Scientific News

Dissolution of South Pole and Greenland six times more than in the 1990s

Antarctica and Greenland are pouring six times more water into the seas from melting ice than in the 1990s, rising from 81 to 475 billion tonnes per year in less than 30 years, a worrying result of a new study published in Nature by Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University in collaboration with Erik Ivins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

According to the study, the ice layers present at the ends of the planet (North and South Pole), layers as thick as several kilometers, have been reduced by 6.4 trillion tons from 1992 to 2017.
Greenland alone would have lost 3900 billion tons of ice between 1992 and 2018, causing a sea level rise of 10.8 mm. The peak was 345 billion tons in 2011, while between 2013 and 2017 there was a slowdown with 222 billion tons of melted ice per year due to atmospheric circulation that favoured cooler conditions.

Of course, these phenomena only raise sea levels, which makes tropical storms and cyclones more frequent, destructive and deadly.
“Every inch of sea level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting life across the planet,” Shepherd himself explains.
The same scientist states that if these scenarios were to continue at today’s rate, in the worst case scenario there could be a 17 cm rise in sea level by 2100.

Needless to say, this is due to global warming: almost all the ice that has melted in Antarctica and half of the ice that has melted in Greenland is due to the warming of the oceans that accelerate the movement of glaciers towards the sea.

This is because the oceans absorb most of the excess heat, coming from above the surface and caused by global warming.
Calculations were made on the basis of data from satellites, measurements taken at the sites themselves and computer modelling.

Scientific News

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.

Scientific News

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.

Scientific News

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.

Scientific News

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.

Scientific News

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.”

Scientific News

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.

Scientific News

Blood pressure can be detected with a video shot from a smartphone

In the future, detecting blood pressure could be at least as easy as taking a selfie: this is what makes us understand research published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging according to which a transdermal optical imaging technology can be used to measure human blood pressure by detecting only micro-changes in the face through a video, even one shot from a smartphone.

Even today, smartphones have cameras that are sensitive enough to detect the ambient light that enters the external state of the skin of the face. With this information, you can create a model of blood flow that can then be used to monitor the same blood pressure without having to resort to complicated devices.

As reported by Kang Lee, professor of neuroscience at the University of Toronto, Canada, today arterial hypertension is one of the main human diseases and one of the main causes of death precisely because adequate daily or periodic monitoring is not performed in subjects risk.

Furthermore, the devices available today are quite inconvenient to use or not very precise so that often the same manufacturers of these devices recommend making multiple measurements each time and making an average. Lee and his new device have already been tested on 1328 Canadian and Chinese adults.

The software was installed on an iPhone and through the app installed on the device, the researchers were able to measure the systolic, diastolic and pulse pressure, measurements taken from a video shot from the same camera as the smartphone.

Currently, the video to obtain the necessary data must last at least two minutes but the researchers are trying to lower this duration to 30 seconds to make the process even more user-friendly.

Scientific News

Dark chocolate can alleviate depressive symptoms

Dark chocolate can alleviate depressive symptoms according to a study published in Depression and Anxiety conducted by researchers at University College London who reviewed the data of 13,626 adults in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey database.

The researchers analyzed various other factors including weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, family income and any chronic health problems. Based on these factors, the researchers discovered that those who ate black chocolate were 70% less likely to show depressive symptoms than patients who claimed they had not eaten chocolate.

Sarah Jackson, UCL researcher and principal author of the study, admits that further research will have to be carried out, especially in the long term, for confirmation. According to the researcher, in fact, in the long term, depression could prevail and lose interest in chocolate or there may be long-term factors that the researchers could not take into consideration through the data provided in the database.

However, according to the researcher, the study provides evidence that the consumption of dark chocolate “may be associated with reduced chances of clinically relevant depressive symptoms.” Previous research had already shown that particular ingredients in chocolate can be linked to good humor or even feelings of euphoria similar to those caused by cannabinoids.

In fact, chocolate contains phenylethylamine, an important neuromodulator with regard to the regulation of human mood. However, several experimental tests have shown that the palatability and the sensation of pleasantness relative to eating chocolate also counts, not just these special ingredients it contains. In addition, further research has also shown a greater concentration of flavonoids in dark chocolate, compared to the non-melting chocolate, it can be linked to the improvement of certain inflammatory profiles in turn connected to the onset of depression.