Culture

The advent of farming, especially dairy products, had a small but significant effect on the shape of human skulls, according to a recently published study from anthropologists at UC Davis.

Humans who live by hunting and foraging wild foods have to put more effort into chewing than people living from farming, who eat a softer diet. Although previous studies have linked skull shape to agriculture and softer foods, it has proved difficult to determine the extent and consistency of these changes at a global scale.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (http://www.ucr.edu) -- Underground drinking water sources in parts of the U.S. and three Asian countries may not be as safe as previously thought due to high levels of manganese, especially at shallow depths, according to a study led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside. Manganese, a metal that is required by the body in tiny amounts, can be toxic at elevated levels, particularly in children.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will use its infrared capabilities to study the "ocean worlds" of Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus, adding to observations previously made by NASA's Galileo and Cassini orbiters. The Webb telescope's observations could also help guide future missions to the icy moons.

The "jumping genes" of maize have finally been mapped by an international team led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The discovery could ultimately benefit the breeding and production of maize, one of the world's most important crops.

Automotive, aerospace and defence applications require metallic materials with ultra-high strength. However, in some particular high-loading structural applications, metallic materials shall also have large ductility and high toughness to facilitate the precise forming of structural components and to avoid the catastrophic failure of components during service. Unfortunately, increasing strength often leads to the decrease in ductility, which is known as the strength-ductility trade-off.

As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer's disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

Earthquakes: Nature's most unpredictable and one of her most devastating natural disasters. When high intensity earthquakes strike they can cause thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damaged property. For decades, experts have studied major earthquakes; most have focused on fatalities and destruction in terms of the primary effects, the shaking unleashed.

A new study takes a different approach to generate a more complete picture.

An extensive exercise to map genetic variation in Sweden has found 33 million genetic variants, 10 million of which are novel. Large-scale DNA sequencing methods were used to analyse the whole genome of 1000 individuals from different parts of the country. The study was led by researchers at Uppsala University, who have published their findings in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Biologists at Lund University in Sweden are now able to show that the receptors enabling the primitive moth species, Eriocrania semipurpurella, find an individual of the opposite sex, probably evolved from receptors which help the moth perceive the fragrances of plants.

Little fungi pack a punch: "Magic mushrooms" of the Psilocybe species produce psychoactive compounds that alter perception when ingested. Recently, the effects on the neuronal system caused by their ingredient psilocybin have attracted the interest of pharmacologists. German scientists have now identified four of the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of psilocybin. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, they describe the biosynthetic pathway and introduce a synthetic route that could form the basis of biotechnological production.