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G24 INSTA NWT_Animals Research

Tortoise beats the hare every time in race of life, study says

“The fable of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ is a metaphor about life, not a story about a race,” said Adrian Bejan, a Duke University professor who led a recent study on animal speed. “We see in animal life two starkly different lifestyles—one with nearly steady feeding and daily sleep and another with short bursts of intermittent feeding interspersed with day-long siestas. Both of these patterns are the rhythms of living that Aesop taught.”

Bejan examined the reported speeds of animals based on air, water, and land data. The results reveal that some of the fastest animals in the world are actually the slowest in terms of average speed throughout their lifetime.

And apparently, this result is also reflected in the aviation industry, where the general pattern is that speed and size increase hand-in-hand.

The only exception is the jet fighter, which although faster than others in short bursts, spends most of its time on the ground. And across their lifetime, they are very slow compared to transport models.

The study was created following a previous paper that utilized Bejan’s constructal theory to show that animals’ speed tends to rise with body mass.

“When I would give speeches on this topic, somebody would always bring up outliers to this principle such as the cheetah as counterexamples,” Bejan said. “But this study shows that these ‘outliers’ are to be expected and, when looked at over their lifetimes, are not so different from their lumbering cousins after all.”

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

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G24 INSTA NWT_Animals NWT_Biology Research SCI TECH

Study suggests narwhals and beluga whales experience menopause

A team of scientists discovered that narwhals and beluga whales experience menopause, which brings the total number of species known to experience the process to five. Humans aside, the species known to experience menopause all belong to the toothed whale parvorder.

“For menopause to make sense in evolutionary terms, a species needs both a reason to stop reproducing and a reason to live on afterwards,” said Sam Ellis of the University of Exeter, first author of the study. “In killer whales, the reason to stop comes because both male and female offspring stay with their mothers for life—so as a female ages, her group contains more and more of her children and grandchildren.”

“This increasing relatedness means that, if she keeps having young, they compete with her own direct descendants for resources such as food,” he added.

“The reason to continue living is that older females are of great benefit to their offspring and grand-offspring. For example, their knowledge of where to find food helps groups survive.”

More than four decades of intense study has documented the existence of menopause in killer whales.

“It’s hard to study human behaviour in the modern world because it’s so far removed from the conditions our ancestors lived in,” said Darren Croft, senior author of the study. “Looking at other species like these toothed whales can help us establish how this unusual reproductive strategy has evolved.”

Despite the fact that many individuals in various species fail to reproduce later in life, the team looked for evidence that suggested an “evolved strategy” where females had a post-reproductive lifespan.

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

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G24 HEALTH HND_Disease INSTA Research SCI

Sleeping five hours or less connected to doubled risk of heart disease, study says

A new study suggests that men in middle age who sleep five hours or less each night have twice the risk of developing a major cardiovascular event in the two decades following compared to men who sleep seven to eight hours a night.

“For people with busy lives, sleeping may feel like a waste of time but our study suggests that short sleep could be linked with future cardiovascular disease,” said study author Moa Bengtsson, of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Previous data provide conflicting evidence as to whether short sleep is connected to a great chance of a future cardiovascular event. The new study appears to solidify the connection.

Not only that, the new data suggests that men who sleep five or fewer hours per night are more likely to have diabetes, obesity, low physical activity, high blood pressure, and poor sleep quality compared to those who get seven to eight hours per night.

“Men with the shortest sleep duration at the age of 50 were twice as likely to have had a cardiovascular event by age 71 than those who slept a normal amount, even when other risk factors were taken into account,” Bengtsson said.

“In our study, the magnitude of increased cardiovascular risk associated with insufficient sleep is similar to that of smoking or having diabetes at age 50,” she added. “This was an observational study so based on our findings we cannot conclude that short sleep causes cardiovascular disease, or say definitively that sleeping more will reduce risk. However, the findings do suggest that sleep is important—and that should be a wake-up call to all of us.”

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G24 INSTA NWT_Climate NWT_Environment Research SCI

Global warming ‘hiatus’ is about to end, study says

A new study suggests that the global warming “hiatus” is about to come to an end and make way for even higher temperatures. While the past four years have been the warmest on record, the new data suggests that natural factors are going to push our already heating planet even further into extreme temperature ranges.

“It will be even warmer than the long-term global warming is inducing,” said Florian Sevellec, lead author of the study.

The recent “hiatus” is the result of natural variability of the planet, which has been running for almost a decade.

“I’m not at all surprised by the results,” said John Fyfe, senior research scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “And the reason for that is that we have gone down this long slowdown period primarily due to internal variability, and the expectation was that we’d come out of it.”

However, it is important to note that these predictions are based on probabilities, not certainties. In particular, the study’s model suggests that temperatures will be higher than predicted due to increased carbon dioxide levels.

“Because we tested it over the last century, we know that we are accurate for the likelihood,” Sevellac said. “But the likelihood doesn’t mean it will occur … there exists a small chance of being cold.”

While the study shows that Earth’s natural variability can have short-term influence, it also points to future trends.

“I think it’s also a demonstration that global warming will still be there after all this natural variability,” Sevellac said.

The findings were published in Nature Communications.

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G24 INSTA Physics Research SCI

MIT students solve spaghetti breaking mystery

A pair of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers just solved an old physics mystery stemming from the fact that spaghetti noodles almost always break into three or more pieces when broken in half. In particular, they proved that it is possible to break a piece of spaghetti into two pieces.

“For maybe a month, a month and a half, we would just break spaghetti after class, just cover the floor in broken pieces of spaghetti,” said Heisser, who is now a PhD student at Cornell University.

“I thought it would be cool to try and complete something that a famous physicist began,” he continued.

The team used mathematical modeling, a spaghetti-breaking contraption, and a high-tech camera to reveal that by bending and twisting spaghetti pieces, you can break them into two. And apparently, the twist is the most important part.

The reasoning lies in the old discovery that long, thin objects can be broken by applying even pressure at both ends, creating a “snap-back effect.”

“In our study, we go a bit further and show that actually you can control this fracture cascade and get two pieces if you twist it,” Patil said. “You can control the fracture process and then you get two pieces instead of many, many pieces.”

“Just understanding these complex fracture systems would be interesting going forward as well,” he added. “There’s still a lot to be discovered about fracture control and this is an example of fracture control.”

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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HEALTH Research SCI

Green public spaces decrease depression in city dwellers, study says

A new study suggests that greening vacant urban land decreases feelings of depression and increases overall mental health for residents in its proximity. The interesting findings could have implications for all cities across the United States, where approximately 15 percent of land is considered “vacant.”

“Dilapidated and vacant spaces are factors that put residents at an increased risk of depression and stress, and may explain why socioeconomic disparities in mental illness persist,” said lead author Eugenia South of the University of Pennsylvania. “What these new data show us is that making structural changes, like greening lots, has a positive impact on the health of those living in these neighborhoods. And that it can be achieved in a cost-effective and scalable way—not only in Philadelphia but in other cities with the same harmful environmental surroundings.”

Interestingly, the study revealed that interventions of trash clean-up did not significantly alter self-reported mental health.

“The lack of change in these groups is likely because the trash clean-up lots had no additional green space created,” said co-author John MacDonald, Ph.D., a professor of criminology and sociology at Penn. “The findings support that exposure to more natural environments can be part of restoring mental health, particularly for people living in stressful and chaotic urban environments.”

The study reveals how turning blighted neighborhood environments into green regions can create better trajectories for residents’ mental health.

“Greening vacant land is a highly inexpensive and scalable way to improve cities and enhance people’s health while encouraging them to remain in their home neighborhoods,” said senior author Charles C. Branas of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

“While mental health therapies will always be a vital aspect of treatment, revitalizing the places where people live, work, and play, may have broad, population-level impact on mental health outcomes,” he added.

The findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

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Physics Research SCI

Scientists build a super battery using quantum mechanics

If you are exasperated by waiting hours for your smartphone to charge, a new research project at the University of Adelaide might change that. Ramsay Fellow, Dr. James Quach, wants to use quantum mechanics’ unique properties to build the fastest charging battery in the world.

Dr. Quach is an expert in the field and he said that the possibility of instantaneous charging is on the horizon. He wants to use the entanglement method.

Entanglement is a phenomenon where two entangled objects share their individual properties with each other, even when spatially separated. Performing an action on one object affects the other object.

This occurs at a molecular level, where normal physics laws do not work. According to Quash, it is because of this property that it is viable to speed up the charging process.

His invention is based on a theory that the more quantum batteries the faster they charge. This does not apply to conventional batteries.

For example, if one quantum battery takes an hour to charge, adding another will decrease the time to 30 minutes. Once developed, it might cut charging times to zero.

“Entanglement is incredibly delicate, it requires very specific conditions – low temperatures and an isolated system – and when those conditions change the entanglement disappears,” Quash said. With the support of the academic community in Adelaide, interstate and globally, his goal is to extend the theory of the quantum battery and build a lab conducive to the conditions for entanglement to materialize.

 

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Research Robotics SCI TECH_Technology

Eagled-eyed machine learning algorithm outperforms human experts

University of Wisconsin-Madison and Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers just trained artificial intelligence to consistently and quickly analyze and detect microscopic radiation damage in materials considered for nuclear reactors better than human experts.

“Machine learning has great potential to transform the current, human-involved approach of image analysis in microscopy,” said Wei Li, who participated in the research.

“In the future, I believe images from many instruments will pass through a machine learning algorithm for initial analysis before being considered by humans,” said engineering professor Dane Morgan, Li’s graduate school advisor.

The job in question is crucial for the development of safe nuclear materials and could make the time-consuming process more effective and efficient.

“Human detection and identification is error-prone, inconsistent and inefficient. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not scalable,” Morgan said. “Newer imaging technologies are outstripping human capabilities to analyze the data we can produce.”

After training the machine with 270 images, the neural network, in combination with a cascade object detector machine learning algorithm, was able to identify and classify about 86 percent of dislocation loops in a set of sample pictures. In comparison, human experts only found 80 percent of the defects.

“When we got the final result, everyone was surprised, not only by the accuracy of the approach, but the speed,” said Oak Ridge staff scientist Kevin Field. “We can now detect these loops like humans while doing it in a fraction of the time on a standard home computer.”

“This is just the beginning,” Morgan said. “Machine learning tools will help create a cyber infrastructure that scientists can utilize in ways we are just beginning to understand.”

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NWT_Climate Research SCI

Great Barrier Reef ‘close to collapse’ due to climate change

A plan endorsed by Australian federal and state governments suggests that the current climate change path means that the Great Barrier Reef is heading toward a “collapse.” A “new and improved” Reef 2050 plan released on Friday attempts to acknowledge that climate change poses a huge threat to the reef.

“Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency … those coral reefs that survive are expected to be less biodiverse than in the past,” the plan says, recognizing that “holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less is critical to ensure the survival of coral reefs”.

“Respected coral scientists have documented in peer-reviewed journals that most of the world’s coral reefs will not survive unless the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” it continued.

WWF-Australia head of oceans Richard Leck claims that Australia’s emissions reductions are not in line with limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

“It is simply not good enough for the revised plan to suggest the global community must work to limit warming when Australia is not doing its fair share,” he said.

Australian Marine Conservation Society’s reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven claims that increased climate change recognition must be followed by action, suggesting that bleaching events would happen less often under an average temperature increase of 1.6 degrees Celsius.

“The onset of twice-a-decade bleaching will then become the onset of annual bleaching and eventually [the entire reef] will be affected,” she said.

Whether or not Australia will be able to save the Great Barrier Reef in time is yet to be seen.

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Geology Research SCI

Study reveals new clues about Great Dying, Earth’s largest mass extinction

A new study sheds light on the causes of the largest mass extinction in the Earth’s history, also referred to as the End-Permian Extinction and the Great Dying.

The event took place approximately 250 million years ago when a giant volcanic eruption hit what is now Russia’s province of Siberia. The eruption sent almost 90 percent of life into extinction. In geology, the eruption is referred to as the Siberian Flood Basalts, which ran for nearly one million years.

“The scale of this extinction was so incredible that scientists have often wondered what made the Siberian Flood Basalts so much more deadly than other similar eruptions,” said Michael Broadley of the Centre for Petrographic and Geochemical Research in Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy, France, and lead author of the study.

The research was co-authored by the late Lawrence Taylor, who is the former director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Taylor was instrumental in supplying samples of mantle xenoliths, rock sections of the lithosphere [a section of the planet located between the crust and the mantle] that get captured by the passing magma and erupted to the surface during the volcanic explosion,” Broadley said. “Taylor also provided advice throughout the study.”

The team analyzed samples to determine the lithosphere composition, which revealed that prior to the Siberian Basalt floods, it was loaded with bromine, iodine, and chlorine, all of which belong to the halogen chemical group. After the volcanic eruption, they disappeared.

“We concluded that the large reservoir of halogens that was stored in the Siberian lithosphere was sent into the earth’s atmosphere during the volcanic explosion, effectively destroying the ozone layer at the time and contributing to the mass extinction,” Broadley said.

The findings were published in Nature Geoscience.