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Using better colours in science

Colors are often essential to convey scientific data, from weather maps to the surface of Mars. But did you ever consider that a combination of colors could be “unscientific?” Well, that’s the case with color scales that use rainbow-like and red–green colors, because they effectively distort data. And if that was not bad enough, they are unreadable to those with any form of color blindness. Researchers from the University of Oslo and Durham University explain scientific color maps, and present free-to-download and easy-to-use solutions in an open-access paper released today in Nature Communications.

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Saving the climate from the ground up

Soil has the capacity to bind large quantities of carbon in the long term. An international team of researchers, including from the University of Bonn, is now advocating effective use of this potential. Experts estimate that this could reduce currently rising rates of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by a third. At the same time, agricultural yields in many regions would also increase significantly. In a recent publication they present a strategy to achieve these goals. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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The sweet spot of flagellar assembly

To build the machinery that enables bacteria to swim, over 50 proteins have to be assembled according to a logical and well-defined order to form the flagellum, the cellular equivalent of an offshore engine of a boat. To be functional, the flagellum is assembled piece by piece, ending with the helix called flagellar filament, composed of six different subunits called flagellins. Microbiologists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) have demonstrated that adding sugar to the flagellins is crucial for the flagellum’s assembly and functionality. This glycosylation is carried out by a newly discovered enzyme FlmG, whose role was hitherto unknown. Based on this observation—which you can read all about in the journal eLife—the researchers followed up with a second discovery published in Developmental Cell. Among the six flagellins of Caulobacter crescentus, the model bacterium in the two studies, one is the special one serving a signaling role to trigger the final assembly of the flagellum.

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Researchers use gold nanorod scattering to identify immune system’s ‘killer and savior’

Every biological system is naturally equipped with a defense mechanism to protect against abnormal changes caused by either local, environmental, or biochemical alteration. White blood cells (WBC) play the role of such a ‘soldier’ in our immune response. One type of WBC, known as macrophages, is the most efficient and specialized fighter since it is simultaneously equipped with the power of selective identification and elimination of foreign invaders, as well as the potency to repair wounds. Depending on their work distribution, macrophages are mainly comprised of two types, M1 and M2. M1 cells act as the ‘professional killer’, while M2 cells are more concentrated on healing activity.

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Ultraviolet shines light on origins of the solar system

In the search to discover the origins of our solar system, an international team of researchers, including planetary scientist and cosmochemist James Lyons of Arizona State University, has compared the composition of the Sun to the composition of the most ancient materials that formed in our solar system: refractory inclusions in unmetamorphosed meteorites.

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Bark beetle outbreaks benefit wild bee populations, habitat

When southern Rocky Mountain forests are viewed from a distance these days, it may not look like much is left. Large swaths of dead, standing Engelmann spruce trees tell the tale of a severe regional spruce beetle epidemic in its waning stages. But among those dead trees, researchers have found good news. Zoom-in to the ground cover of these forests and there is life, even more abundant because of this disturbance.

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Giant electrochemical actuation in a nanoporous silicon-polypyrrole hybrid material

The absence of piezoelectricity in silicon can lead to direct electromechanical applications of the mainstream semiconductor material. The integrated electrical control of silicon mechanics can open new perspectives for on-chip actuators. In a new report, Manuel Brinker and a research team in physics, materials, microscopy and hybrid nanostructures in Germany, combined wafer-scale nanoporosity in single-crystalline silicon to synthesize a composite demonstrating macroscopic electrostrain in aqueous electrolytes. The voltage-strain coupling was three-orders of magnitude larger than the best performing ceramics. Brinker et al. traced the electro-actuation to the concerted action of a 100 billion nanopores-per-square-centimeter cross-section and obtained exceptionally small operation voltages (0.4 to 0.9 volts) alongside sustainable and biocompatible base materials for biohybrid materials with promising bioactuator applications. The work is now published on Science Advances.

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Groundbreaking study finds activator of magnesium dynamics in the body

Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) have solved the 100-year-old mystery of what activates magnesium ions in the cell. The discovery is expected to be a springboard for future development of novel drugs to treat cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and other diseases.

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