If reconciled, Taliban militants could turn on India: Nicholas Burns

New Delhi, Aug.18 (ANI): Expressing reservations over the idea of opening up communication channels with certain sections of Taliban, the former United States Deputy Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns, on Tuesday said that the US should resolve the problem keeping in view the regional context.

“Reconciling with Taliban is very complex and there is a risk that after the talks these militants could turn on India. We (US) should go ahead to look at the problem in the regional context,” said Nicholas Burns in the capital.

Burns, who retired from the U.S. foreign office a year-and-a-half ago, on Tuesday was here in Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) where he addressed ex-diplomats and strategists.

U S has been suffering major setbacks in combating Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and under its new AfPak policy, it is planning to hold talks with what it calls “Good Taliban” and would carry on its offensive against the ‘Bad Taliban’.

New Delhi is however skeptical about any reconciliation with militants and does not believe in the “Good Taliban theory”.

Burns further stressed that the U.S should deal with India and Pakistan singularly and there should be no ‘hyphenation’.

“The US should have independent relationship with Pakistan and India,” he added.

Calling India’s role in Afghanistan as “positive and constructive”, Burns said that Pakistan equipped with nuclear bombs and high instability is creating worries like no other country.

Burns said: “India could play an instrumental role in bringing Iran onboard as a nuclear Iran is not in the interest of India.”

On the issue of Mumbai terror attack on 26/11 last year, Burns said: “Mumbai attack had evoked lot of sympathy in the United States and we should use this to motivate the two countries in countering terrorism not only in south Asia but other parts of the world as well.”

Burns had played a key role during negotiations related to the Indo-U.S nuclear deal. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

Dark energy may not actually exist

London, August 18 (ANI): A new research by scientists has claimed that dark energy – the mysterious substance thought to make up three-quarters of the universe – may not actually exist.

The concept of dark energy was created by cosmologists to fit Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity into reality after modern space telescopes discovered that the Universe was not behaving as it should.

According to Einstein’s work, the speed at which the Universe is expanding following the Big Bang should be slower than it actually is and this unexplained anomaly threatened to turn the whole theory upside down.

In order to reconcile this problem, the concept of dark energy was invented.

But now, according to a report in the Telegraph, Blake Temple and Joel Smoller, mathematicians at the University of California and the University of Michigan, believe they have come up with a whole new set of calculations that allow for all the sums to add up without the need for this controversial substance.

The research could change the way astronomers view the composition of our Universe, as it may prove that dark energy doesn’t exist at all.

The Standard Model of Cosmology, which describes the evolution of the Universe, begins with the Big Bang.

Astronomers have recently observed that the galaxies are accelerating as they move away from each other, and cosmologists have sought to explain this unexpected acceleration by introducing the concept of dark energy, which permeates space, propels matter, and accounts for nearly 75 percent of the mass-energy in our Universe.

The new research is likely to be equally controversial as the work it purports to challenge especially as it relies on our galaxy being at the centre of the Universe – a concept that has been generally disregarded in modern science.

According to Dr Malcom Fairbairn, particle cosmologist at King’s College London, “Ever since the concept of dark energy was first mentioned, people have been trying to explain it or explain it away. It is a mystery and an inconvenience.”

“This is one attempt at it. Whether it is right only time will tell,” he said. (ANI)

Cockroaches can survive climate change by holding their breath to save water

London, August 18 (ANI): A new study has found that cockroaches can hold their breath to save water, a trick that could help them to thrive in the face of climate change.

When cockroaches are resting, they periodically stop breathing for as long as 40 minutes, though why they do so has been unclear.

According to a report in New Scientist, to investigate the mystery, Natalie Schimpf and her colleagues at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, examined whether speckled cockroaches change their breathing pattern in response to changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) or oxygen concentration, or humidity.

They conclude that cockroaches close the spiracles through which they breathe primarily to save water. In dry environments, the insects took shorter breaths than in moist conditions.

“Cockroaches lose water across their respiratory surfaces when they breathe, so taking shorter breaths in dry conditions reduces the amount of water they will lose,” said Schimpf.

The nifty breath-holding adaptation has allowed cockroaches to colonise drier habitats and may allow them to thrive in climate change, according to George McGavin of the University of Oxford.

“Cockroaches have an awesome array of adaptations to life on dry land,” said McGavin.

“Living in the humid conditions of a rainforest, where they evolved, might be plain sailing, but cockroaches are adaptable and can cope in a wide range of environmental conditions,” he added.

According to McGavin, “Two hundred and fifty million years of physiological fine tuning has produced a creature that will be around for a long time to come. Cockroaches, I’m afraid to say, will do well in the face of climate change.”

The study deals a blow to the theory that cockroaches hold their breath to survive underground, where CO2 levels can be poisonous.

“They held their breath no longer in high-CO2 than in low-CO2 conditions,” said Schimpf. (ANI)

NASA scientists make first discovery of life’s building block in comet

Washington, August 18 (ANI): NASA scientists have discovered glycine, a fundamental building block of life, in samples of comet Wild 2 returned by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft.

“Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet,” said Dr. Jamie Elsila of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Our discovery supports the theory that some of life’s ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts,” he added.

“The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare,” said Dr. Carl Pilcher, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which co-funded the research.

Stardust passed through dense gas and dust surrounding the icy nucleus of Wild 2 on January 2, 2004.

As the spacecraft flew through this material, a special collection grid filled with aerogel – a novel sponge-like material that’s more than 99 percent empty space – gently captured samples of the comet’s gas and dust.

The grid was stowed in a capsule, which detached from the spacecraft and parachuted to Earth on January 15, 2006.

Since then, scientists around the world have been busy analyzing the samples to learn the secrets of comet formation and our solar system’s history.

“We actually analyzed aluminum foil from the sides of tiny chambers that hold the aerogel in the collection grid,” said Elsila.

“As gas molecules passed through the aerogel, some stuck to the foil. We spent two years testing and developing our equipment to make it accurate and sensitive enough to analyze such incredibly tiny samples,” he added.

Earlier, preliminary analysis in the Goddard labs detected glycine in both the foil and a sample of the aerogel.

However, since glycine is used by terrestrial life, at first the team was unable to rule out contamination from sources on Earth.

The new research used isotopic analysis of the foil to rule out that possibility.

“We discovered that the Stardust-returned glycine has an extraterrestrial carbon isotope signature, indicating that it originated on the comet,” said Elsila.

According to Dr. Daniel Glavin of NASA Goddard, “Based on the foil and aerogel results it is highly probable that the entire comet-exposed side of the Stardust sample collection grid is coated with glycine that formed in space.” (ANI)

Seasonal winds might drive current variability in the northern Indian Ocean

Washington, August 9 (ANI): A new research has determined that seasonal winds might drive current variability in the northern Indian Ocean.

The research was carried out by J. Vialard and his team from the Laboratoire d’Oceanographie Experimentation et Approches Numeriques, IRD, Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.

It was done to study the dynamics of the response of the northern Indian Ocean to intraseasonal winds.

The team analyzed satellite observations of sea level and wind stress as well as a new data set of currents recorded at 15 degrees North on the west coast of India.

They found that while sea level shows a seasonal variability, the alongshore current shows no clear seasonal cycle but is dominated by intraseasonal (55-110 day) fluctuations.

These current variations, the researchers found, arise as a response of the northern Indian Ocean to intraseasonal winds associated with the Madden-Julian Oscillation.

The team used linear wave theory to explain these observations.

Although the study focuses on the Indian Ocean, the researchers believe that similar dynamics could drive coastal current variability in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The results could also have implications for coastal current monitoring. (ANI)

Why male and female lemurs are of same size

Washington, July 15 (ANI): Rice University biologist Amy Dunham has put forward a new theory for one of primatology’s long-standing mysteries-why are male and female lemurs the same size?

In most primate species, males have evolved to be much larger than females, but this has not been found to be true in case of lemurs.

Some theories have suggested that environment played a role or that lemur social development was altered due to the extinction of predatory birds.
“Scientifically, this is quite a big question that researchers have debated for over 20 years. I actually started doing research on lemurs as an undergraduate, working in Ranomafana (National Park in Madgascar), and the question about size monomorphism has bugged me since then,” said Dunham.
In the new study, Dunham has offered one of the first new theories on lemur monomorphism in more than a decade.
After conducting an exhaustive review of the observational work done on lemurs, Dunham concluded that male lemurs do guard their mates, just like other primates.

But unlike gorillas and other primates that fight for mating rights with females, male lemurs have evolved to passively guard their mates.
They do this by depositing a solid plug inside the female’s reproductive tract just as they finish mating. The plug is deposited as a liquid protein but quickly hardens and stays in place for a day or two.

Since many female lemurs are sexually responsive to males for only one day out of the entire year, the plug serves the purpose of preventing other males from mating with the female, while also freeing the male to mate with other females during the brief time they are available.
“If the female has a short receptivity period, as most lemurs do, then we hypothesize that this is likely to be an advantageous strategy,” said Dunham.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers examined 62 primate species and found that copulatory plugs were most likely to occur in species where female sexual receptivity was very brief and where males and females were the same size.

This was true both for lemur species and for a few other species, like South American squirrel monkeys.
The study has been published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. (ANI

Brain scans can tell ‘honest’ person from ‘dishonest’ one even when both tell the truth

Washington, July 14 (ANI): Researching into the cognitive process involved with honesty, Harvard University psychologists have come to the conclusion that truthfulness depends more on absence of temptation than active resistance to temptation.

Assistant Professor Joshua Greene and graduate student Joe Paxton, the duo that led the study, have revealed that they used neuroimaging to look at the brain activity of people given the chance to gain money dishonestly by lying, and found that honest people showed no additional neural activity when telling the truth.

The researchers say that that observation implied that extra cognitive processes were not necessary to choose honesty.

However, the researchers also found that individuals who behaved dishonestly, even when telling the truth, showed additional activity in brain regions that involve control and attention.

“Being honest is not so much a matter of exercising willpower as it is being disposed to behave honestly in a more effortless kind of way. This may not be true for all situations, but it seems to be true for at least this situation,” says Greene.

The researchers say that they carried out the study to test two theories about the nature of honesty – the “Will” theory, in which honesty results from the active resistance of temptation, and the “Grace” theory in which honesty is a product of lack of temptation.

Writing about their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they have suggested that the “Grace” theory is true, because the honest participants did not show any additional neural activity when telling the truth.

To prompt participants to lie, the researchers created a cover story about the focus of their study. The research was presented as a study of paranormal ability to predict the future.

The researchers asked those participating in the study to predict the outcomes of a series of coin tosses.

The subjects were told that the research team believed predicting the future was more likely when given a monetary incentive, and when the prediction was not shared in advance of the outcome. That gave the participants the opportunity to lie and say that they had correctly predicted the coin toss to win the money.

The subjects’ honesty was assessed based on whether their number of correct responses was statistically feasible.

According to the researchers, the participants who reported improbably high levels of accuracy were classified as dishonest, and those reporting statistically feasible levels of accuracy were classified as honest.

With the aid of fMRI technique, Greene found that the honest individuals displayed little to no additional brain activity when reporting their prediction of the coin toss. However, the dishonest participants’ brains were most active in control-related brain regions when they chose not to lie.

Greene notes that there was an important distinction between the brain activity when the honest participants told the truth, and when the dishonest participants told the truth.

“When the honest people leave money on the table, you don’t see anything special or extra going on in their brains at all. Whereas, when the dishonest people leave money on the table, that’s when you saw the most robust control network activation,” says the researcher.

The researchers hope that their findings may pave the way for a technique to detect lies by looking at someone’s brain activity, but they also concede that a lot more work must be done before this becomes possible. (ANI)

Swearing ‘can actually lessen pain’

London, July 12 (ANI): F-word outbursts, for which celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is famous, can actually decrease the effect of pain, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at Keele University in Staffordshire, suggests that swearing may be a good recipe for coping with physical knocks.

The research team, led by Dr Richard Stephens, wondered whether swearing might have a psychological effect that increased pain tolerance.

To test the theory, they asked 66 volunteer students to submerge a hand into a tube of iced water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice.

At the beginning of the experiment, participants were asked for “five words you might use after hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer”. They were told to use the first swear word on the list.

The study was then conducted again, but instead of swearing the students were asked to use one of “five words to describe a table”.

The researchers found that volunteers were able to keep their hands in the freezing water for significantly longer when they swore.

At the same time, their heart rates accelerated and their pain-perception, as measured with a questionnaire, reduced.

According to the researchers, swearing triggers a “fight-or-flight” response and heightens aggression.

“Everyday examples of aggressive swearing include the football manger who ‘psyches up’ players with expletive-laden team talks, or the drill sergeant barking orders interspersed with profanities,” the Scotsman quoted the authors as saying.

“Swearing in these contexts may serve to raise levels of aggression, downplaying feebleness in favour of a more pain-tolerant machismo,” they added.

“Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists,” the Scotsman quoted Stephens as saying.

The study has been published in the journal NeuroReport. (ANI)

Males’ sperm travel faster when females are attractive

Melbourne, July 10 (ANI): A new piece of research on red junglefowl, an ancestor of chickens, has shown that males can adjust the speed and effectiveness of their sperm, based on whether they find their mate attractive.

Published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study adds to the growing body of evidence that males from promiscuous species, including humans, increase the chances of fertilisation when the female is deemed to be attractive.

“Female attractiveness is determined by the expression of a sexual ornament – the comb – which is phenotypically and genetically correlated to the number and mass of eggs females lay,” ABC Science quoted co-authors Dr. Charlie Cornwallis, of the University of Oxford, and Dr Emily O’Connor, of the Royal Veterinary College, as saying.

For their study, the researchers collected natural ejaculates from dominate and subordinate red junglefowl males housed at the University of Stockholm.

They reveal that the males had either just mated with attractive or unattractive females.

The researchers later separated the sperm from the seminal fluid, and analysed the quantity and characteristics of both.

“There was a strong relationship between sperm velocity and the volume of the ejaculate sperm came from,” write Cornwallis and O’Connor, adding that males allocated “larger ejaculates to attractive females”.

Although the researchers have yet to unravel the mystery behind it, they have an have an intriguing theory.

“Males may alter the velocity of sperm they allocate to copulations by strategically firing their left and right ejaculatory ducts, which can operate independently,” they say.

Thus, according to them, stimulation from sexy, attractive females leads to the double firing.

“Furthermore, differential firing of left and right ejaculatory ducts may contribute to how males strategically change the number of sperm in their ejaculates, a phenomenon that is widespread, but for which the mechanism remains unknown,” they say.

The researchers now hope that future studies will better identify how males adjust the sperm and seminal fluid in their ejaculates, and how this affects fertility rates. (ANI)

Why minor neuromuscular damage can affect one’s ability to complete everyday tasks

Washington, July 9 (ANI): In what may help understand why minor damage to the neuromuscular system can at times profoundly affect one’s ability to complete everyday tasks, scientists have found that activities combining movement and force tax the brain to capacity, countering a long-held belief that difficulty with dexterous tasks results from the limits of the muscles themselves.

“Our results show how much the mechanics of the body, and a given task, affect what the brain can or can’t do,” said Francisco Valero-Cuevas of the Brain-Body Dynamics Lab at the University of Southern California, who led the research.

“The so-called ‘problem’ of muscle redundancy-having too many muscles and joints to control-may not be the only challenge the brain faces when controlling our bodies. Rather, we seem to have about as many muscles as we need, and not too many, as others have proposed in the past.

“The scientific world and the clinical world have long been arriving at conflicting conclusions, and this work begins to resolve the paradox.

“While neuroscience and biomechanics studies have suggested that muscles and joints are, in theory, redundant and provide numerous alternative solutions to simple tasks, clinicians routinely see people seeking treatment for hand disability resulting from relatively minor conditions such as aging,” added Valero-Cuevas.

The study followed previous experiments that suggested the brain and complex musculature can barely keep up with requirements posed by our anatomy and the mechanics of even ordinary, real-world, finger tasks like rubbing a surface.

The conclusions begin to explain why even minor damage to the neuromuscular system seems to produce real deficits in manipulation.

The research focused on simultaneous force and motion-specifically from fingers either pushing or rubbing a surface-with volunteers conducting the experiment at defined, yet varying, speeds.

Knowing the force-producing properties of muscle, the researchers expected the rubbing motion would show reduced downward force as the speed of motion increased.

Surprisingly, whether rubbing slowly or at a pace 36-times faster, speed had little affect on the downward force the volunteers could produce.

The researchers interpret the results to mean the brain is sufficiently occupied by the physical demands of combining motions and forces, so the muscle properties are not the limiting factors for how much force the fingers can create.

“This begins to explain the clinical reality that when something in the system is damaged, either in the brain or body, we can see losses of function. We are not as ‘redundant’ as we thought,” said Valero-Cuevas.

The research team is conducting additional research to determine what exact neural and anatomical mechanisms are producing these results.

The current study has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience. (ANI)

Forest fire prevention efforts can add to greenhouse warming

Washington, July 9 (ANI): Forestry researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have said in a new report that widely sought efforts to reduce fuels that increase catastrophic fire in Pacific Northwest forests will be counterproductive to another important societal goal of sequestering carbon to help offset global warming.

The study showed that even if the biofuels were used in an optimal manner to produce electricity or make cellulosic ethanol, there would still be a net loss of carbon sequestration in forests of the Coast Range and the west side of the Cascade Mountains for at least 100 years – and probably much longer.

“Fuel reduction treatments should be forgone if forest ecosystems are to provide maximal amelioration of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the next 100 years,” the study authors wrote in their conclusion.

“If fuel reduction treatments are effective in reducing fire severities in the western hemlock, Douglas-fir forests of the west Cascades and the western hemlock , Sitka spruce forests of the Coast Range, it will come at the cost of long-term carbon storage, even if harvested material are used as biofuels,” they added.

The study raises serious questions about how to maximize carbon sequestration in these fast-growing forests and at the same time maximize protection against catastrophic fire.

“It had been thought for some time that if you used biofuel treatments to produce energy, you could offset the carbon emissions from this process,” said Mark Harmon, holder of the Richardson Chair in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society.

“That seems to make common sense and sounds great in theory, but when you actually go through the data, it doesn’t work,” he added.

Using biofuels to produce energy does not completely offset the need for other fossil fuels use and completely negate their input to the global carbon budget, the researchers found.

At the absolute maximum, you might recover 90 percent of the energy, according to the study.

“That figure, however, assumes an optimal production of energy from biofuels that is probably not possible,” Harmon said.

“By the time you include transportation, fuel for thinning and other energy expenditures, you are probably looking at a return of more like 60-65 percent. And if you try to produce cellulosic ethanol, the offset is more like 35 percent,” he added.

The new study found that, in a Coast Range stand, if you removed solid woody biofuels for reduction of catastrophic fire risks and used those for fuel, it would take 169 years before such usage reached a break-even point in carbon sequestration. (ANI)

Illness carried by humans may have killed the Neanderthals 30,000 years ago

Copenhagen (Denmark), July 8 (ANI): A new theory has suggested that an infectious disease carried by Homo sapiens migrating out of Africa was responsible for the demise of the Neanderthal 30,000 years ago.

According to a report in The Copenhagen Post, Professor emeritus Bent Sorensen of the University of Roskilde said that disease carried by Homo sapiens migrating out of Africa was responsible for the gradual extinction of our prehistoric cousins in the same way that European illnesses ravaged Native American populations in the sixteenth century.

“Modern humans brought illnesses they could survive themselves, but for Neanderthals they were deadly,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen’s article submitted to the Journal of Archaeological Science challenges the leading theories about why Neanderthals disappeared from Europe 30,000 years ago.

Those theories suggest that the stockier Neanderthals were unable to adapt to a changing climate or that they were killed off as humans encroached on their territory.

But according to Sorensen, skeletal remains show no conclusive evidence that Neanderthals had been killed as a result of violence caused by humans.

He hopes efforts currently underway to map the DNA from the remains of a 38,000 year-old Neanderthal found in Croatia can uncover evidence to support his theory.

“Similar methods have been used to identify tuberculosis in 5,000 year-old remains discovered in Egypt,” he said. (ANI)

Sex evolved as a defence against parasites, suggests article

Washington, July 7 (ANI): Sex may have evolved in part as a defence against parasites, suggests a research article.

Published in the journal American Naturalist, the article highlights the fact that when an asexual creature reproduces, it makes clones-exact genetic copies of itself.

It further point out that each clone has the same genes, and, consequently, the same genetic vulnerabilities to parasites.

The article states that if a parasite emerges that can exploit those vulnerabilities, it can wipe out the whole population.

Sexual offspring, on the other hand, are genetically unique, often with different parasite vulnerabilities. That is why, says the write-up, a parasite that can destroy some can’t necessarily destroy all.

In theory, that should help sexual populations maintain stability, while asexual populations face extinction at the hands of parasites.

These propositions are based on several pieces of research on Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a snail common in fresh water lakes in New Zealand which has both sexual and asexual versions.

Jukka Jokela of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Mark Dybdahl of the University of Washington and Curtis Lively of Indian University, Bloomington began observing several populations of these snails for ten years starting in 1994.

The researchers monitored the number of sexuals, the number asexuals, and the rates of parasite infection for both.

They found that clones that were plentiful at the beginning of the study became more susceptible to parasites over time.

As parasite infections increased, the once plentiful clones dwindled dramatically in number. Some clonal types disappeared entirely.

However, sexual snail populations remained much more stable over time. This, the authors say, is exactly the pattern predicted by the parasite hypothesis.

“The rise and fall of these female-only lineages was surprisingly fast and consistent with the prediction of the parasite hypothesis for sex. These results suggest that sexual reproduction provides an evolutionary advantage in parasite rich environments,” Jokela said. (ANI)

Climate change causing wild sheep to shrink

Washington, July 3 (ANI): A new study has provided evidence for climate change as the cause of the mysterious decrease in the size of wild sheep on the Scottish island of Hirta.

According to the researchers, due to climate change, survival conditions on Hirta are becoming less challenging, which means slower-growing, smaller sheep are more likely to survive the winters than they once were.

This, together with the newly discovered so-called ‘young mum effect’ whereby young ewes produce smaller offspring, explains why the average size of sheep on the island is decreasing.

Classical evolutionary theory suggests that over time the average size of wild sheep increases, because larger animals tend to be more likely to survive and reproduce than smaller ones, and offspring tend to resemble their parents.

However, among the Soay sheep of Hirta, a remote Scottish island in the St Kilda archipelago, average body size has decreased by approximately 5 percent over the last 24 years.

The research team analyzed body size and life history data, which records the timing of key milestones throughout an individual sheep’s life, for Soays on Hirta over this 24 year period.

They found that sheep on the island are not growing as quickly as they once did, and that smaller sheep are more likely to survive into adulthood.

This is bringing down the average size of sheep in the population over all.

Professor Coulson suggests that this is because shorter, milder winters, caused by global climate change, mean that lambs do not need to put on as much as weight in the first months of life to survive to their first birthday as they did when winters were colder.

According to him, “In the past, only the big, healthy sheep and large lambs that had piled on weight in their first summer could survive the harsh winters on Hirta. But now, due to climate change, grass for food is available for more months of the year, and survival conditions are not so challenging.”

“Even the slower growing sheep have a chance of making it, and this means smaller individuals are becoming increasingly prevalent in the population,” he added.

Their results suggest that the decrease in average body size seen in Hirta’s sheep is primarily an ecological response to environmental changes over the last 25 years. Evolutionary change has contributed relatively little. (ANI)

Most people feel it is possible to believe in God and evolution

London, July 2 (ANI): If a new survey is anything to go by, majority of people think it is possible to believe in God and evolution.

The survey, conducted by the British Council, revealed that 54 per cent thought that science and religion are compatible.

The study of more than 10,000 people across 10 countries worldwide including Great Britain found that only 19 per cent think it is impossible to believe in a God while also holding the view that life on earth evolved as a result of natural selection.

This is the theory proposed by Charles Darwin exactly 150 years ago in his groundbreaking book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

The poll also uncovered wide regional variations in the acceptance of evolutionary theory.

London respondents were found to be more likely to believe in creationism – the idea that the earth was divinely created in its current form – than people elsewhere in the country.

In total, 23 per cent of the capital’s residents rejected evolution, compared with 16 per cent nationwide.

Overall, 45 per cent of adults said they had heard of the Victorian naturalist and knew at least a little about his ideas.

“This survey has thrown up some very interesting regional variations which shows that there is significant need for education and debate about the theory of evolution,” the Telegraph quoted Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker, head of the British Council’s Darwin Now programme, as saying.

“The contribution that Darwin has made to evidence-based science fundamentally underpins modern biology and is of huge importance, as is the need to address how his ideas are communicated and debated alongside other perspectives.

“Ultimately, this survey highlights the role that science can play in society as a point of reference for debate that should be respectful of people’s views and beliefs,” Elsdon-Baker added. (ANI)

Astronomers discover new class of black holes

London, July 2 (ANI): An international team of astronomers has discovered a new class of black hole, more than 500 times the mass of the Sun.

Astronomers made the finding in a distant galaxy approximately 290 million light years from Earth.

Until now, identified black holes have been either super-massive in the centre of galaxies, or about the size of a typical star (between three and 20 Solar masses).

The new discovery is the first solid evidence of a new class of medium-sized black holes.

A black hole is a remnant of a collapsed star with such a powerful gravitational field that it absorbs all the light that passes near it and reflects nothing.

It had been long believed by astrophysicists that there might be a third, intermediate class of black holes, with masses between a hundred and several hundred thousand times that of the Sun.

However, such black holes had not been reliably detected until now.

The team, led by astrophysicists at the Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements in France, detected the new black hole with the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope.

“While it is widely accepted that stellar mass black holes are created during the death throes of massive stars, it is still unknown how super-massive black holes are formed,” said the lead author of the research paper, Dr. Sean Farrell, now based at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, UK.

“One theory is that super-massive black holes may be formed by the merger of a number of intermediate mass black holes. To ratify such a theory, however, you must first prove the existence of intermediate black holes,” he added.

“This is the best detection to date of such long sought after intermediate mass black holes. Such a detection is essential. While it is already known that stellar mass black holes are the remnants of massive stars, the formation mechanisms of supermassive black holes are still unknown,” said Farrell.

“The identification of HLX-1 is therefore an important step towards a better understanding of the formation of the super-massive black holes that exist at the centre of the Milky Way and other galaxies,” he added.

HLX-1 (Hyper-Luminous X-ray source 1), lies towards the edge of the galaxy ESO 243-49.

It is ultra-luminous in X-rays, with a maximum X-ray brightness of approximately 260 million times that of the Sun. (ANI)

New nanotechnology technique may boost longevity of dental fillings

Washington, July 2 (ANI): A novel nanotechnology technique can boost the longevity of dental fillings, claims a Medical College of Georgia (MCG) researcher.

The tooth-coloured fillings are usually more attractive than silver ones, but the bonds between the white filling and the tooth quickly age and degrade.

“Dentin adhesives bond well initially, but then the hybrid layer between the adhesive and the dentin begins to break down in as little as one year. When that happens, the restoration will eventually fail and come off the tooth,” said Dr. Franklin Tay, associate professor of endodontics in the MCG School of Dentistry.

He added: “Our adhesives are not as good as we thought they were, and that causes problems for the bonds.”

To make a bond, a dentist etches away some of the dentin’s minerals with phosphoric acid to expose a network of collagen, known as the hybrid layer.

Acid-etching prepares the tooth for application of an adhesive to the hybrid layer so that the resin can latch on to the collagen network, but the imperfect adhesives leave spaces inside the collagen that are not properly infiltrated with resin, leading to the bonds’ failure.

Thus, in order to prevent the aging and degradation of resin-dentin bonding by feeding minerals back into the collagen network, Tay is investigating guided tissue remineralisation.

Guided tissue remineralisation is a new nanotechnology process of growing extremely small, mineral-rich crystals and guiding them into the demineralised gaps between collagen fibres.

Tay got the idea of the technique by examining how crystals form in nature.

“Eggshells and abalone [sea snail] shells are very strong and intriguing. We’re trying to mimic nature, and we’re learning a lot from observing how small animals make their shells,” said Tay.

The crystals, called hydroxyapatite, bond when proteins and minerals interact.

Tay will use calcium phosphate, a mineral that’s the primary component of dentin, enamel and bone, and two protein analogs also found in dentin so he can mimic nature while controlling the size of each crystal.

“When crystals are formed, they don’t have a definite shape, so they are easily guided into the nooks and crannies of the collagen matrix,” he said.

In theory, the crystals should lock the minerals into the hybrid layer, and prevent it from degrading.

If the concept of guided tissue remineralisation works, Tay will create a delivery system to apply the crystals to the hybrid layer after the acid-etching process.

The study has been published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. (ANI)

Energy intake reaches a limit despite abundant food supply

Washington, July 1 (ANI): Contradicting Charles Darwin’s theory, scientists have now shown that despite abundant food supply, energy intake reaches a limit even in animals with high nutrient demands, such as lactating females.

Darwin and his contemporaries postulated that food consumption in birds and mammals was limited by resource levels, which meant that animals would eat as much as they could while food was plentiful and produce as many offspring as this would allow them to.

Scientists at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology in Vienna have now suggested that energy intake reaches a limit due to active control of maternal investment in offspring in order to maintain long-term reproductive fitness.

The new research led by Dr Teresa Valenca showed that Brown hares could increase their energy turnover and rate of milk production above normal levels when their energy reserves were low, or when their offspring were kept in cooler temperatures.

That indicated that, ordinarily, the hares were operating at below their maximum capacity.

It also showed that this is not due to any kind of physiological constraint, such as length of digestive tract or maximum capacity of mammary glands.

As the hares were also provided with plentiful food, there could be no limitation of energy turnover due to food availability.

The way that females regulated their energy expenditure according to pup demand and their own fat reserves but did not exceed certain levels was in line with the group’s theory that using energy at close to the maximum rate has costs for animals which may compromise their ability to successfully reproduce in the future.

For example, if a hare puts most of its energy into a litter of pups then it will have little left over for growth and body repairs, which may shorten its life or make it less able to produce or care for young in the future.

Thus, by actively limiting the rate of energy turnover, a mother can prevent this and maintain a higher level of reproductive success over her lifetime.

The study will be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Glasgow. (ANI)

Milky Way survived ancient heat wave because of dark matter

Washington, July 1 (ANI): A new theory by scientists says that our Milky Way galaxy survived intense heat generated by the “ignition” of the Universe about half-a-billion years after the Big Bang, because it was already immersed in a large clump of dark matter that trapped gases inside it.

Tiny galaxies, inside small clumps of dark matter, were blasted away by the heat that reached approximate temperatures of between 20,000 and 100,000 degrees centigrade, according to the scientists, including experts at Japan’s University of Tsukuba.

The researchers said that the early Milky Way, which had begun forming stars, held on to the raw gaseous material from which further stars would be made.

This material would otherwise have been evaporated by the high temperatures generated by the “ignition”.

Using computer simulations carried out by the international Virgo Consortium (which is led by Durham), the scientists examined why galaxies like the Milky Way have so few companion galaxies or satellites.

Astronomers have found a few dozen small satellites around the Milky Way, but the simulations revealed that hundreds of thousands of small clumps of dark matter should be orbiting our galaxy.

Dark matter is thought to make up 85 per cent of the Universe’s mass and is believed to be one of the building blocks of galaxy formation.

The scientists said the heat from the early stars and black holes rendered this dark matter barren and unable to support the development of satellite star systems.

According to Joint lead investigator Professor Carlos Frenk, Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology, at Durham University, “The validity of the standard model of our Universe hinges on finding a satisfactory explanation for why galaxies like the Milky Way have so few companions.”

“The simulations show that hundreds of thousands of small dark matter clumps should be orbiting the Milky Way, but they didn’t form galaxies,” he explained.

“We can demonstrate that it was almost impossible for these potential galaxies to survive the extreme heat generated by the first stars and black holes,” he added.

“The heat evaporated gas from the small dark matter clumps, rendering them barren. Only a few dozen front-runners which had a head start on making stars before the Universe ignited managed to survive,” he further added.

By providing a natural explanation for the origin of galaxies, the simulations support the view that cold dark matter is the best candidate for the mysterious material believed to make up the majority of our Universe. (ANI)