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Scientists Discover Brain's Anti-distraction System

April 19, 2014 - 9:53pm

Two Simon Fraser University psychologists have made a brain-related discovery that could revolutionize doctors' perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders.

This discovery opens up the possibility that environmental and/or genetic factors may hinder or suppress a specific brain activity that the researchers have identified as helping us prevent distraction.

The Journal of Neuroscience has just published a paper about the discovery by John McDonald, an associate professor of psychology and his doctoral student John Gaspar, who made the discovery during his master's thesis research.


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New Research Shows People Are Thinking About Their Health Early In The Week

April 19, 2014 - 9:52pm

San Diego, Calif. (April 18, 2014) ― A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine analyzing weekly patterns in health-related Google searches reveals a recurring pattern that could be leveraged to improve public health strategies.

Investigators from San Diego State University, the Santa Fe Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and the Monday Campaigns, analyzed "healthy" Google searches (searches that included the term healthy and were indeed health-related, e.g., "healthy diet") originating in the U.S. from 2005 to 2012. They found that on average, searches for health topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than on days later in the week, with the lowest average number of searches on Saturday.


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Impact Glass Stores Biodata For Millions Of Years

April 19, 2014 - 9:52pm

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Asteroid and comet impacts can cause widespread ecological havoc, killing off plants and animals on regional or even global scales. But new research from Brown University shows that impacts can also preserve the signatures of ancient life at the time of an impact.

A research team led by Brown geologist Pete Schultz has found fragments of leaves and preserved organic compounds lodged inside glass created by a several ancient impacts in Argentina. The material could provide a snapshot of environmental conditions at the time of those impacts. The find also suggests that impact glasses could be a good place to look for signs of ancient life on Mars.

The work is published in the latest issue of Geology Magazine.


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Myelin Finding Turns Neuroscience On Its Head

April 19, 2014 - 4:00pm

Myelin, the electrical insulating material long believed to be essential for the fast transmission of impulses along the axons of nerve cells, is not as ubiquitous as thought, according to a new paper that turns 160 years of neuroscience on its head.


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No-Till Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration Claims Questioned

April 19, 2014 - 2:54pm

During the 20 year span of global warming policy debates, climate scientists have used an estimate of soil organic carbon sequestration rates suggesting that soil organic carbon can be sequestered by simply switching from moldboard or conventional tillage systems to no-till systems.


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High-Energy Laser Beams Aimed At Clouds To Control Weather

April 19, 2014 - 8:00am

Optics researchers from the University of Central Florida's College of Optics&Photonics and the University of Arizona are working on a new technique to aim a high-energy laser beam into clouds to make it rain or trigger lightning. They are developing the a technique to surround a primary beam with a second beam that acts as an energy reservoir, sustaining the central beam to greater distances than previously possible.

The secondary "dress" beam refuels and helps prevent the dissipation of the high-intensity primary beam, which on its own would break down quickly.


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Music Therapy: Religious Music Helps Seniors Reduce Anxiety

April 19, 2014 - 6:51am

A new article reports that listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and increases in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control over their lives among older Christians. 

The associations are similar for blacks and whites, women and men, and individuals of both low- and high-socioeconomic status.


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28 Percent Of Morning After Pills In Study Are Counterfeit

April 18, 2014 - 10:34pm

Emergency contraceptive pills haven't reduced teen pregnancies or abortions but at least in America those incidents have not risen - in South America, unprotected sex is really taking a pregnancy gamble, even if there is access to a morning after pill.

A survey of emergency contraceptive pills in Peru found that 28 percent of the batches studied were either of substandard quality or falsified. Many released the active ingredient too slowly, others had the wrong active ingredient, one batch was basically homeopathy contraception - the researchers couldn't find an active ingredient at all. 


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Sun Emits A Mid-level Solar Flare

April 18, 2014 - 10:05pm

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

To see how this event may impact Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.


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Holistic Conservation: Forget 20th Century Claims About People And Species Extinction

April 18, 2014 - 9:28pm

The USA alone has more wilderness than the entire continent of Africa does, but the natural world is not the same as it was 20, 50 or 100 years ago.  And the natural world than was far different than preceding generations.


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Downside To LED Bulbs - Like HDTV, It Makes Some Things Look Worse

April 18, 2014 - 7:22pm

If you have ever seen set pieces from a science-fiction show, you have probably been amazed at how cheap and silly the whole things looks. That was the initial concern with high-definition television too. Standard definition hid a lot of cosmetic defects in people and things that are quite obvious in the real world.

Lighting can do the same thing in the real world, of course. Everyone has had a table in their place that looked fine, only to open the windows and have natural light reveal a layer of dust. 


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New Study Suggests A Better Way To Deal With Bad Memories

April 18, 2014 - 6:21pm

What's one of your worst memories? How did it make you feel? According to psychologists, remembering the emotions felt during a negative personal experience, such as how sad you were or how embarrassed you felt, can lead to emotional distress, especially when you can't stop thinking about it.

When these negative memories creep up, thinking about the context of the memories, rather than how you felt, is a relatively easy and effective way to alleviate the negative effects of these memories, a new study suggests.


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Ancient DNA Offers Clues To How Barnyard Chickens Came To Be

April 18, 2014 - 6:21pm

Durham, NC — Ancient DNA adds a twist to the story of how barnyard chickens came to be, finds a study to be published April 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Analyzing DNA from the bones of chickens that lived 200-2300 years ago in Europe, researchers report that just a few hundred years ago domestic chickens may have looked far different from the chickens we know today.

The results suggest that some of the traits we associate with modern domestic chickens -- such as their yellowish skin -- only became widespread in the last 500 years, much more recently than previously thought.

"It's a blink of an eye from an evolutionary perspective," said co-author Greger Larson at Durham University in the United Kingdom.


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Plants With Dormant Seeds Give Rise To More Species

April 18, 2014 - 6:21pm

Durham, NC — Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first
warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More than just an insurance policy against late frosts or unexpected dry spells, it turns out that seed dormancy has long-term advantages too: Plants whose seeds put off sprouting until conditions are more certain give rise to more species, finds in a team of researchers working at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.


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Lost World: 3-Million-Year-Old Landscape Still Exists Under Greenland Ice Sheet

April 18, 2014 - 4:09pm

Parts of the landscape underlying the massive Greenland ice sheet may have been undisturbed for almost 3 million years, since the island became completely ice-covered, say researchers who based their discovery on an analysis of the chemical composition of silts recovered from the bottom of an ice core more than 3,000 meters long. 

The find suggests "pre-glacial landscapes can remain preserved for long periods under continental ice sheets." 

In the time since the ice sheet formed "the soil has been preserved and only slowly eroded, implying that an ancient landscape underlies 3,000 meters of ice at Summit, Greenland," they conclude.


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Artificial Intelligence Programs Go Head To Head

April 18, 2014 - 4:02pm
Most academics don't like competition but in the field of artificial intelligence, everyone wants to square off against the best in their discipline.

In June, the International Planning Competition held every two years will take place in  New Hampshire. It  is divided into four categories, the most significant of which is considered the “deterministic track”. This is for programs designed to eliminate any element of chance from automated planning in a wide range of fields, such as logistics, robot manipulation, satellite movement and transport. 
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Some Fish In Remote National Parks Show Elevated Levels Of Mercury

April 18, 2014 - 7:38am
Mercury levels in excess of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans have been detected in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska.

 Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health. It arises from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions, and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants. Mercury is distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. Human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years.  
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Deadly Human Pathogen Cryptococcus Fully Sequenced

April 18, 2014 - 2:20am

DURHAM, N.C. – Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus neoformans -- a fungus responsible for a million cases of pneumonia and meningitis every year -- are so malleable and dangerous.


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Our Brains Are Hardwired For Language

April 18, 2014 - 2:20am

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language universals. Syllables that are frequent across languages are recognized more readily than infrequent syllables. Simply put, this study shows that language universals are hardwired in the human brain.

LANGUAGE UNIVERSALS


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Malaria Pathogen's Cellular Skeleton Gets A Super-Microscope Look

April 18, 2014 - 2:19am

The tropical disease malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite. For its survival and propagation, Plasmodium requires a protein called actin. Scientists of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Germany used high-resolution structural biology methods to investigate the different versions of this protein in the parasite in high detail. Their results may in the future contribute to the development of tailor-made drugs against malaria–a disease that causes more than half a million deaths per year.


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