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Study links intelligence and chess skill

© Michigan State University
Michigan State University psychology professor Zach Hambrick, left, and graduate student Alexander Burgoyne discuss their findings that chess skill is related to intelligence.
Intelligence -- and not just relentless practice -- plays a significant role in determining chess skill, indicates a comprehensive new study led by Michigan State University researchers.

The research provides some of the most conclusive evidence to date that cognitive ability is linked to skilled performance -- a hotly debated issue in psychology for decades -- and refutes theories that expertise is based solely on intensive training.


Reprogramming life? Scientists close to 'recoding' genome

© Josef Reischig/Wikimedia
Geneticists have made a step forward in 'recoding' the genome as we know it, replacing 62,214 DNA base pairs in a synthetic E. coli genome.

Recoding genomes so extensively could lead to the development of organisms that are resistant to viruses, and could even allowing biologists to code for all-new synthetic amino acids. Essentially, it allows us to reprogram life.

"It's not easy, but we can engineer life at profound scales, even something as fundamental as the genetic code," says Peter Carr, a bioengineer at MIT, not involved with this study, told Science.

To understand what the researchers have done, we first have to have to understand how DNA works. DNA, and its four base pairs, A, T, C, and G, are translated into RNA, where the code is arranged in triplets, that each code for a specific amino acid (the cell's building blocks) the cell should use.

For example, A - G - G codes for the amino acid arginine, and C - C- G codes for proline. "Almost all life shares a common genetic code," one of the researchers, Marc Lajoie, told Popular Mechanics. "For example, the genetic sequence A - G - G means the same thing for almost all organisms, from your cells, to a plant cell, to a yeast cell."

Comment: See also:

Scientists create smallest life form yet, unsure what it is, how little we know about DNA


Drone armed with claws designed for dangerous ops

© Prodrone Co., Ltd. 株式会社プロドローン / YouTube
An intimidating robotic-clawed drone whose formidable appearance has sparked comparison with nature's toughest birds of prey has been unveiled in Japan.

The PD6B-AW-ARM, the latest large format drone by ProDrone, comes complete with two 'Transformer' like arms which have made a strong impression on some reviewers.

The device was developed in response to increased demand among drone users for 'hands on operations', according to a company press release, and can carry a diverse range of cargo with its remarkable claws.


Collision rescaled: "Extremely giant impact' now thought to be the making of Earth's moon

© twitter.com
It lights up our sky and has hosted astronauts, but there's still much to learn about the moon. Astronomers have long believed it was formed from a space rock's low-contact collision with Earth, but new research says the impact was far more violent.

Since the 1970s, researchers have settled on a theory which assumes the moon was created when a space rock the size of Mars "lightly" grazed Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. The impact would have scattered debris from both bodies into space, and formed a disk orbiting early Earth. That disk, according to the theory, eventually became the modern-day moon. However, a new study published in Nature says the collision was far stronger and far less friendly than previously believed. The new information comes after researchers studied Apollo-era moon rocks with new technology.

"We're still re-measuring the old Apollo samples from the '70s, because the tech has been developing in recent years. We can measure much smaller differences between Earth and the moon, so we found a lot of things we didn't find in the 1970s," lead author Kun Wang, an assistant professor at Washington University, told Gizmodo. "The old models just could not explain the new observations."

If the theory that the space rock lightly collided with Earth were true, evidence should be available showing that the chemical composition of the moon is distinct from that of the Earth, as the odds that the space rock that struck Earth had the same chemical make-up would be incredibly small, as scientists expected. However, the studied samples of potassium isotopes failed to produce such evidence. Instead, chemical analyses showed isotopic compound readings that were nearly identical.

Intrigued, the researchers conducted increasingly advanced tests in an effort to identify any differences in the signatures. They eventually found one, but it suggested that the samples' origins were even more connected than previously thought.

Bizarro Earth

NASA's THEMIS sees Auroras move to the rhythm of Earth's magnetic field

© Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA
An artist's rendering (not to scale) of a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind on the left in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from the Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were well-positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth roughly every six minutes. In this unstable environment, electrons in near-Earth space, depicted as white dots, stream rapidly down magnetic field lines towards Earth's poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere, releasing photons and brightening a specific region of the aurora.
The majestic auroras have captivated humans for thousands of years, but their nature—the fact that the lights are electromagnetic and respond to solar activity—was only realized in the last 150 years. Thanks to coordinated multi-satellite observations and a worldwide network of magnetic sensors and cameras, close study of auroras has become possible over recent decades. Yet, auroras continue to mystify, dancing far above the ground to some, thus far, undetected rhythm.

Using data from NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, or THEMIS, scientists have observed Earth's vibrating magnetic field in relation to the northern lights dancing in the night sky over Canada. THEMIS is a five-spacecraft mission dedicated to understanding the processes behind auroras, which erupt across the sky in response to changes in Earth's magnetic environment, called the magnetosphere.

These new observations allowed scientists to directly link specific intense disturbances in the magnetosphere to the magnetic response on the ground. A paper on these findings was published in Nature Physics on Sept. 12, 2016.

"We've made similar observations before, but only in one place at a time - on the ground or in space," said David Sibeck, THEMIS project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who did not participate in the study. "When you have the measurements in both places, you can relate the two things together."

Understanding how and why auroras occur helps us learn more about the complex space environment around our planet. Radiation and energy in near-Earth space can have a variety of effects on our satellites - from disrupting their electronics to increasing frictional drag and interrupting communication or navigation signals. As our dependence on GPS grows and space exploration expands, accurate space weather forecasting becomes ever more important.

The space environment of our entire solar system, both near Earth and far beyond Pluto, is determined by the sun's activity, which cycles and fluctuates through time. The solar system is filled with solar wind, the constant flow of charged particles from the sun. Most of the solar wind is deflected from Earth by our planet's protective magnetosphere.

Comment: See also: Pulsating Auroras

Fireball 2

30 tonne meteorite discovered in Argentina

© Compacto Nea
Scientists have discovered a meteorite weighing over 30 tonnes in northern Argentina. The meteorite was found in the town of Gancedo, 1,085 km north of capital Buenos Aires, Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco, said on Monday.

"While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons," Vesconi said, adding that "the size and weight surprised us", Xinhua news agency reported.

"It was in Campo del Cielo, where a shower of metallic meteorites fell around 4,000 years ago," Vesconi added.

The meteorite will be weighed again to ensure an accurate measurement.

The largest meteorite ever found is called Hoba, weighing 66 tonnes in Namibia, Africa.


3D Map Of Ocean Floor Uncovers Strange Surprise

© Tchami/CreativeCommons
A recent report by Australian scientists revealed a huge reef made up of ancient calcified algae in the waters just beyond the Great Barrier Reef
In the summer of 2014, Mardi McNeil was an undergraduate student at the Queensland University of Technology. She was spending the summer helping a team of scientists with a big research project: mapping the ocean floor around the Great Barrier Reef.

McNeil's job was to map the extent and structure of bioherms, mounds of ancient calcified algae, scattered outside the Great Barrier Reef 60 to 100 feet below the surface. Scientists in the 80s had documented the bioherms using acoustic sound waves, but no one had re-visited them with modern technology. So McNeil used lidar data (a mapping technique that measures distance with lasers) collected by the Australian navy to create high-resolution 3D renderings of the ocean floor.

But as soon as she started looking through the images she made, McNeil knew she'd found something big.


Japanese researchers link earthquakes to moon phases

A study by Japanese researchers has linked the timing of large earthquakes with tidal stresses around the time of a new or full moon.
© 123rf
Research conducted by University of Tokyo academics and published in the journal Nature Geoscience examined the tidal activity prior to large earthquakes around the world during the last 20 years.

The study looked at earthquakes of magnitude 5.5 or higher, including the magnitude 9 earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011, triggering a devastating tsunami.

It said some of the biggest quakes occurred when tidal stresses were high, at spring tides, just after a new or full moon.

Victoria University geophysicist John Townend said the research did not mean people could predict when and where a big earthquake was likely to strike.


Unintended consequences: Modifying genetic code of organisms makes living cells more photo-toxic

© American Chemical Society
(Left) The different molecular structures of the two natural base pairs (black) and the artificial base pair (red and blue) cause the base pairs to absorb light at different wavelengths, as shown at right. The average solar spectrum reaching the Earth's surface is shown in orange, and the emission spectrum from standard fluorescent lighting is in yellow.
In 2014, the incorporation of two artificial letters of genetic code into the DNA of Escherichia coli gave the bacteria the distinction of becoming the world's first stable semisynthetic organism.

The modification was intended to illustrate the possibility of enabling organisms to incorporate and replicate an artificial base pair for the future biosynthesis of novel proteins. But now in a new study, scientists have discovered that the artificial base pair has an unintended consequence on living cells: phototoxicity. The new results show that the artificial base pair makes living cells more susceptible to damage from low doses of sunlight and standard fluorescent light bulbs, leading to a significant decrease in cell survival and growth.

The study, titled "Unintended Consequences of Expanding the Genetic Alphabet," is published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society by a team of researchers led by Carlos E. Crespo-Hernández from Case Western Reserve University, along with coauthors from Case Western and Columbia University.

"There is currently an ongoing quest to genetically modify living cells and organisms with different purposes," Crespo-Hernández told Phys.org. "Our work clearly cautions scientists that care must be exercised when efforts are made to expand the genetic alphabet, especially if the synthetic organisms may be exposed to light— a fact that has been hitherto overlooked."


Nanofish invention could allow for drug delivery to specific areas of the body

© Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters
A Sapphire Golden Arowana
Engineers in San Francisco have come up with an amazing invention: a fish 1/100 the size of a grain of sand that could carry drugs to specific areas of the body, be used for invasive surgeries, and even single cell manipulation.

The nanofish is made of gold and nickel parts linked by silver hinges. The "head" and "tail" are made of gold, while the"body" is made of nickel. Each segment is about 800 nanometers long (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter), The New Scientist media outlet reported.

How does it work?

An oscillating magnetic field is applied to make the nickel parts move from side to side, in turn swinging the head and tail and creating movement - essentially, swimming. The magnetic field can also be used to set a specific direction for the nanofish.