Saturday, April 09, 2011

ScienceDaily: Latest Science News

ScienceDaily: Latest Science News

Are invasive plants a threat to native biodiversity? It depends on the spatial scale

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 01:39 PM PDT

The phrase "invasive plant species" typically evokes negative images such as broad swaths of kudzu smothered trees along the highway or purple loosestrife taking over wetlands and clogging waterways -- and as such, invasive plants are largely viewed as major threats to native biodiversity. However, research has shown both that invasive species may be one of the most important threats to biodiversity and that plant invasions are rarely the cause for native species extinctions. How can these conflicting pieces of evidence be reconciled?

Bacterial genome may hold answers to mercury mystery

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 01:39 PM PDT

A newly sequenced bacterial genome could contain clues as to how microorganisms produce a highly toxic form of mercury. Methylmercury, a potent human neurotoxin, appears in the environment when certain naturally occurring bacteria transform inorganic mercury into its more toxic cousin. Few bacterial species are capable of this conversion, and exactly how the transformation takes place has been a matter of debate for decades.

Free software makes computer mouse easier for people with disabilities

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 01:39 PM PDT

As the population ages, more people are having trouble with motor control, but now scientists have invented two mouse cursors that make clicking targets a whole lot easier.

Virtual reality lab focuses on conservation

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 01:39 PM PDT

Timber! Cutting down a tree in a virtual forest can bring new ideas of conservation crashing down on you If a tree falls in a virtual reality forest, will anyone hear an environmental message? They will, as long as they were the ones who cut down the make-believe redwood. Cutting down a virtual redwood with a virtual chainsaw may lead you to save trees by recycling more paper. That finding is an example of how real-world behavior can be changed by immersing people in virtual reality environments.

Are we only a hop, skip and jump away from controlled molecular motion?

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 01:34 PM PDT

Scientists may very well be a hop, skip and jump away from controlled molecular motion, according to a new study. Controlling how molecules move on surfaces could be the key to more potent drugs that block the attachment of viruses to cells, and will also speed development of new materials for electronics and energy applications.

'Naked' penguins baffle experts

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 11:09 AM PDT

Researchers are grappling with a wildlife mystery: why are some penguin chicks losing their feathers?

Surveys confirm enormous value of science museums, 'free choice' learning

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 09:43 AM PDT

One of the first studies of its type has confirmed that a science museum can strongly influence the public's knowledge and attitudes about science and technology, and to a surprising degree can cut across racial, ethnic, educational and economic barriers.

Breast-cancer awareness now in U.S. national consciousness

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 09:43 AM PDT

Each October, the color pink marks the arrival of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Media coverage and product promotions showcase the national effort to promote screenings and early detection of the cancer that 200,000 American women are diagnosed with each year. A new study, though, shows the effort has made an impact in more spread out examinations.

Newly merged black hole eagerly shreds stars

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 09:43 AM PDT

A galaxy's core is a busy place, crowded with stars swarming around an enormous black hole. When galaxies collide, it gets even messier as the two black holes spiral toward each other, merging to make an even bigger gravitational monster. Once it is created, the monster goes on a rampage. The merger kicks the black hole into surrounding stars. There it finds a hearty meal, shredding and swallowing stars at a rapid clip.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug fails in new trial

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 09:42 AM PDT

A new study has demonstrated no significant benefit of taking the drug bosentan for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Blood protein levels may predict risk of a cardiovascular event

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:44 AM PDT

Increased levels of a protein that helps regulate the body's blood pressure may also predict a major cardiovascular event in high-risk patients, according to a new study. Measuring the amount of the protein, known as plasma renin activity, in the blood stream may give doctors another tool to assess a patient's risk and help prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Outsmarting cancer cells: Scientists learn how they spread

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:44 AM PDT

Researchers have found that a molecule known as CRSBP-1 ligands binds to a receptor on the surface of lymphatic vessels, acting like the token to gain entry into the lymphatic vessel network.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: Cookies or careers?

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:44 AM PDT

New research analyzing boy scout and girl scout manuals finds that -- despite positive aspects -- scouts are being fed stereotypical ideas about femininity and masculinity.

New insights into predator/prey relationships

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Predator/prey relationships are much more complex than originally thought, according to new research.

Test moves navy a step closer to lasers for ship self-defense

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Navy researchers have successfully tested a solid-state, high-energy laser from a surface ship, which disabled a small target vessel.

New research advances understanding of lead selenide nanowires

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Scientists have shown how to control the characteristics of semiconductor nanowires made of a promising material: lead selenide.

New clinical trial approach reduces time and costs of many studies

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Doctors are testing a new kind of clinical trial that's not only less costly but guides doctors to switch to the best treatment even before the trial is completed. The new approach -- called a point-of-care clinical trial -- is an alternative to expensive, lengthy, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to compare drugs and procedures that are already in regular use.

NASA's next Mars rover nears completion

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:28 AM PDT

Assembly and testing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is far enough along that the mission's rover, Curiosity, looks very much as it will when it is investigating Mars.

For NASA's Aquarius, quest for salt a global endeavor

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:27 AM PDT

With more than a few stamps on its passport, NASA's Aquarius instrument on the Argentinian Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D spacecraft will soon embark on its space mission to "taste" Earth's salty ocean.

NASA telescope ferrets out planet-hunting targets

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:26 AM PDT

Astronomers have come up with a new way of identifying close, faint stars with NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer satellite. The technique should help in the hunt for planets that lie beyond our solar system, because nearby, hard-to-see stars could very well be home to the easiest-to-see alien planets.

Saturn's moon Titan shaped by weather, not ice volcanoes?

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:24 AM PDT

Have the surface and belly of Saturn's smog-shrouded moon, Titan, recently simmered like a chilly, bubbling cauldron with ice volcanoes, or has this distant moon gone cold? In a newly published analysis, scientists analyzing data collected by the Cassini spacecraft suggest Titan may be much less geologically active than some scientists have thought.

Bioengineering uses vetiver grass to save coral reefs near Guam

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:19 AM PDT

A scientist uses vetiver grass to save coral reefs near Guam.

Ancient fossils hold clues for predicting future climate change

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:17 AM PDT

The study of fossilized mollusks dating back more than 3.5 million years has enabled geoscientists to construct an ancient climate record that holds clues regarding the long-term effects of Earth's current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a key contributor to global climate change.

Scientists make bamboo tools to test theory explaining East Asia's Stone Age tool scarcity

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:17 AM PDT

The long-held theory that prehistoric people in East Asia crafted their tools from bamboo is much more complicated than originally conceived, according to a new study. Research until now didn't address whether complex bamboo tools can be made with simple stone tools. Now an experimental archaeological study, in which a modern-day flint knapper replicated the crafting of bamboo knives, confirms it is possible.

Effects of a large reduction in alcohol prices on mortality in Finland

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:17 AM PDT

Does a reduction in the price of alcohol result in an increase in deaths due to alcohol? This was the subject of a study following a significant reduction in taxes in Finland in 2004 (30 percent for spirits, 3 percent for wine).

'Dual switch' regulates fat formation: Discovery points to new obesity and diabetes drugs

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:17 AM PDT

New research has identified a key regulator of fat cell development that may provide a target for obesity and diabetes drugs.

Entomologists propose pesticide-free method to increase egg production

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:17 AM PDT

With the Easter holiday season coming up soon, egg consumption is expected to rise temporarily. But parasites such as fowl mites that commonly infest hens can reduce egg production by five percent or more. Entomologists argue that the chicken body louse, also a poultry parasite, can be used to effectively eradicate the mites if egg-producing commercial farms follow a simple, green strategy involving an odd twist on biological control.

People control thoughts better when they see their brain activity

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 07:17 AM PDT

Researchers find that real-time brain feedback significantly improves people's ability to control their thoughts and effectively "train their brains." The study is the world's first investigation of how real-time functional fMRI feedback from the brain region responsible for higher-order thoughts affects our ability to control these thoughts.

Fighting malaria with African plant extracts

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:51 AM PDT

Plants used in traditional African medicine may have an effect on the malaria parasite as well as the mosquitoes that spread the disease. A Norwegian pilot project is now indexing and testing these plants.

Late diagnosis is major factor in hospital cancer deaths in Northern Ireland

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:51 AM PDT

Late cancer diagnosis in Northern Ireland contributes to hospital deaths despite patient's preference to die at home, according to a new report.

Atherosclerotic plaques form during a late and limited time period in life, atom bomb residues reveal

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:51 AM PDT

In a new study performed in humans, researchers from Sweden have determined the age of atherosclerotic plaques by taking advantage of carbon-14 residues in the atmosphere, prevailing after the extensive atomic bomb tests in the 1950s and 60s. The findings suggest that in most people plaque formation occurs during a relatively short and late time period in life of 3-5 years.

New antibiotics against resistant bacterial infections discovered

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:51 AM PDT

This year's World Health Day focuses on the growing threat of potentially deadly infections developing resistance to antimicrobial drugs – especially to antibiotics. On this occasion, the European Commission is presenting the promising results of two international research projects which provide new hopes to help and treat people. In the European Union alone, it is estimated that drug resistant infections cause more than 25,000 deaths and €1.5 billion in extra healthcare costs every year.

Dopamine controls formation of new brain cells, salamander study shows

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:51 AM PDT

A study of the salamander brain has led researchers to discover a hitherto unknown function of the neurotransmitter dopamine. In a new study, they show how in acting as a kind of switch for stem cells, dopamine controls the formation of new neurons in the adult brain. Their findings may one day contribute to new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's.

Nanoparticles increase biofuel performance, lower emissions

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:50 AM PDT

A new study shows that the addition of alumina nanoparticles can improve the performance and combustion of biodiesel, while producing fewer emissions.

Digestive experts grade treatment options for inflammatory bowel disease

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:50 AM PDT

The American College of Gastroenterology published a new evidence-based systematic review on the management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) as a supplement to The American Journal of Gastroenterology for April 2011, a special issue entirely dedicated to IBD. This clinical monograph, based on a comprehensive meta-analysis, offers new graded recommendations on medical management of IBD, a chronic digestive disorder which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Center to revolutionize chemical manufacture is open for business

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:50 AM PDT

A center for revolutionizing the way pharmaceuticals and other chemicals are made is being officially launched.

Common genetic cause of autism and epilepsy discovered

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 04:50 AM PDT

Researchers have identified a new gene that predisposes people to both autism and epilepsy. The results show for the first time the role of the SYN1 gene in autism, in addition to epilepsy, and strengthen the hypothesis that a deregulation of the function of synapse because of this mutation is the cause of both diseases.

Bullying alters brain chemistry, leads to anxiety

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 05:25 PM PDT

Being low mouse on the totem pole is tough on murine self-esteem. It turns out it has measurable effects on brain chemistry, too, according to recent experiments. Researchers found that mice that were bullied persistently by dominant males grew unusually nervous around new company, and that the change in behavior was accompanied by heightened sensitivity to vasopressin, a hormone involved in a variety of social behaviors. The findings suggest how bullying could contribute to long-term social anxiety at the molecular level.

New genetic technique probes the cause of skin cell differentiation in mammals

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 05:22 PM PDT

A tremendous amount of genetics research has been done in flies and tiny worms, in part because scientists have good tools for tweaking these creatures' DNA. Now, by adapting a powerful method of RNA interference for use in mice, researchers have identified key pathways that cause skin cells to differentiate, eventually forming the flexible but protective outer casing of the body. The work illustrates the potential for performing relatively fast and complex genetic studies in a fellow mammal, and also provides a deeper understanding of cell differentiation in early development.

Ryan plan would fundamentally change Medicare, expert says

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:17 PM PDT

A law professor says House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's proposal to change Medicare for those under age 55 is nothing short of a complete reconceptualization of the popular health insurance program.

On-site cardiology team dramatically improves care for heart attack patients

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:17 PM PDT

The availability of an in-house, around-the-clock interventional cardiology team dramatically decreases the time it takes to restore blood flow to heart attack patients, according to new data.

Caffeine and diabetes: Helpful or harmful?

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:17 PM PDT

A growing body of research suggests that caffeine disrupts glucose metabolism and may contribute to the development and poor control of type 2 diabetes, a major public health problem. A review article examines the latest evidence, contradicting earlier studies suggesting a protective effect of caffeine.

Monkeys provide malaria reservoir for human disease in Southeast Asia

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:17 PM PDT

Monkeys infected with an emerging malaria strain are providing a reservoir for human disease in Southeast Asia, according to new research. The study confirms that the species has not yet adapted to humans and that monkeys are the main source of infection.

Blood pressure's internally driven daily rhythm unlikely to be linked to morning heart attacks

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:17 PM PDT

The internally-driven daily cycle of blood pressure changes doesn't appear to be linked to the known increase in morning heart attacks, according to a new study. Researchers sought to identify the role of the internal human body clock in the daily rise and fall in blood pressure. In the study, three groups of volunteers showed an internal daily blood pressure variation with a peak at around 9 p.m. -- independent of changes in activity and other behavioral influences that can affect blood pressure.

Mathematical model simulating rat whiskers provides insight into sense of touch

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:17 PM PDT

Researchers have developed a mathematical model that will allow them to simulate how rats use their whiskers to sense objects around them. The model enables further research that may provide insight into the human sense of touch.

New technology developed to screen and analyze genetic mutations

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 12:16 PM PDT

Scientists have developed a novel technique to produce all potential individual mutations and using deep sequencing technology simultaneously analyze each change's impact on the cell.

If plants generate magnetic fields, they're not saying

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 12:16 PM PDT

Physicists are using some of the world's most sensitive magnetic field detectors to determine whether plants, like animals, produce magnetic fields. Sensitive magnetometers now can monitor brain or heart activity in humans, but scientists want to know whether plants also generate small fields during rapid processes. Their failure to detect biomagnetism in the world's largest flower during its hot flashes sets an upper limit for plants.

Molecules identified that help propel cancer metastasis

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 12:16 PM PDT

For many types of cancer, the original tumor itself is usually not deadly. Instead, it's the spread of a tiny subpopulation of cells from the primary tumor to other parts of the body -- the process known as metastasis -- that all too often kills the patient. Now, researchers have identified two molecules that enable cancer to spread inside the body. These findings could eventually lead to therapies that prevent metastasis by inactivating the molecules.

Kidney transplants are faring better than previously reported, long-term study shows

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 12:16 PM PDT

The largest long-term study of kidney transplant recipients published to date demonstrates that progressive damage to kidney transplants may be less common and less severe than previously reported.

Ancient corals provide insight on the future of Caribbean reefs

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 11:13 AM PDT

Climate change is already widely recognized to be negatively affecting coral reef ecosystems around the world, yet the long-term effects are difficult to predict. Scientists are now using the geologic record of Caribbean corals to understand how reef ecosystems might respond to climate change expected for this century.

Editing-molecule mutation causes fatal primordial dwarfism

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 11:13 AM PDT

Fetuses with defects in a molecular machine that edits information cells use to make proteins can develop a rare form of dwarfism called microcephalic osteodysplastic primoridal dwarfism type 1. The findings could lead to a test for people who carry a copy of the mutation, to a better understanding of RNA splicing and to whether mutations of this type that arise during an individual's lifetime contribute to cancer or other diseases.

E. coli enzyme must move to function

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 11:13 AM PDT

Slight oscillations lasting just milliseconds have a huge impact on an enzyme's function, according to a new study. Blocking these movements, without changing the enzyme's overall structure or any of its other properties, renders the enzyme defective in carrying out chemical reactions.

NASA's Kepler helps astronomers update census of sun-like stars

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 11:13 AM PDT

Astronomers are studying changes in the brightness of 500 stars like our sun. The data will give astronomers a much better understanding of the stars, their properties and their evolution.

Instant evolution in whiteflies: Just add bacteria

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 11:13 AM PDT

In a case of rapid evolution, bacteria have been found to give whiteflies -- crop-damaging insects of global importance -- an edge over their uninfected peers, new research suggests. In just 6 years, bacteria of the genus Rickettsia spread through a population of the sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), an invasive pest of global importance. Infected insects lay more eggs, develop faster and are more likely to survive to adulthood compared to their uninfected peers.

Cause of short gamma-ray bursts determined

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 10:26 AM PDT

A new supercomputer simulation shows the collision of two neutron stars can naturally produce the magnetic structures thought to power the high-speed particle jets associated with short gamma-ray bursts. The study provides the most detailed glimpse of the forces driving some of the universe's most energetic explosions.

Warning labels better than a fat tax, study shows

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 10:26 AM PDT

Warning labels on junk food would be more effective than a "fat" tax for deterring overweight people from making unhealthy purchases, a new study has found.

Treatment for depression is a long-term solution, study suggests

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 10:26 AM PDT

Treatment of depression may have long-term benefits. New research has shown that depressed adults who use antidepressants are three times less likely to be depressed eight years later, compared to depressed adults who don't use antidepressants.

Ovarian cancer finding may be a 'win-win' for at-risk women who wish to have a family

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 10:26 AM PDT

New research suggests that a layer of cells, which serve as the "breeding ground" for ovarian cancer, may be removed yet allow the women to have children. This would be a vast improvement over the current prevention strategy for women at high risk for ovarian cancer: Removal of the ovaries entirely.

Computational modeling helps in determining individual cholesterol-related information

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 09:16 AM PDT

Computational modeling increases our knowledge of lipoprotein properties that cannot be measured using experimental methods. Lipoproteins are particles that transport cholesterol in our bloodstream. The lipids transported by the particles have been established earlier, but it has not been possible to determine the content of one particle.

Japan earthquake caused a displacement of about two meters

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 09:16 AM PDT

Researchers have estimated the ground deformation suffered in the area of Sendai, Japan, as a consequence of the earthquake of March 11 and its aftershocks, based on radar observations acquired by the Envisat satellite of the European Space Agency. According to this estimate, obtained over an area of approximately 300 x 100 km around the city of Sendai, the terrain has suffered a co-seismic deformation -- permanent deformation of Earth's surface -- associated with the earthquake of up to 1.69 m.

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