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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.

Between now and the end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar.  Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from the cities of New Orleans and San Diego and the states of Alabama, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia.

This week's featured story comes from the Times of India.

No El Nino, yet 2013 fourth warmest year: US climate agency
By Subodh Varma, TNN | 22 Jan, 2014, 01.34PM IST

NEW DELHI: Last year, 2013, was tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year since records began in 1880, according to the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For the 37th consecutive year, global temperatures were higher than the 20 thcentury average.

Using the same data but calculating slightly differently, NASA said that 2013 was tied for the seventh warmest year with 2006 and 2009..  The difference between 4th place and 7th place is just two-hundredths of a degree. NASA had the "temperature anomaly" - how much the global temperature deviated from the average - pegged at 0.60°C and NOAA had 0.58°C.

"The long-term trends are very clear, they're not going to disappear, and people should be aware of that," Gavin Schmidt, Deputy Chief at NASA GISS, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.

More stories over the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Green diary rescue: Getting worse in W.Va., clean energy investment falls, pipelines and trains
by Meteor Blades

Fox News vs. Global Warming
by communitygis

The Silent Sun and Global Climate
by GreyHawk

This week in science: All that is and all that will ever be
by DarkSyde

Slideshows/Videos

Discovery News: "Her" And The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

In the movie "Her," a man falls in love with his digital assistant, which raises the question: are we close to having a supercomputer that can recreate functions of the human brain? Anthony draws out the history of artificial intelligence, discusses some recent supercomputer achievements, and shares his hopes for an "almost human" AI in our lifetime.

KPBS: Brown: California Comes Back But Challenged By Drought

Gov. Jerry Brown has delivered a dual message in his annual address to the Legislature - that a California resurgence is well underway but also is threatened by economic and environmental uncertainties.

KPBS: City Draining Lake Morena, County Says Stop

There is a political flowing from an unusual source: Lake Morena, a small reservoir 50 miles east of San Diego in the tiny Lake Morena Village. The city of San Diego owns the reservoir, and has started draining it for drinking water. San Diego County is not pleased with this plan. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser visited the lake and brings us this report.
Also see the article under Climate/Environment.

KPBS: Wildfire Preparedness In San Diego After The Driest Year On Record

San Diego's very dry weather has already produced a rash of unusual winter wildfires across the state. Cal Fire talks about the increased fire danger.

KPBS: San Diego Gardening During Drought Conditions

A winter without rain is becoming a challenge for San Diego gardeners. Nan Sterman of KPBS-TV's "A Growing Passion" has some advice to use less water but keep your plants growing.
Also see the article under Climate/Environment.

KPBS: Volunteers Plant 2,000 Trees Along San Diego River in Santee

Several hundred volunteers spent the morning planting the future on this Martin Luther King Day. KPBS Business and Environment Reporter Erik Anderson says the restoration effort focused on the San Diego river in Santee.
Also see the article under Climate/Environment.

KPBS: Surgeon General Adds New Risks To Long List Of Smoking's Harms

Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak is the latest in a long line of surgeons general who have tried to pound the final nails into the coffin of America's smoking habit.

KPBS: Obese While Pregnant — San Diego Programs Promote Healthy Birth

More than one-third of women in the U.S. are obese and more than half of pregnant women are overweight or obese which puts them at an increased risk for pregnancy complications.

KPBS: San Diego Food Pantry Opens For Diabetics


Read the accompanying article in Health for the text description of this video.

KPBS: ID Theft Concern For Consumers As Security Breach Expands Beyond Target

With news that six more retailers across the U.S. have been infected by the same malicious software that stole data from Target — consumers become more worried about identity theft.

NASA: TDRS-L launch on This Week @NASA

NASA's TDRS-L satellite launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket January 23, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. TDRS-L, the second of three next-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, provides tracking, telemetry; command and data return services for NASA science and human exploration missions. Also, KSC transformation continues, Center renamed for Armstrong, Next space station crew, SLS Thrust Frame Adapter, Orion chute test, 5 Earth Science missions for 2014 and more!

JPL/NASA: Opportunity: 10 Years on Mars - Science

Two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the Red Planet in January, 2004, on a 90-day mission. Spirit's mission lasted 2,269 days (over 6 years) and ended in 2010. Ten years after landing, the Opportunity rover continues to explore. The rover's science team explains how Opportunity traversed the Red Planet, examined the diverse environment and sent back data that transformed our understanding of Mars.

Space.com: Weird 'Jelly Doughnut' Rock on Mars Explained | Video

Even 'Star Trek' actor William Shatner wants to know about the weird "jelly doughnut" rock on Mars found by NASA's Opportunity rover. Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover Program explains.

Astronomy/Space

Discovery News via Space.com: Stephen Hawking: There Are No Black Holes
by Ian O'Neill, Discovery News
January 25, 2014 09:02am ET

On reading a new paper by Stephen Hawking that appeared online this week, you would have been forgiven in thinking the world-renowned British physicist was spoofing us. Hawking's unpublished work — titled "Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes" and uploaded to the arXiv preprint service — declares that "there are no black holes."

Keep in mind that Hawking's bedrock theory of evaporating black holes revolutionized our understanding that the gravitational behemoths are not immortal; through a quantum quirk they leak particles (and therefore mass) via "Hawking radiation" over time. What's more, astronomers are finding new and exciting ways to detect black holes — they are even working on an interferometer network that may, soon, be able to directly image a black hole's event horizon!

Has Hawking changed his mind? Are black holes merely a figment of our collective imaginations? Are all those crank theories about "alternative" theories of the Cosmos true?!

Fortunately not.

Space.com: Exploding Star: New Supernova Discovery Is Closest in Years
By Megan Gannon, News Editor
January 22, 2014 04:00pm ET

An exploding star has suddenly appeared in the night sky, dazzling astronomers who haven't seen a new supernova so close to our solar system in more than 20 years.

In just the last few days, a the supernova emerged as a bright light in Messier 82 - also known as the Cigar Galaxy -  about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. The supernova, which one astronomer described as a potential "Holy Grail" for scientists, was first discovered by students at the University College London.

Positioned between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, the new supernova should be easy for skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere to spot; it may even brighten enough to be visible through a small pair of binoculars, said astronomer Brad Tucker, of the Australian National University and the University of California, Berkeley. Beyond creating a skywatching spectacle, the cosmic event may also afford astronomers a rare opportunity to study an object that might help them understand dark energy.

Climate/Environment

Examiner.com: 2013 wettest year in Michigan history

It's official.  Last year was the wettest year on record for Michigan.

According to NOAA's national overview for 2013, which was released on January 21, 2014, the average precipitation in Michigan was the highest in 119 years of record-keeping.  Michigan had 40.12 inches of precipitation, 8.9 inches above average. This beat the previous record wet year of 1985 by 0.64 inch.

Other states setting weather records last year were North Dakota, which also had its wettest year on record, and California, where Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a drought state of emergency after the Golden State's driest year ever.

Examiner.com: Record broken for January snowfall in Detroit

Detroit broke another weather record for precipitation today.

As if 2013 being the wettest year in Michigan history was not enough, Accuweather reports that last night's snowfall brought the total for January so far to 31.3 inches, while the Detroit Free Press is reporting 31.5 inches so far.  Either total beats the previous record for the month of 29.6 inches set in January 1978 almost two inches.  To add more perspective, the snowfall for this month is about a foot-and-one-half above the January average of 12.5 inches.

Don't get too attached to the current snowfall total.  There are six more days left in the month and the National Weather Service predicts another weather system will bring one to two inches to the area on Sunday.

Texas A&M: Asian Air Pollution Affecting World’s Weather
January 21, 2014

Extreme air pollution in Asia is affecting the world’s weather and climate patterns, according to a study by Texas A&M University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers.

Yuan Wang, a former doctoral student at Texas A&M, along with Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professors Renyi Zhang and R. Saravanan, have had their findings published in the current issue of Nature Communications.
Satellite photo shows huge air pollution clouds at far left. Japan is on the right.

Using climate models and data collected about aerosols and meteorology over the past 30 years, the researchers found that air pollution over Asia – much of it coming from China – is impacting global air circulations.

KPBS: Record Dry Conditions Continue To Grip San Diego
By Susan Murphy
Monday, January 20, 2014

San Diego and all of California continue to be gripped by extremely dry conditions, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday to declare a statewide drought emergency.

San Diego has received just 2.2 inches of rain since July 1; that's less than half of what it should be for this time of year, but twice as much as Los Angeles.

The last time San Diego felt a drop of precipitation was Dec. 19.

"And then it shut off completely, said Alex Tardy, meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Diego. "But what’s been amazing is it’s shut off statewide.

KPBS: City, County Politicians Squabbling Over Lake Morena Reservoir
By Claire Trageser
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In 1989, the city of San Diego began to drain water from one of its reservoirs, Lake Morena, which sits 50 miles east of the city in the tiny Lake Morena Village. Residents of the village were so outraged that the city was ruining their nearby lake that one woman wrote a protest song to the tune of "Summertime Blues," calling it "Lake Morena vs. S.D. City Ditty."

"Ya' know the eagles are your symbol and we gotta protect them," it went. "We can't let them suffer or go to extinction. The mosquitoes and the mud will drown them at first. And what about the odor — our health will be the worst."

Neither the song, the sentiment, or a lawsuit the residents filed did much good. The city drained the lake anyway.

Almost a quarter-century later, the city is siphoning the water again in an attempt to curtail water rates. The backcountry residents, who boat and fish on the lake and run businesses from the recreation, are just as unhappy. Their war of words wages as the lake shrinks daily.

KPBS: San Diego Gardening During Drought Conditions
By Marissa Cabrera, Maureen Cavanaugh, Peggy Pico
Originally published January 23, 2014 at 11:13 a.m., updated January 23, 2014 at 11:13 a.m.

Now that Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency, state and local officials are gearing up for the consequences of almost zero rainfall so far this winter. They're planning for water conservation measures, cut-backs to agriculture and increased fire danger.

But on a smaller scale, San Diego gardeners are trying to figure out what to do when the rainy season, isn't.

Our garden expert Nan Sterman, and host of KPBS show A Growing Passion, has been working through this dilemma.

KPBS: 300 Volunteers Plant Trees Along San Diego River As Part of Restoration Effort
By Erik Anderson
Monday, January 20, 2014

About 300 people volunteered their time to plant the trees. Keith Wilson, president of the biotech company Takeda California, says planting the 2,000 trees is a bonding experience.

“There’s an immediate benefit of working together for three or four hours. All employees and families and friends, getting dirty. And that’s wonderful team building spirit," Wilson said. "When you put trees in the ground, you have a chance to impact the future.”

Wilson also said the trees will offset 20 times the amount of carbon impact his firm used in paper last year.

University of Alabama, Birmingham: Gulf fish studied for safety following Deepwater Horizon oil spill
By Nicole Wyatt
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and damaging a wellhead that led to 4.9 million barrels of oil leaking into the ocean. In the aftermath of this event, one potential hazard was the safety of eating seafood caught from the affected area.

An environmental health science expert in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health worked with colleagues to analyze concentrations of contaminants in fish that were harvested by reef fishermen in the Gulf a year after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The results are published online in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.

A total of 92 fish samples were obtained from areas open to fishing — primarily near Florida and Texas, as well as some near Louisiana — by members of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance during the period of March 2011 to April 2012. The samples were tested for benzo[a]pyrene-equivalents (BaPEs) — a combined measure of carcinogenic potency across seven polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which occur in significant amounts in oil deposits.

University of Rhode Island: URI researchers developing tiny weapons to combat big oil spills
Engineers, chemists finding success using nanoparticles to clean spills

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 17, 2014 -- More than 47,000 people, 9,700 ships and 127 planes spent months mopping up oil released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Yet four years later, the tools to fight offshore oil spills remain remarkably rudimentary. Now a team of University of Rhode Island engineering and chemistry professors is demonstrating novel approaches that could change the way oil spills are battled.

The approach the scientists are using relies on nanoparticles, each about 100 times thinner than a human hair. To study how these tiny particles can clean up oil, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative has awarded grants totaling nearly $1.4 million to engineering professors Arijit Bose, Geoffrey Bothun and Vinka Oyanedel-Craver, along with chemistry professor Mindy Levine and Metcalf Institute Executive Director Sunshine Menezes.

“On the downside, the Deepwater Horizon spill happened,” Bothun said. “On the upside, it motivated a lot of engineers and scientists to come up with new ways to fight oil spills.”

Biodiversity

Science News: After 2,000 years, Ptolemy’s war elephants are revealed
by Sarah Zielinski
8:00am, January 21, 2014

If you think back to history class, you might remember the tale of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 B.C. to sneak up on Rome during the Punic Wars. It was notable not just because he brought an entire army from Carthage to Rome the long way around, but because that army included elephants.

The use of war elephants dates back at least to the fourth century B.C., when Indian kings took Asian elephants into battle. The practice soon spread west to the Persian Empire and then northern Africa, where African elephants were put to military use. There’s only one known case, though, of an African elephant-Asian elephant matchup, at the Battle of Raphia near Gaza on June 22, 217 B.C. The battle, over the sovereignty of Syria, matched the forces of Ptolemy IV, pharaoh of Egypt, against those of Antiochus III, a Greek king whose reign stretched into western Asia.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Wired: Absurd Creature of the Week: Foot-Long, Sex-Crazed Snails That Pierce Tires and Devour Houses
By Matt Simon
01.24.14

Ah, the innocence of children. So free of corruption and cynicism, so sweet and sincere. Laughing and playing and introducing supremely destructive monster snails to Florida, where the beasts eat almost anything that’s green and then crap all over houses — quite literally laying waste to whole neighborhoods.

This actually happened in the 1960s, when a boy vacationing with his family in Hawaii had pocketed a few giant African land snails (Lissachatina fulica), a mollusk that grows to a foot long and a full pound. Hawaii had been battling the pest, and so too would Florida, where the boy returned with his new friends. Once home, he quickly grew bored of the snails and handed them over to his grandmother, who set them free in her backyard.

What ensued was an invasion by rapidly reproducing critters that have over the last century spread out of their native East Africa into tropical climes all over the world, from Asia to South America, as stowaways on ships or as pets brought home by people with a thing for snails. In Florida, eradication took seven years. Other places, like Brazil, have not been so lucky in their efforts.

Virginia Tech: Halting crop destruction in India saves up to $309 million

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 22, 2014 – Virginia Tech researchers who first discovered a devastating pest in India and devised a natural way to combat it have now put an economic value on their counterattack: up to $309 million the first year and more than $1 billion over five years.

That’s the amount of damage the papaya mealybug would have wreaked on farmers and consumers in India without scientists’ intervention.

The papaya mealybug ripped through crops including papaya, eggplant, and tomato in southern India – causing mold and stunted growth – before Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan of Virginia Tech identified the pest and spearheaded the natural control program. For a relatively modest cost of $200,000 during the first year of the intervention, devastation that would have totaled from $524 million to $1.34 billion over five years was prevented, Muniappan and other scientists report in the February issue of the journal Crop Protection.

Biotechnology/Health

UCSD: Putting a Brake on Tumor Spread
By Scott LaFee   
January 23, 2014

A team of scientists, led by principal investigator David D. Schlaepfer, PhD, a professor in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has found that a protein involved in promoting tumor growth and survival is also activated in surrounding blood vessels, enabling cancer cells to spread into the bloodstream.

The findings are published in this week’s online issue of The Journal of Cell Biology.

Blood vessels are tightly lined with endothelial cells, which form a permeability barrier to circulating cells and molecules. “Our studies show that pharmacological or genetic inhibition of the endothelial protein focal adhesion kinase, or FAK, prevents tumor spread by enhancing the vessel barrier function.”

UCSD: Drug Discovery Potential of Natural Microbial Genomes
Advanced genetic technique yields novel antibiotic from ocean bacteria
By Debra Kain
January 22, 2014

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a new genetic platform that allows efficient production of naturally occurring molecules, and have used it to produce a novel antibiotic compound. Their study, published this week in PNAS, may open new avenues for natural product discoveries and drug development.

According to lead investigator Bradley S. Moore, PhD, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego, the findings demonstrate a “plug and play” technique to trigger previously unknown biosynthetic pathways and identify natural product drug candidates.

“In my opinion, the new synthetic biology technology we developed – which resulted in the discovery of a new antibiotic from a marine bacterium – is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of our ability to modernize the natural product drug discovery platform,” Moore said.

KPBS: San Diego Food Pantry Opens For Diabetics
By Kenny Goldberg
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Henricks has owned and operated the Huddle Restaurant for more than 25 years. She opened the pantry next to her restaurant five years ago to help San Diegans who need food assistance.

Over the years, she noticed many of her clients were overweight or obese. Those are two of the risk factors for diabetes.

Recently, Henricks asked clients if they were diabetic.

“And we found 2 out of 10 who were coming to shop at our pantry had diabetes,” she said.

Over the last 30 years, the number of Americans with diabetes has more than tripled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 20.9 million diabetics nationwide in 2011.

Tulane University: Energy demands lead to frailty in elderly, Tulane study says
January 22, 2014

Keeping healthy in old age is a delicate balancing act, according to Tulane University researchers in a recent study in the Journals of Gerontology. S. Michal Jazwinski, lead author and director of the Tulane Center for Aging at Tulane University School of Medicine, says that declining health in the “oldest old” (people 90 years old or older) is associated with ever-increasing energy demands to maintain the body’s basic life-sustaining activities.

The total daily energy usage for a person can be divided into three parts: the resting metabolic rate, or RMR; the energy cost of physical activity; and the generation of heat within the body following the consumption of food.

Tulane University: Researchers use E.coli to make potential malaria vaccine
January 14, 2014

A Tulane University researcher has found a way to use E.coli bacteria to cheaply manufacture a once hard-to-produce protein critical to the development of a potential transmission-blocking malaria vaccine.

Nirbhay Kumar, professor and chair of tropical medicine at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, worked with Evelina Angov of the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research to use the common bacteria to create a new process to purify and refold protein CHrPfs25. When tested as a vaccine, the protein produced a 100 percent effective malaria transmission-blocking antibody response in mice using the two most common species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, according to results to be published in the April issue of the journal Infection and Immunity.

Malaria, which kills nearly 800,000 people every year worldwide, is caused by a microscopic parasite that alternates between human and mosquito hosts at various stages of its lifecycle. Kumar’s vaccine seeks to trigger an immune response in people so they produce antibodies that target a protein the malaria parasite needs to reproduce within a mosquito.

Penn State: Modernizing malaria research through a new, interdisciplinary approach
Huck Institutes faculty researcher Manuel Llinás uses cutting-edge techniques in metabolomics and genomics in effort to beat malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite.
By Seth Palmer
January 22, 2014

Despite a relatively low incidence of malaria in the United States since the 1950s, the disease continues to pose a major threat to nearly half the world's population.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 3.4 billion people in 97 countries live in areas at risk of malaria transmission. In 2012, according to WHO estimates, there were 207 million cases of malaria worldwide resulting in 627,000 deaths.

“The literature on malaria is over a hundred years old,” says Manuel Llinás, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State. “It's a very well-studied disease. It's one of the most classic illnesses of humankind. And yet we currently still have no great ways to actually tackle this thing.”

Penn State: New faculty member focuses on stress and its effects on aging
January 24, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Stress has long-term effects on the genome and may cause early aging, according to new Penn State faculty member Idan Shalev’s research. He investigates the aging process and how stress erodes telomeres, a part of chromosomes that protects them from deterioration.

Shalev joined the University's Department of Biobehavioral Health in January as part of the cluster hire in child maltreatment being conducted by Penn State’s Network on Child Protection and Well-Being .

Victims of child abuse often experience trauma. That stress can boost the aging process or cause diseases usually found in older persons to emerge at earlier ages. Shalev hopes his research will identify the mechanisms linking early stress and aging that can be translated into effective prevention and treatment methods.

“Once the telomeres get to a critically short length, the cells start to die,” he said. “Like the plastic caps at the end of shoe laces, they protect the chromosomes from unraveling. But once chromosomes start to unravel, biological aging begins.”

University of Alabama, Birmingham: High-intensity strength training shows benefit for Parkinson's patients
By Bob Shepard
Friday, January 24, 2014

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that high-intensity strength training produced significant improvements in quality of life, mood and motor function in older patients with Parkinson’s disease. The findings were published Jan. 9 online in the Journal of Applied Physiology.  

Fifteen subjects with moderate Parkinson’s underwent 16 weeks of high-intensity resistance training combined with interval training designed to simultaneously challenge strength, power, endurance, balance and mobility function. Before and after the 16 weeks, the subjects were compared to age-matched controls who did not have Parkinson’s and did not undergo the exercise regimen.

“We saw improvements in strength, muscle size and power, which we expected after rigorous weight training; but we also saw improvement in balance and muscle control,” said Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology and lead author of the study. “We also saw improvement in cognition, mood and sense of well-being.”

University of Alabama, Birmingham: VA/UAB study: Hospice techniques for hospitalized patients provide better end-of-life care
By Bob Shepard
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A study by researchers at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham says using home-based hospice practices for terminally ill, hospitalized patients could reduce suffering and improve end-of-life care.

The study, published online Jan. 21 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is the first to show that palliative care techniques usually used in a home setting can have an impact on end-of-life care for those who die in a hospital.

“More than 75 percent of Americans say they would prefer to die at home, yet only about 25 percent do — the vast majority dying in hospitals or nursing homes,” said Amos Bailey, M.D., director of the Safe Harbor Palliative Care Program at the Birmingham VAMC and professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care in the UAB School of Medicine. “This study was designed to see whether home-based hospice practices could be successfully integrated into care in hospitals to improve the end-of-life experience for those who remain hospitalized at time of death.”

University of Alabama, Birmingham: UAB study describes continued inappropriate antibiotic use in ERs
By Bob Shepard
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say the inappropriate use of antibiotics in emergency departments is not decreasing even as concerns about antibiotic resistance continue to mount.

The research team looked at visits to emergency departments nationwide over a 10-year period and found that inappropriate antibiotic use decreased in pediatric settings, but did not decrease in adult settings. The study was published online in January in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

“While emergency department antibiotic use for acute respiratory tract infections decreased in the past decade among children, we saw no decrease in antibiotic use for adults with acute respiratory tract infections,” said John Baddley, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and a study co-author. “Given organized efforts to emphasize antibiotic stewardship, we expected to see a decrease in emergency department antibiotic use for such infections.”

University of Pittsburgh: Low Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Severe Preeclampsia

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 24, 2014 – Women who are deficient in vitamin D in the first 26 weeks of their pregnancy may be at risk of developing severe preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening disorder diagnosed by an increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine, according to research by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

In one of the largest studies to date, researchers studied blood samples collected from 700 pregnant women who later developed preeclampsia in an effort to examine a woman’s vitamin D status during pregnancy and her risk of developing preeclampsia. The full study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is available online in the journal Epidemiology, and will publish in the March print issue.

“For decades, vitamin D was known as a nutrient that was important only for bone health,” said lead author Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, scientists have learned that vitamin D has diverse functions in the body beyond maintaining the skeleton, including actions that may be important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.”

University of Pittsburgh: Uninsured Patients Less Likely to Be Transferred Between Hospitals, Pitt Researchers Find

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 21, 2014 – Uninsured patients with a variety of common medical diagnoses are significantly less likely to be transferred between hospitals for treatment, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in collaboration with researchers at the University of Iowa and University of Toronto. They also found that women, insured or not, are less likely to be transferred between hospitals. The findings, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggest that non-medical factors, including patients’ sex and insurance coverage may influence care decisions and lead to potential health disparities.

“Federal law requires hospitals and physicians to care for and stabilize any patient with an emergency medical condition, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay,” explained Janel Hanmer, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Pitt’s School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “While there’s been persistent concern about patients being transferred between hospital emergency rooms for non-medical reasons, our study is one of the first to look at inter-hospital transfers among patients who have already been admitted to the hospital.”

The researchers used data from the 2010 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), the largest all-payer inpatient care database in the United States, to examine the relationship between a patient’s insurance coverage and the hospital transfers for five common medical diagnoses: biliary tract disease, chest pain, pneumonia, sepsis and skin infection.

Temple University: Tumor-suppressing genes might play important role in obesity, diabetes and cancer
January 17, 2014

The function of two tumor-suppressing genes could play a vital role in helping to control obesity and other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to researchers in the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple.

The researchers published their findings, “Silencing of RB1 and RB2/p130 during adipogenesis of bone marrow stromal cells results in dysregulated differentiation,” in the Feb. 1, 2014, issue of the journal Cell Cycle.

“We found that these two genes of the retinoblastoma family, Rb1 and Rb2/p130, are key proteins in regulating the formation and function of fat tissue in the body,” said Antonio Giordano, director of the Sbarro Institute and one of the paper’s lead authors. “If these proteins are not functioning properly, they are unable to control the formation of fat tissue in the body, so you have a continuous formation of fat tissue.”

Texas A&M: There’s something in the saliva
by Jennifer Fuentes
January 23, 2014

As new oral cancer diagnoses rose to more than 41,000 in 2013, and demand for early detection continues to increase, research from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry’s diagnostic sciences department could introduce an oral cancer saliva test in the future while reducing the test’s risk of false positive results.

All it takes is a test tube and a bit of saliva.

University of Virginia: Study: Exercise During Pregnancy Can Benefit Child’s Lifelong Health
January 23, 2014

Exercising during pregnancy can help protect the unborn child from diabetes and other health problems in later life, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Researchers have determined that exercise during pregnancy prevented a damaging epigenetic effect of the mother’s obesity – an effect believed to put chemical marks on genes and lead to diabetes in the offspring. The researchers identified the specific gene involved, providing an important target for developing drugs that would prevent the undesired effect.

While the researchers were focused primarily on diabetes, the findings could have important implications for many other conditions. “Disease transmission from parent to offspring is not limited to diabetes but appears to be the case with many, many diseases,” said Zhen Yan of U.Va.’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “There is accumulating evidence suggesting diseases ranging from atherosclerosis to diabetes to schizophrenia – all these diseases we talk about these days – are influenced by maternal condition.”

University of Virginia: Children’s Cancer Test May Produce False Positives, U.Va. Researchers Find
January 23, 2014

A test used to detect a type of cancer in children may produce false positives because it is based on a faulty assumption, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined.

The test works by detecting a gene fusion thought to be unique to a rare form of cancer known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. But the new U.Va. research shows that the fusion actually occurs during normal cellular development as well. The fusion of genes lasts only a brief time during normal development, but a diagnostic test could potentially detect it and indicate the presence of cancer where there is none, the researchers believe.

“Cancer does express this fusion. But it’s not totally unique now. It’s not black and white now. It’s shades of gray,” said researcher Hui Li of the School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and the U.Va. Cancer Center. “In normal development, it’s only briefly expressed, so if we can understand the normal process a little better and know when exactly in development you see this, maybe we can develop a better assay to rule out this particular potential for false positives.”

Psychology/Behavior

University of Alabama: Physical Effects of Social Isolation Highlights UA Basowitz Lecture
Jan 14, 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Being a loner, even when one is satisfied with their social isolation, could have dire consequences for one’s long-term health.
...
Cacioppo said epidemiologists’ long-recognized link between social isolation and morbidity/mortality, which has been explained in terms of social influences and health behavior, isn’t sufficient. Cacioppo and co-researchers have advanced a social neuroscience viewpoint on the association between loneliness and morbidity and mortality in humans.

“The Brain, Social Neuroscience, and Loneliness” will highlight a model that provides a biological explanation for social isolation documented in longitudinal studies of older adults, Cacioppo said.

Texas A&M: Researcher highlights the impact of secondary tasks in driving performance
by Rae Lynn Mitchell
January 22, 2014

Over the last 30 years distracted driving has become a major source of concern for public officials and drivers alike. Whether it is cell phone usage and in-vehicle information systems or passengers, food, or cigarette usage, all non-driving activities have the potential to distract drivers from the task at hand. However, many argue that these ‘distractions’ don’t affect them or that some tasks actually improve their driving abilities. Today we have more researchers than ever who are working to settle that question once and for all.

Alva O. Ferdinand, Dr.P.H., J.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, recently conducted a study, to be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health, that examined past research on distracted driving and the relationship between non-driving activities and driving performance.

“People engage in distracted driving when they simultaneously operate a vehicle and participate in a non-driving activity (secondary tasks) that could divert attention away from the primary task of driving,” said Ferdinand. “The purpose of this study was to systematically review and meta-analyze the literature on the relationship between secondary tasks and driving performance.

Archeology/Anthropology

Culture 24 (UK): Archaeologists open walled up window for first time in 500 years at Mingary Castle
By Ben Miller
24 January 2014

Cracking open a window on a mysterious hexagonal castle on the north-west peninsula of Scotland, archaeologists say they have seen a spectacular sea view for the first time since a clan held the fortification 500 years ago.

Drilling a stone wall at Mingary Castle, which was established during Viking times, the early morning breakthrough restored a secret window on a landmark last tended to more than a century ago.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Paleontology/Evolution

University of Texas: Bats Use Water Ripples to Hunt Frogs
Jan. 23, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — As the male túngara frog serenades female frogs from a pond, he creates watery ripples that make him easier to target by rivals and predators such as bats, according to researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Leiden University and Salisbury University.

A túngara frog will stop calling if it sees a bat overhead, but ripples continue moving for several seconds after the call ceases. In the study, published this week in the journal Science, researchers found evidence that bats use echolocation — a natural form of sonar — to detect these ripples and home in on a frog. The discovery sheds light on an ongoing evolutionary arms race between frogs and bats.

Geology

SDSU: "Sedimentary Bathtub" Amplifies Earthquakes
A subterranean basin of stiff soil beneath Vancouver might make earthquakes there more severe than expected, a San Diego State seismologist finds.
By Michael Price
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Like an amphitheater amplifies sound, the stiff, sturdy soil beneath the Greater Vancouver metropolitan area could greatly amplify the effects of an earthquake, pushing the potential devastation past what building codes in the region are prepared for. That’s the conclusion behind a pair of studies recently coauthored by San Diego State University seismologist and geology professor Kim Olsen.

Greater Vancouver sits atop a tectonic plate known as the Juan de Fuca Plate, which extends south to encompass Washington and Oregon states. The subterranean region of this plate beneath Vancouver is a bowl-shaped mass of rigid soil called the Georgia Basin. Earthquakes can and do occur in the Georgia Basin and can originate deep within the earth, between 50 and 70 kilometers down, or as shallow as a couple of kilometers.

While earthquake researchers have long known that the region is tectonically active and policymakers have enforced building codes designed to protect against earthquakes, those codes aren’t quite strict enough because seismologists have failed to account for how the Georgia Basin affects a quake’s severity, Olsen said. In large part, that’s because until recently the problem has been too computationally complex, he said.

Energy

UCSD: SDSC and Leidos to Help Develop New Cybersecurity Reference Architecture for Electrical Microgrids
Project to use UC San Diego’s advanced microgrid for analysis
By Jan Zverina
January 20, 2014

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, is collaborating with Leidos (formerly Science Applications International Corporation) to develop a reference system architecture aimed at increasing security levels of microgrid control and IT systems used to manage electrical microgrids worldwide.

Microgrids are small-scale versions of traditional larger power grids that draw energy from clean sources such as the wind and sun, as well as from conventional technology. They can be connected to a larger electric grid, but can also work independently. In addition, microgrids can more efficiently manage real-time demand, supply, and storage of energy at a lower cost and with less pollution than a conventional grid.

The use of microgrids has grown significantly during the past decade, with much of that growth occurring within the last few years. The growth has been driven by concerns about rising fuel costs for macrogrids, as well as macrogrid reliability, due to local community impacts such as loss of power to millions of people caused by natural disasters (e.g. Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012). With the advent of the smart grid, another concern comes from the awareness of cyber threats facing macrogrids.

University of Texas: UT Austin Engineer Converts Yeast Cells into ‘Sweet Crude’ Biofuel
Jan. 21, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a new source of renewable energy, a biofuel, from genetically engineered yeast cells and ordinary table sugar. This yeast produces oils and fats, known as lipids, that can be used in place of petroleum-derived products.

Assistant professor Hal Alper, in the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, along with his team of students, created the new cell-based platform. Given that the yeast cells grow on sugars, Alper calls the biofuel produced by this process “a renewable version of sweet crude.”

The researchers’ platform produces the highest concentration of oils and fats reported through fermentation, the process of culturing cells to convert sugar into products such as alcohol, gases or acids. This work was published in Nature Communications on Jan. 20.

Virginia Tech: Environmentally friendly, energy-dense sugar battery developed to power the world's gadgets

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 22, 2014 – A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of  biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

While other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.

In as soon as three years, Zhang’s new battery could be running some of the cell phones, tablets, video games, and the myriad other electronic gadgets that require power in our energy-hungry world, Zhang said.

Physics

Virginia Tech: Three physicists elected American Physical Society Fellows

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 22, 2014 – Three Virginia Tech College of Science faculty were recently elected as Fellows into the American Physical Society.

Leo Piilonen, the William E. Hassinger Jr., Senior Faculty Fellow in Physics and chair of the department; Bruce Vogelaar, professor of physics and director of the Kimballton Underground Research Facility; and Uwe Tauber, professor of physics, were so honored  in November.

Fellowship in the APS is limited to no more than one-half of one percent of membership.

Chemistry

Penn State: Experiments show hypothesis of microtubule steering accurate
By A'ndrea Elyse Messer
January 23, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Tiny protein motors in cells can steer microtubules in the right direction through branching nerve cell structures, according to Penn State researchers who used laboratory experiments to test a model of how these cellular information highways stay organized in living cells.

"We proposed a model of how it works in vivo, in the living cell," said Melissa Rolls, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. "But because of the complexity of the living cells, we couldn't tell if the model was possible."

Rolls then collaborated with William O. Hancock, professor of biomedical engineering, who was already working on the tiny kinesin motors that move materials throughout the cell, to test the model in the laboratory, in vitro.

"Kinesins are little machines that use chemical energy to generate mechanical forces sufficient to carry materials through the cell," said Hancock.

Science Crime Scenes

Al-Ahram (Egypt): Islamic museum in Cairo seriously damaged after bomb blast
Facade of the museum is destroyed, and some interior ceilings have collapsed
Nevine El-Aref, Friday 24 Jan 2014

The façade of the Museum of Islamic Art in central Cairo has been completely destroyed by a powerful car bomb that exploded outside the adjacent Cairo Security Directorate early on Friday morning.

Four people were killed and at least 76 injured in the bomb last, according to health ministry figures.

The blast of the bomb also destroyed the façade of the nearby Egyptian National Library and Archives building.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

KPBS: San Diego Attorney Loses Twitter Libel Case Against Courtney Love
By David Wagner
Friday, January 24, 2014

San Diego attorney Rhonda Holmes has lost her libel lawsuit against grunge icon Courtney Love. A Los Angeles judge ruled Friday that Holmes couldn't prove Love deliberately defamed her over Twitter and in later press interviews.

The case represented a social media milestone: the first time a public figure had to defend a tweet in court.

Holmes believed Love — a former client — defamed her in a 2010 tweet reading, "I was (expletive) devastated when Rhonda J Holmes Esq of san diego was bought off." Love also told reporters, "they got to her," in reference to Holmes. The prosecution argued these statements falsely claimed Holmes took bribes in return for severing ties with Love.

Even though Love was found not guilty, Prof. Junichi Semitsu of the University of San Diego School of Law says this case shows Twitter is fair game in libel suits. Anyone can be held accountable in court for what they tweet about others.

University of Alabama, Birmingham: UAB researcher, entrepreneur among Top 10 influencers in banking information security
By Meghan Davis
Thursday, January 23, 2014

BankInfo Security has named University of Alabama at Birmingham researcher Gary Warner one of the Top 10 influencers in banking information security. The list, released Jan. 22, acknowledges the roles key individuals are playing in the fight against cyberthreats to information security and privacy.

Warner is the director of research in computer forensics in the Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research at UAB. He is an expert in phishing attacks and international cybersecurity fraud.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

Time Magazine: Can Privatization Save the Treasures of Ancient Greece?
In the wake of government austerity, some closest to Greece's treasures are advocating turning them over to private companies
By Charlotte McDonald-Gibson/Ancient Nemea

Many objects dug from the earth or drawn from the legends of Nemea could be used to promote the ancient Greek site: the mythological Nemean Lion slain by Hercules in the first of his seven feats; weights lifted by competitors during its ancient athletics; the bronze statue of the baby Opheltes, whose death is said to have inspired the games which rivaled those at Olympia further west.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

ABC10 vis KPBS: Proposed Bill Would Mean Ban On Plastic Bags In California
By 10News.com
Friday, January 24, 2014

Key California legislators have reached an agreement that could lead to a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies by 2016.

Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon on Los Angeles said Thursday the deal balances environmental concerns with the need to preserve jobs.

Los Angeles and nearly 100 cities and counties in the state have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags.

If approved, the compromise bill would extend a similar prohibition across the state.

The local laws would remain in effect.

KPBS: Brown Speech Touts Bioscience, Warns of Future Health Care Costs
By Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio
Thursday, January 23, 2014

Health care wasn’t a big focus of Gov. Jerry Brown’s speech. But the governor did mention health care in terms of costs to the state, and how California is a leader in bioscience and medical technology.

Brown said “tens of billions [of dollars are] needed to cover retiree health care” and he sees this as a long term budget liability. New health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, such as the Medicaid expansion, are a “future risk” to state spending, Brown said.

“We do have a large group of people who will rely on the pensions,” says Dorothy Rice, medical economist and Professor Emerita at UC San Francisco School of Nursing. Rice says the Governor is right to urge fiscal prudence.

KPBS: Latino Enrollment In Covered California Picks Up
By Kenny Goldberg
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The latest enrollment numbers from Covered California show more than 625,000 people have signed up for new health insurance plans.

Between Oct. 1 and mid-December, Latinos represented only 5 percent of total enrollment.

Things changed in the last two weeks of the year. By the end of December, Latino enrollment had risen to nearly 20 percent of the total.

University of Virginia: U.Va. Study: One in 10 Virginians Receives Food Stamp Benefits
Meredith Gunter
January 21, 2014

Slightly more than one in 10 Virginians receives monthly benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, according to University of Virginia researchers in the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s Demographics Research Group. SNAP payments in Virginia in 2012 totaled approximately $1.2 billion, as reported by the Virginia Department of Social Services.

This finding and others related to SNAP benefits across Virginia are detailed in a Census Brief released today, the second in a series of short publications depicting trends in census and other data of interest to the commonwealth.

SNAP provides monthly subsidies to individuals and families in or near poverty, specifically for the purchase of food; a family of four in Virginia with a net monthly income of $1,963 or less is eligible for benefits. Individuals recently unemployed are eligible for only a limited time.

Capital Public Radio via KPBS: California Congressmen Propose Drought Relief Legislation
By Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio
Thursday, January 23, 2014

After declaring a drought last week, California Governor Jerry Brown only briefly mentioned the drought during his state of the state speech. But several Central Valley Congressmen are calling for more action through federal legislation.

The Republican-backed legislation would allow Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to continue to send water to the Central Valley as long as water is available.

Those pumps are sending minimal water to the valley now because of low reservoir levels and river flows, not environmental regulations that protect endangered fish.

The bill would also stop the restoration of the San Joaquin River until 2015.

Science Education

UCSD: UC San Diego Highlighted in Governor’s State of the State Address
Campus touted as one of the world’s 20 leading academic bioscience institutions
By Judy Piercey   
January 23, 2014

As Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. delivered his annual State of the State address to the Legislature yesterday, he highlighted the University of California, San Diego as a leader in developing medical and scientific advances.

In prepared remarks, Gov. Brown noted, “Four out of the world’s 20 leading academic bioscience institutions are located here in California: UCSF and Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and UC San Diego. Just as California has led the way with stem cell research, so too can we pioneer the new field of precision medicine which uses genomics, medical devices, computer sciences and other fields to treat individual patients, instead of broad populations.”

For more than a decade, UC San Diego has been listed among the nation’s top 10 public universities by the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Guidebook. The campus was also named 15th best research university in the world by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies of Leiden University in its 2013 list that measured scientific impact of universities worldwide.

University of Pittsburgh: Discipline Based Science Education Research Center Established at Pitt
Jan. 30 lecture by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman will be the center’s inaugural event
January 21, 2014

PITTSBURGH—A test can show whether a student knows the facts. But how can a professor be sure that the student understands the underlying thought processes or how to generalize knowledge and apply it to novel situations? What tools are available in a given discipline that can be used to quantify this type of learning?

To address these questions, the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences has created the Discipline Based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC), which will impact and strengthen teaching in the school’s nine natural science departments. Under the leadership of Founding Director Chandralekha Singh, professor of physics and astronomy, dB-SERC will work with faculty members to develop and implement ways of teaching courses that are grounded in research on teaching and learning.

“We want to be able to measure what students should be able to do,” Singh said. “They should be able to solve problems, but they also need to develop skills as problem solvers and independent thinkers and be able to transfer their learning to other contexts. Deeper understanding can lead to better attitudes toward learning science, and the appreciation of learning can motivate them to learn more.”

Science Writing and Reporting

UCSD: Banking on Science to Support UC San Diego’s Newest Researchers
Top higher ed pub features UC San Diego case study
By Judy Piercey
January 23, 2014

Our newest researchers are looking for breakthroughs—in science and fundraising—and UC San Diego is here to help with its innovative Young Investigator Program. This successful program, which connects faculty at the start of their academic careers with sources of private funding, is the cover story in the January 2014 issue of CASE Currents, the official publication of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

“Banking on Science” is a case study offering guidance for higher education institutions looking at ways to secure private support for their stellar young faculty. The UC San Diego Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, in collaboration with the Division of Academic Affairs, Research Affairs and other campus partners, launched the Young Investigator Program in 2012.

Virginia Tech: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumna uncovers the mysteries of mushrooms

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 23, 2014 – In Cynthia Bertelsen’s new gastronomic guide, "Mushroom: A Global History," the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumna lays out how fungi have been misunderstood and miscast for decades.

Bertelsen's recently published book by Reaktion Books Ltd. describes the good and the bad about mushrooms and their uses from the medicinal to the comestible.

“My education was like a mini medical degree and helped me write the book,” Bertelsen said. One aspect of her research explored how the toxicity of mushrooms affects the human body.

Science is Cool

KPBS: Solar-Powered Parasols Might Be Answer To Parisian Cafe Fumes
By Brooke Binkowski
Thursday, January 23, 2014

Introducing... the solar parasol.

It's the result of a new sustainability initiative in Paris that's inspired a creative solution from the folks at Amorphica.

These parasols look more like awnings than umbrellas, but the prototypes are light, colorful and sturdy. They feature heaters, LED lights and air filters all powered by solar panels embedded in the parasol. They're also responsive to weather and the proximity of people. It's all part of Amorphica's stated mission to make underutilized public spaces more usable.

In recent years, Paris has shown a willingness to experiment with sustainability to combat climate change. It put out a worldwide call for solutions to its issues of gas fumes and cold smokers. Amorphica's solar parasols were the winners.

Penn State: Why do we love snack food?
Food science experts study why we love chips, chocolate and other famous Pennsylvania foods, and offer expertise to the state’s snack food industry.
By Heather Hottle
January 24, 2014

Although the Steelers and Eagles didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, Pennsylvania and Penn State will still be represented on game day — on your plate. And more likely than not, Penn State experts have had a hand in developing, or evolving, many of the Keystone State’s famous finger foods.

While Nittany Lion alumni will represent Penn State Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium, Pennsylvania food industries’ wares will be served at Super Bowl parties nationwide. Companies from around the commonwealth — referred to as the snack food belt — supply many of the Sunday afternoon munchies enjoyed while calling plays from the couch.

If your potato chips are from Utz, Middleswarth, Martin’s, Snyder’s of Hanover or Snyder of Berlin — just to name a few — the snack came from some region of Pennsylvania.

Penn State: Professor sheds light on groundhog’s shadowy behavior
Zervanos, colleagues develop new theory on hibernation patterns
By Lisa Baldi
January 22, 2014

READING, Pa. -- Residents of Pennsylvania look to the groundhog each Feb. 2 to forecast the weather. According to legend, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, an early spring is predicted. However, most people don’t understand the real reason groundhogs emerge when they do, according to Stam Zervanos, emeritus professor of biology at Penn State Berks.

Zervanos has been researching the hibernation patterns of groundhogs for the past 18 years and has found that groundhogs do not simply crawl into their dens and hibernate. Instead they experience a series of torpor (deep sleep) and arousal bouts throughout winter. During arousal, they normally stay in their burrows, but in the spring they emerge and move around above ground. They then return to the den for some more deep-sleeping episodes before the final arousal.

Typically, groundhogs do not exit hibernation for good until early March, which is when they mate. While some episodes of early emergence occur in February, it does not appear that mating occurs during these early encounters.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:06 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar: Election news and Flu quarantine zone (33+ / 0-)

    KPBS: San Diego Politicians Return Illegal Campaign Donations

    A former U.S. Attorney said the former San Diego mayoral candidates did not violate any law if they didn't know the source of the money was illegal.
    More at the article accompanying the video.
    Congressman Juan Vargas said he'll return any money his campaign might have received from a Mexican businessman at the center of a federal campaign finance probe.

    Vargas did not confirm that his campaign had in fact received the funds, but a source told KPBS that Vargas is "Candidate 2" listed in a federal complaint unsealed this week.

    The complaint said retired San Diego police Detective Ernesto Encinas approached Candidate 2's campaign for federal office in 2012 to offer a contribution on behalf of a foreign national, now confirmed to be Mexican billionaire Jose Susomo Azano Matsura.

    KPBS: San Diego Campaign Finance Scandal: Tracing The Donations
    By Brad Racino, Joe Yerardi
    Originally published January 23, 2014 at 4:59 p.m., updated January 24, 2014 at 4:09 p.m.

    San Diego’s newest scandal involving a “conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States” broke Tuesday after a sealed federal court complaint was made public. It involved Ernesto Encinas, a retired San Diego detective; Ravneet Singh, a D.C.-based “campaign guru;” an unnamed “foreign national,” an unnamed “straw donor,” unnamed informants and a slew of politicians only referred to in the complaint as numbered “Candidates.”

    In short, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is alleging that a lot of money was funneled into San Diego politics illegally during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 election cycles.

    KPBS: “Foreign National” Azano Is “Almost A Legend” In Mexico
    By Leo Castaneda / inewsource
    Friday, January 24, 2014

    Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, the foreign national at the center of a local campaign finance scandal, is a little-known figure in the U.S., but back home in Mexico, he has a reputation as a billionaire who reportedly moves in high government circles.

    Mexican newspapers and periodicals have for years followed Azano’s business dealings, his political connections, and his monumental fight with Sempra Energy over land for a liquified natural gas plant in Ensenada. El Sol de Tijuana newspaper calls him “almost a legend.”

    KPBS: PACs Funnel Big Money To Mayoral Hopefuls From Mystery Donors
    By Joe Yerardi
    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Last Friday, Jan. 17, the San Diego Jobs Political Action Committee made a $25,000 donation to support City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s bid for San Diego mayor.

    In making the donation, San Diego Jobs achieved membership in a rarefied club — those who had given at least $100,000 to the mayor’s race. Of the 12 such donors in the race, 11 are political committees of various sorts, like the Jobs PAC.

    The Jobs PAC is affiliated with business interests. It’s sponsored by the Downtown San Diego Partnership. What is not known publicly is exactly where its money is coming from.

    That’s because PACs generally have different rules from committees that explicitly support a candidate. Those committees must regularly disclose their donors—in some cases every day.

    KPBS: San Diego Mayor’s Race: Endorsements, New Plans And Press Conference Campaigning
    By Sandhya Dirks
    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    With Election Day looming, it is no surprise that mayoral candidates and Councilmen David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer are like political gophers, popping up everywhere.

    In less than three weeks San Diegans will go to the polls and pick their next mayor, and this is one of those points in the race where press conference reporting becomes the name of the game -- candidates stage events and a slew of cameras show up to package it for the evening news.

    So what are the latest press conferences all about? Democrat David Alvarez pulled out a big gun, getting a hug and an endorsement from and from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

    KPBS: Alvarez, Faulconer Virtually Tied In Most Recent San Diego Mayor Poll
    By City News Service
    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    San Diego City Councilmen and mayoral candidates David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer were in a virtual tie in a poll out Tuesday.

    Alvarez, a Democrat on the technically nonpartisan City Council, had the support of 46 percent of the 526 likely voters surveyed last week by Public Policy Polling, which was hired to do the poll by the Democratic Party of San Diego County.

    Faulconer, a Republican, had 45 percent.

    The results conflict with a poll released nine days ago that showed Faulconer up 53 percent to 37 percent. That poll, by SurveyUSA, was conducted on behalf of 10News and UT San Diego.

    WXYZ: What to do to prevent yourself from getting the flu.

    KPBS: Scripps Hospitals Screening All Visitors For Flu
    By Kenny Goldberg
    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    More than 1,400 San Diegans have been diagnosed with the flu so far this season. Infectious disease specialists say this year’s strain is especially powerful, and is making even healthy people extremely sick.

    Dr. Davis Cracroft, medical director of Scripps Mercy Hospital, said all visitors must be screened to help prevent spreading the flu.
    ...
    At least 45 people in California have died from the flu so far this season. State health officials said most victims had not received a flu shot.

    Virginia Tech: Synthetic population study offers new strategy for controlling epidemics in big cities

    BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 23, 2014 – Researchers in the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute are the first to model in detail how transient populations impact the spread of an illness, and how outbreaks such as influenza can be curbed by encouraging healthy behaviors in high-traffic tourist destinations.

    Influenza places a huge burden upon society, both physically and economically. It is estimated that influenza costs the United States economy over $87 billion annually.

    In a large city like Washington, D.C., with about 50,000 visitors on any given day who stay for just a few days, there is a constant influx of new people who are susceptible to infections. Further, they visit highly populated tourist destinations, where they come into contact with other visitors as well as residents. Disease can spread quickly.

    “We built a detailed synthetic population model of Washington, D.C., including transient populations: tourists, business travelers," said Samarth Swarup, an applied computer scientist at the institute. "Our computational model shows that an influenza epidemic can be much worse when we take the impact of transients into account.”

    Science Saturday is open for business fun!

    "My friend Vince Lamb often comments that Americans will take all manner of social, economic and political abuse, but will rise up with righteous fury when you disturb their Entertainment."-Michael Varian Daly

    by Neon Vincent on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:06:18 PM PST

  •  Many thanks Neon Vincent (16+ / 0-)

    and assistant annetteboardman. Good science articles. It will take quite a while to go through all the links.

    The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.― Neil deGrasse Tyson

    by maggiejean on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:20:17 PM PST

  •  World's Oldest Cancer Arose in a Dog 11,000 Years (15+ / 0-)

    Prehistoric Inbred Dog Spread Cancer Worldwide

    An inbred dog that lived about 11,000 years ago was ground zero for a form of canine cancer that spread via mating and is afflicting dogs around the world to this day, according to new research in the journal Science.

    The cancer-canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) is one of only two known transmissible cancers. The other is found among afflicted Tasmanian Devils. CTVT causes genital tumors and can be fatal, particularly in older dogs or those suffering from an immune system deficiency.

    The cancer spread, in part, because it wasn’t always fatal. If afflicted dogs died before mating, the disease wouldn’t spread across generations.

    11,000-year-old living dog cancer reveals its secrets
    Scientists have sequenced the genome of the world's oldest continuously surviving cancer, a transmissible genital cancer that affects dogs. This cancer, which causes grotesque genital tumours in dogs around the world, first arose in a single dog that lived about 11,000 years ago. The cancer survived after the death of this dog by the transfer of its cancer cells to other dogs during mating.

    The genome of this 11,000-year-old cancer carries about two million mutations - many more mutations than are found in most human cancers, the majority of which have between 1,000 and 5,000 mutations. The team used one type of mutation, known to accumulate steadily over time as a 'molecular clock', to estimate that the cancer first arose 11,000 years ago.

    "The genome of this remarkable long-lived cancer has demonstrated that, given the right conditions, cancers can continue to survive for more than 10,000 years despite the accumulation of millions of mutations", says Dr Elizabeth Murchison, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge.

    The genome of the transmissible dog cancer still harbours the genetic variants of the individual dog that first gave rise to the cancer 11,000 years ago. Analysis of these genetic variants revealed that this dog may have resembled an Alaskan Malamute or Husky. It probably had a short, straight coat that was coloured either grey/brown or black. Its genetic sequence could not determine if this dog was a male or a female, but did indicate that it was a relatively inbred individual.

  •  dkos problems (12+ / 0-)

    it keeps saying i have a new message and i cannot find it in either my inbox or in groups.  or user messages.  

    also, either dkos changed or flickr changed and i had to try 4 times to give trix a cat picture.  it was very embarrassing.  

    thanks for all the clues, in the diary and in comments.  

    Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die…”

    by jlms qkw on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:33:03 PM PST

  •  64 Musician Mug Shots (15+ / 0-)


    Getting arrested seems to be one of the music world’s great rites of passage. Of course, the most important part of the ordeal is the booking photo. Some manage to pull it off with impeccable grace while others come off looking like the biggest buffoons in the universe.

    From Billboard: Justin Bieber & 63 More Musician Mugshots


    David Bowie, 1976
    Rochester, NY
    Charge: possession of marijuana


    Phil Spector,2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Charge: Murder of Lana Clarkson


    Prince and one of his bandmates were arrested on March 29th, 1980 in Mississippi for pulling a prank on an airplane.

  •  What a treasure chest (8+ / 0-)

    to open!  Thank you, Neon Vincent.

    Be sure you put your feet in the right place; then stand firm. ~ Abraham Lincoln

    by noweasels on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:13:06 PM PST

  •   Ukraine president says he’ll name rival as PM (7+ / 0-)

    Ukraine president says he’ll name rival as prime minister, but opposition demands more

    MOSCOW — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych offered Saturday night to make two of his adversaries prime minister and deputy prime minister, pledged to support amending harsh new laws against protest and proposed changing the constitution to give more power to the parliament.

    Not good enough, answered opposition leaders, buoyed by the sudden eruption of protests all across the country against Yanukovych’s government and the ruling Party of Regions.

    Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, witnessed a dramatic gathering of momentum Saturday behind the months-long effort of the protest movement to reduce or eliminate Yanukovych’s power. The opposition leaders, reaching for more than what has been offered, have shown that they are extraordinarily wary of any of the president’s pronouncements — yet they run a risk if they appear to be too intransigent. The president still wields considerable power and enjoys popular support in the eastern regions of his country.

    Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
    Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

    by BentLiberal on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:13:52 PM PST

  •  angiogenesis foundation (4+ / 0-)

    http://www.fightcancerwithimmunotherapy.com/...

    Types of Cancer Immunotherapy

    http://www.angio.org/...

    Angiogenesis Inhibitors for Cancer

    http://www.angio.org/...

    30,000 people a year die in fatal highway accidents - 40,000 people are killed with guns: It is reported everyday and nothing is done about it legislatively and people don't lose their offices because of it. ~ Wes Clark

    by anyname on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:14:34 AM PST

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