Science & Technology
Inside Science News Service
Fri, 06 Nov 2009 23:50 UTC
The research was discussed at a session at a recent gathering of acoustics experts in Austin, Texas.
Laurel Trainor, director of the Institute for Music and the Mind at McMaster University in West Hamilton, Ontario, and colleagues compared preschool children who had taken music lessons with those who did not. Those with some training showed larger brain responses on a number of sound recognition tests given to the children. Her research indicated that musical training appears to modify the brain's auditory cortex.
Can larger claims be made for the influence on the brain of musical training? Does training change thinking or cognition in general?
Trainor again says yes. Even a year or two of music training leads to enhanced levels of memory and attention when measured by the same type of tests that monitor electrical and magnetic impulses in the brai
At first glance, Antarctica's freshwater lakes don't seem very hospitable to life. They remain frozen for a good nine months out of the year, and they contain very few nutrients. Some of these lakes have little animal life and are dominated by microorganisms, including algae, bacteria, protozoans and viruses.
With few animal and microbial predators around, viruses likely play an important role in controlling the abundance of other microorganisms, the researcher say. However, these viruses have been historically hard to study since many cannot be grown in a laboratory. But thanks to new genome sequencing technology, scientists can identify viruses without needing to grow them.
"We are just starting to uncover the world of viruses, and this is changing the way we think about viruses and the role they play in microbial ecosystems," said Antonio Alcami, a researcher from the Spanish Research Council.
Scientists have developed a new method that allows robots to remember relevant pieces of information from the sea of data they collect from the environment, by emulating the way human memory works. Each individual is able to recall the most important things about a certain period or event, but all the useless details are processed subconsciously, and then discarded. Roboticians and computer experts want to be able to replicate the exact same mechanism in the machines, which could thus become more able to answer various situations and challenges that they may face, Technology Review reports.
A team of experts from the Vanderbilt University was behind the new "forgetfulness" algorithm, which replicates humans' ability of weeding out irrelevant pieces of information about the past. "Forgetting is a critical capability when operating in dynamic environments," VU PhD student Sanford Freedman said. He presented the new software this week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the IASTED Robotics and Applications conference. A paper detailing how the algorithm, called ActSimple, works was also published at the meeting.
Sun, 08 Nov 2009 10:00 UTC
An international collaboration co-led by scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City examined patterns of connectivity to show that the precuneus, long thought to be a single structure, is actually divided into four distinct functional regions. These areas were identified using "resting state" functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) -- a recently emerging approach that allows scientist to map a multitude of brain networks using only 6 minutes of data acquired while an individual lies in the scanner at rest. The results of these brief imaging sessions were comparable to definitive findings in monkeys examined microscopically.
Located in the posterior portion of the brain's medial wall, the precuneus has traditionally received little attention in the neuroimaging and neuropsychological literatures. However, recent functional neuroimaging studies have started to implicate the precuneus in a variety of high level cognitive functions, including episodic memory, self-related processing, and aspects of consciousness.
The London News
Sat, 07 Nov 2009 10:00 UTC
According to a report in The Independent, the professor in question is Dr Peter Sharrock, a senior teaching fellow in the art and archaeology of Southeast Asia at London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
Sharrock was at a conference in Cambodia in July when he decided to spend a day searching the forest around the ruins of Angkor.
His aim was to locate the missing giant legs of an eight-headed, three-metre high sandstone statue of Hevajra, the war-like, tantric Buddhist deity.
The statue's intricately carved bust was excavated and salvaged in 1925 by French archaeologists, who sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it has been on display ever since.
Sat, 07 Nov 2009 10:00 UTC
They are the first dinosaur footprints found in the country although bones, mostly vertebrae, have been discovered in two North Island locations.
The footprints were found by scientist Greg Browne in the remote Whanganui Inlet in the northwest of Nelson at the top of the South Island.
They are spread over 10 kilometres and in one area there are up to 20 footprints, Browne said.
Browne, a sedimentologist, believes the footprints belonged to sauropods -- plant-eating dinosaurs which were among the largest animals to have lived, growing up to six metres (yards) in length and weighing several tonnes.
American Museum of Natural History
Sat, 07 Nov 2009 07:19 UTC
The network of cameras is in the Nullabor Desert in Western Australia. It allows scientists to track a fireball path, formed by a meteorite as it travels through Earth's atmosphere, and then work out where the meteorite comes to rest.
The fireball camera network project was set up by Dr Phil Bland from Imperial College London and scientific associate of the Natural History Museum, along with colleagues from Ondrejov Observatory in the Czech Republic, and the Western Australia Museum, in 2006. This is the first meteorite recovered using the network.
The cameras recorded the fireball that ultimately produced the meteorite in 2007, and the fragments that fell to Earth were named Bunburra Rockhole after a local landscape feature near to where they landed.
Earth was probably not born with much in the way of organic material - the complex molecules containing carbon that life requires. It formed too close to the sun for such compounds to condense from the swirling primordial disc of gas and dust.
One possibility is that organic matter formed on Earth after the planet coalesced, for example in chemical reactions induced by lightning arcing through the atmosphere, as experiments by Stanley Miller at the University of Chicago in the 1950s suggested. But the chemical reactions in this process could happen only in an early atmosphere full of methane and hydrogen, and later studies of the ancient geological record have suggested that was unlikely.
Others have suggested the building blocks came from comets and asteroids that struck Earth, because these objects are known to contain high concentrations of organic material. But the tremendous heat of impact would have burned up much of that material, converting it into simpler molecules like carbon dioxide.
Sat, 07 Nov 2009 00:00 UTC
Around 250 million years ago, the so-called "Great Dying" saw 70 per cent of species wiped out on land and 95 per cent in the oceans. A clue to what may have triggered this disaster lies in solidified magma from this time, which is widespread in an area of Siberia where coal is also abundant.
One suggestion is that the heat of the magma could have baked many billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the coal over a geologically brief period of a few thousand years (New Scientist, 8 December 2007, p 42). The ensuing climate change and ocean acidification would account for the extinctions. Now Norman Sleep and Darcy Ogden, both of Stanford University in California, think the trigger for the Great Dying may have been even swifter and more terrifying.
"The compact star at the center of this famous supernova remnant has been an enigma since its discovery," said Wynn Ho of the University of Southampton and lead author of a paper that appears in the November 5 issue of Nature. "Now we finally understand that it can be produced by a hot neutron star with a carbon atmosphere."
By analyzing Chandra's X-ray spectrum -- akin to a fingerprint of energy -- and applying it to theoretical models, Ho and his colleague Craig Heinke, from the University of Alberta, determined that the neutron star in Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, has an ultra-thin coating of carbon. This is the first time the composition of an atmosphere of an isolated neutron star has been confirmed.