Fatigue and returning to normality!

Underlying fatigue sets in after basis exertion, however it does not stop me from getting on with my life while undergoing chemotherapy! I simply stop and have a rest then keep going …. . I have to be careful with my shallow breathing and do stop and rest if need be. Slowly returning to normality. Weds will be day 14 since chemo.When in Washington, April 2014 I was presented with the 2014 Alan Reinstein Award (ADAO Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation) at the annual global asbestos awareness conference for my commitment to education, advocacy and support to countless patients and families around the world. Unfortunately my beautiful crystal teardrop award was broken on the tip in transit. Linda Reinstein, ADAO kindly organised a replacement award to be sent to my home in …

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Calcification in changing oceans

What do mollusks, starfish, and corals have in common? Aside from their shared marine habitat, they are all calcifiers — organisms that use calcium from their environment to create hard carbonate skeletons and shells for stability and protection.The June issue of the Biological Bulletin, published by the Marine Biological Laboratory, addresses the challenges faced by these species as ocean composition changes worldwide.As atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the world’s oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. This impact of global climate change threatens the survival of calcifying species because of the reduced saturation of the carbonate minerals required for calcification.The ability to calcify arose independently in many species during the Cambrian era, when calcium levels in seawater increased. This use of calcium carbonate promoted biodiversity, including the vast array of calcifiers seen today.”Today, modern calcifiers face a new and rapidly escalating crisis caused by warming and acidification of the oceans with a reduction in availability of carbonate minerals, a change driven by the increase in atmospheric CO2 due to anthropogenic emissions and industrialization. The CO2 itself can also directly cause metabolic stress,” write the issue’s co-editors, Maria Byrne of the University of Sydney; and Gretchen Hofmann of the University of California-Santa Barbara.Contributors to the journal address this timely issue across many taxa and from a variety of perspectives, from genomic to ecosystem-wide.Janice Lough and Neal Cantin of the Australian Institute of Marine Science review historical data on coral reefs to look at potential environmental stressors, while Philippe Dubois (Universit Libre de Bruxelles) discusses sea urchin skeletons.Other researchers address lesser-known organisms that are nevertheless critical to marine ecosystems. Abigail Smith of the University of Otago examines how bryozoans, a group of aquatic invertebrate filter-feeders, increase biodiversity by creating niche habitats, and what features make them particularly sensitive to calcium fluctuations.Evans and Watson-Wynn (California State University-East Bay) take a molecular approach in a meta-analysis showing that ocean acidification is effecting genetic changes in sea urchin larvae. Several papers take a broader population-based view by studying the effect of ocean acidification on predator-prey interactions in mollusks (Kroeker and colleagues of the University of California-Davis) and oysters (Wright and colleagues of the University of Western Sydney).”The contributors have identified key knowledge gaps in the fast evolving field of marine global change biology and have provided many important insights,” the co-editors write.By sharing research on this topic from researchers around the world, the Biological Bulletin is raising awareness of some of the greatest threats to the oceans today and emphasizing the global nature of the problem.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The Marine Biological Laboratory. The original article was written by Gina Hebert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change

Research published in Science today found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.”Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study’s authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra CO2 in the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.”We’ve long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought,” said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. “We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Northern Arizona University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Putting a price on ecological restoration

Putting a price on clean water and soil fertility helps the UN set ecological restoration targets for degraded and deforested land.Forests provide essential ecosystem services for people, including timber, food and water. For those struggling with the after-effects of deforestation, the main hope lies in rebuilding forest resources through ecological restoration.Researchers at BU have shown that placing a monetary value on ecosystem services provides a mechanism for evaluating the costs and benefits of reforestation activity.”Ecological restoration initiatives are being undertaken around the world, attracting investment of $US billions annually,” explained Professor Adrian Newton. “They make a significant contribution to sustainable development but few attempts have been made to systematically evaluate their effectiveness.”To address this knowledge gap, Professor Newton and fellow BU researchers analysed 89 different types of restored ecosystem sites across the world. The results showed that, although restored land was not as productive as land that had not been degraded, restoration efforts increased biodiversity by 44% and provision of ecosystem services by 25%.What’s unique about Professor Newton’s research is that it also provides one of the first evidence-based assessments of how cost-effective ecological restoration initiatives actually are.Professor Newton developed this method as part of the ReForLan research project in the dryland forests of Latin America. ReForLAn brought together researchers from six countries to assess the environmental degradation and the potential for ecological recovery through restoration.The methodology assigns financial value to ecosystem services, such as the provision of clean water, carbon storage and soil fertility that would result from restoration, thereby demonstrating how cost effective these efforts are.”We examined whether ecological restoration can be cost effective, based on the value of ecosystem services provided by restoration actions,” he explained. “This was undertaken by analysing the value of the increased provision of ecosystem services that could potentially be provided as a result of ecological restoration actions.”So successful is the methodology that it was used to inform the United Nations Environment Programme’s restoration targets and specifically ‘Target 15’ of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to restore 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020.The UN say these targets can be achieved through Forest Landscape Restoration, which is an approach developed, tested and refined by Professor Newton during the ReForLan project.”We examined how Forest Landscape Restoration may be implemented in practice, and evaluated the cost effectiveness of this approach and its benefit to human communities,” he explained.Professor Newton has demonstrated that at the heart of successful forest landscape restoration is a flexible and adaptive approach. It should allow communities to participate in the decision-making process, and enhance ecosystem service provision for those living within them.The Forest Landscape Restoration method has been heralded as the solution to restoring 150 million acres of degraded and deforested land. This target is part of a global movement, known as ‘Bonn Challenge’, named from its inception in Bonn, Germany in 2011. Individual countries have so far committed to restoring 50 million hectares of forest, which is a significant step towards achieving the policy goals.”This initiative directly employs the Forest Landscape Restoration approach that we researched, developed, tested and refined,” explains Professor Newton.He conclude, “Ecosystems are a rich source of biodiversity and the services they provide are relied upon by local people. The approach developed through the ReForLan project allows policy makers to identify locations where ecological restoration is most likely to be cost effective.”ReForLan was funded by the European Commission and the full title of the project is ‘Restoration of Forest Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Development’.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Bournemouth University. …

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Scientists solve the riddle of zebras’ stripes: Those pesky bugs

Why zebras have black and white stripes is a question that has intrigued scientists and spectators for centuries. A research team led by the University of California, Davis, has now examined this riddle systematically. Their answer is published April 1 in the online journal Nature Communications.The scientists found that biting flies, including horseflies and tsetse flies, are the evolutionary driver for zebra’s stripes. Experimental work had previously shown that such flies tend to avoid black-and-white striped surfaces, but many other hypotheses for zebra stripes have been proposed since Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin debated the problem 120 years ago.These include:A form of camouflage Disrupting predatory attack by visually confusing carnivores A mechanism of heat management Having a social function Avoiding ectoparasite attack, such as from biting flies The team mapped the geographic distributions of the seven different species of zebras, horses and asses, and of their subspecies, noting the thickness, locations, and intensity of their stripes on several parts of their bodies. Their next step was to compare these animals’ geographic ranges with different variables, including woodland areas, ranges of large predators, temperature, and the geographic distribution of glossinid (tsetse flies) and tabanid (horseflies) biting flies. They then examined where the striped animals and these variables overlapped.After analyzing the five hypotheses, the scientists ruled out all but one: avoiding blood-sucking flies.”I was amazed by our results,” said lead author Tim Caro, a UC Davis professor of wildlife biology. “Again and again, there was greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there was more annoyance from biting flies.”While the distribution of tsetse flies in Africa is well known, the researchers did not have maps of tabanids (horseflies, deer flies). Instead, they mapped locations of the best breeding conditions for tabanids, creating an environmental proxy for their distributions. They found that striping is highly associated with several consecutive months of ideal conditions for tabanid reproduction.Why would zebras evolve to have stripes whereas other hooved mammals did not? The study found that, unlike other African hooved mammals living in the same areas as zebras, zebra hair is shorter than the mouthpart length of biting flies, so zebras may be particularly susceptible to annoyance by biting flies.”No one knew why zebras have such striking coloration,” Caro said. …

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Agroforestry systems can repair degraded watersheds

Agroforestry, combined with land and water management practices that increase agricultural productivity, can save watersheds from degradation.A study conducted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in the Gabayan watershed in eastern Bohol, Philippines, has shown that agroforestry systems create a more sustainably managed watershed that allows people living there to benefit from the ecosystem. The benefits include higher crop yields, increased income and resilience to climate change.Agroforestry is an integrated land-use management technique that incorporates trees and shrubs with crops and livestock on farms.The study, called “Modeling the effects of adopting agroforestry on basin scale surface runoff and sediment yield in the Philippines,” uses a computer-based Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to simulate the effects of different land uses on watershed hydrology and the ecosystem services provided by the Gabayan watershed. The tool predicts the environmental impact of land use, land management practices, and climate change.Watersheds are areas of land with streams and rivers that all drain into a larger body of water, such as a bigger river, a lake or an ocean. Watersheds not only supply water for domestic use but also provide a multitude of ecological and cultural services, including water for irrigation and industry, shelter, habitats for biodiversity and, in very poor areas, sources of livelihoods.Over the years, however, many watersheds throughout the world have suffered from intensive resource extraction and mismanagement. In countries like the Philippines, several watershed areas in the country are now degraded due to deforestation and soil erosion.The Gabayan watershed incorporates a heavily degraded, multi-use landscape covering over 5000 hectares hosting about 60,000 people whose livelihoods depend on subsistence agricultureFarmers here have reported environmental problems, such as floods, droughts, reductions in water quality and increases in soil erosion and downstream sedimentation of irrigation networks.”The degraded watershed has been largely deforested and replaced with extensive agricultural and grasslands over the last half century,” says David Wilson, the lead researcher. “It has disrupted the evenness of river flow, resulting in alternate flooding and drought episodes, an accelerated level of soil erosion as well as downstream sedimentation.”SWAT was used to simulate the impacts of current land-use practices and conservation agriculture with agroforestry in strategic locations. The study results showed a significant reduction in sediment yield (20%) and sediment concentration (35%)in the Gabayan watershed under agroforestry and conservation agriculture.The study was therefore able to provide scientific evidence that agroforestry, combined with improved land management practices, are an effective land-use strategy for the watersheds.”Specifically, the use of restored areas that have vegetation next to water resources and contour planting in grasslands appear to be the most effective techniques to reduce sediment transfer to the watershed river network,” says Wilson.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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Online gaming augments players’ social lives, study shows

New research finds that online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.”Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey, with a focus on players of massively multiplayer role-playing games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft.The researchers were interested in tracking the online and offline behavior of gamers, focusing on how they communicated with each other. They found that gaming was only one aspect of social behavior at the gaming events.”We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” Taylor says. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player’s behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline.”The researchers also found that gamers didn’t distinguish between the time they spent playing games and the time they spent watching other people play games.”It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity,” Taylor says.Taylor notes that this work focused on Western gaming communities, and he’s interested in studying the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. …

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Radiation damage at the root of Chernobyl’s ecosystems

Radiological damage to microbes near the site of the Chernobyl disaster has slowed the decomposition of fallen leaves and other plant matter in the area, according to a study just published in the journal Oecologia. The resulting buildup of dry, loose detritus is a wildfire hazard that poses the threat of spreading radioactivity from the Chernobyl area.Tim Mousseau, a professor of biology and co-director of the Chernobyl and Fukushima Research Initiatives at the University of South Carolina, has done extensive research in the contaminated area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear facility, which exploded and released large quantities of radioactive compounds in the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union in 1986. He and frequent collaborator Anders Mller of Universit Paris-Sud noticed something unusual in the course of their work in the Red Forest, the most contaminated part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.”We were stepping over all these dead trees on the ground that had been killed by the initial blast,” Mousseau said. “Some 15 or 20 years later, these tree trunks were in pretty good shape. If a tree had fallen in my backyard, it would be sawdust in 10 years or so.”They set out to assess the rate at which plant material decomposed as a function of background radiation, placing hundreds of samples of uncontaminated leaf litter (pine needles and oak, maple and birch leaves) in mesh bags throughout the area. The locations were chosen to cover a range of radiation doses, and the samples were retrieved after nine months outdoors.A statistical analysis of the weight loss of each leaf litter sample after those nine months showed that higher background radiation was associated with less weight loss. The response was proportional to radiation dose, and in the most contaminated regions, the leaf loss was 40 percent less than in control regions in Ukraine with normal background radiation levels.They also measured the thickness of the forest floor in the same areas where samples were placed. They found that it was thicker in places with higher background radiation.The team concluded that the bacteria and fungi that decompose plant matter in healthy ecosystems are hindered by radioactive contamination. They showed a smaller effect for small invertebrates, such as termites, that also contribute to decomposition of plant biomass.According to Mousseau, slower decomposition is likely to indirectly slow plant growth, too, given that the products of decomposition are nutrients for new plants. The team recently reported diminished tree growth near Chernobyl, which he says likely results both from direct radiation effects and indirect effects such as reduced nutrient supply.”It’s another facet of the impacts of low-dose-rate radioactive contaminants on the broader ecosystem,” Mousseau says. …

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Fighting antibiotic resistance with ‘molecular drill bits’

In response to drug-resistant “superbugs” that send millions of people to hospitals around the world, scientists are building tiny, “molecular drill bits” that kill bacteria by bursting through their protective cell walls. They presented some of the latest developments on these drill bits, better known to scientists as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.The meeting features more than 10,000 scientific reports across disciplines from energy to medicine.One of the researchers in the search for new ways to beat pathogenic bacteria is Georges Belfort, Ph.D. He and his team have been searching for a new therapy against the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). It’s a well-known, treatable disease, but resistant strains are cropping up. The World Health Organization estimates that about 170,000 people died from multidrug-resistant TB in 2012.”If the bacteria build resistance to all current treatments, you’re dead in the water,” said Belfort, who is at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.To avoid this dire scenario, scientists are developing creative ways to battle the disease. In ongoing research, Belfort’s group together with his wife, Marlene Belfort, and her group at the University at Albany are trying to dismantle bacteria from within. They also decided to attack it from the outside.In their search for a way to do this, they came upon AMPs. Although these naturally occurring, short strings of amino acids are not new — all classes of organisms from humans to bacteria produce them as part of their natural defense strategy — the fight against drug-resistant pathogens has heightened attention on these protective molecules.Researchers began studying them in earnest in the 1980s. By 2010, they had identified nearly 1,000 unique AMPs from many sources, including fly larvae, frog skin and mammalian immune system cells. The molecules come in different shapes, lengths and with other varying traits. …

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People accept 3-colored raspberry jelly, study finds

Date:March 14, 2014Source:Institute of Food TechnologistsSummary:A new study found that the production of a mixed raspberry jelly with black and yellow raspberries could be a good alternative to just one-colored jelly.determined that a jelly with both red, yellow and black raspberries had a high sensory acceptability, even greater than traditional jelly prepared only with the red raspberry.Raspberries are among the most popular berries in the world and are high in antioxidants that offer significant health benefits to consumers. The red raspberry is most commonly used in processed products like juices, jams, jellies and preserves because of its short shelf life. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that the production of a mixed raspberry jelly with black and yellow raspberries could be a good alternative to just one-colored jelly.Black raspberries, which produce clusters of small fruit with a dark purple color, stand out among the yellow and red variety as an excellent choice for cultivation because of their excellent adaptability, high productivity and fruit quality. Researchers at the University of Lavras in Brazil determined that a jelly with both red, yellow and black raspberries had a high sensory acceptability, even greater than traditional jelly prepared only with the red raspberry.More research is needed to study the feasibility of using yellow and black raspberries on other products.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Food Technologists. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Journal Reference:Vanessa Rios de Souza, Patrcia Aparecida Pimenta Pereira, Ana Carla Marques Pinheiro, Cleiton Antnio Nunes, Rafael Pio, Fabiana Queiroz. Evaluation of the Jelly Processing Potential of Raspberries Adapted in Brazil. Journal of Food Science, 2014; 79 (3): S407 DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.12354 Cite This Page:MLA APA Chicago Institute of Food Technologists. “People accept three-colored raspberry jelly, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2014. .Institute of Food Technologists. …

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Fish species unique to Hawaii dominate deep coral reefs in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Deep coral reefs in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) may contain the highest percentage of fish species found nowhere else on Earth, according to a study by NOAA scientists published in the Bulletin of Marine Science. Part of the largest protected area in the United States, the islands, atolls and submerged habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) harbor unprecedented levels of biological diversity, underscoring the value in protecting this area, scientists said.Hawaii is known for its high abundance of endemic species — that is, species not found anywhere else on Earth. Previous studies, based on scuba surveys in water less than 100 feet, determined that on average 21 percent of coral reef fish species in Hawaii are unique to the Hawaiian Archipelago.However, in waters 100 to 300 feet deep, nearly 50 percent of the fish scientists observed over a two-year period in the monument were unique to Hawaii, a level higher than any other marine ecosystem in the world. The study also found that on some of PMNM’s deeper reefs, more than 90 percent of fish were unique to the region. These habitats can only be accessed by highly trained divers using advanced technical diving methods.”The richness of unique species in the NWHI validates the need to protect this area with the highest conservation measures available,” said Randy Kosaki, PMNM’s deputy superintendent and co-author of the study. “These findings also highlight the need for further survey work on the monument’s deeper reefs, ecosystems that remain largely unexplored.”Data for the study was collected during two research expeditions to the NWHI aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai in the summers of 2010 and 2012. Some of the unique fish species that were observed include: Redtail Wrasse (Anampses chrysocephalus), Thompson’s Anthias (Pseudanthias thompsoni), Potter’s Angelfish (Centropyge potteri), Hawaiian Squirrelfish (Sargocentron xantherythrum), Chocolate Dip Chromis (Chromis hanui), Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus), and Blueline Butterflyfish (Chaetodon fremblii).Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by NOAA Headquarters. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Water-rich gem points to vast ‘oceans’ beneath Earth’s surface, study suggests

A University of Alberta diamond scientist has found the first terrestrial sample of a water-rich gem that yields new evidence about the existence of large volumes of water deep within Earth.An international team of scientists led by Graham Pearson, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources at the U of A, has discovered the first-ever sample of a mineral called ringwoodite. Analysis of the mineral shows it contains a significant amount of water — 1.5 per cent of its weight — a finding that confirms scientific theories about vast volumes of water trapped 410 to 660 kilometres beneath Earth’s surface, between the upper and lower mantle.”This sample really provides extremely strong confirmation that there are local wet spots deep in the Earth in this area,” said Pearson, a professor in the Faculty of Science, whose findings were published March 13 in Nature. “That particular zone in the Earth, the transition zone, might have as much water as all the world’s oceans put together.”Ringwoodite is a form of the mineral peridot, believed to exist in large quantities under high pressures in the transition zone. Ringwoodite has been found in meteorites but, until now, no terrestrial sample has ever been unearthed because scientists haven’t been able to conduct fieldwork at extreme depths.Pearson’s sample was found in 2008 in the Juina area of Mato Grosso, Brazil, where artisan miners unearthed the host diamond from shallow river gravels. The diamond had been brought to the Earth’s surface by a volcanic rock known as kimberlite — the most deeply derived of all volcanic rocks.The discovery that almost wasn’tPearson said the discovery was almost accidental in that his team had been looking for another mineral when they purchased a three-millimetre-wide, dirty-looking, commercially worthless brown diamond. The ringwoodite itself is invisible to the naked eye, buried beneath the surface, so it was fortunate that it was found by Pearson’s graduate student, John McNeill, in 2009.”It’s so small, this inclusion, it’s extremely difficult to find, never mind work on,” Pearson said, “so it was a bit of a piece of luck, this discovery, as are many scientific discoveries.”The sample underwent years of analysis using Raman and infrared spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction before it was officially confirmed as ringwoodite. The critical water measurements were performed at Pearson’s Arctic Resources Geochemistry Laboratory at the U of A. The laboratory forms part of the world-renowned Canadian Centre for Isotopic Microanalysis, also home to the world’s largest academic diamond research group.The study is a great example of a modern international collaboration with some of the top leaders from various fields, including the Geoscience Institute at Goethe University, University of Padova, Durham University, University of Vienna, Trigon GeoServices and Ghent University.For Pearson, one of the world’s leading authorities in the study of deep Earth diamond host rocks, the discovery ranks among the most significant of his career, confirming about 50 years of theoretical and experimental work by geophysicists, seismologists and other scientists trying to understand the makeup of the Earth’s interior.Scientists have been deeply divided about the composition of the transition zone and whether it is full of water or desert-dry. Knowing water exists beneath the crust has implications for the study of volcanism and plate tectonics, affecting how rock melts, cools and shifts below the crust.”One of the reasons the Earth is such a dynamic planet is the presence of some water in its interior,” Pearson said. “Water changes everything about the way a planet works.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. …

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After the saffron spice DNA

Researchers at the UPM and the University of Tor Vegata of Roma have proposed a new technique that allows the detection of adulterated saffron spice.A collaborative research between Universidad Politcnica de Madrid (UPM) and the University of de Tor Vegata has studied the DNA of the saffron spice through the analysis of its genetic code. The use of this technique has clarified aspects of the genetic variability of this species, which has allowed the design of a system that can discriminate and certify the authenticity of saffron spice to avoid cases of adulteration.Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is sterile plant species of bulbous herb with purple colored flowers whose origin is still unknown. The dry stigmas of the Crocus sativus L. are commonly known as saffron, which is a cultivated plant with a gastronomical reputation that dates back from ancient times. In fact, it is only vegetatively propagated by bulbs due to its incapacity of producing fertile pollen and for this reason, seeds.The plant blooms just once a year and the harvest of stigmas are made by manual selection in a very short amount of time. For this reason, saffron spice is the most expensive spice in the world.This research has used a DNA barcode technique to define different species and saffron spice crop fields. For this reason, researchers have analyzed samples of various species of Crocus, both Italians and Spanish ones, including species from different origins of cultivated saffron spice. As a result of this study, researchers found some aspects of the phylogeny of this gender, particularly the genetic drift of Crocus sativus.Numerous morphological studies support the theory that saffron spice was originated from evolution or hybridization of other saffron species, especially C. thomasii, C. hadriaticus and C. …

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Majority of children unaware of cigarette warning labels, international study shows

An international study of children’s perceptions of cigarette package warning labels found that the majority of children are unaware that they exist. Children in countries where larger warning labels are used, and which include a compelling graphic image of the negative health impacts of smoking, were more likely to be aware of and understand the health risks of tobacco products.The study, led by Dina Borzekowski, Ed.D, in the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD SPH), and Joanna Cohen, PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), showed that only 38% of children had any awareness of warning labels currently being featured on cigarette packages. Even after showing warning labels to participating children, around two-thirds (62%) of the children were unable to explain what the health warnings were about. Among the six countries studied, awareness and understanding of health warning labels was greatest among children in Brazil, where graphic warning labels, often featuring extremely gruesome pictures, have been featured since 2002 and cover 100% of either the front or back of the cigarette package.Their findings, published in the Journal of Public Health, offer data from a sample of 2,423 five and six year-old children interviewed in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia about their awareness and understanding of cigarette health warning labels.”Pro-smoking messages are reaching the world’s most susceptible audiences,” explains Dr. Borzekowski, research professor in the UMD SPH Department of Behavioral and Community Health. “We need to do a better job globally to reach children with anti-smoking messages. To do this, health warning messages should be big and clear, especially for low-literacy populations, children and young people.” According to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), tobacco product packages and labeling should effectively communicate the health risks associated with tobacco use, and that the effectiveness of these health warnings and messages increases with their prominence and with the use of pictures.This new study follows recent work by Borzekowski and Cohen published in the journal Pediatrics in October 2013. The earlier piece, drawn from the same sample of five and six year olds, provided evidence that young children recognize cigarette brands. More than two-thirds could identify cigarette brand logos, with the highest percentages in the sample from China (86% could identify at least one brand).In contrast to the higher awareness among children in Brazil, where tobacco warning labels and large and graphic, awareness and understanding of health warning labels was lowest among children from Indian and Nigeria. The Indian warning label shows an image of a symbolic scorpion and the Nigerian warning label uses only a vague text message (“The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young.”)”Heath warning labels on cigarette packs are an important medium for communicating about the serious health effects caused by tobacco products,” said Dr. …

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Climate change puts wheat crops at risk of disease

There is a risk that severity of epidemics of some wheat diseases may increase within the next ten to twenty years due to the impacts of climate change according to a study by international researchers led by the University of Hertfordshire.The researchers carried out a survey in China to establish a link between weather and the severity of epidemics of fusarium ear blight on the wheat crops. This weather-based model was then used to predict the impact on severity of the disease of future weather scenarios for the period from 2020 to 2050.Professor Bruce Fitt, professor of plant pathology at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Medical and Life Sciences, said: “There is considerable debate about the impact of climate change on crop production — and making sure that we have sufficient food to feed the ever-growing global population is key to our future food security.”Wheat, one of the world’s most important crops for human food, is milled for use in bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, pizzas, confectionery, soups and many other foodstuffs. Fusarium ear blight is a serious disease affecting wheat across many areas of the world. During severe epidemics, wheat crop losses can be as much as sixty per cent. These losses can become larger as, under certain conditions, the fusarium pathogen produces toxic chemicals known as mycotoxins. The levels of mycotoxins present in the grain may render it unsuitable for either human or animal consumption — the mycotoxin safe levels being controlled by legislation.Professor Fitt continued: “We know that the weather plays a big part in the development of the disease on the wheat crops — the incidence of the disease is determined by temperature and the occurrence of wet weather at the flowering or anthesis of the wheat crops.”When the weather-based model developed at Rothamsted Research was used to predict how climate change may affect the wheat crops, it was predicted that wheat flowering dates will generally be earlier and the incidence of the ear blight disease on the wheat crops will substantially increase.The research suggests that climate change will increase the risk of serious ear blight epidemics on winter wheat in Central China by the middle of this century (2020-2050).Similar conclusions were reached about impacts of climate change on wheat in the UK, where climate change models are predicting warmer, wetter winters for the country. This suggests that the UK too will suffer a greater incidence of fusarium ear blight on wheat crops — greatly affecting one of our biggest staple crops.In a world where more than one billion people do not have enough to eat, and our future food security is threatened by climate change and an ever-growing population, it is essential to improve the control of crop diseases like fusarium ear blight around the globe.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Hertfordshire. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Guideline: People with irregular heartbeat should take blood thinners to prevent stroke, experts say

An updated guideline from the American Academy of Neurology recommends that people with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, take oral anticoagulants, a type of blood thinner pill, to prevent stroke. The guideline is published in the February 25, 2014, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The World Stroke Organization has endorsed the updated guideline.Taking anticoagulants is especially important for people who have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack, which is a threatened stroke.Irregular heartbeat is a major risk factor for stroke. “The World Health Organization has determined that atrial fibrillation is nearing epidemic proportions, affecting 0.5 percent of the population worldwide,” said guideline lead author Antonio Culebras, MD, of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.The uneven heart rhythm allows blood to remain in the heart’s upper chambers. The blood can then form clots. These may escape the heart and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. About one in 20 people with untreated atrial fibrillation will likely have a stroke in the next year. Anticoagulants are highly effective in preventing stroke, but they also carry a risk of bleeding. They should be used only under close medical supervision.Several new anticoagulant pills have been developed since the AAN’s last guideline on this topic, which was published in 1998. The current guideline determined that the new anticoagulant pills, such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban, are at least as effective, if not more effective than, the established treatment of warfarin and have a lower risk of bleeding in the brain. …

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Molecular ‘cocktail’ transforms skin cells into beating heart cells

The power of regenerative medicine appears to have turned science fiction into scientific reality — by allowing scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble beating heart cells. However, the methods required are complex, and the transformation is often incomplete. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have devised a new method that allows for the more efficient — and, importantly, more complete — reprogramming of skin cells into cells that are virtually indistinguishable from heart muscle cells. These findings, based on animal models and described in the latest issue of Cell Reports, offer new-found optimism in the hunt for a way to regenerate muscle lost in a heart attack.Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death, but recent advances in science and medicine have improved the chances of surviving a heart attack. In the United States alone, nearly 1 million people have survived an attack, but are living with heart failure — a chronic condition in which the heart, having lost muscle during the attack, does not beat at full capacity. So, scientists have begun to look toward cellular reprogramming as a way to regenerate this damaged heart muscle.The reprogramming of skin cells into heart cells, an approach pioneered by Gladstone Investigator, Deepak Srivastava, MD, has required the insertion of several genetic factors to spur the reprogramming process. However, scientists have recognized potential problems with scaling this gene-based method into successful therapies. So some experts, including Gladstone Senior Investigator Sheng Ding, PhD, have taken a somewhat different approach.”Scientists have previously shown that the insertion of between four and seven genetic factors can result in a skin cell being directly reprogrammed into a beating heart cell,” explained Dr. Ding, the paper’s senior author and a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF, with which Gladstone is affiliated. “But in my lab, we set out to see if we could perform a similar transformation by eliminating — or at least reducing — the reliance on this type of genetic manipulation.”To that effect, the research team used skin cells extracted from adult mice to screen for chemical compounds, so-called ‘small molecules,’ that could replace the genetic factors. …

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New, inexpensive production materials boost promise of hydrogen fuel

Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars, trucks and trains.The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel. The most efficient materials are far too expensive to produce fuel at a price that can compete with gasoline.”In order to make commercially viable devices for solar fuel production, the material and the processing costs should be reduced significantly while achieving a high solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency,” says Kyoung-Shin Choi, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.In a study published last week in the journal Science, Choi and postdoctoral researcher Tae Woo Kim combined cheap, oxide-based materials to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using solar energy with a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7 percent, the highest reported for any oxide-based photoelectrode system.Choi created solar cells from bismuth vanadate using electrodeposition — the same process employed to make gold-plated jewelry or surface-coat car bodies — to boost the compound’s surface area to a remarkable 32 square meters for each gram.”Without fancy equipment, high temperature or high pressure, we made a nanoporous semiconductor of very tiny particles that have a high surface area,” says Choi, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. “More surface area means more contact area with water, and, therefore, more efficient water splitting.”Bismuth vanadate needs a hand in speeding the reaction that produces fuel, and that’s where the paired catalysts come in.While there are many research groups working on the development of photoelectric semiconductors, and many working on the development of water-splitting catalysts, according to Choi, the semiconductor-catalyst junction gets relatively little attention.”The problem is, in the end you have to put them together,” she says. “Even if you have the best semiconductor in the world and the best catalyst in the world, their overall efficiency can be limited by the semiconductor-catalyst interface.”Choi and Kim exploited a pair of cheap and somewhat flawed catalysts — iron oxide and nickel oxide — by stacking them on the bismuth vanadate to take advantage of their relative strengths.”Since no one catalyst can make a good interface with both the semiconductor and the water that is our reactant, we choose to split that work into two parts,” Choi says. “The iron oxide makes a good junction with bismuth vanadate, and the nickel oxide makes a good catalytic interface with water. So we use them together.”The dual-layer catalyst design enabled simultaneous optimization of semiconductor-catalyst junction and catalyst-water junction.”Combining this cheap catalyst duo with our nanoporous high surface area semiconductor electrode resulted in the construction of an inexpensive all oxide-based photoelectrode system with a record high efficiency,” Choi says.She expects the basic work done to prove the efficiency enhancement by nanoporous bismuth vanadate electrode and dual catalyst layers will provide labs around the world with fodder for leaps forward.”Other researchers studying different types of semiconductors or different types of catalysts can start to use this approach to identify which combinations of materials can be even more efficient,” says Choi, whose lab is already tweaking their design. “Which some engineering, the efficiency we achieved could be further improved very fast.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. The original article was written by Chris Barncard. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Almost 13 million smoking deaths could be prevented in China by 2050

China is home to about one third of the world’s smokers and reducing smoking in China could have an enormous public health impact, even on a global scale.Even though China raised the tax on tobacco products in 2009, this did not translate to higher retail prices for consumers and the only ban that has been enforced is on public transport. WHO went on to publish a report in 2011 which stated that there were multiple opportunities to improve tobacco control.Using a version of the SimSmoke Tobacco Control Policy model (a model of tobacco smoking prevalence and smoking-related deaths), populated with data from China, researchers from Spain, France and the US estimated the potential health impact of this programme in China from 2015 — 2050.Under current policies, a total of over 50 million deaths due to smoking were estimated from 2012 to 2050.Projecting the status quo scenario forward, the researchers estimate that active smoking in males would fall from 51.3% in 2015 to 46.5% by 2050 — and in females from 2.1% in 2015 to 1.3% in 2050In 2015, the estimated number of deaths from smoking was about one million (932,000 for males and 79,000 for females). In males, annual deaths were expected to peak at 1.5 million in 2040, but then drop to 1.4 million by 2050. In females, annual deaths from smoking were estimated to be 49,000 in 2040 and 42,000 by 2050.Relative to the status quo scenario, increasing cigarette taxes to 75% of the package price was estimated to reduce smoking prevalence by almost 10% for both males and females by 2015. By 2050, smoking prevalence showed a reduction of 13% for males and 12% for females. The researchers estimate that between 2015 and 2050, this tax would save approximately 3.5 million lives.Smoke-free air laws and a well enforced marketing ban also showed “potent and immediate” effects. Comprehensive smoke-free air laws were estimated to show a 9% reduction in smoking rates by 2015, increasing to about a 10% reduction in 2050, potentially averting around 3.4 million deaths. A comprehensive marketing ban would reduce smoking prevalence by about 4% and avert just over two million deaths by 2050.A high intensity tobacco control campaign would lead to a 2.5% relative decline in smoking rates by 2015 and prevent 1.1 million deaths due to smoking by 2050, while stronger health warnings were projected to yield a relative 2.3% reduction in smoking rates by 2050.The researchers estimate that complete implementation of the WHO framework “would lead to as much as a 34% relative reduction in male smoking prevalence by 2020, and a 41% reduction by 2050.” They say, despite the lag time expected between reductions in current smoking and declines in smoking attributable deaths, nearly half a million annual tobacco related deaths could be averted yearly by 2050.These estimates suggest that substantial health gains could be made, say the authors — a 40% relative reduction in smoking prevalence and almost 13 million smoking attributable deaths averted and more than 154 million life years gained by 2050 — by extending effective public health and clinical interventions to reduce active smoking. They add that these policies would be cost effective and say that “without the implementation of the complete set of stronger policies, the death and disability legacy of current smoking will endure for decades in China.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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World’s most powerful terahertz laser chip

University of Leeds researchers have taken the lead in the race to build the world’s most powerful terahertz laser chip.A paper in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) journal Electronics Letters reports that the Leeds team has exceeded a 1 Watt output power from a quantum cascade terahertz laser.The new record more than doubles landmarks set by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and subsequently by a team from Vienna last year.Terahertz waves, which lie in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwaves, can penetrate materials that block visible light and have a wide range of possible uses including chemical analysis, security scanning, medical imaging, and telecommunications.Widely publicised potential applications include monitoring pharmaceutical products, the remote sensing of chemical signatures of explosives in unopened envelopes, and the non-invasive detection of cancers in the human body.However, one of the main challenges for scientists and engineers is making the lasers powerful and compact enough to be useful.Professor Edmund Linfield, Professor of Terahertz Electronics in the University’s School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “Although it is possible to build large instruments that generate powerful beams of terahertz radiation, these instruments are only useful for a limited set of applications. We need terahertz lasers that not only offer high power but are also portable and low cost.”The quantum cascade terahertz lasers being developed by Leeds are only a few square millimetres in size.In October 2013, Vienna University of Technology announced that its researchers had smashed the world record output power for quantum cascade terahertz lasers previously held by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Austrian team reported an output of 0.47 Watt from a single laser facet, nearly double the output power reported by the MIT team. The Leeds group has now achieved an output of more than 1 Watt from a single laser facet.Professor Linfield said: “The process of making these lasers is extraordinarily delicate. Layers of different semiconductors such as gallium arsenide are built up one atomic monolayer at a time. We control the thickness and composition of each individual layer very accurately and build up a semiconductor material of between typically 1,000 and 2,000 layers. The record power of our new laser is due to the expertise that we have developed at Leeds in fabricating these layered semiconductors, together with our ability to engineer these materials subsequently into suitable and powerful laser devices.”Professor Giles Davies, Professor of Electronic and Photonic Engineering in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, said: “The University of Leeds has been an international leader in terahertz engineering for many years. This work is a key step toward increasing the power of these lasers while keeping them compact and affordable enough to deliver the range of applications promised by terahertz technology.”This work was mainly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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