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Mon, 17 Feb 2020
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New electronic state of matter discovered

Travelling Electrons
© Yun-Yi Pai
Electrons travel in cars with increasing numbers, giving rise to a conductance series that shows up in Pascal's triangle.
A research team led by professors from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physics and Astronomy has announced the discovery of a new electronic state of matter.

Jeremy Levy, a distinguished professor of condensed matter physics, and Patrick Irvin, a research associate professor are coauthors of the paper "Pascal conductance series in ballistic one-dimensional LaAIO3/SrTiO3 channels." The research focuses on measurements in one-dimensional conducting systems where electrons are found to travel without scattering in groups of two or more at a time, rather than individually.

The study was published in Science on Feb. 14. A video outlining the paper's findings can be seen below.

Blue Planet

The mycelium revolution is upon us

Mycelium growing on a tree stump.
© Richard Tullis Getty Images
Mycelium growing on a tree stump.
It's the fungus mushrooms are made of, but it can also produce everything from plastics to plant-based meat to a scaffolding for growing organs — and much more

Humans have been harnessing the power of yeast for thousands of years. These fungi allow fermentation, the molecular process whereby living cells typically transform sugar or starch into more complex molecules or chemicals. Discovered 10,000 years ago, the technology of liquid fermentation — from mead to beer to spirits — and solid-state fermentation — bread and cheese — helped put humanity on a rapidly accelerating path of evolution and advancement.

Fast forward 9,950 years. Around three decades ago, humans applied the potential of liquid fermentation to create medicines. In 1978 Arthur Riggs and Keiichi Itakura produced the first biosynthetic insulin using E. coli as a single-celled manufacturing plant. The epiphany that single-celled bacteria and yeast are sugar-powered microfactories that can be utilized to synthesize novel compounds is one of the most powerful discoveries of the past 100 years.

Since that revolutionary insight occurred, science has been devoted to understanding, cultivating and ultimately reprogramming single-celled organisms such as yeast, bacteria and algae, and we've been using the process to make more lifesaving drugs, biobased fuels such as corn ethanol, fragrances and a growing suite of small biological molecules. Liquid fermentation is now a 150-billion-dollar industry and growing rapidly: many of the products we use today are moving from chemical factories to biological fermenters.

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People 2

Sex is binary: Scientists speak up for the empirical reality of biological sex

sperm and ovum graphic

Co-authored by Dr Colin Wright (evolutionary biologist at Penn State, USA) and Dr Emma Hilton (developmental biologist at the University of Manchester, UK). The full article was published in the Wall Street Journal on 13th February 2020. The Dangerous Denial of Sex.

It's one thing to claim that a man can "identify" as a woman or vice versa. Increasingly we see a dangerous and anti-scientific trend toward the outright denial of biological sex.

"The idea of two sexes is simplistic," an article in the scientific journal Nature declared in 2015. "Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that." A 2018 Scientific American piece asserted that "biologists now think there is a larger spectrum than just binary female and male." And an October 2018 New York Times headline promised to explain "Why Sex Is Not Binary."

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Arrokoth: Secrets of farthest space object ever visited revealed by NASA

© (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko via AP)
This Jan. 1, 2019 image from NASA shows Arrokoth, the farthest, most primitive object in the Solar System ever to be visited by a spacecraft. Astronomers reported Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 that this pristine, primordial cosmic body photographed by the New Horizons probe is relatively smooth with far fewer craters than expected. It's also entirely ultrared, or highly reflective, which is commonplace in the faraway Twilight Zone of our solar system known as the the Kuiper Belt.
NASA's space snowman is revealing fresh secrets from its home far beyond Pluto.

More than a year after its close encounter with the snowman-shaped object, the New Horizons spacecraft is still sending back data from more than 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away.

"The data rate is painfully slow from so far away," said Will Grundy of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, one of the lead authors.

Astronomers reported Thursday that this pristine, primordial cosmic body now called Arrokoth — the most distant object ever explored — is relatively smooth with far fewer craters than expected. It's also entirely ultrared, or highly reflective, which is commonplace in the faraway Twilight Zone of our solar system known as the the Kuiper Belt.

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Microscope 2

Scientists discover giant viruses with features only seen before in living cells

© Graham Beards/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Sifting through a soup of genes sampled from many environments, including human saliva, animal poop, lakes, hospitals, soils and more, researchers have found hundreds of giant viruses - some with abilities only seen before in cellular life.

The international team, led by scientists from University of California, Berkeley, has discovered entire new groups of giant phages (viruses that infect bacteria) and pieced together 351 gene sequences.

Within these they found genes that code for unexpected things, including bits of the cellular machinery that reads and executes DNA instructions to build proteins, also known as translation.

Microscope 1

New nanosensor detects cancer biomarkers in a single drop of blood

cancer biomarkers blood detection
© University of Twente
Looking for cancer biomarkers in blood is a promising method for detecting metastatic cancer. It is less demanding than imaging techniques like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The main challenge to overcome is the extremely low concentrations of these markers, which makes it difficult to detect them. Researchers of the University of Twente and Wageningen University developed a nanosensor that accurately detects biomarkers for cancer in an extremely broad range of concentrations, from 10 particles per microliter to 1 million particles per microliter. Their development was featured on the cover of Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

Comment: Others have been on the same trail for different forms of cancer:


Race, gender affect teachers' perceptions of students' ability

© Stock Adobe
A child's approach to learning — whether they pay attention, stay organized, follow rules, work independently, etc. — can shape how teachers' perceive their academic ability. A new study suggests that these characteristics, called non-cognitive skills, influence teachers' evaluation of students' academic aptitude differently depending on a child's race, ethnicity, and gender.

The study, published in the journal Du Bois Review and co-authored by Yale sociologist Grace Kao, reveals a variety of racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the association between first-grade students' non-cognitive skills and their assessed ability in math and reading. For example, the study found that teachers rated black students lower in math skills compared to white students with identical non-cognitive abilities and test scores.

"The bottom line is that even when you control for kids' math and reading abilities through their test scores, we find that teachers' perceptions of their students' non-cognitive and academic skills differ by race, ethnicity, and gender," said Kao, the IBM Professor of Sociology and chair of the sociology department. "It is especially distressing that these disparities, which have important implications on children's academic performance, are emerging as early as the start of kindergarten."

Kao and co-author Calvin Rashaud Zimmermann, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, based their analyses on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011, a nationally representative sample of children surveyed from the start of kindergarten through fifth grade.


Betelgeuse dimming, astrophysicists speculate on supernova potential

orion betelguese nova
© Wikipedia
Orion on the Celestial Equator, with Betelgeuse highlighted
Since about October 2019, Betelgeuse (the bright reddish star at Orion's shoulder in the brightest constellation in the sky that is about 600 - 700 ly distant from us) has begun a sharp dimming that has now gone beyond what has been seen in modern observations. As of the end of January, it was down about 2.5 in apparent magnitude.



'Drone dome': Video shows Israel's laser weapon capable of blasting UAVs out of the sky

© Screenshot/Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.
Israeli aerospace company Rafael has released a video showing its newly-developed defense system - an UAV interceptor called the Drone Dome - literally shooting drones down with a powerful laser beam.

The footage published on YouTube shows the system, mounted on a car, shooting down quadcopters somewhere in a desert in Israel. The video demonstrates the interceptor blasting a small drone that's vigorously maneuvering mid-air and successfully shooting down several unmanned aerial vehicle flying in a formation.

Rafael boasted that its new product provides "effective detection, full identification and neutralization of multiple Micro and Mini UAV threats" and said that it can detect a target as small as two centimeters (about one inch) across at a distance of 3.5 kilometers. It also said that the drone dome has "soft kill" and "hard kill" options allowing an operation to choose between seizing control over the target UAV and simply shooting it down.

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Newly published scientific paper tears global warming and the IPCC to shreds

city sun clouds
A scientific paper entitled "An Overview of Scientific Debate of Global Warming and Climate Change" has recently come out of the University of Karachi, Pakistan. The paper's author, Prof. Shamshad Akhtar delves into earth's natural temperature variations of the past 1000 years, and concludes that any modern warming trend has been hijacked by political & environmental agendas, and that the science (tackled below) has been long-ignored and at times deliberately manipulated.

The published paper - available in full HERE — sets out its intent:

Climate change is NOT a new phenomenon. The palaeo-climatic studies reveal that during the Pleistocene and Holocene periods several warm and cold periods occurred, resulting in changes of sea level and in climatic processes like the rise and fall of global average temperature and rainfall.