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Bloggers Investigate Irish Sea Moss

I don’t know about you, but recently I’ve been noticing a million different ‘superfoods’ and trendy diet programs that have been promoted by Instagram influencers. It seems like every week there’s some new superfood that’s supposed to give you all kinds of different benefits. The latest one to come across my radar is Irish Sea Moss, with the scientific name of Chondrus crispus.

OK, so what’s special about irish sea moss? Lots of things, apparently. And there’s even scientific evidence for it! (or some at least). Here’s a rundown of the benefits of it along with relevant links to studies for each claim:

Irish Sea Moss Benefits & Side Effects

But here’s what I think. Irish sea moss is probably unlikely to do much, if anything, for most people. And you can do much more good for yourself by just exercising as usual and maintaining a clean, healthy diet. There’s no need to keep buying random stuff just because it’s the flavor of the day.

And anyways, who wants to eat or drink seaweed? Looking at the pics from britannica don’t make it look very appetizing.

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Water appeared on Earth later than thought: life formed immediately?

Most of the water that formed the Earth’s oceans and the elements essential for life, such as carbon and nitrogen, appeared when the formation of the planet was almost complete, so much later than previously theorized.
This is what a new study in Nature suggests, which therefore contrasts with past geological investigations and studies according to which these elements, essential for water, and therefore also for life, were already on the planet at the beginning of formation.

Fischer-Gödde explains the method of study: the researchers have analyzed some of the oldest of the mantle rocks among those that have remained preserved, analyses that allow us to scrutinize the oldest history of the Earth: “We have compared the composition of the oldest, about 3.8 billion years ago, of the mantle rocks of the Aegean Archaean with the composition of the asteroids from which they were formed and with the composition of the Earth’s mantle today”.

The researchers analyzed in particular the abundance of isotopes of a metal belonging to the platinum group called ruthenium in the earth’s mantle of the archaean period. This rare metal can be regarded as an indicator of the late growth phase of the Earth as Mario Fischer-Gödde of the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Cologne explains: “Platinum [group] metals such as ruthenium have an extremely high tendency to combine with iron. Therefore, when the Earth was formed, ruthenium must have been completely discharged into the metal core of the Earth”.

The conclusions of this study therefore reinforce a theory that water on Earth arrived through impacts, numerous in the early periods after the formation of the Earth, of asteroids and comets, as explained by Carsten Münker, researcher at the University of Cologne participating in the study: “The fact that we are still finding traces of rare platinum metals in the Earth’s mantle means that we can assume that they were added only after the formation of the core was completed and were certainly the result of subsequent collisions of the Earth with asteroids or smaller planetesimals.

And given that it has been shown by other studies that life on Earth is very ancient and that the first forms of life appeared not long after the formation of the planet, it is worth noting that life on Earth began surprisingly quickly, practically within a few hundred million years after the formation of the first oceans.

These conclusions, among other things, instill much greater hope of finding life on other planets: if life began here on Earth so quickly, then perhaps those random reactions that originated it may not be as rare as previously thought.

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ExoMars mission launch postponed to 2022

As already anticipated, given the difficulties that engineers and scientists have found during the tests, the ExoMars mission, which should see the arrival of a rover on Mars, has been postponed to 2022 (originally the launch to take place by 2020).
This was announced by the European Space Agency and Roscosmos with the justification that the necessary tests for all components of the spacecraft require more time.

The final objective of the mission remains the same: to investigate the possible presence of life on Mars, even in the past, and to understand more about the presence of water on this planet.
The rover that should land on the red planet has been named Rosalind Franklin and, among the various accessories, also boasts a drill that will allow you to make a hole in the Martian surface in order to look for important traces underground, traces that could perhaps indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life.

The further tests will be carried out not only on the instruments and parachutes that will facilitate the landing of the lander containing the rover but also on the software that will be used to manage the trip and the landing itself.
The two space agencies also point out that the delay is partly due to the worsening of the new coronavirus that is spreading in European countries.

“We have made a difficult but considered decision to postpone the launch until 2022. It is mainly driven by the need to maximise the robustness of all ExoMars systems and the force majeure circumstances linked to the exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe, which has left our experts with virtually no possibility to travel to partner industries. I am confident that the steps we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure the success of the mission will be justified and will undoubtedly only bring positive results for the implementation of the mission,” says Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos.

The launch could take place between August and October 2022; the date is, of course, also conditioned by the so-called “launch windows” which allow favourable launches to the red planet only about once every two years.

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Efficient hybrid tandem solar cells created by Korean scientists

High-efficiency tandem photovoltaic devices with quantum colloidal solar cells and photoactive materials of organic mass heterogjunction have been developed by a team of UNIST researchers led by Professor Sung-Yeon Jang.
The colloidal quantum solar cells (CQD) have soon attracted considerable attention in the field of photovoltaic energy because they are flexible and lightweight, easier to manufacture than conventional silicon solar cells and without loss of efficiency.

Quantum dots are nanoscopic-sized semiconductor particles. They have various useful and interesting characteristics, primarily an emission wavelength that depends on the size.
Basically, quantum points can absorb light in the near infrared, something that other cells and active photo layers cannot do.

Jang’s research team has developed a new photoactive quantum point technology that compensates for the loss of external quantum efficiency in the near infrared region. They also used an intermediate layer to achieve power conversion efficiency. These new tandem hybrid solar cells are made at room temperature and therefore their manufacture is cheaper than silicon solar cells.
“The hybrid tandem device has shown almost negligible degradation after storing air for three months,” says Jang himself.

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A new species of turtle in Texas that lived almost 100 million years ago has been classified

Analyzing the remains found at the Arlington Archosaur Site, a site with various fossil remains from the late Cretaceous period in Texas, a team of researchers described four species of extinct turtles, one of which is named after paleontologist Derek Main.

This site was discovered in 2003 and proved to be a prolific location for late Cretaceous remains, remnants of life forms that lived more than 90 million years ago. It is a wetland located near the shore of a peninsula and already in the past has provided several fossils of ancient crocodiles, dinosaurs, mammals, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and even plants.

However, the turtle fossils discovered at this site had proved quite rare, at least until this study that was published in Palaeontology Electronica. The new species was named Trinitichelys maini. It is a Baenidae turtle, an extinct group of North American aquatic turtles that lived from the Cretaceous to the Eocene era.

Of medium size, these turtles showed strongly fused bones and upper shell and lived near rivers. The Trinitichelys maini is the oldest turtle of this group found in the North American subcontinent of Appalachia, a region that during the Cretaceous period was separated from Laramidia, the western subcontinent of North America.

In addition to the new classification, researchers described three other turtles, one of which is the oldest side-necked turtle (Pleurodira order) ever found in North America. These turtles are characterized by the particular way they withdraw their heads inside their shells: they do so by bending their necks on the horizontal plane.

The other two turtles described are one belonging to the group of trionichids (Trionychidae), or soft-shelled turtles, and another belonging to the genus Naomichelys (family Helochelydridae ).

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Key mechanism of epilepsy in Angelman syndrome discovered by researchers

In the course of research defined as “innovative,” a team of researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, discovered a mechanism considered to be basic with regard to epilepsy in Angelman syndrome. This discovery, according to the researchers themselves, could lead to new therapies in the future.

Angelman’s syndrome (AS) is a rare genetic disease due to a defect in the process of chromosome duplication, often accompanied by delays in psychological and motor development, cognitive disabilities and other symptoms including epilepsy. In the course of the study, researchers at the Singapore Institutes used a new experimental methodology with human neural cells and brain organelles to understand the mechanism of epileptic seizures in this syndrome.

The researchers discovered the role of the ion channel in the hyperactivity of the brain network that triggers convulsions. The latter would be linked to gene deficiency of the ubiquitin ligase protein E3A (UBE3A) within neurons. As this is a syndrome that cannot be treated at present, this discovery could, therefore, be very important.

“Our study used 2D human neuronal cultures that allowed the accelerated discovery of functional differences at the single-cell level in the brain of normal individuals compared to those with AS,” explains Hyunsoo Shawn Je, the senior author of the study. “The use of mini 3D human brains allowed us to monitor spontaneous network activities, linking the results of abnormal firing from individual neurons and convulsive-like activities, just like those observed in the brains of AS patients.”

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Psilocybin produced by Escherichia coli modified with magic mushroom genes

A team of researchers at Miami University in Ohio has managed to engineer Escherichia coli bacteria to produce psilocybin, a psychedelic substance usually produced by so-called “magic mushrooms” and which in recent years is proving increasingly interesting in the treatment of people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses such as addiction.

Since mushroom cultivation can be quite difficult and can take months, it has never proved to be very practical for the production of drugs. On the other hand, the synthetic production of psilocybin itself is equally difficult and the process is very expensive. The researchers have therefore thought of modifying these microbes so that they can generate up to 1.16 grams of psilocybin per litre of culture medium. This is the highest yield to date for engineered microorganisms producing this substance and opens the door to more widespread therapeutic use.

They have in particular ensured that the Escherichia coli bacteria incorporated three genes of the fungus Psilocybe cubensis. In this way the bacteria began to synthesize psilocybin from the 4-hydroxyindol molecule.

As Alexandra Adams, a chemical engineering student at the above mentioned university and one of the authors of the study published in Scientific American, explains, the main advantage of this procedure is that it is much cheaper than all the other methods.

Currently the only limit is represented by the danger that these bacteria could also generate toxic or allergenic microbial material and the latter must be absolutely removed before any possible use of the resulting psilocybin but in any case the results seem impressive.

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Radio telescope MeerKAT takes pictures with thousands of galaxies billions of light years away

A new image of the deep universe has been realized thanks to the data received by the MeerKAT radio telescope made by 64 antennas located in South Africa. The image shows tens of thousands of small points of light but they are not stars: each of these points is a distant galaxy and each of them could potentially contain hundreds or thousands of billions of stars.

The most interesting feature of the image, however, is that the most distant galaxies represent the weakest points of light. Acquiring data and information about these “primordial” galaxies can in fact help astronomers understand when the first stars and galaxies were born. Most stars are currently thought to have been born between 8 and 11 billion years ago, an era also known as “cosmic noon.”

It is usually very difficult to acquire light from these galaxies so far away not only because of the distance but also because of the gas clouds that can overlap and make them invisible. And this is where radio telescopes come into play, operating at a wavelength through which these gas clouds can be “surpassed” to catch a glimpse of the farthest hidden galaxies.

In fact, an international team of astronomers has succeeded in using the MeerKAT radio telescope, now sensitive enough to detect even these galaxies billions of light years away. The result is the image that can be seen on this page that represents a portion of the southern sky, comparable to that occupied by five full moons, with tens of thousands of galaxies, an area that does not contain particular radio sources whose glow could disturb the data acquisition.

Of course, as with all objects located at a certain distance, here too we can speak of a sort of “time machine” with which we can look at the past of the cosmos. And, as James Condon, one of the authors of the study and researcher at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, USA, explains, “since only short-lived stars that are less than 30 million years old send radio waves, we know that the image is not contaminated by old stars. The radio light we see from each galaxy is therefore proportional to its speed of stellar formation at that time”.

Thanks to this image and the data collected with MeerKAT, researchers now know that during the “cosmic noon” era, even more stars were formed than previously calculated and that there are probably many more galaxies in the universe than ever theorized.

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The existence of an ancient Mayan palace more than 1000 years old in the Mexican jungle has been confirmed

A palace built by the ancient Mayan civilization more than 1000 years old that was found in the middle of the jungle in the northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, according to a statement by the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico.

The palace, which is part of a complex that is probably much larger and which also sees the presence of a burial site, was built by the inhabitants of Kulubá, an ancient Mayan city. According to Mexican archaeologists, this palace must have been in use between 600 and 1050 AD. The palace is characterized by a length of 55 meters, a width of 15 meters and a height of 6 meters.

The discovery may offer a lot of data and information about the architectural style of the Kulubá civilization, of which very little is known. Archaeologists themselves believe that by digging further, more structures can be found, so that this site will most likely become an attraction for visitors.

The Mayan civilization, in fact, used to build temples and pyramids as well as huge stone buildings. However, it suffered a mysterious decline between 800 and 1000 A.D., decline whose houses have never been fully clarified (various hypotheses speak of intestinal wars, climatological upheavals and viral diseases).

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The oldest fossil forest in Asia has been discovered

The group of fossilized trees discovered in the Chinese province of Anhui has been defined as the most ancient fossil forest ever found in Asia and one of the greatest examples of Devonian forests. It is 250,000 m² of a fossil forest that lived mostly during the Devonian period, ie between 419 and 359 million years ago. It is a period also referred to as “the age of the fish” but which, however, has seen progress at the evolutionary level very important even in plants.

The study, published in Current Biology, describes how these trees should look: they resembled palm trees with trunks without branches and with upper leafy parts. They lived in an environment near the coast very often subject to flooding.

The trees were on average 3.2 meters high (the height of one of the found fossil trunks was however estimated at 7.7 meters) and were inserted into a new species called Guangdedendron micron. The researchers think it could be one of the trees that provided the largest amount of biomass that then formed the coal we extract today.

The first fossils of trunks of licopsid trees have been found in these places in 2016 but research in these quarries is still ongoing. This is the third Devonian fossil forest of this size found after one in the United States and one in Norway.

The trees were quite tall and the relatively small size of the trees could make Xinhang forest “very similar to a sugarcane field” as noted by Deming Wang, a professor at Peking University and one of the authors of the study with Min Qin of Linyi University.

The fossils were formed on the walls of various clay quarries in this region of China, near a four-meter thick sandstone bed. The height of the trees was estimated by analyzing the diameters of the fossilized trunks.