341 articles from THURSDAY 28.5.2020

Trump responds to Twitter’s fact-check by targeting social-media protections

The news: Two days after Twitter added fact-checking labels to US President Donald Trump’s misleading tweets about mail-in voting, the president has signed an executive order aimed at weakening protections for social-media companies that moderate user content. Why: Trump has promoted a long-running belief among conservatives that social-media companies are biased against their political...

How bacteria purge toxic metals

Researchers combined genetic engineering, single-molecule tracking and protein quantitation to get a closer look at this mechanism and understand how it functions. The knowledge could lead to the development of more effective antibacterial treatments.

Virgin Orbit looks into cause of LauncherOne test failure

Malfunction caused rocket to shut down about five seconds after ignitionThe first launch demonstration of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket ended in failure this week.The California-based company aims to place small satellites into space using LauncherOne, which is carried under the wing of a converted 747 jumbo-jet aircraft. Continue...

Breaking up is hard to do (especially for sex chromosomes)

As chromosomes go, X and Y make an unlikely pair. The X is large and contains thousands of genes critical for life. The Y, by contrast, is little more than a nub. Its main purpose is to provide the instructions for initiating male development and making sperm. Yet these two very different chromosomes must work together if they are to meet and pair up properly during meiosis—the special form of...

Gold mining with mercury poses health threats for miles downstream

Small-scale gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon poses a health hazard not only to the miners and communities near where mercury is used to extract gold from ore, but also to downstream communities hundreds of kilometers away where people eat mercury-contaminated river fish as part of their diet.

Wildfires can alter Arctic watersheds for 50 years

Climate change has contributed to the increase in the number of wildfires in the Arctic and can dramatically shift stream chemistry. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found that some of the aftereffects, like decreased carbon and increased nitrogen, can last up to five decades and could have major implications on vital waterways like the Yenisei River and the Arctic Ocean

Using electrical stimulus to regulate genes

A team of researchers has succeeded in using an electric current to directly control gene expression for the first time. Their work provides the basis for medical implants that can be switched on and off using electronic devices outside the body.

New technology enables fast protein synthesis

Chemists have developed a protocol to rapidly produce protein chains up to 164 amino acids long. The flow-based technology could speed up drug development and allow scientists to design novel protein variants incorporating amino acids that don't occur naturally in cells.

Gold mining with mercury poses health threats for miles downstream

Small-scale gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon poses a health hazard not only to the miners and communities near where mercury is used to extract gold from ore, but also to downstream communities hundreds of kilometers away where people eat mercury-contaminated river fish as part of their diet. Downstream children under 12 with the highest levels of mercury in their bodies were found to have lost...

New 'whirling' state of matter discovered in an element of the periodic table

The strongest permanent magnets today contain a mix of the elements neodymium and iron. However, neodymium on its own does not behave like any known magnet, confounding researchers for more than half a century. Physicists have now shown that neodymium behaves like a so-called 'self-induced spin glass,' meaning that it is composed of a rippled sea of many tiny whirling magnets circulating at...

Configurable circuit technology poised to expand silicon photonic applications

Researchers have developed a new way to build power efficient and programmable integrated switching units on a silicon photonics chip. The new technology is poised to reduce production costs by allowing a generic optical circuit to be fabricated in bulk and then later programmed for specific applications such as communications systems, LIDAR circuits or computing applications.

In planet formation, it's location, location, location

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are finding that planets have a tough time forming in the rough-and-tumble central region of the massive, crowded star cluster Westerlund 2. Located 20,000 light-years away, Westerlund 2 is a unique laboratory to study stellar evolutionary processes because it's relatively nearby, quite young, and contains a large stellar population.

Environmental groups moving beyond conservation

Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become powerful voices in world environmental politics, little is known of the global picture of this sector. A new study shows that environmental groups are increasingly focused on advocacy in climate change politics and environmental justice. How they do their work is largely determined by regional disparities in human and financial resources.

In planet formation, it's location, location, location

Astronomers are finding that planets have a tough time forming in the rough-and-tumble central region of the massive, crowded star cluster Westerlund 2. Located 20,000 light-years away, Westerlund 2 is a unique laboratory to study stellar evolutionary processes because it's relatively nearby, quite young, and contains a large stellar population.

Benefits of social networks to disaster response questioned

Faced with a common peril, people delay making decisions that might save lives, fail to alert each other to danger and spread misinformation. Those may sound like behaviors associated with the current pandemic, but they actually surfaced in experiments on how social networks function in emergencies.

Heart surgery stalled as COVID-19 spread

Two recent journal articles explore how hospitals worldwide scaled back on heart surgeries as the pandemic hit, and how they can resume those operations in a world still plagued by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Imaging reveals unexpected contractions in the human placenta

High-resolution imaging of the human placenta provides new insights into blood circulation patterns that are crucial for fetal development, according to a new study. These findings improve our understanding of the functioning of this understudied organ, both in healthy pregnancies and in serious medical conditions such as pre-eclampsia.