Sunday, March 18, 2007

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

Have researchers found a new state of matter?:
A 25-year old experiment is turning everything we know about matter upside down, and may even have demonstrated an example of an entirely new state of matter. The US researchers have dubbed this new state, "string-net liquid," and even speculate that the entire universe could be made of it. Others may even have found a candidate for such a material: a dark green crystal called herbertsmithite found in the mountains of Chile in 1972.

Global ocean sampling expedition:
The Sorcerer II GOS expedition, data sampling and analysis is described. The immense diversity in the sequence data required novel comparative genomic assembly methods, which uncovered genomic differences that marker-based methods could not. The GOS data identified 6.12 million predicted proteins covering nearly all known prokaryotic protein families, and several new families. This almost doubles the number of known proteins and shows that we are far from identifying all the proteins in nature.

Darwin's famous finches and Venter's marine microbes:
Although the Galápagos finches were to play a pivotal role in the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection, he had no inkling of their significance when he collected them during his voyage on the HMS Beagle.

Related: Oceans Study Reveals 6 Million New Genes from PBS News Hour

Antifungal drug kills TB bug:
Scientists hoping to find new treatments for one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases say drugs used to treat common fungal infections may provide the answer.

New biofuels process promises to meet all US transportation needs:
Purdue University chemical engineers have proposed a new environmentally friendly process for producing liquid fuels from plant matter - or biomass - potentially available from agricultural and forest waste, providing all of the fuel needed for "the entire US transportation sector."

Fiber-based light source promises improvements in food inspection:
A new light source based on fiber-optic technology promises to improve the inspection of food, produce, paper, currency, recyclables and other products. New research revealing this technology will be presented at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC), being held March 25-29 in Anaheim, Calif.

UNC scientists discover cellular 'SOS' signal in response to UV skin damage:
New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has identified two proteins that may help protect against skin cancer.

Mars Express radar gauges water quantity around Mars south pole:
The amount of water trapped in frozen layers over Mars' south polar region is equivalent to a liquid layer about 11 meters deep covering the planet.

Cold is hot in evolution -- UBC researchers debunk belief species evolve faster in tropics:
University of British Columbia researchers have discovered that contrary to common belief, species do not evolve faster in warmer climates.

500,000 years of climate history stored year by year:
The mud at the bottom of Turkey’s Lake Van stores information about the climate of the last 500,000 years. Millimeter-thin layers with embedded pollen reveal climate information with a year by year-resolution. An international team of researchers headed by the University of Bonn now wants to tap this treasure.

Using brain scans, researchers find evidence for a 2-stage model of human perceptual learning:
Using advanced brain imaging techniques, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have watched how humans use both lower and higher brain processes to learn novel tasks, an advance they say may help speed up the teaching of new skills as well as offer strategies to retrain people with perceptual deficits due to autism.

THEMIS weighs in on the Northern Lights:
Instruments known as solid-state telescopes (SSTs), built with detectors fabricated at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and carried aboard the recently launched THEMIS mission, have delivered their first data on how charged particles in the solar wind interact with Earth's magnetic field to shape the planet's magnetosphere.

New program aims to overhaul the Internet:
The Internet is enough of a marvel that most people would never ask, ''Is this really how we would build it if we could design it all today?'' But asking that very question is the job of a broad-based team of Stanford researchers. Taking a nothing-is-sacred approach to better meet human communications needs, this month they are launching a new program called the Clean Slate Design for the Internet.

Fossil shows human growth at least 160,000 years ago:
An international team of scientists have found that the oldest member (160,000 years old) of the genus Homo shows a modern human life history profile. These findings, based on experiments at ESRF, are in contrast to previous studies suggesting that early fossil humans possessed short growth periods, which were more similar to chimpanzees than to living humans.

Progress toward artificial photosynthesis?:
A team headed by M. Antonietti at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces has taken an important step toward artificial photosynthesis. As described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they have activated CO2 for use in a chemical reaction by using graphitic carbon nitride as a catalyst.


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