Earth

The European Alps is certainly one of the most scrutinized mountain range in the world, as it forms a true open-air laboratory showing how climate change affects biodiversity. Although many studies have independently demonstrated the impact of climate change in the Alps on either the seasonal activity (i.e. phenology) or the migration of plants and animals, no systematic analysis has been carried out on both consequences simultaneously.

Cells of all life forms are surrounded by a membrane that is made of phospholipids. One of these are the cardiolipins, which form a separate class due to their unique structure. When studying the enzyme that is responsible for producing cardiolipins in archaea (single-cell organisms that constitute a separate domain of life), biochemists at the University of Groningen made a surprising discovery. A single archaeal enzyme can produce a spectacular range of natural and non-natural cardiolipins, as well as other phospholipids.

For millennia, humans in the high latitudes have been enthralled by auroras--the northern and southern lights. Yet even after all that time, it appears the ethereal, dancing ribbons of light above Earth still hold some secrets.

The air in the United States and Western Europe is much cleaner than even a decade ago. Low-sulfur gasoline standards and regulations on power plants have successfully cut sulfate concentrations in the air, reducing the fine particulate matter that harms human health and cleaning up the environmental hazard of acid rain.

Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina Greensboro made a surprising finding while examining areas where sand flies rear their young: a new species of bacteria that is highly attractive to pregnant, or gravid, sand flies. The findings could advance the production of ecologically safe baits or traps to reduce sand fly populations.

The idea of creating quantum computers has long captured the minds of researchers and experts of IT corporations. They are the most powerful computers operating according to the laws of the quantum world and capable of solving many problems more efficiently than the most productive classical supercomputers. Similar developments are underway, for example, at Google and IBM. However, many such projects require the use of cryostats. These are vessels with liquid nitrogen or compressed helium, inside which quantum processors are cooled to temperatures below -270°C.

A new study from McGill University suggests that some Icelandic killer whales have very high concentrations of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in their blubber. But it seems that other orcas from the same population have levels of PCBs that are much lower. It mainly depends on what they eat.

PCBs were industrial chemicals banned decades ago, after they were found to affect the health of both humans and wildlife. But because they degrade very slowly after being released in the environment and they still accumulate in the bodies of marine mammals.

LA JOLLA--(May 6, 2021) Plants are unparalleled in their ability to capture CO2 from the air, but this benefit is temporary, as leftover crops release carbon back into the atmosphere, mostly through decomposition. Researchers have proposed a more permanent, and even useful, fate for this captured carbon by turning plants into a valuable industrial material called silicon carbide (SiC)--offering a strategy to turn an atmospheric greenhouse gas into an economically and industrially valuable material.

ITHACA, N.Y. - By swiping surfaces in commercial food processing plants with specially designed rapid-testing adenosine triphospate (ATP) swabs - which produce a light similar to the glow of fireflies in the presence of microorganisms - spoilage and foodborne illness could diminish, according to a new study from Cornell University food scientists.

PITTSBURGH, May 7, 2021 - In a paper published today in Nature Communications, an international group of collaborators led by researchers at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh have identified a genetic cause of a rare neurological disorder marked by developmental delay and loss of coordination, or ataxia.

The disorder, scientists found, is caused by mutations in a protein called GEMIN5--one of the key building blocks of a protein complex that controls RNA metabolism in neurons. No mutations in GEMIN5 were previously linked to any genetic disease.

Systemic inequalities mean that low-income households in London are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor air pollution, according to a report by UCL researchers.

The biggest factors are the quality of housing and the characteristics of the surrounding environment, taking location and levels of outdoor air pollution into account - factors beyond occupants' control.

Air pollution exposure is the greatest environmental health threat in the UK, with long-term exposures estimated to cause 28,000-36,000 premature deaths a year.

Tsukuba, Japan - Scientists from the Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences at the University of Tsukuba used aerodynamics experiments to empirically test the flight properties of a new four-panel soccer ball adopted by the English Premier League this year. Based on projectile and wind-tunnel data, they computed the drag and side forces and found that the new ball was marginally more stable than previous versions but may not fly as far. This work may help improve the design of future sports equipment.

Despite their extremely small size, submicron atmospheric aerosols are critical pollutants with climate change, air quality, and human health implications. Of these particles, secondary organic aerosols (SOA) form when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) oxidize to lower volatility products that bond with and increase aerosol particle size, or in some cases, they may simply exist by themselves. SOA constitutes a significant fraction of the global aerosol mass.

Observing how cells stick to surfaces and their motility is vitally important in the study of tissue maintenance, wound healing and even understanding how cancers progress. A new paper published in EPJ Plus, by Raj Kumar Sadhu, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, takes a step towards a deeper understanding of these processes.

Dispersal is an important process governing the persistence of wild animal populations. Upon reaching sexual maturity, individuals usually disperse from their natal home range to search for suitable habitat and mates for reproduction. As such, dispersal promotes gene flow among populations, allows rescuing small and isolated populations, and enables the colonization of unoccupied habitats. In human-dominated landscapes, however, dispersing animals find it increasingly difficult to cross densely populated areas that separate suitable habitats.