We hear lots of concern about global warming and the world's rainforests, though they have even begun to thrive under warming conditions
- but what about ancient rainforests, long before the Dawn of Man and the destruction we apparently set into motion just by evolving?
The answer lies in underground coalmines in Illinois.
There lay the remains of the first tropical rainforests to evolve on our planet around 300 million years - when the USA lay on the equator. An amazing feature of the forests is that they are preserved over a vast area. One example covers 10,000 hectares - the size of a city.
Our brains contain their own navigation system much like satellite navigation ("sat-nav"), with in-built maps, grids and compasses, neuroscientist Dr Hugo Spiers told the BA Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool today. The brain's navigation mechanism resides in an area know as the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory and famously shown to be different in London taxi drivers in a Wellcome Trust-funded study carried out by Professor Eleanor Maguire at UCL (University College London).
That's right, cabbies have better brains for GPS. The study showed that a region of the hippocampus was enlarged in London taxi drivers compared to the general population. Even bus drivers do not have the same enlarged area, and general skill at navigating is not related to hippocampus size, suggesting that the difference is linked to 'The Knowledge' of the city's 250,000 streets built up by taxi drivers over many years.
Prof. Leonid Yaroslavsky from Tel Aviv University believes that humans may have an ability to "see" colors and shapes - with their skin.
He outlines his 'optic-less imaging model' in a chapter of a new book, "Advances in Information Optics and Photonics", and even says it could lead to a new form of optical imaging technology that beats the limitations of today's lens-based imaging devices. This model, he says, may also explain how a controversial primordial instinct might have evolved over millions of years.
Mayo Clinic investigators have demonstrated that stem cells can be used to regenerate heart tissue to treat dilated cardiomyopathy, a congenital defect, according to research published in Stem Cells.
The study expands on the use of embryonic stem cells to regenerate tissue and repair damage after heart attacks and demonstrates that stem cells also can repair the inherited causes of heart failure.
The team reproduced prominent features of human malignant heart failure in a series of genetically altered mice. Specifically, the "knockout" of a critical heart-protective protein known as the KATP channel compromised heart contractions and caused ventricular dilation or heart enlargement.
Natarajan found that ultra-massive black holes, which lurk in the centers of huge galaxy clusters like the one above, seem to have an upper mass limit of 10 billion times that of the Sun. (Credit: NASA)
There appears to be an upper limit to how big the universe’s most massive black holes can get, according to new research led by Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan and Ezequiel Treister, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hawaii.
The University of Southampton is launching the world's largest-ever study of near-death experiences this week.
The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study is to be launched by the Human Consciousness Project of the University of Southampton - an international collaboration of scientists and physicians who have joined forces to study the human brain, consciousness and clinical death.
The study is led by Dr Sam Parnia, an expert in the field of consciousness during clinical death, together with Dr Peter Fenwick and Professors Stephen Holgate and Robert Peveler of the University of Southampton. Following a successful 18-month pilot phase at selected hospitals in the UK, the study is now being expanded to include other centres within the UK, mainland Europe and North America.