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Researchers create designer 'barrel' proteins - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
Proteins are long linear molecules that fold up to form well-defined 3D shapes. These 3D molecular architectures are essential for biological functions such as the elasticity of skin, the digestion of food, and the transport of oxygen in blood.
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Team reveals molecular structure of water at gold electrodes - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
When a solid material is immersed in a liquid, the liquid immediately next to its surface differs from that of the bulk liquid at the molecular level. This interfacial layer is critical to our understanding of a diverse set of phenomena from biology to materials science. When the solid surface is charged, just like an electrode in a working battery, it can drive further changes in the interfacial liquid. However, elucidating the molecular structure at the solid-liquid interface under these conditions has proven difficult.
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Archaeologists document highest altitude ice age human occupation in Peruvian Andes - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
In the southern Peruvian Andes, an archaeological team led by researchers at the University of Maine has documented the highest altitude ice age human occupation anywhere in the world—nearly 4,500 meters above sea level (masl).
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New microscope collects dynamic images of the molecules that animate life - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
Over the last decade, powerful new microscopes have dramatically sharpened biologists' focus on the molecules that animate and propel life. Now, a new imaging platform developed by Eric Betzig and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus offers another leap forward for light microscopy. The new technology collects high-resolution images rapidly and minimizes damage to cells, meaning it can image the three-dimensional activity of molecules, cells, and embryos in fine detail over longer periods than was previously possible.
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Chemists achieve new technique with profound implications for drug development - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
Breaking carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds to alter existing molecules to create new ones is an increasingly important avenue for drug development. Of particular interest is mirror-image or "one-handed" compounds, but C-H breaking methods for making pure batches of these molecules have worked with only a limited range of starting materials.
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Top marine scientists call for action on 'invisible' fisheries - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
To protect our oceans from irreversible harm, governments, conservationists, and researchers around the world must address the enormous threat posed by unregulated and destructive fisheries, say top marine scientists.
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Gene identified for immune system reset after infection - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
When pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella or Staphylococcus invade a host, the host organism should respond by going into a state of high alert, altering its metabolism to defend against the attack.
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Florida lizards evolve rapidly, within 15 years and 20 generations - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:00
Scientists working on islands in Florida have documented the rapid evolution of a native lizard species—in as little as 15 years—as a result of pressure from an invading lizard species, introduced from Cuba.
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Gene that once aided survival in Arctic found to have negative impact on health today

ScienceDaily Evolution News - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 10:16
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a genetic variant that arose thousands of years ago and likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today's northern populations. The findings provide an example of how an initially beneficial genetic change could be detrimental to future generations.
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Knowing how you feel could have health perks - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:47

People who pay more attention to their feelings and experiences tend to have better cardiovascular health, a new study suggests.

As reported in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found a significant association between self-reported “dispositional mindfulness” and better scores on four of seven cardiovascular health indicators, as well as a composite overall health score.

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Dispositional mindfulness is defined as someone’s awareness and attention to what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.

The study is the first to quantify such an association between mindfulness and better cardiovascular health, says study lead author Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. It’s an encouraging link for health promotion, because mindfulness can be enhanced with training.

“Mindfulness is changeable, and standardized mindfulness interventions are available,” Loucks says. “Mostly they’ve been looked at for mental health and pain management, but increasingly they are being looked at for cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and blood pressure.”

The connection may come about because people who are attuned to their present feelings may be better at minding and managing the various cravings—for salty or sugary foods, cigarettes, or even some time on the couch—that undermine health, Loucks says. Mindfulness interventions, for example, have already shown efficacy in helping people to quit smoking.

Comparing measurements

In the study, Loucks and his colleagues asked 382 participants in the broader New England Family Study to answer the 15 questions of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).

MAAS questions, rated on a six-point scale from “almost always” to “almost never” include “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.”

The participants also underwent tests to determine ratings on seven indicators of cardiovascular health, as suggested by the American Heart Association: smoking avoidance, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose.

The researchers also noted the participants’ age, race, sex, education, and scores on standardized scales of depression, and sense of control in their lives.

In their analysis of the data, Loucks and his team examined the association between the degree of self-reported mindfulness and the scores on each of the seven cardiovascular health indicators, accounting for age, sex, and race. They also calculated a composite score of the health indicators.

In-the-moment benefits

Participants with high MAAS scores had an 83 percent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health (as measured by the composite score) compared to those with relatively low MAAS scores. High vs. low MAAS scores were associated with significantly higher cardiovascular health on four of the seven individual indicators: BMI, physical activity, fasting glucose, and avoiding smoking.

That higher mindfulness did not also associate with higher scores for blood pressure or cholesterol may be because neither of those health indicators directly affect how someone feels in a typical moment, whereas smoking, obesity (and closely related fasting glucose), and physical activity are all much more explicitly evident experiences for the self.

Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable consumption, an indicator of diet quality, showed a positive association with higher MAAS scores, but with too wide a range of uncertainty to be considered statistically significant.

Loucks says the next step in his research is to begin testing whether improving mindfulness can increase cardiovascular health indicators. He says he hopes to launch randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up (because behavioral interventions often look good in the short term but then don’t last).

The National Institutes of Health provided support for the study.

Source: Brown University

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Power Production Decentralizes in Mexico

IEEE Spectrum - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:35

Reforms aim to integrate distributed power and more renewables

There’s zero chance you’ll be eaten by a megalodon - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:16

Scientists are officially debunking the myth that megalodon sharks still exist. The whale-eating monsters became extinct about 2.6 million years ago.

“I was drawn to the study of Carcharocles megalodon’s extinction because it is fundamental to know when species became extinct to then begin to understand the causes and consequences of such an event,” says Catalina Pimiento, a doctoral candidate at the Florida Museum of Natural History at University of Florida.

Catalina Pimiento measures a megalodon shark tooth at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. (Credit: Jeff Gage)

“I also think people who are interested in this animal deserve to know what the scientific evidence shows, especially following Discovery Channel specials that implied megalodon may still be alive.”

Published in PLOS ONE, the study represents the first phase of Pimiento’s ongoing reconstruction of megalodon’s extinction. As modern top predators, especially large sharks, are significantly declining worldwide due to the current biodiversity crisis, the study serves as the basis to better understand the consequences of these changes.

“When you remove large sharks, then small sharks are very abundant and they consume more of the invertebrates that we humans eat,” Pimiento says. “Recent estimations show that large-bodied, shallow-water species of sharks are at greatest risk among marine animals, and the overall risk of shark extinction is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates.”

Megalodon mania

Pimiento plans to further investigate possible correlations between changes in megalodon’s distribution and the evolutionary trends of marine mammals, such as whales and other sharks.

“When we calculated the time of megalodon’s extinction, we noticed that the modern function and gigantic sizes of filter feeder whales became established around that time,” she says. “Future research will investigate if megalodon’s extinction played a part in the evolution of these new classes of whales.”

The slowly unraveling details of megalodon’s extinction and various aspects of its natural history have consumed Pimiento’s research for the past six years, including ongoing analysis of megalodon’s body size and a 2010 PLOS ONE study that suggested that Panama served as a nursery habitat for the species.

For the new study, researchers used databases and scientific literature of the most recent megalodon records and calculated the extinction using a novel mathematical model proven reliable in recent experimental testing by study coauthor Christopher F. Clements with the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich.

The study will not only serve as a key reference for debunking the myth that megalodon still exists, but its new methods will influence the future of scientific research of extinct animals and plants, says Jorge Velez-Juarbe, a vertebrate paleontologist with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

“The methodology that the authors used had only been previously employed to determine extinction dates in historical times, such as to estimate the extinction date of the dodo bird,” he says.

“In this work, scientists applied that same methodology to determine the extinction of an organism millions of years ago, instead of hundreds. It’s a new tool that paleo-biologists didn’t have, or rather had not thought of using before.”

Source: University of Florida

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Comet buzzes Mars

Nature News--Most Recent Articles - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:12

Mars orbiters emerge unscathed from planet's close encounter with comet Siding Spring.

Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2014.16178

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New studies bring scientists closer to combating dangerous unstable proteins - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:00
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered a way to decrease deadly protein deposits in the heart, kidney and other organs associated with a group of human diseases called the systemic amyloid diseases.
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YEATS protein potential therapeutic target for cancer - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:00
Federal Express and UPS are no match for the human body when it comes to distribution. There exists in cancer biology an impressive packaging and delivery system that influences whether your body will develop cancer or not.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:00
People may have been making their way from Easter Island to the Americas well before the Dutch commander Jakob Roggeveen arrived with his ships in 1722, according to new genomic evidence showing that the Rapanui people living on that most isolated of islands had significant contact with Native American populations hundreds of years earlier. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 23 lend the first genetic support for such an early trans-Pacific route between Polynesia and the Americas, an impressive trek of more than 4,000 kilometers (nearly 2,500 miles).
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Epic pre-Columbian voyage suggested by genes

ScienceNOW Daily Headlines - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:00
South American DNA found in Easter Islanders
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Lucky star escapes black hole with minor damage - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 08:51
Astronomers have gotten the closest look yet at what happens when a black hole takes a bite out of a star—and the star lives to tell the tale.
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Birds roosting in large groups less likely to contract West Nile virus - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 08:48
Although it would seem logical that large numbers of roosting birds would attract more mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and contract the disease when bitten, recent research at the University of Illinois found the opposite to be true. That is, when large groups of birds roost together the chances that an individual bird will get bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus and subsequently contract the disease actually go down.
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Overhaul of Chinese science spending looms

ScienceNOW Daily Headlines - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 08:45
Reform could strip science ministry of control of research budget
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