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“Under the Influence,” Keith Richards documentary, hits Netflix on Sept. 18

The legendary Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards, will be honored with a new documentary, directed by Morgan Neville, titled Keith Richards: Under the Influence. According to a Digital Trends report, the documentary will explore the musicians that influenced Richards, and offer insights into his first solo album in 23 years.

Neville won an Oscar last year for his film 20 Feet from Stardom, chronicling the secret lives of background singers for some of the world’s biggest musicians. Neville boasts a long resume of rock documentaries, covering Pearl Jam, Iggy & the Stooges, and Johnny Cash.

Netflix executive Lisa Nishimura said, “There’s no one who could bring this unprecedented look into the musical influences of Keith Richards to life as distinctively as Morgan Neville. Our viewers around the world are going to love the rare moments he has captured.”

The film touches on early moments in Keith Richards’ career, from the first time he met Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and other blues legends in Chicago, to the period where he fell in love with country music in Nashville, TN.

Neville is a huge fan of Richards, and asserts that the guitarist’s face would surely be included in any large-scale rock n roll monument if it were to ever be built. Keith Richards represents the soul of rock music, and Neville worked hard to capture the soul of the man himself. The documentary will appear on Netflix on September 18, much to the delight of fans worldwide.

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HEALTH NONE Science

Human’s height and weight evolved at different speeds

A fossil analysis spanning more than four million years suggests that height and body mass advanced at different speeds throughout hominin evolution.

This new study is the largest study of hominin body sizes of all time. In it, an international team of researchers looked at 311 species that dated from earliest upright species of 4.4 million years ago all the way to the modern humans that followed the last ice age.

While the evolution of assorted hominin species typically shifted in many random ways, scientists say that there are some broad patterns in the data that show bursts of growth at key stages, followed by plateaus where almost nothing changed for many millennia.

For example, though hominins grew about 10 centimeters taller roughly one-and-a-half million years ago, they would not consistently get heavier for another couple million years.

That event is significant because, before that time, hominin height and weight likely stayed in concert with each other.

“An increase solely in stature would have created a leaner physique, with long legs and narrow hips and shoulders,” said lead author Manuel Will, a researcher from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology, according to Phys.org. “This may have been an adaptation to new environments and endurance hunting, as early Homo species left the forests and moved on to more arid African savannahs,” 

This pattern makes sense because a tall, slender body would have been advantageous when it came to hunting for hours in the dry heat. However, as humans moved into cooler areas, they needed to gain weight to better combat the cold.

The team found that body size was highly variable throughout early hominin history, with a range of differently shaped species, but it slowly shifted towards heavier body sizes over time.

The first big change occurred when the species Homo came about between 2.2 and 1.9 million years ago. At that time, hominins expanded in both height and weight. Then, only height increased right around the emergence of Homo erectus between 1.4 to 1.6 million years ago. Consistently heavier hominins did not come about in the fossil record until roughly a million years after that point, and both height and weight have stayed the same since then.

Those findings show that there were strong selective pressures against small body sizes which shifted the evolutionary spectrum towards the larger bodies of modern humans. That could have contributed to ‘cladogenesis’ — where a lineage splits — and caused smaller species to go extinct. In addition, sexual dimorphism — the physical distinction between genders — used to be more common in hominin species before being taken out by evolution.

This information gives a better link into the history of our ancestors and could provide more information on our own evolution moving forward.

 

“Body size is one of the most important determinants of the biology of every organism on the planet,” added Will. “Reconstructing the evolutionary history of body size has the potential to provide us with insights into the development of locomotion, brain complexity, feeding strategies, even social life.”

The new study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

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HEALTH Science

Suicide rate doubled for adolescent girls between 2007-2015

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide rates for adolescent boys and girls has been rising from 2007 to 2015.

The rate of suicides for girls age 15 to 19 doubled during that period and in 2015 reached its highest peak in 40 years. The suicide rate for boys in the same age group during the same time period rose by 30 percent.

“In 1975, in the United States, there were 1,289 suicides among males and 305 suicides among females aged 15 to 19 years,” wrote the authors, as reported by HuffPost. “In 2015, there were 1,537 suicides among males and 524 among females aged 15 to 19 years.”

The CDC issued a separate report last year finding that suicides in the U.S. as a whole increased by 24 percent over a 15-year period.

According to experts, young people are vulnerable to mental health issues due to family problems, bullying, financial worries, social media use, and exposure to violence. Studies also show that depression among teens is rising, but stigma and lack of access to mental health resources often prevent them from getting the help they need.

“People often think that teens can’t get depressed or anxious, but they can,” Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, told HuffPost. “While the teen brain is still developing, teens do struggle with genuine mental illnesses and they need to be properly evaluated and treated,” he said, adding, “We need to change perceptions to help teens learn it is okay to ask for and get help.” Reidenberg was not involved in the CDC study.

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HEALTH Science TECH_Technology

Scientists claim that you can supersize your memory

Scans have revealed that while memory champions’ brains are not unique regarding anatomy, they do show changes in brain connectivity.

Neuroscientists were also able to train people with ordinary memory skills to emulate the masters.

The learners were able to remember lists of names at a time, and also showed similar brain connectivity patterns.

“A good memory is something you could learn, and you could train for,” said lead researcher, Dr.Martin Dresler, of Radboud University Medical Centre, Netherlands.

Dr. Dresler added that if one uses these strategic mnemonic training memory strategies, they can considerably increase their memory, even if it was awful at the start.

The findings are based on mnemonics, memory devices that help people recall a lot of information, especially in the form of lists.

The techniques involved include loci, or memory palace, an ancient method where one makes an imaginary journey through a place they know well, such as a building or street, using each location as a visual prompt to store information.

Neuroscientists studied the brains of memory champions who are good at memorizing vast quantities of information. They then compared their brains with those of people of a similar age, and with similar IQs.

The scientists found subtle differences in connectivity patterns across a large number of brain segments.

They then trained people with typical memory skills to see if they could improve. Some were given training techniques used by memory athletes, while others had memory training that did not include mnemonic strategies. The rest had no training at all.

There was a big increase in the memory power of those given training used by memory athletes. They went from recalling an average of 26 to 30 from a list of 76 words to remembering more than sixty.

The benefits of the are however likely to be restricted to cases in which people consciously apply the trained strategy.

 

 

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NONE SCI Science

Prehistoric shark found off the coast of Portugal

Researchers working in Portugal have captured a shark that first came into existence during the age of the dinosaurs some 80 million years ago.

A fishing trawler off the Algarve Coast first grabbed the strange specimen — dubbed a “living fossil” by scientists — at a depth of 2,300 feet. Once the fishermen noted the creature’s strange appearance, they handed it over to a team of researchers from the Institute for the Sea and Atmospheres who were working on a project to decrease unwanted catches in commercial fishing.

The odd creature is known as a frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus Anguineus). The species has a range of unique features, but they get their name from the distinct frilled pattern their 300 triangular-shaped teeth create. They have a long, snake-like body and are quite simple due to the lack of nutrients in the deep-sea habitats they call home. The one captured by the boat is male and measures five feet long.

In addition to their strange teeth and slender body, the shark has a mouth that stretches to the back of its head instead of ending under the skull. They also has six frilled gills in its throat. That is interesting because, while just about every shark species on Earth has separate gills, the frilled shark’s first pair stretch all the way across its throat.

Even so, despite its startling appearance, the odd animal is not dangerous to humans, Tech Times reports. Nearly 60 percent of its diet consists of mollusks.

The recent discovery is exciting because little is known about the shark’s environment or biology. It lives in deep water, typically residing between 290 and 4,200 feet below the surface. Such depths mean few specimens have ever been captured and, despite the fact that the shark lives in habitats across the Atlantic Ocean, there is little footage of the creature in its natural habitat.

Scientists hope the new specimen will give them a chance to take a closer look at the unique animal, Newsweek reports.

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HEALTH NATURE NONE SCI Science

Wounds heal quicker during the day, study reports

Wounds heal more quickly during the day than they do at night, a new study published in Science Translational Medicine reports.

This discovery comes from researchers at the UK’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, who found that burns sustained at night often take much longer to heal than ones sustained during the day. 

In the study, researchers examined 118 patients at NHS burn units. They then recorded what time of day the patients got their burns as well as how long the wounds took to heal. Burns that occurred at night took roughly 11 days longer — 28 compared to 17 — to get better.

Researchers explained this odd difference by looking at fibroblasts, the skin cells that rush to the site of injury to close up wounds. This revealed that the cells change their abilities depending on the time of day. While the sun is out, fibroblasts are primed to react to injury. However, they lose that ability at night.

“It is like the 100 meter,” study co-author John O’Neill, a researcher at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, told BBC News  “The sprinter down on the blocks, poised and ready to go, is always going to beat the guy going from a standing start.”

This finding is important because doctors could use the new information to improve surgery. That is because certain drugs — such as the steroid cortisol — can reset an individual cell’s body clock. As a result, it may help night-time procedures by making the body better at healing.

In addition, as every person’s internal clock runs differently, it may also be beneficial to schedule procedures in time with the patients’ 24-hour “circadian rhythms.”

However, such theories need to be tested before they are put into practice. Researchers plan to continue their research into this topic to see what else it could tell them about health.

“By taking these [circadian factors] into account, not only could novel drug targets be identified, but also the effectiveness of established therapies might be increased through changing what time of day they are given,” added John Blaikley, a clinician scientist at the University of Manchester.

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NATURE NONE SCI Science

Fossils from earliest modern mammals uncovered in England

Researchers from Portsmouth University have uncovered fossils from the oldest-known ancestors of most living mammals in southern England, a new study in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica reports.

The 145-million-year-old teeth belonged to extinct shrew-like animals that existed during the time of the dinosaurs. The team in the study analyzed the remains and came to the conclusion that they are the earliest remains ever found from mammals in the line the eventually led to humans.

”Here we have discovered from the Jurassic coast a couple of shrew-like things that are to date unequivocally our earliest ancestors,” said lead author Steve Sweetman, a researcher at Portsmouth University, according to BBC News.

The ancient mammals were small, furry creatures that likely first existed under the cover of night. Scientists believe they burrowed through the ground and dined on both insects and plants. Their teeth could pierce, cut, and crush food — which made them quite advanced for their time — and they were also worn. That suggests the shrews lived during a time where they thrived.

Researchers first uncovered the fossils while sifting through rock samples collected at Durlston Bay near Swanage. They have named the species Durlstotherium newmani.

This study is important because it could help shed light on a long-debated topic and help researchers build a better evolutionary timeline. Recent discoveries have dated the earliest mammals to 160 million years ago, but molecular data has directly refuted such claims. The new findings could put that debate to rest.

The ancient animals are the second oldest placental mammals ever found, suggesting that there is still a lot to learn about evolution during the Jurassic and Cretaceous period.

“The Jurassic Coast is always unveiling fresh secrets and I’d like to think that similar discoveries will continue to be made right on our doorstep,” said study co-author Dave Martill, a Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Portsmouth, according to The Guardian.

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NATURE NONE SCI Science

Irrigation drives urban cooling, study reports

While climate scientists fear global warming will cause cities to become much hotter than rural areas, new research from researchers at Purdue University suggests some urban regions may experience a cooling effect instead.

In the study, researchers found that over 60 percent of urban areas in India experience a day-time cooling effect. While the process has been noted in past research, this is the first time scientists have been able to identify the cause: lack of moisture and vegetation in non-urban areas surrounding the city.

“When the areas around cities are running low on water and they aren’t being irrigated, they turn into hot, dry, barren fields,” said study co-author Matthew Huber, a professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences at Purdue University, according to Phys.org. “When that happens, there’s actually more water available to evaporate in the cities than the surrounding countryside. It’s like the cities are sweating.”

Typically, the so-called “heat island” effect causes cities to be warmer than their rural surroundings. This occurs because cities lose vegetation as they develop. Without that shade and moisture, the regions become hotter over time.

However, the findings show that is not always the case.

In the study, the team collected temperature data from 89 cities in India and then used a climate model to determine the effects of irrigation. This showed that urban temperatures are largely driven by both agriculture and moisture availability from irrigation. Season and region play big factors in regional heating or cooling as well.

However, while most of the urban centers looked at in the study cooled during the day, almost all of them became warmer at night. The effects of night-time warming were especially intense in the semi-arid western region of India.

This is important because intense warming can be deadly. In May of 2015, a massive heat wave led to over 2,000 deaths, and such temperature spikes are expected to become more frequent as time moves on.

The team hopes their new findings will show officials how to use land in a way that will create cooling effects. That could then lead to more effective urban planning and improve public health. 

“[T]hat has implications for water use,” added Huber. “Are you going to impoverish the countryside and leave those areas barren, and the cities lush? These are the kinds of questions we’re asking: what are the tradeoffs?”

This research is detailed in Scientific Reports.

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NONE SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Machine learning could help predict earthquakes

New technology could allow researchers to detect earthquakes days before they happen, a new study in Geophysical Research Letters reports.

Certain rocks, when put under increased pressure before an earthquake, send out low-pitched rumbling sounds. While humans are not able to hear such noises, they can be detected by machines.

To understand this phenomenon, a group of researchers from Cambridge University recreated powerful earthquake-like forces in a laboratory setting and then used high-tech algorithms to pick out specific cues that could signal a pending quake.

Those sounds typically occur a week before an earthquake happens. As a result, deciphering the rumbles could give scientists a way to both predict and pinpoint the timing of a future tremor.

Currently, researchers can calculate the probability of an earthquake in a particular area. However, they have no way of knowing when such an event will occur. This new technology could be a big step towards that problem, and could help save a number of lives.

“People have said you can’t predict earthquakes,” said study co-author Colin Humphreys, a professor of materials science at Cambridge University, according to Reuters. “People have tried. We’re now saying we believe for the first time we can predict an earthquake in a laboratory.”

The team simulated multiple earthquakes by using a combination of steel blocks, pistons, and machine-learning algorithms. All of the tests were conducted at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The different trials showed that the machine-learning systems are able to identify the low rumblings that get stronger as tremors approach. While the shaking has been detected in past studies, almost all of it was rejected as random noise.

Now that scientists know they can properly detect the shaking, they next plan to apply the new technology to quake-prone areas. However, there is still a long way to go. Even if their method is successful, the team will need to next figure out a way to determine the coming quake’s magnitude.

Even so, there is no doubt the system has potential. Earthquakes claim lives all over the world, and being able to predict them could greatly decrease the damage they cause.

“We’re at a point where huge advances in instrumentation, machine learning, faster computers and our ability to handle massive data sets could bring about huge advances in earthquake science,” said lead author Bertrand Rouet-Leduc, who was a PhD student at Cambridge during the research, according to Phys.org.

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NATURE NONE SCI Science

Neanderthal DNA may have helped shaped appearance of modern humans

While Neanderthals died out nearly 30,000 years ago, their genes may have influenced certain traits in modern humans, including skin tone, hair color, and sleeping patterns.

Researchers estimate that Homo sapiens mated with Neanderthals in Eurasia some tens of thousands of years ago. That then mixed the two species, causing Neanderthal DNA to make up roughly 1 to 3 percent of the genetic code of all people who are not indigenous to Africa.

To explore the effect of that ancient DNA, a group of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology studied associations between Neanderthal DNA and both human appearance and behavioral traits. They did this by analyzing information from over 100,000 people in the UK Biobank, which contains genetic information as well as people’s answers to questions regarding physical appearance and behavior.

Such research allowed the team to discover that genetic material from Neanderthals is associated with traits like skin tone and hair color. Though the team does not fully understand the connection, they believe such characteristics could be related to sun exposure.

Neanderthals lived in Eurasia for about 100,000 years before modern humans arrived. That extra time in the region allowed them to adapt to a wide range of daylight and lower UVB levels that early humans were not used to. As a result, our ancestors may have taken on those benefits when they mated with the ancient species.

However, the findings are not that simple. Most human traits are determined by multiple genes, and aspects like skin tone are only partially influenced by Neanderthal DNA.

“It’s not any single gene that makes a huge difference … It’s not like morning people have one thing and evening people have another,” said anthropologist John Hawks, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison who was not involved in the study, according to NPR. “It’s many genes. Each of them has some small effect. This study is pointing out that, hey, there’s one of these [genes] that has a small effect coming from Neanderthals.”

Researchers discovered that multiple Neanderthal genes affected hair and skin tone. That suggests the species may have had variation within those traits in the same way humans do.

While the work is not perfect — all of the data only came from the United Kingdom — it still shows a common link between humans and Neanderthals. Further exploration of how certain populations were influenced by the ancient species could show why specific Neanderthal genes have stuck around in our DNA for tens of thousands of years.

“We’ve known there was a mixing already now for 10 to 12 years,” said Miguel Vilar, lead scientist for National Geographic’s Genographic Project who was not involved in the study, according to National Geographic. “Now we’re getting to the meat of why these genes survived. Trying to explain why those traits were important in the context of human evolution, that’s where the greater truths will come.”

The findings are outlined in the American Journal of Human Genetics.