Welcome to Sott.net
Thu, 19 Oct 2017
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology

Microscope 2

Researchers reveal new mechanism that could lead the way to breaking ribosome antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics are the most common medication used to treat microbial infections. Many antibiotics target intracellular bacterial ribosomes - cellular factories that synthesize proteins - which are essential for bacterial survival and proliferation. When bacteria have an excess of protein synthesis activity they stall the ribosomes in an inactive dimeric complex (i.e. two copies of ribosomes interact with each other). This so-called hibernating ribosome complex is more resistant to antibiotics.

In a collaborative effort, research groups from the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute of the University of Groningen led by Egbert Boekema, Bert Poolman and Albert Guskov revealed a novel mechanism of ribosome dimerization in the bacterium Lactococcus lactis using cryo-electron microscopy. The peculiarity of the mechanism they describe is that it involves a single protein, named HPFlong, which is capable to dimerize on its own and then pull two copies of ribosomes together. The dimeric state of the ribosome is no longer capable of synthesizing new proteins.


'Life-like android' at a Tokyo gaming conference stuns social media

© AsiaWire
An incredibly 'life-like' android appears to show how the line between woman and machine is starting to disappear.

Footage captured at this year's Tokyo Game Show has already amassed three million views on one video-sharing platform alone, but not everyone believes their eyes.

A fierce debate has broken out among people who have seen the reputed robot with many believing it must be a person, while others think she is the genuine article.

The alleged automaton, which some social media users have even admitted to 'falling in love' with the 'pretty' machine, was at the Japanese games convention to promote a PlayStation 4 game.

A number of Japanese-made and international games are on display at the convention, which has been held annually for the last 21 years.

The beautiful female 'android' stood out to many of the more than a quarter of a million gamers who attended, despite the fact she is only a PR prop.

She along with several others of her kind were stood at the booth of Detroit: Become Human, a new video game developed by French firm Quantic Dream and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Visitors could be forgiven for thinking the apparently man-made machine was in fact a real-life human, as the video shows stunning build detail on her face and in the movements of her limbs.

In the short clip, the 'android' smiles and waves, leaving expo-goers and social media users stunned.

According to the game's storyline, the humanoid robots promoting the game are state-of-the-art AP700 models, called 'the most reliable android'.


With blood transfusion, fresh is not best

© Peter Dazeley/Getty
Slightly older blood may be better for transfusions that the fresh stuff.
A landmark Australian research trial has found that blood, like good red wine, improves with age - at least when it's stored for transfusion.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre at Monash University in Melbourne led teams in five countries to investigate the effect of the age of transfused red blood cells on critically ill patients.

The trials involved 5000 intensive care patients in Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland and Saudi Arabia. Analysis concluded the transfusion of older stored red blood cells is safe and, surprisingly, associated with fewer side effects.

Bizarro Earth

Climate changes can spur volcanoes into life

We already know that climate change has a hold on the earth's surface processes, such as erosion and fluctuations in sea levels... but do surface processes in turn have an influence on volcanic activity? This was the question raised by geologists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE, Switzerland) working in partnership with the University of Orléans, University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris and the ICTJA-CSIC Institute in Barcelona. The researchers analysed volcanic data from the Messinian salinity crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, when the Strait of Gibraltar was blocked and the Mediterranean temporarily isolated from the Atlantic. After observing a sharp rise in volcanic activity during this period, and testing various scenarios, the geologists concluded that the increase in magmatic activity could only be explained by the almost total drying out of the Mediterranean. These results, which you can read all about in the journal Nature Geoscience, reveal the influence of surface processes - largely controlled by climate - on volcanic activity.

It is known that the Strait of Gibraltar was shut on a temporary basis during the Messinian Era (more precisely, from 5.96 to 5.33 million years ago) and that the Mediterranean Sea was isolated from the Atlantic. In fact, as far back as the 1970s scientists found layers of salt several hundred metres thick on the seabed. The only explanation for their formation is that there was no or very limited connection between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The scientists also discovered huge underwater canyons dating back to the same period, hollowed out by rivers running over land that is now submerged, suggesting that the sea level was much lower at the time. This also points to the massive drying up of the Mediterranean with enormous geographical and climatic disruption across the entire basin. This hypothesis, however, continues to be a source of debate.

Nevertheless, a team of UNIGE-led geologists has provided new evidence of the Mediterranean's drying up and the forcing of surface processes on magmatic activity.

Comment: There are other possible explanations for the increase in volcanic activity at that time, and maybe a decrease in the Mediterranean Sea levels did play a part. But to really get to the bottom of this and other events preserved in the geological record, scientists will need to get out of their Uniformitarian view of history and start working with other disciplines.


Shedding more light on the 1572 supernova in Cassiopeia

© CC BY 2.0/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe star shines in gamma rays.
Russian astronomer Marat Gilfanov managed to shed light on the origin of the world-famous supernova that flared up in the sky in 1572 and drastically changed scientists' perspective of astronomy at the time.

"The explosion of the [Tycho Brahe] supernova in the constellation of Cassiopeia in 1572 showed the whole world that the sky is not perennial as Aristotle wrote, and that the universe is constantly evolving," Russian astronomer Marat Gilfanov and his foreign colleagues said in a study published by the journal Nature Astronomy.

To understand the essence of the study, a small introduction to the nature of supernova might be needed.


Arctic Inuit, Native American cold adaptations may originate from Denisovans

© Wikimedia Commons
In the Arctic, the Inuits have adapted to severe cold and a predominantly seafood diet. After the first population genomic analysis of the Greenland Inuits (Fumagalli, Moltke et al. 2015, Science doi:10.1126/science.aab2319), a region in the genome containing two genes has now been scrutinized by scientists: TBX15 and WARS2. This region is thought to be central to cold adaptation by generating heat from a specific type of body fat, and was earlier found to be a candidate for adaptation in the Inuits.

Now, a team of scientists led by Fernando Racimo, Rasmus Nielsen et al. have followed up on the first natural selection study in Inuits to trace back the origins of these adaptations.

To perform the study, they used the genomic data from nearly 200 Greenlandic Inuits and compared this to the 1000 Genomes Project and ancient hominid DNA from Neanderthals and Denisovans. The results, published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, provide convincing evidence that the Inuit variant of the TBX15/WARS2 region first came into modern humans from an archaic hominid population, likely related to the Denisovans.


Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov unveils a flying motorbike

The helmeted pilot testing the new device produced by legendary Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov
Legendary weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov has unveiled a flying motorbike which could be unleashed by Vladimir Putin if Russia goes into battle.

In a clip of the device being tested, shot in a hangar, a helmeted pilot is seen climbing aboard the small aircraft, which resembles a car roof rack surrounded by eight propellers.

The pilot for the Kalashnikov Concern group, which is based in the city of Izhevsk in central Russia's Udmurt Republic region, is seen sitting surrounded by the propellers and with a battery to power them mounted behind him.


Russia and US to create new space station in moon's orbit

© NASA / Reuters
Russia and the US have agreed to build a new space station called Deep Space Gateway in the moon's orbit, the head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency said, adding that the first modules could be ready between 2024 and 2026.

"We [Roscosmos and NASA] have agreed to join the project to build a new international Deep Space Gateway station in [the] moon's orbit," Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said, as cited by Interfax.

The official was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia on Wednesday.

The first stage of the project will involve the construction of the orbital part of the station, Komarov announced.

He added that the technologies involved can later be used on the moon's surface and, potentially, on Mars.


Clearest image of a star's surface and atmosphere other than the Sun

© ESO/K. Ohnaka
To the unaided eye the famous, bright star Antares shines with a strong red tint in the heart of the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). It is a huge and comparatively cool red supergiant star in the late stages of its life, on the way to becoming a supernova [1].

A team of astronomers, led by Keiichi Ohnaka, of the Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile, has now used ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile to map Antares's surface and to measure the motions of the surface material. This is the best image of the surface and atmosphere of any star other than the Sun.

The VLTI is a unique facility that can combine the light from up to four telescopes, either the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes, or the smaller Auxiliary Telescopes, to create a virtual telescope equivalent to a single mirror up to 200 metres across. This allows it to resolve fine details far beyond what can be seen with a single telescope alone.

"How stars like Antares lose mass so quickly in the final phase of their evolution has been a problem for over half a century," said Keiichi Ohnaka, who is also the lead author of the paper. "The VLTI is the only facility that can directly measure the gas motions in the extended atmosphere of Antares - a crucial step towards clarifying this problem.The next challenge is to identify what's driving the turbulent motions."

Using the new results the team has created the first two-dimensional velocity map of the atmosphere of a star other than the Sun. They did this using the VLTI with three of the Auxiliary Telescopes and an instrument called AMBER to make separate images of the surface of Antares over a small range of infrared wavelengths. The team then used these data to calculate the difference between the speed of the atmospheric gas at different positions on the star and the average speed over the entire star [2]. This resulted in a map of the relative speed of the atmospheric gas across the entire disc of Antares - the first ever created for a star other than the Sun..


The eyes are drawn to meaning, not distracting objects, in the visual field

Your visual attention is drawn to parts of a scene that have meaning, rather than to those that are salient or "stick out," new research from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis reveals. The findings overturn the widely-held salience model of visual attention.

Our eyes perceive a wide field of view in front of us, but we only focus our attention on a small part of this field. How do we decide where to direct our attention, without thinking about it?

The dominant theory in attention studies is "visual salience," Professor John Henderson, who led the research, said. Salience means things that "stick out" from the background, like colorful berries on a background of leaves or a brightly lit object in a room.