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Mon, 25 Jul 2016
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Rose

Plants communicate using an internet of fungus, "wood wide web"

Hidden beneath the surface and entangled in the roots of Earth's astonishing and diverse plant life, there exists a biological superhighway linking together the members of the plant kingdom in what researchers call the "wood wide web". This organic network operates much like our internet, allowing plants to communicate, bestow nutrition, or even harm one another.

The network is comprised of thin threads of fungus known as mycelium that grow outwards underground up to a few meters from its partnering plant, meaning that all of the plant life within a region is likely tapped into the network and connected to one another. The partnership of the roots of plants and the fungi is known as mycorrhiza and is beneficial for both parties involved; plants provide carbohydrates to the fungi and in exchange, the fungi aids in gathering water and providing nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to its partnering plant.

Comment: See also: The secret intelligence of plants
  • Sound garden: Can plants actually talk and hear?



Telescope

Astronomers have found water outside solar system on coldest brown dwarf known to science

The coldest brown dwarf known to science has also become the first place where researchers have found water beyond our solar system.

For the first time astronomers have discovered water outside of the solar system in the the coldest place in the galaxy - a brown dwarf planet known as WISE 0855 which has once again made the history books.

Discovered in 2014, WISE 0855 is neither a planet nor a star, but rather a dwarf that inhabits the fourth closest solar system only a mere 7.2 light years away. Scientists were examining WISE 0855 in hopes of better understanding Jupiter and other planets that similarly have cloudy atmospheres when they discovered the planet's clouds contained water.

"We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," said Andrew Skemer, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and the lead author of a paper detailing findings about the dwarf planet.

Water

Pack your water bottle: The water on Mars may not be drinkable

© University of Arizona
The lineae are clearly visible as dark streaks on the slope.
It was exciting news when scientists confirmed the presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars last year. Most of the focus of Mars water is on what it means for potential life. But another important reason to find liquid water on Mars is for human consumption. If drinkable liquid water is present on Mars, crewed missions may not have to carry as much water with them, which means much lower fuel costs and cheaper Mars trips.

Unfortunately, it looks like the water on Mars may not be very useful after all.

Scientists have previously identified liquid water on Mars in features known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), which are dark streaks that run down hillsides. RSL have been observed since 2010, and last year the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter determined that RSL contain very briny liquid water. However, scientists still aren't sure where the water is coming from. A few possibilities are that the water is coming from melting ice, condensation from the atmosphere, or underground aquifers. But it's difficult to tell which.

Comment:




Mars

Mysterious dark streaks on Mars support theory that it has significant amounts of near-surface water

© NASA / Reuters
NASA has examined thousands of "dark streaks" on Mars which might have formed due to liquid water, ice or vapor. The results of the study give "additional support for the notion that significant amounts of near-surface water can be found on Mars today."

The agency posted a series of photographs obtained from the Valles Marineris region near Mars' equator which depict numerous dark lines found around the planet's canyons.

According to the scientists, the mysterious streaks might be indications of the presence of either frozen or liquid water, or vapor.

Comment: Further reading:


Sherlock

U of Alaska Fairbanks: New investigation of 9/11's WTC7

© www.popularmechanics.com
WTC7, questions remain.


Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey, Chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' (UAF) Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, is conducting a study into the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on September 11, 2001.


Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey [...] and two PH.D. research assistants are partnering with the non-profit Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth for an engineering study known as "World Trade Center Building 7 Evaluation." The researchers are using finite element modeling to evaluate the possible causes of World Trade Center Building 7's collapse.

Although questions still remain about how the two planes that hit the Twin Towers could cause the total collapse of the high-rise buildings, many 9/11 researchers now focus on the mysterious collapse of building 7. A number of 9/11 family members point to the collapse of WTC7 as a possible crack in the official story that could spark a new national conversation on the events of that day.

WTC7 was not hit by a plane that day; however, it collapsed at 5:20 p.m. according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the official cause for the collapse was office fires. A growing number of family members, activists, architects and engineers question the official theory for collapse and are seeking a new investigation into WTC7. Dr. Hulsey and the WTC7 Evaluation project hope to answer some of the remaining questions. The project is a two-year study that is being crowd-funded through Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

Dr. Hulsey has invited professionals from the fields of structural engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, building design and construction, physics, math, and science, as well as everyday citizens, to get involved. "Over the next year, with a team of PhD students, I will be rebuilding World Trade Center building 7, using the same drawings that were used to build it originally we will reconstruct it digitally," said Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey. "NIST says the building fell down due to office fires. Our investigation will evaluate the probability that this was the cause of the collapse."


Comment: The questions regarding 9/11, including WTC7, have never abated and rightfully so. The official narrative has never been fully accepted nor the results been put to rest. Bravo to Dr. Hulsey and his team for taking on this important investigation. Transparent and definitive findings would truly be a refreshing change for the USA.

Recommended reading: 9/11: The Ultimate Truth, by Laura Knight-Jadczyk, Joe Quinn


Blackbox

A fifth force: Fact or fiction?

© Jurik Peter / Shutterstock.com
Has a Hungarian lab really found evidence of a fifth force of nature?
Science and the internet have an uneasy relationship: Science tends to move forward through a careful and tedious evaluation of data and theory, and the process can take years to complete. In contrast, the internet community generally has the attention span of Dory, the absent-minded fish of "Finding Nemo"(and now "Finding Dory") — a meme here, a celebrity picture there — oh, look ... a funny cat video.

Thus people who are interested in serious science should be extremely cautious when they read an online story that purports to be a paradigm-shifting scientific discovery. A recent example is one suggesting that a new force of nature might have been discovered. If true, that would mean that we have to rewrite the textbooks.

As a physicist, I'd like to shed a disciplined scientific light on the claim.

A fifth force

So what has been claimed?

Comment: Further reading:


Cut

Scientists using a new gene-editing technique have removed HIV from human immune cells


They've managed to shut down HIV replication permanently.


Using the much-touted CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method, scientists have demonstrated how they can edit HIV out of human immune cell DNA, and in doing so, can prevent the reinfection of unedited cells too.

If you haven't heard of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique before, get ready to hear a whole lot more about it in 2016, because it's set to revolutionize how we investigate and treat the root causes of genetic disease.

It allows scientists to narrow in on a specific gene, and cut-and-paste parts of the DNA to change its function.

Comment: While gene editing is 'set to revolutionize how we investigate and treat the root causes of genetic disease' there are concerns about the 'other applications' of this type of technology: The overlooked threats of gene editing
Perhaps no technology yet has been poised to change the world so profoundly. All life on Earth, every living organism, now stands the possibility of potentially being "edited" on the most basic genetic level, enhancing or degrading it, but forever changing it.

Gene editing or "gene therapy" performed on children or adults changes the genetic makeup of targeted cells after which and upon dividing, impart this new genetic material on each subsequent new cell. This is why treatments for diseases using gene therapy often are successful with only a single shot. The "treatment" self-replicates perpetually within the patient's body. Everything from leukemia to congenial genetic defects have been overcome in clinical trials using this method.

The Biggest Threats: The Jab and Slow Kill

Talk of gene editing usually revolves around its use to treat diseases and produce super-crops and livestock to "save the world." But as history has shown us, any technology is but a double-edged sword. Whatever good it is capable of, it is proportionally capable of just as much bad.

The first and foremost danger of human gene editing in particular is its use in weaponized vaccines. Such fears are founded upon what was revealed by the United Nations during the apartheid government in South Africa where a government program named "Project Coast" actually endeavored to produce vaccines that were race-specific in hopes of sterilizing or killing off its black population...

Another danger is "slow kill." This would be the process of using gene editing to affect individuals directly or through a genetically modified food supply subtly, infecting or killing off targeted demographic groups over a longer period of time. The advantage of this method would be the ambiguity surrounding what was causing upticks in "cancer" and other maladies brought on by degraded immune systems and overall health.



Beaker

Greenland glacier hides primeval river system

© Cooper et al, 2016
A secret network of rivers was recently discovered beneath the Jakobsvahn Isbrae glacier in Greenland. The primeval river network is mostly dry, but water may still flow through the riverbeds along the margins of the ice, researchers believe.
A network of ancient rivers lies frozen in time beneath one of Greenland's largest glaciers, new research reveals.

The subglacial river network, which threads through much of Greenland's landmass and looks, from above, like the tiny nerve fibers radiating from a brain cell, may have influenced the fast-moving Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier over the past few million years.

"The channels seem to be instrumental in controlling the location and form of the Jakobshavn ice stream — and seem to show a clear influence on the onset of fast flow in this region," study co-author Michael Cooper, a doctoral candidate in geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. "Without the channels present underneath, the glacier may not exist in its current location or orientation."

Comment: "Climate change" is not a satisfying answer to the rate at which this glacier is melting. Why isn't there more talk about the volcanic system in the Greenland area?


Roses

Plants can sense electric fields! And here's how

© Graphic: Dirk Becker
The functional potassium channel TPC1 consists of two identical subunits (left in the picture). Potassium ions (blue spheres) are guided through the canal pore when calcium ions that bind to the channel protein (green spheres) and changes in the electric field (flashes) actuate the voltage sensors (red cylinders). When the channel opens, an electrical signal (red current trace) is triggered and cells of the sample plant Arabidopsis thaliana depicted here exchange information.

An international group of researchers has pinpointed the sensor plants use to sense electric fields. A beneficial side effect: Their work could contribute to the understanding of how the Ebola virus enters human cells.


The cells of plants, animals and humans all use electrical signals to communicate with each other. Nerve cells use them to activated muscles. But leaves, too, send electrical signals to other parts of the plant, for example, when they were injured and are threatened by hungry insects.

"We have been asking ourselves for many years what molecular components plants use to exchange information among each other and how they sense the changes in electric voltage," says Professor Rainer Hedrich, Head of the Chair for Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Würzburg.

Compass

Scientists discover that humans have a "magnetic 6th sense" to detect something we can't see

It's called magnetoreception, and it refers to the ability to perceive magnetic fields. Several animals use it to find their way over long distances by aligning themselves with the Earth's magnetic field. Sea turtles. honeybees, spiny lobsters, dolphins, migratory birds, and more all have a magnetic compass which allows them to use the information that's coded into magnetic fields. We know little beyond that, however. How they use them, how they sense them, and what information they are getting from them remains up for speculation. For all we know, these magnetic fields could be used for much more than navigation for certain species.

According to Joe Kirschvink, the geophysicist at the California Institute of Technology who is currently testing humans for a magnetic sense, "it's part of our evolutionary history. Magnetoreception may be the primal sense."