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Science talk returns to brighten your day one more time.  New discoveries, new takes on old knowledge, and other bits of news are all available for the perusing in today's information world.  Over the fold are selections from the past week from a few of the many excellent science news sites around the world.  Today's tidbits include first ever census of emperor penguins in Antarctica using images from space, questioning if water is essential to life, baby foods may be lacking in micronutrients, maybe multitasking is not so bad for you after all, duck-billed dinosaurs endured long,dark polar winters, and a method to produce cement without carbon dioxide emissions.

Pull up that comfy chair and grab a spot in the sun.  There is always plenty of room for everyone.  Another session of Dr. Possum's science education, entertainment, and potluck discussion is set to begin.  

Featured Stories
Following the numbers of members of species like the emperor penguin which lives and breeds in remote Antarctica helps scientists to determine the effects of climate change.

Using a technique known as pan-sharpening to increase the resolution of the satellite imagery, the science teams were able to differentiate between birds, ice, shadow and penguin poo or guano. They then used ground counts and aerial photography to calibrate the analysis.

Lead author and geographer Peter Fretwell at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which is funded by the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council, explains, "We are delighted to be able to locate and identify such a large number of emperor penguins. We counted 595,000 birds, which is almost double the previous estimates of 270,000-350,000 birds. This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space."

On the ice, emperor penguins with their black and white plumage stand out against the snow and colonies are clearly visible on satellite imagery. This allowed the team to analyze 44 emperor penguin colonies around the coast of Antarctica, and seven previously unknown colonies.

Prevailing thought today holds water to be essential for life but new observations suggest the problem may be more complex.
Proteins are large organic molecules that are vital to every living thing, allowing us to convert food into energy, supply oxygen to our blood and muscles, and drive our immune systems.  Since proteins evolved in a water-rich environment, it is generally thought that they are dependent on water to survive and function.

Proteins consist of one or more polypeptides – chains of amino acids held together by peptide bonds.  If a protein in water is heated to temperatures approaching the boiling point of water, these chains will lose their structure and the protein will denature (unfold).

A classic example of denaturing occurs when an egg is hard-boiled: the structures of the proteins in the egg unfold with temperature and stick together creating a solid.  In the egg’s case, this process cannot be reversed – however there are many examples where cooling the protein results in refolding of the structure.

Previously, it was thought that water was essential to the refolding process, however the Bristol findings suggest this isn’t necessarily the case.

A study of prepared baby foods suggests there may be a lack of certain micronutrients in the jars.
The research took eight different sample jars produced by four popular brands from the shelves of leading supermarkets and investigated the micro-nutrient content, using an instrument called an Inductivity Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometer, which is used for analysis of elements in food. The samples included four meat and four vegetable varieties, one with pasta, but specific manufacturers were not identified.

The research showed that infants given one meat jar and one vegetable jar on top of 600ml of formula milk would not be getting enough calcium, magnesium, copper and selenium. On average, the levels were below 20% of the recommended daily supply.

The study originated in the UK and manufacturers were not identified.

In the electronic times of today many people find themselves performing multiple tasks at the same time (multitasking).  The detrimental effects are known in some measure but at last a positive effect has been found.

A total of 63 participants, aged 19-28 years, took part in the experiment. They completed questionnaires looking at their media usage - both time spent using various media and the extent to which they used more than one at a time. The participants were then set a visual search task, with and without synchronous sound, i.e. a short auditory pip, which contained no information about the visual target's location, but indicated the instant it changed color.

On average, participants regularly received information from at least three media at the same time. Those who media multitasked the most tended to be more efficient at multisensory integration. In other words, they performed better in the task when the tone was present than when it was absent. They also per-formed worse than light media multitaskers in the tasks without the tone. It appears that their ability to routinely take in information from a number of different sources made it easier for them to use the unexpected auditory signal in the task with tone, leading to a large improvement in performance in the presence of the tone.

About 70 million years ago duck-billed dinosaurs inhabited Arctic regions and survived the long, dark polar winters.
“What we found was that periodically, throughout their life, these dinosaurs were switching how fast they were growing,” said (researcher) Tumarkin-Deratzian. “We interpreted this as potentially a seasonal pattern because we know in modern animals these types of shifts can be induced by changes in nutrition. But that shift is often driven by changes in seasonality.”

The researchers questioned what was causing the dinosaurs to be under stress at certain times during the year: staying up in the polar region and dealing with reduced nutrition during the winter or migrating to and from lower latitudes during the winter.

The finding of certain fossil remains shows the dinosaurs remained in their Arctic environment rather than migrating farther south.

A little known contributor to the production of atmospheric carbon dioxide is the production of our friend, the construction material, cement accounting for 5-8% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide production.

As the scientists explain, 60-70% of CO2 emissions during cement production occurs during the conversion of limestone into lime. This conversion involves decarbonation, or removing the carbon atom and two oxygen atoms in limestone (CaCO3) to obtain lime (CaO) with CO2 as the byproduct. The remainder of the emissions comes from burning fossil fuels, such as coal, to heat the kiln reactors that produce the heat required for this decarbonation process.

The STEP (Solar Thermal Electrochemical Production) process addresses both issues, starting by replacing the fossil fuel heat source with solar thermal energy. The solar heat is not only applied directly to melt the limestone, it also provides heat to assist in the electrolysis of the limestone. In electrolysis, a current applied to the limestone changes the chemical reaction so that instead of separating into lime and CO2, the limestone separates into lime and some other combination of carbon and oxygen atoms, depending on the temperature of the reaction. When electrolyzed below 800°C, the molten limestone forms lim

Knucklehead's Photo of the Week
Invasion of Privacy

DSCN5269
©Knucklehead, all rights reserved.  (Click on the image to see more in the same series.)

Other Worthy Stories of the Week
Why leaning motorcycles can stand on vertical walls
12 billion year old white dwarf stars only 100 light years away
Nanoscientists fine long sought majorana particle
Comet Garradd departs
European dung-fly females all aflutter for large males
Smoking bans lead to less smoking at home
Oldest ever reptile embryos unearthed
Climate change helps then quickly stunts growth
A hybrid solar panel in tube design
Resurfacing urban areas to offset 150 billion tons of carbon dioxide
Clean energy could lead to scarce materials

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Tetrapod Zoologyvertebrate paleontology
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Scientific Blogging.
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Science RSS Feed: Medworm
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe--a combination of hard science and debunking crap

At Daily Kos:
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Overnight News Digest:Science Saturday by Neon Vincent. OND tech Thursday by rfall.
Pique the Geek by Translator Sunday evenings about 9 Eastern time
All diaries with the DK GreenRoots Tag.
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A More Ancient World by matching mole
Astro Kos
SciTech at Dkos.
Sunday Science Videos by palantir

NASA picture of the day. For more see the NASA image gallery or the Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive
NGC2683
NGC2683, NASA, Public Domain

Originally posted to possum on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse and SciTech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for posting this. (14+ / 0-)

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 12:41:23 PM PDT

  •  That Bristol article on protein folding sounds (12+ / 0-)

    like it could have large industrial potential but it doesn't say anything about the origins of life. When they put all those surface groups onto the native protein, that provided additional driving force for the native state. It doesn't mean that in the wild water would be dispensable.

    That headline drew my eyes because I am always intrigued (but skeptical) about getting away from water.

    Thanks as always!

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 12:52:02 PM PDT

  •  Thanks, Possum! (12+ / 0-)

    Happy Monday!

    Sci-Tech time for the weekend was all about Titanic where they've mapped the entire debris field.

  •  This is good news for penguins... (11+ / 0-)

    Obviously, Mumbles has helped his species find a sufficient source of food to cause an increase in their population!  After sitting here multitasking (watching TV, playing a computer game, correcting student papers and checking out Science Tidbits) - I need a break; so I think I'll eat the last of those boiled Easter eggs with their denatured polypeptides.  Thanks Possum - always enjoyable reading!

    "George Washington: "The power under the Constitution will always be in the people.... and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can, and undoubtedly will, be recalled." 1787

    by moose67 on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 01:10:17 PM PDT

  •  Happy Nomday, dear marsupial! (11+ / 0-)

    I will be assisting my sister with more insane garden schemes later this month; so far this year we planted a 3-in-1 pear tree, a persimmon tree, three pawpaws, four filberts, a birch, a mock-orange bush, and two butterfly bushes. (She has a large yard.)

    C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

    by RunawayRose on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 01:50:37 PM PDT

  •  Possum (8+ / 0-)

    I went & got lost on the Wall Of Death.
    It`s always a surprise to see one of my images besides in my archives.
    I must say, it looks good.
    That Hawkfish was always a trip, peeking around at everything I did.
    Nice diary again.
    I`m off to explore more of the links.

    I`m already against the next war.

    by Knucklehead on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 02:21:49 PM PDT

  •  my fave story today is about penguins.. (9+ / 0-)

    thanks possum :)

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 02:27:30 PM PDT

  •  In Other Worthy Stories This Week... (8+ / 0-)

    I notice the one about Garradd's departure. Here is a shot of it in March for 200 seconds. The U of IA has a robotic telescope in AZ for student and faculty use for classes and research. The director lets me use it on occasion. Lucky me.

    GOP JOBS PROGRAM ----> Ⓙust Ⓞur Ⓑeing Ⓢtupid


    by jim in IA on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 03:07:01 PM PDT

  •  With the general lack of funding... (8+ / 0-)

    ...some scientists have started turning to crowdfunding to underwrite their research, using Kickstarter and other sites. At least one site, petridish.org, is specifically aimed at research funding. One of their first funded projects was searching for exomoons.

    (Full disclosure: I have a project listed with petridish.org.)

    "Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure."--Charles Darwin

    by Hopeful Monster on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 03:13:42 PM PDT

  •  Hot off of the press, more or less: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Knucklehead, possum, Wee Mama

    http://www.space.com/...

    Briefly, high energy and low energy gamma rays from a very distnt gamma ray burst arrived so close together in time that they constitute strong evidence for Enstein's "smooth" universe and not a quantum froth.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 07:40:45 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for the link and the explanation. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, enhydra lutris

      Long, long ago my dream was to be a physicist.  These days all but the most elementary parts escape my poor marsupial understanding.  An explanation goes a long way to making the business a real education.

      War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

      by possum on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 04:32:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  multitasking: flawed research design. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    possum, Wee Mama

    A pip tone that correlates with a change in color of a target bears no resemblance whatsoever to an environment consisting of chaotic unrelated stimuli.  

    This is like a study claiming that one drink a night can't give you alcoholism: the operationalization of the key variable is fatally flawed.

    Realistically there are four independent variables here:

    One, performance when switching between coexisting tasks voluntarily at times of one's choosing.

    Two, performance when switching between coexisting tasks at times not of one's choosing (interrupt-driven work mode).

    Three, performance at any given task in an environment saturated with media of one's own choosing (e.g. liked music).

    Four, performance at any given task in an environment saturated with media not of one's own choosing (e.g. disliked music).  

    About which I would predict that conditions One and Three will show higher performance than conditions Two and Four, the key to this being the element of voluntary participation and choice.  

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 11:19:58 PM PDT

    •  Interesting observation. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, G2geek

      So how could the experiment be made better?  Or is that even possible?  Or do we continue to struggle in our own ways with the pressures of our environment and just do the best we are able?

      It seems to me as intelligent as some humans appear to be we could find ways to teach people to handle their world better.  Maybe there are ways do divide our attention and allow better function overall.  Or maybe, just maybe, we really re not designed for our world today.

      War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

      by possum on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 04:34:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  like this: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        possum

        Beginning with the line in my above comment, "Realistically there are four independent variables here."

        Technically that wasn't correct language: actually there are two independent variables (task-switching vs. media saturation, and freely-willed vs. imposed) and one dependent variable (task performance).

        So I'll restate here:

        Four-group design as follows:

        One, performance when switching between coexisting tasks voluntarily at times of one's choosing.

        Two, performance when switching between coexisting tasks at times not of one's choosing (interrupt-driven work mode).

        Three, performance at any given task in an environment saturated with media of one's own choosing (e.g. liked music).

        Four, performance at any given task in an environment saturated with media not of one's own choosing (e.g. disliked music).  

        Assign subjects randomly to groups, let the conditions run.  Measure task performance on verbal, numerical, spatial, and temporal (time-ordering) tasks.  

        Two-tailed T-test to compare each group's results against each other.  

        Hypothesis: imposed multi-tasking and imposed media saturation each produce lower performance than voluntary multi-tasking and voluntary media saturation respectively.

        For that matter throw in a control group that completes one task at a time only, and is not exposed to music while doing the tasks.    Compare against each of the above groups.

        Hypothesis:  Control group performance is slightly (marginal significance) better than voluntary multitasking & media saturation groups, and significantly better than the involuntary multitasking & media saturation groups.  

        Notice that I'd also be collecting data on four different types of tasks.  This is part of my "general method," which is always to make use of research time by collecting much more data than are needed for testing the starting hypothesis.  

        This enables looking for possible significant results outside the domain of the specific hypothesis under test, whereby to zero in on those relationships in follow-up studies.  Cynics will say that's "going fishing for findings," but there's nothing wrong with it as long as it's reported properly in the published findings from the initial study.  

        OK, so where in the SF Bay Area can I get enrolled to get a PhD in cog sci or behavioral psych doing this kind of stuff, plus the studies I designed to look at cellphone driving?   Yes, I like playing with brains, or more specifically the subjective and behavioral things that brains do.  

        One more thing: it would be very interesting to run an analogous study with simple animals that are considered well below the threshold for anything like human cognition.  Mice are easy because they have a pretty wide behavioral repertoire, but some kind of insects would be even more interesting (based on Maye et. al. study of voluntary turning-in-flight behavior of fruit flies, as indirect support for Hameroff/Penrose theory of neural computation; in short, that very simple neural networks can produce surprisingly complex behaviors).  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 08:19:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Brains are the very best. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek

          My part of veterinary medicine is limited to the nervous system.  Granted our patients (dogs and cats) are somewhat more primitive in their responses but still their brains are very interesting.

          I assume with the current state of science funding the sort of educational opportunity you seek is pretty rare.  That is very sad for humankind.  Whatever advancement we can make in understanding the function of any part of ourselves looks to be valuable.  The accumulation of lots of observations and findings allows better treatment of abnormality and better use of what we are given in the first place.  

          Many thanks for the explanation and the ideas.  Best of luck finding a way to explore your thoughts.

          War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

          by possum on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 11:42:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  re your other questions: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        possum

        The way to make the study better is to chuck the original design and use my design above.

        As for what can be done with humans, I say let's stop trying to squeeze every last monetized erg of energy-conversion out of them, because that is exploitation.  

        Really, "MORE" is the enemy of "enough," and "enough" is the prerequisite for sustainability.  The reason it's interesting to do these kinds of research projects is just for the pure knowledge of how brains/minds work, and the potential to give people knowledge that they can use to empower themselves by their own free will.  Reducing work-stress is also a useful outcome, since stress is the leading cause of chronic disease and premature mortality in our culture.

        Now as for the "hard problem" of human consciousness, I don't think that's going to be accessible via behavioral studies of this kind: it's already moved into the realm of neurobiology and specifically the substructures of neurons.  Though of course one can always do functional research on optimizing internal state variables for whatever purposes.  That is to say, enabling people to alter their state of consciousness as they choose, for example high concentration for solving math problems, diffused attention for relaxation, dilated time sense for learning complex music, etc.  All of that stuff is accessible as a matter of training & practice, subject to some limits based on the hardware one was born with.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 08:28:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sad to think, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek

          but in our corporate, money-driven world of today human exploitation is going to be the way for a very long time to come.  We all see those effects if we keep our eyes open these days.  From the supermarket checker to the line worker in an assembly plant all is about squeezing the maximum function for the lowest price.  Sometimes we humans are a sorry bunch.

          To my mind any experiment which aims to explore a new area of knowledge is good so long as humans are not harmed along the way.  No amount of knowledge is too much.  The spinoffs of mistakes or findings outside the range of expected often improve our lives (think Post-Its).  Explore on I say.  Spread the knowledge.  Maybe someone else will find application or take the steps to a higher level.

          Neurobiology and particularly molecular biology is the new world of medicine these days which interests me the very most.  Memories of a long ago time when a room full of physicians and students heard for the first time about endorphins remain for me today.  The advancements since that day of dropped jaws is amazing.  The future we may be sure will be even more amazing as time and discoveries progress.  The wondrous complexity of the mammalian brain offers many years of potential for study and understanding.

          War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

          by possum on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 11:48:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  about cement and CO2: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    possum, Wee Mama

    I've read in more than one place, that after cement is hydrated and crystalizes as occurs in hardened concrete, it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere.  

    If this is the case, then cement is probably a closed CO2 cycle aside from the issue of the power source used for the kilns.  If the power source is carbon-clean such as concentrated solar thermal, then there should be no generalized surplus CO2 output from cement: what it gives off when produced from raw minerals, it reabsorbs when in place as concrete in structures.

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 11:24:29 PM PDT

    •  Good thinking. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, G2geek

      Now the issue may be reducing the carbon production in the power source.  One more reason to push for green energy these days.  

      War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

      by possum on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 04:35:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it occurs to me... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Knucklehead, possum

        ... the interesting thing about closed-carbon-cycle cement is that the CO2 it gives off is emitted in remote geographic areas where the kilns are located, where it could be re-absorbed by nearby plantings of trees.

        But more interestingly, the CO2 it absorbs when in concrete, is absorbed in built-up areas that use lots of concrete: so in effect the concrete buildings themselves have a tree-like effect!

        If that's the case, then we would want to develop styles of architecture and building engineering, that increase the exposed surface areas of the concrete.  This might entail things such as changing the dimensions of structural members to handle the same compressive load but with a larger surface area: think of replacing columns that have round plan cross-sections, with columns that have fluted or even asterisk-shaped cross-sections.  

        Given the "flowable" mixes that are now common (it looks and flows like lentil soup but has the same strength as low-slump concrete with low w/c ratio), this should be easy to do in practice.  

        Prediction: IF it is correct that concrete absorbs CO2 in significant amounts, THEN we will eventually see high-surface-area concrete incorporated into green architecture.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 08:36:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  IF is the operative word. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek

          IF concrete does in fact absorb CO2 at a reasonable rate THEN your suggestion is a good one.  The difficulty may be in proving the hypothesis, but the pressure is on.  Someone is out there looking today.  Let us hope they find the answers.

          War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

          by possum on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 11:50:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Question... (0+ / 0-)

    I have a question for the possum...

    I understand that the chances of finding a planet close enough to sustain "human" life is dismal at the very least.  However, have anyone ever posed this very important question: Can any of the closest planets support DNA if we were to place it there?

    Humans are the product of hundreds of thousands of years of DNA changing to adapt to its environment.  Can we therefore suggest that sending DNA at its very basic form to planets that may give it a chance to evolve within its environment?  What type of "life" would be produced from that type of experiment, if any at all?

    If a planet is uninhabitable for humans, why not let DNA create its own path of survival on a distant plant?

    I pray to god (if there is one) that I do not sound like a crazy person, but this question has been bugging me for some time and I hope someone replies respectfully.

    Thank you
    -EZlivin87

    •  EZlivin87, sorry to be late to the party (0+ / 0-)

      this week.  Usually I am much better about responses.

      Thanks for a fine question.  As my limited understanding goes these days we are not if a good position to insert DNA and see what happens.  That will change beyond any doubt.  Why not put DNA into a primordial soup and watch what happens?  

      To my mind the big risk is other life already in place.  Maybe DNA is not the only way for life to begin.  What then if we do not know about other forms and competition begins?  

      We are on the edge of science fiction here but stranger than fiction often comes true.  Who knows where we will be in a few years?  Maybe we will colonize other planets not with humans but with DNA/RNA or even just amino acids.  

      War only feeds the fires of hate.--James Barclay

      by possum on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:03:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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