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Taking evolution to heart

An international research group at UBC, Harvard University and Cardiff Metropolitan University has discovered how the human heart has adapted to support endurance physical activities. This research examines how the human heart has evolved and how it adapts in response to different physical challenges, and will bring new ammunition to the international effort to reduce hypertensive heart disease—one of the most common causes of illness and death in the developed world.

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Harnessing tomato jumping genes could help speed-breed drought-resistant crops

Researchers from the University of Cambridge's Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU) and Department of Plant Sciences have discovered that drought stress triggers the activity of a family of jumping genes (Rider retrotransposons) previously known to contribute to fruit shape and colour in tomatoes. Their characterisation of Rider, published today in the journal PLOS Genetics, revealed that the Rider family is also present and potentially active in other crops, highlighting its potential as a source of new trait variations that could help plants better cope with more extreme conditions driven by our changing climate.

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Geochemists measure new composition of Earth's mantle

What is the chemical composition of the Earth's interior? Because it is impossible to drill more than about ten kilometres deep into the Earth, volcanic rocks formed by melting Earth's deep interior often provide such information. Geochemists at the Universities of Münster (Germany) and Amsterdam (Netherlands) have investigated the volcanic rocks that build up the Portuguese island group of the Azores. Their goal: gather new information about the compositional evolution of the Earth's mantle, which is the layer roughly between 30 and 2,900 kilometres deep inside the Earth. Using sophisticated analytical techniques, they discovered that the composition of the mantle below the Azores is different than previously thought—suggesting that large parts of it contain surprisingly few so-called incompatible elements. These are chemical elements which, as a result of the constant melting of the Earth's mantle, accumulate in the Earth's crust, which is Earth's outermost solid layer.

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One step closer future to quantum computers

Physicists at Uppsala University in Sweden have identified how to distinguish between true and 'fake' Majorana states in one of the most commonly used experimental setups, by means of supercurrent measurements. This theoretical study is a crucial step for advancing the field of topological superconductors and applications of Majorana states for robust quantum computers. New experiments testing this approach are expected next.

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Palmer amaranth's molecular secrets reveal troubling potential

Corn, soybean, and cotton farmers shudder at the thought of Palmer amaranth invading their fields. The aggressive cousin of waterhemp—itself a formidable adversary—grows extremely rapidly, produces hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant, and is resistant to multiple classes of herbicides, including glyphosate.

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New study shows common carp aquaculture in Neolithic China dating back 8,000 years

In a recent study, an international team of researchers analyzed fish bones excavated from the Early Neolithic Jiahu site in Henan Province, China. By comparing the body-length distributions and species-composition ratios of the bones with findings from East Asian sites with present aquaculture, the researchers provide evidence of managed carp aquaculture at Jiahu dating back to 6200-5700 BC.

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The stellar nurseries of distant galaxies

Star clusters are formed by the condensation of molecular clouds, masses of cold, dense gas that are found in every galaxy. The physical properties of these clouds in our own galaxy and nearby galaxies have been known for a long time. But are they identical in distant galaxies that are more than 8 billion light-years away? For the first time, an international team led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has been able to detect molecular clouds in a Milky Way progenitor, thanks to the unprecedented spatial resolution achieved in such a distant galaxy. These observations, published in Nature Astronomy, show that the distant clouds have a higher mass, density and internal turbulence than the clouds hosted in nearby galaxies and that they produce far more stars. The astronomers attribute these differences to the ambient interstellar conditions in distant galaxies, which are too extreme for the molecular clouds typical of nearby galaxies to survive.

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