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Monthly Archives: February 2018

A genetic trigger adds branches to plants, could boost crop yields

Discovery of Shoot Branching Regulator Targeting Strigolactone Receptor DWARF14

ACS Blog- Genetic trigger_28-2-2018

A molecule, DL1, can spur plants such as the flower shown above to have more branches, which could make crops produce fruit more efficiently.

Credit: American Chemical Society

When it comes to agriculture from branched plants, such as apple trees, the more branches that bear fruit, the better. But in the real world, there’s a limit to the number of branches that plants make — a gene tends to put the brakes on this splitting process called shoot branching. Today in ACS Central Science, researchers reveal a chemical that can reverse this limitation, possibly leading to improved crop production.

Previous studies of a plant hormone that inhibits shoot branching resulted in the identification of a regulator gene called D14. Shinya Hagihara, Yuichiro Tsuchiya, and colleagues reasoned that if they could inhibit this regulator, they could do the opposite and increase branching. Tsuchiya and Hagihara’s teams developed a screen in which they could monitor the shoot branching activity based on whether a reporter chemical called Yoshimulactone Green (YLG) glowed green. By screening a library of 800 compounds, the researchers found that 18 of them inhibited D14 by 70 percent or more. Of these, one called DL1 was particularly active and specific. This inhibitor could increase shoot branching in both a type of flower and in rice. In preparation for DL1’s use as a potential commercial agrochemical, the team is now testing how long the chemicals last in the soil and are investigating whether it is toxic to humans.

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Physical Review Materials- APS Physics

Prediction, Synthesis, Processing, Structure, Properties and Modeling a wide range of materials

physical review

Physical Review Materials (PRMaterials), launched in 2017, is a broad-scope journal publishing high-quality research on materials. The journal serves the multidisciplinary community working on the prediction, synthesis, processing, structure, properties, and modeling of a wide range of materials.

Embracing Multidisciplinary Materials Research
By Scientists, For Scientists
Editorial Board
Editorial Staff
High Visibility and Impact
Editorial and Publishing Policies

PRMaterials Scope

PRMaterials covers a wide range of topics on materials research, including:

  • Prediction, synthesis, design, and modeling of materials
  • Crystal growth, film growth, crystallization, and kinetics
  • Magnetic, ferroelectric, multiferroic, and superconducting materials
  • Thin films, interfaces, surfaces, and heterostructures
  • Two-dimensional materials
  • Metamaterials and plasmonic, optical, and photonic materials
  • Materials for energy harvesting, storage, and generation
  • Glasses and amorphous materials
  • Soft materials, polymers, self-assembly, biomaterials
  • Electronic materials, semiconductors, metals, and dielectrics, including organics
  • Topological materials
  • Mechanical properties, materials structure, and phase transformations
  • Nanostructures, nanocomposites, and nanomaterials


PRMaterials Acceptance Criteria

Submitted manuscripts should meet the following criteria:
  • Present important results that significantly advance the field.
  • Generate interest for PRMaterials’ readers.
  • Represent an authoritative and substantive addition to the body of literature.
  • Explore the subject matter comprehensively and thoroughly.
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Pursuing Science and Logic in an Age of Excitement and Turmoil

Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science. By Karl Sigmund.

SIAM BLOG_ Exact Thinking_23-2-18

In 1920s Vienna, a group of philosophers, mathematicians, and physicists called “the Vienna Circle” embarked on a formidably ambitious project to investigate the foundations of science. Just as Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell had shown that mathematics can be built up from set theory in Principia Mathematica, Vienna Circle members aimed to demonstrate that one could logically build up scientific theory from basic observations. Their philosophy, known as “logical positivism” or “logical empiricism,” idolized science, logic, and empiricism. It dismissed as meaningless any theorizing or speculation that was not empirically based, with a particular contempt for “metaphysics.”

Exact Thinking in Demented Times, by mathematician Karl Sigmund, is a group biography of Vienna Circle participants and their predecessors, associates, and adversaries. It is both deeply researched and enormously entertaining, with vivid personal portraits, remarkable incidents and anecdotes, and a dramatic interpretation of an exciting and tragic historical period. Read More

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Inner Workings: How the Butterfly got its Spots

PNAS Blog_Inner Working_16-2-18

The colorful canvas of the butterfly wing is an exceptional example of evolutionary innovation and adaptation. Compared with their forebears, whose wings wore patterns of black, brown, and gray, the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) evolved a more varied palette of pigmentation. With the capacity for complex color patterns, such as stripes and eyespots, wing coloration evolved a variety of functions, such as attracting mates and warning predators away. And yet, how exactly these ecologically important patterns develop and evolve has puzzled researchers for decades.

Starting in the 19th century, naturalists began investigating the function of wing-color patterns in different butterfly species. But it was the advent of population genetics in the early 20th century that led to associations between specific genes and color patterns, helping elucidate how and when they evolved. Even so, the absence of genome sequences and the inability to knock out or misexpress genes limited the ability of researchers to understand the mechanisms that produce the wing patterns.

Now, using CRISPR to investigate gene function in butterfly wings, researchers have discovered that just a few genes are largely responsible for setting up the patterning throughout the wing. “The big insight: single genes can act as extremely discrete switches to completely change morphology,” says Bob Reed, associate professor of biology at Cornell University and coauthor on two recently published studies in PNAS about patterning the wings of Heliconius butterflies. “That was surprising, the extent to which they can completely change the entire color pattern in a very discrete way.” CRISPR is helping uncover not only genes responsible for ecologically important traits but also how gene networks are assembled from a mix of old and new parts. Read more

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Open Access and the Integrity of Science

APS_Special Commentry_ Open Access Blog_15-2-18

Another article on open access? After all, what’s left to discuss? Surely open access means that all research is made freely available online without pesky paywalls, right? Well, yes and no. Open access makes things available to all, but there are some costs and risks that need to be thoughtfully addressed.

APS has long supported the principles of open access and its potential benefits for both authors and readers, as it is entirely consistent with APS’s mission to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics. The Society places a high priority on access to science for the good of society, for example by making its journals free to read at all U.S. public and high school libraries. APS also takes an uncommonly liberal stance on self-archiving, allowing authors to post the final published version of their papers on their laboratory and institutional websites. And APS is a proud founding member of CHORUS—a non-profit organization that tracks publicly funded research articles and works to increase their public accessibility.

Our view of open access is laid out in the APS Statement on Open Access published in 2009 which reads “The APS supports the principles of Open Access to the maximum extent possible that allows the Society to maintain peer-reviewed high-quality journals, secure archiving, and the Society’s long-term financial stability, to the benefit of the scientific enterprise.” Read more

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Superionic Water Ice- A new form of matter


Scientists create a new form of matter—superionic water ice

Scientists created a new form of water—called superionic ice—that acts like a weird cross between a solid and a liquidThe New York Times reports. The substance, which consists of a fluid of hydrogen ions running through a lattice of oxygen, was formed by compressing water between two diamonds and then zapping it with a laser. That caused pressures to spike to more than a million times those of Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures to rise to thousands of degrees, conditions scientists had predicted may lead to the formation of superionic ice. This kind of water doesn’t exist naturally on Earth, the scientists report in Nature Physics, but it may be present in the mantles of icy planets like Neptune and Uranus.

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Bloom’s Taxonomy — From Knowledge to Practice

Identify. Recognize. Interpret. Distinguish. What do these words have in common?

NEJM Blog Bloom's taxonomy 8-2-18

Identify. Recognize. Interpret. Distinguish. What do these words have in common? They are all “Bloom’s verbs” — the foundational building blocks of learning objectives, according to one of the most widely used pedagogic models, Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom’s taxonomy is the backbone of most CME and residency programs’ lesson plans, assessments, simulations, and learning platforms—including NEJM Knowledge+.

The actions associated with each level of Bloom’s learning hierarchy — remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, synthesizing/evaluating, and creating — reflect both educational goals and clinical experience. These actions are a spectrum of simple to complex levels of education: straight memorization of facts all the way up to making judgments about the validity of ideas and an ability to generate new knowledge.

Medical educators need to understand where their learners are on the ladder and tailor their assessments to the learning objectives they write. Students and lifelong learners can improve their recall on exams and in practice by metacognitively defining their goals with Bloom’s-backed learning objectives and self-assessments that show them their knowledge strengths and weaknesses. Read more

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Getting ready for the summer sun with ‘green’ sunscreens

Photosynthetic Production of Sunscreen Shinorine Using an Engineered Cyanobacterium

ACS Blog SunScreen 7-8-18

Although it’s been a tough winter for many people , summer is coming. And that means backyard barbeques, fun on the beach and, of course, slathering on sunscreen. But one particular environmentally friendly sunscreen ingredient has been difficult to obtain — that ingredient, shinorine, could only be harvested from nature. Scientists now report in ACS Synthetic Biology the laboratory production of that compound.

Sunscreen is key to protecting the skin from carcinogenic UV radiation. However, some synthetic sunscreen components can accumulate in aquatic environments and potentially cause harm by acting as hormone disruptors. One alternative to these ingredients is the biodegradable sunscreen compound shinorine, a UV-absorbing substance produced naturally by cyanobacteria and marine algae. The shinorine currently found in commercially available sunscreens comes from red algae gathered from the sea, but the yield can vary seasonally and geographically, limiting supply.

The team selected a strain of freshwater cyanobacteria, Synechocystis, as a host cell for shinorine expression because it grows quickly, and it is easy for scientists to change its genes. Read more

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