Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Dec 27

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 27, 2016:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Nano system operates with interacting electrons, but no electric current

New atom interferometer could measure inertial forces with record-setting accuracy

China plans to land probes on far side of moon, Mars by 2020

Smartphone-obsessed Finns rank tops in screen time

Avatar-style S. Korean manned robot takes first baby steps

Oxytocin enhances social affiliation in chimpanzee groups

Control algorithms could keep sensor-laden balloons afloat in hurricanes for a week

Scientists develop novel assay to decode functional elements of genome

Stability without junctions—cadherin prevents cortical deformation

New mathematical model provides 'disease causation index'

Treating cancer with drugs for diabetes and hypertension

Naturally occurring mechanism of cancer drug-resistance may itself be a treatment target

Did teen perception, use of marijuana change after recreational use legalized?

Diabetes, heart disease, and back pain dominate US health care spending

Antibiotic resistance just became more complex

Astronomy & Space news

China plans to land probes on far side of moon, Mars by 2020

China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.

Vera Rubin, who did pioneering work on dark matter, dies

Vera Rubin, a pioneering astronomer who helped find powerful evidence of dark matter, has died, her son said Monday.

Technology news

Smartphone-obsessed Finns rank tops in screen time

On the crowded morning metro in Helsinki, silence prevails. Everyone is hunched over their smartphone screens, reading the news, checking emails or watching videos.

Avatar-style S. Korean manned robot takes first baby steps

A giant South Korean-built manned robot that walks like a human but makes the ground shake under its weight has taken its first baby steps.

New simulation software improves helicopter pilot training

Missions at sea, in mountainous regions or close to skyscrapers are extremely risky for helicopter pilots. The turbulent air flows near oil rigs, ships, cliffs and tall buildings can throw a helicopter off balance and cause a crash. To provide pilots with optimal preparation for these challenging conditions, engineers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are developing new simulation software.

Tesla, Panasonic to make solar cells in Buffalo, New York

Japanese electronics company Panasonic and U.S. electric car maker Tesla said Tuesday they plan to begin production of solar cells at a factory in Buffalo, New York.

Hack-proofing RFID-equipped personal devices

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags have become almost ubiquitous – look carefully, and you'll notice them in passports, credit cards, library books, office access passes, and even pet cats.

The biggest technology failures of 2016

2016 has been a watershed year for technology. There has been some spectacular fails that have brought a more realistic perspective to the fundamental belief that technology improves with time. In part, this is because we have now pushed hardware and software to its limits, and certainly beyond our ability to guarantee that it will work as promised, or even secretly hoped. 2016 was the year that technology hit a wall, with significant challenges that will need to be overcome before it can pick up again and start to bring any of its promised future benefits.

Why connecting all the world's robots will drive 2017's top technology trends

If you want to make predictions for the future, you need to find the trajectory of events in the past. So to work out what shape digital technology will likely take next year, we should look back to the major developments of 2016. And the past year's developments point to a 2017 shaped by the next phase of virtual and augmented reality, the emergence of an internet for artificial intelligence and the creation of personalised digital assistants that follow us across devices.

Network traffic anomaly detection

"Diagnosing unusual events (called "anomalies") in a large-scale network like Internet Service Providers and enterprise networks is critical and challenging for both network operators and end users," explain Hiroyuki Kasai from The University of Electro-Communications in Japan, and co-authors Wolfgang Kellerer Martin Kleinsteuber at the Technical University of Munich in Germany in a recent report. In their latest work they devise a computationally efficient and effective algorithm to identify network level anomalies by exploiting the state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, especially the large-scale higher-order tensor tracking technique.

Coding theorem defines decoding error capacity for general scenarios

The rate at which information can be coded so that it can be decoded within a particular error probability constraint is one of the "major research topics in information theory" as Hideki Yagi at the University of Electro-Communications, Te Sun Han at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Ryo Nomura at Senshu University in Japan explain in their recent report. In this latest work they formulate a theorem for a general class of coding theorems that gives a formula for the decoding error capacity. They also show how the theorem reduces to known theorems for more restricted scenarios.

Improvements to a decision-making algorithm

In fields such as engineering, economics or finance, highly complex decisions must be made, often incorporating multiple, at times contradictory, objectives. Highly specialised computer algorithms can help find the best possible solutions to these multi-objective problems (MOPs).

Speech signal processing—enhancing voice conversion models

Altering a person's voice so that it sounds like another person is a useful technique for use in security and privacy, for example. This computational technique, known as voice conversion (VC), usually requires parallel data from two speakers to achieve a natural-sounding conversion. Parallel data requires recordings of two people saying the same sentences, with the necessary vocabulary, which are then time-matched and used to create a new target voice for the original speaker.

Amazon sold 'millions' of Alexa speakers for holiday

Amazon said Tuesday its connected Echo speakers infused with artificial intelligence were the top-selling products over the holiday season for the online giant.

Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan cars investigated for brake issue

The U.S. government is investigating some Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan cars because the brake pedal may lose pressure, making it hard for drivers to stop the vehicle.

Cell service at Rainier: Do you want to hear me now?

On a recent snowshoeing trip on Mount Rainier, Nancy Spears brought along her cellphone but was happy not to have coverage: It gave her time to connect with her snowy surroundings rather than her social media accounts.

'Profitable' Washington Post will expand newsroom

The Washington Post, purchased three years ago by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will turn a profit in 2016 and expand its newsroom, defying the downward trend in the newspaper industry.

Medicine & Health news

New mathematical model provides 'disease causation index'

Patients with complex diseases have a higher risk of developing others. Multi-morbidity represents a huge problem in everyday clinical practice, because it makes it more difficult to provide successful treatment. By analysing data from all over Austria, Peter Klimek and Stefan Thurner have developed a mathematical model that can be used to distinguish whether a disease has a genetic or environmental cause.

Treating cancer with drugs for diabetes and hypertension

A combination of a diabetes medication and an antihypertensive drug can effectively combat cancer cells. The team of researchers led by Prof. Michael Hall at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has also reported that specific cancer cells respond to this combination of drugs. The results of the study have now been published in Science Advances.

Naturally occurring mechanism of cancer drug-resistance may itself be a treatment target

The use of proteasome inhibitors to treat cancer has been greatly limited by the ability of cancer cells to develop resistance to these drugs. But Whitehead Institute researchers have found a mechanism underlying this resistance—a mechanism that naturally occurs in many diverse cancer types and that may expose vulnerabilities to drugs that spur the natural cell-death process.

Did teen perception, use of marijuana change after recreational use legalized?

Marijuana use significantly increased and its perceived harm decreased among eighth- and 10th-graders in Washington state following enactment of recreational marijuana laws, according to a UC Davis and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health to be published online in JAMA Pediatrics. There was no change in use or perceived harm among 12th graders or among similar grades in Colorado.

Diabetes, heart disease, and back pain dominate US health care spending

Just 20 conditions make up more than half of all spending on health care in the United States, according to a new comprehensive financial analysis that examines spending by diseases and injuries.

National study documents value of family-provided medical care for children

About half of U.S. children with special health care needs—5.6 million children—receive medical care from uncompensated family members worth billions of dollars, finds a large national study led by Boston Children's Hospital and the University of Southern California (USC).

Sugar element of keratan sulfate halts the progress of emphysema

Using a mouse model, scientists from the RIKEN-Max Planck Joint Research Center for Systems Chemical Biology and a number of other institutes have identified a sugar molecule that reduced the inflammatory response and progress of emphysema, a common component of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to Naoyuki Taniguchi, the leader of the group, this discovery could lead to the development of drugs based on glycans—biological sugar molecules—for the treatment of diseases such as COPD, which is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

New PCR primer database to combat RNA viral epidemics

Scientists at Korea's Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) scientists have compiled a comprehensive new public database of genetic information to enable the detection and identification of RNA viruses using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. The database should prove invaluable in combating potential future epidemics.

Anti-viral rapid reaction force

After host cells have been attacked by a virus, they present parts of the pathogen on their surface. Thanks to these virus components, the killer cells patrolling in the body (CD8+ T lymphocytes) can recognise the infected cells and kill them, thereby preventing the virus from spreading further.

Family squabbles over Christmas? Re-playing arguments in detail may be the best way to cope with them

The British way of dealing with family quarrels may be to sweep them under the carpet. Yet re-playing upsetting or annoying events like an argument in your head and recalling what happened in detail can in fact be therapeutic and prevent you getting quarrels out of proportion, or becoming depressed and anxious as a result.

Preventing too much immunity

Scientists at the Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC), Osaka University, Japan, report a new molecular mechanism that could explain the cause of some autoimmune diseases.

Novel insights into neuronal activity-dependent gene expression by CREB

Neuronal activity mediates the formation of neuronal circuits in the cerebral cortex. These processes are regulated by the transcription factor CREB, which regulates gene expression in neuronal activity-dependent processes. Neuronal activity enhances CREB-mediated transcription but the mechanisms remain unclear.

First non-human primate model for severe combined immunodeficiency

While many insights are gained into diseases and genetic disorders from rodent models, there is a pressing need to find models that can more accurately represent disease progression in the human body, such as non-human primates. The latest advances in genome editing technology are opening doors to generating non-human primate models for studying specific genetic disorders, such as X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (X-SCID).

The dawn of mRNA-based therapeutics for brain diseases

The progressive dementia suffered by patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects millions of people globally each year and puts considerable strain on healthcare services. The mechanisms behind AD are not yet clear, and there are no effective therapies available to fully tackle the disease.

Hong Kong records winter's first bird flu death

An elderly man has died of bird flu in Hong Kong in the city's first human case of the disease this winter, authorities said Tuesday.

Study finds hospital Intensive Care Units overused

Intensive Care Units (ICUs), which provide the most expensive and invasive forms of care in a hospital setting, are being used too often for patients who don't need that level of care, according to a new study by LA BioMed and UCLA researchers published in the JAMA Internal Medicine today.

'Friendship Bench' program proves effective at alleviating mental illness symptoms

Their offices are simple wooden seats, called Friendship Benches, located in the grounds of health clinics around Harare and other major cities in Zimbabwe.

Homeless sleep less, more likely to have insomnia; sleep improvements needed

The homeless sleep less and are more likely to have insomnia and daytime fatigue than people in the general population, findings researchers believe suggest more attention needs to be paid to improving sleep for this vulnerable population, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

How much money is spent on health care for kids, where does it go?

Health care spending on children grew 56 percent between 1996 and 2013, with the most money spent in 2013 on inpatient well-newborn care, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and well-dental care, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

The neighborhood effect: Sicker patients draw on shared resources

In a research letter published Dec. 27, 2016, in JAMA, University of Chicago physicians describe a new concern for patients in the hospital: distractions caused by the misfortune of other patients.

Out of gas and low on sperm? Team uncovers genetic key to self-renewal of reproductive cells

Sperm are constantly replenished in the adult male body. Understanding the workings of stem cells responsible for this replenishment is expected to shed light on why male fertility diminishes with age, and possibly lead to new treatments for infertility.

Shoulder pain linked to increased heart disease risk

After all the lifting, hauling, and wrapping, worn out gift givers may blame the season's physical strain for any shoulder soreness they are feeling. It turns out there could be another reason. A new study led by investigators at the University of Utah School of Medicine finds that individuals with symptoms that put them at increased risk for heart disease could be more likely to have shoulder problems, including joint pain and rotator cuff injury.

Endometrial cancer driver mutations detectable in uterine lavage fluid

Mutations that have been linked to endometrial cancer can be found in the uterine lavage fluid of pre- and post-menopausal women both with and without detectable cancer, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine by John Martignetti from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA, and colleagues.

Investigational new drug for Alzheimer's scheduled for first study in humans

Vanderbilt University scientists have received notification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that testing in humans may proceed for an investigational new drug for Alzheimer's disease after more than 10 years of research by scientists at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In 2017, focus on reset rather than resolution

While resolutions tend to make their way into our lives every January, research has shown that many people give them up after just a few weeks. A nutrition expert with Baylor College of Medicine suggests focusing instead on a reset of a healthy lifestyle with more realistic decisions.

Mumps spreads on college campuses

Caroline Brown, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, got a fever over Thanksgiving break. Soon it became painful to bite down, and her cheek began to swell. A trip to her physician confirmed it: she had the mumps.

Shift work and sleep problems

Dear Mayo Clinic: I started working a night shift six months ago, and I just can't get enough sleep. I'm having a hard time staying asleep during the day. Most days, I get five hours of sleep or less. What can I do to get more sleep? I'm worried that lack of sleep is going to affect my health.

Lack of standards for infant cereals threatens child nutrition in lower-income countries

For parents around the world, premixed infant cereals—also known as complementary foods—can be a vital source of the solid food needed for healthy child growth after six months of age, when infants outgrow the nutrients provided by breast milk alone.

Dutch medical centre probes suspected IVF sperm mix-up

A Dutch medical institution announced an investigation Tuesday after discovering that up to 26 women may have been fertilised by the wrong sperm cells at its IVF treatment laboratory.

When it comes to reducing hospital readmissions, financial penalties work

Hospitals that were financially penalized for too many readmissions were more likely than non-penalized institutions to subsequently reduce readmissions for all conditions, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kids' restaurant meals need slimming down: nutritionists

(HealthDay)—Most items offered on children's menus at major restaurant chains in the United States have too many calories, a new study finds.

Kids landing in ERs after drinking parents' e-cig nicotine liquid

(HealthDay)—A case study highlights the danger liquid nicotine for electronic cigarettes poses to children.

Rifaximin effective for repeat treatment of IBS with diarrhea

(HealthDay)—Repeat treatment with the nonsystemic antibiotic rifaximin is effective in patients with relapsing symptoms of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D), according to a study published in the December issue of Gastroenterology.

Is dementia in older women tied to 20-year rate of weight loss?

(HealthDay)—For women surviving into late life, the rate of weight loss over 20 years is associated with development of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia, according to a study published online Dec. 19 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Oxidative stress tied to early-onset androgenetic alopecia

(HealthDay)—Younger patients with early-onset androgenetic alopecia (AGA) have increased oxidative stress, according to a study published online Dec. 16 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

Confocal microscopy aids surgical removal of tumors from eyelid

(HealthDay)—Imaging using fluorescence confocal microscopy (FCM) analysis in the reflectance mode and with an "en face" scanning can control tumor margins of eyelid basal cell carcinoma (BCC) to optimize surgical management, according to a study published online Dec. 19 in Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology.

Most postpartum moms OK with self-administered pain meds

(HealthDay)—There is high satisfaction for a postpartum self-administered medication (SAM) program on postpartum wards, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Recombinant type-5 vector-based ebola vaccine safe

(HealthDay)—For healthy adults from Sierra Leon, the recombinant type-5 vector-based Ebola vaccine is safe and immunogenic, according to a study published online Dec. 21 in The Lancet.

Police referral without arrest lets opioid abusers seek help

(HealthDay)—A direct referral program and use of an interim buprenorphine regimen can be beneficial for encouraging individuals with an opioid-use disorder to seek help, and for reducing drug-related risks, according to two research letters published online Dec. 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

More years lost for whites versus South Asians, blacks with T2DM

(HealthDay)—Whites with type 2 diabetes have more life years lost than South Asians or blacks, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in Diabetes Care.

Mechanisms in reversible infantile liver failure illuminated

Reversible infantile liver failure (RILF) is a heritable mitochondrial condition that causes severe liver dysfunction in infancy, but those who survive the acute stage typically recover and have no further problems. In work designed to examine the molecular mechanisms involved in RILF, researchers in Japan have used a novel murine model to show that a deficiency of the mitochondrial enzyme MTU1 has strong effects on the liver and on embryonic development in general.

Biology news

Oxytocin enhances social affiliation in chimpanzee groups

The high costs of individuals going to war is perplexing. Individuals are willing to suffer costs in order to benefit their own group, through cooperating and supporting their fellow group members and acting with hostility towards the out-group. Although aggressive, these conflicts are also known to enhance the sense of group belonging and promote social cohesion and affiliation among group members, essential aspects of successful competition with out-groups. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have measured the concentration of the hormone oxytocin in the urine of wild chimpanzees before and during intergroup conflicts and found that their social affiliations enable chimpanzees, too, to stand by each other against rivals.

Scientists develop novel assay to decode functional elements of genome

One of the most profound changes in the life of an organism is what Antonio Giraldez calls "embryonic puberty": the stage when an early embryo stops taking instructions from its mother on how to develop and activates its own genome to kick out those instructions instead. This critical stage, called the maternal-to-zygote transition, happens in all embryos, from sea anemones to humans. Yet how it is regulated in the embryo is not yet known.

Stability without junctions—cadherin prevents cortical deformation

Scientists from the Mechanobiology Institute, Singapore (MBI) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered that cadherin clusters, which are well known for forming junctions between cells, also play a role in stabilising the cell cortex. The study was published in the scientific journal Current Biology on 15 December 2016.

Antibiotic resistance just became more complex

Bacteria that are susceptible to antibiotics can survive when enough resistant cells around them are expressing an antibiotic-deactivating factor. This new take on how the microbial context can compromise antibiotic therapy was published by a team of microbiologists from the University of Groningen microbiologists, together with colleagues from San Diego, in the journal PLOS Biology on 27 December.

Genome study reveals 'gray zone' of animals transitioning from one species to two

There is usually no ambiguity about species delineation when distant lineages are compared. For instance, there is no doubt that dogs and cats belong to two different species. However, such distinction becomes less clear-cut when comparing recently diverged groups of individuals, between which interbreeding is still to some extent possible. This is the paradox of speciation: a gradual, continuous process that ultimately leads to distinct biological entities.

Jawing away: Bahama pupfish study identifies candidate genes driving food-niches

Within the salty lakes of the Bahama's San Salvador Island is an amazing diversity of fishes that may rival Charles Darwin's finches in the Galapagos.

Peru brain museum puts most complex organ on display

It powers everything we do, yet remains one of our biggest mysteries.

Calcium aids chromosome condensation prior to cell division

Osaka University-led Japanese research reveals role for calcium ions in chromosome condensation during mitosis; high-resolution imaging of living cells reveals compact, globular chromosomes in the presence of calcium that became fibrous and expand in its absence.

High-intensity light promotes anthocyanin accumulation in rough bluegrass

Anthocyanins, plant pigments known for their health-promoting properties, are in demand for medicinal and industrial uses. Anthocyanins have become sought-after natural products, but the small number of plants that naturally produce anthocyanins has limited their widespread use. Researchers at The Ohio State University say the results of their recent study (HortScience, September 2106) can help to increase the environmental and economic sustainability of anthocyanin extract production in turfgrasses such as rough bluegrass.

Japan culling 90,000 more birds for avian flu

Japan began killing some 90,000 chickens on Tuesday to contain another outbreak of a highly contagious strain of avian flu, officials said.

Gloomy start to year of rooster as bird flu hits South Korea

The year of the rooster looks set for a gloomy start. Egg prices are soaring and new year's festivals are being canceled as South Korea fights its worst bird flu outbreak in a decade.

Rampant narcissism and social cheating – the importance of teaching social evolutionary mechanisms

As socioeconomic inequality grows,  the publicly acknowledged importance of traits such as honesty, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and reciprocity appears to have fallen out of favor with some of our socio-economic and political elites. How many people condemn a person as dishonest one day and embrace them the next? Dishonesty and selfishness no longer appear to be taboo, or a source of shame that needs to be expurgated (perhaps my Roman Catholic upbringing is bubbling to the surface here).  A disavowal of shame and guilt and the lack of serious social censure appears to be on the rise, particularly within the excessively wealthy and privileged, as if the society from which they extracted their wealth and fame does not deserve their active participation and support [link: Hutton, 2009].  They have embraced a "winning takes all" strategy.

How safe is seafood?

Seafood is the main component of European Christmas menus. But with rising concern about chemical pollution in the marine environment, is seafood safe to eat?

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