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The super sense you didn't know you had
July 1, 2015 05:41 AM - Bristol University.

An experiment originally designed to test the visual abilities of octopuses and cuttlefish has given University of Bristol researchers an unprecedented insight into the human ability to perceive polarized light – the super sense that most of us don’t even know we have. 

We are all familiar with colour and brightness, but there is a third property of light, the ‘polarization’, which tells us the orientation in which the light waves are oscillating. 

Dr Shelby Temple, a Research Associate from the Ecology of Vision Group in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and one of the study’s lead authors said: “Imagine a skipping rope represents a light wave travelling through space.  If you move the rope from side to side, the wave you make is horizontally polarized.  If you shake the rope up and down you create a vertically polarized wave. Generally, light is a mixture of polarizations, but sometimes – for example in parts of the sky, on your computer screen and in reflections from water or glass – a large percentage of the waves are oscillating in the same orientation and the light is strongly polarized.”

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A look at N2O: Nitrous oxide emissions may be higher than previously thought
June 22, 2015 05:01 PM - Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel

In addition to carbon dioxide there are plenty of other greenhouse gases. Nitrous oxide is one of them. However, a global assessment of emissions from the oceans is difficult because the measurement methods used so far have only allowed rough estimates. Using a new technology for continuous measurements, researchers of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel have now discovered that nitrous oxide emissions from the Southeast Pacific are much higher than previously thought. They publish their data in the international journal Nature Gesoscience.

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SPOTLIGHT

Breeders select trait to conserve drinkable water

Kaine Korzekwa, American Society of Agronomy

Plants need water. People need water. Unfortunately, there’s only so much clean water to go around — and so the effort begins to find a solution.

Luckily for people, some plants are able to make do without perfectly clean water, leaving more good water for drinking. One strategy is to use treated wastewater, containing salt leftover from the cleaning process, to water large areas of turf grass. These areas include athletic fields and golf courses. Golf courses alone use approximately 750 billion gallons of water annually in arid regions.

However, most plants cannot tolerate a lot of salt. As some areas of the United States run low on clean water, plant breeders are trying to breed plants that are more salt tolerant. This would conserve clean water while maintaining healthy turf.

Plant breeders can actually see the individual effect of what each parent plant passes on because the genes add intensity to the trait. These are additive effects. Breeders can more easily select for those features when they observe those differences.

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