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BICEP2, CMB B-modes And Spinorial Space-time

March 26, 2014 - 11:30am
Would the existence of B-modes in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation be an evidence for inflation? Many influential colleagues claim that this is indeed the case. But their arguments are based on standard cosmological schemes.

Actually, pre-Big Bang patterns beyond conventional cosmology do not require inflation and can generate CMB B-modes.

Two papers by the BICEP2 Collaboration :

BICEP2 I: Detection Of B-mode Polarization at Degree Angular Scales, arXiv:1403.3985 -->

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Scientists Solve Riddle Of White Dwarf Celestial Archaeology

March 26, 2014 - 8:48am

A decades old space mystery has been solved by an international team of astronomers who investigated hot, young, white dwarfs — the super-dense remains of Sun-like stars that ran out of fuel and collapsed to about the size of the Earth. 

It has been known that many hot white dwarfs atmospheres, essentially of pure hydrogen or pure helium, are contaminated by other elements – like carbon, silicon and iron. What was not known, however, was the origins of these elements, known in astronomical terms as metals.


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Goats Are Far More Clever Than Previously Thought

March 26, 2014 - 8:43am

"The speed at which the goats completed the task at 10 months compared to how long it took them to learn indicates excellent long-term memory," said co-author Dr Elodie Briefer, now based at ETH Zurich.

Before each learning session, some of the goats had the opportunity to watch another goat to demonstrate the task.

Dr Briefer added: "We found that those without a demonstrator were just as fast at learning as those that had seen demonstrations. This shows that goats prefer to learn on their own rather than by watching others."


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Your Blood Pressure May Be Up Because You're At The Doctor

March 26, 2014 - 3:09am

Doctors make people nervous. Most people don't go unless something is wrong so they are already anxious. Thus, it is no surprise doctors routinely record blood pressure levels that are significantly higher than levels recorded by nurses, according to a a systematic review led by the University of Exeter Medical School.

The results show that that recordings taken by doctors are significantly higher (by 7/4mmHg) than when the same patients are tested by nurses.


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Mitochondrial DNA Yields Genghis Khan Of Brown Bears

March 26, 2014 - 1:59am

Genghis Khan is famous in evolution because a giant chunk of the world carries is DNA. A recent story of brown bears shows that males roam much greater distances than females, and mating is part of the agenda. 


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Occasional Drug Use Shows In The Brain

March 25, 2014 - 11:07pm

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say occasional use of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, and prescription drugs such as Adderall have shown up as impaired neuronal activity in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning among 18- to 24-year-old users.

Among the study's main implications is the possibility of being able to use brain activity patterns as a means of identifying at-risk youth long before they have any obvious outward signs of addictive behaviors.


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Blood Glucose Doesn't Predict Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

March 25, 2014 - 9:42pm

It's hard to find an article on food or metabolism that doesn't imply it has implications for predicting cardiovascular disease (CVD) or diabetes.
Because higher glucose levels have been associated with higher CVD incidence, it has been proposed that information on blood sugar control might improve doctors' ability to predict who will develop CVD, according to background information in the article.

But an analysis of nearly 300,000 adults without a known history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease showed adding information about glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a measure of longer-term blood sugar control, to conventional CVD risk factors like smoking and cholesterol didn't do much to predict CVD risk.


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Validation Study Results Show Method Can Replace Live Animals In Skin Allergy Tests

March 25, 2014 - 9:34pm

Phoenix — Guinea pigs and mice can be replaced with a non-animal skin sensitization method that uses a human-derived skin model, according to a study presented today by the PETA International Science Consortium, Ltd., at the Society of Toxicology's annual meeting.

Recent results show that Cyprotex's in vitro skin sensitization assay SenCeeTox® can correctly identify chemicals that cause an allergic response in humans and, unlike many other methods, can predict the potency of the response. This non-animal method uses a three-dimensional, human-derived skin model that accurately replicates many of the key traits of normal human skin, allowing it to be used to test finished products such as gels and creams.


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Sensing Gravity With Acid

March 25, 2014 - 9:34pm

WOODS HOLE, Mass.—While probing how organisms sense gravity and acceleration, scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the University of Utah uncovered evidence that acid (proton concentration) plays a key role in communication between neurons. The surprising discovery is reported this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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Peach Extract Found To Inhibit Breast Cancer Metastasis

March 25, 2014 - 9:33pm

Laboratory tests conducted at Texas A&M AgriLife Research have found that treatments with peach extract inhibit breast cancer metastasis in mice, likely due to the mixture of phenolic compounds present in the peach extract, they write in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

In the western hemisphere, breast cancer is the most common malignant disease for women, he said. In the U.S. last year, the American Cancer Society estimated about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women. Most of the complications and high mortality associated with breast cancer are due to metastasis.


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Living Materials - Bacteria That Conduct Electricity And Emit Light

March 25, 2014 - 7:49pm

Our bones are a matrix of minerals and other substances, including living cells, though most people don't think of them that way and assume bones are 'natural' —  but nature can be coaxed to do all kinds of things.

MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. These "living materials" combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment, produce complex biological molecules, and span multiple length scales, with the benefits of nonliving materials, but they add functions we don't usually associate with biology.

Self-assembling materials


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Extreme Gray Literature - Famous Paintings As Evidence For Earth's Climate Past

March 25, 2014 - 4:14pm

Tree rings don't lie but if you trust temperature readings before 1980, you are not using a rational approach to science. There are too many cases where the official reader is a thermometer of unknown quality or a television report that used what a farmer who called in from his house said.

if you can't trust old thermometers, can you trust old paintings?   A paper in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics used the colors of sunsets painted by famous artists to estimate pollution levels in the Earth's past atmosphere. They found that the paintings reveal that ash and gas released during major volcanic eruptions scatter the different colors of sunlight, making sunsets appear more red. 


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So Simple Even A Neutron Star Could Do It

March 25, 2014 - 2:39pm

How many ways can you describe an object?

If you look at an apple, you might estimate its weight, shape and color but beyond that it is difficult. We are unable to describe the chemical composition of its flesh.

Something similar also applies to astronomical objects, like neutron stars. We might describe their size, or as the thing in which Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, was forged, but describing neutron stars at the nuclear physics level is extremely complex, and several complicated equations of state have been proposed. However, to date there is no agreement as to which is the correct (or the best) one.


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Virtual Power Plants May Mean The End Of The Electrical Grid As We Know It

March 25, 2014 - 2:35pm

A recent trend has seen government efforts to switch to energy sources that are variable - wind turbines and solar parks - but those have been expensive and have not caught on because grid structures, industry and private households don't want to deal with the fluctuations.  People want their lights to turn on when they want them, not when nature randomly decides.

However, smarter energy management systems might make alternative energy schemes more palatable to consumers and business. 


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There Will Be Oil! Unless It Gets Replaced By Sugar

March 25, 2014 - 2:17pm

Some people insist that Big Oil is in control of energy because so many products, from plastic to rubber, use it. It's just the opposite, people came up with so many uses because it was there. To claim otherwise is like blaming toasters for the invention of electricity.

Peak Oil is now 20 years behind schedule but eventually doomsday prophets will be right.  For that reason, researchers are investigating possibilities for using renewable raw materials to replace oil. One well-known example of this is biodiesel, which comes not from oil sources, but from fields of yellow-flowering rape. Isobutene, a basic chemical used in the chemical industry to produce fuels, solvents, elastomers or even anti-knock agents in fuel, could be produced from sugar.


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Plasma Tool For Destroying Cancer Cells

March 25, 2014 - 2:05pm

Plasma medicine is a new and rapidly developing area of medical technology. Specifically, understanding the interaction of so-called atmospheric pressure plasma jets with biological tissues could help to use them in medical practice. Under the supervision of Sylwia Ptasinska from the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, USA, Xu Han and colleagues conducted a quantitative and qualitative study of the different types of DNA damage induced by atmospheric pressure plasma exposure, the paper is published in EPJ D as part of a special issue on nanoscale insights into Ion Beam Cancer Therapy.

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Small Peptides As Potential Antibiotics

March 25, 2014 - 2:05pm


Drug approval requires a deep understanding of the mechanism of action

The team of Julia Bandow, who heads the RUB's Junior Research Group Microbial Antibiotic Research, has been studying the MP196 peptide as a representative of a group of very small positively charged peptides that consist of some four to ten amino acids. Earlier studies had shown that MP196 is efficient against various bacteria, including particularly problematic multi-resistant pathogens that frequently cause sepsis. How MP196 kills bacteria remained unclear. However, in order for a new substance to be approved as a drug, its mechanism of action has to be fully understood.


Peptide disrupts cell wall biosynthesis and cell respiration


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Upcoming: A 'Surprise Discovery' In The Solar System

March 25, 2014 - 1:59pm
An international team of astronomers, led by Felipe Braga-Ribas (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), has used telescopes at seven locations in South America, including the 1.54-meter Danish and TRAPPIST telescopes at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, to make a surprise discovery in the outer Solar System.
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Thoughts About Norm Borlaug On : The 100th Birthday Of "The Man Who Fed The World"

March 25, 2014 - 5:35am
Norman Borlaug would have been 100 years old today. He has been called "The Man Who Fed The World," and "The Father of The Green Revolution."

Norm Borlaug was the first plant pathologist to be awarded a Nobel Prize (1970) - for contributions to world peace. For all of use who are fellow plant pathologists, his work has been particularly inspiring.

It is a good time to look back at how the challenge of feeding the world population was met during Borlaug's career, because we have a similar challenge ahead of us.

The chart below shows global population from 1950 with a projection to 2100. 

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Ancient Indonesian Climate Change Linked To Nature

March 24, 2014 - 9:58pm

A 60,000-year record of rainfall in central Indonesia used sediments from a remote lake reveals important new details about the climate history of a region that wields a substantial influence on the global climate as a whole.

The Indonesian archipelago sits in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, an expanse of ocean that supplies a sizable fraction of the water vapor in Earth's atmosphere and plays a role in propagating El Niño cycles. Despite the region's importance in the global climate system, not much is known about its own climate history, says James Russell, associate professor of geological sciences at Brown.


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