General

Slim cigarette smokers not exposed to more harmful chemicals

Eureka Alert! - 7 hours 46 min ago
(R&D at British American Tobacco) A new study confirms that exposure to tar and exposure to nicotine is lower for smokers of slim cigarettes than of regular cigarettes. British American Tobacco conducted a study in Russia, where slim cigarettes are popular. The study group contained 360 smokers of regular and slim cigarettes and their exposure to tar and nicotine were measured. This was done using a cutting-edge technique that involves measuring levels of chemicals in the smokers' used cigarette filters.
Categories: Eureka Alert!, General

Gut bacteria promote obesity in mice

Eureka Alert! - 7 hours 46 min ago
(American Society for Microbiology) A species of gut bacteria called Clostridium ramosum, coupled with a high-fat diet, may cause animals to gain weight. The work is published this week in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Categories: Eureka Alert!, General

Animal populations ‘have halved since 1970’

Nature Newsblog - Mon, 2014-09-29 18:00

Earth’s wild vertebrate populations have dropped to one-half the size they were in the 1970s, according to an analysis of more than 3,000 species.

Researchers from the WWF wildlife NGO, headquartered in Woking, UK, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) aggregated data on 10,380 populations from 3,038 species into an index of the health of the five main groups of vertebrates — mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes and amphibians. Set at 1 in 1970, this index has decreased to 0.48 (meaning by 52%) since then, according to their latest report.

This analysis is the tenth ‘Living Planet Index’ from WWF and ZSL, but this year’s has a crucial difference from previous editions in that it is weighted to take account of the make-up of biodiversity in different areas. Previous versions treated every species on which data were available equally, whereas the new edition attempts to correct for the size of each taxonomic group in a region, for example by giving more weight to fish than mammals in the palearctic.

The last index – published in 2012 – showed a 28% decrease between 1970 and 2008. The bleaker picture painted by the 2014 edition comes both from real declines in newer data, and from the new weighting.

“The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming,” said Ken Norris, the director of science at ZSL, in a statement. “Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from businesses.”

There have been some successes, especially in protected areas. The study mentions the example of Nepal’s tiger (Panthera tigris), whose population increased by 63% between 2009 and 2013. But most vertebrate populations are in decline, and some drastically — such as rhinos and elephants threatened by poaching in Africa and sharks impacted by overfishing.

Living Planet Report 2014

Categories: General, News

CERN at 60: Biggest moments at flagship physics lab

Nature Newsblog - Mon, 2014-09-29 14:50

CERN director Carlo Rubbia (wearing tie) and other staff celebrate the first particles racing through the Large Electron-Positron collider on 4 July 1989.

CERN

 

CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory and the place famous most recently for the discovery of the Higgs boson, is celebrating its sixtieth birthday today.

The name CERN originally was the French acronym for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research, and its convention officially came into force on 29 September 1954. In the wake of a war that had torn the continent apart, a small group of scientists and policy-makers created CERN in an attempt to use fundamental research to reunite Europe.

From 12 founding members, the organization has today grown to 21 states, with scientists at the lab hailing from almost 100 countries around the globe.

While CERN hosts a celebration at its home near Geneva, Switzerland, Nature looks back at some of the lab’s most significant moments from the past six decades. The links below are to a mixture of free and paywall pages, and will no doubt miss out many big CERN moments. Please add your own to the comments section below.

1954: CERN is set up. Nature outlines plans for the organization in an essay published in October of the previous year. CERN’s ‘official birth’ had come in 1952, with an agreement establishing the provisional council.

1968: Georges Charpak invents the multiwire proportional chamber. Until this time, particle physics had looked for traces of particle collisions by photographing their wake in bubble chambers or spark chambers. Charpak’s invention — a gas-filled box in which amplifiers boosted the signals detected by each wire — allowed for a 1,000-fold increase in detection rate. To this day, most high-energy physics experiments still use detectors based on this principle. Charpak’s Nature obituary in 2010 celebrated his life and achievements.

1978: CERN stores antiprotons for the first time. Paul Dirac had predicted the existence of antimatter in 1928, and antiprotons were discovered in 1932. In 1978, CERN succeeds in circulating several hundred antiprotons for 85 hours in a machine called the Initial Cooling Experiment, in a study aimed at exploring the feasibility of colliding beams of high-energy protons and antiprotons. Today CERN’s antiproton decelerator delivers low-energy antiprotons  for studies a range of experiments studying the properties of antimatter.

1983: CERN’s 6.9-kilometre-long Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) discovers the particle carriers of the weak force, the W and Z bosons. In this Nature News and Views from April 1983, Frank Close, a particle physicist now at the University of Oxford, UK, discusses the first signs of the W boson at the SPS’s UA1 experiment, and hints that the Z will be next.

1984: According to a Nature News & Views (penned by John Maddox, then Nature‘s editor-in-chief), CERN discovers the top quark, the last missing element in the family of six known quarks that includes the ‘up’ and ‘down’ quarks that make up protons and neutrons. That announcement, however, will turn out to be premature, and the credit for the discovery of the top quark now goes universally to CERN’s biggest US competitor, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. It found the top quark in 1995.

1989: CERN computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee’s drafts a paper outlining plans for an information-management system, which at the time he termed “the mesh” but which later becomes known as the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee’s boss, Mike Sendall, famously replies that the proposal was “vague, but exciting”, giving Berners-Lee the green light for development. The world’s first web page address is born the following year (this copy is from 1992).

2000: The 27-kilometre Large Electron-Positron (LEP) collider at CERN closes after 11 years of operation to make way for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), to be built in the same tunnels. LEP experiments have confirmed the Standard Model, the theory that describes fundamental particles and forces, to an extraordinary degree of precision. Nature reporter Alex Hellmans reports on the melancholy, and hope, in the wake of the shutdown.

2012: On 4 July scientists at the LHC’s ATLAS and CMS experiments announce that they have found a clear signal of the Higgs boson, and reporter Geoff Brumfiel records the moment in a live blog (and later in an article). The announcement, made by the ATLAS and CMS experiments, causes waves around the world, and in 2013 earns theoretical physicists François Englert and Peter Higgs the Nobel Prize in Physics for their prediction of the mechanism.

Categories: General, News

French scientists begin three-week protest march

Nature Newsblog - Mon, 2014-09-29 10:00

Posted on behalf of Barbara Casassus, Paris

Protesters set off on a three-week march towards Paris on Friday.

Sciences en Marche

Travelling by foot, bicycle or kayak, more than 3,000 scientists, support staff and members of the public from across France set off on Friday on a three-week march in defence of scientific research and higher education. The organizers say it is the biggest protest of its kind for 10 years.

The idea of the march was floated at the Montpellier University in June, following discussions about employment and job prospects for young researchers at a meeting of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). “We realised we needed to bring together the whole scientific community – labs, universities, all disciplines, and all categories of staff,” says Patrick Lemaire, Montpellier University research biologist and president of the campaign group organizing the protest march, Sciences en Marche.

The protesters will arrive in Paris on 17 October, congregating in front of the country’s National Assembly. Their demands include a €10-billion plan to recruit an extra 3,000 agency and university research and support staff per year over the next decade. The protesters also want an overall budget increase of €20 billion or 8% over the same period, with a focus on recurrent spending for labs, and recognition of doctorates in collective bargaining agreements (contracts detailing duties and working conditions for employers and employees) with measures to promote PhD recruitment by businesses and the senior civil service.

The demands are unlikely to be met, as the French government has no room for manoeuvre on the cash front in the face of a stagnating economy. Not only has it been unable to rein in massive deficits, it is also asking the European Commission and Germany for a two-year delay to comply with an EU deficit limit of 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The aim also is to convince parliament to overhaul the research tax credit (Crédit d’Impôt Recherche, CIR) in the 2015 budget, a draft of which will be adopted by the cabinet on Wednesday together with a public finance plan for 2014-2019. The tax break will cost the state about €6 billion this year, and is criticized for benefitting big business rather than smaller, younger enterprises, and not producing the expected return. “It is also not targeted, which shows the government has no industrial strategy or policy,” says Lemaire.

The march coincides with a three-week annual government-sponsored Science Festival, and supporters include more than 110 labs, 350 CNRS lab directors, 10 universities, and several eminent scientists, including 2011 Nobel Prize winner Jules Hoffmann. Most of the 3,000 or so supporters have promised to join the march for at least part of the journey.

France’s Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research has met with a number of disgruntled researchers to hear their complaints and offer reassurance, to little avail. But France is not alone – there is also disquiet among researchers elsewhere in Europe. In Italy, scientists researchers are organizing a demonstration in Rome on 18 October, according to the online EuroScientist, and Let’s Save Research demonstrations continue to be staged in Spain.

The French scientific community largely supported the socialist government when it took office in 2012 and participated in national consultations about which recent reforms should be kept or dropped. But the honeymoon did not last long. “It became clear very quickly that the government has no courage and no vision for the future of science and higher education in France,” Lemaire told Nature yesterday. Moreover, the fact that higher education and research was demoted to a junior ministry when Prime Minister Manuel Valls took office in April “shows symbolically that the portfolio is a low priority for this government,” Lemaire adds.

 

Categories: General, News

Organ donation: Do we opt-in or opt-out?

Biology News - Wed, 2014-09-24 19:26

Researchers say there should be an international database containing the very latest information about organ donations and transplants, so policy makers can make informed decisions on whether to adopt an opt-out or opt-in system.

Categories: Biology News, General

Insect genomes' analysis challenges universality of essential cell division proteins

Biology News - Wed, 2014-09-24 19:26

Cell division, the process that ensures equal transmission of genetic information to daughter cells, has been fundamentally conserved for over a billion years of evolution. Considering its ubiquity and essentiality, it is expected that proteins that carry out cell division would also be highly conserved. Challenging this assumption, scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that one of the foundational proteins in cell division, previously shown to be essential in organisms as diverse as yeast, flies and humans, has been surprisingly lost on multiple occasions during insect evolution.

Categories: Biology News, General

Eyeless Mexican cavefish eliminate circadian rhythm to save energy

Biology News - Wed, 2014-09-24 19:26

Eyeless Mexican cavefish show no metabolic circadian rhythm in either light and dark or constant dark conditions, according to a study published September 24, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Damian Moran from Lund University, Sweden, and colleagues.

Categories: Biology News, General

New book list, September 24, 2014

Ernst Mayr Library Blog - Wed, 2014-09-24 10:05

An alphataxonomic revision of extinct and extant razorbills (Aves, Alcidae): a combined morphometric and phylogenetic approach.
By N. Adam Smith and Julia A. Clarke. Washington, D.C.: American Ornithologists’ Union, 2011. HOLLIS# 014169118
QL696.C42 S65 2011

The Crustacea: revised and updated from the Traité de Zoologie. Volume 4, pt. B.
Edited by J. Forest and J.C. von Vaupel Klein; advisory editor, F.R. Schram. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2004- . HOLLIS# 009471158
QL435.C77 2004 v. 4, pt. B

Dinosaurs of Utah.
By Frank DeCourten. Second Edition. Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, [2013]. HOLLIS# 014159037
QE862.D2 D42 2013

The evolution of plants.
By K.J. Willis (Biodiversity Institute, University of Oxford), J.C. McElwain (School of Biology & Environmental Science, University College Dublin). Second edition. Oxford, United Kingdom; New York: Oxford University Press, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014159038
QK980.W56 2014

Freshwater fishes of North America. Volume 1: Petromyzontidae to Catostomidae.
Edited by Melvin L. Warren, Jr., and Brooks M. Burr; illustrated by Joseph R. Tomelleri. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014- . HOLLIS# 014151438
QL625.F74 2014 v. 1

HBW and BirdLife International illustrated checklist of the birds of the world. Volume 1. Non-passerines.
By Josep del Hoyo, Nigel J. Collar; with David A. Christie, Andrew Elliott, Lincoln D.C. Fishpool; colour plates by Richard Allen [and 27 others]. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, [2014]- . HOLLIS# 014161900
QL677.H78 2014

In the light of evolution. Volume 7. The human mental machinery.
John C. Avise and Francisco J. Ayala, editors. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, c2007-. HOLLIS# 011964899
QH359.I55 2007 v. 7

Moths of Europe. Vol. 4, Pyralids 2.
By Patrice Leraut ; foreword by Gaëtan du Chatenet ; translation by Nicholas Flay. [Verrières le Buisson]: N.A.P. Editions, 2006- . HOLLIS# 012194271
QL555.A1 L36 2006 v. 4

Organizing exhibitions: a handbook for museums, libraries and archives.
By Freda Matassa. London: Facet Publishing, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014019994
AM151.M345 2014

Suisun Marsh: ecological history and possible futures.
Edited by Peter B. Moyle, Amber D. Manfree, and Peggy L. Fiedler. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014122184
QH105.C2 S874 2014

Tadpoles of Africa: the biology and identification of all known tadpoles in sub-Saharan Africa.
By Alan Channing, Mark-Oliver Rödel, Jenny Channing. Frankfurt am Main: Edition Chimaira, 2012. HOLLIS# 014151390
QL668.E2 C426 2012

Categories: General
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