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Anyone who has thrown a backyard barbecue knows that hot dogs are inexplicably packaged in different numbers than buns — eight hot dogs per pack versus 10 hot dog buns. Put in ecological terms, this means that weenie roasts are “hot-dog limited” — the extra buns are worthless without hot dogs to fill them.

Such limiting factors are a cornerstone of natural ecology, where phosphorus or nitrogen limits plant production in most ecosystems. According to the customary model, the relative importance of these two key nutrients varies by ecosystem; but a group of researchers led by Arizona State University professor James Elser has found that this view might need to be updated.

Researchers at UCSF and the University of Toronto have identified a potential new way of fighting against HIV infection that relies on the remnants of ancient viruses, human endogenous retroviruses (HERV), which have become part of the genome of every human cell.

Mounting evidence suggests that HIV infection could enable HERV expression by disrupting the normal controls that keep HERV in check.

In some HIV-infected individuals, infection fighting T cells are able to target HERV expressing cells.

The recreational use of cocaine has rapidly increased in many European countries over the past few years. One cause of this is the fall in the price of the drug on the street from 100 Euros for one gram (about 5 lines) in 2000 to 50 Euros in the Netherlands today. One line of cocaine is, thus, now as cheap as a tablet of ecstasy. This means cocaine is no longer considered an “elite” drug but is affordable for all, especially for recreational use.

A new study suggests that a holistic approach is needed in assessing the potential environmental and health effects of toxic effluent from industry. The study is published in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution.

Studies of industrial effluent toxicity usually focus on a single contaminant, such as an environmental or marine pollutant, a potential carcinogen, or a toxic heavy metal. However, according to Tatjana Tišler of the National Institute of Chemistry, in Ljubljana, and Jana Zagorc-Koncan of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, toxicity tests of effluent using bacteria generally underestimate the total toxicity.

Effluents from industrial or municipal sources may contain hundreds to thousands of chemicals, but only a few are responsible for aquatic toxicity.

The HIV-1 virus is one of the most difficult targets for therapy because it hijacks the cells of our immune system and particularly because the virus mutates rapidly, making it drug resistant. Up to 20% of HIV-infected patients host virus that is drug resistant.

The current "Highly active antiretroviral treatment" (HAART therapy) against HIV uses a combination of several different drugs, which increases the probability of simultaneous development of resistance against different drugs. A team of Slovenian undergraduate students from the University of Ljubljana together with their mentors from the National institute of chemistry of Slovenia (NIC) has developed a new strategy of antiviral defense that is not breached by viral mutations.

A Finnish group of researchers at the Low Temperature Laboratory of Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) have developed and fabricated a nanoscale heat transistor, and simultaneously the smallest refrigerator ever made.

The device, nanofabricated with the help of electron beam lithography, functions at extremely low temperatures of less than one degree above absolute zero. The possibility to control the electrons going through the device one by one in the metal-superconductor structure enables its use as a heat transistor.

For your six pack of atoms. Credit: N. Miller, A. Clark/NIST