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World Water Day: Fog and dew keep Africa's Namib Desert ecosystem going

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Moisture derived from underground water sources sustains one of world's oldest and most biologically diverse deserts

Fog, seen here receding in the morning, comes and goes quietly in the Namib Desert. The ocean is not the sole source of the fog that sustains life for numerous plants and animals living in Africa's coastal Namib Desert. The fog also comes from groundwater and other sources, report ecohydrologists supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and affiliated with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The scientists conducted the research in one of the world's oldest and most biologically diverse deserts. Their results are published today in the journal Science Advances. Today on World Water Day -- and in fact every day -- water sources are an important consideration for society. To develop ecological models of arid environments, scientists say they must deepen their understanding of water sources. That knowledge can help them assess how plants and animals function in current and possible future climates.

 

The religious correlates of death anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Various theories of religion hypothesize a connection between death anxiety and religiosity. In particular, Terror Management Theory’s worldview defence hypothesis predicts that death anxiety is lowest among very religious and irreligious individuals, and highest among uncertain individuals. Likewise, the supposition that death anxiety motivates religious belief, which in turn mitigates death anxiety, predicts that religiosity increases with death anxiety among non-believers, and that death anxiety decreases as religiosity increases among believers. In both cases, a curvilinear relationship – specifically, an inverted-U curve – is predicted. We extracted 202 effect sizes from 100 studies for an “omnibus” religiosity meta-analysis, and six meta-analyses that examine particular dimensions of religiosity. We found high heterogeneity and a weak negative association between death anxiety and religiosity. A closer examination revealed that 10 of the 11 studies that directly tested for curvilinearity provided some support for an inverted-U pattern. The curvilinearity hypothesis cannot be ruled out, but more evidence – particularly on non-religious individuals, and in non-Western, non-Abrahamic contexts – is needed.

 

Research: Most Lithuanians Still Emigrate for Economic Reasons

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Independent research, initiated and carried out by Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) interdisciplinary migration research cluster shows that introduction of Euro in Lithuania coincides with the fourth wave of emigration. In 2015, more than 40 thousand people left Lithuania, and in 2016 – around 50 thousand. This number comprises the population of a small Lithuanian town, such as Marijampolė or Mažeikiai. In October 2016 the data from the 4 136 emigrants representing all four waves of emigration, aged 19–65+ were collected. 811 of the respondents emigrated from Lithuania in 2015 or later. According to Professor Vilmante Kumpikaite-Valiuniene (KTU School of Economics and Business), the first wave of emigration started just after the restoration of Lithuanian independence, when the State borders opened. The second wave was related to Lithuania joining the EU in 2004. In 2008, the third emigration wave was caused by Lithuania joining Schengen Area and the global economic crisis, which contributed to unemployment and financial instability.

 

Steep rise of the Bernese Alps

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The striking North Face of the Bernese Alps is the result of a steep rise of rocks from the depths following a collision of two tectonic plates. This steep rise gives new insight into the final stage of mountain building and provides important knowledge with regard to active natural hazards and geothermal energy. The results from researchers at the University of Bern and ETH Zürich are being published in the «Scientific Reports» specialist journal. Mountains often emerge when two tectonic plates converge, where the denser oceanic plate subducts beneath the lighter continental plate into the earth’s mantle according to standard models. But what happens if two continental plates of the same density collide, as was the case in the area of the Central Alps during the collision between Africa and Europe?

 

Olfactory receptors: New molecular targets detected in colorectal cancer cells

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Growth of colorectal cancer cells can be inhibited with the odorant troenan. This is reported by the research team headed by Prof Dr Dr Dr habil. Hanns Hatt and Dr Lea Weber from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in the journal “PLOS One”. The researchers detected the olfactory receptor OR51B4 in tumour cells taken from the rectum and colon cancer cell lines. They analysed which odorant activates the receptor and in what way the activation affects the cells. For the purpose of the study, the team from the Department for Cellphysiology in Bochum collaborated with the Department of Molecular GI-Oncology at Ruhr-Universität, headed by Prof Dr Stephan Hahn. The necessary gene sequencing was carried out by the team from the Cologne Center for Genomics.

 

New study reveals an important mechanism responsible for biodiversity in natural ecosystems

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Algae and plants form the basis of nearly all natural food webs and ecosystems

 

A research project conducted at the University of Cologne’s Zoological Institute reveals important findings on the interaction between nutrient availability and the diversity of consumer species in freshwater environments. A better understanding of this interaction will contribute to developing possibilities to maintain biodiversity in all kinds of ecosystems. In the past decades, we have seen a dramatic decline in biodiversity around the world. Every day, species are irrecoverably lost on an unprecedented scale. This also has an impact on the stability and productivity of ecosystems. Hence it is indispensable to understand the mechanisms that impact biodiversity, particularly in the case of primary producers such as algae and plants that form the basis of nearly all natural food webs and ecosystems.

 

Fingerprint’ technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

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The common frog (Rana temporaria)


Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to detect subtle early warning signs that reveal a frog population is at risk from pollution. Worldwide, amphibian populations are declining due to habitat loss, disease and pollution which is cited as a major threat to their survival. Scientists publishing in Scientific Report, have found evidence of stress in tadpoles taken from ponds most impacted by pollution caused by nutrients and pesticides. They say the technique they used to spot these changes could offer an early warning system for populations at risk.

 

New stem cell method produces millions of human brain and muscle cells in days

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Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute scientists and their collaborators at the University of Cambridge have created a new technique that simplifies the production of human brain and muscle cells - allowing millions of functional cells to be generated in just a few days. The results published today (23 March) in Stem Cell Reports open the door to producing a diversity of new cell types that could not be made before in order to study disease. Human pluripotent stem cells offer the ability to create any tissue, including those which are typically hard to access, such as brain cells. They hold huge potential for studying human development and the impact of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and heart disease.

 

Passive smoking: acrolein inhibits immune response, hence accelerating tumour growth

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In Austria alone, two or three people a day die as a result of passive smoking.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that every year 600,000 deaths are caused by passive smoking worldwide and, in Austria alone, two or three people a day die as a result of passive smoking. In a study recently published in "Scientific Reports", researchers from MedUni Vienna and the Messerli Research Institute have, for the first time, identified the organic compound acrolein (acrylic aldehyde) as one of the main causes of failure of the immune defence to tumours due to passive smoking.

 

CNRS and the Louvre-Lens museum study perception of art with Ikonikat

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Heat map showing density of marks drawn by visitors: blue areas are rarely marked; red areas are most frequently marked). Painting: Jean-Baptiste Wicar, The judgment of Solomon. Oil on canvas, 96 × 150 cm, 1785. Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Courtesy of Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille / RMN / Julien Wylleman / Ikonikat

 

The Louvre-Lens museum and its partner, the CNRS, are conducting a novel research project during the museum’s Le Nain exhibit: The Le Nain mystery. In all, 600 museum visitors will be using tablets to highlight what most captivates their attention in seven works on display.  This tablet input collected throughout the exhibit’s duration—from 22 March to 26 June 2017—will be recorded and processed using Ikonikat software. Researchers will use it to determine whether visitors focus on the same details that professionals find most noteworthy. The findings will help the museum redefine how artwork is presented to visitors.

 

Severe psoriasis predominantly affects men

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Marcus Schmitt-Egenolf is a researcher at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University and senior author of the study.

 

The fact that men are overrepresented in psoriasis registers and consume more psoriasis care have long led researchers to believe that the common skin disease disproportionally affects men. A unique study with 5,438 Swedish psoriasis patients now reveals that women have a statistically significant lower incidence of severe psoriasis compared to men. The study, conducted by researchers at Umeå University and Karolinska Institutet, is published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. “Our results tell us that the well-established gender differences in the utilization of psoriasis care can at least partially be explained by a higher prevalence of more severe disease in men,” says Marcus Schmitt-Egenolf, who is researcher at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University and senior author of the study.

 

Upper part of Earth’s magnetic field reveals details of a dramatic past

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Magetic field model/Magnetic anomaly (ESA)


Satellites have been mapping the upper part of the Earth magnetic field by collecting data for three years and found some amazing features about the Earth’s crust. The result is the release of highest resolution map of this field seen from space to date. This ‘lithospheric magnetic field’ is very weak and therefore difficult to detect and map from space. But with the Swarm satellites it has been possible. “By combining Swarm measurements with historical data from the German CHAMP satellite, and using a new modelling technique, it was possible to extract the tiny magnetic signals of crustal magnetization with unprecedented accuracy,” said professor Nils Olsen from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), one of the team of scientists behind the new map that has just been released at a Swarm Science Meeting in Banff, Canada.

 

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