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Comets are made of the most primitive stuff in the solar system. As hunks of rock and ice that never coalesced into more planets, they give researchers clues to the evolution of solar systems.

In February, during its mission to study the sun's polar regions, the spacecraft Ulysses flew through McNaught's ion tail 160 million miles from the comet's core.

Instrument readings showed there was "complex chemistry" at play, said University of Michigan space science professor George Gloeckler. Gloeckler is the principal investigator on the Solar Wind Ion Composition Spectrometer (SWICS) aboard Ulysses, which measured the composition and speed of the comet tail and solar wind.

According to an analysis by Dr. Kathryn Wilson, associate professor of economics at Kent State University and colleagues, the United States has the highest level of income inequality among all rich nations. For example, low-income households, or those at the 10th percentile of the income distribution, spend approximately $8,900 per year per child, while high-income families, or those at the 90th percentile, spend $50,000 per child.

“People like to think of America as the land of opportunities,” says Wilson. “The irony is that our country actually has less social mobility and more inequality than most developed countries.”

The present can tell you a lot about the past, but you need to know where to look. A new study appearing this month in Genome Research reveals that protein architectures – the three-dimensional structures of specific regions within proteins – provide an extraordinary window on the history of life.

In the study, researchers at the University of Illinois describe contemporary protein architectures as “molecular fossils” or “historical imprints” that mark important milestones in evolutionary history. The research team compiled a global census of protein architectures, and used these relics to plot the emergence, diversification and refinement of each of the three superkingdoms of life: Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya.

One of the most ambitious earth science expeditions yet mounted to gain a better understanding of the earthquake process, has begun off the coast of Japan, involving geologists from the universities of Southampton and Leicester.

Dr Lisa McNeill, of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science, based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, and Joanne Tudge, of the Department of Geology, University of Leicester, are taking part in the multi-disciplinary study of a 'subduction' zone off the Japanese coast, aboard the deep-sea drilling vessel Chikyu (which means 'Planet Earth' in Japanese). This is the maiden scientific voyage of this vessel, which has unique capabilities enabling it to access new regions of the Earth's crust.

The amount of dark matter left over from the early universe may be less than previously believed. Research published in the open access journal PMC Physics A shows that the "relic abundance" of stable dark matter particles such as the neutralino may be reduced as compared to standard cosmology theories due to the effects of the "dilaton"', a particle with zero spin in the gravitational sector of strings.

Nikolaos Mavromatos of King's College London and colleagues in Athens and Texas obtained their result by studying a special "off-shell" time-dependent term (due to the dilaton) in the Boltzmann equation that describes the evolution of hot matter density as the Universe cooled down.

Folding is very important in human brain development because some of the worst neurological problems such as schizophrenia, autism and lissenchephaly (smoothness of the cortex, found with severe retardation) are associated with abnormal brain folding.

On the other hand, Albert Einstein's abnormally folded brain made him a genius

Larry A.Taber, Ph.D., the Dennis and Barbara Kessler Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Phillip Bayly, Ph.D., Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering, are examining mechanical and developmental processes that occur in the folding of the brain's surface, or cortex, which gives the higher mammalian brain more surface area (and hence more intellectual capacity) than a brain of comparable volume with a smooth surface.