Friday, December 2, 2016

Science X Newsletter Friday, Dec 2

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 2, 2016:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

How it takes just six seconds to hack a credit card

Portions of the brain fall asleep and wake back up all the time, study finds

UChicago startup turns renewable energy into natural gas

Could there be life in Pluto's ocean?

Researchers discover a critical cellular 'off' switch for the inflammatory immune response that causes asthma attacks

A radiation-free approach to imaging molecules in the brain

Research reveals potential for 50-fold increase in catalyst mass activity

Bethlehem star may not be a star after all

Fast fMRI tracks brain activity during human thought for first time

How single-celled organisms navigate to oxygen

Natural nomads, leatherback turtles opt to stay in place

Fast, efficient sperm tails inspire nanobiotechnology

Data scientists find causal relation in characteristics of ADHD

Engineered virus has artificial amino acid allowing it to serve as a vaccine

Discovery of bismuth superconductivity at extremely low temperature jeopardizes theory

Astronomy & Space news

Could there be life in Pluto's ocean?

Pluto is thought to possess a subsurface ocean, which is not so much a sign of water as it is a tremendous clue that other dwarf planets in deep space also may contain similarly exotic oceans, naturally leading to the question of life, said one co-investigator with NASA's New Horizon mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Bethlehem star may not be a star after all

It is the nature of astronomers and astrophysicists to look up at the stars with wonder, searching for answers to the still-unsolved mysteries of the universe. The Star of Bethlehem, and its origin, has been one of those mysteries, pondered by scientists for centuries – and something Grant Mathews, professor of theoretical astrophysics and cosmology in the Department of Physics in the University of Notre Dame's College of Science, has studied for more than a decade.

Europe okays 1.4 bn euros for Mars rover, ISS (Update)

European ministers approved a 1.4-billion-euro ($1.5-billion) lifeline Friday for plans to place a life-seeking rover on Mars and maintain a presence on the International Space Station.

Swiss firm acquires Mars One private project

A British-Dutch project aiming to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2018 announced Friday that the shareholders of a Swiss financial services company have agreed a takeover bid.

SpaceX shooting for mid-December launch, 1st since blast

SpaceX is shooting for a mid-December launch, its first since a dramatic rocket accident on the pad.

Russia seeks answers on ISS cargo ship crash

Russian investigators on Friday were probing the crash shortly after launch of an unmanned spaceship taking cargo to the International Space Station, focusing on the Soyuz carrier rocket.

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

Data from NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft shows the sky over Antarctica is glowing electric blue due to the start of noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere - and an early one at that. Noctilucent clouds are Earth's highest clouds, sandwiched between Earth and space 50 miles above the ground in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere. Seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors, these clouds of ice crystals glow a bright, shocking blue when they reflect sunlight.

Russia emergency teams look for debris of crashed spacecraft

Russian emergencies workers are combing the mountains near the border with Mongolia for the debris of a cargo spaceship that crashed minutes after its launch.

Technology news

How it takes just six seconds to hack a credit card

Working out the card number, expiry date and security code of any Visa credit or debit card can take as little as six seconds and uses nothing more than guesswork, new research has shown.

UChicago startup turns renewable energy into natural gas

One of the biggest challenges to wider adoption of wind and solar power is how to store the excess energy they often produce.

Bipedal Atlas is able to sort out where to step amidst messy rubble

(Tech Xplore)—Humanoid robot Atlas is back. On the go again. Lots of attention has been paid for some time over how this bipedal robot shows promise. Robotics experts are showing Atlas act out their mission to have the robot perform realtime tasks in events of disasters calling for search and rescue.

Thomas Edison's lab door key, lightbulbs up for auction

Thomas Edison's door key to the 19th century lab in New Jersey where he invented the phonograph goes up for auction this weekend, along with lightbulbs he perfected.

Police make 5 arrests in 'unprecedented' cybercrime takedown

U.S. and European officials say they've knocked out a cybercrime group accused of inflicting hundreds of millions of dollars in losses worldwide, putting five key suspects in custody.

Denmark files charges against Uber over 'illegal' business

Danish prosecutors have filed charges against Uber's European regional hub in the Netherlands with "helping to commit illegalities."

North American energy integration poised for rapid transformation

Integrated energy markets throughout North America, including Mexico, might witness a rapid transformation, mainly due to the unconventional hydrocarbon revolution taking place in the United States, according to a new paper from the Mexico Center at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

What does a driverless future look like?

Imagine a commute where, instead of steering yourself through traffic, you can sip your coffee, get some work done or even nap while your self-driving vehicle makes your commute for you. Or perhaps your whole family could pile into a hotel-like car, sleeping through the night while your car takes you home for the holidays.

'Chariot' on course to deliver healthier homes and lower energy bills

Successful trials of Chariot, a unique new system that simultaneously records temperature, humidity and energy use in the home, have opened the way for low-income households to save money while reducing risks to their health.

Student's award-winning graphene battery could slash electric-car charging times

A student engineer from the University of Sussex has won a national car industry award for designing a new battery that could revolutionise electric vehicles.

German Parliament chief to OK probe of WikiLeaks documents

The speaker of the German Parliament is planning to approve a criminal investigation into the leak of confidential documents relating to U.S. intelligence activities in the country.

FCC: AT&T, Verizon shouldn't exempt own apps from data caps

U.S. regulators are calling out AT&T and Verizon for exempting their own video apps from data caps on customers' cellphones.

First US offshore wind farm to begin production within days

There has been a hiccup at the nation's first offshore wind farm as it prepares to start delivering power.

How a Trump administration could shape the internet

Under a President Donald Trump, cable and phone companies could gain new power to influence what you do and what you watch online—not to mention how much privacy you have while you're at it.

Russia warns of planned cyber attacks on its banks

Russia's main domestic security agency says unspecified foreign special services are plotting a series of cyber attacks aimed at destabilizing the nation's financial system.

China to US: Avoid politics in purchase of Germany's Aixtron

China appealed to Washington and Berlin to avoid injecting politics into the proposed takeover of a German maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment following a report President Obama plans to oppose it as a security risk.

As machine learning breakthroughs abound, researchers look to democratize benefits

When Robert Schapire started studying theoretical machine learning in graduate school three decades ago, the field was so obscure that what is today a major international conference was just a tiny workshop, so small that even graduate students were routinely excluded.

Making better use of the crowd

Over the last decade, computer scientists have harnessed crowds of Internet users to solve tasks that are notoriously difficult to crack with computers alone, such as determining whether an image contains a tree, rating the relevance of websites, and verifying phone numbers.

Obama blocks proposed takeover of Germany's Aixtron

Citing a national security risk, President Barack Obama on Friday blocked a Chinese investor's proposed takeover of Aixtron SE, a German maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, a rare move that drew objections from Beijing and complaints that the U.S. was injecting politics into the deal.

Medicine & Health news

Portions of the brain fall asleep and wake back up all the time, study finds

When we are in a deep slumber our brain's activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It's hard to miss.

Researchers discover a critical cellular 'off' switch for the inflammatory immune response that causes asthma attacks

Working with human immune cells in the laboratory, Johns Hopkins researchers report they have identified a critical cellular "off" switch for the inflammatory immune response that contributes to lung-constricting asthma attacks. The switch, they say, is composed of regulatory proteins that control an immune signaling pathway in cells.

A radiation-free approach to imaging molecules in the brain

Scientists hoping to get a glimpse of molecules that control brain activity have devised a new probe that allows them to image these molecules without using any chemical or radioactive labels.

Fast fMRI tracks brain activity during human thought for first time

By significantly increasing the speed of functional MRI (fMRI), researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have been able to image rapidly fluctuating brain activity during human thought. fMRI measures changes in blood oxygenation, which were previously thought to be too slow to detect the subtle neuronal activity associated with higher order brain functions. The new discovery that fast fMRI can detect rapid brain oscillations is a significant step towards realizing a central goal of neuroscience research: mapping the brain networks responsible for human cognitive functions such as perception, attention, and awareness.

Data scientists find causal relation in characteristics of ADHD

Hyperactivity seems to be the result of not being able to focus one's attention rather than the other way around. This was proposed in an article in PLOS ONE, written by researchers at Radboud university medical center and Radboud University. It seems to suggest that more attention should be given to the AD than to the HD component.

Engineered virus has artificial amino acid allowing it to serve as a vaccine

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at Peking University has developed a new type of vaccine that they claim may allow for a new approach to generating live virus vaccines which could conceivably be adapted to any type of virus. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team outlines the means by which they modified an influenza virus causing it to incite an immune response without a risk of infection.

Researchers uncover more genetic links to brain cancer cell growth

Two recently discovered genetic differences between brain cancer cells and normal tissue cells—an altered gene and a snippet of noncoding genetic material—could offer clues to tumor behavior and potential new targets for therapy, Johns Hopkins scientists report.

Mix-up over homemade herbal tea puts woman in life-threatening condition

A woman who mistakenly used foxglove instead of comfrey leaves to make a herbal tea was rushed to hospital in a life-threatening condition.

Not much evidence behind advice to 'drink plenty of fluids' when unwell

Doctors often advise patients to 'drink plenty of fluids' and 'keep well hydrated' when unwell, but a new report calls for more research behind this advice.

Concerns over bodybuilders injecting natural oils

In BMJ Case Reports today, doctors are warning of the dangers associated with injecting natural oils to improve muscle definition following a serious complication experienced by an amateur bodybuilder.

Vietnam war veteran develops rare cancer after exposure to Agent Orange

A veteran with a rare type of cancer may have developed the condition after being exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, reveal doctors writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Being part of a community group could protect you from cognitive decline

Social engagement through civic group activities, such as being a member of a political party, an environmental group, neighborhood watch, a voluntary service group or other community based groups, is associated with better cognitive function at age 50, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Psychology which included 9,119 men and women from England, Scotland and Wales.

Dabigatran superior to warfarin when anticoagulation is resumed after bleeding

In the first analysis of how to treat patients on anticoagulants who suffer a major bleeding event, a clinical practice that routinely gives doctors pause, while also evaluating a new drug, University of Pittsburgh researchers aim to provide much-needed guidance to clinicians trying to balance the risks of stroke versus bleeding when determining the best treatment.

Study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

A new study by Lyle Hood, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), describes a new device that could revolutionize the delivery of medicine to treat cancer as well as a host of other diseases and ailments. Hood developed the device in partnership with Alessandro Grattoni, chair of the Department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Neuroscientist studies connection between PTSD and alcohol abuse

As families gather for the holidays this year, many will reminisce, sharing fond memories as they break bread and pass the cranberry sauce. They are the lucky ones. Others who carry memories too painful or too horrific to share will do whatever they can to forget, including turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

In cancer immunotherapy, one PD-L1 test to rule them all?

Clinical trials have proven the power of immunotherapies targeting PD-L1 or PD-1 in a range of cancers. However, these same trials show that only some patients benefit - tumors must depend on PD-L1 to be affected when medicines block its action. In response, the companies Merck, AstraZeneca, Genentech/Roche, and Bristol-Myers Squibb together with the diagnostic companies Ventana and Dako have developed four tests to predict which tumors do and do not express on PD-L1 and thus which tumors will respond to the therapies. An ambitious collaboration between these companies and research organizations including the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research, and academic medical centers including the University of Colorado Cancer Center, results in a study published online today in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology comparing these four tests.

Kidney disease hospitalization and mortality rates continue to decline in the US

According to an annual data report from the United States Renal Data System (USRDS), hospitalization and mortality rates for patients with chronic kidney disease continue to decline in the U.S.

Lung function decline accelerates in menopausal women

Menopausal women appear to experience an accelerated decline in lung function, according to new research published online ahead of print in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Short-term sleep deprivation affects heart function

Too little sleep takes a toll on your heart, according to a new study to be presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Disrupting daily routine of gut microbes can be bad news for whole body

We've known that bacteria live in our intestines as far back as the 1680s, when Leeuwenhoek first looked through his microscope. Yogurt companies use that information in the sales pitch for their product, claiming it can help keep your gut bacteria happy. The bacteria growing on our skin have also been effectively exploited to sell the underarm deodorants without which we can become, ahem, malodorous. Until fairly recently our various microbes were thought of as freeloaders without any meaningful benefit to our functioning as healthy human beings.

After decades of research, why is AIDS still rampant?

Today is World AIDS Day. More than three decades after the virus was first discovered, 5,753 people will become HIV infected today.

Researchers evaluate a program for boys to avert sexual violence

Cornell is helping to usher in new, more effective ways to prevent sexual violence.

Men's pornography use and its impact on intimacy

The more frequently men use pornography the less sexually intimate they are with their partners, latest University of Otago, Christchurch, research shows.

Online insomnia program can improve sleep for many

An online program designed to help people overcome insomnia significantly improves both the amount and quality of sleep, a new University of Virginia study has found.

Cigarette smoke exposure increases scar tissue in the kidney and heart, study finds

Smoking may lead to fibrosis in the heart and kidneys and can worsen existing kidney disease, according to a new study. Fibrosis is tissue scarring that can impair the normal function of vital organs. The research team suggests that exposure to cigarette smoke negatively affects genetic messaging that controls tissue scarring. The study, published in Physiological Genomics, was chosen as an APSselect article for December.

Researcher develops drug to non-invasively diagnose infectious diseases

A professor at The University of New Mexico has developed a new, groundbreaking drug that that could revolutionize the diagnosis of infectious diseases.

Putting fundamental rights of persons with disabilities on the map

Ten years ago this month, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)—a landmark human rights treaty among countries around the world to protect the fundamental rights of all persons with disabilities.

Researcher explores physiological links to schizophrenia

Gregory P. Strauss and his graduate students at Binghamton University have found surprising physiological connections to schizophrenia in their quest to better understand the mental disorder.

Homelessness leading to severe mental and physical problems, study shows

The extent of the mental and physical health problems caused by homelessness among some of society's most vulnerable people has been laid bare in a new report involving research from the University of Sheffield.

Researchers find link between antidepressant use and congenital anomalies or stillbirths

Academics at Swansea University have carried out a dose-response analysis which suggests that pregnant women who take a specific type of antidepressant in early pregnancy have a small but significantly greater risk of having babies with major congenital anomalies (sometimes referred to as birth defects) or stillbirths compared with those who did not take these antidepressants.

Psychological well-being and physical activity in older adults

In a paper just published by researchers at Chapman University, findings showed associations between psychological well-being and physical activity in adults ages 50 and older.

Adrenaline rush: Delaying epinephrine shots after cardiac arrest cuts survival rates

Hospitals in which the administration of epinephrine to patients whose hearts have stopped is delayed beyond five minutes have significantly lower survival rates of those patients, a new study led by a cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center finds.

Study: Enhancing cancer response to radiation

OHSU researcher Sudarshan Anand, Ph.D., has a contemporary analogy to describe microRNA: "I sometimes compare MicroRNA to tweets—they're short, transient and constantly changing."

New mothers preoccupied with their problems can find it more difficult to respond to their babies

Mothers who have repetitive and self-focused negative thoughts about their own problems can have poorer-quality relationships with their babies, new research from the University of Exeter shows.

Saturated fat could be good for you

A new Norwegian diet intervention study (FATFUNC), performed by researchers at the KG Jebsen center for diabetes research at the University of Bergen, raises questions regarding the validity of a diet hypothesis that has dominated for more than half a century: that dietary fat and particularly saturated fat is unhealthy for most people.

New test identifies high-risk liver patients

Newcastle scientists and medics have developed a promising new test to identify patients with a rare liver disease who will not respond to standard treatment, allowing earlier intervention with alternatives.

Alpha blockers more effective for large kidney stones

Nearly one in 11 Americans will have a kidney stone in their lifetime, causing pain, sometimes missed work and, often, a lot of money.

Low-carb diet may aid your metabolism

(HealthDay)—Eating low-carbohydrate meals may lead to healthy changes in a woman's metabolism that don't occur when consuming higher-carbohydrate meals, a small study suggests.

Novel anti-PSMA imaging agent quickly identifies prostate cancer lesions

New research demonstrates that a novel imaging agent can quickly and accurately detect metastasis of prostate cancer, even in areas where detection has previously been difficult. Published in the December issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, the Phase 1 dose-escalation study of Zr-89-desferrioxamine-IAB2M (Zr-89-Df-IAB2M), an anti-PSMA (prostate-specific membrane antigen) minibody, in patients with metastatic prostate cancer shows its effectiveness in targeting both bone and soft tissue lesions.

Treatment significantly reduces chemotherapy-induced hearing loss in children

Investigators from Children's Hospital Los Angeles and 37 other Children's Oncology Group hospitals in the U.S. and Canada have determined that sodium thiosulfate prevents cisplatin-induced hearing loss in children and adolescents with cancer. Results of this randomized, controlled, phase 3 study, called ACCL0431, have been published in the early online edition of Lancet Oncology.

Drug for one hepatitis type may activate another: watchdog

Drugs against one type of hepatitis may activate another, sometimes with fatal consequences, Europe's medicines watchdog warned on Friday.

Mechanism of probiotic health promotion revealed

In several clinical trials, the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus paracasei DG has been shown to promote health, but until now, the mechanism has remained a black box. New research now suggests that the health benefits arise from communication between the probiotic bacteria and the human host. That communication involves bacterial secretion of a novel polysaccharide that tells the immune system to release certain immunity-stimulating chemicals. The research is published December 2 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

US health care tab hits $3.2T; fastest growth in 8 years

The nation's health care tab grew at the fastest rate in eight years in 2015, driven by the coverage expansion in President Barack Obama's law and by costly prescription drugs, the government said Friday.

Advanced soft tissue sarcomas respond to new drug GDC-0575 combined with gemcitabine

Munich, Germany: Researchers working to find effective treatments for soft tissue sarcomas have discovered that combining a new anti-cancer drug with an existing one kills cancer cells not only in the laboratory but also in the first two patients treated with it, leading to unusually long-lasting periods without the disease progressing.

A drug that inhibits the Notch signalling process is active in a range of advanced cancers

Munich, Germany: A new anti-cancer drug that inhibits a key cell signalling process involved in many different cancers has shown that it is capable of stopping the progression of cancer and shrinking tumours. Importantly, it has been able to do this in rare cancers that are less well-studied such as adenoid cystic carcinoma.

'Bad boy' pharma chief mocks Aussie student achievements

"Bad boy" pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli, who raised the cost of an HIV drug by 5,000 percent, has mocked a group of Sydney school students who recreated the life-saving medicine on the cheap.

New Zealanders need high quality cancer information

There is considerable demand for cancer information resources in New Zealand, with a third of women and a quarter of men deliberately searching for these over the past year, according to a new University of Otago study.

Curbing HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa through political leadership

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is now almost through its fourth decade since becoming established as a major public health concern in the early 1980s. The global health community has made immense progress in understanding the biologic basis of the virus; the epidemiology behind its spread through populations; treatments that are effective in suppressing the virus; and the social and cultural factors that have influenced how individuals are living with the disease. However, there is a dearth of information regarding the role of political leadership, and how it can successfully or detrimentally affect populations as it relates to the HIV epidemic, and other diseases more generally.

Cataracts linked to increased odds of depression in older adults

Older adults with cataracts are more likely to have symptoms of depression, reports a study in the December issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

Biology news

How single-celled organisms navigate to oxygen

A team of researchers has discovered that tiny clusters of single-celled organisms that inhabit the world's oceans and lakes, are capable of navigating their way to oxygen. Writing in e-Life scientists at the University of Cambridge describe how choanaflagellates, the closest relatives of animals, form small colonies that can sense a large range of concentrations of oxygen in the water. The research offers clues as to how these organisms evolved into multi-cellular ones.

Natural nomads, leatherback turtles opt to stay in place

Endangered leatherback sea turtles are known for their open-ocean migratory nature and nomadic foraging habits – traveling thousands of miles. But a Cornell naturalist and his colleagues have discovered an area along the Mozambique coast that the turtles have made their permanent home, according to a study published in Nature's Scientific Reports, Nov. 25.

Mice can smell oxygen

The genome of mice harbours more than 1000 odorant receptor genes, which enable them to smell myriad odours in their surroundings. Researchers at the Max Planck Research Unit for Neurogenetics in Frankfurt, the University of Saarland in Homburg, the University of Cambridge and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have discovered that mice can also sense the oxygen level of the inhaled air using neurons in their nose. For this newly discovered sensory property, mice rely on two genes termed Gucy1b2 and Trpc2, but apparently not on odorant receptor genes.

Biologists unlock 51.7-million-year-old genetic secret to landmark Darwin theory

Scientists have identified the cluster of genes responsible for reproductive traits in the Primula flower, first noted as important by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago.

Institutional collapse, not guns and bombs, is most-cited cause of wildlife declines from war

In conflict zones, the most common killers of wildlife are not guns and bombs, but breakdowns in institutions, societies and economies, according to a study by researchers at UC Berkeley.

Chimpanzees recognise one another from their rear ends

It is important for social animals to be able to recognise one another quickly. Humans are able to recognise each other immediately from their faces. Faces are also important for chimpanzees, but a new study by neuropsychologist Mariska Kret in PLOS ONE shows that the animals' buttocks also play a role.

New diagnostic test invented to detect costly Atlantic salmon disease

Scientists from the University of Glasgow, working with major companies in the aquaculture industry BioMar Ltd and Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd, have discovered a 'simple test' to aid the diagnosis of a significant disease which affects Atlantic salmon which could save millions to the industry.

China's pristine parks get more merit

Research, published as How Pristine Are China's Parks? in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, found that the numerous smaller parks in the arable farming landscapes of the warmer, wetter south and east had been more heavily modified.

Open-source tools accelerate plant breeding in developing countries

Crop breeders in developing countries can now access free tools to accelerate the breeding of improved crops varieties, thanks to a collaboration between the GOBII project at Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), and the James Hutton Institute in Scotland.

Hospital in Delhi gives birds new flight

Across from the Red Fort of the Mughal emperors in the heart of Old Delhi, a small hospital run by followers of the Jain faith looks after birds battered by harsh life in the Indian capital.

Nations need to get serious about biodiversity loss or risk missing global targets

Faced with dramatic declines in nature, governments must come prepared to urgently implement their collective commitments to global biodiversity conservation and dramatically raise their individual ambitions at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The meeting comes as nations are already on pace to miss internationally-agreed biodiversity targets set to come due at the end of the decade.

New bird flu scare hits holiday hopes of French foie gras exporters

A new outbreak of bird flu hit France's foie gras producers on Friday just as a ban on exports outside Europe was about to be lifted in time for the crucial holiday period.

Oldest zoo gorilla set to have biopsy before 60th birthday

The oldest known gorilla living in a zoo, a female named Colo, is slated to undergo a surgical biopsy sometime before her 60th birthday on Dec. 22.


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