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Fri, 09 Dec 2016
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Science & Technology


Approaching Sunspot

NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft stationed over the sun's eastern limb is monitoring an active region not yet visible from Earth. STEREO's extreme ultraviolet telescope captured this image on Sept. 19th.

The tangle of hot, magnetized plasma circled above almost certainly overlies a large new-cycle sunspot. We'll soon find out. The sun's rotation is turning the active region toward Earth and it could pop over the sun's eastern limb as early as Sept. 21st. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.


Protein Helps Distinguish Chromosome Ends from DNA Breaks

The Stowers Institute's Baumann Lab has demonstrated how human cells protect chromosome ends from misguided repairs that can lead to cancer. The work, published in The EMBO Journal, a publication of the European Molecular Biology Organization, follows the team's 2007 in vitro demonstration of the role of the hRAP1 protein in preventing chromosome ends from being fused to new DNA breaks.

Chromosomes are linear. Their ends (called telomeres) should look like DNA breaks to the proteins that repair them. But somehow, cells are able to distinguish chromosome ends from DNA breaks. In this work, the team demonstrated that the human RAP1 protein plays a key role in preventing chromosome ends from being fused to new DNA breaks. Chromosome end fusions result in genomic instability, which can cause cancer. These findings suggest that RAP1 plays a critical role in cancer prevention in humans.

"Protecting naturally occurring chromosome ends from erosion and fusions may increase longevity and reduce cancer risk," said Jay Sarthy, formerly a graduate student in the Baumann Lab and lead author on the paper. "A protein that protects chromosome ends may provide an attractive target for drugs that can help to stave off aging and cancer."


Wind, not water, may explain Red Planet's hue

© NASA/ESA/Hubble Team
Mars is red now (left), but it may have looked charcoal (right) in the past
Mars's distinctive red hue may be the result of thousands of years of wind-borne sand particles colliding with one another - and not rust, a new study argues.

Scientists generally agree that Mars's red colour is caused when a dark form of iron called magnetite oxidises into a reddish-orange form called haematite.

Just how the transformation came about is a matter of debate. Many researchers say water caused the oxidation. But some argue that hydrogen peroxide and ozone, which might be created when ultraviolet light breaks down carbon dioxide and oxygen in the Martian atmosphere, could be to blame.

Now, planetary scientist Jonathan Merrison of Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues say the trigger may be wind.


Probe gets clearest glimpse yet of cosmic dawn

The Planck spacecraft has obtained its first peek at the afterglow of the big bang, revealing it in unprecedented detail. Its first map of the entire sky is set to be complete in about six months.

The European Space Agency spacecraft was launched into space on 14 May. It is observing the glow of hot gas from just 380,000 years after the big bang - about 13.73 billion years ago - called the cosmic microwave background.


Evidence Points to Conscious 'Metacognition' in Some Nonhuman Animals

Some animals may be able to reflect upon their states of mind

© Unknown
Dolphins like Natua, pictured here, may share with humans the ability reflect upon their states of mind, says UB researcher David Smith.
Buffalo, New York -- J. David Smith, Ph.D., a comparative psychologist at the University at Buffalo who has conducted extensive studies in animal cognition, says there is growing evidence that animals share functional parallels with human conscious metacognition -- that is, they may share humans' ability to reflect upon, monitor or regulate their states of mind.

Smith makes this conclusion in an article published the September issue of the journal Trends in Cognitive Science (Volume 13, Issue 9). He reviews this new and rapidly developing area of comparative inquiry, describing its milestones and its prospects for continued progress.


For Wings, Nature Loves a Twist

© Science/AAAS
A computer simulation alongside high definition digital photography of locust wings in flight.
While most airplanes have relatively flat wings, nature seems to prefer a twist.

New studies find that insects' wings often deform during flight, and that the twisting, curving motion of their wings plays an important role in their flying process.

A team led by John Young of the University of New South Wales in Australia recently studied locusts to make one of the most accurate models yet of insect flight. They used high-speed digital cameras to photograph the wing motion of the bugs, and found that locust wings curve strongly during flight.

The researchers input their measurements into a three-dimensional computer simulation - the first to include wings' complex curves. Within the model, the researchers tested different scenarios and removed certain wing features to explore the aerodynamic effects.


Indus Valley Civilisation: Who were they?

© Flickr photo
Marshall could never forcefully claim the Dravidian affiliation of the Indus Valley civilisation. For Wheeler, 37 skeletons vindicated his mentor. ‘It may be no conjecture... Aryans slaughtered aborigine men, women and children,’ he said in a 1947 article in the Bulletin of Archaeological Survey. But Hindu nationalists were not at ease with the Aryan Invasion theory.
Karachi: The undeciphered script of the Indus Valley civilisation holds the key to a question with sharp political overtones: were the people of the subcontinent's earliest recorded civilisation Aryans or Dravidians? Or neither?

In 1946, an India's archaeological survey team was at one of its favourite digs when it stumbled upon 37 skeletons. Two lay on the steps of a well with visible marks of head injury. Five were on the steps of another well room. A few others were hastily buried as if times were so bad that the dead could not be taken to the cemetery.


Ancient objects found on remote Mokumanamana 'an archaeological mystery'

© Kekuewa Kikiloi
For size comparison, a trowel was placed alongside a stone tool found among what may have been a craftman's workshop.
Researchers on a rare expedition to a now uninhabited rocky outpost north of the main Hawaiian islands found a partially finished human stone carving and the remnants of what may be a craftsman's workshop.

The findings at the remote Mokumanamana island, about 460 miles northwest of Honolulu, were part of the most extensive archaeological survey of the tiny outcrop in 85 years.


China: Fossils Show Path of the Dinosaurs in Shaanxi

More than 100 dinosaur footprints at least 150 million years old have been found within a 40-square-meter field in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Experts from the Provincial Cultural Heritage authority confirmed yesterday that the footprints found in Shenmu County belong to two or three different species, according to Sanqing Daily.

Some of the footprints measure 41cm while others are smaller and three-toed, indicating that they came from predators and vegetarians, archeologist Hu Songmei told today's China Business View.

The new tracks add to the fossil evidence of the climate in ancient northwestern China and the evolution of dinosaurs. Hu said such concentrated dinosaur footprints were extremely rare and will help scientists discover critical details about the creatures.


New Genetic Research Indicates Jewish Priesthood has Multiple Lineages

© UA
Michael F. Hammer
UA geneticist Michael Hammer and his colleages used a larger number of DNA markers to trace the ancient bloodline to more than one source.

Recent research on the Cohen Y chromosome indicates the Jewish priesthood, the Cohanim, was established by several unrelated male lines rather than a single male lineage dating to ancient Hebrew times.

The new research builds on a decade-old study of the Jewish priesthood that traced its patrilineal dynasty and seemed to substantiate the biblical story that Aaron, the first high priest (and brother of Moses), was one of a number of common male ancestors in the Cohanim lineage who lived some 3,200 years ago in the Near East.

The current study was conducted by Michael F. Hammer, a population geneticist in the Arizona Research Laboratory's Division of Biotechnology at the University of Arizona. Hammer's collaborators in the study include Karl Skorecki of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambum Medical Center in Haifa and colleagues and collaborating scientists from Tel Aviv University and the Russian Academy of Sciences.