Researchers Tie Worldwide Biodiversity Threats to Growth in Households

Scientists have revealed evidence that increased numbers of households, even where populations are declining, are having a vast impact on the world’s biodiversity and environment. Reduction in household size has led to a rapid rise in household numbers around the world and has posed serious challenges to biodiversity conservation, write the researchers. Biodiversity is threatened severely not only by increased numbers of households, but also by less efficient per capita consumption of natural resources, the researchers say. They cite examples that larger numbers of households require more use of natural resources for construction, and that smaller numbers of people per household use on average more energy and goods per person.

Astronomers identify new type of star

A new type of star has been discovered lurking as a low mass component in a very compact binary star system. Astronomers announced today at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Seattle, Wash., that they have confirmed the existence of a new variety of stellar end-product. This previously unknown type of star has some properties similar to brown dwarf stars and may help astronomers understand some of the recently discovered extra-solar planets in close proximity to their suns.

Scientists find first active ‘jumping genes’ in rice

Researchers studying rice genomes have identified the species’ first active DNA transposons, or “jumping genes.” The scientists also discovered the first active “miniature inverted-repeat transposable element,” or “MITE,” of any organism. Rice (Oryza sativa), an important food crop worldwide, has the smallest genome size of all cereals at 430 million base pairs of DNA. About 40 percent of the rice genome comprises repetitive DNA that does not code for proteins and thus has no obvious function for the plant. Much of this repetitive sequence appears to be transposons similar to MITEs. But like most genomes studied to date, including the human genome, the function of this highly repeated so-called “junk DNA” has been a mystery. The discovery of active transposons in rice provides startling new insights into how genomes change and what role transposons may play in the process.

Survey Documents Drop in Doctoral Degrees in Science and Engineering

A 2001 nationwide survey conducted for the National Science Foundation reports that for the first time in nine years, the number of doctoral degrees (Ph.D.s) awarded by U.S. universities dropped to below 41,000.* And since 1998, when total Ph.D.s reached an all-time high, a significant decline in science and engineering (S&E) doctorates has led a rollback of total Ph.D.s to pre-1994 levels. Analysts say, however, that a two-year turn upward in 2000-2001 graduate enrollments in S&E could reverse the downward trend in doctorates produced in those fields.

Breakthrough Brings Laser Light to New Regions of the Spectrum

Combining concepts from electromagnetic radiation research and fiber optics, researchers have created an extreme-ultraviolet, laser-like beam capable of producing tightly-focused light in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum not previously accessible to scientists. Between 10-100 times shorter than visible light waves, the extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths will allow researchers to “see” tiny features and carve miniature patterns, with applications in such fields as microscopy, lithography and nanotechnology. The achievement is based on a new structure called a “waveguide,” a hollow glass tube with internal humps that coax light waves into traveling along at the same speed and help the waves reinforce each other.

S. Pole Telescope Produces Most Detailed Images of the Early Universe

Using a powerful new instrument at the South Pole, a team of cosmologists has produced the most detailed images of the early Universe ever recorded. The research team, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has made public their measurements of subtle temperature differences in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation. The CMB is the remnant radiation that escaped from the rapidly cooling Universe about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Images of the CMB provide researchers with a snapshot of the Universe in its infancy, and can be used to place strong constraints on its constituents and structure. The new results provide additional evidence to support the currently favored model of the Universe in which 30 percent of all energy is a strange form of dark matter that doesn’t interact with light and 65 percent is in an even stranger form of dark energy that appears to be causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate. Only the remaining five percent of the energy in the Universe takes the form of familiar matter like that which makes up planets and stars.

Scientists Find Earliest ‘New World’ Writings in Mexico

Scientists have uncovered evidence of what is believed to be the earliest form of writing ever found in the New World. The discovery was based on glyphs carved on a cylindrical seal used to make imprints, and on greenstone plaque fragments found near La Venta in Tabasco, Mexico in the Gulf Coast region. The writings were produced during the Olmec era, a pre-Mayan civilization, and are estimated to date from 650 B.C.

Ultracold Gas Shows Strange Behavior

Researchers have created an ultracold gas that has the startling property of bursting outward in a preferred direction when released. According to the scientists, studying the properties of the “lopsided” gas could yield fundamental insights into how matter holds itself together at the subatomic level. Also, the research team leader said their data suggests the possibility that the gas is exhibiting a never-before-seen kind of superfluidity — a property in which matter at extremely low-temperatures behaves in unusual ways

Emperor Penguin Colony Struggling With Iceberg Blockade

The movements of two gigantic Antarctic icebergs appear to have dramatically reduced the number of Emperor penguins living and breeding in a colony at Cape Crozier, according to two researchers who visited the site last month. The colony is one of the first ever visited by human beings early in the 20th century. “It’s certain that the number of breeding birds is way down” from previous years, said Gerald Kooyman, a National Science Foundation-funded researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Researchers Get First Look into Antimatter

Finally, a little exposure.Researchers working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, say they have for the first time probed the properties of whole atoms of antimatter, the “mirror image” of matter. Their results provide the first look into the inside of an antimatter atom and are a big step on the way to testing standard theories of how the universe operates.