Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 2015)

Science news and science current events archive December, 2015.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 2015

PPPL physicists propose new plasma-based method to treat radioactive waste
Article describes a proposed plasma-based method for treating nuclear waste.

Divorce: On the decline in sub-Saharan Africa
With education, employment and income levels all rising for women in sub-Saharan Africa, many observers have speculated that divorce rates would follow suit -- as they have in much of the developed world. But a new study by McGill University researchers finds that divorce rates across 20 African countries over the past 20 years have remained stable or declined.

Plasticulture system offers alternative for cabbage producers
Optimum plant population and plant arrangement to maximize marketable yield were established for cabbage grown in a plasticulture system in Florida. Plants were grown on raised beds with black plastic mulch and drip irrigation in a variety of row, plant spacings and plant population treatments. Results indicated that variable plant populations could be selected when using a high population plasticulture system. In-row plant spacings for early and later plantings are also recommended in the study.

Models overestimate rainfall increases due to climate change
Lawrence Livermore researchers and collaborators have found that most climate models overestimate the increase in global precipitation due to climate change.

Colorectal cancer risk varies based on Latino subgroup affiliation
In a first study of its kind, USC researchers have found that colorectal cancer risk in Californian Latinos vary widely depending on their country of origin. 'Nowadays, most of the information we have on the molecular characteristics of colorectal cancer comes from the white population,' said Mariana Stern, lead author and a Latina. 'There is little information specific to Latinos. Plus, they are typically clumped as a group.'

Caught in the act
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the image of the first-ever predicted supernova explosion. The reappearance of the Refsdal supernova was calculated from different models of the galaxy cluster whose immense gravity is warping the supernova's light.

UM Rosenstiel school scientists awarded over $6 million to study Gulf of Mexico
MIAMI - The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Research Board awarded over $6 million to University of Miami UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researchers to study the effects of oil on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health. A total of nearly $38 million and 22 research proposals are being funded under the GoMRI program.

New snake species with pitch black eyes from the Andes highlights hidden diversity
Extremely rare and hidden in the forests of the Andes, there are still new snake species left to find. This has recently been evidenced by the colubrid serpent, described for the first time in the present article. Enwrapped with questions about their species' origin and therefore, correct taxonomic clustering, the reptiles have triggered discussions, also addressed in the study, conducted by Dr. Alexander Pyron and his international team and published in the open-access journal ZooKeys

Long nights and lazy days could send you to an early grave
Sleeping more than nine hours a night, and sitting too much during the day could be a hazardous combination, particularly when added to a lack of exercise, according to new findings to emerge from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study.

Novel study: Lower patient satisfaction in hospitals that employ more nurses trained abroad
Many Western countries including England and the United States have come to rely on nurses trained abroad in times of nurse shortages. Yet little is known about how such practices affect quality of care and patient satisfaction. A novel study published by the prominent research and policy journal BMJ Open concluded that the employment of nurses trained abroad to substitute for professional nurses educated at home is not without risks to quality of care.

Luxury-charity partnerships can help promote retail sales this holiday season
Buying luxury items this holiday season may have consumers wondering if the cost is justified, but new research shows that guilt is removed if the luxury purchase is associated with charitable organizations. Research forthcoming in the Journal of Retailing finds the cash register is the best place for luxury brands to partner with charities because the consumer sees that some of the money is going to a good cause which removes an impediment to purchase.

New funding for Ebola hides an ongoing decline
A new report gives the first ever picture of global investment in Ebola R&D, reporting that this investment might have come at the expense of efforts to develop health technologies for other neglected diseases. The report found that $3.4 billion was invested in neglected disease R&D in 2014. New funding for Ebola R&D was entirely responsible for the $150 million increase in neglected disease R&D funding in 2014, with funding for all other neglected diseases down 0.4 percent.

Superbug colony behaviors revealed in time lapse video
A well-known 'superbug', MRSA, which was thought to have been a static or non-motile organism has been observed showing signs of active motility by scientists at The Universities of Nottingham and Sheffield. The process is available in a time-lapse video and is published in Scientific Reports journal today.

Low cost, safe and accurate test could help diagnose rare childhood cancers
A non-invasive, low cost blood test that could help doctors diagnose some types of malignant childhood tumour has been developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge University Health NHS Foundation Trust.

UM study: Plants absorb less carbon dioxide than models show
While global plant growth has increased slightly during the past 30 years, researchers at the University of Montana found it hasn't increased as much as some scientists predicted.

Virtual colonoscopy an alternative to FOB test & colonoscopy for colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the world, with population screening being recommended for early disease detection, however, the most optimal method to screen for the disease remains unknown.

Underage drinkers' brand preferences vary by race, age, BU study finds
Two beer brands -- Bud Light and Budweiser -- are uniformly popular among underage drinkers, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, while certain other brands appear to have a unique appeal to African-American youth drinkers, according to a new study headed by Boston University School of Public Health researchers.

Treatment strategy protects children who receive liver transplants from hepatitis b-infected donors
Transplants from Hepatitis B-Infected Donors Researchers have found that a prophylaxis treatment can prevent new-onset hepatitis B in children who receive liver transplants from donors who were previously infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) but had successfully cleared the virus. The findings are published in Liver Transplantation, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Genetically correcting a muscle disorder
Three independent groups of researchers provide preliminary evidence that CRISPR can treat genetic disorders by editing a gene involved in muscle functioning, restoring some muscle function in mice with a specific type of muscular dystrophy.

Mystery of missing exoplanet water solved
Exeter academics led an international team of experts in analyzing observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. Their combined power gave a detailed study of the atmospheres of 10 hot-Jupiter exoplanets -- the largest number ever collectively studied -- in a bid to understand their atmospheres.

Levin wins National Medal of Science for unraveling ecological complexity
Simon Levin, Princeton University's George M. Moffett Professor of Biology and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will receive a National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor. Levin will be honored at a White House ceremony in early 2016 along with eight fellow Medal of Science recipients and eight recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Study measures drag from fishing gear entanglements on North Atlantic right whales
In a paper published online Dec. 9, 2015, in Marine Mammal Science, a research team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has for the first time quantified the amount of drag on entangled whales that is created by towing fishing gear, such as rope, buoys, and lobster and crab traps. The study provides important data for teams evaluating the risks and benefits of whale disentanglements.

Scientists in Barcelona discover a potential treatment for cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is the main risk factor for liver cancer. The same target may be the key to preventing and treating this condition. Cirrhosis figures among the top 20 causes of death from disease worldwide.

Mutations before birth might disrupt heart and nervous system development
Scientists have determined why some children who are born with heart defects also often have developmental disabilities such as problems with speech and muscle coordination. The research, led by HHMI investigators Richard Lifton of Yale University and Christine Seidman of Harvard Medical School and their colleagues in the Pediatric Cardiovascular Genetics Consortium, suggests that these children accrue mutations very early in development that damage genes crucial for heart and brain formation.

Nano-walkers take speedy leap forward with first rolling DNA-based motor
Physical chemists have devised a rolling DNA-based motor that's 1,000 times faster than any other synthetic DNA motor, giving it potential for real-world applications, such as disease diagnostics.

New clues to halting nerve degeneration
A discovery into the mechanisms which lead to degeneration and loss of communication among neuron cells -- the cells controlling function in the brain and nervous system -- could potentially lead to future therapies for neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

New nanomanufacturing technique advances imaging, biosensing technology
Advances in nanolensing would make possible extremely high-resolution imaging or biological lensing.

Salk scientists discover the function and connections of 3 cell types in the brain
Using genetic tools to interrogate cell types sheds light on how the brain processes visual information.

Shingles increases short-term risk of stroke in older adults
More than 95 percent of the world's adult population is infected with the virus that causes chickenpox. Up to one third of these individuals will develop shingles (herpes zoster) in their lifetime. A new US study has found that there is a short-term increased risk of stroke after having shingles, reports Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

A step towards gene therapy against intractable epilepsy
By delivering genes for a certain signal substance and its receptor into the brain of test animals with chronic epilepsy, a research group at Lund University in Sweden with colleagues at University of Copenhagen Denmark has succeeded in considerably reducing the number of epileptic seizures among the animals. The test has been designed to as far as possible mimic a future situation involving treatment of human patients.

The subtle dance of atoms influences enzyme activity
Infinitesimal fluctuations occurring on the milli- and even nano-second time scales within the three-dimensional structure of enzymes may be one of the keys to explaining protein function. Professor Nicolas Doucet's team at INRS has demonstrated that even when certain amino acids are far from the active site of an enzyme, a change in their flexibility and atomic fluctuations can significantly impact enzyme activity.

An invitation to Europe's largest forum on breast cancer
What is EBCC? The most exciting breast cancer conference in Europe, it is the only one that involves all the major players in breast cancer. The conference encourages interaction and collaboration between clinicians, scientists and patients in a partnership of equals to talk not just about scientific advances, but also the ethical, social, political, and practical issues associated with caring for patients with breast cancer. EBCC-10 is expected to attract around 4500 delegates from around 80 countries worldwide.

Are you a 'harbinger of failure'?
Some consumers have an unerring knack for buying unpopular products.

Mothers should be cautious when discussing weight with daughters
How should a concerned mother discuss issues of diet and weight with her daughter? Very carefully, according to Erin Hillard, a developmental psychology doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame.

Simon Singh and MoMath to receive 2016 JPBM Communications Awards
Simon Singh is receiving the 2016 Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM) Communications Award for Expository and Popular Books, while the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) in New York City is receiving the 2016 JPBM Communications Award for Public Outreach.

Hubble reveals diversity of exoplanet atmosphere
Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to study the atmospheres of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets in detail, the largest number of such planets ever studied. The team was able to discover why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected -- a long-standing mystery. The results are published in Nature.

It is about me
Researchers say a rising trend in narcissism is cause for retailing and manufacturing firms offering customizable products to rethink their marketing strategies.

Research offers recommendations for use of aspirin to prevent preeclampsia
To prevent preeclampsia, new research suggests that low-dose aspirin should be given prophylactically to all women at high risk (those with diabetes or chronic hypertension) and any woman with two or more moderate risk factors (including obesity, multiple gestation and advanced maternal age).

Mayo Clinic researchers identify six potential biomarkers for bipolar I disorder
Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered a series of proteins that could be diagnostic markers to identify bipolar I disorder. If this discovery sample can be validated through replication these markers may help as a diagnostic tool for psychiatrists treating mood disorders. The findings appear in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

RateX: TUM team wins a Bell Labs Prize
Three young researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have won a prestigious Bell Labs Prize, tied for third place in a global competition in information and communications technology. They showed how a single type of transceiver could be used across the full range of digital communications systems, ensuring in each instance that its transmission rate will approach the theoretical limit. Their method could enhance flexibility and reduce costs in the engineering of wireless, wireline, optical fiber, and satellite systems.

How much TV you watch as a young adult may affect midlife cognitive function
Watching a lot of TV and having a low physical activity level as a young adult were associated with worse cognitive function 25 years later in midlife, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

New periodic paralysis drug has rochester roots
More than 15 years of research led by neurologists at the University of Rochester Medical Centerhas culminated in the first approved treatment for individuals with a rare neuromuscular disorder called periodic paralysis. The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved dichlorphenamide, which is being marketed under the brand name Keveyis by Taro Pharmaceuticals, for individuals with the disease.

Using 'big data' to fight flu
Thanks to 'big data', researchers have identified new molecules that are instrumental in the replication of the flu virus. If these host proteins are blocked, influenza viruses are unable to multiply as effectively. The international study therefore makes a significant contribution towards the development of new treatments and flu drugs.

Extremely rare muscle rupture in a professional goalkeeper
The first case report of a professional footballer tearing his teres major -- an extremely rare injury -- is captured in a series of images published in the online journal BMJ Case Reports.

Probing the mystery of how cancer cells die
A new study sheds light on the role sphingolipids play in the death of cancer cells. The research traces how levels of various sphingolipids spike inside cancer cells when the cells are undergoing a highly organized form of cellular death called apoptosis.

Scientists prevent, reverse diabetes-related kidney destruction in animal model
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, and scientists have found that infusing just a small dose of a cytokine, thought to help cause that failure, can instead prevent or reverse it.

Healthy or sick? Tiny cell bubbles may hold the answer
Rutgers scientists have uncovered biological pathways in the roundworm that provide insight into how tiny bubbles released by cells can have beneficial health effects, like promoting tissue repair, or may play a diabolical role and carry disease signals for cancer or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

Amol Aggarwal to receive 2016 AMS-MAA-SIAM Morgan Prize
Amol Aggarwal is the recipient of the 2016 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student for his outstanding research in combinatorics.

New study finds nearly half of American Muslim doctors feel scrutinized on the job
In a national survey of 255 Muslim American physicians published online this month by the journal AJOB Empirical Bioethics, researchers found that nearly half of respondents felt greater scrutiny at work compared to their peers. Nearly one in four said workplace religious discrimination had taken place sometimes -- or more -- often during their career. The same percentage of Muslim American physicians believe they have been passed over for career advancement due to their religion.

Coffee compounds that could help prevent type 2 diabetes identified
Much to coffee lovers' delight, drinking three to four cups of coffee per day has been shown to decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, scientists report in ACS' Journal of Natural Products that they have identified two compounds that contribute to this health benefit. Researchers say that this knowledge could someday help them develop new medications to better prevent and treat the disease. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to