Daily Archives: November 26, 2007

Plant Evolution

I am very much looking forward to these papers:

In two papers set to be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report that the two largest groups of flowering plants are more closely related to each other than any of the other major lineages. These are the monocots, which include grasses and their relatives, and the eudicots, which include sunflowers and tomatoes.Doug and Pam Soltis, a UF professor of botany and curator at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History, respectively, also showed that a stunning diversification of flowering plants they are referring to as the “Big Bang” took place in the comparatively short period of less than 5 million years — and resulted in all five major lineages of flowering plants that exist today.”Flowering plants today comprise around 400,000 species,” said Pam Soltis. “So to think that the burst that give rise to almost all of these plants occurred in less than 5 million years is pretty amazing — especially when you consider that flowering plants as a group have been around for at least 130 million years.”[source]

Updates on the Oil Spills

From Birdlife International:Thousands of birds die in Black Sea oil spill

Thousands of birds and fish have been killed as oil spills from a stricken tanker in the northern Black Sea. At least 30,000 birds have died, and thousands more are covered in oil and face death in the coming days. The main species reported to be affected are Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Common Coot Fulica atra, Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus and Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. So far, 50km of Russian coastline is affected by the oil spills.Dr Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife’s European Division comments: “BirdLife International is very concerned as this incident is an ecological disaster in an important area for wildlife.”Two Important Bird Areas (IBAs), nearby, the Kiziltash Bay and the Tamanski and Dinskiy Bays, are under threat. Both are designated primarily for migrating and wintering birds. Up to 50,000 migratory waterfowl and other birds are known to use the sites during migration. Among these are Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.On Saturday night November 10th, a heavy storm brought severe damage to vessels stuck in the Kerch Strait between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. One vessel broke in two, leaking at least 2,000 tonnes of oil in the Black Sea. At least three more vessels that sank carried potentially hazardous sulphur. Twelve ships in total were reported to have been affected by the storms, killing at least six sailors.Due to the weather circumstances which are still difficult at the moment, information about the current situation in the area is sparse. BirdLife’s network representatives are therefore relying on local sources to receive updates.Weather services have announced more storms for tonight which make it impossible to undertake large-scale rescue operations at sea or to start cleaning oil-covered birds.[source]

Clean-up continues after California oil spill

The recovery effort continues in the US, after a cargo tanker collided with California’s Bay Bridge and released approximately 58,000 gallons of hazardous bunker fuel into the waters of the bay.Now in the second week since the disaster (on 7 November), conservationists from Audubon (BirdLife in the US), are among those monitoring the impact, in many cases transporting birds to local recovery centres.The dramatic events have received intense media coverage in the US – with California’s Governor Schwarzenegger reportedly “sad and angry”.”While the environmental impacts of the spill have reached across the entire ecosystem, the story of the disaster has largely been written through images of dead or suffering birds.” report Audubon California on the events.Since the spill occurred Audubon staff and volunteers have worked to monitor the sanctuary’s waters and beaches for oil, more recently turning their attention to the oiled birds, cases of which have become increasingly evident.As of Wednesday 22 November 2007, the latest figures from Audubon -collating the results of a number of different organisations assisting with recovery efforts- report that 1,052 birds are “in care” with 1,514 birds found dead in the field.”These numbers are particularly frightening because Richardson Bay is only one small part of the larger bay ecosystem, and it has so far escaped the massive oil slicks that have hit other regions”, said Gary Langham, director of bird conservation for Audubon California, who estimates that by the time the numbers are tallied for the entire bay, thousands more will have died. Many of these birds, he notes, are already under threat from habitat loss and other dangers.Particularly hard hit has been Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata, a diving sea duck vulnerable due to its habit of spending long periods on the oil-slicked surface before diving. Some 78 percent of Surf Scoters in the Pacific Flyway are reported to winter in San Francisco Bay.[source]

Review of Tiny Cheap Green PC PC

The green politically correct PC which is ironically on sale at WalMart (which is not a politically correct store unless you are … oh never mind, if I have to tell you, you won’t get it…) has been reviewed here.From the manufacturer:

Hardware Specifications1.5GHz, VIA C7®-D Processor, 512MB DDR2 533MHz, SDRAM, 80GB Hard Disk Drive, DVD-ROM/CD-RW Optical Drive, VIA UniChrome Pro IGP Graphics, Realtek 6-Channel Audio, (1) 10/100 Ethernet Port, (1) DB 15-Pin VGA Port, (6) USB 2.0 Ports, (1) RJ-11 Port, (1) Headphone/Line-Out Port, (2) Microphone/Line-In Ports, (1) Serial Port, (1) Parallel Port, (1) Keyboard, (1) Mouse, (1) Set of Amplified Stereo Speakers

One technical glitch on this $200.00 Linux computer being sold at WalMarts: WalMart does not actually have the computer in stock, so good luck with actually buying one. They seem to only carry the Microsoft version of the product, proving … well, you get the point.If you want to get your own without having to pay the extra 100 dollars for the Windows system that you will surely wipe during the Linux installation, go here.

Improving Rodent Brain Function

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchA new study addresses the link betwen omega-3 acidss and brain function, in this case in gerbils.

These studies show that oral supplementation with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, increases dendritic spine density in adult gerbil hippocampus…). This effect of DHA is approximately doubled when animals also receive [uridine-5â?²-monophosphate] and is accompanied by parallel increases in membrane phosphatides and in specific pre- and post-synaptic proteins. Supplementation with arachidonic acid (ARA), an omega-6 fatty acid, fails to increase spine density….

What does this mean? Continue reading Improving Rodent Brain Function

News Item: Scientists decode genomes of tuberculosis microbes

An international collaboration led by researchers in the US and South Africa announced Nov. 20 the first genome sequence of an extensively drug resistant (XDR) strain of the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, one linked to more than 50 deaths in a recent tuberculosis (TB) outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.*

Continue reading News Item: Scientists decode genomes of tuberculosis microbes

Origin 0f Life Research

A team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Milan has discovered some unexpected forms of liquid crystals of ultrashort DNA molecules immersed in water, providing a new scenario for a key step in the emergence of life on Earth.CU-Boulder physics Professor Noel Clark said the team found that surprisingly short segments of DNA, life’s molecular carrier of genetic information, could assemble into several distinct liquid crystal phases that “self-orient” parallel to one another and stack into columns when placed in a water solution. Life is widely believed to have emerged as segments of DNA- or RNA-like molecules in a prebiotic “soup” solution of ancient organic molecules.