physorg.com:Spotlight stories

Antibiotic resistance and the need for personalized treatments Antibiotic resistance is a growing challenge in the treatment of infectious diseases worldwide. Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics by acquiring or mutating genes that allow them to survive the administration of antibiotics, which otherwise would kill them. However, this advantage in the presence of antibiotics can imply costs to bacteria when the drugs stop being administered. This occurs because resistance generally affects genes that are essential for the cell and so, once back to the original context, without antibiotics, bacteria stop being fit to compete for its own survival.
The colorful history of plastids A billion years ago, a single-celled eukaryote engulfed a cyanobacterium—an organism capable of converting the sun's energy into food in the form of carbohydrates. In one of the single most pivotal events in the history of life, instead of the bacterium being digested, an endosymbiosis was formed, with the bacterial cell persisting inside the host eukaryote for millennia and giving rise to the first photosynthetic eukaryotes. The descendants of this merger include plants, as well as a large number of single-celled eukaryotes that are collectively referred to as algae (i.e. kelp, nori). The remnants of the cyanobacterium eventually evolved into an organelle known as a plastid or chloroplast, which allows photosynthetic eukaryotes to produce their own food—and thus to provide food to animals like us. Despite the importance of this event, a variety of aspects of plastid evolution have long remained shrouded in mystery. In a review in Genome Biology and Evolution, Shannon Sibbald and John Archibald highlight emerging genome data in this field and provide new insight into plastid evolution.
Research: Crop plants are taking up microplastics Microplastics (MPs), i.e., tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in length, can now be found throughout the ocean and other aquatic ecosystems, and even in our seafood and salt. As MPs have become ubiquitous, scientists have become concerned about the transfer of MPs from the environment to the food chain and the potential impact of MPs on human health.
About eight percent of red giants are covered by sunspot-like dark areas. Starspots are more common among red giant stars than previously thought. In the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany report that approximately eight percent of red giants exhibit such spots. They are the expression of strong magnetic fields at the stellar surface. These magnetic fields are created deep inside the star in a process that requires, among other things, convection and a fast rotation of the star. Although red giants are generally regarded as slowly rotating stars, those with starspots are apparently an exception. The new publication offers a comprehensive analysis of the reasons for their short rotation periods ranging from forced synchronization with another, closely neighboring star, to the swallowing of a star or planet, to a fast initial rotation speed in an early phase of development.
Electron cryo-microscopy: Using inexpensive technology to produce high-resolution images Biochemists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have used a standard electron cryo-microscope to achieve surprisingly good images that are on par with those taken by far more sophisticated equipment. They have succeeded in determining the structure of ferritin almost at the atomic level. Their results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Biosignatures may reveal a wealth of new data locked inside old fossils Step aside, skeletons—a new world of biochemical 'signatures' found in all kinds of ancient fossils is revealing itself to paleontologists, providing a new avenue for insights into major evolutionary questions.
Using math formulas to predict earthquakes A team of researchers at Lyell Centre in Edinburgh, has developed a way to use math formulas to help predict when an earthquake is likely to happen. In their paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, the group describes translating the movement of a particular type of rock to mathematical equations, which led to the creation of a predictive formula.
Long-term heat-storage ceramics absorbing thermal energy from hot water Approximately seventy percent of the thermal energy generated in thermal and nuclear power plants is lost as waste heat, with a temperature below the boiling point of water. In a recent report on Science Advances, Yoshitaka Nakamura and a research team in chemistry, materials, and technology in Japan developed a long-term heat storage material to absorb heat energy at warm temperatures ranging from 38 degrees C (311 K) to 67 degrees C (340 K). They composed the unique series of materials using scandium-substituted lambda-trititanium-pentoxide (λ-ScxTi3−xO5). The construct accumulated heat energy from hot water and released the accumulated heat energy upon the application of pressure. The new material has the potential to accumulate the heat energy of hot water generated in nuclear and thermal power plants, then recycle the stored heat energy on demand based on external pressures. The material is also applicable to recycle waste heat in industrial factories and automobiles.
Local changes in species diversity in Europe Together with an international team, Senckenberg researchers published the results of a unique compilation of 161 biodiversity time series (over 15 to 91 years) covering 6,200 marine, terrestrial, and freshwater species from 21 European countries. The scientists were able to show that local trends in biodiversity often deviate significantly from global patterns. In particular, the composition of species communities has undergone extensive changes at the local level. The study, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, will have an impact on the development of effective conservation concepts.
New technique to study superheavy elements Superheavy elements are intriguing nuclear and atomic quantum systems that challenge experimental probing as they do not occur in nature and, when synthesized, vanish within seconds. Pushing the forefront of atomic physics research to these elements requires breakthrough developments towards fast atomic spectroscopy techniques with extreme sensitivity. A joint effort within the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program and led by Dr. Mustapha Laatiaoui from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) culminated in an optical spectroscopy proposal: The so-called Laser Resonance Chromatography (LRC) should enable such investigations even at minute production quantities. The proposal has recently been published in two articles in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review A.
Hidden in our genes: Discovering the fate of cell development As cells develop, changes in how our genes interact determines their fate. Differences in these genetic interactions can make our cells robust to infection from viruses or make it possible for our immune cells to kill cancerous ones.
Well-off countries need trade to cut environmental woes International trade wins and losses don't just show up in the stock market, but also on a nation's environmental sustainability scores, a new study in Nature Sustainability shows.
Tiny bubbles make a quantum leap July 13, 2020—Researchers at Columbia Engineering and Montana State University report today that they have found that placing sufficient strain in a 2-D material—tungsten diselenide (WSe2)—creates localized states that can yield single-photon emitters. Using sophisticated optical microscopy techniques developed at Columbia over the past three years, the team was able to directly image these states for the first time, revealing that even at room temperature they are highly tunable and act as quantum dots, tightly confined pieces of semiconductors that emit light.
Social media inspired models show winter warming hits fish stocks Mathematical modeling inspired by social media is identifying the significant impacts of warming seas on the world's fisheries.
Bat research critical to preventing next pandemic The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has a likely connection to bats, and the next viral outbreak probably will too, unless scientists can quickly learn more about the thousands of viruses carried by one of the most diverse mammals on the planet.