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Songbirds sing species-specific songs

The generation of species-specific singing in songbirds is associated with species-specific patterns of gene activity in brain regions called song nuclei, according to a study published November 12 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Kazuhiro Wada of Hokkaido University in Japan, and colleagues. According to the authors, the findings could be a promising step toward a better understanding of the contribution of multiple genes to the evolution of behaviors.

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Widespread misinterpretation of gene expression data

Reproducibility is a major challenge in experimental biology, and with the increasing complexity of data generated by genomic-scale techniques this concern is immensely amplified. RNA-seq, one of the most widely used methods in modern molecular biology, allows in a single test the simultaneous measurement of the expression level of all the genes in a given sample. New research publishing November 12 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Shir Mandelbaum, Zohar Manber, Orna Elroy-Stein, and Ran Elkon from Tel Aviv University, identifies a frequent technical bias in data generated by RNA-seq technology, which recurrently leads to false results.

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With Mars methane mystery unsolved, Curiosity serves scientists a new one: Oxygen

For the first time in the history of space exploration, scientists have measured the seasonal changes in the gases that fill the air directly above the surface of Gale Crater on Mars. As a result, they noticed something baffling: oxygen, the gas many Earth creatures use to breathe, behaves in a way that so far scientists cannot explain through any known chemical processes.

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Massive photons in an artificial magnetic field

An international research collaboration from Poland, the UK and Russia has created a two-dimensional system—a thin optical cavity filled with liquid crystal—in which they trapped photons. As the properties of the cavity were modified by an external voltage, the photons behaved like massive quasiparticles endowed with a magnetic moment, called "spin," under the influence of an artificial magnetic field. The research has been published in Science on Friday, 8 November 2019.

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MXene materials help photodetectors see the light

Photodetectors are the devices that convert information carried by light into an electric signal that can be processed by electronic circuits and computers. They are found in everyday devices, such as television remotes and motion sensors, and they are a key component in many artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. But the largest, and fastest growing market for them is in data centers and telecommunications—where tens of millions of them are deployed each year to accommodate the skyrocketing storage demands of our computing technology.

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Research team discovers epigenetic pathway that controls social behavior in carpenter ants

Through early adulthood, exposure to new experiences—like learning to drive a car or memorizing information for an exam—triggers change in the human brain, re-wiring neural pathways to imprint memories and modify behavior. Similar to humans, the behavior of Florida carpenter ants is not set in stone—their roles, whether it is protecting the colony or foraging for food, are determined by signals from the physical and social environment early in their life. But questions remain about how long they are vulnerable to epigenetic changes and what pathways govern social behavior in ants.

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Iron-based solar cells on track to becoming more efficient

An international study led from Lund University in Sweden shows that 30 percent of the energy in a certain type of light-absorbing iron molecule disappears in a previously unknown manner. By closing this loophole, the researchers hope to contribute to the development of more efficient solar cells using this iron-based solar cell.

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