Understanding the architecture of our ‘second brain’ in gut

May 22, 2017

Scientists have made an important step in understanding the organisation of nerve cells embedded within the gut that control its function — a discovery that could give insight into the origin of common gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation.

The findings, published in Science, reveal how the enteric nervous system — a chaotic network of half a billion nerve cells and many more supporting cells inside the gut wall — is formed during mouse development. The research was led by the Francis Crick Institute, in collaboration with the University of Leuven, Stanford University, the Hubrecht Institute and the Quadram Institute Bioscience. The work was funded by the Francis Crick Institute, the Medical Research Council and the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

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The human sense of smell is stronger than we think

May 11, 2017

When it comes to our sense of smell, we have been led to believe that animals win out over humans: No way can we compete with dogs and rodents, some of the best sniffers in the animal kingdom.

But guess what? It’s a big myth. One that has survived for the last 150 years with no scientific proof, according to Rutgers University-New Brunswick neuroscientist John McGann, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, School of Arts and Sciences, in a paper published on May 12 in Science.

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Scientists make the case to restore Pluto’s planet status

March 19, 2017

Johns Hopkins University scientist Kirby Runyon wants to make one thing clear: Regardless of what one prestigious scientific organization says to the contrary, Pluto is a planet.

So, he says, is Europa, commonly known as a moon of Jupiter, and so is the Earth’s moon, and so are more than 100 other celestial bodies in our solar system that are denied this status under the prevailing definition of “planet.”

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Scientists create new form of matter, a time crystal

March 8, 2017

Salt, snowflakes and diamonds are all crystals, meaning their atoms are arranged in 3-D patterns that repeat. Today scientists are reporting in the journal Nature on the creation of a phase of matter, dubbed a time crystal, in which atoms move in a pattern that repeats in time rather than in space.

The atoms in a time crystal never settle down into what’s known as thermal equilibrium, a state in which they all have the same amount of heat. It’s one of the first examples of a broad new class of matter, called nonequilibrium phases, that have been predicted but until now have remained out of reach. Like explorers stepping onto an uncharted continent, physicists are eager to explore this exotic new realm.

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‘Super-deep’ diamonds may tell us more about Earth’s interior

March 2, 2017

IMAGE
IMAGE: Earth’s interior and the hometown of super-deep diamonds.

Credit: Fumiya Maeda

Researchers at Tohoku University believe that it is possible for natural diamonds to form at the base of the Earth’s mantle (Fig.1). The formation of such “super-deep” diamonds was simulated using high-pressure and high-temperature experiments by the Japanese research team, led by Fumiya Maeda.

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The Internet and your brain are more alike than you think

February 9, 2017

Although we spend a lot of our time online nowadays–streaming music and video, checking email and social media, or obsessively reading the news–few of us know about the mathematical algorithms that manage how our content is delivered. But deciding how to route information fairly and efficiently through a distributed system with no central authority was a priority for the Internet’s founders. Now, a Salk Institute discovery shows that an algorithm used for the Internet is also at work in the human brain, an insight that improves our understanding of engineered and neural networks and potentially even learning disabilities.

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LSD alters perception of meaning via serotonin receptors

January 26, 2017

Researchers from UZH have discovered how the perception of meaning changes in the brain under the influence of LSD. The serotonin 2A receptors are responsible for altered perception. This finding will help develop new courses of pharmacotherapy for psychiatric disorders such as depression, addictions or phobias.

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New antimatter breakthrough at CERN to help illuminate mysteries of the Big Bang

December 20, 2016

Swansea University scientists working at CERN have made a landmark finding, taking them one step closer to answering the question of why matter exists and illuminating the mysteries of the Big Bang and the birth of the Universe.

In their paper published in Nature the physicists from the University’s College of Science, working with an international collaborative team at CERN, describe the first precision study of antihydrogen, the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen.

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Fundamental solid state phenomenon unraveled

December 19, 2016

Whether water freezes to ice, iron is demagnetized or a material becomes superconducting – for physicists there is always a phase transition behind it. They endeavour to understand these different phenomena by searching for universal properties. Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt and Technische Universität Dresden have now made a pioneering discovery during their study of a phase transition from an electrical conductor to an insulator (Mott metal-insulator transition).

According to Sir Nevill Francis Mott’s prediction in 1937, the mutual repulsion of charged electrons, which are responsible for carrying electrical current, can cause a metal-insulator transition. Yet, contrary to common textbook opinion, according to which the phase transition is determined solely by the electrons, it is the interaction of the electrons with the atomic lattice of the solid which is the determinant factor. The researchers have reported this in the latest issue of the Science Advances journal.

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Will Earth still be around 5 billion years from now?

December 9, 2016

What will happen to Earth when, in a few billion years’ time, the Sun is a hundred times bigger than it is today? Using the most powerful radio telescope in the world, an international team of astronomers has set out to look for answers in the star L2 Puppis. Five billion years ago, this star was very similar to the Sun as it is today.

“Five billion years from now, the Sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size,” says Professor Leen Decin from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy. “It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, 7 billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star. This will be about the size of the Earth, but much heavier: one tea spoon of white dwarf material weighs about 5 tons.”

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