Breast cancer spread connected to amino acid in asparagus

February 16, 2018 by  
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Scientists have linked the spread of the disease breast cancer in mice to a compound that’s in asparagus and several other foods, The Guardian reported . Studies with mice revealed asparagine drives the advance of the cancer , and when researchers reduced asparagine, the amount of “secondary tumors in other tissues” dropped. Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute director Greg Hannon told The Guardian, “This is a very promising lead and one of the very few instances where there is a scientific rationale for a dietary modification influencing cancer.” Research with mice showed the amino acid asparagine is important for breast cancer to spread, and scientists think the process could be similar in humans. Researchers found that blocking the amino acid hampered the spread of the cancer. Hannon said in a statement , “It could be that manipulating levels of asparagine in the body might be used as a way to boost a patients’ cancer treatment.” Related: Many anti-aging products contain ingredients that can cause breast cancer The researchers blocked asparagine in mice tested, which had an aggressive type of breast cancer, to reduce the cancer’s ability to spread with the drug L-asparaginase. Giving the mice a low-asparagine diet worked to a lesser extent, according to The Guardian. There’s still a lot work to be done. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute cautioned research is in the early stages and “doesn’t form the basis for DIY diets at home.” This work also doesn’t seem to offer a cure for cancer; per the press release, “So far the story suggests that lowering asparagine levels blunts the ability of cancer cells to spread in mice, but doesn’t affect the original tumor.” Lowering asparagine didn’t prevent breast tumors from forming, the researchers found. Hannon said, “The difficulty is finding ways to study this in the lab that are relevant to patients. It’s a challenge, but I think it’s worth pursuing.” The journal Nature published the research online this week . 21 scientists at institutions in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States contributed. + Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute + Nature Via The Guardian Images via Stephanie Studer on Unsplash and Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr

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Breast cancer spread connected to amino acid in asparagus

Pepsi launches new drink option with reusable bottle

February 16, 2018 by  
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Soda is struggling, with sales of non-diet soda dropping by over 25 percent during the last 20 years, according to Co.Design . In response, PepsiCo is trying something new: a product they’re calling Drinkfinity with reusable, BPA-free bottles . Users mix the contents of ingredient Pods into water to create beverages that Drinkfinity’s website boasts are “unapologetically less sweet.” PepsiCo piloted Drinkfinity in 2014 in Brazil, and now they’re launching the product in the United States. Users choose flavors like Mango Chia Flow or Elderflower Chill in Pods they place over the top of the reusable bottle, which they call a Vessel, and press down to release the flavor inside and mix it with water inside the bottle. The company says they don’t use artificial flavors or sweeteners. Related: New study finds PET bottles of five huge soda brands contain harmful heavy metals Vice President of Global Business Innovation Hernan Marina said in a statement , “Drinkfinity was made to do more than just hydrate — it was created with a simple vision to make a beverage that connects the dots between wellness and versatility, while trying to balance the needs of both people and the planet.” What about the waste from the Pods? PepsiCo’s press release says the Pods use up around 65 percent less plastic than a 20 ounce bottle. But Co.Design pointed out the Pods themselves can’t be recycled easily. When checking out from Drinkfinity, a consumer can obtain a postage-paid envelope to send 30 Pods to a company for recycling. An average recycling facility won’t be able to process them, according to Co.Design, because they contain materials that aren’t generally recycled together. Marina hopes in a few years they can offer Pods that are more easily recyclable, according to Co.Design. The Drinkfinity reusable bottle, which is dishwasher-safe, costs $20. Pods come in packs of four and cost between $5 and $6.50. As of now, the products are available only online, according to the press release. Drinkfinity plans to donate $1 for every purchase in the United States in 2018 to Water.org , up to $100,000, to provide clean water for people in developing countries . + Drinkfinity + Drinkfinity press release Via Co.Design Images via Drinkfinity/PepsiCo

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Pepsi launches new drink option with reusable bottle

The Netherlands plans 26,910-square-foot floating solar farm at sea

February 16, 2018 by  
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Around 26,910 square feet of floating solar panels could provide clean energy for the Netherlands . Six Dutch companies and institutions are developing the offshore solar plant, Project Solar-at-Sea, devised by Oceans of Energy . The pilot will have $1.48 million in government funding, Reuters reported. Utrecht University will conduct research – as the solar modules are expected to offer a power yield 15 percent greater than they would on land. Could an offshore solar farm provide renewable energy the Netherlands needs? Six Dutch organizations plan to find out. A pilot project of around 323 square feet of solar panels could be in place this summer, around nine miles from The Hague in the North Sea Farm, a testing zone, to scrutinize equipment, energy output, weather conditions, and the impact on the environment . Related: Dutch engineers unveil ‘floating island’ to combat rising sea levels There are significant challenges in an offshore solar project. Utrecht University solar power expert Wilfried van Sark said in the university’s press release that sometimes the solar panels will be underwater – “when the waves reach heights of ten meters, this is unavoidable. The panels will wobble a bit, too. The impact of those dynamic shifts in tilt angle hasn’t yet been studied, either.” Floating solar farms can be found on lakes around the world, but ones at sea are much rarer. But there are also benefits to operating a solar farm on the waves. Van Sark said seawater offers a cooling effect, so the yield of the solar panels is anticipated to be higher than on the ground. Oceans of Energy pointed out in their press release a solar farm at sea doesn’t use up valuable land space. Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN), Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN), Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), and TAQA Energy are also part of the consortium. The team hopes to operate 26,910-square-feet of solar panels by 2021. Inhabitat reached out to Oceans of Energy for project images but they are still confidential; we hope to see them when the pilot project kicks off. + Oceans of Energy + Oceans of Energy press release + Utrecht University Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The Netherlands plans 26,910-square-foot floating solar farm at sea

One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

February 16, 2018 by  
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The village of San Gregorio Atlapulco is one of the only remaining communities that farms in the Aztec agricultural tradition. Located in Mexico City ’s Xochimilco municipality, San Gregorio Atlapulco is home to vast fields known as  chinampas , small islands which are connected by canals used for irrigation and transportation. Farmers cruise on boats through canals between fields to plant, cultivate, and harvest. Tenochtitlan, the Aztec island capital located in the middle of the Lake of Texcoco, was once fed by an integrated, complex system of chinampas. Though the Lake of Texcoco was drained and Tenochtitlan became Mexico City, echoes of Mexico ‘s agricultural past still exist, though they remain under threat. The region’s altitude, consistent sunlight, and abundant water makes for an ideal all-year growing environment. “We basically keep the fields producing all year. How [much we] harvest depends on what crops we put in,” José Alfredo Camacho, a farmer from San Gregorio, told CityLab . “Spinach will take a month and half, radishes one month. It depends on the crop rotation we decide on.” Chinampas are created with help from the huejote tree . “The huejote is the only tree which can resist this much moisture,” Gustavo Camacho told CityLab . “The roots keep the banks of the canals firm. To make a chinampa you first have to make an enclosure of branches and plant willow trees in the water. Then you fill the enclosure with mud and water lilies.” Related: Tired of red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund While chinampas are fertile and bountiful, they are not especially profitable. “Nobody makes chinampas anymore,” said Camacho. As the ground beneath Mexico City has warped under the exploitation of underlying aquifers , low-laying chinampas have flooded while highland chinampas have dried out. Though the situation is not hopeless, change would require compromise. “We could solve the subsistence problem ourselves without asking anything of the government by making a system of cascading dikes like the rice paddies of China , but that would require a communal effort which is difficult to organize,” said Camacho. “Such a system of would cut some people off from their fields, which is why they disagree. But if things continue like this the chinampa economy will have disappeared completely in 20 years.” Via CityLab Images via  Serge Saint/Flickr (1) (2)

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One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

Plants appear to lose consciousness when sedated

February 14, 2018 by  
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Are plants conscious? Based on a new study, our anesthetics work on flora – but just what are they working on? University of Bonn plant cell biologist Frantisek Baluska told The New York Times , “Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices. They’re living organisms which have their own problems, maybe something like humans feeling pain or joy. In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass.” Plants can be frozen with anesthetics, researchers discovered, including the medicines used on humans during surgery. The researchers’ findings could help us learn more about anesthesia – and plants. A team of scientists from institutions in Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Italy exposed several different plants to substances like ether and lidocaine. They found, for example, that pea plants exposed to diethyl ether vapor stop moving and their tendrils curl. A Venus flytrap didn’t respond to stimulus similar to an insect that moved across it – its cells actually stopped firing, according to The New York Times. Related: German forester says trees are social beings with friends and personalities The plants seemed to return to life when the anesthesia wore off – almost as if they had regained consciousness. Baluska told The New York Times, “How organisms are perceiving the environment or responding or adapting are based on some very similar principles.” Cell membranes change under anesthesia, growing more flexible. Membranes of some of the plant root cells under anesthesia had difficulty performing tasks they normally would. Membranes are also key for transferring messages from one cell to another via electricity , and some scientists think electrical activity across neurons contributes to consciousness in humans. But when asked if plants are indeed conscious or not, Baluska said, “No one can answer this because you cannot ask them.” The journal Annals of Botany published the research in December. Via The New York Times Images via Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash and Jeffery Wong on Unsplash

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Plants appear to lose consciousness when sedated

New nanofoam catalyst generates hydrogen from water quickly and cheaply

February 6, 2018 by  
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Extra electricity from renewable energy could be used to split water to obtain hydrogen – but methods to accomplish this are usually prohibitively expensive, need too much power, or draw on catalyst materials that too rapidly break down. A research team led by Washington State University (WSU) came up with a potential answer. They developed, per a press release , “a way to more efficiently generate hydrogen from water” with a sponge-like nanofoam catalyst created with the inexpensive metals iron and nickel. Hydrogen could serve as renewable fuel in a clean energy future, but it can be difficult to generate. New Atlas said the cleanest method to obtain hydrogen from water is electrolysis , but the process typically needs rare-Earth metals for catalysts. This research team drew on two abundantly available and inexpensive metals to create a catalyst they say actually performs better than many others. Related: Startup creates renewable hydrogen energy out of sunlight and water Researchers developed a simple method to create a lot of a catalyst needed for the water-splitting reaction – and it takes five minutes. Their porous nanofoam looks much like a sponge and can catalyze the reaction using less power than others thanks to “its unique atomic structure and many exposed surfaces throughout the material.” WSU said it “showed very little loss in activity in a 12-hour stability test.” WSU PhD student Shaofang Fu said in a statement, “We took a very simple approach that could be used easily in large-scale production.” They hope to gain more support to scale up the project. Beyond potential use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles , the university said hydrogen has a variety of uses in industry. The work appears in the February issue of the journal Nano Energy . Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory contributed. + Washington State University + Nano Energy Via New Atlas Images via Washington State University via Phys.org

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New nanofoam catalyst generates hydrogen from water quickly and cheaply

The disturbing reason so many farmed salmon are partially deaf

February 2, 2018 by  
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Farmed salmon are “three times more likely to be partially deaf” than wild salmon, according to the University of Melbourne ‘s Pursuit publication. Roughly every second farmed salmon that humans consume has lost a great deal of its ability to hear. And last year, scientists figured out why. Rapid growth causes a deformity in a salmon’s ear, leading to partial deafness. The scientists scrutinized salmon farmed in Australia, Norway, Canada, Chile, and Scotland and discovered the impairment was widespread – and that the fastest-growing salmon were three times more likely to be impacted than the slowest-growing ones. Study lead author Tormey Reimer told Pursuit, “We also found that we could reduce the incidence of the deformity by reducing how fast a fish grew. Such a clear result was unprecedented.” Related: FDA approves genetically engineered salmon for human consumption The otoliths, small crystals in a salmon’s inner ear, are where the deformity happens. Normal otoliths are comprised of aragonite, but deformed ones are partly comprised of vaterite – and fish with deformed otoliths can lose as much as 50 percent of their hearing, per Pursuit. Diet, genetics, and longer daylight exposure – some fish farms expose the creatures to bright lights 24 hours every day – seem to cause vaterite. Growth rate was the one factor linking them, according to Pursuit. Since fish farms are noisy, it’s possible hearing loss could actually reduce stress, but even so, study co-author Tim Dempster said their research raises “serious questions about the welfare of farmed fish.” And it could shine light on the failures of some conservation methods. With wild salmon in decline in some regions, farmed ones have been released into spawning rivers. But fish in the wild might use their hearing for detecting prey and predators. Reimer said, “Future research may find ways to prevent the deformity without compromising growth rate. Our results provide hope of a solution.” The Journal of Experimental Biology published the research last year . The University of Melbourne led the research with scientists from institutions in Norway contributing. + Pursuit/University of Melbourne Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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The disturbing reason so many farmed salmon are partially deaf

Ice melting due to climate change in Norway reveals pre-Viking artifacts

January 25, 2018 by  
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Climate change is melting ice in high mountains, enabling archaeologists to discover artifacts once preserved in glacial ice in Scandinavia, North America, and the Alps. A team led by Lars Pilø of the Oppland City Council recently published their discoveries on artifacts, many related to reindeer hunting, in Royal Society Open Science , and Pilø wrote in a Secrets of the Ice blog post , “This is a new and fantastic archaeological record of past human activity in some of the most remote and forbidding landscapes.” Pilø said in the post, “The ice has acted like a time machine, preserving the finds through millennia like a giant prehistoric deep-freezer.” His team has conducted fieldwork in the mountains of Oppland County in Norway over more than ten years, and they’ve come up with some impressive finds. Pilø said they’ve recovered over 2,000 artifacts. Related: Archaeologist may have uncovered the second Viking settlement in North America Some of their discoveries date all the way back to 4,000 BC. They’ve uncovered arrows; remains of pack horses, sleds, and skis; and clothing from the Iron Age and Bronze Age . Ice melting is unveiling what the research paper abstract described as “a fragile record of alpine activity, especially hunting and the use of mountain passes.” In the article, the researchers share radiocarbon dates of 153 items, and they compared those dates against the timing of economic changes or environmental changes, like periods of warming or cooling. They came up with a few surprises; for example, while you’d expect cold temperatures to keep people out of the highest elevations in Norway, like in the Late Antique Little Ice Age from around 536 – 660 CE, it seems hunters kept going into the mountains. Archaeologist James Barrett of the University of Cambridge told Ars Technica , “Remarkably, though, the finds from the ice may have continued through this period, perhaps suggesting that the importance of mountain hunting (mainly for reindeer), increased to supplement failing agricultural harvests in times of low temperatures.” Nine researchers from multiple Norwegian universities, the University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge contributed. + Glacial Archaeology, Ancient Reindeer Hunting, and Climate Change + Secrets of the Ice Via Ars Technica Images via Øystein Rønning-Andersen, Secrets of the Ice/Oppland Count Council; Johan Wildhagen, Palookaville; and secretsoftheice.com/Oppland County Council

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Ice melting due to climate change in Norway reveals pre-Viking artifacts

Scientists create efficient fuel cell powered by solid carbon

January 22, 2018 by  
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Researchers at  Idaho National Laboratory ( INL ) have created a new fuel cell technology that is powered by solid carbon . This technology could make the generation of electrical power through carbon-based fuels, such as coal and biomass, to be done in a more efficient, cleaner manner. The most recent variation on direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) designs was described in a study published this week in the journal Advanced Materials . According to INL materials engineer Dong Ding, the latest DCFC technology runs at lower temperatures and produces higher maximum power densities than previous designs. Similarly, the latest solid carbon fuel cell tech from INL, which produces a much cleaner byproduct, would make it easier for carbon capture technology to be implemented. While hydrogen fuel cells have made news lately for their promise to produce clean, efficient energy, DCFCs offers the advantage of being able to utilize readily-available fuel sources, such as coal, organic waste, and biomass . “You can skip the energy-intensive step of producing hydrogen,” Ding told Phys.org . However, there are disadvantages in traditional DCFC designs. They have historically required high temperatures to function, which in turn requires expensive materials that are able to withstand such heat . Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich The most recent DCFC design from INL addresses these problems. To deal with the necessary high temperatures, the researchers developed an electrolyte with doped cerium oxide and carbonate, highly conductive materials that can perform under lower temperatures. To increase the efficiency of the fuel cell, the researchers created a 3-D ceramic textile anode that is woven like cloth and maximizes the surface area available for carbon fuel chemical reactions. The design also incorporates a molten carbonate-carbon composite fuel, which allows for better flow. “At the operating temperature, that composite is fluidlike,” Ding said. “It can easily flow into the interface.” Because DCFCs produce pure carbon dioxide without other pollutants, Ding believes it would be much easier to include carbon capture technology into the design. While a shift to carbon-free renewable energy is necessary to mitigate climate change , this new DCFC technology may ease the transition. Via Phys.org Images via Idaho National Laboratory

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Scientists create efficient fuel cell powered by solid carbon

42 people own same wealth as bottom 3.7 billion – new Oxfam report

January 22, 2018 by  
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82 percent of the wealth created in 2017 “went to the richest one percent ” of the world’s people, according to Oxfam . In their recent report entitled Reward Work, Not Wealth , published just as world leaders are preparing to convene for the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, the non-profit organization reveals a worsening inequality crisis in which “the benefits of economic growth continue to concentrate in fewer hands.” The Oxfam report shows that 2017 “saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history” – a new one every other day during a year. There are 2,043 dollar billionaires on Earth, and “nine out of 10 are men.” The billionaires’ wealth increased by $762 billion in 12 months – “enough to end extreme poverty seven times over.” Related: The wealthiest ten percent of the population generate half of the world’s emissions While 42 people “own the same wealth as the bottom 3.7 billion people,” 61 people own the same wealth as the bottom 50 percent. And “the richest one percent continue to own more wealth than the whole of the rest of humanity.” Economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University said in the report, “Sometimes the super-rich call out Oxfam and others for ‘stoking class warfare’ but the truth is that in many societies, including my own, the United States, many of the super-rich have in effect declared war on the poor. The urgent need is to rebalance the tables, defend the rights of the poor, and re-establish fair societies that meet the needs of all in line with globally agreed goals.” Oxfam called on policy makers to acknowledge how the world’s economic system is impacting poor people in the world, and make changes to promote greater equality. They listed such policies as ending the gender pay gap, and protecting women workers’ rights as steps toward that goal. They also said in their statement they estimate “a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school .” + Reward Work, Not Wealth + Oxfam Lead image via depositphotos , others via Hermes Rivera on Unsplash and Benny Jackson on Unsplash

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