New hope for powdery mildew resistant barley

New research at the University of Adelaide has opened the way for the development of new lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.In Australia, annual barley production is second only to wheat with 7-8 million tonnes a year. Powdery mildew is one of the most important diseases of barley.Senior Research Scientist Dr Alan Little and team have discovered the composition of special growths on the cell walls of barley plants that block the penetration of the fungus into the leaf.The research, by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, will be presented at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology and published in the journal New Phytologist.”Powdery mildew is a significant problem wherever barley is grown around the world,” says Dr Little. “Growers with infected crops can expect up to 25% reductions in yield and the barley may also be downgraded from high quality malting barley to that of feed quality, with an associated loss in market value.”In recent times we’ve seen resistance in powdery mildew to the class of fungicide most commonly used to control the disease in Australia. Developing barley with improved resistance to the disease is therefore even more important.”The discovery means researchers have new targets for breeding powdery mildew resistant barley lines.”Powdery mildew feeds on the living plant,” says Dr Little. “The fungus spore lands on the leaf and sends out a tube-like structure which punches its way through cell walls, penetrating the cells and taking the nutrients from the plant. The plant tries to stop this penetration by building a plug of cell wall material — a papillae — around the infection site. Effective papillae can block the penetration by the fungus.”It has long been thought that callose is the main polysaccharide component of papilla. But using new techniques, we’ve been able to show that in the papillae that block fungal penetration, two other polysaccharides are present in significant concentrations and play a key role.”It appears that callose acts like an initial plug in the wall but arabinoxylan and cellulose fill the gaps in the wall and make it much stronger.”In his PhD project, Jamil Chowdhury showed that effective papillae contained up to four times the concentration of callose, arabinoxylan and cellulose as cell wall plugs which didn’t block penetration.”We can now use this knowledge find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in barley plants to produce more resistant lines available for growers,” says Dr Little.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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How to avoid an awkward beauty moment

Learn more about Herbalife – Follow @Herbalife on Twitter- Like Herbalife on Facebook- What is Herbalife? More fitness advice – Watch ‘Fit Tips’ Videos on YouTube- Straightforward exercise advice- Get fit = be happy. Positivity advice Nutrition advice for you – Watch ‘Healthy Living’ on YouTube- Dieting advice you might like- Interesting weight loss articles Copyright © 2013 Herbalife International of America, Inc.

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New Chinese herbal medicine has significant potential in treating hepatitis C, study suggests

ata from a late-breaking abstract presented at the International Liver CongressTM 2014 identifies a new compound, SBEL1, that has the ability to inhibit hepatitis C virus (HCV) activity in cells at several points in the virus’ lifecycle.[i]SBEL1 is a compound isolated from Chinese herbal medicines that was found to inhibit HCV activity by approximately 90%. SBEL1 is extracted from a herb found in certain regions of Taiwan and Southern China. In Chinese medicine, it is used to treat sore throats and inflammations. The function of SBEL1 within the plant is unknown and its role and origins are currently being investigated.Scientists pre-treated human liver cells in vitro with SBEL1 prior to HCV infection and found that SBEL1 pre-treated cells contained 23 percent less HCV protein than the control, suggesting that SBEL1 blocks virus entry. The liver cells transfected with an HCV internal ribosome entry site (IRES)-driven luciferase reporter that were treated with SBEL1 reduced reporter activity by 50% compared to control. This suggests that that SBEL1 inhibits IRES-mediated translation, a critical process for viral protein production.In addition, the HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) levels were significantly reduced by 78 percent in HCV infected cells treated with SBEL1 compared to the control group. This demonstrates that SBEL1 may also affect the viral RNA replication process.Prof. Markus Peck-Radosavljevic, Secretary-General of the European Association for the Study of the Liver and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Vienna, Austria, commented: “People infected with hepatitis C are at risk of developing severe liver damage including liver cancer and cirrhosis. In the past, less than 20 percent of all HCV patients were treated because the available treatments were unsuitable due to poor efficacy and high toxicity. Recent advances means that we can now virtually cure HCV without unpleasant side effects. …

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Positive outcomes for hepatitis C transplant patients

New research announced at the International Liver CongressTM 2014 today provides new hope for the notoriously difficult-to-treat population of liver transplant patients with recurring hepatitis C (HCV).As part of a compassionate use program, 104 post-liver transplant patients with recurring HCV who had exhausted all treatment options and had poor clinical prognoses, received sofosbuvir (SOF) and ribavirin (RBV) with pegylated interferon (PEG) included at the physicians’ discretion for up to 48 weeks. Among patients whose clinical outcomes have been reported, 62% achieved SVR12. Additionally, 62% of patients had improvements in clinical conditions associated with hepatic decompensation (e.g., ascites and encephalopathy) and/or improvement in liver function tests. SOF+RBVPEG was well-tolerated and led to high rates of virologic suppression.EASL’s European Policy Councillor Professor Patrizia Burra of the Multivisceral Transplant Unit, Padova University Hospital, Padua, Italy said: “There are currently no effective treatment options for this patient group. However, this new trial involving the nucleotide polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir (SOF) has demonstrated promising results, providing further evidence of its clinical potential.””For patients with advanced hepatitis C liver disease, liver transplants offer a second chance,” continued Professor Burra, “and for those who continue to suffer post-surgery, it’s important for us to keep following up all avenues possible to improve their quality of life.”Other research revealed at the International Liver CongressTM 2014 showed that most patients with mild hepatitis C recurrence diagnosed one year after liver transplant have excellent long-term outcomes.In the second study, 172 patients who were diagnosed with mild hepatitis C recurrence one year after undergoing liver transplant surgery between 1999 and 2012 were followed for six and a half years with all relevant transplant-related, donor and recipient variables recorded. The cumulative probability of HCV-related graft loss five and 10 years after liver transplant were 3% and 10%, respectively.However one third of these patients are still at risk of going on to develop cirrhosis, further demonstrating the need for antiviral therapy pre or post-transplant.Hepatitis C infection is a common cause of liver transplantation, with virus-related diseases comprising 40% of primary indications for liver transplantation in Europe among patients with cirrhosis.More than 5,500 liver transplantations are currently performed in Europe per year.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by European Association for the Study of the Liver. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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The mammography dilemma: 50 years of analysis

A comprehensive review of 50 year’s worth of international studies assessing the benefits and harms of mammography screening suggests that the benefits of the screening are often overestimated, while harms are underestimated. And, since the relative benefits and harms of screening are related to a complex array of clinical factors and personal preferences, physicians and patients need more guidance on how best to individualize their approach to breast cancer screening.The results of the review by researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are published today in JAMA.The American Cancer Society estimates that about 40,000 U.S. women will die of breast cancer this year. In 2009, based on evidence that the benefit-risk ratio for mammography screening is higher among women over 50 and with less frequent screening, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) reversed its previous recommendation of mammography every one to two years beginning at age 40, and recommended routine screening every two years starting at age 50, the researchers noted. The recommendations remain controversial among the general public and the medical community. Recent evidence suggests that use of mammography in the U.S. has not changed following the updated recommendations.”What I tell my patients is that the mammogram is not a perfect test,” said Nancy Keating, co-author of the report, associate professor of Health Care Policy at HMS and associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s. “Some cancers will be missed, some people will die of breast cancer regardless of whether they have a mammogram, and a small number of people that might have died of breast cancer without screening will have their lives saved.”The authors report that the best estimate of the reduction in mortality from breast cancer due to annual screening for women overall is about 19 percent. For women in their 40s, the reduction in risk was about 15 percent, and for women in their 60s, about 32 percent. …

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Hair brush guide: Choosing the right brush for your hair

Learn more about Herbalife – Follow @Herbalife on Twitter- Like Herbalife on Facebook- What is Herbalife? More fitness advice – Watch ‘Fit Tips’ Videos on YouTube- Straightforward exercise advice- Get fit = be happy. Positivity advice Nutrition advice for you – Watch ‘Healthy Living’ on YouTube- Dieting advice you might like- Interesting weight loss articles Copyright © 2013 Herbalife International of America, Inc.

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Warming climate may spread drying to a third of earth: Heat, not just rainfall, plays into new projections

Increasing heat is expected to extend dry conditions to far more farmland and cities by the end of the century than changes in rainfall alone, says a new study. Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to increase, say the researchers.The study is one of the first to use the latest climate simulations to model the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought. Published this month in the journal Climate Dynamics, the study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere is considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought. The study excludes Antarctica.”We know from basic physics that warmer temperatures will help to dry things out,” said the study’s lead author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with joint appointments at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Even if precipitation changes in the future are uncertain, there are good reasons to be concerned about water resources.”In its latest climate report, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that soil moisture is expected to decline globally and that already dry regions will be at greater risk of agricultural drought. The IPCC also predicts a strong chance of soil moisture drying in the Mediterranean, southwestern United States and southern African regions, consistent with the Climate Dynamics study.Using two drought metric formulations, the study authors analyze projections of both rainfall and evaporative demand from the collection of climate model simulations completed for the IPCC’s 2013 climate report. Both metrics agree that increased evaporative drying will probably tip marginally wet regions at mid-latitudes like the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China into aridity. If precipitation were the only consideration, these great agricultural centers would not be considered at risk of drought. …

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Are statins good for your love life?

Statins are associated with a significant improvement in erectile function, a fact researchers hope will encourage men who need statins to reduce their risk of heart attack to take them, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.Erectile dysfunction is common in older men, especially among those with cardiovascular risk factors where cholesterol-lowering statins are frequently prescribed. Previous research has suggested a negative association between statin therapy and testosterone levels, leading to questions about the effects of these widely used medications on the quality of erection.In the first meta-analysis of previous studies on erectile dysfunction and statins, researchers identified 11 randomized, controlled trials that measured erectile function using the International Inventory of Erectile Function — a self-administered survey with five questions, each scored on a five-point scale and totaled, with lower values representing poorer sexual function. Analysis of all 11 studies combined found a statistically significant effect of statins on erectile function in men who had both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. Overall, erectile function scores increased by 3.4 points in men who took statins (from 14.0 to 17.4, a 24.3 percent increase).”The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra,” said John B. Kostis, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Institute and associate dean for Cardiovascular Research at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the lead investigator of the study.”It was larger than the reported effect of lifestyle modification,” Kostis said. “For men with erectile dysfunction who need statins to control cholesterol, this may be an extra benefit.”Researchers believe that statins may work to improve erectile function by helping blood vessels dilate properly and improving vascular blood flow to the penis, which is often restricted in men with erectile dysfunction. While statins are not recommended as a primary treatment for erectile dysfunction in patients with healthy cholesterol levels, the added benefit may encourage more men who need statins to take them. Millions of Americans are prescribed statins to prevent heart disease, but some stop taking the medication or take less than the prescribed dose, Kostis said. Rather than preventing the possibility of a heart attack in the future, the more immediate benefit of improving erectile function might improve adherence to statin therapy, he added.Erectile dysfunction affects an estimated 18 million to 30 million men and occurs more often in men over the age of 40. Common causes include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, depression and stress.Kostis said that larger randomized controlled trials are needed to further investigate the link between statin therapy and erectile function.This study will be simultaneously published online in the Journal of Sexual Medicine at the time of presentation.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American College of Cardiology. …

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Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed

Species such as the musk ox, Arctic fox and lemming live in the harsh, cold and deserted tundra environment. However, they have often been in the spotlight when researchers have studied the impact of a warmer climate on the countryside in the north. Until now, the focus has been concentrated on individual species, but an international team of biologists has now published an important study of entire food-web dynamics in the journal Nature Climate Change. Field studies covering three continents show that temperature has an unexpectedly important effect on food-web structure, while the relationship between predator and prey is crucial for the food-web dynamics and thereby the entire ecosystem.Temperature is decisive’We have gathered data on all animals and plants characterising the arctic tundra in seven different areas. This has allowed us to generate a picture of how food chains vary over a very large geographical (and, with it, climatic) gradient. Therefore, and for the first time, we can offer an explanation of the factors governing the tundra as an ecosystem,’ says Niels Martin Schmidt from Aarhus University, Denmark, one of the researchers behind the study. The researchers have evidenced that temperature is of decisive importance for which elements form part of the food chain, thus permitting them to predict how climate changes may impact whole food chains — and not just the conditions for the individual species.The largest avoids being eatenTemperature regulates which organisms interact with each other in the far north arctic nature. However, the present study also shows that predation, i.e. the interactions between predators and prey, is the factor regulating the energy flows in ecosystems and, with that, the function of the ecosystem.’Our results show that predators are the most important items of the tundra food chains, except in the High Arctic. The intensity varies with the body size of the herbivores (plant eaters) of the chains. …

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Forests crucial to green growth

The value of forests and tree-based ecosystems extends far beyond carbon sequestration; they are the foundation of sustainable societies.A new report, launched in Jakarta, Indonesia on 21 March — the International Day of Forests — promotes REDD+ and the Green Economy as together providing a new pathway to sustainable development that can benefit all nations. It claims this approach can conserve and even boost the economic and social benefits forests provide to human society.Building Natural Capital — How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy was developed by the International Resources Panel. It outlines how REDD+ can be integrated into a Green Economy to support pro-poor development while maintaining or increasing forest cover.According to the report, REDD+ needs to be placed in a landscape-scale planning framework that goes beyond forests to consider all sectors of a modern economy and the needs of agriculture, energy, water resources, finance, transport, industry, trade and cities.In this way, REDD+ would add value to other initiatives, such as agroforestry projects that are being implemented within these sectors, and be a critical element in a green economy.The report provides recommendations on how to integrate REDD+ and Green Economy approaches, such as through better coordination, stronger private sector engagement, changes in fiscal incentive frameworks, greater focus on assisting policymakers to understand the role forests play in propping up economies, and equitable benefit sharing.While it is recognized that what lies ahead is a long process of societies adapting to new conditions, REDD+ could be integral to increasing agricultural and forestry outputs to meet future needs, while at the same time enhancing the conservation of forests and ecosystem services.Each year, the International Day of Forests highlights the unique role of forests in the environment and in sustaining livelihoods. The theme this year is Celebrating Forests for Sustainable Development.”It is important day to remind us to save our planet as it is the only one we know which has trees says Tony Simons the Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). “Trees are what made Earth habitable for mammals, and destruction of forests will lead to the ultimate destruction of mammals — including humans. Trees are one of the few things which live longer than humans — a true intergenerational gift. He added.Forests and trees are key to sustainable development. Not only do they store carbon, they support biodiversity, regulate water flows and, reduce soil erosion. Nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests as a source of food, medicines, timber and fuel.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk irrespective of age

Practising sport for more than an hour day reduces the risk of contracting breast cancer, and this applies to women of any age and any weight, and also unaffected by geographical location, according to research presented to the 9th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-9). Compared with the least active women, those with the highest level of physical activity reduced their risk of breast cancer by 12%, researchers say.Professor Mathieu Boniol, Research Director at the International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France, recently reported the results of a meta-analysis of 37 studies published between 1987 and 2013, representing over four million women. “These are all the studies looking at the relationship between physical exercise and breast cancer risk that have been published to date, so we are confident that the results of our analysis are robust,” he said.Although the results varied according to tumour type, the overall message was encouraging, the researchers say. However, in women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the protective effect of exercise seemed to be cancelled out. But increased awareness of the side effects of HRT means that its use is decreasing in a number of countries, and this means that the beneficial effects of activity will most likely grow in the years to come. “Whether or not this will be the case is an interesting question and deserves to be followed up at a later date,” Prof Boniol said.Physical activity is known to have a protective role in other cancers, as well as in disorders such as cardiovascular disease. Although the mechanisms for its effect are unclear, the results are largely independent of body mass index (BMI), so the effect must be due to more than weight control. And the age at which sporting activity starts also appears to be immaterial; the researchers found no indication that breast cancer risk would decrease only when physical activity started at a young age.”Adding breast cancer, including its aggressive types, to the list of diseases that can be prevented by physical activity should encourage the development of cities that foster sport by becoming bike and walk-friendly, the creation of new sports facilities, and the promotion of exercise through education campaigns,” said Prof Boniol. “This is a low cost, simple strategy to reduce the risk of a disease that currently has a very high cost, both to healthcare systems and to patients and their families. It is good news both for individuals and for policy makers.”Dr Hilary Dobson, chair of EBCC-9’s national organising committee and who is Clinical Lead of the West of Scotland Breast Screening Service and the Lead Clinician of the West of Scotland Cancer Advisory Network (WoSCAN), commented: “These findings are important for all women, irrespective of their age and weight. …

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Global food trade can alleviate water scarcity

International trade of food crops led to freshwater savings worth 2.4 billion US-Dollars in 2005 and had a major impact on local water stress. This is shown in a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Trading food involves the trade of virtually embedded water used for production, and the amount of that water depends heavily on the climatic conditions in the production region: It takes, for instance, 2.700 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of cereals in Morocco, while the same kilo produced in Germany uses up only 520 liters. Analyzing the impact of trade on local water scarcity, our scientists found that it is not the amount of water used that counts most, but the origin of the water. While parts of India or the Middle East alleviate their water scarcity through importing crops, some countries in Southern Europe export agricultural goods from water-scarce sites, thus increasing local water stress.”Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our global freshwater consumption and therefore has a huge potential to affect local water scarcity,” lead author Anne Biewald says. The amount of water used in the production of agricultural export goods is referred to as virtual water trade. So far, however, the concept of virtual water could not identify the regional water source, but used national or even global averages instead. “Our analysis shows that it is not the amount of water that matters, but whether global food trade leads to conserving or depleting water reserves in water-scarce regions,” Biewald says.Combining biophysical simulations of the virtual water content of crop production with agro-economic land-use and water-use simulations, the scientists were able for the first time to determine the positive and negative impacts on water scarcity through international trade of crops, livestock and feed. The effects were analyzed with high resolution on a subnational level to account for large countries like India or the US with different climatic zones and relating varying local conditions regarding water availability and water productivity. Previously, these countries could only be evaluated through national average water productivity. …

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Cognitive function and oral perception in independently-living octogenarians

Today, at the 43rd Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR), held in conjunction with the 38th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for Dental Research, Kazunori Ikebe, from Osaka University, Japan, will present a research study titled “Cognitive Function and Oral Perception in Independently-living Octogenarians.”In this study, researchers hypothesized that the decline of cognitive impairment is involved in oral perceptions since its preclinical stage. The aim of this study was to examine association of cognitive function with tactile and taste perceptions in independently-living 80-year-old elderly.The participants were community-dwelling and independently-living elderly (n=956, 80 years old) excluding those with dementia. Cognitive function was measured using the Japanese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA-J) that was the assessment tool of mild cognitive impairment. Oral tactile perception was tested by oral stereognostic ability (OSA) with the test pieces comprised six shaped forms. Subjects were told they should use their tongue and palate to identify the shape. The correct identification of the shape was scored. Taste perception was evaluated by the whole mouth gustatory test with 1-ml of water solution included the four basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). The concentration answered the taste correctly was taken as the recognition threshold.Multiple linear regression analysis was used to examine relationships between tactile and taste perceptions and cognitive function after controlling for gender and number of teeth. P-values<0.05 were considered to be statistically significant.</p>The OSA score was positively associated with number of teeth. On the other hand, taste thresholds of sour, salty and bitter were significantly lower in female than males. …

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Beauty FAQ: Common beauty questions answered

Learn more about Herbalife – Follow @Herbalife on Twitter- Like Herbalife on Facebook- What is Herbalife? More fitness advice – Watch ‘Fit Tips’ Videos on YouTube- Straightforward exercise advice- Get fit = be happy. Positivity advice Nutrition advice for you – Watch ‘Healthy Living’ on YouTube- Dieting advice you might like- Interesting weight loss articles Copyright © 2013 Herbalife International of America, Inc.

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Better livestock diets to combat climate change, improve food security

Livestock production is responsible for 12% of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, primarily coming from land use change and deforestation caused by expansion of agriculture, as well as methane released by the animals themselves, with a lesser amount coming from manure management and feed production.”There is a lot of discussion about reduction of meat in the diets as a way to reduce emissions,” says IIASA researcher Petr Havlk, who led the study “But our results show that targeting the production side of agriculture is a much more efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that within the current systems, farmers would find it more profitable in coming years to expand livestock production in mixed systems — where livestock are fed on both grass as well as higher quality feed — rather than in pure grass-based systems. This development, would lead to a 23% reduction of emissions from land use change in the next two decades without any explicit climate mitigation policy.Cows, sheep, and goats grow more quickly and produce more milk when they eat energy-rich diets that include grain supplements or improved forages. This means that more livestock can be raised on less land, and with fewer emissions per pound of meat or milk produced.The new study projects that the increasing cost of land and continued yield increases in the crop sector will lead to shifts to richer animal diets in the future. Such diets are efficient not only from the perspective of greenhouse gas reduction, but also from farm profit maximization and food production.At a moderate price of US$10 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, livestock system transitions within a given region, together with international relocation of production to regions with the most efficient livestock systems could also reduce the total emissions from agriculture and land use change by 25%. Most of the savings would come from avoided land use change.Havlk says, “From the livestock sector perspective, limiting land use change seems the cheapest option both in terms of the economic cost and in terms of impact on food availability.”Previous work by the group produced a detailed database highlighting the differences in the efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of different livestock production systems. The new study adds to this by examining the economic potential for a transition to more efficient systems as a mitigation measure, and which policies would be the most effective for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while also maintaining food availability.The new study also introduces a new metric for measuring the costs of climate measures for agricultural systems, the Total Abatement Calorie Cost (TACC), which complements the pure economic metric known as “marginal abatement cost” while also capturing the impacts of mitigation measures on food security. Mario Herrero, a co-author of the study and a researcher at CSIRO, IIASA’s Australian National Member Organization, says, “Applying current metrics could lead to mitigation, but also food insecurity in developing countries, because it ignores the social cost of policies that focus just on greenhouse gas abatement.. So we developed a new metric which tells you how consumption would be affected as a result of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.”Changing livestock production systems remains a challenge. The researchers say that policies to provide education and market access are the keys for enabling change. In addition, they note that safeguards are needed to insure that the intensified agricultural production does not lead to environmental damage or reduce animal well-being.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. …

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Atomically thick metal membranes

For the first time researchers have shown that freestanding metal membranes consisting of a single layer of atoms can be stable under ambient conditions. This result of an international research team from Germany, Poland and Korea is published in Science on March 14, 2014.The success and promise of atomically thin carbon, in which carbon atoms are arranged in a honeycomb lattice, also known as graphene has triggered enormous enthusiasm for other two dimensional materials, for example, hexagonal boron nitride and molybdenum sulphide. These materials share a common structural aspect, namely, they are layered materials that one can think of as individual atomic planes that can be pulled away from their bulk 3D structure. This is because the layers are held together through so called van der Waals interactions which are relatively weak forces as compared to other bonding configurations such as covalent bonds. Once isolated these atomically thin layers maintain mechanical integrity (i.e. they are stable) under ambient conditions.In the case of bulk metals, their crystalline structure is three dimensional, and is thus not a layered structure and moreover metallic atom bonds are relatively strong. These structural aspects of metals would seem to imply the existence of metal atoms as a freestanding 2D material is unlikely. The formation of 2D atomically thin metallic layers over other surfaces has previously been demonstrated, however in this case the metal atoms interact with the underlying substrate. On the other hand, metallic bonding is non-directional and this fact along with the excellent plasticity of metals at the nanoscale suggest atomically thin 2D freestanding membranes composed of metal atoms might just be possible. Indeed, this is what an international group of researchers based in Germany, Poland and South Korea have now demonstrated is possible using iron atoms. …

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Education boosts brain function long after school, study shows

European populations are growing older on average, a trend that could pose serious challenges to health care, budgets, and economic growth. As a greater proportion of a country’s population grows into old age, average cognition levels and national productivity tend to decline, and the incidence of dementia increases.”Finding ways to improve the cognition of seniors is of central importance to the economic well-being of aging countries,” says IIASA researcher Vegard Skirbekk, who worked on the study with researchers Nicole Schneeweis and Rudolf Winter Ebmer at Linz UniversityThe study examined variation in years of schooling arising from compulsory educational reforms implemented in six European countries during the 1950s and 1960s, measuring mental functioning in seniors with various levels of schooling. It shows that the burden of demographic change is likely to depend more on how healthy and mentally fit people are at different ages than on the exact age structure of people in a population. The study also shows that education tends to significantly boost brain function, and that this effect persists as a person ages.The study shows that people who attended school for longer periods because of new regulations performed better in terms of cognitive functioning than those who did not. Using data from individuals aged around 60 from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe, the researchers found a positive impact of schooling on memory scores. The fact that young people or their parents did not choose whether to go longer to school strongly suggests that schooling is the cause rather than personal characteristics that would affect this choice and could also explain the differences in cognitive function.”Examining the variation in compulsory schooling was key.” It allowed us to find out that education was the cause of better cognitive function, and not a simple correlation,”,” says Winter-Ebmer.Furthermore, the study finds evidence for a protective effect of schooling for the brain: more education slows cognitive decline. The researchers say that education can be an important measure for maintaining cognitive functioning and protecting against cognitive decline, thereby alleviating the challenges that population aging would otherwise present.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Mothers leave work because they don’t want to behave like working men, study suggests

Middle-class working mothers are leaving work because they are unwilling to behave like men, according to a research paper co-written by a University of Leicester management expert and a senior television producer.Mothers in professional and managerial jobs are expected to stay late or get in early even if they have negotiated reduced working hours, and to socialise with colleagues or clients in the evenings — even though this clashes with their childcare responsibilities. They must do so because working culture is still organised by men, who are less involved in childcare.Many mothers respond by leaving their jobs.”Unless mothers mimic successful men, they do not look the part for success in organisations,” says the paper, written by Emma Cahusac, series producer of BBC Television’s The Culture Show and an organisational psychologist specialising in problems faced by organisations, and Shireen Kanji, Senior Lecturer in Work and Organisation at the University of Leicester School of Management.Many of the interviewed women found it hard to combine work and motherhood because of the dominant culture of presenteeism — the notion that they should be at their desks until late, even if there was nothing to do. “I would be in work by eight, but I would have to leave by six and actually I could do the job perfectly well,” said Susan, an ex-banker. Susan noted, however, that her six o’clock departure provoked “barbed comments” from a woman who did not have children.The researchers found that before they had children themselves, women not only accepted but encouraged the masculine culture of the workplace.The mothers interviewed also needed to hide the fact that they were parents — imitating a masculine trait. “The male partners never talked about their families,” said Nadia, a lawyer. “They’ve been very adept at keeping that separation between work and home.” In particular, mothers had to hide the fact that they were taking time off to look after sick children. “You definitely would have to say you were sick, not the kid was sick,” said a mother who held a senior position at a charity.The findings are presented in a research paper, Giving up: how gendered organisational cultures push mothers out, which has been published in the journal Gender, Work and Organization.The researchers interviewed 26 mothers based in London who had quit their jobs while pregnant, or following their return to work, but before their first child reached school age. The interviewees had been in professional and managerial jobs.Twenty-one of them quit their jobs voluntarily — often because they had been sidelined after returning to the office. Susan moved within her bank to lower-status project work after she had her first child, for example.”Many women leave high-powered jobs because they are relegated to lesser roles and feel the need to suppress their identities as mothers,” says Kanji. “This is not only unfair. …

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Fertilizer in small doses yields higher returns for less money

Crop yields in the fragile semi-arid areas of Zimbabwe have been declining over time due to a decline in soil fertility resulting from mono-cropping, lack of fertilizer, and other factors. In collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), University of Illinois researchers evaluated the use of a precision farming technique called “microdosing,” its effect on food security, and its ability to improve yield at a low cost to farmers.”Microdosing involves applying a small, affordable amount of fertilizer with the seed at planting time or as top dressing three to four weeks after emergence,” explained U of I agricultural economist Alex Winter-Nelson. “So, instead of spreading fertilizer over the entire field, microdosing uses fertilizer more efficiently and ultimately improves productivity. Our research shows that smallholder farmers’ investment in microdosing has really unlocked the power of chemical fertilizers in some of the low-rainfall areas of Zimbabwe.”Training is the key to adoption of the technique. “About 75 percent of households receiving microdosing training used fertilizer in 2011,” said Winter-Nelson. “This compares to less than 25 percent of households that had not received training. Another way of looking at it is that training in microdosing raised the probability of adoption by 30 to 35 percentage points. Knowledge of microdosing changed people’s attitudes about fertilizer. Those who had training generally disagreed with the common notion that fertilizer is not worth its price or that it burns crops.”Winter-Nelson said that there are some hurdles to overcome, however. “Sustaining and expanding the benefits of microdosing technology will require efforts to ensure that private agrodealers are able to stock the product in a timely manner and to package it in a manner that smallholder farmers find useful,” he said. …

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Fat or flat: Getting galaxies into shape

Australian astronomers have discovered what makes some spiral galaxies fat and bulging while others are flat discs — and it’s all about how fast they spin.The research, led by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth, found that fast-rotating spiral galaxies are flat and thin while equally sized galaxies that rotate slowly are fatter.The study was published today in Astrophysical Journal.ICRAR Research Associate Professor Danail Obreschkow, from The University of Western Australia, said it is a much-debated mystery why galaxies look so different to each other.”Some galaxies are very flat discs of stars and others are more bulging or even spherical,” he said.”Much of the last century of research has been dedicated to understanding this diversity of galaxies in the Universe and with this paper we’ve made a step towards understanding how this came about by showing that the rotation of spiral galaxies is a key driver for their shape.”The study looked at 16 galaxies — all between 10 million and 50 million light years from Earth — using data from a survey called THINGS.”The THINGS survey shows you the cold gas in the galaxies, not only where it is but how it moves,” Dr Obreschkow said.”That’s a crucial point if you want to measure the spin, you can’t just take a photograph, you have to take a special picture that shows you the motion.”Dr Obreschkow said the shape of a spiral galaxy is determined by both its spin and its mass and if you leave a galaxy on its own for billions of years both quantities will stay the same.He said the way galaxies are formed looks a bit similar to a carousel made of an elastic disc.”If the carousel is at rest, the elastic disc is quite small,” Dr Obreschkow said.”But when the whole thing is spinning the elastic disc becomes larger because it’s feeling the effects of centrifugal force.”Our own Milky Way is a relatively flat disc with only a small bulge, the shape of which can be seen in the night sky.”The white band of the Milky Way across the sky is a relatively thin band of constant thickness. However when you look right at the centre near the Sagittarius constellation you can actually see a thickening of the Milky Way, which is the bulge,” Dr Obreschkow said. He and co-author, Swinburne University Professor Karl Glazebrook, were able to measure the effect of spin on galaxies more than ten times better than anyone previously.The study used data collected at the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in the United States, one of the most famous radio telescopes in the world and a significant pathfinder for the Square Kilometre Array.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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