New research shows remembering self-control failures leads to repeat failures

We don’t always make better decisions with our self-control even after making mistakes in our past. In fact, remembering self-control failures can lead to repeat failures. The study shows the effectiveness of memory in improving our everyday self-control decisions depends on what we recall and how easily it comes to mind. The findings defy conventional wisdom that our mistakes lead to better decisions. —> Read More

Marriage can lead to dramatic reduction in heavy drinking in young adults

Research on alcohol-use disorders consistently shows problem drinking decreases as we age. Now, researchers have found evidence that marriage can cause dramatic drinking reductions even among people with severe drinking problems. Scientists believe findings could help improve clinical efforts to help these people, inform public health policy changes and lead to more targeted interventions for young adult problem drinkers. —> Read More

At Last, Are Novae the Lithium Factories Longed for?

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When I had finally given up the hope, this year astronomers have reached twice a goal which I have dreamed to see for about 25 years. They caught in the act lithium formation in stars for the first time, observing it in the spectra of the matter ejected in two different novae, exploded in 2013.

V1369 Cen (Nova Centauri 2013) from the NTT ESO telescope, image taken in July 2015, one year and half after the explosion. It is the brightest star in the centre of the picture. Credit: ESO

Lithium is formed during the primordial Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN). When the fireball begins expanding, its temperature progressively lowers, reaching thresholds which modify its main components. The timing for building up deuterium (D), tritium (3H), the isotopes 3 and 4 of helium (3He and 4He) and the main lithium isotope (7Li) is confined between about 2 minutes and 15 minutes of age of the newborn Universe, when the temperature passes through the range from a billion to about 300 million degrees.

Notice that all the other elements are synthesized much later, most of them by nuclear reactions in the interior of stars, while those heavier than iron are formed in some stars by two other processes, “rapid” and/or “slow” neutron capture onto iron seed nuclei.

The most abundant final outcome of BBN is the very stable nucleus of helium, one 4He every 10 protons (hydrogen nuclei). An appealing result of BBN is that this abundance of helium can be derived from a back of the envelope computation, and depends on the basic proton and neutron properties, not on the details of the model. On the contrary, the precise abundances of D, 3He and 7Li depend on the barion density with which our Universe was born (one of those interesting —> Read More

Biosecurity Protects Islands

Treasure Islands campaign sign from Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

Without island biosecurity pests will rapidly recolonize islands from which they have been eradicated, or worse still colonise islands for the first time. Only with a rigorous audited biosecurity programme can pest-free status be maintained. The gold standard in New Zealand is Nature Reserve islands like Antipodes Island, where quarantine occurs before, during and after arrival, surveillance occurs pre and post border, and incursion response strategies are in place. The New Zealand Department of Conservation operates a robust island biosecurity programme to protect their conservation investments, but it was reported in the news today that last year numbers spiked, including mice, rats, cats and stoats all making it out to islands. Stranger critters such as ferrets and even otters have reached New Zealand’s offshore islands in the past. Unlike the original pest eradications which cleared these islands, and were years in the planning, a response to an incursion must, as DOC manager Andy Cox points out, be as rapid as if a forest fire had broken out. Pest incursions are the biological equivalent of chemical spills, only the agent can keep reproducing.

Treasure Islands campaign sign from Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand (Courtesy Treasure Islands)

Unfortunately mice reinvaded Maud Island when they evaded detection in 2013 and DOC had to respond with a $100,000 eradication in 2014. The BBC recently profiled work from the University of Auckland which experimentally demonstrated just how fast mouse invasion of islands can occur, in less than a year. Other research has investigated the optimal balance required between investing in quarantine to prevent incursions, and surveillance to respond to them, but ultimately both are important. Even catching a single incurring rat can be disproportionately difficult, as the case of Razza the rat demonstrated back in —> Read More

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