How are human cannonballs launched?

15.05.2006

Medicine A newly discovered growth factor allows nerve fibers to grow together again.

This is what neurobiologists from Harvard Medical School report in the journal "Nature Neuroscience". The substance oncomodulin stimulates the regeneration of injured nerve fibers in the central nervous system by activating a large number of genes that control nerve growth. So far, there has been no way of stimulating injured nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord in adults to grow again. In their research, the scientists examined optic nerves that connect the retina to the visual center in the brain. They brought them into contact with Oncomodulin and saw that the regeneration of the nerve cells was stimulated five to seven times. Animal experiments with live rats produced similar results. The researchers hope that the new substance is suitable for treating diseases such as glaucoma, but could also be used for strokes and spinal cord injuries. // [mst] //

Chemistry The pizza delivery boy doesn't just deliver the pizza ...

... but also a box that contains benzene, phenol and naphthalene. This is what scientists from the Food Research Institute at the University of Milan discovered. These substances refine the cardboard during the manufacture of the packaging. The researchers, led by Professor Fernando Tateo, found out that benzene, phenol and naphthalene always release their toxic substances when the hot pizza comes out of the oven and into the packaging, i.e. the cardboard is in direct contact with a temperature of around 60 degrees Celsius. Further investigations will now have to prove whether the use of conventional pizza packaging can also be harmful to health, the researchers report. // [mig] //

Biology Frogs could help stem cell research.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are convinced of this. As you write in the current issue of the specialist journal "Development", the African clawed frog has mechanisms that are similar to humans, since their embryonic stem cells are also able to divide as often as desired. The amphibious counterpart to the human key protein Oct4 is the so-called protein PouV. Similar to that of humans, this couples to the DNA and activates the genes there that stimulate stem cell division. In experiments with frog embryos, the researchers succeeded in turning on animals in which specific genes for the development of the head and upper body had been switched off. Doctors see this discovery as proof of the long history of the development of stem cells, whose unlimited ability to divide must have been developed 300 million years ago. // [mst] //

Chemistry researchers discover the first stage of development of petroleum.

So far, it was not known which geochemical processes convert dead organisms into crude oil. Researchers at ETH Zurich have now found out how organic material is stabilized in sediments after it has died. As you write in the journal "Science", anaerobic water is necessary for this conversion. During their experiments on Lake Cadagno in Ticino, they saw that the sulfate in the oxygen-poor water layer is converted by bacteria into hydrogen sulfide. This allows organic material to be preserved and converted into petroleum. The researchers were able to confirm their observations in replicas in the laboratory: first, simple sulfur-hydrogen groups bond to a carbon chain of the dead organism, then the sulfur atom is dissolved, leaving hydrogen, the researchers write. // [mst] //

12.05.2006

Neurology A molecule controls the "fuel gauge" in the brain.

The concentration of the signal substance called mTOR in the hypothalamus apparently decides whether rats are hungry or full. This is reported by a team of scientists from the University of Cincinnati in "Science". The researchers had only found a certain form of the signaling substance in rats that had just eaten their fill. They then injected hungry rats with a substance that leads to the formation of mTOR. The result was that the animals did not eat anything. The scientists conclude that this signaling substance is crucial for regulating the feeling of hunger and thus also weight gain. // [gät] //

Source: Science, volume 312, page 927

Physiology Schnabel sneakers are designed to prevent muscle wasting in space.

Because humans are weightless in space, the muscles in the legs break down over time. So far, scientists have not developed a satisfactory remedy for it. Industrial researchers from Japan now hope to have found a solution. They designed a shoe with a tip that is slightly curved upwards. In this way, the astronaut's calf is constantly stressed in space, which is supposed to counteract muscle breakdown. The shoe is to be tested by the Japanese astronaut Takao Doi on his flight to the ISS in the coming year. // [gät] //

Paleontology Man did not exterminate the mammoth alone.

Mammoths and wild horses are considered to be the first animal species to be exterminated by humans. Wrongly, write researchers from the University of Alaska in the science journal "Nature". The scientists had found in new studies that bison and deer were the preferred prey of the Ice Age hunters. Remnants of mammoths or wild horses, on the other hand, were rarely found near prehistoric human encampments. If humans had exterminated these animal species, there should have been many more bones in storage. Rather, the two animal species have not been able to cope with the change in climate and flora, the scientists write. As a result of the change, the grasslands - the main source of food for animals - have disappeared; therefore they were already on the verge of extinction when man appeared. // [gät] //

Source: Nature, volume 441, page 207

Nanotechnology Electricity controls the assembly lines of the nano-factory.

Researchers from the Netherlands have developed a system with which individual protein molecules can be specifically moved and controlled through channels. To do this, the scientists attached kinesin molecules to the walls of their channels. These molecules take over the transport of certain proteins in cells. The researchers used electrical fields to control the branches. In this way, they were able to send molecules already marked with colored markers through a channel system with several outlets and sort them by color. The researchers present their development in the journal "Science". // [gät] //

Source: Science, volume 312, page 910

Zoology Africa has a new species of monkey.

The animals are medium-sized, brown-gray, have a tuft of hair on their head and live in Tanzania. So far, biologists had only known pictures of this monkey and assigned it to the genus of the mangaben based on the images. It was only when a local hunter managed to catch the animal and give it to the researchers that the scientists were able to study the genome. It turned out that the animal is related to the baboons - but without showing their typical characteristics. The researchers therefore assigned the animal to a new genus, which they named Rungwecebus after its place of origin, Mount Rungwe. // [gät] //

Source: Science, DOI 10.1126 / science.1125631

Medicine A new bird flu vaccination has passed its test.

The serum was developed by scientists from France and tested on 300 people. The subjects tolerated the vaccination well and developed antibodies against the H5N1 virus. This is what the researchers from the vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur report in a publication in the specialist journal "The Lancet". The industry developers tested the vaccine in various dosages. The best results were obtained with two doses of serum and an additional dose of aluminum hydroxide, which supports the effect of the vaccine. Researchers from the USA and Hungary are also reporting successful tests with vaccines against the H5N1 virus. However, it is unclear whether these will be of any use in the event of a global epidemic. However, the doctors hope that their work will shorten the development time for an effective vaccine in the future. // [gät] //

11.05.2006

Literary studies Old Low German document from the 9th century discovered.

In the Leipzig University Library, scientists have found an important handwriting of an episode from the medieval Heliand poetry. The fragment comes from the 9th century. This makes it 100 years older than the only previously known Heliand manuscript that is in the British Museum. Since the script is unusually written in Old Low German rather than Latin, the discovery is a sensation, said the Leipzig language historians. The parchment leaf was discovered in a comparatively insignificant book from the 17th century. // [tj] //

Archeology Harsh customs prevailed in the Neolithic Age.

When examining more than 350 human skulls from the Neolithic Age, Irish researchers found that every 14th person had at least one head wound and every 50th person died of a fatal blow to the head. According to the results of the investigation, life in the period from 4000 to 3200 BC was marked by far more excesses of violence than previously assumed, they write in the "New Scientist". // [tj] //

Source: New Scientist, 05/13/06, page 6

Environment Air pollution over the Arctic has reached record levels.

Last week, scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research observed the highest air pollution since measurements began on Spitsbergen in 1991. The measuring devices showed an extremely increased aerosol load compared to normal conditions. The reason for the record is a special weather situation. As a result, large amounts of the polluted air from Eastern Europe reached the otherwise very clean Arctic. As a result, the researchers expect a significantly higher warming than in previous years. // [tj] //

Source: AWI

Geochemistry Fossil remnants of a meteorite lay in a South African crater.

Canadian researchers have discovered the remains of a meteorite in the 70-kilometer-wide Morokweng Crater in South Africa. It apparently hit the area 145 million years ago. The find - as the researchers write in the journal "Nature" - refutes the current doctrine that large meteorites completely evaporate or melt when they hit the earth. They had discovered an unchanged, 25 centimeter fragment and several smaller fragments of the original meteorite in a drill core that came directly from the crater. // [tj] //

Source: Nature, volume 441, page 203

Planetology Neptune stole its largest moon from a sun.

Triton, the largest moon on the planet Neptune is extraordinarily large, measuring one and a half times that of the planet Pluto. In addition, it does not orbit Neptune in the direction in which it rotates on its own axis, but in the opposite direction. This unusual behavior can only be explained by the fact that Triton originally circled the sun instead of Neptune and was only later captured by it. According to calculations by American scientists, this happened as follows: Triton wandered with its original partner as a double through the solar system and at some point came close to Neptune. Since the partners moved around each other in pairs at different speeds, the gravity of a planet like Neptune could have accelerated one and slowed the other. Triton became Neptune's constant companion, his ex-partner was accelerated by the separation and disappeared. // [tj] //

Source: Nature, volume 441, page 192

Biology Water bugs regulate their buoyancy with an air bubble.

The so-called back swimmers also belong to the water bugs. These insects can hover at constant depth for several minutes while diving. Australian researchers report in "Nature" how they do this. Similar to a buoyancy compensator that a diver can fill with air to regulate his buoyancy, the animals use an air bubble that they collect on the surface of the water. They draw air from this bubble. To keep the volume of the bladder constant during the dive, fill it with oxygen from a special reservoir in your body. This is the protein hemoglobin. // [tj] //

10.05.2006

Nanotechnology Probably the smallest soccer field in the world is in Bochum.

More precisely in the laboratory of the Ruhr University. It's only visible under an electron microscope and measures ten by seven micrometers. This means that the soccer field fits easily on the facet of a mosquito eye. A physicist built the stadium using a process that can be used to produce magnetic nanostructures. Such structures are built into the read heads of hard disks, for example, in order to evaluate the data. Scientists speak of "electron beam lithography". With it, the Bochum physicist has reduced the football field by a factor of ten million. [kar]

Source: idw ticker, Ruhr University Bochum

Biology Syrian hamsters are human too.

At least when it comes to eating behavior in stressful situations. Then hamsters and humans are blessed with an increased appetite, which is reflected in the weight. American scientists at the State University of Georgia found this out and described it in the American Journal of Physiology. According to this, the researchers want to use the hamsters as a study object to investigate the nutritional behavior of humans. Mice or rats are not suitable for this. Because they eat less in stressful situations. [kar]

Source: Syrian hamsters are human too.

Space astronauts are supposed to supply themselves with oxygen on the moon.

At least these are the plans of the American space agency Nasa. According to this, the astronauts who set foot on the moon again in twelve years should extract the vital oxygen from the lunar dust. This dust, also known as "regolith", is a fine, gray powder and consists primarily of oxides - that is, compounds of oxygen with silicon, calcium, magnesium or iron. The oxygen content of the dust is 43 percent. In order to release the oxygen, the dust has to be heated. What remains is slag that can be used as building material. NASA has now announced a prize of US $ 250,000 for the process that is the most efficient way of extracting oxygen from moondust. [kar]

Source: NASA, bdw

Physics Physicists are on the trail of ball lightning.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching and the Berlin Humboldt University have succeeded in generating lightning-like plasma clouds. The clouds were up to eight inches in diameter and glowed for almost half a second. The physicists had filled a glass with salt water for this; two electrodes protrude from it. One of them is isolated from the water by a clay tube. At high voltage, electricity flows through the water and overflows into the tube. The water inside evaporates and a glowing cloud of ionized water molecules is created. The scientists are now investigating why the cloud is still glowing after the electricity has already died down and the energy supply has been cut off. [kar]

Source: idw, Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

Neurology messengers arrive differently.

The brain of lesbian women processes the messenger substances differently than the brain of heterosexual women. This is what neurologists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found out and described in the journal PNAS. The scientists let test subjects smell scent samples and at the same time examined their brain activity. They discovered that heterosexual women process male attractants in the hypothalamus - a part of the brain that is also responsible for sexual arousal. In contrast, they processed the female attractant in the normal olfactory center. With straight men it was exactly the opposite - and with lesbian women it was different again. They processed both the male and female fragrances in their normal olfactory center. [kar]

Source: PNAS

Physics IBM researchers sort molecules using the turbo method.

With a scanning tunneling microscope and a tiny mechanical arm with a needle tip at the end. The scientists apply an electric field to this tip. The molecules move along the surface at their characteristic speed. If the surface is changed and with it the strength and duration of the electric field, the different molecules can be precisely separated and positioned within a few milliseconds. The process is of interest for medical laboratory tests and the production of nano-electronic circuits. [kar]

Source: idw, IBM

Psychology Father qualities make men sexy.

In the eyes of women. You can tell from the first look in a man's face whether he is interested in children or not. At least that is the result of a psychological study by the University of California. The study was published in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B". Accordingly, women want to commit themselves to a man in the long term, especially if he is fond of children.For a brief affair, on the other hand, women preferred men with high testosterone levels, according to the study. [kar]

Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society