Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

June 8, 2017 by  
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Researchers are quickly learning that plants are far more complex than once thought. Not only has it been determined that plants are capable of sensing and preparing for drought conditions, a team from the University of Birmingham recently learned that a cluster of cells in seeds act like a brain that decide when they should germinate. As a result of this finding, crop yields may be improved. The study, published in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , explains that the researchers worked with a species called thale cress to determine whether or not plants have human-like “brains.” After locating the group of cells in the seed that are responsible for controlling decision-making processes, they discovered something interesting. Reportedly, the group of cells is made up of two competing types: one promotes germination and the other promotes dormancy. The scientists describe the relationship as a “tug of war” match, as hormones are swapped back and forth in a process that’s very similar to mechanisms in the human brain when someone decides whether or not to move. The team says the separate competing cells are key to the decision-making process in both humans and plants . The mechanism serves an important purpose in vegetation, because germinating too early may result in death due to frost. Alternatively, germinating too late will result in growing complications due to the wrong climate conditions. Said George Bassel, lead author of the study, “Our work reveals a crucial separation between the components within a plant decision-making center. In the human brain , this separation is thought to introduce a time delay, smoothing out noisy signals from the environment and increasing the accuracy with which we make decisions. The separation of these parts in the seed ‘brain’ also appears to be central to how it functions.” Related: Seed-Planting Tumbleweed Robot Draws From Nature to Fight Desertification After creating a mathematical model of how the separate cells work to control how sensitive the plant is to its environment , the researchers concluded that the more variation there is in environmental conditions, the more seeds will sprout. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the results were confirmed when the team tested it in a laboratory. “Our work has important implications for understanding how crops and weeds grow,” said Bassel. “There is now potential to apply this knowledge to commercial plants in order to enhance and synchronize germination, increasing crop yields and decreasing herbicide use.” + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Via New Atlas Images via Pixabay

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Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

4.4 billion years ago Earth had no mountains and was covered with water, say scientists

May 10, 2017 by  
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Tiny zircon crystals have allowed scientists at Australian National University (ANU) to paint a portrait of what Earth looked like over four billion years ago. Their scrutiny of the mineral grains – the oldest fragments of the planet we’ve ever uncovered – led them to think our world was a much different place back then. They say the planet, which was barren, had no mountains, and probably only a few islands poked up above the water blanketing the rest of the planet. Zircon crystals preserved inside sandstone rocks in the Jack Hills of Western Australia provided clues to our planet’s history – billions of years before humans ever showed up. Lead researcher Antony Burnham said the zircon samples were collected over multiple decades, and his team also drew on chemical analyses from an ANU research group two decades ago. He likened zircon grains to skin cells at a crime scene. Related: World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Australia’s “Jurassic Park” “The history of the Earth is like a book with its first chapter ripped out with no surviving rocks from the very early period, but we’ve used these trace elements of zircon to build a profile of the world at that time,” he said in a statement. “Our research indicates there were no mountains and continental collisions during the Earth’s first 700 million years or more of existence – it was a much more quiet and dull place.” The zircon formed from melting older igneous rocks, instead of sediment melting, which is typical in continental collisions. And it appears it took a long time for the planet to change from the flat landscape into the Earth we inhabit now. “Our findings also showed that there are strong similarities with zircon from the types of rocks that predominated for the following 1.5 billion years, suggesting that it took the Earth a long time to evolve into the planet that we know today,” Burnham said. The journal Nature Geoscience published the research online yesterday. Via Australian National University Images via Stuart Hay, ANU

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4.4 billion years ago Earth had no mountains and was covered with water, say scientists

How to communicate the urgency of climate change

April 28, 2017 by  
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Jon Meyersohn, co-executive producer of National Geographic series “Years of Living Dangerously,” discusses the challenge of climate change reporting.

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How to communicate the urgency of climate change

Trump signs executive order aimed at eliminating national monuments

April 26, 2017 by  
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President Trump just signed an executive order that threatens millions of acres of public land. The order seeks to reduce or eliminate multiple national monuments across the US, potentially eliminating public access and water and land protection safeguards. It’s an unprecedented (unpresidented?) move that will likely be challenged in courts. The executive order wouldn’t eliminate the national monuments just yet, since the President doesn’t have the power to do that. Instead, it orders a review of any existing monuments (which Presidents have the power to create under the 1906 Antiquities Act ) designated in the past 21 years that are over 100,000 acres in size. The Department of the Interior will review monuments and determine which it recommends changing. Related: Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument 21 years might seem like an arbitrary timeline, but the executive order is aimed directly at the newly-designated Bear’s Ears Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, designated by President Clinton 21 years ago. Republicans called the designations an over-reach of federal power and have been fighting to have the monuments eliminated ever since. Polls show that a vast majority of Americans support maintaining or adding more public and protected lands in the US rather than reducing them. The legal battle will likely begin after the Department of the Interior makes its determination. Via The Verge images via The Bureau of Land Management

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Trump signs executive order aimed at eliminating national monuments

Repurposed shipping containers make a bold statement at the National Theater Company of Korea

March 1, 2017 by  
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Seoul’s trendy mall made of shipping containers isn’t the only place you’ll see cargotecture in the city. Urbantainer , the same local firm behind the world’s largest cargotecture mall Common Ground , recently completed an extension for the National Theater Company of Korea , one of the nation’s flagship theater companies based in the capital. The new visitor area comprises a series of red shipping containers skillfully transformed into a contemporary and functional space that still preserves an industrial character. The National Theater Company of Korea (NTCK) commissioned Urbantainer to create a visitor area that would serve as a social space within the grounds. To integrate the new space with the existing buildings, the designers aligned the containers with the building axis and painted them the same shade of red as the NTCK logo. “While highlighting the modular form of containers, the design is deliberately held light and maintains a balance with existing features and objects such as a former oil station and the grass square,” writes Urbantainer. Related: World’s largest shipping container shopping mall pops up in Seoul Although the cargotecture building looks like it’s made up of separate containers stacked together, many of the container walls were removed to create an interior with a 12-meter-long column-less space to accommodate large gatherings. High ceilings, access to natural light, and the light color palette give the interior a spacious and open feel. The flexible open-plan area can be manipulated with partitions and moving walls to allow for a variety of functions. + Urbantainer Images © Kyungsub Shin

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Repurposed shipping containers make a bold statement at the National Theater Company of Korea

13 charitable green gifts that give back

November 29, 2016 by  
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Today is Giving Tuesday – and to celebrate we’ve rounded up 13 organizations that help you turn your holiday shopping into an act of kindness. Voltaic donates up to three solar power kits to aid workers for every solar charger it sells , the National Wildlife Federation dedicates proceeds from its holiday birdseed wreaths to protect American wild animals, and you can even adopt an African elephant for just $25 from the World Wildlife Fund. Check out our favorite gifts that give back here ! GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK >

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There may be water far deeper in our planet than previously thought

November 23, 2016 by  
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Researchers are surprised to learn that there may be water deeper within the Earth than previously thought. Two scientists from The University of Edinburgh and Florida State University (FSU) discovered a high-pressure phase of a mineral that may be able to store water 400 to 600 kilometers, or almost 250 miles to 372 miles, down in Earth’s mantle. Researcher Mainak Mookherjee said the find “opens up a Pandora’s Box for us.” The mineral, brucite, was not thought to be stable so far down in the Earth. But the discovery of what FSU describes as a high-pressure polymorph of brucite has exciting implications for our knowledge of Earth’s interior. Mookherjee said, “We didn’t think water could be stored by hydrous minerals such as brucite. But now that we know it’s there, we need to figure out how much water could be effectively stored inside it…It really is remarkable that such a well-studied mineral as brucite has something so surprising to offer.” Related: Everything we know about the Earth’s mantle is completely wrong Scientists used to think brucite would decompose in deep Earth, and volcanic activity would send the water it once held up to the planet’s surface. But a high-pressure phase of the mineral might not decompose, so brucite may be able to hold water deep down there after all. Mookherjee said what he describes as deep Earth water is just as important as water on Earth’s surface for the planet’s processes. He said, “If the planet becomes dry on the inside, the planet dies because geodynamic activity within the planet ceases.” The scientists will continue to research brucite and will conduct more simulations to determine how its physical properties differ so deep in the Earth. Mookherjee’s ultimate goal is to figure out just how much deep Earth water there is. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published the study online. Via Phys.org Images via Florida State University and Wikimedia Commons

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There may be water far deeper in our planet than previously thought

Former subterranean crypt in France transformed into a soothing spa

November 23, 2016 by  
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Italian designer Alberto Apostoli was eager to take on the challenge of converting the basement space into a stylish spa setting. The upper level, where one can receive hair, hand, and face spa treatments, is conventional but chic. Once you descend the staircase to the lower level, you are greeted by a soft, soothing atmosphere, thanks to indirect LED strip lighting. All unsightly elements needed to run the facility are strategically hidden away behind a curtain. Related: 8 abandoned buildings transformed into absolute dream spaces The underground spa’s 270 square meters fit a Finnish sauna , steam bath made almost entirely out of glass, and a space for a hydro massage. Two single rooms and a double room downstairs each feature custom Italian furniture. Throughout the rooms, a black and white color palette is used to accompany the natural stone walls, with a few splashes of gold. “What is especially satisfying in the result is the mix of pre-existing stone and contemporary materials, managed through a thoughtful creative process,” said Apostoli. “The owners trusted us entirely in our thinking and this led to a major achievement from the point of view of consistency in both style and technology.” The spa is near Saint Pierre’s Church and is thought to have served as a crypt hundreds of years ago. With the current transformation, one would never know. + Alberto Apostoli + Atrium Spa & Beauté Images via Alberto Apostoli

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Former subterranean crypt in France transformed into a soothing spa

National Museum of African American History and Culture opens today in Washington, DC

September 24, 2016 by  
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The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the United States’ only national museum devoted to exclusively showcasing African American art, history and culture. Photo: Douglas Remley Adjaye ‘s design adds a striking, three-tiered piece of ornamental architecture to the National Mall. Inspired by Yoruban art from West Africa, where more than half of the 18th century slave trade took place, the building’s form emulates that of the traditional Yoruban wooden caryatid, while the bronzed aluminum panels that clad the structure are informed by the ironwork of African American slaves in 19th century New Orleans. The marriage of these two distinctive cultural influences echoes and supports the museum’s mission . Photo: Michael Barnes In terms of sustainability, the NMAAHC was designed for LEED Gold certification, and will be partially powered by solar panels. RELATED: Architect’s Newspaper sneaks a peek at the National Museum of African American History and Culture Spanning 400,000 square feet, the building’s exhibitions currently feature about 3,500 artifacts–ranging from a former slave’s two story house to Chuck Berry’s convertible–organized into three sections: “Slavery and Freedom”, “The Era of Segregation”, and “1968 and Beyond”. There is also a theater and gallery space for special exhibitions and additional programming. The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens on Saturday, September 24, 2016 . President Obama is expected to speak at the museum’s opening ceremony. + National Museum of African American History and Culture + Freelon Group + Adjaye Associates + Davis Brody Bond + SmithGroupJJR Photos: Darren Bradley , Michael Barnes, Douglas Remley, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture

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National Museum of African American History and Culture opens today in Washington, DC

Researchers discover evidence of supernovae on the sea floor

August 26, 2016 by  
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After a long and dedicated search, scientists believe they have discovered trace elements from supernovae settled on the sea floor. Iron isotopes created from a supernova explosion 2.2 million years ago have found their way into fossilized bacteria taken from a sample of the sea bed floor – the only place they could still be found after all this time. Astrophysicist Shawn Bishop from the Technical University of Munich , Germany, published a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences detailing his findings and following up on the hunch he has been following for several years. According to Gizmodo , he used accelerator mass spectrometry to analyze bacteria found in core samples from the ocean floor , counting each and every iron-60 isotope atom he found. Related: NASA captures shockwave of a massive supernova for the first time ever Iron-60, or 60Fe, is one of many elements produced by supernovae during an explosion. After being dispersed around space, these elements eventually settle onto planets. Because of 60Fe’s short half-life, none of it should still be around on Earth. However, traces have been found in fossilized bacteria thought to have picked up the crystals from the sea bed long ago. When the bacteria die, 60Fe remains preserved in the fossil record . Australian National University’s Anton Wallner also published a study  in Nature earlier this year, solidifying the case for supernovae depositing 60Fe on Earth. He and his team estimate the closest explosion occurred about 326 light years away. It is thought that either this event or Bishop’s findings are related to the onset of the Pleistocene, which triggered a period of global cooling. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia , Wikipedia

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Researchers discover evidence of supernovae on the sea floor

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