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SciTechPress

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  1. neurosciencestuff: Over millions of years retroviruses have been incorporated into our human DNA, where they today make up almost 10 per cent of the total genome. A research group at Lund University in Sweden has now discovered a mechanism through which these retroviruses may have an impact on gene expression. This means that they may have played a significant role in the development of the human brain as well as in various neurological diseases. Retroviruses are a special group of viruses including some which are dangerous, such as HIV, while others are believed to be harmless. The viruses studied by Johan Jakobsson and his colleagues in Lund are called endogenous retroviruses (ERV) as they have existed in the human genome for millions of years. They can be found in a part of DNA that was previously considered unimportant, so called junk-DNA – a notion that researchers have now started to reconsider. “The genes that control the production of various proteins in the body represent a smaller proportion of our DNA than endogenous retroviruses. They account for approximately 2 per cent, while retroviruses account for 8–10 per cent of the total genome. If it turns out that they are able to influence the production of proteins, this will provide us with a huge new source of information about the human brain”, says Johan Jakobsson. And this is precisely what the researchers discovered. They have determined that several thousands of the retroviruses that have established themselves in our genome may serve as “docking platforms” for a protein called TRIM28. This protein has the ability to “switch off” not only viruses but also the standard genes adjacent to them in the DNA helix, allowing the presence of ERV to affect gene expression. This switching-off mechanism may behave differently in different people, since retroviruses are a type of genetic material that may end up in different places in the genome. This makes it a possible tool for evolution, and even a possible underlying cause of neurological diseases. In fact, there are studies that indicate a deviating regulation of ERV in several neurological diseases such as ALS, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Two years ago, Johan Jakobsson’s team showed that ERV had a regulatory role in neurons specifically. However, this study was conducted on mice, whereas the new study – published in the journal Cell Reports – was made using human cells. The differences between mice and humans are particularly important in this context. Many of the retroviruses that have been built into the human DNA do not exist in species other than humans and our closest relatives – gorillas and chimpanzees. They seem to have incorporated themselves into the genome some 35–45 million years ago, when the evolutionary lineage of primates was divided between the Old and New World. “Much of what we know about the overall development of the brain comes from the fruit fly, zebrafish and mouse. However, if endogenous retroviruses affect brain function, and we have our own set of these ERV, the mechanisms they affect may have contributed to the development of the human brain”, says Johan Jakobsson. via ScitechPress.org
  2. neurosciencestuff: (Image caption: We can examine every transistor in a classical microprocessor using the same techniques we use to understand the brain. For example, we can analyze the transistors based upon their activity during various games (left) or which transistors are necessary for a given game to function. Even with all the data and sophisticated analysis, our understanding of the inner-workings of the processor falls short of what we would hope. Credit: Eric Jonas, CC-BY) Classic Video Game System Used to Improve Understanding of the Brain The complexity of neural networks makes them difficult to analyze, but manmade computing systems should be simpler to understand. In a study published in PLOS Computational Biology, researchers applied widely used neuroscience approaches to analyze the classic games console Atari 2600 – which runs the videogame “Donkey Kong” – and found that such approaches do not meaningfully describe how the console’s microprocessor really works. The field of neuroscience is advancing rapidly. Scientists are able to record the simultaneous activity of more and more neurons in more and more organisms. However, testing the validity of data analysis algorithms is difficult since it is still unclear how even relatively simple neural systems like the brain of a fruit fly work. In the new paper, Eric Jonas of U.C. Berkeley and Konrad Kording of Northwestern University/ Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago describe their attempt to sidestep this issue by applying a large number of classical neuroscience analysis techniques to a computing system that they do understand: the 6502 microprocessor from the Atari 2600. “Since humans designed this processor from the transistor all the way up to the software, we know how it works at every level, and we have an intuition for what it means to ‘understand’ the system,” Jonas says. “Our goal was to highlight some of the deficiencies in ‘understanding’ that arise when applying contemporary analytic techniques to big-data datasets of computing systems.” The researchers used standard neuroscience techniques to analyze the Atari 2600’s microprocessor. They tested how well these techniques could illuminate known characteristics, such as the connections between different parts of the chip and the effects of destroying individual transistors. However, the techniques did not achieve the same level of understanding that a typical electrical engineering student would have. According to Jonas, the results suggest that, “without careful thought, current big-data approaches to neuroscience may not live up to their promise or succeed in advancing the field.” Adds Kording: “Progress requires better experiments, theories, and data analysis approaches.” Microprocessors and biological systems are different in many ways, which could limit the findings. Jonas and Kording also did not try all the existing neuroscience methods for probing the chip. Nonetheless, the study hints at potential problems with modern approaches to neuroscience and suggests new paths to explore in order to better understand the brain. “We could learn a lot about how to reverse-engineer biological systems by reverse-engineering synthetic systems,” Jonas says. via ScitechPress.org
  3. Ouija Boards ‘work’ because of the ideomotor effect, where you sometimes move objects, or even yourself, without knowing it. Combined with a strong, subconscious need for an answer, it creates a situation where people can be spelling out words while moving the planchette and still believe 100% that they aren’t the ones doing it. Source Also, the reason you can get spooky results with Ouija Boards is because you’re unaware of everything you know. A 2012 study had people answer questions both verbally and with a Ouija Board. They were blindfolded and told they’d be using the board with another person, who removed their hands after beginning the experiment. For the questions that people were unsure about, those who used a Ouija Board answered correctly 65% of the time, compared to 50% of the time when answering verbally. The researchers concluded that people have a ‘second intelligence’ buried in their subconscious that can only be accessed under certain conditions. ALSO… There’s a ghost behind you.
  4. the-future-now: A new discovery has changed scientists’ understanding of our early human relatives In 2013, two recreational cavers accidentally stumbled upon pieces of human history while exploring the Rising Star cave system at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa. Located 100 yards from the cave entrance is the Dinaledi chamber — a 30-foot long chamber somewhere between 2 million and 3 million years old — were more than 1,500 fossil fragments of 15 hominin skeletons were found buried in ancient clay. After a month of excavation and two years of analysis by international experts, a verdict was made: The fossil remnants belonged to a previously unknown species related to humans, Homo naledi. Now, the scientists behind the discovery have made another finding regarding the species’ timeline. Due to the age and condition of the bones, traditional dating methods like radiocarbon technique or DNA extraction could not be used to date the fossils, the Washington Post reported. Instead, the scientists analyzed the Naledi teeth and radioactivity in the cave to date the fossils “back to between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago.” The revelation suggests Homo naledi was alive at the same time as several species of ancient humans. Read more (5/9/17) follow @the-future-now​ via ScitechPress.org
  5. This concrete could help prevent hazards caused by flash floods. It can absorb up to 880 gallons of water per minute! via ScitechPress.org
  6. the-future-now: Scientists figured out how to convert polluted air into clean energy In an era of growing concern for the environment, scientists in Belgium have come up with the groundwork for one possible solution: converting air pollution into power. The device that can do it currently fits into the palm of a hand. It relies on solar power to convert polluted air compounds into stored hydrogen, a source of clean energy. It has two chambers separated by a membrane; one chamber cleans the air and the other generates the hydrogen gas. Air with a higher concentration of pollutants ultimately creates stronger electrical currents. This could be good news for cities such as Beijing, Delhi, India and Los Angeles, among many others. Read more (5/8/17) follow @the-future-now​ via ScitechPress.org
  7. Dutch open 'world's largest offshore' wind farm: mindblowingscience: Dutch officials on Monday opened what is being billed as one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, with 150 turbines spinning in action far out in the North Sea. Over the next 15 years, the Gemini windpark, which lies some 85 kilometres (53 miles) off the northern coast of The Netherlands, will meet the energy needs of about 1.5 million people. At full winds the windpark has a generating capacity of some 600 megawatts, and will help supply some 785,000 Dutch households with renewable energy, the company said. “We are now officially in the operational stage,” the company’s managing director Matthias Haag told AFP, celebrating the completion of a project first conceived in 2010. Continue Reading. via ScitechPress.org
  8. NASA Wants Your Code! Boost Supercomputer Software Speed and Win $55,000: mindblowingscience: If you’re a computer programmer with some time on your hands, NASA needs you! The agency said it wants to streamline a piece of software used for aviation research and run on one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. To do so, NASA has teamed up with HeroX and Topcoder to launch the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge (HPFCC), according to a statement. The challenge, should you choose to accept it entails getting NASA’s FUN3D design software to run faster — 10 to 10,000 times faster, in fact. [Images: NASA’s Vision of Future Air Travel] This may sound like a heady task, but NASA officials said the speed jump could be accomplished by identifying a coding bottleneck or simply by shaving milliseconds off of one of the software’s many subroutines by making it more efficient. “This is the ultimate ‘geek’ dream assignment,” said Doug Rohn, director of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP), in the statement. “Helping NASA speed up its software to help advance our aviation research is a win-win for all.” Continue Reading. via ScitechPress.org
  9. 'Humanlike' ways of thinking evolved 1.8 million years ago, suggests new study: mindblowingscience: By using highly advanced brain imaging technology to observe modern humans crafting ancient tools, an Indiana University neuroarchaeologist has found evidence that human-like ways of thinking may have emerged as early as 1.8 million years ago. The results, reported May 8 in the journal Nature Human Behavior, place the appearance of human-like cognition at the emergence of Homo erectus, an early apelike species of human first found in Africa whose evolution predates Neanderthals by nearly 600,000 years. “This is a significant result because it’s commonly thought our most modern forms of cognition only appeared very recently in terms of human evolutionary history,” said Shelby S. Putt, a postdoctoral researcher with The Stone Age Institute at Indiana University, who is first author on the study. “But these results suggest the transition from apelike to humanlike ways of thinking and behaving arose surprisingly early.” Continue Reading. via ScitechPress.org
  10. Boom! Supersonic Passenger Jet Coming by 2020: mindblowingscience: Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic has just partnered with startup Boom Technology to build a supersonic aircraft, Boom Technology announced. The plane would zip through the skies faster than the Concorde jet or any other commercial aircraft today, Boom Technology said. Aircraft that fly faster than the speed of sound were first developed in the mid-20th century. But regulations and technical challenges halted innovation and expansion of the concept, said Boom Technology, which has headquarters in Denver. The aviation startup said it aims to change that by developing a modern, supersonic passenger jet that travels at Mach 2.2. That’s twice the speed of sound, or 1,451 mph (2,335 km/h). The Concorde, a now-retired supersonic passenger jet, flew at speeds of up to about 1,350 mph (2,180 km/h). Boom also aims to set a new speed record for civil aircraft, according to a blog post by Blake Scholl, CEO and founder of Boom. At Mach 2.2, passengers could travel between New York City and London in 3 hours and 15 minutes, the company said. The supersonic jet could fly between San Francisco and Tokyo in 5.5 hours, or between Sydney and Los Angeles in 6 hours and 45 minutes. Continue Reading. via ScitechPress.org
  11. currentsinbiology: Microscopic soil creatures could orchestrate massive tree migrations Warming temperatures are prompting some tree species in the Rocky Mountains to “migrate” to higher elevations in order to survive. Researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have discovered that tiny below-ground organisms play a role in this phenomenon—and could be used to encourage tree migration in order to preserve heat-sensitive species. Their work shows how these invisible biotic communities create “soil highways” for young trees, meaning they could determine how quickly species march uphill, if at all. The newfound role of the soil microbiome—the collection of microscopic bacteria, fungi and archaea that interact with plant roots—represents a turning point for research aimed at understanding and predicting where important tree species will reside in the future. Just as human microbiome research is rapidly changing our perspectives on human health and behavior, the interactions between trees and their soil microbiomes may dramatically change how we think about the health and behavior of forests. The study was recently published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Michael E. Van Nuland et al. Divergent plant–soil feedbacks could alter future elevation ranges and ecosystem dynamics, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0150 via ScitechPress.org
  12. Amazing Interview With Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson via ScitechPress.org
  13. Drone Hunters: Anti-UAV rifle released in ChinaAs China increases restrictions on unauthorised drone flights over public safety fears, Bei Dou Open Lab showcased their innovative counter drone technology to crack down illegal drone flights. The new anti-drone system is powered by smartphones and can be safely used at large, public gatherings. It tracks down drones with a simulated GPS signal and guides them safely to the ground.via ScitechPress.org
  14. Scientists Believe They May Find Life On Jupiter’s Moon Europa via ScitechPress.org
  15. This Never Before Seen Spider Looks Like a Leaf: typhlonectes: For Matjaz Kuntner, it was just another evening trek through southwestern China’s Yunnan rain forest—until his headlamp illuminated a strand of spider silk. That’s not so surprising on its own. But what attracted the arachnologist’s attention is the silk appeared to attach a leaf to a tree branch. After looking closer, Kuntner realized one of these leaves was actually a spider. “If there’s a web, there’s a spider,” says Kuntner, of the Smithsonian Institution and the Evolutionary Zoology Laboratory in Slovenia. The arachnid uses its silk to attach leaves to tree branches, and then hides among the branches, according to a new study in the Journal of Arachnology. The researchers still aren’t sure why the spider does this, but they believe it’s likely to hide from predators or sneak up on prey… via ScitechPress.org

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