Sunday, December 02, 2007

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

Group selection, a theory whose time has come...again
Sociobiology, the discipline founded on Darwin's theory of group evolution, is in theoretical disarray. In a landmark article for the December issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology, eminent evolutionary scientists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson usher in a new era in evolutionary science.

Flip-flopping gene expression can be advantageous
One gene for pea pod color generates green pods while a variant of that gene gives rise to the yellow-pod phenotype, a feature that helped Gregor Mendel first describe genetic inheritance. However, some genes have the strange ability to be expressed spontaneously in either of two possible ways and researchers describe how such noisy gene expression affects as the progression of bacterial infections or the growth of a population of cancerous cells.

Repeating genes
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute, using computer simulations, have provided an explanation as to why certain genetic diseases caused by repeats in the code are "genetic time-bombs" whose onset and progression can be accurately predicted.

Dark energy -- 10 years on
Three quarters of our universe is made up of some weird, gravitationally repulsive substance that was only discovered ten years ago -- dark energy. This month in Physics World, Eric Linder and Saul Perlmutter, both at the University of California at Berkeley, reveal how little we know about dark energy and describe what advances in our knowledge of dark energy we can expect in the coming decade from a series of planned space missions.

Blue dye could hold the key to super processing power
A technique for controlling the magnetic properties of a commonly used blue dye could revolutionise computer processing power, according to research published recently in Advanced Materials.

Sweet fuel supply
A new type of fuel cell powered with glucose derived from biomass is described in the latest issue of the Inderscience Publication International Journal of Global Energy Issues. The experimental device works by using sunlight to convert the glucose into hydrogen to power the cell, which produces several hundred millivolts.

Generating hydrogen from biodiesel waste
Researchers at the University of Leeds have a potential solution to the problem of large quantities of low value by-product generated in the synthesis of biodiesel -- by turning it into high value hydrogen.

Massive Canadian oilfield could be exploited using new UK system
A new method developed in Britain over the past 17 years for extracting oil is now at the forefront of plans to exploit a massive heavy oilfield in Canada.

Blue dye could hold the key to super processing power
A technique for controlling the magnetic properties of a commonly used blue dye could revolutionise computer processing power, according to research published recently in Advanced Materials.

Computer savvy canines
Like us, our canine friends are able to form abstract concepts. Friederike Range and colleagues from the University of Vienna in Austria have shown for the first time that dogs can classify complex color photographs and place them into categories in the same way that humans do. And the dogs successfully demonstrate their learning through the use of computer automated touch-screens, eliminating potential human influence. The study has just been published online in Animal Cognition.

Study of malaria parasite in patient blood finds distinct physiological states
In a groundbreaking study published Nov. 28 in the advance online edition of Nature, an international research team has for the first time measured which of the malaria parasite's genes are turned on or off during actual infection in humans, not in cell cultures, unearthing surprising behaviors and opening a window on the most critical aspects of parasite biology.

Cancer-resistant mouse discovered
A mouse resistant to cancer, even highly-aggressive types, has been created by researchers at the University of Kentucky. The breakthrough stems from a discovery by UK College of Medicine professor of radiation medicine Vivek Rangnekar and a team of researchers who found a tumor-suppressor gene called "Par-4" in the prostate.

Stem cells train heart following heart attack
Injecting adult stem cells into a heart following a heart attack (infarction) improves the heart function and strengthens the heart wall. The use of such cells may eventually reduce the chance of heart failure following a heart attack. Researchers from Leiden University discovered this in a project forming part of the Dutch Program for Tissue Engineering, funded by Technology Foundation STW and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development.

Bound to identify intruders
A team of scientists from the Weizmann Institute, Germany and France has revealed, at a resolution of milliseconds, the changes an immune system T cell undergoes as it binds to an antigen.

Cardiff University engineers give industry a moth's eye view
Scientists at Cardiff University have developed a new lens, based on the eye structure of the moth, which reflects very little light and has a wide number of industrial applications.

Scientists melt million-year-old ice in search of ancient microbes
Researchers from the University of Delaware and the University of California at Riverside have thawed ice estimated to be at least a million years old from above Lake Vostok, an ancient lake that lies hidden more than two miles beneath the frozen surface of Antarctica.



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