NWSIW Prizes for Women Scientists of the Islamic World….1th Edition (2012)
More information will be available soon on this website
Date: 13-15 May 2013
Location: Islamic Republic of Iran
Who should attend?
Type of participation:
For more information please contact:
INN Secretariat, Imam Khomeini Blvd., Meshkindasht, Karaj, Iran
Telephone: +98 26 36280040-9 Fax: +98 26 36201888 Email: email@example.com
Name and Organization of Nominee(s):……………………………………………………………………..
JAPANESE GOVERNMENT (MONBUKAGAKUSHO: MEXT) SCHOLARSHIP FOR 2014
MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) offers scholarships to international students who wish to study at Japanese universities as research students under the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship Program for 2014 as stipulated below.
1. FIELDS OF STUDY
Fields of study must be subjects which applicants will be able to study and research at Japanese universities.
Keep in mind, however, that the field of study may be restricted to particular fields by the Japanese Embassy/Consulate General.(hereinafter referred to as the “Japanese diplomatic mission”)
A student who majors in medicine, dentistry or welfare science will not be allowed to engage in clinical training such as medical care and operative surgery until he/she obtains a permit from the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare under applicable Japanese laws. Majors in traditional entertainment such as Kabuki and classical Japanese dances, or in subjects that seek practical training in specific technologies or techniques at factories or companies are excluded.
(1) Nationality: Applicant must have the nationality of a country which has diplomatic relations with the Japanese government. This applies at such times to stateless persons, too. Applicant who has Japanese nationality at the time of application will not be eligible. Applicant screening will be made at the Japanese diplomatic mission in the country of Applicant’s nationality (except where two or more countries are attended by the same Japanese diplomatic mission).
(2) Age: Applicant must have been born on or after April 2,1979.
(3) Academic Background: Applicant must be a graduate from a Japanese university or have academic ability equal or superior to that of a Japanese university graduate. A person will be deemed to have academic ability equal or superior to that of a university graduate, if he/she
① has completed or will complete a 16-year school curriculum in a foreign country (or an 18-year school curriculum if he/she desires to enroll in a doctoral course in the field of medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, or pharmacy which is founded on a 6-year department or faculty); or
② is or will be aged 22 or older and has taken an individual entrance qualification examination and has been judged by a graduate school as being equal or superior in academic ability to a university graduate (or 24 or older if he/she desires to enroll in a doctoral course in the field of medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, or pharmacy which is founded on a 6-year department or faculty).
Note: Eligible applicants include those who otherwise satisfy or will satisfy qualification requirements for admission to a Japanese graduate school. As a general rule, a person who has completed a doctoral course may not apply unless he/she seeks to obtain a degree.
(4) Major Field of Study: Applicant should apply for the field of study he/she studied at the previous university or any related field. Applicant must choose a field on which he/she can receive education and perform research at the University of his/her choice.
(5) Japanese Language: Applicant must be willing to learn the Japanese language, interested in Japan and enthusiastic about deepening his/her understanding of Japan after arriving, and capable of engaging in study and research while adapting himself/herself to life in Japan.
(6) Health: Applicant must be physically and mentally healthy enough to pursue study at university.
(7) Arrival in Japan: Applicant must be able to leave for and arrive in Japan between the 1st and 7th of April 2014, or within two weeks of the date set by the receiving university for the beginning of the semester (in principle, in September or October). Travel expenses will not be provided if the Applicant chooses to travel to Japan before this set period.
(8) Visa Requirement: Selected Applicants must obtain a College Student （ryuugaku 留学） visa from the Japanese diplomatic mission in the country of their nationality, in principle, prior to their arrival in Japan. The visa is to be issued by the Japanese diplomatic mission in the country of the applicant’s nationality (except where two or more countries are attended by the same Japanese diplomatic mission). Applicants who are already in Japan under a visa other than the College Student visa are required to change it to the College Student visa by the end of the month preceding the start of the scholarship. Applicants who change their resident status to any status other than “College Student” after their arrival in Japan will immediately lose their status as a Japanese government scholarship student.
(9) Any applicant who meets any or all of the following conditions is not eligible. If identified after the start of the scholarship period, the applicant will be required to withdraw from the scholarship:
1: The Applicant is an active member of the military or a civilian employed by the military at the time the scholarship period is due to begin.
2: The Applicant is unable to travel to Japan within the dates set by the receiving university
3: If the Applicant was a grantee of a Japanese Government Scholarship in the past. Unless he/she has had at least three years of research or teaching experience between the completion of the first scholarship and the start of the second scholarship period. This exclusion will not apply to a research-student applicant, who (i) as an international student in Japan received training in Japanese studies at a university but graduated from his/her home university, who (ii) was an international student in Japan under the Japan-Korea Joint Government Scholarship Program for the Students in Science and Engineering Departments or who (ⅲ) was an international student in Japan under the Young Leaders Program.
4: The Applicant is currently enrolled at a Japanese university under the resident status of “College Student,” or if he/she plans to enroll at a Japanese university as a privately-financed international student between the time of application for this scholarship and the time the scholarship period is due to begin.
5: The Applicant is already the recipient of a scholarship from an organization (including a governmental organization in his/her country of origin) other than the Japanese government (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology - MEXT).
6: The Applicant, considered a “future graduate” and selected as such, is unable to graduate within the pre-set date or unable to fulfill graduation requirements.
3. TERM OF SCHOLARSHIP
The term of scholarship will differ as follows depending on the course a grantee takes in Japan:
(1) In a case where Grantee will enroll as a research student, non-degree student, or auditor, etc. (hereinafter referred to as “Research Student”) after coming to Japan:
① If Grantee comes to Japan in April 2014, his/her scholarship will be payable for 24 months from April 2014 through March 2016;
② If Grantee comes to Japan in October 2014, his/her scholarship will be payable for 18 months from October 2014 through
(In either case, the above-mentioned term of scholarship includes a 6-month Japanese language training period for grantees who require such training)
(2) If Grantee enrolls in a master's course, doctoral course, or professional graduate course after coming to Japan, regardless of the time of his/her arrival in Japan the scholarship will be payable for a period necessary for Grantee to complete his/her regular course (standard course term). (Plus a 6-month Japanese language training period for Grantee who needs such training.)
If Grantee desires to proceed to a regular graduate course from a Research Student course, or to a doctoral course from a master’s course or a professional graduate course, he/she may have the term of his/her scholarship extended upon successful examination by MEXT provided that he/she has outstanding academic achievement that meets certain criteria. (Grantee as Research Student cannot have the term of his/her scholarship extended. If Grantee proceeds to a higher level of education without receiving approval for an extension of the term of the scholarship, the scholarship will be cancelled. He/she may, however, proceed to a higher level of education or continue with his/her study as a privately-financed student.)
Please note, however, that proceeding to a regular graduate course from a Research Student course is subject to period- related restrictions. Application for extension of stay will not be accepted in the following cases:
① Grantee desires to move on to a master’s course in a Natural Science field, but is unable to proceed to a regular course by the
last day of the 24th month counted from the month of arrival in Japan;
② Grantee desires to move on to a master’s course in a Social Science field, but is unable to proceed to a regular course by the
last day of the 25th month counted from the month of arrival in Japan;
③ Grantee desires to move on to a doctoral course in a Natural Science field, but is unable to proceed to a regular course by the
last day of the 13th month counted from the month of arrival in Japan;
④ Grantee desires to move on to a doctoral course in a Social Science field, but is unable to proceed to a regular course by the
last day of the 24th month counted from the month of arrival in Japan;
※ Proceeding to a regular graduate course must meet the above mentioned conditions ①-④, and must take place within the term of the scholarship or in the month immediately following the final month of the term of the scholarship.
4. SCHOLARSHIP BENEFITS
(1) Allowance: Under the fiscal 2012 budget, each grantee will be provided monthly with 143,000 yen (Research Student course), 144,000 yen (students enrolled in a Master’s program or a professional degree program), or 145,000 yen (students enrolled in a doctoral program) (an additional monthly stipend of 2,000 or 3,000 yen may be provided to those undertaking study or research in specially designated regions). However, these amounts are subject to change depending on the annual budget of each year. The scholarship will not be paid to a grantee who takes a leave of absence or is long absent from his/her university.
Scholarship will be cancelled for a grantee in the following cases. Furthermore, if scholarship payments were made during the period the following cases applied, the grantee may be ordered to return scholarship payments received during that period.
① If any of his/her application documents is found to be falsely stated;
② If he/she is in breach of his/her pledge made to the Minister of MONBUKAGAKUSHO(MEXT);
③ If he/she is subjected to disciplinary action, such as expulsion or removal from register, taken by his/her university or the preparatory Japanese-teaching institution;
④ If it becomes definitive that the grantee will not be able to complete his/her course within the standard course term because of his/her poor academic achievement or suspension;
⑤ If his/her resident status of “College Student” as provided for in Paragraph 1-4 of Appendix to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act changes to any other status;
⑥ If he/she is provided with another scholarship (except for a scholarship designated for research expenses); or
⑦ If he/she proceeds to a higher level of education without receiving approval for an extension of the term of the scholarship.
(2) Traveling Costs
① Transportation to Japan: Each grantee will be provided, according to his/her itinerary and route as designated by MEXT, with an economy class air ticket from the international airport closest to his/her place of residence to Narita International Airport (or following the itinerary normally used by the university where the grantee is placed). Expenses such as inland transportation from his/her place of residence to the nearest international airport, airport tax, airport usage charges, special taxes on overseas travel and travel expenses within Japan will be borne by the grantee (the place of residence of the grantee shall in principle be the address stated in the application form). Air travel from a country other than the country of the grantee’s nationality will not be covered, nor travel to Japan before April 1, 2014.
If the grantee comes to Japan to obtain admission to a university, he/she will not be provided with traveling cost to Japan.
② Transportation from Japan: The grantee who returns to his/her home country within the last-payment month of his/her scholarship will be provided, upon application, with an economy class air ticket for a flight from Narita International Airport (or following the itinerary normally used by the university where the grantee is placed) to the international airport closest to his/her place of return.
Note: Insurance premiums for travel to/from Japan shall be borne by the grantee. The airport the grantee departs from or returns to must be an airport of the country of his/her nationality.
③ School Fees: Fees for matriculation, tuition and entrance examinations at a university will be paid by the Japanese government. If the grantee moves on to higher education as a nonregular student or fails the entrance examinations, he/she will pay for entrance examinations.
5. SELECTION AND NOTIFICATION
(1) In cooperation with the governments of the applicants’ countries the Japanese diplomatic mission will perform primary screening of applicants by means of submitted application documents, written examinations (language) and interviews.
(2) Written examinations will be English and Japanese tests. The Japanese examination must be taken by all applicants. and the English by those who wish.
(３) The following policy will apply to each screening:
① Application documents: Must show that the applicant obtained academic achievement higher than a certain level at the university he/she last graduated from, and state the applicant’s desired research program in a detailed and concrete manner.
② Written examination: Must show that the applicant obtained scores better than a certain level either in Japanese or English.
③ Interview: Must reveal that the applicant has a clear sense of purpose relating to his/her study in Japan and has gathered
information about Japanese universities. Interview must also reveal that the applicant has sufficient Japanese or English language ability to communicate with his/her adviser in Japan. If the applicant desires to study a subject that requires higher Japanese language proficiency, Interview must reveal that the applicant has a considerable degree of Japanese language proficiency.
(４) Results of the primary screening will be notified on the date separately designated by the Japanese diplomatic mission.
(５) Each person who has passed this primary screening is required to contact directly the Japanese university of his/her choice and obtain admission as a graduate student or research student, or a letter of provisional acceptance as a research student (hereinafter referred to as “Admission”) by the end of August. In order to obtain Admission, candidates can gain information on office for international students of each university, websites to search universities and researchers, etc from the Japanese diplomatic mission.
(６)Each candidate must submit to the university of his/her choice a set of the same documents as those submitted to the Japanese
diplomatic mission (application, academic transcript of the university attended, research program, all with a confirmation seal of the Japanese diplomatic mission affixed, and a certificate of the primary selection issued by the Japanese diplomatic mission). Additional documents may have to be submitted upon request of the university.
(7) MEXT will conduct a secondary screening based on the results of the primary screening conducted by the Japanese diplomatic mission, and select as national scholarship grantees those applicants who have found recipient universities. Therefore, applicants who have passed the primary screening at a Japanese diplomatic mission are not necessarily accepted as scholarship grantees.
Note 1: A written examination to evaluate Japanese language skills must be taken by all applicants. In addition, an English examination will be provided to
those who wish. The result of these examinations will provide a basis for determining each applicant’s language ability and will be reflected directly in the screening.
The result of the written Japanese examination will continue to be used as reference data for Japanese-language instruction due to be provided upon applicants’ arrival in Japan.
Note 2: In particular, if an applicant with limited proficiency in Japanese desires to pursue fields of study such as Japanese linguistics, Japanese literature, Japanese history, or Japanese laws ―fields that require sufficient knowledge of the Japanese language ― he/she will not be selected as a grantee unless there is a very special situation.
Note 3: Ｔｈｉｓ ｓｃｈｏｌａｒｓｈｉｐ ｐｒｏｇｒａｍ ｉｓ ｉｎｔｅｎｄｅｄ ｆｏｒ ｏｖｅｒｓｅａｓ ｓｔｕｄｅｎｔｓ ｗｈｏ ｗｉｓｈ ｔｏ ｅｎｒｏｌｌ ｉｎ ａ Ｊａｐａｎｅｓｅ ｕｎｉｖｅｒｓｉｔｙ and study ｉｎ Ｊａｐａn. It does not accept applicants who wish, from the time of application, to conduct fieldwork outside of Japan.
6. PLACEMENT AND RESEARCH GUIDANCE AT UNIVERSITY
(1) Placement of a grantee at a university will be decided following a relevant request made to the university to which a person who has passed the primary screening obtained admission as a regular student or Research Student at the university’s graduate school (a candidate who has received admission to a regular graduate course will be placed directly in such course without needing to pass through a Research Student period). MEXT will, as a matter of priority, request the university to receive the grantee, and place him/her there upon its approval.
If a candidate wants to enter either a public or a private university, the grantee’s preference specified in the Application Form (attachment) may not be met due to budgetary reasons concerning school fees, etc. Moreover, any objection a candidate may raise to the decision will not be recognized.
If a candidate has not obtained admission, MEXT will contact related universities and decide at which university to place the candidate in consideration of his/her preference. In this case, any objection a candidate may raise to the decision will not be recognized.
In a case where a candidate fails to obtain admission to or a letter of acceptance from a university and MEXT discusses the case with related universities, the candidate may still not be accepted and therefore not definitively selected by MEXT if his/her research program is vague or unclear, the content of his/her research is not substantial, or his/her desired major field presents difficulty from the perspective of research guidance.
(2) Research guidance such as lectures, experiments and practical training at universities is basically conducted in Japanese.
(3) If a grantee is determined to be insufficiently proficient in the Japanese language, usually he/she will be placed in a university’s Japanese- language training institution designated by the university of placement or MEXT as education in Japanese for the first six-month period after his/her arrival in Japan. Upon completion of the education the grantee will be placed at a university for advanced education. If a grantee has poor achievement in the Japanese language training course and is considered unfit for advanced education at the university, scholarship payment will stop. (See 4.(1).)
(4) If a grantee is deemed by his/her recipient university as sufficiently proficient in Japanese for conducting his/her research in Japan, he/she may be placed in the university as Research Student or a graduate student without going through Japanese-language training.
(5) If a grantee desires to move on to a regular graduate course from a Research Student course, or to a doctoral course from a master’s course or a professional graduate course, he will be able to do so provided that he/she takes an entrance examination provided by the relevant university and passes it. To continue receiving the national scholarship after advancing to a higher level, the grantee must undergo a separate examination and be awarded an extension of the scholarship. (See 3.(2).)
A grantee cannot apply for an extension of scholarship term while being enrolled in a non-regular course, for example as a Research Student. (non-degree student)
(6) If a grantee desires to step up to a regular graduate course from a Research Student course, in principle he/she must move on to the graduate school of the university at which he/she is studying as Research Student. If proceeding to such graduate school is deemed inappropriate given the grantee’s major field or ability, he/she may be allowed to move on to another graduate school provided that he/she is admitted.
Note 1: Under the educational system of Japan, a typical master's course lasts for two years subsequent to graduation from a
university (i.e. after completion of a 16-year school curriculum), and a typical doctoral course lasts for three years after completion of a master's course. If a student has completed such two-, or three-year course, obtained necessary credits, and passed the final examination after submitting his/her graduation thesis, he/she will be given relevant degrees.
Note 2: In the fields of medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, and pharmacy which is founded on a 6-year department or faculty, most of the universities offer only 4-year doctoral courses. For admission to such doctoral course an applicant is required to have completed an 18-year school curriculum. If an applicant completed a 16-year school curriculum, he/she is required to have engaged for two or more years in research activities at universities or research institutions subsequent to completion of the 16-year curriculum, and to be deemed by a graduate school in Japan as being academically equal to an applicant who completed an 18-year curriculum.
Note 3: Professional graduate schools are a new type of graduate school implemented in 2003 designed to develop profound learning and outstanding ability that support professions that require sophisticated expertise. The standard required duration of study is two years. In some fields of study, the duration is less than two years but more than one year. Upon completion of the course a master’s degree (specialized occupation) will be conferred.
Among the degree courses are “graduates schools of law.” The school is one kind of professional graduate schools with the standard required duration of study of three years. Upon completion of the course a student will be granted the degree of “Doctor of Law (specialized occupation).”
Note 4: Entrance examinations given by a graduate school vary from one university to another. In general, applicants have to take examinations in two foreign languages, his/her major subject, and an essay test.
7. APPLICATION PROCEDURE
Each applicant must submit three sets of the following documents to the Japanese diplomatic mission by the specified date. One set is required to be original documents. The other two sets may be photocopies thereof. (original) (copy)
(1) ① Application (a prescribed form) ･･･････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････ 3
(2) ② Application Form (Attachment) (a prescribed form)･･････････････････････････････････････････････････････ 1
(3) ③ Research Program (Attachment) ･･････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････ 1 2
(4) Photograph (4.5×3.5 cm, taken within the past six months, upper body, full-faced, uncapped.
Write your name and nationality on the reverse and paste it onto the application
form. Digital photographs also acceptable) ･･････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････ 4
(5) ④ Academic transcript of each academic year of the last university attended (issued by the
university attended) ････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････ 1 2
(6) ⑤ Graduation certificate or degree certificate of the last university attended (or an attested
document certifying that the applicant will graduate from the school, where applicable) ････････････････････ 1 2
(7) ⑥ Recommendation from the principal or the adviser of the last university attended ･･････････････････ 1 2
(8) ⑥ Recommendation from the present employer (if currently employed) ････････････････････････････････ 1 2
(9) ⑦ Medical certificate on the prescribed form (issued by the medical institution designated
by the Japanese diplomatic mission）･････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････・ 1 2
(10) ⑧ Abstracts of theses ･･･････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････ 1 2
(11) ⑨ Photograph showing applicant's own works of art or a recorded tape of musical performance
(only for those majoring in fine arts or music) ･････････････････････････････････････････････････････････････・ 1 2
Note 1: These documents must be written in either Japanese or English. A document written in any other language must be attached with a Japanese or English translation.
Note 2: Photographs attached to the original application must be originals; copies are not acceptable.
Note 3: Field of specialization and research program documents should clearly describe the applicant’s own research program because it will serve as important materials for placement of the applicant at a university.
Note 4: The academic transcripts of the last university attended should be prepared to show the grade scale applied and the grades earned by the applicant on all the subjects studied for each year studied at a university department/faculty and a graduate school. (A degree certificate or a graduation certificate simply showing the ranking of the applicant at graduation will not substitute for academic transcripts.)
Note 5: The graduation certificate and the degree certificate obtained from the last university attended may be substituted for by a photocopy thereof provided that the copy is attested by the authorized person of the university.
Note 6: For abstracts of the theses, abstracts of the graduation thesis and presented papers will suffice. Please note that these abstracts will be used as basic data for evaluation of the applicant’s academic ability.
Note 7: Number the documents from ① to ⑨ in the right upper corner.
(1) Each recipient is advised to learn the Japanese language and to acquire some information on Japanese climate, geography, customs, university education, and social conditions in Japan, as well as about the differences between the Japanese legal system and that of his/her home country before departing for Japan.
(2) The recipient should bring approximately US $2,000 or the equivalent to cover immediate needs after arrival in Japan.
① Residence halls for international students provided by universities.
Some universities have residence halls for international students. The recipients enrolled at national universities where such facilities are available may reside, if they so desire, at these residence halls under certain conditions. However, because of the limited number of rooms, some of these facilities may not be able to accommodate all the students who wish to live in them.
② Private boarding houses or apartments.
Those who are not able to find accommodation in the aforementioned facilities may live in regular dormitories of the university or in a private boarding house/apartment.
It is very difficult for recipients with dependents to find appropriate housing in Japan. The recipient is requested to arrive in Japan alone first to secure housing before having his/her spouse and/or family come over to Japan.
(4) The English texts attached to the Recruitment Items and the Application form are for convenience only. English expressions do not change the Japanese content, so if you have any questions about the content of the written text, you should inquire at the Japanese diplomatic mission.
(5) More detailed information on this scholarship program is available at the Japanese diplomatic mission in your country.
Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Germany have created a new synthetic hybrid material with a mineral content of almost 90 percent, yet extremely flexible. They imitated the structural elements found in most sea sponges and recreated the sponge spicules using the natural mineral calcium carbonate and a protein of the sponge. Natural minerals are usually very hard and prickly, as fragile as porcelain. Amazingly, the synthetic spicules are superior to their natural counterparts in terms of flexibility, exhibiting a rubber-like flexibility. The synthetic spicules can, for example, easily be U-shaped without breaking or showing any signs of fracture This highly unusual characteristic, described by the German researchers in the current issue of Science, is mainly due to the part of organic substances in the new hybrid material. It is about ten times as much as in natural spicules.
Spicules are structural elements found in most sea sponges. They provide structural support and deter predators. They are very hard, prickly, and even quite difficult to cut with a knife. The spicules of sponges thus offer a perfect example of a lightweight, tough, and impenetrable defense system, which may inspire engineers to create body armors of the future.
The researchers led by Wolfgang Tremel, Professor at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and Hans-Jürgen Butt, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, used these natural sponge spicules as a model to cultivate them in the lab. The synthetic spicules were made from calcite (CaCO3) and silicatein-α. The latter is a protein from siliceous sponges that, in nature, catalyzes the formation of silica, which forms the natural silica spicules of sponges. Silicatein-α was used in the lab setting to control the self-organization of the calcite spicules. The synthetic material was self-assembled from an amorphous calcium carbonate intermediate and silicatein and subsequently aged to the final crystalline material. After six months, the synthetic spicules consisted of calcite nanocrystals aligned in a brick wall fashion with the protein embedded like cement in the boundaries between the calcite nanocrystals. The spicules were of 10 to 300 micrometers in length with a diameter of 5 to 10 micrometers.
As the scientists, among them chemists, polymer researchers, and the molecular biologist Professor Werner E. G. Müller from the Mainz University Medical Center, also write in their Science publication, the synthetic spicules have yet another special characteristic, i.e., they are able to transmit light waves even when they are bent.
A team of astronomers, including Quinn Konopacky of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, has made the most detailed examination yet of the atmosphere of a Jupiter-like planet beyond our Solar System. According to Konopacky, "We have been able to observe this planet in unprecedented detail because of the advanced instrumentation we are using on the Keck II telescope, our ground-breaking observing and data-processing techniques, and because of the nature of the planetary system."
Konopacky is lead author of the paper describing the team's findings, to be published March 14th in Science Express, and March 22nd in the journal Science.
The team, using a high-resolution imaging spectrograph called OSIRIS, uncovered the chemical fingerprints of specific molecules, revealing a cloudy atmosphere containing carbon monoxide and water vapour. "With this level of detail," says Travis Barman, a Lowell Observatory astronomer and co-author of the paper, "we can compare the amount of carbon to the amount of oxygen present in the planet's atmosphere, and this chemical mix provides clues as to how the entire planetary system formed."
There has been considerable uncertainty about how systems of planets form, with two leading models, called core accretion and gravitational instability. Planetary properties, such as the composition of a planet's atmosphere, are clues as to whether a system formed according to one model or the other.
"This is the sharpest spectrum ever obtained of an extrasolar planet," according to co-author Bruce Macintosh of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "This shows the power of directly imaging a planetary system. It is the exquisite resolution afforded by these new observations that has allowed us to really begin to probe planet formation."
The spectrum reveals that the carbon to oxygen ratio is consistent with the core accretion scenario, the model thought to explain the formation of our Solar System.
The planet, designated HR 8799c, is one of four gas giants known to orbit a star 130 light-years from Earth. The authors and their collaborators previously discovered HR 8799c and its three companions back in 2008 and 2010. All the planets are larger than any in our Solar System, with masses three to seven times that of Jupiter. Their orbits are similarly large when compared to our system. HR 8799c orbits 40 times farther from its parent star than Earth orbits from the Sun; in our Solar System, that would put it well beyond the realm of Neptune.
According to the core accretion model, the star HR 8799 was originally surrounded by nothing but a huge disk of gas and dust. As the gas cooled, ice formed; this process depleted the disk of oxygen atoms. Ice and dust collected into planetary cores which, once they were large enough, attracted surrounding gas to form large atmospheres. The gas was depleted of oxygen, and this is reflected in the planet's atmosphere today as an enhanced carbon to oxygen ratio.
The core accretion model also predicts that large gas giant planets form at great distances from the central star, and smaller rocky planets closer in, as in our Solar System. It is rocky planets, not too far, nor close to the star, that are prime candidates for supporting life.
"The results suggest the HR 8799 system is like a scaled-up Solar System," says Konopacky. "And so, in addition to the gas giants far from their parent star, it would not come as a surprise to find Earth-like planets closer in."
The observations of HR 8799c were made with the Keck II 10-metre telescope in Hawaii, one of the two largest optical telescopes in the world. The telescope's adaptive optics system corrects for distortion caused by Earth's atmosphere, making the view through Keck II sharper than through the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronomers refer to this as spatial resolution. Seeing exoplanets around stars is like trying to see a firefly next to a spotlight. Keck's adaptive optics and high spatial resolution, combined with advanced data-processing techniques, allow astronomers to more clearly see both the stellar "spotlight" and planetary "firefly."
"We can directly image the planets around HR 8799 because they are all large, young, and very far from their parent star. This makes the system an excellent laboratory for studying exoplanet atmospheres," says coauthor Christian Marois of the National Research Council of Canada. "Since its discovery, this system just keeps surprising us."
Konopacky and her team will continue to study the super-sized planets to learn more details about their nature and their atmospheres. Future observations will be made using the recently upgraded OSIRIS instrument which utilizes a new diffraction grating -- the key component of the spectrograph that separates light according to wavelength, just like a prism. The new grating was developed at the Dunlap Institute and installed in the spectrograph in December 2012.
"These future observations will tell us much more about the planets in this system," says Dunlap Fellow Konopacky. "And the more we learn about this distant planetary system, the more we learn about our own."
For only the second time in history, a team of scientists including Michele Fumagalli from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the United States have discovered an extremely rare triple quasar system. Their work is published in the Oxford University Press journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Quasars are extremely bright and powerful sources of energy that sit in the centre of a galaxy, surrounding a black hole. In systems with multiple quasars, the bodies are held together by gravity and are believed to be the product of galaxies colliding. It is very difficult to observe triplet quasar systems, because of observational limits that prevent researchers from differentiating multiple nearby bodies from one another at astronomical distances. Moreover, such phenomena are presumed to be very rare.
The team led by Emanuele Farina of the University of Insubria in Como, Italy, combined observations from the New Technology Telescope of the European Southern Observatory at La Silla, Chile and from the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain with advanced modelling. This enabled them to find the triplet quasar, called QQQ J1519+0627. The light from the three quasars has travelled 9 billion light years to reach us, which means the light was emitted when the universe was only a third of its current age.
Advanced analysis confirmed that what the team found was indeed three distinct sources of quasar energy and that the phenomenon is extremely rare.
Two members of the triplet are closer to each other than the third. This means that the system could have been formed by interaction between the two adjacent quasars, but was probably not triggered by interaction with the more-distant third quasar. Furthermore, no evidence was seen of any ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (galaxies with very strong emission in infrared light), which is where quasars are commonly found. As a result, the team proposes that this triplet quasar system is part of some larger structure that is still undergoing formation.
"Honing our observational and modelling skills and finding this rare phenomenon will help us understand how cosmic structures assemble in our universe and the basic processes by which massive galaxies form," Fumagalli said.
"Further study will help us figure out exactly how these quasars came to be and how rare their formation is," Farina added.
Half of the world's human population is infected with the stomach bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, yet it causes disease in only about 10 percent of those infected. Other bacteria living in the stomach may be a key factor in whether or not H. pylori causes disease, according to a new study led by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "People tend to think of the stomach as a relatively sterile environment, but it's actually populated with microbes," said Karen Ottemann, professor and chair of microbiology and environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz.
Researchers in Ottemann's lab were studying H. pylori infections in mice when they noticed that mice from two different suppliers had different responses to the infection, even though they were the same mouse strain and therefore genetically identical. Examining the bacteria in the stomachs of the mice (the stomach "microflora"), they found differences between the mice from different suppliers. They then used antibiotics to alter the stomach microflora in mice from a single supplier and again found changes in the response to H. pylori.
"We found that something about the preexisting microflora, before H. pylori comes into the mouse, changes the mouse's response to the infection," Ottemann said.
The findings, published in the journal Infection and Immunity, have potential implications for treating human infections. The bacteria in the stomachs of mice and humans are broadly the same--not necessarily at the species level, but the same types of bacteria are present in both, Ottemann said.
H. pylori infections can cause ulcers and stomach cancer, but most infected people don't develop any disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that H. pylori infection can protect against diseases such as esophageal cancer and asthma. For these reasons, people are only treated for the infection if they develop symptoms. With a better understanding of the effects of the stomach microflora, it might be possible to predict whether someone is likely to develop disease and should be treated for an H. pylori infection.
"It would be nice if we could predict who would get disease," Ottemann said. "The other possibility is that we might be able to identify some bacteria that could be used as a probiotic to dampen H. pylori disease."
At this point, it is not clear which bacteria are responsible for changing the response to H. pylori infection in mice. Focusing on mice from one supplier, Ottemann's team used genetic profiling techniques to identify more than 10,000 different types of bacteria present in mouse stomachs, of which about 2,000 were found in all the mice sampled.
The researchers treated some of the mice with antibiotics, which did not eliminate stomach bacteria but substantially changed the composition of the gut microflora. The altered microflora dampened the inflammatory response to H. pylori infection. When they looked for differences in the stomach microfloras of mice with and without inflammatory disease, the researchers found more than 4,000 differences--either species present in one group and not in the other, or differences in the abundances of certain species.
More work is needed to identify which differences in bacterial composition are responsible for the differences in response to H. pylori, Ottemann said. "The results do point to some potential candidates for a protective effect, such as Clostridium species, some of which are known to influence inflammation in the intestine," she said.
In addition to Ottemann, the coauthors of the paper include first author Annah Rolig, a graduate student in Ottemann's lab; undergraduates Cynthia Cech and Ethan Ahler; and J. Elliott Carter, a pathologist at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. This research was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (grant #AI050000) and the UC Cancer Research Coordinating Committee.
The number of potentially habitable planets is greater than previously thought, according to a new analysis by a Penn State researcher, and some of those planets are likely lurking around nearby stars. "We now estimate that if we were to look at 10 of the nearest small stars we would find about four potentially habitable planets, give or take," said Ravi Kopparapu, a post-doctoral researcher in geosciences. "That is a conservative estimate," he added. "There could be more."
Kopparapu detailed his findings in a paper accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters. In it, he recalculated the commonness of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of low-mass stars, also known as cool stars or M-dwarfs.
Scientists focus on M-dwarfs for several reasons, he explained. The orbit of planets around M-dwarfs is very short, which allows scientists to gather data on a greater number of orbits in a shorter period of time than can be gathered on Sun-like stars, which have larger habitable zones. M-dwarfs are also more common than stars like Earth's Sun, which means more of them can be observed.
According to his findings, "The average distance to the nearest potentially habitable planet is about seven light years. That is about half the distance of previous estimates," Kopparapu said. "There are about eight cool stars within 10 light-years, so conservatively, we should expect to find about three Earth-size planets in the habitable zones."
The work follows up on a recent study by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics which analyzed 3,987 M-dwarf stars to calculate the number of Earth-sized planet candidates in cool stars' habitable zones -- a region around a star where rocky planets are capable of sustaining liquid water and therefore life. That study used habitable zone limits calculated in 1993 by Jim Kasting, now an Evan Pugh Professor in Penn State's Department of Geosciences. Kopparapu noticed that its findings, based on data from NASA's Kepler satellite, didn't reflect the most recent estimates for determining whether planets fall within a habitable zone.
These newer estimates are based on an updated model developed by Kopparapu and collaborators, using information on water and carbon dioxide absorption that was not available in 1993. Kopparapu applied those findings to the Harvard team's study, using the same calculation method, and found that there are additional planets in the newly determined habitable zones.
"I used our new habitable zone calculations and found that there are nearly three times as many Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones around these low mass stars as in previous estimates," Kopparapu said. "This means Earth-sized planets are more common than we thought, and that is a good sign for detecting extraterrestrial life."
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on the International Conference on the Molecular Dimensions of Metabolic Syndrome to be held in Iran's Northeastern city of Mashhad, Head of the Biochemistry Research Center of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences Seyed Mohammad Reza Parizadeh announced that Iran joined the IUBMB after the union's members voiced satisfaction with Iran's successful hosting of the international conference on biochemistry.
As regards the conference on the molecular dimension of the metabolic syndrome, Parizadeh said that the meeting, which will be the first of its kind in Iran, is due to be held in Mashhad on Monday and in collaboration with the IUBMB.
He added that 11 foreign guests from the US and Europe will take part in the conference
The IUBNB is an international non-governmental organization concerned with biochemistry and molecular biology. Formed in 1955 as the International Union of Biochemistry, the union has presently 77 member countries (as of 2008).
IUBMB organizes a triennial Congress of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and sponsors more frequent conferences, symposia, educational activities and lectures.
A pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916. The discovery was made by Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and a researcher in Penn State's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds. Both stars in the new binary system are "brown dwarfs," which are stars that are too small in mass to ever become hot enough to ignite hydrogen fusion. As a result, they are very cool and dim, resembling a giant planet like Jupiter more than a bright star like the Sun.
"The distance to this brown dwarf pair is 6.5 light years -- so close that Earth's television transmissions from 2006 are now arriving there," Luhman said. "It will be an excellent hunting ground for planets because it is very close to Earth, which makes it a lot easier to see any planets orbiting either of the brown dwarfs." Since it is the third-closest star system, in the distant future it might be one of the first destinations for manned expeditions outside our solar system, Luhman said.
The star system is named "WISE J104915.57-531906" because it was discovered in a map of the entire sky obtained by the NASA-funded Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. It is only slightly farther away than the second-closest star, Barnard's star, which was discovered 6.0 light years from the Sun in 1916. The closest star system consists of Alpha Centauri, found to be a neighbor of the Sun in 1839 at 4.4 light years, and the fainter Proxima Centauri, discovered in 1917 at 4.2 light years.
Edward (Ned) Wright, the principal investigator for the WISE satellite, said "One major goal when proposing WISE was to find the closest stars to the Sun. WISE 1049-5319 is by far the closest star found to date using the WISE data, and the close-up views of this binary system we can get with big telescopes like Gemini and the future James Webb Space Telescope will tell us a lot about the low mass stars known as brown dwarfs." Wright is the David Saxon Presidential Chair in Physics and a professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA.
Astronomers have long speculated about the possible presence of a distant, dim object orbiting the Sun, which is sometimes called Nemesis. However, Luhman has concluded, "we can rule out that the new brown dwarf system is such an object because it is moving across the sky much too fast to be in orbit around the Sun."
To discover the new star system, Luhman studied the images of the sky that the WISE satellite had obtained during a 13-month period ending in 2011. During its mission, WISE observed each point in the sky 2 to 3 times. "In these time-lapse images, I was able to tell that this system was moving very quickly across the sky -- which was a big clue that it was probably very close to our solar system," Luhman said.
After noticing its rapid motion in the WISE images, Luhman went hunting for detections of the suspected nearby star in older sky surveys. He found that it indeed was detected in images spanning from 1978 to 1999 from the Digitized Sky Survey, the Two Micron All-Sky Survey, and the Deep Near Infrared Survey of the Southern Sky. "Based on how this star system was moving in the images from the WISE survey, I was able to extrapolate back in time to predict where it should have been located in the older surveys and, sure enough, it was there," Luhman said.
By combining the detections of the star system from the various surveys, Luhman was able to measure its distance via parallax, which is the apparent shift of a star in the sky due to Earth's orbit around the Sun. He then used the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile to obtain a spectrum of it, which demonstrated that it had a very cool temperature, and hence was a brown dwarf. "As an unexpected bonus, the sharp images from Gemini also revealed that the object actually was not just one but a pair of brown dwarfs orbiting each other," Luhman said.
"It was a lot of detective work," Luhman said. "There are billions of infrared points of light across the sky, and the mystery is which one -- if any of them -- could be a star that is very close to our solar system."
Imagine that the chips in your smart phone or computer could repair and defend themselves on the fly, recovering in microseconds from problems ranging from less-than-ideal battery power to total transistor failure. It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), for the first time ever, has developed just such self-healing integrated chips. The team, made up of members of the High-Speed Integrated Circuits laboratory in Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science, has demonstrated this self-healing capability in tiny power amplifiers. The amplifiers are so small, in fact, that 76 of the chips -- including everything they need to self-heal -- could fit on a single penny. In perhaps the most dramatic of their experiments, the team destroyed various parts of their chips by zapping them multiple times with a high-power laser, and then observed as the chips automatically developed a work-around in less than a second.
"It was incredible the first time the system kicked in and healed itself. It felt like we were witnessing the next step in the evolution of integrated circuits," says Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech. "We had literally just blasted half the amplifier and vaporized many of its components, such as transistors, and it was able to recover to nearly its ideal performance."
The team's results appear in the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques.
Until now, even a single fault has often rendered an integrated-circuit chip completely useless. The Caltech engineers wanted to give integrated-circuit chips a healing ability akin to that of our own immune system -- something capable of detecting and quickly responding to any number of possible assaults in order to keep the larger system working optimally. The power amplifier they devised employs a multitude of robust, on-chip sensors that monitor temperature, current, voltage, and power. The information from those sensors feeds into a custom-made application-specific integrated-circuit (ASIC) unit on the same chip, a central processor that acts as the "brain" of the system. The brain analyzes the amplifier's overall performance and determines if it needs to adjust any of the system's actuators -- the changeable parts of the chip.
Interestingly, the chip's brain does not operate based on algorithms that know how to respond to every possible scenario. Instead, it draws conclusions based on the aggregate response of the sensors. "You tell the chip the results you want and let it figure out how to produce those results," says Steven Bowers, a graduate student in Hajimiri's lab and lead author of the new paper. "The challenge is that there are more than 100,000 transistors on each chip. We don't know all of the different things that might go wrong, and we don't need to. We have designed the system in a general enough way that it finds the optimum state for all of the actuators in any situation without external intervention."
Looking at 20 different chips, the team found that the amplifiers with the self-healing capability consumed about half as much power as those without, and their overall performance was much more predictable and reproducible. "We have shown that self-healing addresses four very different classes of problems," says Kaushik Dasgupta, another graduate student also working on the project. The classes of problems include static variation that is a product of variation across components; long-term aging problems that arise gradually as repeated use changes the internal properties of the system; and short-term variations that are induced by environmental conditions such as changes in load, temperature, and differences in the supply voltage; and, finally, accidental or deliberate catastrophic destruction of parts of the circuits.
The Caltech team chose to demonstrate this self-healing capability first in a power amplifier for millimeter-wave frequencies. Such high-frequency integrated chips are at the cutting edge of research and are useful for next-generation communications, imaging, sensing, and radar applications. By showing that the self-healing capability works well in such an advanced system, the researchers hope to show that the self-healing approach can be extended to virtually any other electronic system.
"Bringing this type of electronic immune system to integrated-circuit chips opens up a world of possibilities," says Hajimiri. "It is truly a shift in the way we view circuits and their ability to operate independently. They can now both diagnose and fix their own problems without any human intervention, moving one step closer to indestructible circuits."
Along with Hajimiri, Bowers, and Dasgupta, former Caltech postdoctoral scholar Kaushik Sengupta (PhD '12), who is now an assistant professor at Princeton University, is also a coauthor on the paper, "Integrated Self-Healing for mm-Wave Power Amplifiers." A preliminary report of this work won the best paper award at the 2012 IEEE Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits Symposium. The work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Can the length of strands of DNA in patients with heart disease predict their life expectancy? Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, who studied the DNA of more that 3,500 patients with heart disease, say yes it can. In the new study, presented Saturday, March 9, at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session in San Francisco, the researchers were able to predict survival rates among patients with heart disease based on the length of strands of DNA found on the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres -- the longer the patient's telomeres, the greater the chance of living a longer life.
The study is one of 17 studies from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center that are being presented at the scientific session, which is being attended by thousands of cardiologists and heart experts from around the world.
Previous research has shown that telomere length can be used as a measure of age, but these expanded findings suggest that telomere length may also predict the life expectancy of patients with heart disease.
Telomeres protect the ends of chromosome from becoming damaged. As people get older, their telomeres get shorter until the cell is no longer able to divide. Shortened telomeres are associated with age-related diseases such as heart disease or cancer, as well as exposure to oxidative damage from stress, smoking, air pollution, or conditions that accelerate biologic aging.
"Chromosomes by their nature get shorter as we get older," said John Carlquist, PhD, director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab. "Once they become too short, they no longer function properly, signaling the end of life for the cell. And when cells reach this stage, the patient's risk for age-associated diseases increases dramatically."
Dr. Carlquist and his colleagues from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center tested the DNA samples from more than 3,500 heart attack and stroke patients.
"Our research shows that if we statistically adjust for age, patients with longer telomeres live longer, suggesting that telomere length is more than just a measure of age, but may also indicate the probability for survival. Longer telomere length directly correlate with the likelihood for a longer life -- even for patients with heart disease," said Dr. Carlquist.
Dr. Carlquist and his colleagues from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center drew on two unique resources that offer unparalleled opportunity for researchers to study the effects of telomere length and survival rates of heart patients:
"With so many samples and very complete electronic records, it's a unique resource," said Dr. Carlquist. "It's unmatched in the world, and it allows us to measure the rate of change in the length of a patient's telomeres over time rather than just a snapshot in time, which is typical for most studies."
"I believe telomere length could be used in the future as a way to measure the effectiveness of heart care treatment," said Dr. Carlquist. "We can already test cholesterol and blood pressure of a patient to see how treatment is working, but this could give us a deeper view into how the treatment is affecting the body and whether or not the treatment is working."
Jeddah, KSA, 06.05.2013 – The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) last week signed a US$ 150 million agreement to finance the development of the “Jorf Lasfar Port” on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast, southwest of Casablanca, which is expected to meet the rising global demand for phosphate derivatives and fertilizers.
IDB Vice President for Operations, Birama Boubacar Sidibe signed the Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement in Casablanca with Mohamed El Hajouji, Executive Director for financial affairs with “Office Chérifien des Phosphates” (OCP) the world's largest exporter of phosphate rocks and derivative products.
The IDB Vice President was in Casablanca, Morocco to attend a forum for facilitating trade and promoting regional economic cooperation.
Since its inception in 1975, IDB Group has approved US$ 5.3 billion as financing for the development of various sectors in Morocco including power generation, agriculture, education, health, transport, industry, mining, water supply a
An international team of 21 authors from 17 institutions in seven countries has just published a study in the journal Natural Climate Change showing that, as the cover of snow and ice in the northern latitudes has diminished in recent years, the temperature over the northern land mass has increased at different rates during the four seasons, causing a reduction in temperature and vegetation seasonality in this area. In other words, the temperature and vegetation at northern latitudes increasingly resembles those found several degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 30 years ago.
The NASA-funded study, based on newly improved ground and satellite data sets, examines critically the relationship between changes in temperature and vegetation productivity in northern latitudes.
On the amplified greenhouse effect, Prof. Ranga Myneni, Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University and lead co-author says "A greenhouse effect initiated by increased atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gasses -- such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane -- causes the Earth's surface and nearby air to warm. The warming reduces the extent of polar sea ice and snow cover on the large land mass that surrounds the Arctic ocean, thereby increasing the amount of solar energy absorbed by the no longer energy-reflecting surface. This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, thus amplifying the base greenhouse effect."
"The amplified warming in the circumpolar area roughly above the Canada-USA border is reducing temperature seasonality over time because the colder seasons are warming more rapidly than the summer," says Liang Xu, a Boston University doctoral student and lead co-author of the study.
"As a result of the enhanced warming over a longer ground-thaw season, the total amount of heat available for plant growth in these northern latitudes is increasing. This created during the past 30 years large patches of vigorously productive vegetation, totaling more than a third of the northern landscape -- over 9 million km2, which is roughly about the area of the USA -- resembling the vegetation that occurs further to the south," says Dr. Compton Tucker, Senior Scientist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
The authors measured seasonality changes using latitude as a yardstick. They first defined reference latitudinal profiles for the quantities being observed and then quantified changes in them over time as shifts along these profiles.
"Arctic plant growth during the early-1980s reference period equaled that of lands north of 64 degrees north. Today, just 30 years later, it equals that of lands above 57 degrees north -- a reduction in vegetation seasonality of about seven degrees south in latitude," says co-author Prof. Terry Chapin, Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. "This manner of analyses suggested a decline in temperature and vegetation seasonality of about four to seven degrees of latitude during the past 30 years," says co-author Eugenie Euskirchen, Research Professor, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
"The reduction of vegetation seasonality, resulting in increased greenness in the Arctic, is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and tree incursions in several locations all over the circumpolar Arctic," says co-author Terry Callaghan, Professor, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the University of Sheffield, UK. He notes that the greening in the adjacent Boreal areas is much less conspicuous in North America than in Eurasia.
A key finding of this study is an accelerating greening rate in the Arctic and a decelerating rate in the boreal region, despite a nearly constant rate of temperature seasonality diminishment in these regions over the past 30 years. "This may portend a decoupling between growing season warmth and vegetation productivity in some parts of the North as the ramifications of amplified greenhouse effect -- including permafrost thawing, frequent forest fires, outbreak of pest infestations, and summertime droughts -- come in to play," says co-author Hans Tømmervik, Senior Researcher, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Tromsø, Norway.
According to the authors, the future does indeed look troubling: Based on analysis of 17 state-of-the-art climate model simulations, diminishment of temperature seasonality in these regions could be more than 20 degrees in latitude by the end of this century relative to the 1951-1980 reference period. The projected temperature seasonality decline by these models for the 2001-2010 decade is actually less than the observed decline. "Since we don't know the actual trajectory of atmospheric concentration of various agents capable of forcing a change in climate, long-term projections should be interpreted cautiously," says co-author Bruce Anderson, Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University.
"These changes will affect local residents through changes in provisioning ecosystem services such as timber and traditional foods," says Research Professor Bruce Forbes, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland. They will also impact the global community through changes in regulatory ecosystem services relating to emissions of greenhouse gases. "The soils in the northern land mass potentially can release significant amounts of greenhouse gases which are currently locked up in the permanently frozen ground. Any large-scale deep-thawing of these soils has the potential to further amplify the greenhouse effect," says co-author Philippe Ciais, Associate Director, Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science, Paris, France.
"The way of life of many organisms on Earth is tightly linked to seasonal changes in temperature and availability of food, and all food on land comes first from plants," says Dr. Scott Goetz, Deputy Director and Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, USA. "Think of migration of birds to the Arctic in the summer and hibernation of bears in the winter: Any significant alterations to temperature and vegetation seasonality are likely to impact life not only in the north but elsewhere in ways that we do not yet know."
In the movie Alien, the title character is an extraterrestrial creature that can survive brutal heat and resist the effects of toxins. In real life, organisms with similar traits exist, such as the "extremophile" red alga Galdieria sulphuraria.
In hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, Galdieria uses energy from the sun to produce sugars through photosynthesis.
In the darkness of old mineshafts in drainage as caustic as battery acid, it feeds on bacteria and survives high concentrations of arsenic and heavy metals.
How has a one-celled alga acquired such flexibility and resilience?
To answer this question, an international research team led by Gerald Schoenknecht of Oklahoma State University and Andreas Weber and Martin Lercher of Heinrich-Heine-Universitat (Heinrich-Heine University) in Dusseldorf, Germany, decoded genetic information in Galdieria.
They are three of 18 co-authors of a paper on the findings published in this week's issue of the journal Science.
The scientists made an unexpected discovery: Galdieria's genome shows clear signs of borrowing genes from its neighbors.
Many genes that contribute to Galdieria's adaptations were not inherited from its ancestor red algae, but were acquired from bacteria or archaebacteria.
This "horizontal gene transfer" is typical for the evolution of bacteria, researchers say.
However, Galdieria is the first known organism with a nucleus (called a eukaryote) that has adapted to extreme environments based on horizontal gene transfer.
"The age of comparative genome sequencing began only slightly more than a decade ago, and revealed a new mechanism of evolution--horizontal gene transfer--that would not have been discovered any other way," says Matt Kane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.
"This finding extends our understanding of the role that this mechanism plays in evolution to eukaryotic microorganisms."
Galdieria's heat tolerance seems to come from genes that exist in hundreds of copies in its genome, all descending from a single gene the alga copied millions of years ago from an archaebacterium.
"The results give us new insights into evolution," Schoenknecht says. "Before this, there was not much indication that eukaryotes acquire genes from bacteria."
The alga owes its ability to survive the toxic effects of such elements as mercury and arsenic to transport proteins and enzymes that originated in genes it swiped from bacteria.
It also copied genes offering tolerance to high salt concentrations, and an ability to make use of a wide variety of food sources. The genes were copied from bacteria that live in the same extreme environment as Galdieria.
"Why reinvent the wheel if you can copy it from your neighbor?" asks Lercher.
"It's usually assumed that organisms with a nucleus cannot copy genes from different species--that's why eukaryotes depend on sex to recombine their genomes.
"How has Galdieria managed to overcome this limitation? It's an exciting question."
What Galdieria did is "a dream come true for biotechnology," says Weber.
"Galdieria has acquired genes with interesting properties from different organisms, integrated them into a functional network and developed unique properties and adaptations."
In the future, genetic engineering may allow other algae to make use of the proteins that offer stress tolerance to Galdieria.
Such a development would be relevant to biofuel production, says Schoenknecht, as oil-producing algae don't yet have the ability to withstand the same extreme conditions as Galdieria.
A new study demonstrates what researchers consider conclusive evidence that the red wine compound resveratrol directly activates a protein that promotes health and longevity in animal models. What's more, the researchers have uncovered the molecular mechanism for this interaction, and show that a class of more potent drugs currently in clinical trials act in a similar fashion. Pharmaceutical compounds similar to resveratrol may potentially treat and prevent diseases related to aging in people, the authors contend.
These findings are published in the March 8 issue of Science.
For the last decade, the science of aging has increasingly focused on sirtuins, a group of genes that are believed to protect many organisms, including mammals, against diseases of aging. Mounting evidence has demonstrated that resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of grapes as well as in peanuts and berries, increases the activity of a specific sirtuin,SIRT1, that protects the body from diseases by revving up the mitochondria, a kind of cellular battery that slowly runs down as we age. By recharging the batteries, SIRT1 can have profound effects on health.
Mice on resveratrol have twice the endurance and are relatively immune from effects of obesity and aging. In experiments with yeast, nematodes, bees, flies and mice, lifespan has been extended.
"In the history of pharmaceuticals, there has never been a drug that binds to a protein to make it run faster in the way that resveratrol activates SIRT1," said David Sinclair, Harvard Medical School professor of genetics and senior author on the paper. "Almost all drugs either slow or block them."
In 2006, Sinclair's group published a study showing that resveratrol could extend the lifespan of mice, and the company Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which was started by HMS researchers, was founded to make drugs more potent than resveratrol. (Sinclair is a co-founder of Sirtris, a GlaxoSmithKline company, and remains a scientific advisor. Sirtris currently has a number of sirtuin-activating compounds in clinical trials.)
But while numerous studies, from Sinclair's lab and elsewhere, underscored a direct causal link between resveratrol and SIRT1, some scientists claimed the studies were flawed.
The contention lay in the way SIRT1 was studied in vitro, using a specific chemical group attached to the targets of SIRT1 that fluoresces more brightly as SIRT1 activity increases. This chemical group, however, is synthetic and does not exist in cells or in nature, and without it the experiments did not work. As a response to this, a paper published in 2010 surmised that resveratrol's activation of SIRT1 was an experimental artifact, one that existed in the lab, but not in an actual animal. SIRT1 activity in mice was, the paper claimed, at best an indirect result of resveratrol, and perhaps even a sheer coincidence.
As a result, a debate erupted over the particular pathway that resveratrol and similar compounds affected. Does resveratrol directly activate SIRT1 or is the effect indirect? "We had six years of work telling us that this was most definitely not an artifact," said Sinclair. "Still, we needed to figure out precisely how resveratrol works. The answer was extremely elegant."
Sinclair and Basil Hubbard, then a doctoral student in the lab, teamed up with a group of researchers from both the National Institutes of Health and Sirtris Pharmaceuticals to address this question.
First, the team addressed the problem of the fluorescent chemical group. Why was it required for resveratrol to rev up SIRT1 in the test tube? Instead of dismissing the result as an artifact, the researchers surmised that the chemical might be mimicking molecules found naturally in the cell. These turned out to be a specific class of amino acid, the building blocks of proteins. In nature, there are three amino acids that resemble the fluorescent chemical group, one of which is tryptophan, a molecule abundant in turkey and notable for inducing drowsiness. When researchers repeated the experiment, swapping the fluorescing chemical group on the substrate with a tryptophan residue, resveratrol and similar molecules were once again able to activate SIRT1.
"We discovered a signature for activation that is in fact found in the cell and doesn't require these other synthetic groups," said Hubbard, first author of the study. "This was a critical result, which allowed us to bridge the gap between our biochemical and physiological findings.
"Next, we needed to identify precisely how resveratrol presses on SIRT1's accelerator," said Sinclair. The team tested approximately 2,000 mutants of the SIRT1 gene, eventually identifying one mutant that completely blocked resveratrol's effect. The particular mutation resulted in the substitution of a single amino acid residue, out of the 747 that make up SIRT1. The researchers also tested hundreds of other molecules from the Sirtris library, many of which are far more powerful than resveratrol, against this mutant SIRT1. All failed to activate it.
The authors propose a model for how resveratrol works: When the molecule binds, a hinge flips, and SIRT1 becomes hyperactive.
Although these experiments occurred in a test tube, once the researchers identified the precise location of the accelerator pedal on SIRT1 -- and how to break it -- they could test their ideas in a cell. They replaced the normal SIRT1 gene in muscle and skin cells with the accelerator-dead mutant. Now they could test precisely whether resveratrol and the drugs in development work by tweaking SIRT1 (in which case they would not work) or one of the thousands of other proteins in a cell (in which they would work). While resveratrol and the drugs tested revved up mitochondria in normal cells (an effect caused activating by SIRT1), the mutant cells were completely immune.
"This was the killer experiment," said Sinclair. "There is no rational alternative explanation other than resveratrol directly activates SIRT1 in cells. Now that we know the exact location on SIRT1 where and how resveratrol works, we can engineer even better molecules that more precisely and effectively trigger the effects of resveratrol."
The researchers plan on continuing academic-industry collaborations with the goal of bringing to fruition drugs that treat diseases associated with aging.
This research was funded by the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, NIH and NIAID grants (RO1AG028730, PO1AG027211; RO1 AG019719), an NSERC fellowship, the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation, the Intramural Research Program, and NIH/NHLBI.
Sinclair is a consultant and inventor on patents licensed to Sirtris, a GSK company.
"Archaea are an ancient form of microorganisms, so everything we can learn about them could help us to answer questions about the origin of life," said William Whitman, a microbiology professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and co-author on the paper.
Felipe Sarmiento, lead author and doctoral student in the microbiology department, surveyed 1,779 genes found in the genome of Methanococcus maripaludis, aquatic archaea commonly found in sea marshes, to determine if they were essential or not and learn more about their functions. He found that roughly 30 percent, or 526 genes, were essential. We now know which genes are driving the most important functions of the cell. The results of the study were published March 4 in the PNAS Early Edition and were performed with Jan Mrázek, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics.
Although archaea are relatively simple organisms, the genetic systems they use to build cellular life are similar to those of more complicated eukaryotic cells found in complex organisms including animals and plants. For this reason, many scientists believe that eukaryotes evolved from ancient archaea.
These genetic systems are what allow information coded on DNA to build life.
"DNA by itself is a rock," Whitman said. "You need all these other systems to make the DNA become a living cell."
Because DNA is so fundamental to the modern cell, DNA synthesis has long been thought to be one of the most conserved processes in living organisms.
"It was a surprise when this study found that the system for making DNA was unique to the archaea," Whitman said. "Learning that it can change in the archaea suggest that ability to make DNA formed late in the evolution of life. Possibly, there may be unrecognized differences in DNA biosynthesis the eukaryotes or bacteria as well."
Other essential genes in these archaea are necessary for methane production. Methanogensis, or the process of making methane gas, is how these microorganisms make energy for life.
"Humans burn glucose and reduce oxygen to water, these guys burn hydrogen gas and reduce CO2 to methane," Whitman explained.
Methanogenesis requires six vitamins not commonly found in other organisms. Understanding how these vitamins are made and how they are involved in the process of changing carbon dioxide to methane sheds light on developing new and better processes for methane production for fuel.
"This was a general investigation, but there are many questions it can answer, like possibly making methane better or more efficiently," Whitman said.
The study yielded many other important results.
"We found 121 proteins that are essential for this organism that we know nothing about," Sarmiento said. "This finding asks questions about their functions and the specific roles that they are playing."
"We are starting to get some insights about how this organism was actually formed," Sarmiento said. "There is a lot of information and it is interesting because it gives insights into a complete domain of life."
After nearly a decade of careful observations an international team of astronomers has measured the distance to our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, more accurately than ever before. This new measurement also improves our knowledge of the rate of expansion of the Universe -- the Hubble Constant -- and is a crucial step towards understanding the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is causing the expansion to accelerate. The team used telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile as well as others around the globe. These results appear in the 7 March 2013 issue of the journal Nature.
Astronomers survey the scale of the Universe by first measuring the distances to close-by objects and then using them as standard candles  to pin down distances further and further out into the cosmos. But this chain is only as accurate as its weakest link. Up to now finding an accurate distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of the nearest galaxies to the Milky Way, has proved elusive. As stars in this galaxy are used to fix the distance scale for more remote galaxies, it is crucially important.
But careful observations of a rare class of double star have now allowed a team of astronomers to deduce a much more precise value for the LMC distance: 163 000 light-years.
"I am very excited because astronomers have been trying for a hundred years to accurately measure the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud, and it has proved to be extremely difficult," says Wolfgang Gieren (Universidad de Concepción, Chile) and one of the leaders of the team. "Now we have solved this problem by demonstrably having a result accurate to 2%."
The improvement in the measurement of the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud also gives better distances for many Cepheid variable stars . These bright pulsating stars are used as standard candles to measure distances out to more remote galaxies and to determine the expansion rate of the Universe -- the Hubble Constant. This in turn is the basis for surveying the Universe out to the most distant galaxies that can be seen with current telescopes. So the more accurate distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud immediately reduces the inaccuracy in current measurements of cosmological distances.
The astronomers worked out the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud by observing rare close pairs of stars, known as eclipsing binaries . As these stars orbit each other they pass in front of each other. When this happens, as seen from Earth, the total brightness drops, both when one star passes in front of the other and, by a different amount, when it passes behind .
By tracking these changes in brightness very carefully, and also measuring the stars' orbital speeds, it is possible to work out how big the stars are, their masses and other information about their orbits. When this is combined with careful measurements of the total brightness and colours of the stars  remarkably accurate distances can be found.
This method has been used before, but with hot stars. However, certain assumptions have to be made in this case and such distances are not as accurate as is desirable. But now, for the first time, eight extremely rare eclipsing binaries where both stars are cooler red giant stars have been identified . These stars have been studied very carefully and yield much more accurate distance values -- accurate to about 2%.
"ESO provided the perfect suite of telescopes and instruments for the observations needed for this project: HARPS for extremely accurate radial velocities of relatively faint stars, and SOFI for precise measurements of how bright the stars appeared in the infrared," adds Grzegorz Pietrzyński (Universidad de Concepción, Chile and Warsaw University Observatory, Poland), lead author of the new paper in Nature.
"We are working to improve our method still further and hope to have a 1% LMC distance in a very few years from now. This has far-reaching consequences not only for cosmology, but for many fields of astrophysics," concludes Dariusz Graczyk, the second author on the new Nature paper.
 Standard candles are objects of known brightness. By observing how bright such an object appears astronomers can work out the distance -- more distant objects appear fainter. Examples of such standard candles are Cepheid variables  and Type Ia supernovae. The big difficulty is calibrating the distance scale by finding relatively close examples of such objects where the distance can be determined by other means.
 Cepheid variables are bright unstable stars that pulsate and vary in brightness. But there is a very clear relationship between how quickly they change and how bright they are. Cepheids that pulsate more quickly are fainter than those that pulsate more slowly. This period-luminosity relation allows them to be used as standard candles to measure the distances of nearby galaxies.
 This work is part of the long-term Araucaria Project to improve measurements of the distances to nearby galaxies.
 The exact light variations depend on the relative sizes of the stars, their temperatures and colours and the details of the orbit.
 The colours are measured by comparing the brightness of the stars at different near-infrared wavelengths.
 These stars were found by searching the 35 million LMC stars that were studied by the OGLE project
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified patterns of epigenomic diversity that not only allow plants to adapt to various environments, but could also benefit crop production and the study of human diseases.
Published March 6 in Nature, the findings show that in addition to genetic diversity found in plants throughout the world, their epigenomic makeup is as varied as the environments in which they are found. Epigenomics is the study of the pattern of chemical markers that serve as a regulatory layer on top of the DNA sequence. Depending on where they grow, the plants' epigenomic differences may allow them to rapidly adapt to their environments.
Epigenomic modifications alter gene expression without changing the letters of the DNA alphabet (A-T-C-G), providing cells with an additional tool to fine-tune how genes control the cellular machinery. These changes occur not only in plants, but in humans as well.
"We looked at plants collected from around the world and found that their epigenomes are surprisingly different," says senior author Joseph R. Ecker, a professor in Salk's Plant Biology Laboratory and holder of the Salk International Council Chair in Genetics. "This additional diversity may create a way for plants to rapidly adapt to diverse environments without any genetic change in their DNA, which takes a very long time."
By understanding epigenomic alterations in plants, scientists may be able to manipulate them for various purposes, including biofuels and creating crops that can withstand stressful events such as drought. That knowledge of epigenomic changes in crop plants could tell producers what to breed for and could have a huge impact on identifying plants that can survive certain conditions and adapt to environmental stressors, says Ecker, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator.
Using MethylC-Seq, a method for mapping epigenomic changes developed by Ecker, the researchers analyzed methylation patterns from a population of Arabidopsis thaliana, a modest mustard weed that has become to plant biology what laboratory mice are to animal biology. The plants were from a variety of climates in the Northern Hemisphere, from Europe to Asia and Sweden to the Cape Verde Islands. Ecker's team examined the genomes and methylomes of A. thaliana, the makeup of their entire genetic and epigenomic codes, respectively, which is the first step toward understanding the impact of epigenetic changes on the plants' physical characteristics and ability to adapt to their environment.
"We expected variation in methylation patterns among groups of plants from around the globe," says co-lead author Robert J. Schmitz, a postdoctoral researcher in Ecker's lab. "The amount, however, was far greater than we ever anticipated."
By analyzing these patterns, Ecker's team was able to chart their effects on the activity of genes in the plants' genome. Scientists know that methylation can inactivate genes, but in contrast to DNA mutations, methylation patterns are reversible, giving the plants the ability to temporarily activate genes. The identification of genes that are epigenetically regulated has greatly narrowed the potential candidates important for environmental adaptation.
Methylation silencing also occurs in humans -- and that has implications for treating cancer, a hallmark of which is the silencing of tumor suppressor genes. "If these genes are turned off by the epigenome, they could potentially be turned back on by removing the DNA methylation," says study co-lead author Matthew Schultz, a graduate student in Ecker's lab. Understanding how these methylation variants form in the wild will help toward better engineering of epigenomes.
Ecker's team will next study how methylation variations affect the traits of plants. They will examine stress-induced epigenomic changes and how they might provide clues as to which alterations are most important for the plants.
The world has suffered from severe regional weather extremes in recent years, such as the heat wave in the United States in 2011 or the one in Russia 2010 coinciding with the unprecedented Pakistan flood. Behind these devastating individual events there is a common physical cause, propose scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The study will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggests that man-made climate change repeatedly disturbs the patterns of atmospheric flow around the globe's Northern hemisphere through a subtle resonance mechanism.
"An important part of the global air motion in the mid-latitudes of the Earth normally takes the form of waves wandering around the planet, oscillating between the tropical and the Arctic regions. So when they swing up, these waves suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the US, and when they swing down, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic," explains lead author Vladimir Petoukhov.
"What we found is that during several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks. So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays. In fact, we observe a strong amplification of the usually weak, slowly moving component of these waves," says Petoukhov. Time is critical here: two or three days of 30 degrees Celsius are no problem, but twenty or more days lead to extreme heat stress. Since many ecosystems and cities are not adapted to this, prolonged hot periods can result in a high death toll, forest fires, and dramatic harvest losses.
Anomalous surface temperatures are disturbing the air flows
Climate change caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning does not mean uniform global warming -- in the Arctic, the relative increase of temperatures, amplified by the loss of snow and ice, is higher than on average. This in turn reduces the temperature difference between the Arctic and, for example, Europe, yet temperature differences are a main driver of air flow. Additionally, continents generally warm and cool more readily than the oceans. "These two factors are crucial for the mechanism we detected," says Petoukhov. "They result in an unnatural pattern of the mid-latitude air flow, so that for extended periods the slow synoptic waves get trapped."
The authors of the study developed equations that describe the wave motions in the extra-tropical atmosphere and show under what conditions those waves can grind to a halt and get amplified. They tested their assumptions using standard daily weather data from the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). During recent periods in which several major weather extremes occurred, the trapping and strong amplification of particular waves -- like "wave seven" (which has seven troughs and crests spanning the globe) -- was indeed observed. The data show an increase in the occurrence of these specific atmospheric patterns, which is statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level.
The probability of extremes increases -- but other factors come in as well
"Our dynamical analysis helps to explain the increasing number of novel weather extremes. It complements previous research that already linked such phenomena to climate change, but did not yet identify a mechanism behind it," says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK and co-author of the study. "This is quite a breakthrough, even though things are not at all simple -- the suggested physical process increases the probability of weather extremes, but additional factors certainly play a role as well, including natural variability." Also, the 32-year period studied in the project provides a good indication of the mechanism involved, yet is too short for definite conclusions.
Nevertheless, the study significantly advances the understanding of the relation between weather extremes and human-made climate change. Scientists were surprised by how far outside past experience some of the recent extremes have been. The new data show that the emergence of extraordinary weather is not just a linear response to the mean warming trend, and the proposed mechanism could explain that.
Results of the PREDIMED study, aimed at assessing the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases, have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine. They show that the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts reduces by 30 percent the risk of suffering a cardiovascular death, a myocardial infarction or a stroke.
The study has been coordinated by the researcher Ramon Estruch, from the Faculty of Medicine of the UB and the Hospital Clínic -- affiliated centres with the health campus of the UB, HUBc -- and has had the collaboration of the professor Rosa M. Lamuela and her team from the Natural Antioxidant Research Group of the Faculty of Pharmacy -- located at the campus of international excellence BKC -- which determined the biomarkers of Mediterranean diet consumption.
The research is part of the project PREDIMED, a multicentre trial carried out between 2003 and 2011 to study the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The study was funded by the Carlos III Health Institute by means of the cooperative research thematic network (RETIC RD06/0045) and the CIBER of Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn).
A total of 7,447 people following major cardiovascular risk factors participated in the study. They were divided into three dietary intervention groups: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts), and a low-fat diet (animal and vegetable). A dietician visited the patients every three months and they attended dietary training group sessions, in which they received detailed information about the Mediterranean and the low-fat diet, and the food included in each one. Moreover, they were provided with shopping lists, menus and recipes adapted to each type of diet and each season of the year.
During the study, those participants who followed any of the two types of Mediterranean diet received freely extra-virgin olive oil (one litre per week), and nuts (30 grams per day; 15 grams of walnuts, 7.5 grams of almonds and 7.5 grams of hazelnuts).
After five years, it has been proved that participants who followed any of the two types of Mediterranean diet showed a substantial reduction in the risk of suffering a cardiovascular death, a myocardial infarction or a stroke.
According to the researchers, the results of PREDIMED study are relevant as they prove that a high-vegetable fat diet is healthier at a cardiovascular level than a low-fat diet. The authors state that the study has been controversial as it provides new data to reject the idea that it is necessary to reduce fats in order to improve cardiovascular health.
Hopefully, these results will provide new references to prevent cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the design and methodology used can be easily transferred to the biomedical sector.
The study had the collaboration of several researchers from the Hospital Clínic, the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), the faculties of Medicine of the universities Rovira i Virgili, Navarra, Valencia, Canary Islands and Malaga, as well as the University Hospital Son Espases of Palma, the Fats Institute in Seville, and the primary health care networks of Barcelona, Seville, Tarragona and Valencia.
The 12th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference was held in Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt on 6-7 February 2013. Heads of States and Governments of 17 member countries attended the Summit. The other member countries were represented at the level of the Prime Ministers and/or Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The Summit aims at jointly reviewing the international situation in the political, economic and social fields and analysing the impact on the Muslim Ummah under the overall theme "The Muslim World: New Challenges & Expanding Opportunities". The Heads of Delegations of the member countries discussed and deliberated on a number of political and socio-economic issues of importance to the Muslim World. The Summit was preceded by a preparatory meeting of the Senior Officials on 2-3 February, and by a preparatory meeting of the Foreign Ministers on 4-5 February.
In the political field, the Palestinian question and Israeli settlements was on top of the political issues, followed by the situation in Syria, Mali and other conflict member countries. Also the issues of combating terrorism, defamation of Devine religions, facing Islamophobia and Muslim Communities and Minorities were among other political issues. On the other hand, a number of economic, social and cultural issues were also reviewed and discussed aimed at alleviation of poverty and accelerating development in OIC member countries and addressing challenges facing the Muslim Ummah and preserving its interests. These issues include among others, economic cooperation under the agenda of the COMCEC, science and technology, higher education, health, environment and climate change.
The summit adopted “Cairo Final Communique” together with a set of Resolutions on various political, socio-economic and cultural issues. The 13th Session of the Islamic Summit is decided to be convened in the Republic of Turkey in 2016. The Summit also decided to appoint the candidate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani as Secretary General of the OIC for 5 years with effect from 1 January 2014. All the documents of the Summit are available at the Summit official website: www.oicegypt.org.
The Director General, Prof. Savas Alpay conducting an interview with the
Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Secretary General of the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW), delivered a lecture titled “ISESCO’s Role in the Development of the Ummah”, today at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). At the beginning of his lecture, Dr Altwaijri reviewed the major stages ISESCO has gone through since its inception in 1982, while highlighting the objectives set forth in its Charter. He also underlined that the vital fields in which ISESCO is operating are not confined to the Muslim world, but extend to the world as a whole, considering that the Organization performs a major civilizational mission.
Besides, ISESCO Director General pointed out that the Organization takes particular care in publicizing the correct image of Islam and Islamic culture, promoting dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions, and working towards spreading the values of justice and peace along with the principles of freedom and human rights, in accordance with the Islamic civilizational perspective.
In addition, Dr Altwaijri said that the action ISESCO carries out in this field is beneficial to the whole Muslim Ummah, as it is part and parcel of the action aimed at the promotion of the Ummah’s comprehensive development. He also stated that the integrated approach adopted by ISESCO is based on three pillars, namely taking further interest in Islamic culture, highlighting its specificities and publicizing its landmarks through intellectual studies, scientific research and educational curricula; working for establishing complementarity and correlation among the educational systems of the Member States; and supporting the efforts of the educational, scientific and cultural institutions for Muslims in non-Member States of ISESCO.
In the same vein, ISESCO Director General tackled the linguistic, economic and political connotations of development, while stressing that development has, at the international level, embraced a broader sense with the adoption of the concept of comprehensive sustainable development. He also reviewed the set of commitments which highlight the determination of the international community to support all efforts geared to comprehensive sustainable development across the world, while emphasizing that these commitments, in terms of their depth and their political, economic, social and cultural dimensions, converge, in one way or another, with the key areas of ISESCO’s action aimed at achieving comprehensive sustainable development of Muslim societies, namely education, science, culture comprehensive sustainable.
“ISESCO is actively involved in the multifaceted international efforts to develop a global partnership for development, where the Islamic world would be fully involved with its various resources, capabilities, and potentials. Meanwhile, the Organization contributes, within the remit of its competence and resources, to the implementation of the Ten-Year Programme of Action to Meet the Challenges facing the Muslim Ummah in the 21st Century”, Dr Altwaijri said.
In the second part of his lecture, ISESCO Director General touched upon the objectives and contents of ISESCO’s new three-year Action Plan, which was adopted by its 11th General Conference, last December in Riyadh. He also explained that the various issues which ISESCO will strive to address under specific programmes and activities to be implemented within the framework of a sound action plan and well-thought projects, based on a clear vision and with a deep sense of responsibility, reflect the importance of the support the Organization devotes to development efforts in the Islamic world, with a view to ensuring progress for the Muslim Ummah.
At the close of his lecture, Dr Altwaijri stated that the role of ISESCO consists in sharing realistic thinking, rational theoretical work, future planning, and general guidance through the implementation of its action plans. “In this sense”, he went on saying, “the Organization constitutes a large pool of high-level expertise in the fields of education, science, culture and communication, environment and childhood, which provides its services to Islamic countries, with the aim of strengthening their capacities and boosting performance of their national policies in such vital areas”.
Moreover, ISESCO Director General underlined that ISESCO, being an integral part of the system of joint Islamic action within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, is committed to assisting Member States in developing their national policies in the areas that fall within the ambit of the Organization, as well as implementing and developing these policies while assuring their quality at all levels.
Concluding his lecture, Dr Altwaijri said, “the major challenges facing the present and future of our Ummah call for promoting concerted efforts at all levels, and mobilizing all active energies in Muslim societies, in order to address them with wisdom, courage and a strong sense of Islamic solidarity”.
BOSTON — Chances are you know what's good for you — daily exercise, avoiding tempting sweets and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. But chances are, you don't follow this advice.
So why is it so difficult to make healthy choices? Partly, it's because humans have a natural bias for rewards that come sooner (a piece of chocolate cake you can eat today) rather than later (a reduced risk of heart disease), said David Laibson, a professor of economics at Harvard University.
Because of this bias, simply giving people information — such as how many calories are in their latte or hamburger — doesn't typically change their behavior, Laibson said. This explains why efforts to post calorie information in restaurants and fast food chains don't usually change how many calories people consume, studies show.
But there may be ways to help people follow through with their good intentions, Laibson said.
In recent studies, Laibson and colleagues have found that simple things like asking people to write down a plan for when they will do something can improve their adherence to healthy behaviors.
For instance, in one study, Laibson and colleagues gave people a leaflet telling them when and where to get a flu shot. If that leaflet also asked them to write down the date and time they planned to go (by providing a box to write this information), the percentage of people who actually went to get a flu shot increased from 33 percent to 37 percent.
While this is a relatively small increase, it took just "a few drops of ink" to the leaflet, he said, and future studies should explore whether other types of interventions have an even greater impact on behavior.
Laibson said his studies focus on how to get consumers, rather than product makers, to change, because those who make foods and beverages are responsive to their customers.
Laibson discussed his work this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
Work from other researchers has found that unconscious factors, such as the size of plates used for eating, can contribute to how much we eat, and using smaller plates reduces consumption.
Jeddah, KSA, 17.02. 2013- The IDB and the Global Dry Land Alliance (GDLA) will hold an Experts Group Meeting at the IDB Headquarters in Jeddah during 18-20 February to address the challenges facing dry land countries. Key speakers and dignitaries expected at the EGM include the Executive Director of GDLA, Ambassador Bader Al-Dafa, and renowned US scholar and development expert Professor Jeffery Sachs. Ahead of the meeting, Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, Chairman, IDB Group who will preside over the EGM
said “the Global Dry Land Alliance presents an excellent opportunity for countries suffering from the problems of dry lands to come together, share ideas and take practical steps towards boosting food security.
According to Ambassador Bader Al-Dafa “ the issues we face are daunting especially in the wake of land degradation due to population growth and environmental conditions and require immediate scientific and sustainable solution. The EGM is expected to identify a practical framework and develop solutions that would help boost food security”.
Representatives from the World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, United Nation Development Programme, Food and Agricultural Organization and other multilateral development institutions are expected to attend the meeting. The GDLA is an initiative of the Qatari government with the support of the United Nations to provide a global mechanism to ensure sustainable solidarity among the countries that suffer from dry lands. At the moment, the GDLA comprises countries in the
Middle East and North Africa region, as well as Mexico, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Namibia.
University at Buffalo engineers have created a more efficient way to catch rainbows, an advancement in photonics that could lead to technological breakthroughs in solar energy, stealth technology and other areas of research.
Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UB, and a team of graduate students described their work in a paper called "Rainbow Trapping in Hyperbolic Metamaterial Waveguide," published Feb. 13 in the online journal Scientific Reports.
They developed a "hyperbolic metamaterial waveguide," which is essentially an advanced microchip made of alternate ultra-thin films of metal and semiconductors and/or insulators. The waveguide halts and ultimately absorbs each frequency of light, at slightly different places in a vertical direction, to catch a "rainbow" of wavelengths.
Gan is a researcher within UB's new Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics.
"Electromagnetic absorbers have been studied for many years, especially for military radar systems," Gan said. "Right now, researchers are developing compact light absorbers based on optically thick semiconductors or carbon nanotubes. However, it is still challenging to realize the perfect absorber in ultra-thin films with tunable absorption band.
"We are developing ultra-thin films that will slow the light and therefore allow much more efficient absorption, which will address the long existing challenge."
Light is made of photons that, because they move extremely fast (i.e., at the speed of light), are difficult to tame. In their initial attempts to slow light, researchers relied upon cryogenic gases. But because cryogenic gases are very cold -- roughly 240 degrees below zero Fahrenheit -- they are difficult to work with outside a laboratory.
Before joining UB, Gan helped pioneer a way to slow light without cryogenic gases. He and other researchers at Lehigh University made nano-scale-sized grooves in metallic surfaces at different depths, a process that altered the optical properties of the metal. While the grooves worked, they had limitations. For example, the energy of the incident light cannot be transferred onto the metal surface efficiently, which hampered its use for practical applications, Gan said.
The hyperbolic metamaterial waveguide solves that problem because it is a large area of patterned film that can collect the incident light efficiently. It is referred to as an artificial medium with subwavelength features whose frequency surface is hyperboloid, which allows it to capture a wide range of wavelengths in different frequencies including visible, near-infrared, mid-infrared, terahertz and microwaves.
It could lead to advancements in an array of fields.
For example, in electronics there is a phenomenon known as crosstalk, in which a signal transmitted on one circuit or channel creates an undesired effect in another circuit or channel. The on-chip absorber could potentially prevent this.
The on-chip absorber may also be applied to solar panels and other energy-harvesting devices. It could be especially useful in mid-infrared spectral regions as thermal absorber for devices that recycle heat after sundown, Gan said.
Technology such as the Stealth bomber involves materials that make planes, ships and other devices invisible to radar, infrared, sonar and other detection methods. Because the on-chip absorber has the potential to absorb different wavelengths at a multitude of frequencies, it could be useful as a stealth coating material.
Additional authors of the paper include Haifeng Hu, Dengxin Ji, Xie Zeng and Kai Liu, all PhD candidates in UB's Department of Electrical Engineering. The work was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UB's electrical engineering department.
In a sweeping review of the field of bio-inspired engineering and biomimicry in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science, two engineers at the University of California, San Diego, identify three characteristics of biological materials that they believe engineers would do well to emulate in human-made materials: light weight, toughness and strength.
Joanna McKittrick and Marc Meyers, from the materials science program at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, examine the three characteristics in a wide range of materials, from spider silk, to lobster and abalone shells, to toucan beaks and porcupine quills. Lessons learned from these materials could lead to better body armor, lighter aircraft and stronger, more flexible materials, researchers said.
3-D printing offers new opportunities to fabricate these materials, engineers said. "An abalone doesn't grow a shell overnight," McKittrick said. "But you could build a material similar to the abalone shell using principles we learned from nature by printing layer upon layer of mineral deposits -- and do it much faster than nature would."
Meyers and McKittrick have been studying bio-inspired designs for more than a decade and were commissioned to write a research review on the topic by Science. Over the years, they have used a wide array of advanced tools, from X-ray diffraction to electron microscopy; and developed tests of materials' mechanical properties at the nanoscale, to understand the underlying structure of materials found in animals and plants.
"Mother Nature gives us templates," said McKittrick. "We are trying to understand them better so we can implement them in new materials."
"We outline the mechanisms that can help us elucidate the properties of biological materials," Meyers said.
Bio-inspired designs have been a part of science and engineering for a long time -- from the legend of Icarus, to Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machines, inspired by birds, to modern-day materials such as Velcro, Meyers pointed out.
Tough materials: the importance of interfaces
Tough materials deflect cracks by erecting various obstacles that prevent cracks from propagating in a straight line. Materials in nature use various strategies to achieve this result. One is to embed stretchy collagen fibers in brittle minerals. Another is the use of interfaces between layers of materials to create obstacles.
For example, at the nanoscale, an abalone shell is made of thousands of layers of "tiles" made of calcium carbonate (more commonly known as chalk), about 10 micrometers across and 0.5 micrometer thick -- about one-one hundredth the thickness of a strand of human hair. The irregular stacks of thin tiles refract light to yield the characteristic luster of mother of pearl. They are organized in a highly ordered brick-like structure arranged in the toughest configuration theoretically possible.
A key to the strength of the abalone shell, Meyers said, is a protein adhesive that binds to the top and bottom surfaces of the calcium carbonate tiles. The glue is strong enough to hold layers of tiles firmly together, but weak enough to permit the layers to slip apart, absorbing the energy of a heavy blow in the process. Abalones quickly fill in fissures due to impacts, and they also deposit "growth bands" of organic material during seasonal lulls in shell growth. The growth bands further strengthen the shells. Meyers believes that designs inspired by the structure of the abalone shell could help improve advanced ceramic materials in the future.
Lightweight structures: shells and foams
Animals have developed incredibly light yet tough structures compatible with motion, including flight. Think of bird feathers, porcupine quills and bird beaks. These structures are made of materials that don't bend while being as light as possible. Most are made of tube-like structures with a fairly large diameter. But when the tubes' diameter reaches a certain size, they become increasingly likely to buckle. To increase resistance to buckling, the tubes are then filled with a foam-like substance.
For example, the interior of the toucan's beak is rigid "foam" made of bony fibers and drum-like membranes sandwiched between outer layers of keratin, the protein that makes up fingernails, hair and horn. The result is solid "foam" made of air-tight cells that gives the beak additional rigidity. Like a house covered by a shingled roof, the foam is covered with overlapping keratin tiles, each about 50 micrometers in diameter and 1 micrometer thick, which are glued together to produce sheets.
Meyers said the bio-composite found in the toucan's beak could inspire the design of ultra-light aircraft and vehicle components.
The researchers also describe other strategies to make lightweight objects. Some bird wing bones have strut-like structures inside them as reinforcements. Bamboo is made of segments that don't crack.
"Natural systems are built from so few elements, yet they use ingenious ways to assemble all these different materials to maximize their properties," McKittrick said.
Strong materials: the importance of biopolymers
Biopolymers, such as collagen, are a key component of strong natural materials. At lower stress levels, they can undergo considerable stretching, their molecules uncoiling and unkinking, without breaking. At higher stress levels, it's the polymer's backbone itself that stretches. These biopolymers are found between stiff minerals, giving materials their natural strength.
For example, spider silk has both high tensile strength and extensibility. "It's stronger than almost any material," Meyers said. The silk is made of pleated sheets of nanocrystals connected by weak hydrogen bonds and embedded in protein strands. Under low stress, the protein strands uncoil and straighten, much like biopolymers. Under larger stress, the load gets transferred to the nanocrystals. If necessary, some of the hydrogen bonds slip, allowing the structure to stretch without breaking. Silk's reliance on hydrogen bonds for strength suggests that researchers may need to pursue new avenues to engineer stronger materials, Meyers said. Incidentally, similar structures can be found in bone, where sacrificial hydrogen bonds between mineralized collagen fibrils impart excellent fracture resistance.
More complex strong structures can be found in everything from wool to whelk eggs.
Real-life examples of bioinspired materials and design
Beyond Velcro, there are multiple examples of bio-inspired materials and design. Swimsuits for competitive swimmers were built to replicate the ridges that reduce drag on shark skin (and were later banned from competition). Researchers at MIT have developed a surgical tape based on the structure of the gecko's sticky paws. Irregularities found on whale fins reduce drag and are now used in turbine blade designs.
Researchers believe more, and better, materials are yet to come.
"There are a tremendous number of examples of things we can't do with traditional materials," McKittrick said. "It's going to take more time to make these bio-inspired materials. But they will be better."
"This field is here to stay," Meyers said.
Together with colleagues from the international rheumatic diseases research community, scientists of the Charite -- Universitatsmedizin Berlin have presented a new therapy approach for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic form of joint inflammation.
The new therapy study was especially directed at patients who showed no adequate response to conventional treatment with tumor-necrosis-factor directed reagents (anti TNF). The new approach represents a combined form of treatment with the medication Methotrexat and Tofacitinib.
The results were recently published in the medical journal The Lancet.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a widespread autoimmune disorder where long lasting inflammatory processes cause strong pain and gradually destroy the joints of the patients affected.
In the majority of RA patients, there is an enhanced level of a certain cytokine in the body, the so-called tumor-necrosis-factor (TNF). This mediator is formed by immune cells, and is, among other factors responsible for the painful symptoms.
The treatment with anti-TNF agents neutralises the signal effects of TNF and thus alleviates the suffering of those affected. However, should such a treatment show no effect, then alternative treatment methods have to be applied. During the course of a six month study, 399 patients in 13 countries participated, who were suffering from a moderate to severe form of rheumatoid arthritis.
They were all treated with a combination of Methotrexat, a standard drug for the treatment of RA and Tofacitinib, a new type of medication which can be administered orally as a tablet. Tofacitinib is a kinase inhibitor, which inhibits special enzymes which are involved in the inflammatory reactions in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. When the so-called Janus kinases are inhibited, painful immune reactions are reduced.
This current study has shown that the combination of Methotrexat and Tofacitinib has a high degree of efficacy in the treatment of RA, even in patients, who failed to react to standard treatment of severe cases with anti TNF agents.
After half a year, the additional administration of the new medication led to an improvement in the initial symptoms in more than half of the patients. This meant that conditions of painful joint inflammation can now be efficiently treated with this drug, even in cases that had been refractory to anti-TNF treatment.
Prof. Burmester, the Principal Investigator of the Study views the results as a highly effective alternative in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. As a next step, long-term examinations are to be initiated, for the purpose of recording the effectiveness and the compatibility as well as any possible risks of the new combination therapy.
Research by Loughborough University physicists casts new light on Saturn's moonlets -- and could help solve some of the mysteries surrounding planet formation.
Saturn's F ring has long been of interest to scientists as its features rapid change on timescales from hours to years, and it is probably the only location in the solar system where large scale collisions happen on a daily basis.
When CASSINI began imaging the Saturn system back in 2006 the discovery of a proliferation of moonlets -- small natural satellites -- in Saturn's F ring was an unexpected find. Powerful tidal forces were thought to minimize the clumping of particles necessary to create these moonlets and scientists were at a loss to explain the high population in Saturn's rings.
As the processes at work in Saturn's rings are comparable to those of a protoplanetary disk, understanding them could be key to unlocking the secrets of our own solar system. Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Loughborough's Department of Physics have revealed a new computer model which could help solve this mystery.
"Saturn's rings offer a nearby astrophysical laboratory to study and observe -- in real time -- many mechanisms and processes theorised to take place in astrophysical disks with the use of the CASSINI space craft," explains Loughborough physicist Phil Sutton. "And Saturn's F ring is probably the most active in the solar system. That's why we think it is so fascinating."
Work on Saturn's F ring, the outermost of the dense rings, has shown that the nearby 'shepherd' moon Prometheus directly influences the formation of moonlets in the ring itself. These moonlets can themselves create structures within the F ring. The interaction between Prometheus and the F ring transpires because of the difference in alignment of the elliptical F ring and the elliptical orbit of Prometheus. Over time changes in the rotational axis alters this alignment, resulting in very close approaches to the F ring by Prometheus. During the closest approaches over the course of one orbital period Prometheus moves towards and then back away from the F ring, creating structures known as streamer-channels.
Previous numerical modelling has used a massless F ring (where particles were non-interacting with each other) interacting with Prometheus and showed that the density of particles at streamer-channel edges increased over a series of orbital periods after the original encounter. However, the modelling did not account for the fast growth of moonlets necessary to explain the large population observed by CASSINI.
"In our paper we report the results of our numerical modelling that assumed an F ring with mass where all particles were gravitationally interacting," Mr Sutton explains. "What we see is an accelerated growth of the density seen at the same places on the streamer-channel edges than previously reported. This increase is around 5% each orbital period for the first five orbits, compared with a 0% increase for the same regions over the same time period using the non- interacting model.
"Where all the particles in the F ring interact with each other we see a more fluid-like motion. It is this fluid-like motion that creates turbulence and subsequent vortices within the F ring as a perpendicular force to the flow (Prometheus) disrupts it.
"Vortices have extensively been shown to offer an accelerated mechanism for planetesimal formation in protoplanetary disks, concentrating particle towards their centres. Here we can show that the same idea can be applied to moonlet formation within Saturn's rings - especially the F ring where tidal forces are constantly trying to destroy clumps or moonlets -- and could provide a mechanism that would allow the proliferation of moonlets observed by CASSINI."
A new study using observations from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope reveals the first clear-cut evidence the expanding debris of exploded stars produces some of the fastest-moving matter in the universe. This discovery is a major step toward understanding the origin of cosmic rays, one of Fermi's primary mission goals.
"Scientists have been trying to find the sources of high-energy cosmic rays since their discovery a century ago," said Elizabeth Hays, a member of the research team and Fermi deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Now we have conclusive proof supernova remnants, long the prime suspects, really do accelerate cosmic rays to incredible speeds."
Cosmic rays are subatomic particles that move through space at almost the speed of light. About 90 percent of them are protons, with the remainder consisting of electrons and atomic nuclei. In their journey across the galaxy, the electrically charged particles are deflected by magnetic fields. This scrambles their paths and makes it impossible to trace their origins directly.
Through a variety of mechanisms, these speedy particles can lead to the emission of gamma rays, the most powerful form of light and a signal that travels to us directly from its sources.
Since its launch in 2008, Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has mapped million- to billion-electron-volt (MeV to GeV) gamma-rays from supernova remnants. For comparison, the energy of visible light is between 2 and 3 electron volts.
The Fermi results concern two particular supernova remnants, known as IC 443 and W44, which scientists studied to prove supernova remnants produce cosmic rays. IC 443 and W44 are expanding into cold, dense clouds of interstellar gas. These clouds emit gamma rays when struck by high-speed particles escaping the remnants.
Scientists previously could not determine which atomic particles are responsible for emissions from the interstellar gas clouds because cosmic ray protons and electrons give rise to gamma rays with similar energies. After analyzing four years of data, Fermi scientists see a distinguishable feature in the gamma-ray emission of both remnants. The feature is caused by a short-lived particle called a neutral pion, which is produced when cosmic ray protons smash into normal protons. The pion quickly decays into a pair of gamma rays, emission that exhibits a swift and characteristic decline at lower energies. The low-end cutoff acts as a fingerprint, providing clear proof that the culprits in IC 443 and W44 are protons.
"The discovery is the smoking gun that these two supernova remnants are producing accelerated protons," said lead researcher Stefan Funk, an astrophysicist with the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University in Calif. "Now we can work to better understand how they manage this feat and determine if the process is common to all remnants where we see gamma-ray emission."
In 1949, the Fermi telescope's namesake, physicist Enrico Fermi, suggested the highest-energy cosmic rays were accelerated in the magnetic fields of interstellar gas clouds. In the decades that followed, astronomers showed supernova remnants were the galaxy's best candidate sites for this process.
A charged particle trapped in a supernova remnant's magnetic field moves randomly throughout the field and occasionally crosses through the explosion's leading shock wave. Each round trip through the shock ramps up the particle's speed by about 1 percent. After many crossings, the particle obtains enough energy to break free and escape into the galaxy as a newborn cosmic ray.
The supernova remnant IC 443, popularly known as the Jellyfish Nebula, is located 5,000 light-years away toward the constellation Gemini and is thought to be about 10,000 years old. W44 lies about 9,500 light-years away toward the constellation Aquila and is estimated to be 20,000 years old. Each is the expanding shock wave and debris formed when a massive star exploded.
The Fermi discovery builds on a strong hint of neutral pion decay in W44 observed by the Italian Space Agency's AGILE gamma ray observatory and published in late 2011.
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership. Goddard manages Fermi. The telescope was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, with contributions from academic institutions and partners in the United States France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.
A space rock a few metres across exploded in Earth's atmosphere above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia today at about 03:15 GMT. The numerous injuries and significant damage remind us that what happens in space can affect us all.
While precise information on the size, mass and composition of the object are yet to be confirmed, videos show a fireball and explosion consistent with an asteroid up to a few metres in size exploding in the atmosphere, possibly several to ten kilometres above the surface.
In this type of event, if the explosion altitude is less than 10 km or so, the resulting shockwave can cause damage on the ground, such as shattering windows. Debris from the object may be found later.
"Current information, which is not yet complete nor confirmed, points to a small asteroid," said Detlef Koschny, Head of Near-Earth Object activity at ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office.
"There is no way it could have been predicted with the technical means available today. What can be said with near certainty is that this object has no connection with asteroid 2012 DA14."
Asteroid 2012 DA14 made a close flyby of Earth at 19:27 GMT (20:27 CET) today.
Finding objects that pass close to our planet and are large enough to do damage if they enter our atmosphere is a major goal of ESA's SSA programme.
In addition to conducting its own sky searches using ESA's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife, Spain, SSA is partnering with existing European and international asteroid survey activities.
It also sponsors astronomer groups in Europe, supporting surveys carried out with their own equipment or allocating observation time on its Tenerife telescope. The office also provides access to orbit predictions, close flyby details and related data via its technical website at http://neo.ssa.esa.int
"Today's event is a strong reminder of why we need continuous efforts to survey and identify near-Earth objects," said Thomas Reiter, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.
"Our SSA programme is developing a system of automated optical telescopes that can detect asteroids and other objects in solar orbits."
In cooperation with survey efforts worldwide, ESA's goal is to spot near-Earth objects larger than 40 m at least three weeks before closest approach to our planet.
To achieve this, ESA, European industry and partner agencies are developing a system of automated 1 m-diameter telescopes capable of imaging the complete sky in one night.
In addition to Russian media, who reported immediately, all media worldwide have published images of notable damage around Chelyabinsk, and reports also mention numerous casualties.
"Our most sincere sympathies are with those suffering injury and property loss due to this event in Russia," added Thomas Reiter.