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Fri, 20 Apr 2018
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Tomb of legendary general Cao Cao unearthed in central China

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© China Daily
Xinhua -- The tomb of Cao Cao, a renowned warlord and politician in the third century, was unearthed in Anyang City of central China's Henan Province, archaeologists said Sunday.

Cao Cao (155-220 A.D.), who built the strongest and most prosperous state during the Three Kingdom period (208-280 A.D.), is remembered for his outstanding military and political talents.

Cao Cao is also known for his poems that reflected his strong character. Some of the poems are included in China's middle school textbooks.

Saturn

9 Astronomy Milestones in 2009

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© David A. Aguilar, CfA
This artist's conception shows the newly discovered super-Earth GJ 1214b, which orbits a red dwarf star 40 light-years from our Earth. The planet is thought to be rocky and covered in water.
This year provided plenty of cosmic eye-openers for astronomers and casual stargazers alike. Neighborhood planets such as Mercury and Jupiter received makeovers in both a scientific and literal sense. The discovery of water on the moon and Mars provided clues to the past, not to mention hints for the future of space exploration. And a class of newly-detected "Super-Earth" planets around alien stars may ultimately prove more habitable than Earth. Here are the stories that stood out:

Book

Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops

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For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields.

That promise has proven to be empty, according to Failure to Yield, a report by UCS expert Doug Gurian-Sherman released in March 2009. Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.

Powertool

Underused Drilling Practices Could Reduce Pollution, But Energy Companies Shy Away From Using Them

Versions of this story were published in the Albany Times Union and the Times Herald-Record.

As environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation's reserves without polluting air and drinking water.

Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can't contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money -- $10,000 per well in some cases.

Yet these environmental safeguards are used only intermittently in the 32 states where natural gas is drilled. The energy industry is exempted from many federal environmental laws, so regulation of this growing industry is left almost entirely to the states, which often recommend, but seldom mandate the use of these techniques. In one Wyoming gas field, for instance, drillers have taken steps to curb emissions, while 100 miles away in the same state, they have not.

Sherlock

Australian Astronomer Uses Ancient Culture, Google Maps to Identify Crater

An Australian astronomer has used ancient culture and modern technology to identify a meteorite crater in central Australia.

Macquarie University PHD candidate Duane Hamacher said on Monday he had spent the past 18 months researching how Aboriginal people have incorporated the night sky into their culture.

He used an Arrernte dreaming story and Google maps to find a crater at Palm Valley, west of Alice Springs, which had been unknown to geologists.

"The particular Western Arrernte story talked about a star that fell from the sky, making a noise like thunder and crashed into a waterhole in Palm Valley," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Magnify

Neuroscientists Store Information in Isolated Brain Tissue; Possible Basis of Short-Term Memory

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© Wikipedia
Location of the hippocampus in the human brain. Modified from a scan of a plate of "Posterior and inferior cornua of left lateral ventricle exposed from the side" in Gray's Anatomy.
Ben W. Strowbridge, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience and physiology/biophysics, and Phillip Larimer, PhD, a MD/PhD student in the neurosciences graduate program at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, are the first to create stimulus-specific sustained activity patterns in brain circuits maintained in vitro.

Their study will be published in the February 2010 issue of Nature Neuroscience and is currently available online.

Neuroscientists often classify human memory into three types: declarative memory, such as storing facts or remembering specific events; procedural memory, such as learning how to play the piano or shoot basketballs; and working memory, a type of short-term storage like remembering a phone number. With this particular study, Strowbridge and Larimer, were interested in identifying the specific circuits that could be responsible for working memory.

Magnify

Protein That Keeps Stem Cells Poised for Action Identified

Like a child awaiting the arrival of Christmas, embryonic stem cells exist in a state of permanent anticipation. They must balance the ability to quickly become more specialized cell types with the cellular chaos that could occur should they act too early (stop shaking those presents, kids!). Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have now identified a critical component, called Jarid2, of this delicate balancing act -- one that both recruits other regulatory proteins to genes important in differentiation and also modulates their activity to keep them in a state of ongoing readiness.

"Understanding how only the relevant genes are targeted and remain poised for action is a hot topic in embryonic stem cell research," said Joanna Wysocka, PhD, assistant professor of developmental biology and of chemical and systems biology. "Our results shed light on both these questions." Wysocka is the lead author of the research, which will be published in the Dec. 24 issue of Cell.

Jarid2 works through a protein complex called PRC2, for Polycomb Repressive Complex 2. PRCs keep genes quiet by modifying DNA packaging proteins called histones. It's not quite tying a string around a brown paper package, but the concept is similar: Wrapping DNA up neatly around the histones helps it all fit in the tiny space and keeps it out of commission until the appropriate time. That's because, when wrapped, genes can't be converted into proteins to do the work of the cell. PRC2 adds a molecular "Do not open until Christmas" tag to ensure the DNA stays wrapped until it's needed.

Satellite

Voyager Makes an Interstellar Discovery

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© The American Museum of Natural History
Voyager flies through the outer bounds of the heliosphere en route to interstellar space. A strong magnetic field reported by Opher et al in the Dec. 24, 2009, issue of Nature is delineated in yellow.
The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist. In the Dec. 24th issue of Nature, a team of scientists reveal how NASA's Voyager spacecraft have solved the mystery.

"Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system," explains lead author Merav Opher, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University. "This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all."

The discovery has implications for the future when the solar system will eventually bump into other, similar clouds in our arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

Info

Acacia plant controls ants with chemical

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Plants have systems for keeping their six-legged inhabitants in check
In Africa and in the tropics, armies of tiny creatures make the twisting stems of acacia plants their homes.

Aggressive, stinging ants feed on the sugary nectar the plant provides and live in nests protected by its thick bark.

This is the world of "ant guards".

The acacias might appear overrun by them, but the plants have the ants wrapped around their little stems.

These same plants that provide shelter and produce nourishing nectar to feed the insects also make chemicals that send them into a defensive frenzy, forcing them into retreat.

Nigel Raine, a scientist working at Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK has studied this plant-ant relationship.

Evil Rays

Yellowstone "supervolcano" soon to be among the best monitored hot spots in the world

The Yellowstone "supervolcano" will soon be among the best monitored hot spots in the world with the installation of new earthquake monitoring equipment.

The park is getting 10 new seismic monitoring stations over the next two years, which will be used jointly at the observatory by the U.S. Geological Survey, Yellowstone National Park and the University of Utah.

Funding for the project will come from a portion of $950,000 in Recovery Act money given to the observatory.