At least to female swordfish.

Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Glasgow today reveal how some females become sexually mature more quickly if they see attractive males.

The researchers studied a captive population of green swordtail fish, a species native to Central America and popular in tropical aquariums. The green swordtail is named after the striking sword-like growth, which males develop on their tail-fin, so they appear larger and more attractive to females.

Male green swordtail fish. Credit: Copyright Craig Walling, University of Exeter

Scientists working at Novocell, Inc. in San Diego, CA have reported a stunning advance in the race to move embryonic stem cells from the province of basic scientific research into the arena of clinical trials for patients suffering from diabetes. Type I diabetes results from the degeneration of specialized cells in the pancreas (called beta-cells) that produce the hormone insulin. In healthy individuals, a rise in blood sugar after a meal induces beta-cells to secrete insulin, which enables other cells to absorb and utilize the sugar as fuel; when blood sugar levels drop, insulin production is turned down. In diabetics, insulin regulation fails.

At a 9 am press conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting (AAAS) on February 18th, an international team of leading fisheries economists, biologists, and ecologists will call for the abolition of government fuel subsidies that keep deep-sea fishing vessels moving to deeper waters.

"Industrial fisheries are now going thousands of miles, thousands of feet deep and catching things that live hundreds of years in the process - in the least protected place on Earth," says Elliott Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

In international waters beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of coastal countries, many of the fisheries are virtually unregulated.

A mathematical model of disease cycles developed at the University of Michigan shows promise for predicting cholera outbreaks.

Speaking in a symposium titled "New Vistas in the Mathematics of Ecology and Evolution" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, theoretical ecologist Mercedes Pascual will discuss how models that she and coworkers have developed can aid short-term forecasting of infectious diseases, such as cholera, and inform decisions about vaccination and other disease-prevention strategies.

In research done over the past seven years, Pascual and colleagues have found evidence that a phenomenon known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a major source of climate variability from year to year, influence

A hormone produced during pregnancy spontaneously increases myelin, which enhances signaling within the nervous system, and helps repair damage in the brain and spinal cord, according to new animal research.

The findings, published in the February 21 Journal of Neuroscience, indicate that the hormone prolactin promotes an increase in myelin production and may have a use in treating multiple sclerosis (MS).

In MS, affecting about 2.5 million people worldwide, the body's own immune system attacks myelin, which insulates nerve cells and plays a critical role in the speed at which messages are transmitted from cell to cell. Reduction in myelin leads to a progressive loss of sensation and movement in MS patients.

 On December 28, the Food and Drug Administration issued a draft report stating that "meat and milk from clones of adult cattle, pigs and goats, and their offspring, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals."   In modern-day America, however, the FDA is not allowed to base its decisions concerning public safety simply on the basis of scientific knowledge.  It must listen to the way people feel -- rationally or not -- about its finding.  And so, the FDA explained, 


[Note to readers: I was one of a select few bloggers to be invited by General Motors to a behind the scenes opportunity at the current Chicago Auto Show to meet and interview top management.  As far as GM knew or I could discern, they were the only major auto company to reach out to the blogosphere and they should be given credit for that.  What follows in this and a subsequent post or two are some highlights, headlines and ruminations from this day long experience.  Of course my focus was and is on what I write about here: alternative energy, and new advanced technology that might change our lives in the years ahead.

A powerful jet from a super massive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy, according to new findings from NASA observatories. This never-before witnessed galactic violence may have a profound effect on planets in the jet's path and trigger a burst of star formation in its destructive wake.

Known as 3C321, the system contains two galaxies in orbit around each other. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show both galaxies contain super massive black holes at their centers, but the larger galaxy has a jet emanating from the vicinity of its black hole. The smaller galaxy apparently has swung into the path of this jet.

This "death star" galaxy was discovered through the combined efforts of both space and ground-based telescopes.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have successfully generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles, an achievement that could pave the way toward the development of a new source for energy.

The discovery, described in a study published today (Thursday, Feb. 15) in Science Express, an electronic publication of the journal Science, is a milestone in the quest for efficient ways to directly convert heat into electricity.

Imagine two stars with winds so powerful that they eject an Earth's worth of material roughly once every month. Next, imagine those two winds colliding head-on. Such titanic collisions produce multimillion-degree gas, which radiates brilliantly in X-rays. Astronomers have conclusively identified the X-rays from about two-dozen of these systems in our Milky Way. But they have never seen one outside our galaxy — until now.

Thanks to the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, with help from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, an international team led by Dr Yaël Nazé of the Université de Liège in Belgium has found such a system in a nearby galaxy. This galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud, orbits the Milky Way and is located about 170 000 light-years from Earth.