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  • March 17, 2014
  • 08:56 AM

Process Converts Natural Gas to Liquid Alcohol Fuel

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

America’s current energy boom may take a new direction thanks to the discovery of a new way to turn raw natural gas to liquid alcohol fuel.... Read more »

Hashiguchi, B., Konnick, M., Bischof, S., Gustafson, S., Devarajan, D., Gunsalus, N., Ess, D., & Periana, R. (2014) Main-Group Compounds Selectively Oxidize Mixtures of Methane, Ethane, and Propane to Alcohol Esters. Science, 343(6176), 1232-1237. DOI: 10.1126/science.1249357  

  • March 15, 2014
  • 07:05 AM

Le carbone pyrolytique, c'est fantastique

by Dr. Goulu in Pourquoi Comment Combien

Découvert l'existence d'une forme de carbone méconnue : le carbone pyrolytique. C'est un empilement de couches de graphène moins régulier que dans le graphite *.

Cependant le graphite n'est formé que de minuscules cristaux comme ceux qui partent en poudre au bout de votre mine de crayon, alors qu'on est capable de produire des plaques de carbone pyrolytique de quelques centimètres de côté.

Les propriétés de ce matériau sont vraiment étonnantes.... Read more »

Kobayashi M, & Abe J. (2012) Optical motion control of maglev graphite. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134(51), 20593-6. PMID: 23234502  

  • March 14, 2014
  • 03:32 PM

The Charge of the Crazy Ant: Chemical Warfare Between Invading Species

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I’ll be the first to admit that I've been a little blog-negligent lately. Even when all of the ice and snow we've gotten here on the East Coast forced me to stay inside I just binge watched shows on Netflix instead. I’m not sure what brought me out of my procrastination funk and compelled me to do a little reading and writing. If you've been following the Facebook page then you've been getting a lot of yummy sciency tidbits, but it’s time for me to get back on the hard science wagon. I think I’ll start off with a great couple of papers about ant chemical warfare.These papers focus on invasive ants, a big problem in many regions. To really grasp one of the underlying aspects of their warfare strategies you must first understand the basics of an invasive species. Start by recognizing the difference between a native species and an exotic species. Put simply, a native species occurs naturally (or natively) to a habitat, and an exotic species does not. Exotics can come in any biological form, but they are not necessarily a problem to their new habitat (think: earthworms). It’s when an exotic species becomes an invasive species that there is a problem because invasives cause environmental, economic, and/or human health harms. The reason for this is that they did not evolve together with the ecosystem in which they find themselves. There are no checks and balances in place to curb their population growth, things like predators, parasites, and competitors. Their unnaturally large population numbers then become harmful to the native species that suddenly have to deal with and compete against them, dramatically altering the community and habitat. It is often the case that multiple species invade a region. Throughout the rest of this post I’ll be discussing new papers by Michael Kaspari and Michael Weiser and by LeBrun, Jones, and Gilbert (specifically at the latter) that take a look at just such a case in ants. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) first came to the United States from South America around 1930. This species is far more aggressive than your typical American ant, not only in how they like the bite the hell out you (that’s a lot of personal experience talking) but also in their predatory abilities and landscape re-engineering. Now enter the tawny crazy ant (Nylanderia fulva). This new exotic invasive species was transported to the southeastern U.S. in the early 1980s and has begun to spread.. These two species have common source assemblages, their native ranges overlapping in northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. Until the introduction of crazy ants, the fire ant has enjoyed an uninterrupted domination of the native grassland ant assemblages. But now that the crazy ant has arrived on the scene they are displacing the fire ants. Why is this?Since the fire and crazy ants have overlapping native habitats, they have evolved to compete directly for resources. The tawny crazy ant easily expels the fire ant from any food items it controls, up to 93 percent of the time. Also, tawny crazy ants have often been found living inside fire ant mounts, having usurped the mound and evicted the owners. Fire ants are strong and resilient and so the crazy ants must have a strong competitive advantage.Now, finally, we get to the meat of the post: chemical warfare. If you've been stung by a fire ant (or ants, plural, as is usually the case) then you know that they pack a wallop! They have an alkaloid venom called Solenopsin that to humans causes a painful, fiery sting, and to other ants acts as a topical insecticide. The crazy ants do not have stingers but instead possess an acidopore (a specialized exocrine gland) on the end of the abdomen that sprays their venom into a mist of formic acid. They will charge into masses of fire ants misting as they go. But the fire ants don’t just stand by idly to be sprayed with venom and die, they fight back. The fire ants “gaster flag,” extruding venom from their stingers and dabbing it onto a nearby attacking ant. Normally this would result in the death of said ant. However, LeBrun and his colleagues have observed what they are calling a “detoxifying behavior” in the attacking tawny crazy ants. In this behavior, an afflicted ant stands on its hind legs, run its front legs through its mandibles, and grooms itself vigorously, periodically reapplying its acidopore to its mandibles (check out the video!).To test this behavior the researchers conducted a series of experiments to see if there is really a detoxifying component, to see where it is coming from, and to evaluate the species-level specificity of the behavior. For the first they staged antagonistic interactions between the two species, sealing a portion of the crazy ant acidopores, and then observing afflicted individuals for behavior and survivorship. They found that those tawny crazy ants that had had their acidopores sealed had a low survival rate (only 48 percent). However, those with working acidophores had a 98 percent survival rate, supporting the detoxifying hypothesis. The Dufour’s and venom glands (exocrine glands used for communication and defense) both duct to the acidopore in this species. To see where the detoxifying agent was coming from they applied solutions of fire ant venom and tawny crazy ant glandular products to Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), which are morphologically similar to crazy ants but do not have the detoxifying capability. These tests showed the venom gland of the crazy ant to contain the detoxifying agent. When the crazy ant’s formic acid was tested it was found to be the compound responsible for detoxifying fire ant venom. The production and application of this antidote is a potentially costly endeavor for the crazy ants. Yes, it is the difference between life and death, but when to apply it must be considered. Why use a costly resource if you don’t have to? The authors conducted a series of ant interaction tests where they had crazy ants interact independently with eight Texas ant species including fire ants, observing when the crazy ants chose to apply their detoxifier. They found that after chemical conflict with fire ants, crazy ants detoxified themselves with almost 7 times more frequently than the average response to other ant species. This suggests that this detoxifying behavior is specifically adapted to competition with fire ants, and it is probably a key factor in the displacement of invasive fire ants now underway in the southern United States.LeBrun, E., Jones, N., & Gilbert, L. (2014). Chemical Warfare Among Invaders: A Detoxification Interaction Facilitates an Ant Invasion Science, 343 (6174), 1014-1017 DOI: 10.1126/science.1245833Kaspari, M., & Weiser, M. (2014). Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss Science, 343 (6174), 974-975 DOI: 10.1126/science.1251272U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's page on Invasive Species... Read more »

  • March 14, 2014
  • 10:00 AM

Why does a glycoprotein need sugar to carry a heart medication?

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

Hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) can tell us a lot about protein structures through its use with mass spectroscopy (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Richard Huang of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Jeffrey Hudgens of the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (both from Washington DC suburbs in Maryland) recently used HDX-MS […]... Read more »

  • March 13, 2014
  • 01:31 PM

Scientists Store Hydrogen in Graphene Origami Box

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Shuze Zhu and Teng Li, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, have found that they can make tiny squares of graphene fold into an origami box and store hydrogen in it.... Read more »

  • March 12, 2014
  • 07:41 PM

Canines and Castles: 4th Canine Science Forum Abstract & Early Bird Registration Deadline Friday

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

“Two canine scientists, Julie Hecht and Mia Cobb, met briefly at a conference in Barcelona in late July 2012. They share a passion for canine science, good communication, social media and fun.” So reads the 'About' page at Do You Believe in Dog?. After a brief hello at the 3rd Canine Science Forum in Barcelona, we decided to embark on an adventure as digital pen pals, taking turns blogging on topics related to our own research, that of other research groups and general dog science themes. In the last two years, Do You Believe in Dog? has grown to include a blog with over 100 posts, contributions from guest blogging canine scientists around the world, as well as vibrant Facebook and Twitter communities.Pretty soon, it’ll be time for the 4th Canine Science Forum (Facebook) July 15-17, 2014 in Lincoln, UK! The conference will be proceeded by the 1st Feline Science Forum, July 14, same location, as well as a day dedicated to Companion Animals - Human Health & Disease, July 18, same location (scroll down for the program).This is a reminder that this Friday, March 14, 2014, is the deadline for abstract submission and early bird conference registration.The scientific programme includes a number of already scheduled talks. Read about the invited speakers here: Prof. Benjamin Hart (USA) From the Woods to Home: What Wolves Tell Us About Dog BehaviorDr. Mariana Bentosela (Argentina) ‘Reinforcement effects upon interspecific communication in domestic dogs. What do we know so far?’Dr Erik Axelsson (Sweden) ‘What makes the dog special – The canine genome in comparison with other mammalian genomes’Prof. Clive D. L. Wynne (USA) ‘Comparative Cognition of Dogs and Wolves: What Makes a Dog a Dog?’Prof. Claudio Sillero (UK) ‘What shapes dog society? Cooperation in the wonderfully adaptable Canidae’Dr. John Finarelli (Ireland) ‘Patterns and processes from the fossil record of canids’Prof. James Serpell (USA) Public Lecture ~~Did we mention the Gala Dinner is in a Castle?See you at the 4th Canine Science Forum in Lincoln, UK!Mia and Julie Check out some of the science presented at CSF2012:Cobb M., Branson N. & McGreevy P. (2013). Advancing the welfare of Australia’s iconic working dogs, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8 (4) e42-e43. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.054Hecht J. & Horowitz A. (2013). Physical prompts to anthropomorphism of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8 (4) e30. DOI: 10.1016/j.jve... Read more »

Cobb Mia, Branson Nick, & McGreevy Paul. (2013) Advancing the welfare of Australia’s iconic working dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.054  

Hecht J., & Horowitz A. (2013) Physical prompts to anthropomorphism of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.013  

Racca A., Range F., Virányi Z., & Huber L. (2013) Discrimination of familiar human faces in domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.071  

Howell Tiffani J., Toukhsati Samia, Conduit Russell, & Bennett Pauleen. (2013) Do dogs use a mirror to find hidden food?. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(6), 425-430. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.07.002  

  • March 12, 2014
  • 10:00 AM

Using amide H/D exchange to analyze conformational changes in Pak2 activation

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

  There are a variety of ways that currently exist to analyze the structure of a protein such as X-ray crystallography or NMR. There are also a variety of ways to analyze the conformational changes of the protein. Amide H/D exchange is one such tool. Already having a crystal or NMR structure of a protein […]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2014
  • 10:25 AM

Suicidal Algae Help Their Relatives and Harm Their Rivals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You might say the benefit of staying alive is an actual no-brainer: even brainless lifeforms do their best not to die. For the most part, anyway. When they’re under stress, single-celled organisms may opt to cut up their DNA and neatly implode. A new study hints that by committing suicide in this way, an organism […]The post Suicidal Algae Help Their Relatives and Harm Their Rivals appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • March 10, 2014
  • 11:46 PM

Hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator as driver for primordial RNA replication

by Rowena Ball in The Origins of Life

IN THE beginning, there were no living cells and no proteins in the primordial soup on the pre-biotic earth. The authors proposed and tested the hypothesis that thermal cycling to drive cell-free RNA replication and amplification in this environment may have been provided by a natural hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator. This also provides a mechanism for natural selection and evolution. Results also may answer the (previously unanswerable) question of why new life does not emerge from non-living precursors on the modern earth: Quite simply there is no longer the hydrogen peroxide around that there was in the good old days!... Read more »

Rowena Ball, & John Brindley. (2014) Hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator as driver for primordial RNA replication. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. arXiv: 1402.3875v3

  • March 10, 2014
  • 07:42 PM

New Photocathode Material Efficiently Stores Solar Energy in Hydrogen

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90-percent of the electrons generated by a hybrid photocathode material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules.... Read more »

  • March 5, 2014
  • 09:38 AM

Berkely Lab Finds Electrocatalysts for Artificial Photosynthesis

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A key to realizing commercial-scale artificial photosynthesis technology is the development of electrocatalysts that can efficiently and economically carry out water oxidation reaction that is critical to the process. Heinz Frei, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, has been at the forefront of this research effort. His latest results represent an important step forward.... Read more »

  • March 4, 2014
  • 01:16 PM

Promising Nanocatalysts for Next-Generation Fuel Cells Developed

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A big step in the development of next-generation fuel cells and water-alkali electrolyzers has been achieved with the discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanocatalysts that are an order of magnitude higher in activity than the target set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for 2017.... Read more »

Chen, C., Kang, Y., Huo, Z., Zhu, Z., Huang, W., Xin, H., Snyder, J., Li, D., Herron, J., Mavrikakis, M.... (2014) Highly Crystalline Multimetallic Nanoframes with Three-Dimensional Electrocatalytic Surfaces. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1249061  

  • February 28, 2014
  • 09:00 AM

Studying the moves of a “wrap artist”

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

Let me begin by saying that I think I could have a satisfying career studying the histone proteins simply due to the number of great (/terrible) puns to which they lend themselves. In all fairness, my title was inspired by a 2010 Nature Reviews Cell Biology by Talbert and Henikoff (1); therefore, my sense of […]... Read more »

Talbert Paul B., & Henikoff Steven. (2010) Histone variants — ancient wrap artists of the epigenome. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, 11(4), 264-275. DOI: 10.1038/nrm2861  

Panchenko T., Sorensen T. C., Woodcock C. L., Kan Z.-y., Wood S., Resch M. G., Luger K., Englander S. W., Hansen J. C., & Black B. E. (2011) Replacement of histone H3 with CENP-A directs global nucleosome array condensation and loosening of nucleosome superhelical termini. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(40), 16588-16593. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113621108  

Tachiwana Hiroaki, Kagawa Wataru, Shiga Tatsuya, Osakabe Akihisa, Miya Yuta, Saito Kengo, Hayashi-Takanaka Yoko, Oda Takashi, Sato Mamoru, & Park Sam-Yong. (2011) Crystal structure of the human centromeric nucleosome containing CENP-A. Nature, 476(7359), 232-235. DOI: 10.1038/nature10258  

  • February 27, 2014
  • 03:46 PM

Aerogel Can Help Clean Oil Spills

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong, a researcher at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery’s BIONATES research group and associate professor of biomedical engineering, along with graduate student Qifeng Zheng, and Zhiyong Cai, a project leader at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, are examining alternative materials that can be modified to absorb oil and chemicals.... Read more »

  • February 27, 2014
  • 12:05 PM

Nickel Foam, Nanotechnology Enable Lightweight Lithium Batteries

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Zhaolin Liu from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore, in collaboration with Aishui Yu and co-workers from Fudan University in China, has developed a carbon nanotube electrode that can alleviate recharging problems in lithium-oxygen batteries, thanks to a support made from three-dimensional nickel foam.... Read more »

  • February 26, 2014
  • 12:42 PM

Theoretical Limit of Light Absorption in Solar Cells Almost Reached

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at TU Delft have come very close (99.8%) to the theoretical limit of light absorption enhancement (light trapping) in a broad light spectrum range. Their article on light management in ultra-thin silicon is accepted for publication in the journal ACS Photonics.... Read more »

  • February 25, 2014
  • 06:01 PM

New Technology Transforms Wet Algal Biomass Into Biogas

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, are fine-tuning a technology that transforms wet algal biomass into a biogas that is compatible with today’s natural gas infrastructure.... Read more »

  • February 25, 2014
  • 11:10 AM

The 5 Creepiest Ways Plant Diseases Mutate Flowers

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Pretty blossoms aren’t immune to the body-morphing, plague-spreading powers of a good microbe. Some of the flowers you admire on a spring day might only be blooming, for example, because they’re hostages of a disease. Plant diseases can’t scatter in sneeze droplets like a human virus can. But they can change the look and behavior […]The post The 5 Creepiest Ways Plant Diseases Mutate Flowers appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • February 25, 2014
  • 09:16 AM

Inexpensive Nanoporous Semiconductor Efficiently Produces Hydrogen

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

In a study published last week in the journal Science, Kyoung-Shin Choi, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and postdoctoral researcher Tae Woo Kim combined cheap, oxide-based materials to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using solar energy with a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7 percent, the highest reported for any oxide-based photoelectrode system.... Read more »

  • February 22, 2014
  • 05:00 AM

How silver can get toxic and harm marine life

by Dyani Lewis in United Academics

Humans have been using silver for millennia – as currency, jewellery, or fine dining cutlery. In these forms, the lustrous metal is harmless. But when silver is allowed to dissolve into solution – as it does in photographic processing applications or in mining operations – the innocuous metal becomes highly toxic. That’s because the free silver ions (Ag ) present in such solutions are far more reactive than those in the solid metal.... Read more »

Pillai S, Behra R, Nestler H, Suter MJF, Sigg L . (2014) Linking toxicity and adaptive responses across the transcriptome, proteome, and phenotype ofChlamydomonas reinhardtii exposed to silver. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/

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