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Worm lizards dispersed by 'rafting' over oceans, not continental drift

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 16:10
Tiny, burrowing reptiles known as worm lizards became widespread long after the breakup of the continents, leading scientists to conclude that they must have dispersed by rafting across oceans soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs, rather than by continental drift as previously thought.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Tiny songbird discovered to migrate non-stop, 1,500 miles over the Atlantic

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 16:00
For more than 50 years, scientists had tantalizing clues suggesting that a tiny, boreal forest songbird known as the blackpoll warbler departs each fall from New England and eastern Canada to migrate nonstop in a direct line over the Atlantic Ocean toward South America, but proof was hard to come by.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

The nature of nurture is all about your mother, study says

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 16:00
When it comes to survival of the fittest, it's all about your mother - at least in the squirrel world.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

2015’s Top Ten Tech Cars: Toyota Mirai

IEEE Spectrum - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 15:00


Doubling down on hydrogen fuel cells

Discovering missing body parts of ancient fossils

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 14:09
Certain specimens of the fossil Dickinsonia are incomplete because ancient currents lifted them from the sea floor, a team of researchers led by paleontologists at the University of California, Riverside has found. Sand then got deposited beneath the lifted portion, the researchers report, strongly suggesting that Dickinsonia was mobile, easily separated from the sea floor and not attached to the substrate on which it lived.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Google unveils 'stick' computer with Asus

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 14:03
Google and Taiwan's Asus are launching a "computer on a stick" which can plug into a display to turn it into a PC.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

This ancient ‘remedy’ actually kills MRSA

Futurity.org - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 13:47

Researchers recreated a 10th century potion for eye infections from Bald’s Leechbook, an Old English volume in the British Library, to see if it really works as an antibacterial remedy.

Their findings show that Bald’s eye salve kills up to 90 percent of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). bacteria in in vivo wound biopsies from mouse models.

Christina Lee, associate professor in Viking studies and member of University of Nottingham’s Institute for Medieval Research, had the idea to test the ancient remedy. Lee translated the recipe from a transcript of the original Old English manuscript.

Following the recipe

The recipe calls for two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine, and oxgall (bile from a cow’s stomach). It describes a very specific method of making the topical solution, including the use of a brass vessel to brew it in, straining to purify it, and an instruction to leave the mixture for nine days before use.

“We thought that Bald’s eye salve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity, because each of the ingredients has been shown by other researchers to have some effect on bacteria in the lab—copper and bile salts can kill bacteria, and the garlic family of plants make chemicals that interfere with the bacteria’s ability to damage infected tissues,” says microbiologist Freya Harrison.

“But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was. We tested it in difficult conditions, too. We let our artificial ‘infections’ grow into dense, mature populations called biofilms, where the individual cells bunch together and make a sticky coating that makes it hard for antibiotics to reach them.

“But unlike many modern antibiotics, Bald’s eye salve has the power to breach these defenses.”

Artificial and real wounds

Researchers tested the remedy on cultures of the commonly found and hard to treat bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, in both synthetic wounds and in infected wounds in mice.

The team made artificial wound infections by growing bacteria in plugs of collagen and then exposed them to each of the individual ingredients, or the full recipe.

None of the individual ingredients alone had any measurable effect, but when combined according to the recipe the Staphylococcus populations were almost totally obliterated: about one bacterial cell in a thousand survived.

‘Genuinely amazed’

The team then went on to see what happened if they diluted the eye salve—as it is hard to know just how much of the medicine bacteria would be exposed to when applied to a real infection.

They found that when the medicine is too dilute to kill Staphylococcus aureus, it interfered with bacterial cell-cell communication (quorum sensing). This is a key finding, because bacteria have to talk to each other to switch on the genes that allow them to damage infected tissues.

Many microbiologists think that blocking this behavior could be an alternative way of treating infection.

“When we built this recipe in the lab I didn’t really expect it to actually do anything. When we found that it could actually disrupt and kill cells in S. aureus biofilms, I was genuinely amazed,” says collaborator Steve Diggle.

Kendra Rumbaugh carried out in vivo testing of the Bald’s remedy on MRSA infected skin wounds in mice at Texas Tech University.

“We know that MRSA infected wounds are exceptionally difficult to treat in people and in mouse models. We have not tested a single antibiotic or experimental therapeutic that is completely effective; however, this ‘ancient remedy’ performed as good if not better than the conventional antibiotics we used,” says Rumbaugh.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria and the lack of new antimicrobials in the developmental pipeline are key challenges for human health,” adds Harrison. “There is a pressing need to develop new strategies against pathogens because the cost of developing new antibiotics is high and eventual resistance is likely.”

Harrison will present the findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology this week in Birmingham.

The AncientBiotics team at Nottingham is seeking more funding to extend the project.

The University of Nottingham is committed to the principles of the 3Rs of reduction, refinement and replacement. For each project it ensures, as far as is reasonably practicable, that no alternative to the use of animals is possible, that the number of animals used is minimized, and that procedures, care routines, and husbandry are refined to maximize welfare. The University is a signatory member of the UK Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.

Source: University of Nottingham

The post This ancient ‘remedy’ actually kills MRSA appeared first on Futurity.

Coating Turns Cotton Into A Fabric Worthy Of A Superhero

Chemical & Engineering News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 13:17
Materials: Three-layer coating repels water and fire and heals itself
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Molybdenum Disulfide Sees the Light

IEEE Spectrum - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 13:00


Plasmonics combined with MoS2 could lead to the material being useful in LED applications

Researchers see drop in methane emissions from natural gas local distribution systems

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:38
A team led by Washington State University researchers has found that methane emissions from local natural gas distribution systems in cities and towns throughout the U.S. have decreased in the past 20 years with significant variation by region.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Skin tough: study at Advanced Light Source shows why skin is resistant to tearing

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:05
When weighing the pluses and minuses of your skin add this to the plus column: Your skin - like that of all vertebrates - is remarkably resistant to tearing. Now, a collaboration of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) San Diego has shown why.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Moore’s Law Might Be Slowing Down, But Not Energy Efficiency

IEEE Spectrum - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:00


Miniaturization may be tough, but there's still room to drive down power consumption in modern computers

Natural nanocrystals shown to strengthen concrete

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:52
Cellulose nanocrystals derived from industrial byproducts have been shown to increase the strength of concrete, representing a potential renewable additive to improve the ubiquitous construction material.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

Soil organic matter susceptible to climate change

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:35
Soil organic matter, long thought to be a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon, may be much more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

How do you scare away a hungry elephant?

Futurity.org - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:15

Until now electric fences and trenches have been the best way to protect farms and villages from nighttime raids by hungry elephants. Now, there may be a better way: the recorded sound of angry predators.

For a new study, researchers set up infrared sensor playback systems where elephants triggered the sound of growling tigers, leopards, and angry shouts of villagers as they approached farmers’ fields.

In 41 attempted raids, tiger sounds stopped the elephants 90 percent of the time, the sound of leopards deterred them 73 percent of the time, and human shouts prevented 57 percent of the attempts.

Hungry, hungry elephants

“This technique was tested using static devices. Although the elephants shied away from the specific area they would eventually find another way into the field,” says Vivek Thuppil, assistant professor of psychology at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

“So static recordings like this would work in locations where there is a narrow path of entry to farmland.

“Now I am interested in investigating how an elephant would respond to threatening sounds if they were not emanating from a stationary source. To accomplish this, there would be a network of speakers and an intruding elephant’s location would be tracked continuously with only the speaker nearest the elephant being activated. This would simulate persistent tracking of an elephant by a predator.”

Fool me once—but not twice

Elephants live off roots, grasses, fruit, and bark and the Earth’s largest land mammal needs to consume over 275 pounds of food in a single day to satisfy its huge appetite. As the Asian elephant’s natural habitat is squeezed to make way for agriculture, new roads, and development, conflict between elephants and humans is an increasing problem.

For the study, published in Oryx—the International Journal of Conservation, researchers tested two infrared systems, one that was more complex and realistic, and one that was simple enough for farmers to set up around their fields.

Both were effective in deterring elephants. But it seems an elephant never does forget, and those that encountered the noises more than once were less likely to be fooled.

Thuppil will next collaborate with the Management and Ecology of the Malaysian Elephant, a research project at UNMC led by Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz that is fitting wild elephants with specially designed collars packed with satellite and cell phone technology. The aim is to learn more about the Asian elephant and how to mitigate the growing problem of human-elephant conflict.

Richard G. Coss from the University of California, Davis, is a coauthor of the study.

Source: University of Nottingham

The post How do you scare away a hungry elephant? appeared first on Futurity.

What comfort food reveals about our past

Futurity.org - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:01

No matter what meal strikes you as comfort food, you likely love the dish based on a good relationship with the person you remember first preparing it.

The findings have implications for better understanding how social factors influence our food preferences and eating behavior.

“Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children. As long we have positive association with the person who made that food then there’s a good chance that you will be drawn to that food during times of rejection or isolation,” says psychologist Shira Gabriel of the University at Buffalo.

“It can be understood as straight-up classical conditioning.”

Previous research has shown that comfort food can reduce feelings of rejection and isolation. This new study, published in the journal Appetite, suggests why certain foods are attractive when we are feeling down.

“Because comfort food has a social function,” she says, “it is especially appealing to us when we are feeling lonely or rejected. The current study helps us understand why we might be eating comfort foods even when we’re dieting or not particularly hungry,” she says.

For some of the study participants, comfort food was a healthy food choice, for others, it was starchy and fatty.

“For a lot of people it is the food they grew up eating,” says Gabriel.

“In a previous study, we gave all of the participants chicken noodle soup,” says Gabriel. “But only those who had a social connection to that soup identified it as a comfort food and felt socially accepted after eating it.”

This research gives insight into a unique method by which people can feel socially connected and safe—through eating comfort foods. Because a threatened sense of belonging is related to mental and physical health risks, the researchers say it’s important to learn how that vulnerability can be managed.

However, this method of filling social needs is not without risks. As Gabriel says, “Although comfort food will never break your heart, it might destroy your diet.”

Source: University at Buffalo

The post What comfort food reveals about our past appeared first on Futurity.

UK election: Nature polls its readers on the science vote

Nature News--Most Recent Articles - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:10

Survey shows that left-leaning scientists are taking more notice of historically minor parties.

Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2015.17238

Categories: Falconer Feeds

Internet of Things Dramatically Increases Demand for IT Specialists at Bosch

IEEE Spectrum - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:00


Bosch looks to bring 12,000 new hires—mainly engineers—aboard in 2015

Soft, energy-efficient robotic wings

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 09:45
Dielectric elastomers are novel materials for making actuators or motors with soft and lightweight properties that can undergo large active deformations with high-energy conversion efficiencies. This has made dielectric elastomers popular for creating devices such as robotic hands, soft robots, tunable lenses and pneumatic valves—and possibly flapping robotic wings.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS

The 'intraterrestrials': New viruses discovered in ocean depths

PhysOrg.com - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 09:33
The intraterrestrials, they might be called. Strange creatures live in the deep sea, but few are odder than the viruses that inhabit deep ocean methane seeps and prey on single-celled microorganisms called archaea.
Categories: SCI-TECH NEWS
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