Top Stories

Mapping mosquito data to track spread of disease

Mosquitoes that carry the dengue and chikungunya viruses are more widespread than ever, believe scientists mapping the global spread of the insects. There are no treatments or vaccines for these diseases, so knowing where the mosquitoes that transmit them occur and thrive can help focus research and public health resources, the scientists say.

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What we can learn from the Seahorse

One of the ocean’s oddest little creatures, the seahorse, is providing inspiration for robotics researchers as they learn from nature how to build robots that have capabilities sometimes at odds with one another – flexible, but also tough and strong.

Their findings, published today in the journal Science, outline the virtues of the seahorse’s unusual skeletal structure, including a tail in which a vertebral column is surrounded by square bony plates. These systems may soon help create technology that offers new approaches to surgery, search and rescue missions or industrial applications.

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How rain can enhance food safety

To protect consumers from foodborne illness, produce farmers should wait 24 hours after a rain or irrigating their fields to harvest crops, according to new research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Rain or irrigation creates soil conditions that are more hospitable to Listeria monocytogenes, which when ingested may cause the human illness Listeriosis. Waiting to harvest crops reduces the risk of exposure to the pathogen, which could land on fresh produce.

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Transgenderism in Black Sea Bass

Rutgers marine researchers and New Jersey fishermen are piecing together the details of the strange, gender-bending sex lives of black sea bass – a study that could improve understanding of the bass population and help the beleaguered recreational fishing industry.

Scientists have long known black sea bass are “protogynous hermaphrodites,” a species in which fish that begin life as females can switch gender to male. But the details of how and why that happens are not completely understood.

Now, there’s thinking the change is triggered when the number of males in a local population declines.  Not enough guys? Some black sea bass ladies make the switch.

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Walk to improve your health

Wearable devices that monitor physical well-being and fitness are incredibly popular. The number sold is expected to increase from 17.7 million in 2014 to more than 40 million this year.1

Personally, I use the Jawbone UP24 and have found it very useful for keeping track of my daily steps and sleep patterns. Most of these devices come set with a default goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is a number commonly associated with a basic or moderate level of fitness.

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Greece's economic problems linked to its coal-based energy policies

As Greece prepares for its referendum, Takis Grigoriou takes Greece to task for its highly polluting lignite power sector, its ditching of a successful solar program in favour of more coal, the minimal insulation in its buildings that locks in high fuel bills, and Syriza's failure to tackle these issues. The good news? Greece's latest €1.4bn coal project looks like going unfunded.

Instead of phasing out lignite Greece opted to engage in a long battle to preserve the ailing industry while putting an abrupt end to solar energy development by blocking new applications.

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Advertising coming to EV charging stations?

While many electric vehicle owners will find it irritating and annoying to be hit with adverts when charging their vehicles, is this a sign of the times? The fact that many larger companies are willing and prepared to pay for advertising space on “free” charging devices seems to indicate that the marketing industry believes the sector is here to stay. So, will advertising be a help or a hindrance to the industry going forward?

Until the electric vehicle industry cracks the “mass market” it is vital that the cost of services and products is kept as low as possible. There will come a point when costs will have to rise, services will be chargeable and the whole dynamic will be very different than what we see today but, in the meantime, is advertising on “free” charging stations really a hindrance?

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New data on distant galaxy numbers

There may be far fewer galaxies further out in the Universe then might be expected, suggests a new study based on simulations conducted using the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, with resulting data transferred to SDSC Cloud at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, for future analysis. 

The study, published this week in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, shows the first results from the Renaissance Simulations, a suite of extremely high-resolution adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) calculations of high redshift galaxy formation. 

Moreover, these simulations show hundreds of well-resolved galaxies, allowing researchers to make several novel and verifiable predictions ahead of the October 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a new space observatory that succeeds the Hubble Space Telescope. 

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Can we grow plants in space?

A Purdue University study shows that targeting plants with red and blue LEDs provides energy-efficient lighting in contained environments, a finding that could advance the development of crop-growth modules for space exploration.

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Extremely high coastal erosion in northern Alaska

In a new study published today, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey found that the remote northern Alaska coast has some of the highest shoreline erosion rates in the world.Analyzing over half a century of shoreline change data, scientists found the pattern is extremely variable with most of the coast retreating at rates of more than 1 meter a year.  

“Coastal erosion along the Arctic coast of Alaska is threatening Native Alaskan villages, sensitive ecosystems, energy and defense related infrastructure, and large tracts of Native Alaskan, State, and Federally managed land,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the USGS.

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