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Do bats have animal magnetism? Yes, say researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Princeton who say they have discovered that bats use a magnetic substance in their body called magnetite as an ‘internal compass’ to help them navigate.

Dr Richard Holland from Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences and Professor Martin Wikelski from Princeton University studied the directions in which different groups of Big Brown bats flew after they had been given different magnetic pulses and released 20km north of their home roost.

Scientists funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) have found that, when jazz musicians are engaged in the highly creative and spontaneous activity known as improvisation, a large region of the brain involved in monitoring one’s performance is shut down, while a small region involved in organizing self-initiated thoughts and behaviors is highly activated.

The researchers propose that this and several related patterns are likely to be key indicators of a brain that is engaged in highly creative thought.

During the study, six highly trained jazz musicians played the keyboard under two scenarios while in the functional MRI scanner.

Turning just one Sumatran province's forests and peat swamps into pulpwood and palm oil plantations is generating more annual greenhouse gas emissions than the Netherlands and rapidly driving the province's elephants into extinction, a new study by WWF and partners has found.

The study found that in central Sumatra's Riau Province nearly 10.5 million acres of tropical forests and peat swamp have been cleared in the last 25 years. Forest loss and degradation and peat decomposition and fires are behind average annual carbon emissions equivalent to 122 percent of the Netherlands total annual emissions, 58 percent of Australia's annual emissions, 39 percent of annual UK emissions and 26 percent of annual German emissions.

Considerable attention has been paid to the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic environments, but rather less attention has been given to routes of contamination on land. A new study by researchers at Cardiff University, reveals that wild birds foraging on invertebrates contaminated with environmental pollutants, show marked changes in both brain and behavior: male birds exposed to this pollution develop more complex songs, which are actually preferred by the females, even though these same males usually show reduced immune function compared to controls.

Katherine Buchanan and her colleagues studied male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) foraging at a sewage treatment works in the south-west UK and analysed the earthworms that constitute their prey. The researchers found that those birds exposed to environmentally-relevant levels of synthetic and natural estrogen mimics developed longer and more complex songs compared to males in a control group.

Anthropologists from Wheaton College (Illinois) and The Field Museum have discovered how the ancient Maya produced an unusual and widely studied blue pigment that was used in offerings, pottery, murals and other contexts across Mesoamerica from about A.D. 300 to 1500.

First identified in 1931, this blue pigment (known as Maya Blue) has puzzled archaeologists, chemists and material scientists for years because of its unusual chemical stability, composition and persistent color in one of the world’s harshest climates.

The anthropologists solved another old mystery, namely the presence of a 14-foot layer of blue precipitate found at the bottom of the Sacred Cenote (a natural well) at Chichén Itzá. This remarkably thick blue layer was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century when the well was dredged.

MIT biologists have provoked soil-dwelling bacteria into producing a new type of antibiotic by pitting them against another strain of bacteria in a battle for survival.

The antibiotic holds promise for treatment of Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers in humans. Also, figuring out the still murky explanation for how the new antibiotic was produced could help scientists develop strategies for finding other new antibiotics.