Earth

Washington, DC-- How did the chemical makeup of our planet's core shape its geologic history and habitability?

Life as we know it could not exist without Earth's magnetic field and its ability to deflect dangerous ionizing particles from the solar wind and more far-flung cosmic rays. It is continuously generated by the motion of liquid iron in Earth's outer core, a phenomenon called the geodynamo.

Despite its fundamental importance, many questions remain unanswered about the geodynamo's origin and the energy sources that have sustained it over the millennia.

A study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry describes a new way to determine the age of insulin-storage parcels, known as granules, and sheds light on how their age affects their release into the bloodstream. The findings could help experts better understand diabetes and fine-tune therapies for it.

LAWRENCE -- It lacks the drama of a shape-shifting alien creature, but another threat looms over the prospect of generations-long, interstellar space travel: Explorers arriving on Xanadu could face problems communicating with previous and subsequent arrivals, their spoken language having changed in isolation along the way.

Biologists from Lomonosov Moscow State University and HSE University have studied the patterns of flower development in yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea). They found out that all the floral organs are arranged in cycles (whorls) rather than inserted sequentially in a spiral, as is the case in some other basal angiosperms. The ancestors of yellow pond-lily were among the first to diverge from the root of the angiosperm evolutionary tree, which is why it can be used to hypothesize about the structure of the first flowers.

"Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture," just published in Current Anthropology (v61, no. 3 (June 2020): 356-379) studies the Tarahumara Native Americans of northern Mexico. For over a century, the Tarahumara have been famous for their long distance running traditions and abilities, with many accounts claiming they have superhuman athletic abilities that partly result from being uncontaminated by westernization.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Researchers often study the genomes of individual organisms to try to tease out the relationship between genes and behavior. A new study of Africanized honey bees reveals, however, that the genetic inheritance of individual bees has little influence on their propensity for aggression. Instead, the genomic traits of the hive as a whole are strongly associated with how fiercely its soldiers attack.

The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Optogenetics is a recently developed technique that can control cellular functions by illuminating lights to the cells in which light-sensitive proteins are expressed by gene transfer. Optogenetics enabled us to activate or inhibit a specific population of neuronal cells and revolutionized stimulation methods. It has now become an indispensable tool for investigating brain functions. So far, most studies using this technique have been performed in rodents, whereas trials to modify behaviors in monkeys have ended up in failure, except for a few studies targeting eye movements.

Skoltech researchers together with their industrial colleagues and academic partners have cracked a 1960s puzzle about the crystal structure of a superhard tungsten boride that can be extremely useful in various industrial applications, including drilling technology.

Obese people among black and minority ethnic communities (BME) are at around two times higher the risk of contracting COVID-19 than white Europeans, a study conducted by a team of Leicester researchers has found.

Previous research has shown that ethnicity can alter the association between the body mass index (BMI) and cardiometabolic health so the researchers wanted to explore whether a person's weight could change the relative risk of COVID-19 across ethnic groups.

Okazaki, Japan - Human noroviruses are a major cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. They cause approximately 200,000 deaths each year in developing countries. However, no effective vaccine or antiviral agent for noroviruses yet exists because cell culture methods to produce noroviruses are very limited and there is a lack of the viral structural knowledge about the virus.

Humans have manipulated and managed rivers with dams for millennia. The number of river dam projects is predicted to rise sharply in the future, especially in the tropics where demand for hydroelectricity and water is accelerating. What are the long-term impacts of dams on highly biodiverse tropical forests? Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and collaborating institutions turned to one of the oldest tropical dams in the world to answer this question: The Panama Canal.

Toxic metallic air pollution nanoparticles are getting inside the crucial, energy-producing structures within the hearts of people living in polluted cities, causing cardiac stress - a new study confirms.

Using state-of-the-art electron microscopy, scientists are now able to show for the first time that tiny metal nanoparticles are getting inside the mitochondria of heart tissue - damaging these crucial 'powerhouses' that provide energy for the heart to pump.

Characteristics of palm trees differ from those of other tropical trees in many ways. In a major new study led by scientists at Uppsala University, Sweden, and University of Campinas, Brazil, they have surveyed the actual numbers of palms in tropical rainforests around the globe. The proportion of palm trees is important to include in calculations of forests' potential carbon storage and in estimates of forested areas' sensitivity to climate change.

Caecilians are limbless amphibians that, to the untrained eye, can be easily mistaken for snakes. Though caecilians are only distantly related to their reptilian cousins, researchers in a study appearing July 3 in the journal iScience describe specialized glands found along the teeth of the ringed caecilian (Siphonops annulatus), which have the same biological origin and possibly similar function to the venom glands of snakes.

LOGAN, UTAH, USA - Utah State University biologist Edmund 'Butch' Brodie, Jr. and colleagues from São Paulo's Butantan Institute report the first known evidence of oral venom glands in amphibians. Their research, supported by the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, appears in the July 3, 2020, issue of iScience.