• Sleep Like a Baby Barn Owl

    Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Lausanne have discovered that the sleeping patterns of baby owls appears to change in the same way as it does in humans. Sleep consists of two phases, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. REM is considered the lightest stage of sleep as this is the point where we experience our most vivid dreams. In addition, a variety of mammals spend more time in REM during the early stages of their lives. For example, newborns spend approximately half of their time asleep in REM whereas an average adult would spend approximately 20-25% in REM. >> Read the Full Article
  • Foodies eat lab-grown burger that could change the world

    This week at a press event in London, two food writers took a bite into the world's most unusual hamburger. Grown meticulously from cow stem cells, the hamburger patty represents the dream (or pipedream) of many animal rights activists and environmentalists. The burger was developed by Physiologist Mark Post of Maastricht University and funded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin in an effort to create real meat without the corresponding environmental toll. >> Read the Full Article
  • Rice gene digs deep to triple yields in drought

    A gene that gives rice plants deeper roots can triple yields during droughts, according to Japanese researchers writing in Nature Genetics this week (4 August). Rice is a staple food for nearly half of the world's population, but is also particularly susceptible to drought owing to its shallow roots, researchers say. The new study shows that by pointing roots down instead of sideways, the Deeper Rooting 1 (DRO1) gene results in roots that are nearly twice as deep as those of standard rice varieties. >> Read the Full Article
  • What does the future hold for GM cotton?

    Two decades into cotton's genetic modification (GM) revolution, J. Berrye Worsham, President and CEO of the U.S. industry association Cotton Incorporated, exudes complete confidence in the GM route. "Employing biotechnology to its fullest extent, now and far into the future," he says, "we anticipate dramatically increasing our yields of cotton fiber and using cottonseed as a food source for humans. We fully expect that this expanded use of the cotton plant will require less water and soil, greatly reducing strain on the environment." >> Read the Full Article
  • Growth of Global Solar and Wind Energy Continues to Outpace Other Technologies

    Solar and wind continue to dominate investment in new renewable capacity. Global use of solar and wind energy grew significantly in 2012. Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, to 93 terrawatt-hours (TWh), while wind power increased by 18.1 percent, to 521.3 TWh. Global investment in solar energy in 2012 was $140.4 billion, an 11 percent decline from 2011, and wind investment was down 10.1 percent, to $80.3 billion. Due to lower costs for both technologies, however, total installed capacities still grew sharply. >> Read the Full Article
  • Meet Thor's Shrew: Scientists Discover New Mammal with Superior Spine

    In 1917, Joel Asaph Allen examined an innocuous species of shrew from the Congo Basin and made a remarkable discovery: the shrew's spine was unlike any seen before. Interlocking lumbar vertebrae made the species' spine four times strong than any other vertebrate on Earth adjusted for its size. The small mammal had been discovered only seven years before and was dubbed the hero shrew (Scutisorex somereni), after the name give to it by the local Mangbetu people, who had long known of the shrew's remarkable abilities. >> Read the Full Article
  • Arctic methane catastrophe scenario is based on new empirical observations

    Last week, the journal Nature published a new paper warning of a $60 trillion price tag for a potential 50 Gigatonne methane pulse from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) over 10-50 years this century. The paper, however, prompted many to suggest that its core scenario - as Arctic permafrost thaws it could increasingly unleash dangerous quantities of methane from sub-ice methane hydrates in as quick as a decade - is implausible. The Washington Post's Jason Samenow argued that "almost everything known and published about methane indicates this scenario is very unlikely." Andrew Revkin of the New York Times (NYT) liberally quoted Samenow among others on "the lack of evidence that such an outburst is plausible." Similarly, Carbon Brief concluded: "The scientists we spoke to suggested the authors have chosen a scenario that's either implausible, or very much at the upper limit of what we can reasonably expect." >> Read the Full Article
  • What chemistry started life on Earth?

    How did life on Earth get started? Three new papers co-authored by Mike Russell, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., strengthen the case that Earth's first life began at alkaline hydrothermal vents at the bottom of oceans. Scientists are interested in understanding early life on Earth because if we ever hope to find life on other worlds -- especially icy worlds with subsurface oceans such as Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's Enceladus -- we need to know what chemical signatures to look for. Two papers published recently in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B provide more detail on the chemical and precursor metabolic reactions that have to take place to pave the pathway for life. Russell and his co-authors describe how the interactions between the earliest oceans and alkaline hydrothermal fluids likely produced acetate (comparable to vinegar). >> Read the Full Article
  • New Ant Species Discovered, Named for Mayan Lords and Demons

    A University of Utah biologist has identified 33 new species of predatory ants in Central America and the Caribbean, and named about a third of the tiny but monstrous-looking insects after ancient Mayan lords and demons. "These new ant species are the stuff of nightmares" when viewed under a microscope, says entomologist Jack Longino, a professor of biology. "Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth." >> Read the Full Article
  • Developing World Will Significantly Contribute to Global Energy Use

    According to International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) which was released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), world energy consumption is projected to increase by 56 percent over the next three decades! This projected increase is mainly due to the growth of the developing world. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski explains, "Rising prosperity in China and India is a major factor in the outlook for global energy demand. These two countries combined account for half the world's total increase in energy use through 2040. This will have a profound effect on the development of world energy markets." >> Read the Full Article