They chose the animals using the following criteria: Are the species desirable – do they hold an important ecological function or are they beloved by humans? Are the species practical choices – do we have access to tissue that could give us good quality DNA samples or germ cells to reproduce the species? And are they able to be reintroduced into the wold – are the habitats in which they live available and do we know why they went extinct in the first place?
via Scientists want to bring 22 animals back from extinction · TheJournal.ie.
A defense contractor better known for building jet fighters and lethal missiles says it has found a way to slash the amount of energy needed to remove salt from seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue.
“It’s 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger,” said John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea. “The energy that’s required and the pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.”
via Pentagon weapons-maker finds method for cheap, clean water | Reuters.
Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus HIV while leaving surrounding cells unharmed, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown. The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
via Nanoparticles loaded with bee venom kill HIV | Newsroom | Washington University in St. Louis.
A PAIR of middle-aged tourists (see previous post) are not the only thing headed for Mars. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is also on its way. Discovered on January 3rd, some calculations of its orbit, according to Phil Plait, the rather good “Bad Astronomer”, have it passing 37,000km above the surface of the planet in October 2014—roughly the height at which communication satellites orbit Earth, and a remarkably close shave by cosmic standards. An official NASA website puts the most likely “close-approach” distance between the comet and Mars at something more like 100,000km.
But the minimum close-approach distance is zero. Comets do not move smoothly on their tracks like ball bearings or planets. The gases that blow off their surfaces as the sun warms them up push them hither and yon, changing their trajectories. So, though the odds are strongly against it (how strongly no one can yet say) the comet has a real if small chance of actually hitting the planet.
Which would be cool, in all sorts of ways. For a start, it should be simply spectacular. Given the unusual speed of the comet (which is moving so fast that it may well be coming from outside the solar system—cool upon cool) and the fact that it is travelling the wrong way round the sun, from a planet’s point of view, Mr Plait estimates that its impact should yield a blast equivalent to that of a billion megatons of TNT. It would be an event on the same sort of scale as the impact that drove the dinosaurs extinct 65m years ago. If it really is that big, and if the comet were to hit the side of Mars facing Earth (it seems that it might do, but it might also hit the far side), then the blast could well be visible to the naked eye, even in daylight.
via A comet headed for Mars: The hits keep coming | The Economist.
The veined wing of the clanger cicada kills bacteria solely through its physical structure — one of the first natural surfaces found to do so. An international team of biophysicists has now come up with a detailed model of how this defence works on the nanoscale. The results are published in the latest issue of the Biophysical Journal1.
The clanger cicada (Psaltoda claripennis) is a locust-like insect whose wings are covered by a vast hexagonal array of ‘nanopillars’ — blunted spikes on a similar size scale to bacteria (see video, bottom). When a bacterium settles on the wing surface, its cellular membrane sticks to the surface of the nanopillars and stretches into the crevices between them, where it experiences the most strain. If the membrane is soft enough, it ruptures (see video, top).
via Insect wings shred bacteria to pieces : Nature News & Comment.
The psychiatric illnesses seem very different — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet they share several genetic glitches that can nudge the brain along a path to mental illness, researchers report. Which disease, if any, develops is thought to depend on other genetic or environmental factors.
via Study Finds Genetic Risk Factors Shared by 5 Psychiatric Disorders – NYTimes.com.
A paradigm shift in the materials industry is likely within the near-future as a variety of unique materials replaces those that we commonly use today, such as plastics. Among these new materials, graphene stands out. The single-atom-thick sheet of pure carbon has an enormous number of potential applications across a variety of fields. Its potential use in high-efficiency, flexible, and transparent solar cells is among the potential applications. Some of the other most discussed applications include: foldable batteries/cellphones/computers, extremely thin computers/displays, desalination and water purification technology, fuel distillation, integrated circuits, single-molecule gas sensors, etc.
“In most materials, one absorbed photon generates one electron, but in the case of graphene, we have seen that one absorbed photon is able to produce many excited electrons, and therefore generate larger electrical signals,” says Frank Koppens, group leader at ICFO.
via Graphene Breakthrough — One Photon Can Be Converted Into Multiple Electrons – CleanTechnica.
Dominic Clarke and Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol have shown that bumblebees can sense the electric field that surrounds a flower. They can even learn to distinguish between fields produced by different floral shapes, or use them to work out whether a flower has been recently visited by other bees. Flowers aren’t just visual spectacles and smelly beacons. They’re also electric billboards.
via Bees Can Sense the Electric Fields of Flowers – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science.
The first bionic hand that allows an amputee to feel what they are touching will be transplanted later this year in a pioneering operation that could introduce a new generation of artificial limbs with sensory perception.
via A sensational breakthrough: the first bionic hand that can feel – Science – News – The Independent.
U.S. scientists led by Prof Genhong Cheng of the University of California Los Angeles have identified a natural protein with broad virus-fighting properties that could be used against deadly pathogenic viruses such as HIV, Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, Nipah and others.
via Scientists Identify Protein that Blocks HIV, Ebola, Nipah, Other Pathogenic Viruses | Medicine | Sci-News.com.