(Aarhus University) Toddlers aged just 1 1/2 years prefer individuals whom other people yield to. It appears to be deeply rooted in human nature to seek out those with the highest social status. This motive might have evolved because being close to high-ranking individuals has given people access to resources, territory and mates.
September 07, 2018
(Ruhr-University Bochum) Researchers have analysed what happens in the brain when humans want to voluntarily forget something. They identified two areas of the brain -- the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus -- whose activity patterns are characteristic for the process of forgetting. They measured the brain activity in epilepsy patients who had electrodes implanted in the brain for the purpose of surgical planning.
September 07, 2018
(Michigan Technological University) Researchers found that using bio-sequestration to capture carbon produced by US coal-fired plants even after carbon capture and storage would require using 62 percent of the nation's arable land for that process, or 89 percent of all US land with average forest cover. In comparison, offsetting the amount of carbon produced by manufacturing solar panels is 13 times less land, making it a far more viable option.
September 07, 2018
(NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) Scientists stunted the puberty of male worms by starving them before they underwent sexual maturation. In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the scientists suggested that stress from starvation even days before sexual maturation prevented normal changes in the wiring patterns of key neuronal circuits, which caused adult male worms to act immature.
September 06, 2018
An artist’s conception shows the site plan for the Avatar X lab planned in Japan’s Oita prefecture. (Clouds Architecture Office) Telepresence robots on the moon and Mars? That’s the vision laid out for the partnership between ANA Holdings, the parent company of Japan’s All Nippon Airways, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The ANA-JAXA program, known as Avatar X, aims to establish a public-private consortium to develop new types of human-controlled robots that can collect data and perform tasks in remote locations. The concept is in line with the , as well as with JAXA’s new . “ANA is driven by a bold and inspiring vision of the future of flight, and this boldness doesn’t stop on our planet,” Shinya Katanozaka, president and CEO of ANA Holdings, . “Through innovative partnerships like Avatar X, we are excited about the possibilities of what we can accomplish and where we can go when the private and public sectors join forces,” he said. Once the consortium is set up, the Avatar X roadmap calls for the creation of a technological testbed in Japan’s southern prefecture of Oita. Avatar X Lab@Oita would become the center for developing the communications tools and robotics required for off-world telepresence. The Avatar X initiative would begin on Earth and move out to the International Space Station, other outposts, the moon and Mars. (ANA Holdings Graphic) In the early to mid-2020s, JAXA and its Avatar X partners would transfer the technologies developed at the Oita lab to low Earth orbit for testing, presumably on the International Space Station and other space platforms. During that same time frame, NASA and its international partners are due to start development work for a new Gateway in lunar orbit. Avatar X aims to take advantage of that outward push by deploying robotic telepresence systems. ANA Holdings expects the eventual applications to include remote construction in space, including on the lunar surface and Mars, as well as Earth-based operation and maintenance of future space outposts. Telepresence also could open the way for new kinds of space-based entertainment and travel experiences for the general public. That’s a big reason why ANA, which has been primarily seen as an airline operator, is involved in what sounds like a science-fiction venture. “We see ourselves not as an airplane operator, but as a company that aims to bridge the gaps between the different cultures that exist in our world,” Kevin Kajitani of ANA’s Digital Design Lab and Innovation Research, told GeekWire in March. “And that’s where we see the avatars fitting in.” In support of that vision, ANA is backing a $10 million, four-year XPRIZE competition to boost the development of multipurpose telepresence systems — real-world robotic analogs to the systems portrayed in the blockbuster sci-fi movie “Avatar.” The deadline for teams to sign up for the ANA Avatar XPRIZE is Jan. 9, 2019, and the winner is due to be selected by October 2021. If all goes according to plan, the competition should be gearing up just as the Avatar X lab is hitting its stride.
September 06, 2018
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) ICESat-2 scientists to investigate icy mysteriessoon after NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, launches on Sept. 15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, it will start collecting a terabyte of data a day to monitor the height of Earth's surface below.
September 06, 2018
(Kanazawa University) Charophyceae are relatives of land plants, whose genomes have been envisioned to contain important information to understand how land plants evolved from their ancestors in the Paleozoic era. Here we report the draft genome of Chara braunii from Charophyceae, and its comparison to land plants, Klebsormidium nitens, and other green algae. The comparison revealed acquisition of genes before and after the divergence of Charophyceae in the lineage leading to land plants, as well within Charophyceae.
September 06, 2018
British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell is featured in an episode of the BBC documentary series “Beautiful Minds.” (BBC Photo) British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell missed out on a share of the Nobel Prize for her part in the discovery of the first radio pulsars in 1967, but now she has a $3 million all to herself. Bell Burnell’s selection for the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was announced today, and she’ll receive the award during a Nov. 4 ceremony that will also honor winners of the annual prizes in physics, life sciences and math. Organizers of the Breakthrough Prize program said the award serves to recognize Bell Burnell’s “fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community,” The 75-year-old astronomer follows in the footsteps of earlier recipients of speclal physics prizes: the late British physicist who led the effort to discover the Higgs boson; and the at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. The Breakthrough Prize was created in 2012 by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia Milner, with support from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki and Tencent CEO Ma Huateng. “Professor Bell Burnell thoroughly deserves this recognition,” Milner . “Her curiosity, diligent observations and rigorous analysis revealed some of the most interesting and mysterious objects in the universe.” Bell Burnell made her breakthrough discovery during her time as a graduate student at Cambridge University, working with Professor Antony Hewish. While taking data with a new radio telescope that she helped build, Bell Burnell spotted an unexpected pattern of radio pulses, and determined that the signal pattern originated in deep space. Hewish followed up on the signals at Bell Burnell’s insistence. They and other astrophysicists eventually determined that the radio pulses came from a rapidly rotating neutron star. “Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s discovery of pulsars will always stand as one of the great surprises in the history of astronomy,” said Edward Witten, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study and chair of the Breakthrough Prize selection committee. “Until that moment, no one had any real idea how neutron stars could be observed, if indeed they existed,” Witten explained. “Suddenly it turned out that nature has provided an incredibly precise way to observe these objects, something that has led to many later advances.” But it was Hewish who ended up sharing the 1974 Nobel Physics Prize with fellow British astronomer Martin Ryle. Bell Burnell was overlooked. In a , Bell Burnell said she had no hard feelings. “I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them,” she said. As the years went on, the clockwork-like behavior of pulsars helped scientists test Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and gather the first observational evidence for gravitational waves. Meanwhile, Bell Burnell went on to influential posts in astronomy and education, including stints as project manager for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and as president of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society. She was the first female president of both the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Bell Burnell is currently a visiting professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, and chancellor of the University of Dundee. She is justifiably called Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, by virtue of being awarded the rank of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for her service to astronomy. In an Bell Burnell said she was “totally surprised” to learn she had won the $3 million special prize. Nature reported that she’s talking with the Institute of Physics about using the prize money to support graduate students from underrepresented groups in science. “Diversity is very important,” she told Nature. “Ths also recognizes that I did my most important work as a student.”
September 06, 2018
USC engineering student Maddie Koldos interned at Blue Origin this summer as a Brooke Owens Fellow. (Brooke Owens Fellowship Photo) News Brief: The online application window has just opened for the program, which offers paid internships for undergraduate women at 30 aerospace concerns, including Amazon Prime Air, Blue Origin and Stratolaunch in the Seattle area. Other range from NASA and SpaceX to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. This will be the third year for the “Brookies,” honoring the memory of Brooke Owens, who worked at NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration and died of cancer in 2016. Last year GeekWire hosted Brookie journalist , who is now a at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The application window closes Nov. 6, and if you’re a guy, check out the .
September 05, 2018
An artist’s conception shows a planet-hunting space telescope accompanied by an umbrella-like starshade that blocks the glare of the planet’s parent star. (NASA / JPL Illustration) NASA should add a large, technologically advanced space telescope to its lineup to capture direct images of Earthlike planets beyond our solar system, astronomers say in a issued today. The report, published under the aegis of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, also calls on the National Science Foundation to invest in the next-generation and the . The GMT is being built in Chile, with completion set for 2025. The TMT is also due to go into service in the mid-2020s, although the current plan to build it on the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano has run into controversy. Authors of the report, led by Harvard’s David Charbonneau and Ohio State University’s B. Scott Gaudi, voiced support for two space telescopes already in the works — NASA’s and the , or WFIRST. They also said NASA’s , or TESS, would provide valuable information about Earth-size exoplanets as well. But the report makes clear that the search for alien planets will have to focus down on direct images of planets, as well as detailed analysis of exoplanet atmospheres, in order to address questions about the existence of life beyond our solar system. “We’re alive at a very special moment in human history, where we don’t have to just wonder anymore,” Charbonneau told reporters. “If we choose, and the report presents a path to achieve this … we could learn the answer to that question. We could figure out whether or not there’s life on planets orbiting other stars in the next 20 years.” So far, the search for alien planets has employed two primary methods: the radial velocity method, which involves looking for faint gravitational wobbles in the motions of stars with planets; and the transiting method, which looks for faint dips in starlight as a planet passes over the disk of its parent star. Those methods already have started to yield information about the , and to determine the precise masses of Earthlike planets, the report says NASA and NSF should establish a strategic initiative to measure “extremely precise radial velocities.” But both methods face fundamental limits. For that reason, direct imaging of planets looms as the next frontier in the exoplanet search. That will require the development of high-precision coronagraphs or starshades to block out the glare of Earthlike planets’ parent stars. “Due to focused investments by NASA and other agencies, we are now within shouting distance of having that technology in hand, where we can actually detect that ‘pale blue dot,’ in the words of Carl Sagan, and characterize its atmosphere,” Gaudi said. At least two planet-hunting space telescopes have been proposed: the , or HabEX; and the , or LUVOIR. The report holds off from recommending either proposed telescope. Such recommendations will come instead from a decadal survey during which panels of astronomers will prioritize the top scientific questions for the 2020-2030 time frame. The is due to be conducted over the next couple of years under the guidance of the National Academies. Watch a replay of today’s briefing on the report, titled : 
September 05, 2018