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Maternal language influences the tone of babies' cries

© Kenishirotie / Fotolia
The crying of neonates exhibits characteristic melodic patterns influenced typically by their mothers' language.
The very first cry of neonates is marked by their maternal language. This seems to be especially apparent in tonal languages, where pitch and pitch fluctuation determine the meaning of words. Chinese and German scientists under leadership of the University of Würzburg have demonstrated this phenomenon for the first time by with newborn babies from China and Cameroon.

Tonal languages sound rather strange to European ears: in contrast to German, French or English, their meaning is also determined by the pitch at which syllables or words are pronounced. A seemingly identical sound can mean completely different things -- depending on whether it is pronounced with high pitch, low pitch or a specific pitch fluctuation.

Hearts

Researchers find identical twins, especially males, live longer

© tverdohlib / Fotolia
Twins live longer than singletons. The results suggest a significant health benefit for close social connections.
Twins not only have a bestie from birth -- they also live longer than singletons. And those two factors may be related, according to new University of Washington research.

While twins have been subjects in countless studies that try to separate the effects of nature from nurture, a recent study in PLOS ONE is the first to actually look at what being a twin means for life expectancy. Analysis shows that twins have lower mortality rates for both sexes throughout their lifetimes.

"We find that at nearly every age, identical twins survive at higher proportions than fraternal twins, and fraternal twins are a little higher than the general population," said lead author David Sharrow, a UW postdoctoral researcher in aquatic and fishery sciences.

The results suggest a significant health benefit for close social connections.

Info

China opens world's highest and longest glass bridge

© FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
The world's highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge is seen above a valley in Zhangjiajie in China's Hunan Province

The 430 metre long, six metre wide structure cost 22.5m yuan to build


The world's "highest and longest" glass bottomed bridge has opened to the public in central China.

The 430 metre long, six metre wide structure connects two mountains in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province.

It cost 22.5 million yuan (£2.5million) to build, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Designed by Israeli architect Haim Dotan, visitors are able to peer down 300 metres to the ground through the transparent floor. Ninety nine panes make up the three layers of glass, which were smashed by men with sledgehammers in a publicity stunt to demonstrate their strength prior to the opening.


Microscope 2

Mother Nature's bio-superlens: Scientists achieve world first by using spider silk to view previously 'invisible' structures

© Bangor University/ University of Oxford
(a) Nephila edulis spider in its web. (b) Schematic drawing of reflection mode silk biosuperlens imaging. The spider silk was placed directly on top of the sample surface by using a soft tape, which magnify underlying nano objects 2-3 times (c) SEM image of Blu-ray disk with 200/100 nm groove and lines (d) Clear magnified image (2.1x) of Blu-ray disk under spider silk superlens.
Scientists at the UK's Bangor and Oxford universities have achieved a world first: using spider-silk as a superlens to increase the microscope's potential.

Extending the limit of classical microscope's resolution has been the 'El Dorado' or 'Holy Grail' of microscopy for over a century. Physical laws of light make it impossible to view objects smaller than 200 nm - the smallest size of bacteria, using a normal microscope alone. However, superlenses which enable us to see beyond the current magnification have been the goal since the turn of the millennium.

Hot on the heels of a paper (Sci. Adv. 2 e1600901,2016) revealing that a team at Bangor University's School of Electronic Engineering has used a nanobead-derived superlens to break the perceived resolution barrier, the same team has achieved another world first.

Now the team, led by Dr Zengbo Wang and in colloboration with Prof. Fritz Vollrath's silk group at Oxford University's Department of Zoology, has used a naturally occurring material - dragline silk of the golden web spider, as an additional superlens, applied to the surface of the material to be viewed, to provide an additional 2-3 times magnification.

This is the first time that a naturally occurring biological material has been used as a superlens.

Satellite

China receives first data batch from unique 'hack-proof' quantum satellite

© Stringer / AFP
Chinese scientists have announced that they have received the first batch of data from the recently-launched Micius satellite, which is designed for quantum physics research with the aim of potentially establishing "hack-proof" communication links.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that the Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station (RSGS) in Miyun, on the outskirts of Beijing, has established a link with the newly-launched satellite, Xinhua reported.

The first batch which was transmitted on Wednesday included 202 megabytes of data and was received in "good quality," according to the publication. The data was transferred to China's National Space Science Center for further analysis.

No Entry

First long-term study confirms that neonic-treated crops are responsible for mass honeybee deaths

© Dr Bill Hughes
The rise of industrial agriculture — led by companies such as Monsanto that push monoculture, chemical-based farming and patented life forms — has brought a flood of pesticides that wreak havoc on natural ecosystems.

Insects and animals that eat insects fall victim to the millions of gallons of pesticides dumped on cropland, which run off into waterways, drift to nearby habitats and are picked up as residue by visiting pollinators.

In the 1980s, Bayer developed a potent new class of pesticide called neonicotinoids (neonics), which rapidly came to dominate industrial agriculture. In 2008, they represented 24 percent of the global market for insecticides, with Imidacloprid becoming the most widely used insecticide in the world.

Comment: More on Colony Collapse Disorder:


Bizarro Earth

Australia's east coast once lined by super-volcanoes more powerful than any documented in human history

© Milo Barham, University of Western Australia
Well travelled: these zircon crystals took a 2300-kilometre trip
A blast from the past? The east coast of Australia was once lined by volcanoes that were so explosive they could shoot sand-sized particles 2300 kilometres - ­­all the way across to the west coast.

The volcanic activity occurred 100 million years ago, at a time when New Zealand began tearing away from Australia's eastern edge.

Until recently, the only evidence of the scale of these eruptions were the 20-kilometre-wide dormant craters and the solidified lava flows left behind.

But now, Milo Barham at Curtin University in Western Australia and his colleagues have found that these eastern Australian volcanoes flung material to the other side of the country.

Fish

Greenland shark may live more than 400 years, smashing longevity record

© WaterFrame/Alamy Stock
Greenland sharks grow a centimeter a year but live for centuries.
Imagine having to wait a century to have sex. Such is the life of the Greenland shark—a 5-meter-long predator that may live more than 400 years, according to a new study, making it the longest lived vertebrate by at least a century. So it should come as no surprise that the females are not ready to reproduce until after they hit their 156th birthday.

The longevity of these sharks is "astonishing," says Michael Oellermann, a cold-water physiologist at Loligo Systems in Viborg, Denmark, who was not involved with the work. That's particularly true because oceans are quite dangerous places, he notes, where predators, food scarcity, and disease can strike at any time.

Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) had been rumored to be long-lived. In the 1930s, a fisheries biologist in Greenland tagged more than 400, only to discover that the sharks grow only about 1 centimeter a year—a sure sign that they're in it for the long haul given how large they get. Yet scientists had been unable to figure out just how many years the sharks last.

Calendar

Tree-rings could reset key dates across the ancient world

© Wikimedia Commons
Trees which grew during intense radiation bursts in the past have 'time-markers' in their tree-rings that could help archaeologists date events from thousands of years ago

Oxford University researchers say that trees which grew during intense radiation bursts in the past have 'time-markers' in their tree-rings that could help archaeologists date events from thousands of years ago. In a new paper, the authors explain how harvesting such data could revolutionise the study of ancient civilisations such as the Egyptian and Mayan worlds.

Until now scholars have had only vague evidence for dating when events happened during the earliest periods of civilisation, with estimates being within hundreds of years.

However, the unusually high levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 found in tree-rings laid down during the radiation bursts could help reliably pinpoint dates.

The distinct spikes act as time-markers like secret clocks contained in timber, papyri, baskets made from living plants or other organic materials, says the paper published in the Royal Society Journal Proceedings A.

Scholars believe that intense solar storms caused major bursts of radiation to strike the Earth in 775 and 994AD, which resulted in distinct spikes in the concentration of radiocarbon in trees growing at that time. The events are precisely datable because the tree-rings belong to archives in which the growth year of each tree-ring is exactly known. In the new research, the authors outline how they could detect similar spikes elsewhere within the thousands of years of available tree-ring material from across the world. They say even a handful of these time-markers could allow them to piece together a reliable dating framework for important civilisations.

Info

Microsoft joins forces with Israel so Army can use HoloLens on the virtual battlefield

© AFP 2016/ Freek van den Bergh
The Israeli Army has bought two HoloLens virtual reality headsets from Microsoft for the use of battlefield commanders, to help give them the edge against the enemy.

Major Rotem Bashi, the Israeli Army's commander of programming at its C2 Systems Department, said there are numerous practical applications for so-called augmented reality during war.

The technology has been thrust into the spotlight this summer, with the advent of the viral hit sensation Pokemon Go, which layers virtual Pokemon characters on top of real environments seen through the player's phone camera.