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Bizarre alignment of planetary nebulae

Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO's New Technology Telescope to explore more than 100 planetary nebulae in the central bulge of our galaxy. They have found that butterfly-shaped members of this cosmic family tend to be mysteriously aligned — a surprising result given their different histories and varied properties.

The final stages of life for a star like our Sun result in the star puffing its outer layers out into the surrounding space, forming objects known as planetary nebulae in a wide range of beautiful and striking shapes. One type of such nebulae, known as bipolar planetary nebulae, create ghostly hourglass or butterfly shapes around their parent stars.

Richard III suffered from roundworm infection

Researchers based at the University of Cambridge and the University of Leicester have uncovered evidence that Richard III suffered from a roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) infection, according to a Clinical Picture published in The Lancet.

The body of Richard III, who ruled England from 1483 – 85, was discovered in 2012 by archaeologists at the University of Leicester, and scientists have since been undertaking careful analysis of the remains, in an attempt to shed further light on the attributes and history of the controversial king.

A team of researchers led by Dr Piers Mitchell, of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, UK, used a powerful microscope to examine soil samples taken from the skeleton’s pelvis and skull, as well as from the soil surrounding the grave.

Brain wiring quiets the voice inside your head

During a normal conversation, your brain is constantly adjusting the volume to soften the sound of your own voice and boost the voices of others in the room.

This ability to distinguish between the sounds generated from your own movements and those coming from the outside world is important not only for catching up on water cooler gossip, but also for learning how to speak or play a musical instrument.

Now, researchers have developed the first diagram of the brain circuitry that enables this complex interplay between the motor system and the auditory system to occur.

Scientists edge closer towards first pancreatitis treatment

Scientists have for the first time provided proof of principle for a drug-based treatment of acute pancreatitis – a disease which is often alcohol-related and for which currently there is no treatment.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, findings reveal that tests undertaken by scientists at Cardiff University, using an existing calcium channel-blocking compound developed by GlaxoSmithKline, have succeeded in markedly reducing the flow of calcium into isolated pancreatic cells and stopping the root cause of the disease in its tracks.

Language and tool-making skills evolved at the same time

Research by the University of Liverpool has found that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools, supporting the theory that they evolved at the same time.

Researchers from the University tested the brain activity of 10 expert stone tool makers (flint knappers) as they undertook a stone tool-making task and a standard language test. They measured the brain blood flow activity of the participants as they performed both tasks using functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD), commonly used in clinical settings to test patients' language functions after brain damage or before surgery.

Life without insulin is possible

Researchers at UNIGE have identified the mechanisms that are necessary to live without insulin, a discovery that is paving the way for new treatments against diabetes

Several million people around the world suffer from insulin deficiencies. Insulin is a hormone, secreted by the beta cells in the pancreas, which plays a major role in the regulation of energy substrates such as glucose.

This insufficiency, primarily caused by diabetes, has lethal consequences if it is not treated. As of now, only daily insulin injections allow patients to survive.

Canine remote control

Hands-free dog control for the digital age

That old "best friend" can get a bit tiresome, all that rolling over, shaking paws, long walks and eating every crumb of food off the floor. But, what if there were a way to command your dog with a remote control, or even via your smart phone...or even without hands?

Jeff Miller and David Bevly of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, have devised just such a system and describe details in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Modelling, Identification and Control.

Fear of holes may stem from evolutionary survival response

What do lotus flowers, soap bubbles, and aerated chocolate have in common? They may seem innocuous, even pleasant, but each of these items is a trigger for people who report suffering from trypophobia, or the fear of holes. For trypophobes, the sight of clusters of holes in various formations can cause intensely unpleasant visceral reactions.

New research from psychological scientists Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex suggests that trypophobia may occur as a result of a specific visual feature also found among various poisonous animals. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"These findings suggest that there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal," says Cole.

Long-held assumption about emergence of new species questioned

Darwin referred to the origin of species as "that mystery of mysteries," and even today, more than 150 years later, evolutionary biologists cannot fully explain how new animals and plants arise.

For decades, nearly all research in the field has been based on the assumption that the main cause of the emergence of new species, a process called speciation, is the formation of barriers to reproduction between populations.

Those barriers can be geographic—such as a new mountain, river or glacier that physically separates two populations of animals or plants—or they can be genetic differences that prevent incompatible individuals from producing fertile offspring. A textbook example of the latter is the mule; horses and donkeys can mate, but their offspring are sterile.

Frogs that hear with their mouth

X-rays reveal a new hearing mechanism for animals without an ear

Gardiner's frogs from the Seychelles islands, one of the smallest frogs in the world, do not possess a middle ear with an eardrum yet can croak themselves, and hear other frogs. An international team of scientists using X-rays has now solved this mystery and established that these frogs are using their mouth cavity and tissue to transmit sound to their inner ears. The results are published in PNAS.

Prehistoric climate change due to cosmic crash in Canada

For the first time, a dramatic global climate shift has been linked to the impact in Quebec of an asteroid or comet, Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues report in a new study.

The cataclysmic event wiped out many of the planet's large mammals and may have prompted humans to start gathering and growing some of their food rather than solely hunting big game.

The findings appear next week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Generosity leads to evolutionary success

With new insights into the classical game theory match-up known as the "Prisoner's Dilemma," University of Pennsylvania biologists offer a mathematically based explanation for why cooperation and generosity have evolved in nature.

Their work builds upon the seminal findings of economist John Nash, who advanced the field of game theory in the 1950s, as well as those of computational biologist William Press and physicist-mathematician Freeman Dyson, who last year identified a new class of strategies for succeeding in the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Y mutations reveal precariousness of male development

The pathway for male sexual development is not as consistent and robust as scientists have always assumed.

The idea that men and women are fundamentally different from each other is widely accepted. And throughout the world, this has created distinct ideas about which social and physical characteristics are necessary in each gender to maintain healthy human development.

However, social revolutions throughout the last century have challenged traditional ideas about not only which traits are normal and necessary for survival, but also how humans acquire them. Thanks to a new study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University, science is continuing the charge.

Tuberculosis migrated out of Africa with humans

Humans and TB bacteria not only have emerged in the same region of the world, but have also migrated out of Africa together and expanded all over the globe.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of deadliest infectious diseases of humans, killing 50% of individuals when left untreated. Even today, TB causes 1-2 million deaths every year mainly in developing countries. Multidrug-resistance is a growing threat in the fight against the disease.

Spread of crop pests threatens global food security as Earth warms

Global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km/year.

A new study has revealed that global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km a year. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford, shows a strong relationship between increased global temperatures over the past 50 years and expansion in the range of crop pests.

Increased greenhouse gases and aerosols have similar effects on rainfall

Although greenhouse gases and aerosols have very distinct properties, their effects on spatial patterns of rainfall change are surprisingly similar, according to new research from the University of Hawaii at Manoa's International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The study is published in Nature Geoscience.

Manmade climate change comes mostly from the radiative forcing of greenhouse gases and air pollutants or aerosols. While greenhouse gases are well-mixed in the atmosphere and tend to be evenly distributed around the globe, aerosols vary greatly in local concentration and tend to be found near emission sources such as industrial centers in Asia and North America.

Move it and lose it: Every 'brisk' minute counts

High intensity activity impacts weight, even in short bouts

To win the war against weight gain, it turns out that every skirmish matters – as long as the physical activity puts your heart and lungs to work.

In a new study published today in the American Journal of Health Promotion, University of Utah researchers found that even brief episodes of physical activity that exceed a certain level of intensity can have as positive an effect on weight as does the current recommendation of 10 or more minutes at a time.

Mosquitoes smell you better at night

Odorant-binding proteins become more concentrated in mosquito's sensory organs at night.

In work published in Nature: Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health, led by Associate Professor Giles Duffield and Assistant Professor Zain Syed, revealed that the major malaria vector in Africa, the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, is able to smell major human host odorants better at night.

Brain imaging reveals the wandering mind behind insomnia

Study is the first to find functional MRI differences in working memory in people with primary insomnia

A new brain imaging study may help explain why people with insomnia often complain that they struggle to concentrate during the day even when objective evidence of a cognitive problem is lacking.

Single gene change increases mouse lifespan by 20%

Study also shows that individual organs are affected differently

By lowering the expression of a single gene, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have extended the average lifespan of a group of mice by about 20 percent -- the equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years, from 79 to 95.

The research team targeted a gene called mTOR, which is involved in metabolism and energy balance, and may be connected with the increased lifespan associated with caloric restriction.