Editor’s Picks 4/6/2014

Uncategorized 14 Comments
By Wesley Dodson

Perovskite solar cells can not only emit light, they can also emit up to 70% of absorbed sunlight as lasers.

Critical signaling molecules can be used to convert stem cells to neural progenitor cells, increasing the yield of healthy motor neurons and decreasing the time required to grow them.

Mexican blind cavefish are so close to their sighted kin that they are considered the same species, but they use pressure waves (from opening and closing their mouths) to navigate in the dark.

Electrostatic assembly allows luminescent elements (like Europium) to be embedded in nanodiamonds; these glowing particles “can be used as biomarkers, allowing researchers to track things that are happening inside cells.”

In a rather cruel experiment, researchers tortured male rats by isolating them, depriving them of food and water, clamping their tails, shocking them with electricity, dunking them in cold water, placing them in soiled bedding, and keeping the lights on all night.  Then they cut off and dissected the rats’ testicles to look for signs of stress in their reproductive cells.

On the brighter side of testicular slices, researchers have shown that cancer cells cannot survive a new process for removing and freezing a sample of testicular tissue from boys with cancer.  The process could allow patients to sidestep infertility caused by radiation and chemotherapy by implanting spermatogonial stem cells back into survivors when they reach adulthood.

A newly engineered bacterium can better manufacture pinene, “a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications.”

Weather extremes don’t always cause crops to fail; extra rain (as opposed to drought) can boost yields significantly, but it also boosts mosquito populations and the prevalence of mosquito-borne disease.

People with children “experienced less physical pain, felt they had more enjoyment in their lives, earned higher incomes, were better educated, and were healthier” than childless individuals, but still reported lower overall life satisfaction.

Like everyone else, most prisoners feel they are kinder and more moral than the average person; they also feel they are equally law-abiding.

Male wasps mouth the antennae of females during coitus to make them horny (with an oral pheromone), but a second exposure to the pheromone causes a lady wasp to lose interest in “unlocking her genitals” and start looking for fly larvae to deposit her eggs in.

Mafia members, despite their violent lifestyle, are highly social and not likely to be psychopaths.

Using more wood in building construction could reduce CO2 emissions related to the manufacture of steel and concrete while maintaining sustainable forestry practices.

New research replicates a pioneering 19th-century study of blood flow to the brain during cognitive processing.

Some children with autism respond favorably to naltexone, an opiate antagonist, but the drug did not demonstrate an impact on core features of the disorder.

Dogs placed in foster homes—dressed in “Adopt Me” vests and taken to public places—relieve crowding in animal shelters and are more likely to be adopted for the long-term.

Many “hot” foods, like capsaicin, activate the TRPV1 receptor; deceptive showmen apply ginger to the anuses of older horses to make their tails more erect.

Growing soccer players at elite levels of play are more likely to develop cam deformities of the hip.

A patient who lost his hippocampus in a motorcycle accident (and his ability to form new memories) still understands the concepts of past and future, yet he has no regrets, and cannot imagine anyone having regrets (even Richard Nixon).

Hybrid cars get better gas mileage in countries like India and China due to higher levels of traffic congestion.

Among 65,226 UK residents, eating 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduced risk of death from all causes by 42%.

Editor’s Picks 3/30/2014

Editor's Selections 4 Comments
By Wesley Dodson

Scientists use a ‘gene gun’ to insert a gene from a flowering plant called rockcress into the cells of wheat seeds. The genetically modified wheat became more resistant to a fungus called take-all, which in real life can cause “a 40-60% reduction in wheat yields.”

T-cells from six HIV+ patients were removed from their bodies, treated with a zinc-finger nuclease designed to snip a gene out of the cell’s DNA, and put back in the patients.  Removal of the gene mimics a naturally occurring mutation which confers resistance to the HIV virus.  But only 25% of the treated cells showed evidence of being successfully edited.

Researchers “use time-resolved X-ray microtomography to visualize the muscles and hinges in three-dimensions” of fly wings, modelling the complex physical processes that enable flies’ flight.

Even with the cost of building new energy storage infrastructure, wind energy will continue to offer a net gain of power.  Plus: wind produces enough surplus electricity to offer 72 hours of backup power (vs. 24 hours for solar panels).  Researchers say that the industry of onshore wind turbines can “double in size each year—and still maintain an energy surplus.”

Researchers cremated the remains of young piglets to investigate why there’s little evidence of high infant mortality in the archaeological record. To no avail.

Men in ‘traditional’ marriages (whose wives are not employed) are more likely to look negatively upon women in the workplace.

Regardless of the structural integrity of a shoulder (rotator cuff) repair, patients have improved function and reduced pain after surgery.

Stem cells are influenced by the rigidity of the substrate they grew up on: “spending 10 days on a particular bed leads to irreversible future differentiation of the stem cells into stiff-environment-loving bone or soft-loving fat cells.”  That could lead to considerable demand for a new scaffolding material “based on a biocompatible silk-alginate hydrogel” which can be made to varying standards of firmness.

By appearing to tap test subjects on the hand with a small hammer while playing the recorded sounds of a hammer tapping stone, researchers made people feel their hands were more stone-like (or numb).

A gene coincidentally named FAT10 ( for F Adjacent Transcript) actually “regulates lipid metabolism and longevity,” and model mice who lacked the gene were leaner, had a faster metabolism, and lived up to 20% longer.

Encapsulating immature pancreatic cells grown from human stem cells and implanting them under the skin of mice showed the cells could produce insulin whenever needed and reduce diabetic symptoms.

The CDC revised it autism prevalence rate upward again; in 2010 about 1 in 68 eight-year-olds had an autism spectrum disorder.

At age six, children award beneficial resources to members of their ‘in-group;’ at age eight they also assign harmful or negative resources to members of an ‘out-group.’

People with OCD were less likely than controls to believe they could influence a light bulb by pressing a space bar whenever they want. The light bulb blinked randomly on and off.

A virus affecting crickets not only sterilizes them, but makes them more eager to initiate courtship. Males perhaps uninhibited by the virus would start playing a courtship song for a female much sooner than their healthy peers.  Intimacy may be the virus’s way of spreading.

Within the ultrapure water purification system of a nuclear reactor, scientists found oligotrophic bacteria, including new species, growing in biofilms “visible to the naked eye” on ceramic filter surfaces.

Editor’s Picks 3/23/2014

Editor's Selections 8 Comments
By Wesley Dodson

For the first time, researchers have transformed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into specialized bladder cells. Meanwhile the development of iPSCs from normal cells has been shown to depend on two proteins necessary for the induction of a glycolytic state. In order to make iPSCs, researchers have previously needed to collect significant amounts of skin, bone marrow, or blood from a donor, but researchers have demonstrated a new method that requires only a single drop of blood.  In the future, you may be able to prick your finger, send a drop of blood to the lab, and have them grow a new bladder for you.

Paleontologists digging in the Dakotas have discovered “a giant crested bird-like dinosaur that the experts liken variously to an outsized cassowary, or a ‘chicken from hell.’”  The new genus of oviraptorosaur was named Anzu after a Mesopotamian bird-demon.

By coating gallium nitride semiconductors with “a layer of phosphonic acid derivatives,” researchers increased the brightness and longevity of LEDs without having to increase energy input.

Human appetite for conch snails has reduced the size of mature specimens by 2/3 in the last seven millennia.

A study of dioxin exposure via breast milk in Vietnam showed a correlation between levels of the chemical and development of autism in children.

Regardless of how long you spend playing, video games (especially those played with others) may help you relax after a long day at work.

Mexico now beats the U.S. as the most obese country in the world; they also drink the most Coca-Cola.  With Coke expanding aggressively in developing nations, chronically undernourished people are faced with too much of a good thing.

Getting less sleep is associated with having less ‘gray matter’ in the brain, but researchers can’t determine the direction of causality.  In another study, autistic children demonstrated shorter sleep duration than control groups.

Among sex-changing fish, the largest females are known to replace dominant males in a pinch, but male-to-female transitions are much more rare.  By studying a bunch of widowed male wrasses, researchers observed that the males would pair up with the next individual they encountered–whether male, female, or juvenile–and when two widowed males paired up, the smaller would become a female.

Baseline risk of ACL and other ligament injury may be genetically determined.

To accelerate word learning in young children, read them a story and then put them down for a nap.

Lithium-air batteries use the atmosphere as a cathode and could boost the range of electric vehicles to 300 miles or more.

Computational research has postulated the structure of electromagnetic knots that satisfy Maxwell’s equations.

And finally, a study of stem cell therapy for Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS) showed that the cells can be safely transplanted into the spinal cord and do not accelerate progression of the disease, providing a green light for further research.

Last Week on ResearchBlogging.org

Editor's Selections 7 Comments
By Wesley Dodson

Solar cells made with bismuth vanadate achieve a surface area of 32 square meters per gram.  This compound can be paired with cheap oxides to split water molecules (and make hydrogen) with record efficiency.

Short-term geoengineering could postpone global warming, only to have it happen more quickly in the future.

Carotenoids tinge blackbird bills a deep orange, signalling fitness; birds with oranger bills are “are heavier and larger, have less blood parasites and pair with females in better condition than males with yellow bills.”

Fibroblasts can extrude a tidy biological scaffold for stem-cell growth at a nanometer scale, while provoking a lower immune response than synthetic or animal-derived materials.

Higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood correlate with stronger white matter in the brain.

By first reverting skin cells to endodermal cells instead of stem cells, researchers were able to transform them into better liver cells with true regenerative potential.

Headband cam reveals that babies spend 25% of their waking lives looking at other people’s faces, 96% of which belonged to members of their own race.  By the age of 6 months, the faces of another race begin to all look the same.

Here: everything you ever wanted to know about star spiders.

Rodents are similar enough to humans to be used as laboratory models, so does a cat parasite that manipulates the behavior of rats also alter the behavior of humans (30-40% of whom are infected worldwide)?

Researchers have come within 99.8% of the theoretical limit of light absorption enhancement in solar cells, paving the way for “the next generation of high-efficiency, cost-effective and ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells.”

European utilities, under pressure from a law requiring 20% of all energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, are importing millions of metric tons of wood pellets from the southern United States.  Burning these pellets produces less than half the emissions of fossil fuel, not counting the energy needed to ship them across the Atlantic.

Newly discovered chimpanzee populations in the Congo are thriving, outnumbering their cousins in West Africa, but bushmeat hunters, like researchers, are beginning to encroach.

Another study shows a correlation between use of acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) during pregnancy and the development of ADHD in children.

New process turns algae into biogas compatible with our natural gas infrastructure. “While it takes nature millions of years to transform biomass into biogas, it takes the SunCHem process less than an hour.”

Among single-celled organisms like algae, programmed suicide can benefit relatives while suppressing the growth of non-relatives.

Off-shore wind turbines could significantly slow hurricane winds and decrease storm surges, all while generating electricity.

Novel aerogel made from wood and polymer could be thrown on an oil spill, absorbing nearly 100 times its own weight before being wrung out and used again.

Five-year-olds spanked by their mothers showed increased behavioral problems at age 9.  Those spanked by their fathers showed reduced vocabulary.

During a musical “conversation,” a jazz musician scanned by fMRI showed activation of language and rhythmic centers in the brain, hemispheric mirrors that “perform syntactic processing for both music and speech.”  At the same time, there was a marked deactivation of the angular gyrus, which is involved in interpreting the meaning of words if not their syntactic structure.

And finally if you want to be considered a great artist, it might be worth cultivating an eccentric persona in the most sincere manner possible.

Last Week on ResearchBlogging.org

Editor's Selections 8 Comments
By Wesley Dodson

Researchers observed tiny voids forming in silicon used for solar panels; these voids provide physical evidence of the Staebler-Wronski effect, “which reduces the solar cell efficiency by up to 15 percent within the first 1000 hours.”

Using an online avatar with a skin color other than your own makes you less racist in real life; playing a hero makes you less cruel, and playing a villain less benevolent.

Old mouse muscles exhibit “elevated levels of activity in a biological cascade called the p38 MAP kinase pathway” which prevents stem cells from dividing and repairing muscle damage.  By blocking this pathway with a drug, researchers grew a new generation of potent stem cells in a petri dish and transplanted them back into old mice.  ”Two months after transplantation, these muscles exhibited forces equivalent to young, uninjured muscles.”

Continuing its exhaustive penetration into the ecosphere, plastic has been observed built into the hives of urban bees.  The researcher notes, “although cells made with plastic may not hold together as well—and might have other, unseen effects on developing bees—they could have advantages too” such as keeping parasites away from eggs.

A protein normally necessary to shut down inflammation is undetectable in triple-negative breast cancer cells.  Without the protein, these cells can proliferate rapidly, but a new drug treatment can prevent the protein degradation.

Boys playing football is not the only recipe for head trauma: girls playing soccer are also at risk.  A total of 351 players were observed for one full season, and cumulatively suffered 59 concussions, mostly from player-to-player contact, heading the ball, and goal-tending.

A study surveying “leaky valves and pipes in the rapidly growing natural gas industry” observed 50% more methane leakage than expected, but the extra atmospheric contribution still causes less global warming than coal.

An isopod that infects California fish is the only known parasite to functionally replace a host’s organ.  The bug latches on to a fish’s tongue and sucks out the blood, causing it to atrophy.  After latching on to the diminished tongue it settles in for a life of “holding food up against the small teeth on the roof of the fish’s mouth” while also getting first dibs on all that fish food.

In the courtroom, weak evidence is strengthened by arbitrary precision.  Precision (along with body language) communicates confidence, which makes people “more likely to believe what you are saying.”

Engineered viruses can deliver instructions for making crucial growth factors to stem cells; when seeded onto a polymer scaffold incorporating the viruses, stem cells can achieve self-sufficient growth and replace the scaffold with (for example) a tailored piece of cartilage.

Alternatively, we could soon be able to print a piece of cartilage: researchers have “successfully printed two types of rat neural cells from the retina” through a piezoelectric inkjet printer without killing or sterilizing the cells.

Why oil spills are bad for fish: crude oil interrupts a cellular pathway “that allows fish heart cells to beat effectively,” causing “slowed heart rate, reduced cardiac contractility and irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death.”

Following a stroke, exercise confers a 91% reduction in mortality risk, versus anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy, which showed no statistically significant benefit.

Silicon nanoparticles packed into a carbon shell like seeds in a pomegranate (so as to prevent silicon degradation) may power a new generation of hyper-efficient lithium-ion batteries.

New fuel cell design can convert any biomass into electricity with a little help from sunlight or waste heat.

When responding to “virtual customer service agents,” people showed equal social engagement with human images and animated helpers.  The VCSAs were regarded as most helpful when they seemed most social.

Like mercury, ionic silver can build up in ocean-dwelling organisms.  In algae cells, silver stows away on a transport protein usually used by copper, and once inside the cell membrane, continues to pose as copper, damaging many proteins including those critical to energy generation and photosynthesis.  The cells do their best to get rid of the silver, but with silver added to everything from “air sanitisers to cleansing face creams to odourless socks,” sea life may be fighting an upstream battle.

Editor’s Selections: Beautiful eclogite, Poker studies, and Astrobiology

Editor's Selections 111 Comments
By Sarah Kendrew

Sarah Kendrew Sarah Kendrew selects interesting and notable ResearchBlogging.org posts in the physical sciences, chemistry, engineering, computer science, geosciences and mathematics. She blogs about astronomy at One Small Step.

All is quiet on the interwebs in the midst of summer holiday seasons. But if you do fancy some reading, here are some picks from the physical science on ResearchBlogging.

Geologist Simon Wellings introduces us to eclogite, the beautiful rock that can perhaps yield important information on earthquakes.

German scientists have performed a study to figure out if poker is a game of skill or luck, Neuroskeptic tells us. Gamblers take note!

Is astrobiology  a worthwhile subject ? This nice post reminded me of a similar discussion I’ve had many times with colleagues. A good recap of the issues.

I’ll be back next week with more selections!

Editor’s Selections: Sooty astrophysics, Kids vs. Crows, and Cell Phone Anxiety

Editor's Selections 33 Comments
By Sarah Kendrew

Sarah Kendrew Sarah Kendrew selects interesting and notable ResearchBlogging.org posts in the physical sciences, chemistry, engineering, computer science, geosciences and mathematics. She blogs about astronomy at One Small Step.

How planets condense out of the debris around young stars is a ho topic in astrophysics right now. InvaderXan talks about nice research into the destruction of complex molecular material in circumstellar disks.

I enjoyed Elizabeth Preston’s post on the behavioural experiments for birds that were recently applied to small children.

Do you get edgy when you can’t text? Apparently it’s a common problem. Mitch Harden describes the phenomenon of cell phone anxiety on his blog.

Thanks for the posts, and I’ll be back next week with more selections.

Editor’s Selections: Dark Galaxies Illuminated, Exploring the Uncanny Valley, and the Hippies of Physics

Editor's Selections 228 Comments
By Sarah Kendrew

Sarah Kendrew Sarah Kendrew selects interesting and notable ResearchBlogging.org posts in the physical sciences, chemistry, engineering, computer science, geosciences and mathematics. She blogs about astronomy at One Small Step.

Here are some picks from the last week in the physical sciences categories on ResearchBlogging….

On Wired Cosmos, Jason Carr describes great new results in the study of galaxy evolution, where scientists have observed so-called enigmatic “dark galaxies”.

I’d certainly never heard of the expression “uncanny valley”, but then I don’t spend much time around robots. Why do they make us uncomfortable? Eric Horow discusses on his blog.

I’d also never heard of the hippie Physics movement in 1970s Berkeley. But this interview on United Academics with David Kaiser, a physicist who recently wrote a book on the subject, makes it sound like a fascinating movement.

That’s it for the week! I’ll be back next Monday with more selections.

Editor’s Selections: Radiation from TSA scanners, Studying climate change with elephant seals, And the changing landscape of Africa?

Editor's Selections 21 Comments
By Sarah Kendrew

Sarah Kendrew Sarah Kendrew selects interesting and notable ResearchBlogging.org posts in the physical sciences, chemistry, engineering, computer science, geosciences and mathematics. She blogs about astronomy at One Small Step.

On Smaller Questions, a guest post by Tripp Jones on radiation levels from TSA scanners was pretty interesting reading.

Scientists have enlisted the help of elephant seals to study climate change in the Antarctic. Sensors mounted on the seals’ head return valuable data of conditions in the oceans beneath the ice. Elephant seals: the new grad students?

More on climate change, GrrlScientist describes new research into how CO2 and rainfall levels might affect vegetation in Africa. Will it spell the end of the savannas?

That’s it for the week. I’ll be back next Monday with more selections.

Editor’s Selection: Excavations, Hurricanes, and Bonobos

Editor's Selections 21 Comments
By Krystal D'Costa

Krystal D'Costa Krystal D’Costa selects notable ResearchBlogging.org posts in the social sciences, covering anthropology, research, and philosophy. She blogs about anthropology, technology, and urban life at Anthropology in Practice. Follow her on Twitter @krystaldcosta.

This week you’ll want to be sure you check out:

  • Reporting live from Rome, Katy Myers discusses some of the challenges with excavating inside urn—and what constitutes a person—at Bones Don’t Lie.
  • At Inkfish, Elizabeth Preston makes a connection between naming practices and popular words—like violent weather systems.
  • At Evoanth, Adam Benton delves into what we might possible be able to learn about bonobo behaviors from their genome.

Until next time, folks. I’ll be back next week with more from anthropology, philosophy, and research.

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