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Archive for the ‘biological’ category

May 20, 2019

Is dark matter made of axions? Black holes may reveal the answer

Posted by in categories: cosmology, evolution, particle physics

What is dark matter made of? It’s one of the most perplexing questions of modern astronomy. We know that dark matter is out there, since we can see its obvious gravitational influence on everything from galaxies to the evolution of the entire universe, but we don’t know what it is. Our best guess is that it’s some sort of weird new particle that doesn’t like to talk to normal matter very often (otherwise, we would have seen it by now). One possibility is that it’s an exotic hypothetical kind of particle known as an axion, and a team of astronomers are using none other than black holes to try to get a glimpse into this strange new cosmic critter.

Axion Agenda

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May 19, 2019

Where is the Origin of Life on Earth?

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, chemistry, evolution, physics

To answer the iconic question “Are We Alone?”, scientists around the world are also attempting to understand the origin of life. There are many pieces to the puzzle of how life began and many ways to put them together into a big picture. Some of the pieces are firmly established by the laws of chemistry and physics. Others are conjectures about what Earth was like four billion years ago, based on extrapolations of what we know from observing Earth today. However, there are still major gaps in our knowledge and these are necessarily filled in by best guesses.

We invited talented scientists to discuss their different opinions about the origin of life and the site of life’s origin. Most of them will agree that liquid water was necessary, but if we had a time machine and went back in time, would we find life first in a hydrothermal submarine setting in sea water or a fresh water site associated with emerging land masses?

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May 17, 2019

Scientists: We’ll Grow Babies in Artificial Wombs “In a Decade”

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution

In coming years, scientists plan to grow human embryos in a lab using high-tech artificial wombs.

Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing artificial wombs on human embryos within the next two years, according to Metro. If they’re successful, the research could radically change the way we view pregnancy, childbirth, and perhaps even human evolution.

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May 16, 2019

The Universal Pattern Popping Up in Math, Physics and Biology

Posted by in categories: biological, mathematics, physics

Quanta’s In Theory video series returns with an exploration of a mysterious mathematical pattern found throughout nature.

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May 16, 2019

Researchers discover an unexpected phase transition in the high explosive TATB

Posted by in categories: evolution, particle physics, supercomputing

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists in collaboration with University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) have discovered a previously unknown pressure induced phase transition for TATB that can help predict detonation performance and safety of the explosive. The research appears in the May 13 online edition of the Applied Physics Letters and it is highlighted as a cover and featured article.

1,3,5-Triamino-2,4,6- trinitrobenzene (TATB), the industry standard for an insensitive high explosive, stands out as the optimum choice when safety (insensitivity) is of utmost importance. Among similar materials with comparable explosive energy release, TATB is remarkably difficult to shock-initiate and has a low friction sensitivity. The causes of this unusual behavior are hidden in the high-pressure structural evolution of TATB. Supercomputer simulations of explosives detonating, running on the world’s most powerful machines at LLNL, depend on knowing the exact locations of the atoms in the crystal structure of an explosive. Accurate knowledge of atomic arrangement under pressure is the cornerstone for predicting the detonation performance and safety of an explosive.

The team performed experiments utilizing a diamond anvil cell, which compressed TATB single crystals to a pressure of more than 25 GPa (250,000 times atmospheric pressure). According to all previous experimental and theoretical studies, it was believed that the atomic arrangement in the crystal structure of TATB remains the same under pressure. The project team challenged the consensus in the field aiming to clarify the high-pressure structural behaviour of TATB.

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May 15, 2019

Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Came Back to Life and Started Eating

Posted by in categories: biological, food

“Thus, our data demonstrate the ability of multicellular organisms to survive long-term (tens of thousands of years) cryobiosis under the conditions of natural cryoconservation,” the researchers said in a study published in Doklady Biological Sciences.

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May 14, 2019

Indeterminate nature: the resurgence of quantum biology

Posted by in categories: biological, quantum physics

A melding of biology and physics first suggested in the 1920s is enjoying a revival as evidence mounts. Stephen Fleischfresser reports.

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May 14, 2019

It’s not just fish, plastic pollution harms the bacteria that help us breathe

Posted by in category: biological

“We looked at a group of tiny, green bacteria called Prochlorococcus which is the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth, with a global population of around three octillion (~1027) individuals,” says Sasha.


Ten per cent of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one kind of bacteria in the ocean. Now laboratory tests have shown that these bacteria are susceptible to plastic pollution, according to a study published in Communications Biology.

“We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria,” says lead author and Macquarie University researcher Dr. Sasha Tetu.

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May 13, 2019

How Cyanobacteria Could Help Save the Planet

Posted by in category: biological

It’s very easy to forget that complex life on Earth almost missed the boat entirely. As the Sun’s luminosity gradually increases, the oceans will boil away, and the planet will no longer be in the habitable zone for life as we know it. Okay, we likely have a billion years before this happens—by which point our species will probably have destroyed itself or moved away from Earth—but Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old or so, and eukaryotic life only started to diversify 800 million or so years ago, at the end of the “boring billion.”

In other words, life seems to have arisen around four billion years ago, shortly after Earth formed, but then a few billion years passed before anything complex evolved. Another few hundred million years of bacteria, algae, and microbes sliding around in the anoxic sludge of the boring billion, and intelligent life might never have evolved at all.

Unraveling the geologic mysteries of the boring billion, and why it ended when it did, is a complex scientific question. Different parts of the earth system, including plate tectonics, the atmosphere, and the biosphere of simple lichens and cyanobacteria interacted to eventually produce the conditions for life to diversify, flourish, and grow more complex. But it is generally accepted that simple cyanobacteria (single-celled organisms that can produce oxygen through photosynthesis) were key players in providing Earth’s atmosphere and oceans with oxygen, which then allowed complex life to flourish.

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May 9, 2019

This Bird Went Extinct and Then Evolved Into Existence Again

Posted by in categories: education, evolution

The Aldabra white-throated rail, a flightless bird that lives on its namesake atoll in the Indian Ocean, doesn’t look like anything special at first glance. But the small bird has big bragging rights, because it has effectively evolved into existence twice after first going extinct some 136,000 years ago.

According to a study published Wednesday in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the rail is an example of a rarely observed phenomenon called iterative evolution, in which the same ancestral lineage produces parallel offshoot species at different points in time. This means that near-identical species can pop up multiple times in different eras and locations, even if past iterations have gone extinct.

Fossils of the flightless bird were found both before and after Albadra was submerged by an “inundation event” that occurred around 136,000 years ago, said study authors Julian Hume, an avian paleontologist at Natural History Museum in London, and David Martill, a paleobiologist at the University of Portsmouth.

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