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Scottish astronomers have found a baby planet still in the stages of forming and encased within a 'womb' of gas.

The embryonic planet, thought to be the youngest ever seen, was discovered by Dr Jane Greaves of the University of St Andrews and colleagues from across the UK and the US.

The finding provides a unique view of how planets take shape, because the supporting images also shows the womb-like parent disk material from which the new planet formed. The 'protoplanet', called HL Tau b after its parent star HL Tau, could be as young as a few hundred years old.

Dr Greaves, of the School of Physics & Astronomy at St Andrews, explained, "The planet will probably take millions of years to settle down into its final form of something like Jupiter.

Scientists have long known that emotions and other personality traits and disorders run together in families but finding which genes are most important in controlling emotions has proven difficult. Humans and mice have similar numbers of genes, but mice are valuable because their genes can be deleted or added. Many researchers have begun to study mouse behaviors to try to link genes with complex behaviors.

A new report by Wang et al., found that male mice make high-frequency vocalizations during sexual interactions with female mice. These high-frequency calls are associated with approach behaviors, and with genes that control positive emotions.

Researchers in a large, multi-institutional study have found one gene variant that is linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.

The research team collected DNA from 1,154 smokers who have lung cancer and 1,137 smokers without lung cancer. Each DNA sample was analyzed at more than 300,000 points, looking for variations—known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs for short—between those with cancer and those without. They then analyzed the top 10 SNPs in an additional 5,075 DNA samples from smokers with and without lung cancer.

Two of the 10 SNPs were consistently associated with lung cancer risk and both of them are located in chromosome 15 inside a region that contains genes for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha subunits 3 and 5, which already are suspected to play a role in lung cancer progression.

In the first experiment of its kind conducted in nature, a University of British Columbia evolutionary biologist has come up with strong evidence for one of Charles Darwin’s cornerstone ideas – adaptation to the environment accelerates the creation of new species.

“A single adaptive trait such as color could move a population towards the process of forming a new species, but adaptation in many traits may be required to actually complete the formation of an entirely new species,” says UBC post-doctoral fellow Patrik Nosil. “The more ways a population can adapt to its unique surroundings, the more likely it will ultimately diverge into a separate species.”

Nosil studied walking-stick insects in the Santa Barbara Chaparral in southern California.

Using a new technique, two NASA scientists have identified the lightest known black hole. With a mass only about 3.8 times greater than our Sun and a diameter of only 15 miles, the black hole lies very close to the minimum size predicted for black holes that originate from dying stars.

"This black hole is really pushing the limits. For many years astronomers have wanted to know the smallest possible size of a black hole, and this little guy is a big step toward answering that question," says lead author Nikolai Shaposhnikov of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Shaposhnikov and his Goddard colleague Lev Titarchuk presented their results on Monday, March 31, at the American Astronomical Society High-Energy Astrophysics Division meeting in Los Angeles, Calif. Titarchuk also works at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.
The tiny black hole resides in a Milky Way Galaxy binary system known as XTE J1650-500, named for its sky coordinates in the southern constellation Ara.

DNA, the stuff our genes are made of, is the building material of choice for nanoscale objects. A team led by Günter von Kiedrowski at the Ruhr University in Bochum has now made a dodecahedron (a geometric shape with twelve surfaces) from DNA building blocks. These objects are formed in a self-assembly process from 20 individual trisoligonucleotides, building blocks consisting of a “branching junction” and three short DNA strands.

A regular dodecahedron is a geometric shape made of 12 pentagons of equal size, three of which are connected at every vertex. This results in a structure with 30 edges and 20 vertices. In order to produce a hollow dodecahedral object from DNA, the researchers used 20 “three-legged” building blocks (three DNA strands connected together at one point). The centers of these building blocks represent the vertices of the dodecahedron. The three edges projecting from each vertex are formed when a single strand of DNA converts two neighboring bridging components into a double strand.