Battle in the gut: Immune cells help ‘good bacteria’ triumph over ‘bad bacteria’

The body’s immune system may be the keeper of a healthy gut microbiota, report scientists. They found that a binding protein on white blood cells could affect whether or not mice produced a balanced gut microbiota. Without the protein, harmful bacteria were more easily able to infect. Why this happens is unclear, but it may be that the immune system has a way to sense the presence of invading intestinal bacteria. —> Read More

Likely cause of 2013-14 earthquakes: Combination of gas field fluid injection and removal

A seismology team finds that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater (brine) extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of earthquakes near Azle, Texas, from late 2013 through spring 2014. The team identified two intersecting faults and developed a sophisticated 3-D model to assess changing fluid pressure within a rock formation, and the stress changes induced by both wastewater injection and gas production wells. —> Read More

Genographic Project Scientists explore the language behind DNA in Southeast Asia

Laotian Canoer

For ten years, Genographic Project scientists have explored and explained how patterns in our DNA show evidence of migration and expansion routes of our ancient ancestors across the globe. DNA has shown that humans arose in Africa some 150,000 years ago, and around 60,000 years ago humans left Africa and went east into Asia, north into Europe, and south into Australia. But new research from Genographic Project scientists in India show that eventually some of them also moved west, and brought their language with them.

Genographic Project scientists Drs. Ramasamy Pitchappan and GaneshPrasad ArunKumar from Tamil Nadu, India analyzed the Y-chromosome (paternally-inherited) DNA from more than 10,000 men from southern Asia. The findings, published in the Journal of Systematics and Evolution, showed that in the last 8,000 years humans expanded west from Southeast Asia back to India.

Lao farmer paddles along golden river at sundet. Photo by W.E. Garrett.

This previously undetected migration is evident from the frequency and diversity of a specific genetic clan, or haplogroup in that part of the world. The Genographic scientists found a much higher frequency of haplogroup O2a1 in their research than expected. “Since O2a1 is accepted as the founding lineage of Austro Asiatic languages (group of related languages from Southeast Asia), the origin and spread of this lineage gives clues on the history of these speakers and the region. Our study shows a clear decrease in age and diversity of haplogorup O2a1 from Laos to East India, suggesting an east to west spread out of Southeast Asia,” explains Dr. ArunKumar about his findings.

Dr. G. ArunKumar working in the field in eastern India. Photo courtesy of G. ArunKumar

But why did they focus on just one haplogroup, when there are hundreds of distinct haplogroups in Asia? “The Y chromosomal haplogroup O2a1 accounts for almost —> Read More

‘Planetary’ Will Make You Stop And Think About Your Place In The Universe

What if we all acted like our behavior impacted everyone else? That’s the message of “Planetary,” a documentary seeking to shift our perspectives and remind us that we’re all interconnected.

In an era of global climate change and other unprecedented environmental challenges, the film suggests we must shift our world views in order to shift our behavior. “We are at a turning point, and to figure out how to transform our civilization, we need to consider the lives of all beings, and all human cultures,” the filmmakers explain in a press release.

Directed by Guy Reid, the film combines stunning footage of our planet from outer space, along with interviews with environmental experts, thinkers and faith leaders.

“The really wonderful thing that happened to me when I was in space was this feeling of belonging to the entire universe,” former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison says in the film. “We’re as much a part of this universe as any speck of stardust, any asteroid. We’re part of this universe.”

“Planetary” opens in theaters on Wednesday, April 22 and is also available for streaming on Vimeo. Watch a trailer below:

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Did A Court Just Recognize Chimpanzees As ‘Legal Persons’? It Depends Who You Ask

Lawyers suing for the freedom of two chimpanzees used in biomedical research are celebrating a court order issued on Monday. But some legal professionals caution that their excitement is premature.

Attorneys for nonprofit legal advocacy group Nonhuman Rights Project are asking the New York Supreme Court to release two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, allegedly held in a lab at a public university. The court has agreed to hear the case, which the NRP lawyers say is of massive legal significance.

“The implications of this order are that Hercules and Leo have been granted legal personhood with the right to a writ of habeas corpus,” Natalie K. Prosin, a lawyer and the group’s executive director, told The Huffington Post. “Our nonhuman animal petitioners have a foot in the door, but the significance of this precedent-setting order means that no matter what happens in their individual case, the door can never be completely shut again.”

The NRP argues that it is appropriate to grant legal personhood — and therefore the right to be free from captivity — to chimpanzees because of their human-like intelligence, self-awareness and emotional complexity.

Hercules and Leo are held at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. The NRP is asking the court to grant a writ of habeas corpus, which would free them from captivity at the university and allow them to be dispatched to a primate sanctuary in Florida.

The two-page “order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus” was signed by Judge Barbara Jaffee of the New York State Supreme Court. The order sets a court date of May 6, when Stony Brook is scheduled to present its argument about why the chimps should not be released.

Prosin said she feels “quite optimistic that the right to —> Read More

Here’s What Happens When You Show Straight Guys Photos Of Male Abercrombie Models

Men compete with each other over all kinds of things, from cars to sports to physical stature. And, as it turns out, straight men also try to one-up other guys (especially more attractive ones) by taking bigger risks.

In a new Australian study, straight dudes who were shown pictures of shirtless male Abercrombie & Fitch models took bigger money risks than other groups.

“Men want to appear more desirable to women, and having more money is one way to do so,” one of the study’s authors, Australian psychologist Eugene Chan, explained to New Scientist. “Taking financial risks is one quick way to get more money, even if it might not be a sure thing.”

In an experiment conducted on 820 men and women, participants were shown pictures of male Abercrombie models, female models or “average” people. They were then given the choice of getting $100, or taking a bet where they had a 90% chance of getting nothing and a 10% chance of getting $1,000.

Straight men who looked at the photos of Abercrombie models were more likely to choose the riskier bet. This effect was particularly pronounced among men who were in a “mating mindset.”

Why? The risk-taking behavior might (you guessed it) have a little something to do with our evolutionary past.

“Men are more likely to take greater financial risks when they have a mating mindset because they are particularly interested in making themselves desirable to women as a spouse or partner,” Chan told The Huffington Post in an email. “What does this say about male mating behavior? It says that there are some innate processes that have evolved over time — behaviors that we don’t want to admit but we also can’t easily shake off.”

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