Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 20 big questions in science

From the nature of the universe (that's if there is only one) to the purpose of dreams, there are lots of things we still don't know; A new book seeks some answers
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Testing 'more effective' than badger cull

Stepping up cattle testing would be far more effective in controlling bovine TB than shooting badgers, according to computer modelling.
In a region the size of a typical county, culling badgers would save 12 cows from TB, but more frequent testing would save 193, research suggests.
Factors such as bigger herds and keeping cattle inside for winter could explain the rise in TB in recent decades, say UK scientists.

Smart shoe devices generate power from walking

German researchers have built shoe-sized devices that harvest power from the act of walking.
The technology could be used to power wearable electronic sensors without the need for batteries.
There are two separate devices: a "shock harvester" that generates power when the heel strikes the ground and a "swing harvester" that produces power when the foot is swinging.

Hibernating hints at dementia therapy

Neurodegenerative diseases have been halted by harnessing the regenerative power of hibernation, scientists say.
Bears, hedgehogs and mice destroy brain connections as they enter hibernation, and repair them as they wake up.
A UK team discovered "cold-shock chemicals" that trigger the process. They used these to prevent brain cells dying in animals, and say that restoring lost memories may eventually be possible.
Experts have described the findings as "promising" and "exciting".

Stressed Out? Social Media May Help Women Cope

But a new survey suggests that despite such woes, social networking is still good for you.
The survey found that women who frequently use social media, along with other technologies, to connect with friends and family report feeling less stressed than women who connect less often.

Geese ride aerial roller coaster across the Himalayas

For humans, transcontinental flight without jet engines, pressurized cabins, and tens of thousands of kilograms of fuel is almost unthinkable. But each year, bar-headed geese fly from Mongolia to India and back, crossing the world’s highest mountains with just their wings and a little extra body fat. Now researchers know just how these 3-kilogram birds make this journey. Rather than flying high for the whole trip, the geese follow the terrain, taking advantage of updrafts to regain altitude as needed.
“The answer comes in the form of clever behaviors for exercise efficiency,” says Terrie Williams, an exercise and environmental physiologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the work. These behaviors enabled the birds “to conquer altitudes that man will never achieve without a plane.”

Rate of sea-level rise 'steeper'

The rate at which the global oceans have risen in the past two decades is more significant than previously recognised, say US-based scientists.
Their reassessment of tide gauge data from 1900-1990 found that the world's seas went up more slowly than earlier estimates - by about 1.2mm per year.
But this makes the 3mm per year tracked by satellites since 1990 a much bigger trend change as a consequence.
It could mean some projections for future rises having to be revisited.
"Our estimates from 1993 to 2010 agree with [the prior] estimates from modern tide gauges and satellite altimetry, within the bounds of uncertainty. But that means that the acceleration into the last two decades is far worse than previously thought," said Dr Carling Hay from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"This new acceleration is about 25% higher than previous estimates," she told BBC News.


Professor Mike Hinchey, Director, Lero 
Limerick, Thursday, 15 January, 2015:  Lero - the Irish Software Research Centre (Lero) has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the implementation of a research programme worth €400,000. The 18 month programme, which will be led by Lero Director Prof. Mike Hinchey, will commence this month.
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Ireland needs ‘stars’ of science to develop research environment

Minister for Research and Innovation Damien English: “Absolutely convinced” that investment in research was important for Ireland. Photograph: The Irish Times
Ireland needs to recruit internationally recognised scientific “stars” to help grow our research ecosystem. They help build reputation but also support the Government’s jobs agenda through their discoveries, said the director general of Science Foundation Ireland.
Prof Mark Ferguson was speaking earlier on Thursday as the foundation released its performance report for 2014 and its plans for 2015.
Ireland needed stars, internationally recognised names who are willing to move here to conduct their research. “These people are rare. We have two but we need 20 or 30.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

170-year-old mystery of famed Irish Arctic explorer solved

In the spring of 1845, Sir John Franklin set out to explore the 300-year-old mystery of the Northwest Passage, a possible sea route through the Arctic Ocean connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean above Canada.
After Franklin’s death in 1847, second in command Captain Francis Crozier took over the expedition.
The Banbridge, County Down-born hero, his two ships and entire crew vanished in the frozen wasteland of the Arctic without a trace, and the mysterious disappearance has remained a puzzle for nearly two centuries
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Survival of the Nicest’ demonstrates altruism all around

Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along
Stefan Klein
The Experiment,
It’s comforting to assume that an altruistic nature has made us the civilized humans we are. But it’s less easy to prove. After all, we evolved from hominids who had to fight and scratch — often each other — to get by. Natural selection would seem to favor a selfish type who lives to procreate.
In Survival of the Nicest, newly released in paperback, Klein offers a slew of evidence to the contrary,
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2015 A look ahead: What's hot | What's not

British chemist Humphry Davy once said that “nothing is so fatal to the progress of the human mind as to suppose that our views of science are ultimate … that there are no new worlds to conquer.” In that spirit, Science takes a look at trends and ideas that preoccupied the scientific community last year—and makes some guesses at what new themes are likely to take hold in 2015. Our—subjective!—list, in no particular order, for your consideration:
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Members of Congress request investigation into U.S. monkey lab

Four members of Congress have asked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate psychological experiments on monkeys being carried out at an NIH lab in Poolesville, Maryland. The letter, which comes in response to an aggressive campaign by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), claims that for more than 30 years researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have been “removing [macaques] from their mothers at birth and subjecting them to distressful and sometimes painful procedures that measure their anxiety and depression.”
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India’s major science funders join open-access push

Two of India’s major science funding agencies are joining the push to make the results of the research they fund freely available to the public.
India’s Ministry of Science & Technology earlier this month announced it will require researchers who receive even just part of their funding from its biotechnology and science and technology departments to deposit copies of their papers in publicly accessible depositories. The two departments are the primary government sources for life science research funding in India.
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Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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