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Thursday, January 29, 2015

ScienceDaily: Top News

ScienceDaily: Top News

Building a better weather forecast? SMAP may help

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 03:56 PM PST

If you were trying to forecast tomorrow's weather, you would probably look up at the sky rather than down at the ground. But if you live in the U.S. Midwest or someplace with a similar climate, one key to a better weather forecast may lie beneath your feet. Better soil moisture observations are just what the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will provide. Scheduled for launch on Jan. 29, SMAP will collect the most accurate and highest-resolution soil moisture measurements ever made from a satellite SMAP will cover the entire globe in two to three days.

Cassini catches Saturn's moon Titan naked in the solar wind

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 03:53 PM PST

Researchers studying data from NASA's Cassini mission have observed that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, behaves much like Venus, Mars or a comet when exposed to the raw power of the solar wind. The observations suggest that unmagnetized bodies like Titan might interact with the solar wind in the same basic ways, regardless of their nature or distance from the sun.

Researchers produce two bio-fuels from a single algae

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 02:01 PM PST

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study.

Long-necked 'dragon' discovered in China: Dinosaur's lightweight neck spanned half the length of its body

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 01:05 PM PST

Paleontologists have discovered a new species of a long-necked dinosaur from a skeleton found in China. The new species belongs to a group of dinosaurs called mamenchisaurids, known for their extremely long necks sometimes measuring up to half the length of their bodies. Most sauropods, or long-necked dinosaurs, have necks only about one third the length of their bodies.

Some potentially habitable planets began as gaseous, Neptune-like worlds

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 01:05 PM PST

Two phenomena known to inhibit the potential habitability of planets -- tidal forces and vigorous stellar activity -- might instead help chances for life on certain planets orbiting low-mass stars, astronomers have found.

Engineer advances new daytime star tracker

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 01:05 PM PST

NASA is developing a precision attitude sensor or star tracker that would be able to locate points of reference, or in other words, stars, during daylight hours.

Erratic as normal: Arctic sea ice loss expected to be bumpy in the short term

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 01:05 PM PST

Arctic sea ice extent plunged precipitously from 2001 to 2007, then barely budged between 2007 and 2013. Even in a warming world, researchers should expect such unusual periods of no change -- and rapid change -- at the world's northern reaches, according to a new paper.

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 12:22 PM PST

Gullies carved into impact craters on Mars provide a window into climate change on the Red Planet. A new analysis suggests Mars has undergone several ice ages in the last several million years. The driver of these climate swings is likely the Red Planet's wobbly axis tilt.

To reassure electric car buyers, combine battery leasing with better charging

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 12:22 PM PST

A proper choice of business model plays a critical role in electric vehicle industry where many consumers are subject to range and resale anxieties. In particular, a combination of owning or leasing electric batteries and improving charging technology can reassure such skeptics and help increase the electric vehicle adoption, according to a new study.

Smothered oceans: Extreme oxygen loss in oceans accompanied past global climate change

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 12:21 PM PST

From the subarctic Pacific to the Chilean margins, extreme oxygen loss is stretching from the upper ocean to about 3,000 meters deep. In some oceanic regions, such loss occurred within 100 years or less, according to a new study.

Storm Chasers Take on Supercell Thunderstorms in Bangladesh

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 12:21 PM PST

This past April, Scott Olson touched down in Bangladesh to become the country's first known storm chaser. On the other side of the world, back in Oklahoma, meteorologists worked tirelessly to put together accurate forecasts to help Olson get into the thick of the country's notoriously elusive thunderstorms.

Why upper motor neurons degenerate in ALS

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:19 AM PST

Scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of the upper motor neurons that die in ALS, and developed a model system that will allow further research on the degeneration.

Molecular alterations in head and neck cancers uncovered by study

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:16 AM PST

A new study shows genomic differences in head and neck cancers caused by infection with the human papillomavirus. In addition, researchers have uncovered new smoking-related cancer subtypes and potential new drug targets, and found numerous genomic similarities with other cancer types. Together, this study's findings may provide detailed explanations of how HPV infection and smoking play roles in head and neck cancer risk and disease development, and offer potential diagnostic and treatment directions.

Quantum computer as detector shows space is not squeezed

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:16 AM PST

Ever since Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity in 1905, physics and cosmology have been based on the assumption that space looks the same in all directions -- that it's not squeezed in one direction relative to another. A new experiment by physicists used partially entangled atoms -- identical to the qubits in a quantum computer -- to demonstrate more precisely than ever before that this is true: to one part in a billion billion.

Missing link in metal physics explains Earth's magnetic field

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:16 AM PST

Earth's magnetic field shields the life on our planet's surface from cosmic rays. It is generated by turbulent motions of liquid iron in Earth's core. Iron is a metal, which means it can easily conduct a flow of electrons. New findings show that a missing piece of the traditional theory explaining why metals become less conductive when they are heated was needed to complete the puzzle of this field-generating process.

Concentrating on word sounds helps reading instruction and intervention

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:14 AM PST

A neuroimaging study by psychologist suggests that phonics shouldn't be overlooked in favor of a whole-language technique, a finding that could help improve treatment and diagnosis of common reading disorders.

Damaged DNA may stall patrolling molecule to initiate repair

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:14 AM PST

Sites where DNA is damaged may cause a molecule that slides along the DNA strand to scan for damage to slow on its patrol, delaying it long enough to recognize and initiate repair. These finding suggest that the delay itself may be the key that allows the protein molecule to find its target, according to researchers.

Protein pathway involved in nicotine-induced lung cancer metastasis found

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:14 AM PST

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and it is estimated that more than 159,000 people in the United States died from the disease last year. Most of these deaths were because the cancer had spread to other organ sites. Following their recent discovery of a protein pathway, researchers are one step closer to understanding how lung cancer cells metastasize.

Earlier menopause linked to everyday chemical exposures

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 11:14 AM PST

Women whose bodies have high levels of chemicals found in plastics, personal-care products, common household items and the environment experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of these chemicals, according to a new study.

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:13 AM PST

For chimpanzees, just like humans, teasing, taunting and bullying are familiar parts of playground politics. An analysis of twelve years of observations of playground fights between young chimpanzees in East Africa finds that chimps with higher-ranked moms are more likely to win.

Playing with puzzles, blocks may build children's spatial skills

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:13 AM PST

Play may seem like fun and games, but new research shows that specific kinds of play are actually associated with development of particular cognitive skills. Data from an American nationally representative study show that children who play frequently with puzzles, blocks, and board games tend to have better spatial reasoning ability. Being able to reason about space, and how to manipulate objects in space, is a critical part of everyday life, helping us to navigate a busy street, put together a piece of furniture, even load the dishwasher. And these skills are especially important for success in particular academic and professional domains, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Anthropology: Ancient skull from Galilee cave offers clues to the first modern Europeans

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:13 AM PST

The discovery of a 55,000-year-old partial skull in Northern Israel provides new insights into the migration of modern humans out of Africa. A key event in human evolution was the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia, replacing all other forms of hominin (humans and their predecessors), around 40,000-60,000 years ago. However, due to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations have largely remained a mystery. Now, researchers describe a partial skull that dates to around 55,000, which was found at Manot Cave in Israel's Western Galilee.

Spiky 'hedgehog particles' for safer paints, fewer VOC emissions

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 10:12 AM PST

A new process that can sprout microscopic spikes on nearly any type of particle may lead to more environmentally friendly paints and a variety of other innovations.

What's happening with your donated specimen?

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:54 AM PST

When donating blood, plasma, human tissue or any other bodily sample for medical research, most people might not think about how it's being used. But if you were told, would you care? A new study indicates that most people are willing to donate just knowing that their contribution is going toward research. But, when specific scenarios are brought into the equation, that willingness changes.

Holes in valence bands of nanodiamonds discovered: Potential catalysts for splitting water

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:54 AM PST

Nanodiamonds are tiny crystals only a few nanometers in size. While they possess the crystalline structure of diamonds, their properties diverge considerably from those of their big brothers, because their surfaces play a dominant role in comparison to their extremely small volumes. Suspended in aqueous solutions, they could function as taxis for active substances in biomedical applications, for example, or be used as catalysts for splitting water.

New model for preserving donor tissue will allow more natural joint repair for patients

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:54 AM PST

Currently, doctors have to throw away more than 80 percent of donated tissue used for joint replacements because the tissue does not survive long enough to be transplanted. Now, researchers have developed a new technology that more than doubles the life of the tissue. This new technology was able to preserve tissue quality at the required level in all of the donated tissues studied, the researchers found.

Mobile apps take students into the laboratory

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:54 AM PST

Mobile apps have proved to be valuable educational tools, but laboratory instructors thus far have been limited to using mobile devices only for virtual laboratories with simulated experiments. Now, researchers have developed a series of mobile applications that allow students to remotely interact with real data and equipment in real laboratories. Students reported deeper engagement levels using mobile apps and the virtual lab.

Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:54 AM PST

Researchers have developed a comprehensive model to explain how electrons flow inside new types of solar cells made of tiny crystals. The model allows for a better understanding of such cells and may help to increase their efficiency.

The two faces of Mars: Moon-sized celestial object crashed into south pole

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:54 AM PST

The two hemispheres of Mars are more different from any other planet in our solar system. Non-volcanic, flat lowlands characterize the northern hemisphere, while highlands punctuated by countless volcanoes extend across the southern hemisphere. Although theories and assumptions about the origin of this so-called and often-discussed Mars dichotomy abound, there are very few definitive answers. Geophysicists are now providing a new explanation.

Elucidating the origin of MDR tuberculosis strains

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 09:53 AM PST

A study has focused on the evolutionary history of the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis, and more specifically on the Beijing lineage associated with the spread of multidrug resistant forms of the disease in Eurasia. While confirming the East-Asian origin of this lineage, the results also indicate that this bacterial population has experienced notable variations coinciding with key events in human history, scientists report.

Breakthrough in terahertz spectroscopy

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:41 AM PST

Although terahertz spectroscopy has great potential, especially for environmental monitoring and security screening applications, it previously could not be used effectively to study nanocrystals or molecules at extremely low concentrations. Scientists have now found a solution to this problem by increasing the technique's sensitivity using metallic nanostructures.

New protein detonates 'invincible' bacteria from within

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:41 AM PST

The epidemic of 'superbugs,' bacteria resistant to antibiotics, knows no borders -- presenting a clear and present danger around the globe. Now a groundbreaking discovery may strengthen efforts by the medical community to fight this looming superbug pandemic. By sequencing the DNA of bacteria resistant to viral toxins, researchers identified novel proteins capable of stymieing growth in treacherous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Did genetic links to modern maladies provide ancient benefits?

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:40 AM PST

Genetic variations associated with some modern maladies are extremely old, scientists have discovered, predating the evolution of Neanderthals, Denisovans (another ancient hominin) and contemporary humans.

Picture this: Technology tightens focus on who's watching women

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:39 AM PST

Findings of a new study point to emotional consequences for women who are objectified for their physical appearance. The author concludes that the findings reflect objectification theory that suggests that women are frequently evaluated by their physical appearance.

Detecting chemical weapons quickly with a color-changing film

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:39 AM PST

In today's world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting new progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs -- an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.

Eyeglasses that turn into sunglasses -- at your command

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:39 AM PST

Imagine eyeglasses that can go quickly from clear to shaded and back again when you want them to, rather than passively in response to changes in light. Scientists report a major step toward that goal, which could benefit pilots, security guards and others who need such control.

Bike-to-work events offer chance to explore barriers to cycling

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:39 AM PST

Cities that host bike-to-work events as their sole effort to increase commuter travel by bicycle may be missing a larger -- perhaps more valuable -- opportunity, according to a study. Local governments should use bike-to-work days to find out from participants why they're attending and -- more importantly -- what prevents them from biking more often, according to the study.

Beer compound could help fend off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:39 AM PST

The health-promoting perks of wine have attracted the spotlight recently, leaving beer in the shadows. But scientists are discovering new ways in which the latter could be a more healthful beverage than once thought. It turns out that a compound from hops could protect brain cells from damage -- and potentially slow the development of disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

News from the depths: A new cave-dwelling flatworm species from the Brazilian savanna

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

Field research in a limestone cave in the Brazilian savanna recorded the first obligate cave-dwelling flatworm of the suborder Continenticola in South America. The species has the characteristic triangular head of the South American freshwater planarians of the suborder, but it is eyeless and unpigmented, as are typical cave-dwelling organisms. The species belongs to the genus Girardia, in which species recognition is difficult. However, the new species shows a unique feature in its reproductive apparatus.

Novel compound switches off epilepsy development

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

A novel compound helps curtail the onset and progression of temporal lobe epilepsy, researchers have discovered. The finding may contribute to the development of anti-epileptic therapies, they say.

Communication key when dealing with aging parents

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

Headstrong elderly parents and their adult children may be able to find common ground with proper intervention, according to researchers in human development.

Nordic marine scientists: Showcasing growing pressure on oceans?

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

A group of 13 scientists argue that the Nordic countries are in a unique position to showcase how to handle the growing pressure on the oceans. However, this relies on a collective ability to regard change as connected.

New biological evidence reveals link between brain inflammation and major depression

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:38 AM PST

The measure of brain inflammation in people who were experiencing clinical depression was increased by 30 per cent, researchers have discovered. These findings have important implications for developing new treatments for depression.

Slope on ocean surface lowers sea level in Europe

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:37 AM PST

A 'slope' on the ocean surface in the Strait of Gibraltar is lowering the sea level in Europe by 7cm, researchers have discovered. This research will help to more accurately predict future sea levels by providing a more complete understanding of the factors that control it.

Pacemakers with Internet connection, a not-so-distant goal

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:37 AM PST

An efficient security protocol has been designed to protect the information provided by pacemakers and similar medical devices connected to the Internet. Thanks to the latest advances in microelectronics and communications technologies, it is not difficult to imagine a future with medical sensors connected to the Internet. Now, thanks to a group of researchers, a little more progress has been made in the area of the remote monitoring of patients by means of implanted sensors.

A robot to help improve agriculture and wine production

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:37 AM PST

Agricultural researchers and computer scientists are working on the development of an unmanned robot, equipped with non-invasive advanced sensors and artificial intelligence systems, which will help manage vineyards. This robot will provide reliable, fast and objective information on the state of the vineyards to grapegrowers, such as vegetative development, water status, production and grape composition.

How to make your New Year's resolution last one year, not one month

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 08:36 AM PST

A kinesiologist breaks down some simple steps to stick to your weight loss resolution for the full year. "If you start with lofty goals, it's easy to become discouraged if you don't meet those goals right away," she says. "Start by trying to do something once or twice a week for short durations of about 10 to 15 minutes. Then you can build up from there. This way you can set yourself up to be successful."

New instrument to study the extreme universe -- the X-Ray polarimeter X-Calibur

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 07:06 AM PST

X-ray polarimetry promises to give qualitatively new information about high-energy astrophysical sources, such as black hole systems, the bright and active centers of galaxies, compact neutron stars, and gamma-ray bursts. The instrument will measure the polarization of 20-80keV X-rays. The detector is completed, tested, and fully calibrated and ready to be flown on a high-altitude balloon.

Hygiene practices affect contact lens case contamination

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 07:05 AM PST

Contact lens wearers who don't follow certain hygiene habits have increased bacterial contamination of their contact lens cases, reports a new study. Washing hands with soap and water, allowing cases to air-dry, and using cases and disinfecting solutions from the same manufacturer are key steps to reducing contact lens contamination, suggests the report.

Satellite study identifies water bodies important for biodiversity conservation

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Using satellite images to study changing patterns of surface water is a powerful tool for identifying conservationally important 'stepping stone' water bodies that could help aquatic species survive in a drying climate, a new study shows. The approach has been applied to the Swan Coastal Plain near Perth in Western Australia, which has more than 1,500 water bodies and is one of 25 designated biodiversity hotspots on the globe.

Researchers use sound to slow down, speed up, and block light

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

How do you make an optical fiber transmit light only one way? Researchers have experimentally demonstrated, for the first time, the phenomenon of Brillouin Scattering Induced Transparency (BSIT), which can be used to slow down, speed up, and block light in an optical waveguide. The BSIT phenomenon permits light to travel in the forward direction while light traveling in the backward direction is strongly absorbed. This non-reciprocal behavior is essential for building isolators and circulators.

Children feel most positively about mothers who respect their autonomy

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Mothers who support their children's need for autonomy as the children grow tend to be viewed more positively by their children. The study included more than 2,000 mothers and their children. It measured maternal directiveness -- or the extent to which mothers controlled activities -- in play when children were 2 years old and then during a discussion about areas of disagreement when the children were in the fifth grade. Mothers' tendencies to display controlling behaviors predicted the extent to which the children viewed their mothers positively or negatively when the children were in fifth grade.

'Healthy' fat tissue could be key to reversing type 2 diabetes

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Preventing inflammation in obese fat tissue may hold the key to preventing or even reversing type 2 diabetes, new research has found. The scientists found they could 'reverse' type 2 diabetes in laboratory models by dampening the inflammatory response in fat tissue.

Ballooning offers platform for performing research in a space-like environment

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

A high-altitude (>20 km) balloon platform is nearly ideal for carrying out scientific observations in a space-like environment, flight qualifying instrumentation, and transporting humans to the edge of space. This platform is regularly utilized by a wide range of disciplines, including astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary and Earth science. The increasing interest has driven the development of improved capabilities for payloads to fly at high altitudes for longer durations (> 100 days).

Some older cancer patients can avoid radiotherapy, study finds

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Some older women with breast cancer could safely avoid radiotherapy, without harming their chances of survival, a study has shown. Older women with early breast cancer who are given breast-conserving surgery and hormone therapy gain very modest benefit from radiotherapy, researchers conclude.

Into the dark: Two new encrusting anemones found in coral reef caves

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:35 AM PST

Three marine biologists from Japan have discovered two new and unusually unique species of encrusting anemone. Unlike almost all known species within their genus, these two new species do not have light-harvesting symbiotic zooxanthellae, having lost them as they adapted to life in cracks and caves in shallow coral reefs.

Urban sprawl promotes worm exchange across species

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:34 AM PST

The complex exchange of parasitic worms between wildlife, rats and humans is a little more clear, thanks to new research. "We developed a model concept that allows us to link the probability of worm species occurring in wildlife and occurring in rats, and linked them to the probability of this occurring in a certain geographical area," he says the lead author says.

Cell mechanism discovered that may cause pancreatic cancer

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:34 AM PST

Researchers have found that defects in how cells are squeezed out of overcrowded tissue to die, a process called extrusion, may be a mechanism by which pancreatic cancer begins. From these findings, they may have identified an effective way to reverse the defective extrusion's effects without destroying normal tissues nearby.

Blind beetles show extraordinary signs of sight

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 06:34 AM PST

Researchers have made a surprising discovery in the aquifers beneath the Western Australian desert, which challenges the traditional Darwinian view of evolution. They have discovered that a species of blind predatory water beetles -- living underground for millions of years -- express vision genes (opsin) which are usually only found in species with eyes.

Seeing selves as overweight may be self-fulfilling prophecy for some teens

Posted: 28 Jan 2015 05:22 AM PST

Teens who mistakenly perceive themselves as overweight are actually at greater risk of obesity as adults, according to research findings.

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