lunes, 15 de febrero de 2016

"Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots" US Botanic Garden

East Gallery
February 21 through October 13, 2015

Hidden Treasures
Plant roots are vital components of the earth's ecosystem. They are necessary for all plant growth, including the production of food and nutrients for humans and many other organisms. However, as root systems are out off sight, their beauty and importance often go unnoticed. Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots showcases the presence and importance of roots through visually stunning root representations using the work of agricultural ecologist Dr. Jerry Glover, sculptor Steve Tobin, and photographer Jim Richardson.

Photography and Sculpture
Jim Richardson is a photographer for the National Geographic Society. His photographs in this exhibits capture the disparity in the aboveground and belowground biomass of plants. His series on soil profiles, hung in the Classroom and National Garden (spring through fall), highlight striking differences in global soils and the human struggle to grow food.

Steve Tobin is a celebrated sculptor who specializes in nature-inspired works. Two of his pieces on display spring through fall on the U.S. Botanic Garden grounds, Romeo and Juliet, are bronze casts of tree roots washed out from a riverbank. The other two sculptures are from his Steelroot series.

Roots Exposed
Agricultural ecologist Dr. Jerry Glover studies the importance of healthy soils and their relationship to plants. While working at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, he helped develop a method of growing and preserving plants.

Plants are grown in "root tubes," 10-foot sections of 12-inch diameter PVC pipe containing a special baked clay material. After removal from the tubes, plants are soaked in a glycerin and water solution to prevent them from rotting. See these preserved plants in the East Gallery.
A bevy of prairie plants and their roots hang at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Photo by Nsikan Akpan 
Up-close and personal with a sorghum root. Photo by Nsikan Akpan.
WiliWili (Erythrina sandwicensis) root at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Photo by Nsikan Akpan
International Year of Soils
Soils are layers of minerals and organic matter that are critically connected to a diverse array of organisms from worms to bacteria. They are the foundation for much of life on Earth and are a crucial component of global nutrient and water cycling. Soils are also fragile and largely non-renewable, and thus their conservation is extremely important. Learn more about soils in the National Garden spring through fall.
Terrace Plantings

The raised beds on the Conservatory Terrace feature living displays of plants found throughout Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots. Highlights include "root" crops (plants grown for their underground roots, leaves, and stems) and native prairie plants. Explore both the dried and live versions (spring through fall) of these prairie plants throughout the Conservatory Terrace and East Gallery.

Plant roots play a vital role for life on earth. They absorb water and nutrients to feed plants, which feed animals and humans, and they anchor soil to prevent erosion. The U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington pays tribute with a new exhibit called “Exposed.” VOA’s Rosanne Skirble digs in for a closer look at what’s going on underground.

ORIGINAL: VOA News & US Botanic GardenBy Rosanne Skirble - VOA News
August 11, 2015

viernes, 12 de febrero de 2016

Germany’s science hubs win in major research revamp

Research clusters emerge as the big success of Germany’s Excellence Initiative — despite its focus on elite institutes.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich is part of a government-backed ‘cluster of excellence’.

For many, Munich’s fame rests on the Oktoberfest beer festival. But for astrophysicist Stephan Paul, what makes the Bavarian capital so charming is its universities’ rise to stardom in studies on the origin and structure of the Universe.

Related stories

The region has long been a national hub for physics, but its appeal to theorists and particle physicists has soared in recent years thanks to a well-funded research programme that brings together the city’s two large universities — the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) — and several Max Planck institutes in nearby Garching.

The research infrastructure here is top-notch and the concentration of expertise is quite unique,” says Paul, a physicist at the TUM who coordinates the programme.

The programme is one of 43 ‘clusters of excellence’ launched in 2011 as part of Germany’s €4.6-billion (US$5-billion) Excellence Initiative. The clusters are among the ten-year-old initiative’s most tangible successes, according to a major report released on 29 January by an independent, international panel (see

The hubs bring together research groups — either within a university or across different institutes in the same region — that previously had little contact, so that they can pool their facilities and build on each other’s successes. “We were surprised to find out how much good science there was just around the corner,” says Paul.

The report, commissioned by Germany’s federal government and its 16 state governments, strongly recommends that they continue the excellence initiative, in particular the highly successful clusters. The report is less conclusive on the initiative’s success in achieving its much higher-profile goal: to produce a top-ranked research powerhouse akin to Harvard University or the universities of Oxford or Cambridge.

The high quality of science produced at the clusters of excellence is particularly impressive,” says Dieter Imboden, a Swiss environmental physicist and long-time science manager who chaired the evaluation panel. “But we are only at the beginning of a long road towards the group of global top universities.

Since it began, the initiative has designated a few universities as ‘elite’ — the latest assignment gave the status to 11 universities, including the TUM and the LMU — and rewarded them with an extra €10 million to €14 million per year. A report published last September by Germany’s main research-funding agency, the DFG, noted that these 11 universities have markedly increased their scientific output. A further analysis done last year by Nature found that at elite institutions, the proportion of publications that feature in the top 10% of the world’s most highly cited papers had almost doubled since 2002 (although Nature also found that the same was true on average of five good, but not elite, German universities).

But the new elite universities still lag far behind the likes of Oxford and Harvard in terms of 

  • world rankings, 
  • appeal to top scientists and 
  • funding

Critics of the initiative say that it has created a two-tier research system and an excessive administrative burden.
Source: IEKE final report (Jan. 2016);
Even scientists at the ‘elite’ universities agree that the jury is still out on the success of the concept (see ‘Germany’s elite?’). “The initiative has created a palpable ‘we can do it’ spirit,” says Stephan Leibfried, a social scientist and research-policy specialist at the University of Bremen, which has elite status. But reaching the top of international university rankings “will require decades of hard work.

No matter how often you might try, a Harvard can’t be pulled, like a rabbit, out of the hat,” agrees Stefan Hornbostel, a science-policy researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin, another of the latest 11 universities to be labelled elite.

The report recommends a two-year extension of the current programme, which ends in 2017, followed by a new programme starting in 2019. It suggests that no more than 10 institutions should receive the elite bonus in the future, and that prolonged support of promising research clusters should be at the core of a renewed excellence programme. The report also says that in the follow-up regime, “smaller disciplines” deserve proportionally more funding than in the past and that research clusters could span geographically distant universities.

The recommendations are non-binding but are sure to feed into the decision of federal and state governments on whether to continue the initiative, which is due by June.

For Paul and his team, who have received some €70 million from the programme so far, the prospect of renewed support comes at the right time. Since 2006, some 150 physicists have moved from leading institutes in Europe and overseas to Munich. Researchers there have started to operate a newly built ultracold neutron facility and an underground laboratory largely shielded from background radiation, both financed in part with money from the initiative. Key experiments at these new facilities, says Paul, might shed light on the properties of neutrino particles, the design of the early Universe and the elusive nature of dark matter.

The collaborations enabled by the Excellence Initiative have produced some “good friction”, he says. “Now we need to start using the heat.
Nature 530, 18–19 (04 February 2016) doi:10.1038/530018a

Corrected: The dollar conversion for €4.6 billion was originally incorrect (at US$5 million insted of $5 billion). The text has now been corrected.


Article tools

Current Clusters of Excellence
Last modified: February 10, 2016
No.Absteigend sortierenTypeAufsteigend sortierenProject TitleAufsteigend sortierenBeginAufsteigend sortieren
4EXCNanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM)
16EXCCultural Foundations of Social Integration
59EXCMathematics: Foundations, Models, Applications
62EXCREBIRTH - From Regenerative Biology to Reconstructive Therapy
80EXCThe Future Ocean
81EXCCellular Networks: From Molecular Mechanisms to Quantitative Understanding of Complex Functions
114EXCCenter for Integrated Protein Science Munich (CIPSM)
München; Freising
115EXCMacromolecular Complexes in Action
128EXCIntegrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries
147EXCCardiopulmonary System
Frankfurt; Gießen
153EXCOrigin and Structure of the Universe
Garching; München
158EXCMunich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP)
Garching; München
168EXCCenter for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD)
171EXCNanoscale Microscopy and Molecular Physiology of the Brain
177EXCIntegrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction (CliSAP)
212EXCReligion and Politics in Pre-Modern and Modern Cultures
229EXCCellular Stress Responses in Aging-associated Diseases (CECAD)
236EXCTailor-Made Fuels from Biomass
243EXCThe Formation of Normative Orders
257EXCNeuroCure - towards a better outcome of neurological disorders
264EXCTopoi - The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations
270EXCAsia and Europe in a Global Context: The Dynamics of Transculturality
277EXCCognitive Interaction Technology
284EXCMultimodal Computing and Interaction. Robust, Efficient and Intelligent Processing of Text, Speech, Visual Data and High Dimensional Representations
294EXCBIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies - from Analysis to Synthesis
306EXCInflammation at Interfaces
307EXCWerner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN)
309EXCThe Ocean in the Earth System - MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences
310EXCSimulation Technology
314EXCUnifying Concepts in Catalysis
315EXCEngineering of Advanced Materials - Hierarchical Structure Formation for Functional Devices
1003EXCCells in Motion - CiM: Imaging to Understand Cellular Behaviour in Organisms
1010EXCMunich Cluster for Systems Neurology (SyNergy)
1023EXCImmunoSensation: The Immune Sensory System
1027EXCImage Knowledge Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory
1028EXCCluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences - from complex traits towards synthetic modules
1056EXCCenter for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed)
1069EXCRESOLV (Ruhr Explores Solvation) - Understanding and Design of Solvent Controlled Processes
1074EXCThe Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI): Structure, Dynamics and Control of Matter at the Atomic Scale
1075EXCMerge Technologies for Multifunctional Lightweight Structures - MERGE
1077EXCHearing for all: Models, technology and solutions for diagnostics, restoration and support of hearing
Oldenburg; Hannover
1086EXCBrainLinks - BrainTools
1098EXCPrecision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter (PRISMA)

jueves, 11 de febrero de 2016

Mitochondria trigger cell aging, study shows

Dr. Clara Correia-Melo and Dr. Joao Passos are in the lab. Credit: Newcastle University
An international team of scientists has for the first time shown that mitochondria, the batteries of the cells, are essential for ageing.

In a study, published today in the EMBO Journal and led by Dr João Passos at Newcastle University, they found that when mitochondria were eliminated from ageing cells they became much more similar to younger cells. This experiment was able for the first time to conclusively prove that mitochondria are major triggers of cell ageing.

This brings scientists a step closer to developing therapies to counteract the ageing of cells, by targeting mitochondria.

Defying ageing in the cell
As we grow old, cells in our bodies accumulate different types of damage and have increased inflammation, factors which are thought to contribute to the ageing process.

The team carried out a series of genetic experiments involving human cells grown in the laboratory and succeeded in eliminating the majority, if not all, the mitochondria from ageing cells. Cells can normally eliminate mitochondria which are faulty by a process called mitophagy. The scientists were able to "trick" the cells into inducing this process in a grand scale, until all the mitochondria within the cells were physically removed.
Dr. Joao Passos and Dr. Clara Correia-Melo in the lab. Credit: Newcastle University
To their surprise, they observed that the ageing cells, after losing their mitochondria, showed characteristics similar to younger cells, that is they became rejuvenated. The levels of inflammatory molecules, oxygen free radicals and expression of genes which are among the makers of cellular ageing dropped to the level that would be expected in younger cells.

New thinking on mitochondria
Dr João Passos of the Institute for Ageing said: "This is a very exciting and surprising discovery. We already had some clues that mitochondria played a role in the ageing of cells, but scientists around the world have struggled to understand exactly how and to what extent these were involved.

"These new findings highlight that mitochondria are actually essential to the ageing of cells."

The team led by Newcastle University and involving other universities in the UK and the US, also deciphered a new mechanism by which mitochondria contribute to ageing. They identified that as cells grow old, mitochondrial biogenesis, the complex process by which mitochondria replicate themselves, is a major driver of cellular ageing.

"This is the first time that a study demonstrates that mitochondria are necessary for cellular ageing," said Dr Clara Correia-Melo of the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and the lead author of the study. "Now we are a step closer to devising therapies which target mitochondria to counteract the ageing of cells."

More information: Mitochondria are required for pro-ageing features of the senescent phenotype. EMBO Journal. DOI: 10.15252/embj.201592862

Journal reference: EMBO Journal

Provided by: Newcastle University

ORIGINAL: MedicalXpress
February 4, 2016

Gravitational Waves Found for the First Time

Scientists have just confirmed the discovery of gravitational waves created from two merging black holes. Researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States first observed the waves which confirm Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. In essence, the theory states that gravity bends space and time, therefore, the more massive the object the greater the effect. The gravitational waves discovered are oscillations in space-time created by the collision of the black holes.

[Image Source: IFL]
The waves were first observed on September 14, 2015, but were just recently proven and confirmed. Black holes were long thought to be the only objects with enough mass to create waves large enough for detection. A stunning 50 times the power of all of the stars in the observable universe was released in the collision. It was determined that the chances of the scientists being wrong about the discovery is 1 in 6 million. Below is a video demonstrating what the collision would have looked like.

This new evidence for Einstein’s theory sparks a new wave of investigation into the physics of the universe. Not to mention decades of research based upon gravitational waves has gained additional traction from the discovery.

Detecting and measuring gravitational waves is the holy grail of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.” ~ Bob Bingham, Physicist

On top of confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves, it was also proven that they travel at the speed of light. Theoretically, physicists believed that the waves moved at this speed, but now that it’s confirmed, the door is open for further research. Each of the black holes is estimated to have been 40 times the mass of the Sun and 150 km in Diameter.

[Image Source: PopSci]
There is no doubt to the discovery as the two observatories are acclaimed as the “most precise measuring devices ever built,” according to the laboratories director. This groundbreaking discovery could lead to further confirmation of theories surrounding the creation of the universe, what lies beyond black holes, and even a new field of physics named, quantum gravity.

Einstein had it right all along, and physicists, researchers, and engineers all over the world are celebrating this incredible new discovery.

February 11, 2016

miércoles, 3 de febrero de 2016

Germany's Fusion Reactor Creates Hydrogen Plasma In World First

First hydrogen plasma at the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator at MPI Greifswald 

— Mattias Marklund (@MattiasMarklund) February 3, 2016
photo credit: The experimental fusion reactor. Max Planck Institute
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have successfully conducted a revolutionary nuclear fusion experiment. Using their experimental reactor, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator, they have managed to sustain a hydrogen plasma – a key step on the path to creating workable nuclear fusion. The German chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself has a doctorate in physics, switched on the device at 2:35 p.m. GMT (9:35 a.m. EST).

Published on Feb 3, 2016
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel switched on the first hydrogen plasma on 3 February 2016 at a ceremony attended by numerous guests from the realms of science and politics. This will mark the start of scientific operation of Wendelstein 7-X.
As a clean, near-limitless source of energy, it’s no understatement to say that controlled nuclear fusion (replicating the process that powers the Sun) would change the world, and several nations are striving to make breakthroughs in this field. Germany is undoubtedly the frontrunner in one respect: This is the second time that it’s successfully fired up its experimental fusion reactor.

Last December, the team managed to suspend a helium plasma for the first time in history, and they’ve now achieved the same feat with hydrogen. Generating a hydrogen plasma is considerably more difficult than producing a helium one, so by producing and sustaining one in today’s experiment, even for just a few milliseconds, these researchers have achieved something truly remarkable.
Photo: The first hydrogen plasma in Wendelstein 7-X.
Photo: (IPP) Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics.
As a power source, hydrogen fusion releases far more energy than helium fusion, which is why sustaining a superheated hydrogen plasma represents such a huge step for nuclear fusion research.

John Jelonnek, a physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, led a team that was responsible for installing the powerful heating components of the reactor. “We’re not doing this for us,” he told the Guardian, “but for our children and grandchildren.

by Robin Andrews
February 3, 2016 |