Wessel, while a post-doctoral scholar in the Aron Lab. The researchers suggest that the same brain system that is involved in interrupting, or stopping, movement in our bodies also interrupts cognition — which, in the example of the phone ringing, derails your train of thought. Read more

Fairy circles discovered in Australia by researchers

March 29, 2016

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany are unraveling the mystery behind what causes “fairy circles.” Recently discovered in the uninhabited Australian outback, fairy circles were thought to exist only in Africa.

According to a new study in the PNAS journal (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), the research team found new evidence that these barren circular patches of land — previously thought to exist only in the dry Namibia grassland of southern Africa — occur due to the way plants organize themselves in response to water shortage. Read more

Scientists find stem cells capable of repairing skull, face bones

February 2, 2016

A team of Rochester scientists has, for the first time, identified and isolated a stem cell population capable of skull formation and craniofacial bone repair in mice–achieving an important step toward using stem cells for bone reconstruction of the face and head in the future, according to a new paper in Nature Communications. Read more

Record warm years almost certainly due to human-made climate change

January 26, 2016

Recent record warm years are with extremely high likelihood caused by human-made climate change. Without greenhouse-gas emissions from burning coal and oil, the odds are vanishingly small that 13 out of the 15 warmest years ever measured would all have happened in the current, still young century. These odds are between 1 in 5000 and 1 in 170.000, a new study by an international team of scientists now shows. Including the data for 2015, which came in after the study was completed, makes the odds even slimmer.

“2015 is again the warmest year on record, and this can hardly be by chance,” says co-author Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The scientists performed a sophisticated statistical analysis, combining observational data and comprehensive computer simulations of the climate system. Their new approach allowed them to better separate natural climate variability from human-caused climate change.

“Natural climate variability causes temperatures to wax and wane over a period of several years, rather than varying erratically from one year to the next,” says lead-author Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology and director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State (US). “That makes it more challenging to accurately assess the chance likelihood of temperature records. Given the recent press interest, it just seemed like it was important to do this right, and address, in a defensible way, the interesting and worthwhile question of how unlikely it is that the recent run of record temperatures might have arisen by chance alone.”

Global warming increases risk of local heat extremes

The newly computed odds for experiencing the recent runs of record temperatures by chance, without accounting for human-caused greenhouse gases, are greater than odds previously reported in some media – between 1 in 27 million and 1 in 650 million – but they are still incredibly slim.

In contrast, taking human-caused global warming into account makes the recent record temperatures quite likely, as the study further shows. Rahmstorf sums up the findings: “Natural climate variations just can’t explain the observed recent global heat records, but man-made global warming can.” What is more, the anomalous global average warmth comes with substantial impacts. “It has led to unprecedented local heat waves across the world – sadly resulting in loss of life and aggravating droughts and wildfires,” says Rahmstorf. “The risk of heat extremes has been multiplied due to our interference with the Earth system, as our data analysis shows.”

Physicists propose the first scheme to teleport the memory of an organism

January 13, 2016

In “Star Trek”, a transporter can teleport a person from one location to a remote location without actually making the journey along the way. Such a transporter has fascinated many people. Quantum teleportation shares several features of the transporter and is one of the most important protocols in quantum information. In a recent study, Prof. Tongcang Li at Purdue University and Dr. Zhang-qi Yin at Tsinghua University proposed the first scheme to use electromechanical oscillators and superconducting circuits to teleport the internal quantum state (memory) and center-of-mass motion state of a microorganism. They also proposed a scheme to create a SchrÃdinger’s cat state in which a microorganism can be in two places at the same time. This is an important step towards potentially teleporting an organism in future. Read more

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