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Fri, 17 Nov 2017
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Of sharks, bees and humans: Hunting patterns similar among species

© Brian Wood/Yale University
One of the last hunter-gatherer tribes on Earth, the Hadza people of Tanzania still hunt on foot with traditional foraging methods. “If you want to understand human hunter-gatherer movement, you have to work with a group like the Hadza,” said UA anthropologist David Raichlen, who led the study.
A team of international researchers has found that a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania uses the same search pattern to hunt for food as many other animal species, according to a report published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The search pattern, also known as the Levy walk, involves a sequence of short travels in one area and then a longer hike to another area. Not just used to find food, the Levy walk can also be seen in the activities of sharks and honeybees.

"This movement pattern seems to occur across species and across environments in humans, from East Africa to urban areas," said study author Adam Gordon, a physical anthropologist at the University at Albany, State University of New York. "It shows up all across the world in different species and links the way that we move around in the natural world. This suggests that it's a fundamental pattern likely present in our evolutionary history."

"Think about your life," said David Raichlen, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona. "What do you do on a normal day? Go to work and come back, walk short distances around your house? Then every once in a while you take these long steps, on foot, bike, in a car or on a plane. We tend to take short steps in one area and then take longer strides to get to another area."


Earth's orbit reshapes sea floor

© John Crowley from GMRT Synthesis data
San Francisco, California - Talk about a long-distance connection. Earth's orbital variations - the wobbling and nodding of the planet on its rotational axis and the rhythmic elongation of the shape of its orbit - can affect the shape of the sea floor, according to a talk presented here earlier this month at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Scientists already knew that orbital variations, which are driven by gravitational interactions among solar system bodies, pace the comings and goings of the ice ages by shifting where sunlight falls on Earth. During ice age cycles, much water moves back and forth between the ocean and ice piled on land as ice sheets, lowering and raising sea level by upward of 200 meters.

That cycles ocean water's pressure on ocean crust up and down. Now, researchers led by Harvard University geophysicist John Crowley have shown in a computer model that those pressure variations should vary the amount of mantle rock that melts kilometers beneath midocean ridges. That, in turn, would vary the amount of ocean crust that solidifies from the melted rock, changing the thickness of new crust by as much as a kilometer as it slides down either side of a midocean ridge. And the group found that indeed, on the Juan de Fuca Ridge (gray) offshore of the Pacific Northwest, the ocean floor is grooved like a vinyl LP record in time with Earth's orbital variations of the past million years.


New aging factor discovered: unsupressed parasitic DNA

© Christoph Bock
The genomes of organisms from humans to corn are replete with "parasitic" strands of DNA that, when not suppressed, copy themselves and spread throughout the genome, potentially affecting health.

Earlier this year Brown University researchers found that these "retrotransposable elements" (RTE's) were increasingly able to break free of the genome's control in cultures of human cells. Now in a new paper in the journal Aging, they show that RTEs were increasingly able to break free and copy themselves in the tissues of mice as the animals aged. In further experiments the biologists showed that this activity was readily apparent in cancerous tumors, but that it also could be reduced by restricting calories.

"As mice age we are seeing deregulation of these elements and they begin to be expressed and increase in copy number in the genome," said Jill Kreiling, a research assistant professor of biology at Brown and leader of the study published in advance online Dec. 7. "This may be a very important mechanism in leading to genome instability. A lot of the chronic diseases associated with aging, such as cancer, have been associated with genome instability."

Whether the proliferation of RTEs is exclusively a bad thing remains a hot question among scientists, but what they do know is that the genome tries to control RTEs by wrapping them up in a tightly wound configuration called heterochromatin. In their experiments, Kreiling and co-corresponding author John Sedivy, professor of medical science, found that overall, the genomes of several mouse tissues become more heterochromatic with age. But they also found, paradoxically, that some regions where RTEs are concentrated became loosened up instead, particularly after mice reached the 2-year-old mark (equivalent to about the 70-year mark for a person).


Coalition of leading scientists claim ferret experiments could lead to an H5N1 pandemic

© The Independent
Coalition of leading scientists claim ferret experiments could lead to a pandemic.
Some of the world's most eminent scientists have severely criticised the arguments used by some influenza researchers who are trying to make the H5N1 bird-flu virus more dangerous to humans by repeatedly infecting laboratory ferrets.

More than 50 senior scientists from 14 countries, including three Nobel laureates and several fellows of the Royal Society, have written to the European Commission denouncing claims that the ferret experiments are necessary for the development of new flu vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

They also said it is "untrue" to state that the new mutations in the laboratory strain of H5N1, which have enabled the bird-flu virus to be airborne transmissible between ferrets and, potentially, people, have already been seen in nature.

The letter signed by 56 eminent scientists, many of whom are national science academicians, was designed to correct "misstatements" made by the president of the European Society of Virology, Professor Giorgio Palu, who they claim made "incorrect" assertions about the need to carry out the research in an earlier letter he had sent to the Commission.

The ferret research is being carried out by Ron Fouchier and colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. He has been involved in a legal dispute with the Dutch government which has insisted that he needs an export licence before his H5N1 work is published in a scientific journal.


Chaser really IS top dog: Border collie who can understand 1,000 words - and even basic grammar

  • Chaser the dog now able to understand nouns and verbs, researchers say
  • In first three years she learned and remembered 1,022 proper nouns
  • The objects included 800 cloth animals, 116 balls, and 100 plastic toys
  • Research carried out by Wofford College, in North Carolina

Researchers believe they have taught a border collie to respond to words in the same way that a human child does
Border collies are known for their high level of intelligence.

But Chaser has proved herself as the undoubted top dog after learning to understand 1,000 words - plus a smattering of English grammar.

Researchers believe the nine-year-old has learned to respond to words in the same way that a human child does.

They say Chaser was able to demonstrate understanding of nouns and verbs.

One of the team said: 'Our findings showed that Chaser was successful in demonstrating syntax and semantic understanding on 75 per cent of the trials.'

The study, involving more than seven years of teaching and research on the border collie, was published in the journal Learning and Motivation.

The dog, born in 2004, lived in the home of the researchers, primarily as a member of the family, but also as a subject for research.

In the first three years, she learned and remembered 1,022 proper nouns.

The objects included more than 800 cloth animals, 116 balls, and 100 plastic toys.


Unconventional research in USSR and Russia

Summary: Unconventional research embraces physics, artificial intelligence and the paranormal.

Cf. 'Billion dollar race: Soviet Union vied with US in 'mind control research'', Russia Today, December 17th, 2013
© 2013 Russia Today
The title of this article comes from a recent paper by Serge Kernbach:

'Unconventional research in USSR and Russia: short overview', Serge Kernbach (Submitted on 4 Dec 2013 (v1), last revised 5 Dec 2013 (this version, v2))
This work briefly surveys unconventional research in Russia from the end of the 19th until the beginning of the 21th centuries in areas related to generation and detection of a 'high-penetrating' emission of non-biological origin. The overview is based on open scientific and journalistic materials. The unique character of this research and its history, originating from governmental programs of the USSR, is shown. Relations to modern studies on biological effects of weak electromagnetic emission, several areas of bioinformatics and theories of physical vacuum are discussed.
Nowadays almost every physicist is monitoring, one way or another, all the new papers in her/his domain of interest. The arxiv site is probably the most popular one among physicists, mathematicians and computer science researchers. It is not completely easy to submit a paper there. Not that there is a peer-review process there, but some kind of endorsement from some "well-established" scientist is needed. Otherwise your paper will not be accepted for pre-publication. Why was Kernbach's paper accepted? Because he has 16 papers already there. And also, probably, because of his affiliation:

Cybertronica Research, Research Center of Advanced Robotics
and Environmental Science, Melunerstr. 40, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany

Checking the publications of Serge Kernbach we find that his main interest is in the science and practice of robotics, mainly in "swarms of robots". An army of mini-robots can today be programmed to act in a way similar to the behavior of ants and/or bees. Look at these videos - they are amazing, and also somewhat scary:


Scientists manufacture bio-fuel from algae in minutes

A new scientific discovery that takes algae and turns it into crude oil in minutes rather than millions of years could be the end of constant worries over "peak oil."

Engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) announced that they have created a process that takes an enriched stew of algae and turns it into crude oil which, in turn, can be made into a usable bio-fuel. The development was announced in a recent issue of the journal Algal Research.

Genifuel Corp., a biofuels company from Utah, has licensed the technology and is attempting to utilize the process on a larger, industrial scale.

In a press release, PNNL described, "In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae."

The press release also noted that "conventional refining" is then capable of taking the man-made crude oil and turning it into usable biofuels. PNNL notes that the man-made crude can be made into "aviation fuel, gasoline, or diesel fuel."

Arrow Down

Where's the raw data? Vast majority from old scientific studies may be missing

© dabblelicious
One of the foundations of the scientific method is the reproducibility of results. In a lab anywhere around the world, a researcher should be able to study the same subject as another scientist and reproduce the same data, or analyze the same data and notice the same patterns.

This is why the findings of a study published today in Current Biology are so concerning. When a group of researchers tried to email the authors of 516 biological studies published between 1991 and 2011 and ask for the raw data, they were dismayed to find that more 90 percent of the oldest data (from papers written more than 20 years ago) were inaccessible. In total, even including papers published as recently as 2011, they were only able to track down the data for 23 percent.

"Everybody kind of knows that if you ask a researcher for data from old studies, they'll hem and haw, because they don't know where it is," says Timothy Vines, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia, who led the effort. "But there really hadn't ever been systematic estimates of how quickly the data held by authors actually disappears."


German scientists show natural climate cycles dominated over last 7000 years...Blaming man is "witch-hunting"

© Wikipedia.org
The pattern in society today is clear to see. Whenever a storm hits a region and submerges terrain in water, or if a drought destroys crops, then the one to blame is quickly found: It has got to be man and his debaucherous CO2-spewing lifestyle that is bringing the climate into a state of catastrophic instability. In former times witches and sorcerers were made responsible for meteorological extremes, and they were burned at the town square so that future bad weather could be prevented. Like today, back then no one really cared about scientific arguments.

But here one only needs to look over the scientific literature in order to recognize that storms and weather extremes have always been the case and things really aren't any different today. Yet another new study has just come out, appearing in the November 2013 edition of the Quaternary Science Reviews, by a team of scientists led by Tina Swierczynski of the Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ) Potsdam. The scientists examined sediment deposits taken from the Austrian Mondsee and they were able to identify the development of flooding phases of rivers in the region caused by heavy rainfalls in the spring and summers. The geological archive goes back more than 7000 years.


More jobs for robots: Google venture Transcriptic is turning lab work over to the machines

© Unknown
Inside a nondescript office park in Silicon Valley, a robotic arm is running a test. With rapid, precise movements, the arm pipettes colored liquids into wells on a tray. Within a few minutes its work is done: the arm has pipetted the logo for Transcriptic, a fast-growing, Google Ventures-backed robotics startup that could upend the way biologists do their research.

Transcriptic's small team is calibrating the robot arm, which serves as the linchpin of the company's efforts to transform life-science research by making it cheaper and more accessible. Scientists send in raw materials - DNA, for example, or biopsied mouse tissue - and tell Transcriptic what to do with it. Costs for the service start at a few dollars per test, and the turnaround time is typically limited only by how long it takes for cells to divide.

The company began taking orders from all comers earlier this year, selling services including cell cloning, genotyping, and biobanking. Early customers include Stanford; the California Institute of Technology; the University of California, San Diego; and the University of Chicago. Since July, the number of customers has roughly doubled every month. The heart of Transcriptic is what it calls the "work cell," the automated lab where the robot arm performs its duties: manipulating samples using the various connected machines that run protocols.

The company had never previously allowed journalists inside its walls. But recently, Transcriptic invited The Verge to come look behind the curtain - the work cell is normally hidden behind an actual, physical curtain - to see how the company is using robotics to do work that has previously been the province of PhDs.

Comment: Though one can say, robots are revolutionlizing the future by replacing the human activity, there is a bigger picture no corporation wants you to think. . With more than 50% people living under poverty in US and more and more people dying with homelessness,cold and greedy corporations poisoning the human food, one has to ask where does all this lead to as a human scoeity?.