physorg.com:Spotlight stories

Newly found bacteria fights climate change, soil pollutants Cornell researchers have found a new species of soil bacteria—which they named in memory of the Cornell professor who first discovered it—that is particularly adept at breaking down organic matter, including the cancer-causing chemicals that are released when coal, gas, oil and refuse are burned.
Water reuse could be key for future of hydraulic fracturing Enough water will come from the ground as a byproduct of oil production from unconventional reservoirs during the coming decades to theoretically counter the need to use fresh water for hydraulic fracturing operations in many of the nation's large oil-producing areas. But while other industries, such as agriculture, might want to recycle some of that water for their own needs, water quality issues and the potential costs involved mean it could be best to keep the water in the oil patch.
How climate change reduced the flow of the Colorado River The massive Colorado River, which provides water for seven US states, has seen its flow reduced by 20 percent over the course of a century—and more than half of that loss is due to climate change, according to new research published Thursday.
Beyond the brim, Sombrero Galaxy's halo suggests turbulent past Surprising new data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope suggests the smooth, settled "brim" of the Sombrero galaxy's disk may be concealing a turbulent past. Hubble's sharpness and sensitivity resolves tens of thousands of individual stars in the Sombrero's vast, extended halo, the region beyond a galaxy's central portion, typically made of older stars. These latest observations of the Sombrero are turning conventional theory on its head, showing only a tiny fraction of older, metal-poor stars in the halo, plus an unexpected abundance of metal-rich stars typically found only in a galaxy's disk, and the central bulge. Past major galaxy mergers are a possible explanation, though the stately Sombrero shows none of the messy evidence of a recent merger of massive galaxies.
Earliest interbreeding event between ancient human populations discovered For three years, anthropologist Alan Rogers has attempted to solve an evolutionary puzzle. His research untangles millions of years of human evolution by analyzing DNA strands from ancient human species known as hominins. Like many evolutionary geneticists, Rogers compares hominin genomes looking for genetic patterns such as mutations and shared genes. He develops statistical methods that infer the history of ancient human populations.
Old carbon reservoirs unlikely to cause massive greenhouse gas release Permafrost in the soil and methane hydrates deep in the ocean are large reservoirs of ancient carbon. As soil and ocean temperatures rise, the reservoirs have the potential to break down, releasing enormous quantities of the potent greenhouse gas methane. But would this methane actually make it to the atmosphere?
Researchers develop new method to isolate atomic sheets and create new materials Two-dimensional materials from layered van der Waals (vdW) crystals hold great promise for electronic, optoelectronic, and quantum devices, but making/manufacturing them has been limited by the lack of high-throughput techniques for exfoliating single-crystal monolayers with sufficient size and high quality. Columbia University researchers report today in Science that they have invented a new method—using ultraflat gold films—to disassemble vdW single crystals layer by layer into monolayers with near-unity yield and with dimensions limited only by bulk crystal sizes.
Bumblebees can experience an object using one sense and later recognize it using another How are we able to find things in the dark? And how can we imagine how something feels just by looking at it?
A scaffold at the center of our cellular skeleton All animal cells have an organelle called a centrosome, which is essential to the organization of their cell skeleton. The centrosome plays fundamental roles, especially during cell division, where it allows equal sharing of genetic information between two daughter cells. When the cells stop dividing, the centrioles, cylindrical structures composed of microtubules at the base of the centrosome, migrate to the plasma membrane and allow the formation of primary and mobile cilia, which are used respectively for the transfer of information and the genesis of movement. While performing these crucial biological functions, centrioles are therefore subjected to many physical forces, which they must resist. Scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) have discovered an internal structure at the center of these nano-cylinders, a real cellular scaffolding that maintains the physical integrity of this organelle. This study, published in the journal Science Advances, will provide a better understanding of the functions of the centriole and the pathologies associated with its dysfunction.
Sub-Neptune sized planet validated with the habitable-zone planet finder A signal originally detected by the Kepler spacecraft has been validated as an exoplanet using the Habitable-zone Planet Finder (HPF), an astronomical spectrograph built by a Penn State team and recently installed on the 10m Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas. The HPF provides the highest precision measurements to date of infrared signals from nearby low-mass stars, and astronomers used it to validate the candidate planet by excluding all possibilities of contaminating signals to very high level of probability. The details of the findings appear in the Astronomical Journal.
Exploring a genome's 3-D organization through a social network lens Computational biologists at Carnegie Mellon University have taken an algorithm used to study social networks, such as Facebook communities, and adapted it to identify how DNA and proteins are interconnected into communities within the cell nucleus.
Huge stores of Arctic sea ice likely contributed to past climate cooling In a new paper, climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution propose that massive amounts of melting sea ice in the Arctic drained into the North Atlantic and disrupted climate-steering currents, thus playing an important role in causing past abrupt climate change after the last Ice Age, from about 8,000 to 13,000 years ago. Details of how they tested this idea for the first time are online now in Geology.
Researchers show what drives a novel, ordered assembly of alternating peptides A team of researchers has verified that it is possible to engineer two-layered nanofibers consisting of an ordered row of alternating peptides, and has also determined what makes these peptides automatically assemble into this pattern. The fundamental discovery raises the possibility of creating tailored "ABAB" peptide nanofibers with a variety of biomedical applications.
Pill-sized 'heater' could increase accessibility in diagnosing infectious disease Researchers at the University of Toronto Engineering have developed a tiny "heater"—about the size of a pill—that could allow resource-limited regions around the world to test for infectious diseases without the need for specialized training or costly lab equipment.
DNA from ancient packrat nests helps unpack Earth's past New work shows how using next-generation DNA sequencing on ancient packrat middens—nests made out of plant material, fragments of insects, bones, fecal matter, and urine—could provide ecological snapshots of Earth's past. Published today in the journal Ecology and Evolution, the study may pave the way for scientists to better understand how plant communities—and possibly animals, bacteria, and fungi as well—will respond to human-caused climate change.