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New insight brings sustainable hydrogen one step closer

Leiden chemists Marc Koper and Ian McCrum have discovered that the degree to which a metal binds to the oxygen atom of water is decisive for how well the chemical conversion of water to molecular hydrogen takes place. This insight helps to develop better catalysts for the production of sustainable hydrogen, an important raw material for the chemical industry and the fuel needed for environmentally friendly hydrogen cars. Publication in Nature Energy.

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Geologists raise the speed limit for how fast continental crust can form

Although we can’t see it in action, the Earth is constantly churning out new land. This takes place at subduction zones, where tectonic plates crush against each other and in the process plow up chains of volcanos that magma can rise through. Some of this magma does not spew out, but instead mixes and morphs just below the surface. It then crystallizes as new continental crust, in the form of a mountain range.

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Researchers probe memory of the Venus flytrap

The carnivorous plant Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) captures and digests small animals and absorbs nutrients with its characteristic insectivorous leaves. Six sensory hairs on the inner surface of each leaf sense a visiting prey and cause the trap to close. A single contact event with a sensory hair is not sufficient, but a second contact within 30 seconds will induce the trap to close quickly and ensnare the unlucky prey. Thus, Venus flytraps store the memory of the first stimulus for about 30 seconds. But how does a plant memorize anything when it has no brain or nervous system?

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A tale of two cesspits: DNA reveals intestinal health in Medieval Europe and Middle East

A new study published this week in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B demonstrates a first attempt at using the methods of ancient bacterial detection, pioneered in studies of past epidemics, to characterize the microbial diversity of ancient gut contents from two medieval latrines. The findings provide insights into the microbiomes of pre-industrial agricultural populations, which may provide much-needed context for interpreting the health of modern microbiomes.

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