2014年2月28日 星期五

Elephants Give a Helping Trunk

Elephants Give a Helping Trunk

Elephants are known to be highly social and intelligent. Now there is evidence that they engage in something that looks very much like a group hug when a fellow elephant is in distress.
Joshua Plotnik, who leads a conservation and education group called Think Elephants, and teaches conservation at Mahidol University in Thailand, studied elephants at a park in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand, to look for consolation behavior.
As defined by Frans de Waal, Dr. Plotnik’s Ph.D. adviser at Emory University, consolation behavior involves bystanders responding in a reassuring way to an animal that is in emotional distress because of a conflict with another member of the group.
“We’re pretty confident it’s relatively rare” in animals, Dr. Plotnik said in an interview. He said there was good evidence for the behavior in apes, wolves and some birds. And he said there had been anecdotal reports of such behavior in dolphins and elephants.
Elephants clearly have strong emotional connections to other elephants and are highly intelligent, so it made sense to think that they might console one another. To find out, Dr. Plotnik observed 26 elephants in six groups at a managed park.
When one elephant was disturbed, Dr. Plotnik said, other elephants — bystanders — gathered around. They made chirping sounds and touched the distressed elephant, trunk to mouth or trunk to genitals, which are reassuring gestures, for elephants.
Dr. Plotnik said that since he couldn’t always observe the original source of the distress, he couldn’t say that the behavior met the narrow definition of consolation, as it was not clear whether it followed conflict. The elephants might have been scared by a person, dog, or, in some cases, a noise that humans couldn’t hear.
But, he said, in every other way the elephant behavior showed that they were acting to reassure elephants that were upset.
He and Dr. de Waal reported the findings in an article last week in PeerJ, an online scientific journal.
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Credit Elise Gilchrist/Think Elephants International Inc.

2014年2月27日 星期四

sorghum research helping to feed millions 高粱屬重要研究幫助非洲人民



界: 植物界
門: 被子植物門
(未分級) 單子葉植物分支 Liliopsida
(未分級) 鴨跖草分支 Commelinoids
目: 禾本目 Poales
科: 禾本科 Poaceae
屬: Sorghum


其中一種品種假高梁(Sorghum halepense)被美國農業部認定為美國的入侵物種[2]

Critical advancement in sorghum research helping to feed millions

About sorgum Page_hands_webGlobal consortium of scientists achieve research breakthrough to make sorghum crop more nutritious; will contribute to food and nutrition security

An important step toward introducing pro-vitamin A (beta carotene) into sorghum, a staple food in Africa which is naturally deficient in key nutrients, has been taken. According to a DuPont announcement today, not only has the level of pro-vitamin A been improved to levels that result in delivery of 100 percent of the daily vitamin A requirement in children, but the stability of pro-vitamin A during storage also has been dramatically improved. These research breakthroughs will help improve nutrition for the nearly 300 million people in Africa who depend on sorghum, but who do not have access to another staple that provides the essential nutrients that sorghum lacks.
ABS_VitA graphic_vert“Nutrition is the building block of life,” said DuPont Pioneer President Paul E. Schickler. “The achievement of enhancing both the quantity and stability of pro-vitamin A in sorghum marks a critical advancement in ensuring local farmers cannot only grow more food, but more nutritious food.”
The ability to achieve 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A in children from sorghum has never been achieved before.
Read more about ABS Initiative achievements here
DuPont contributes expertise, as well as monetary, in-kind and capacity building support to the ABS Initiative.

2014年2月21日 星期五

哈佛大學討論會 50th anniversary of research that validated the “big bang”

50 Years After "Big Bang" Theory, Experts Discuss Universe's Origins, Future

A Nobel laureate and two Harvard professors commemorated the 50th anniversary of research that validated the “big bang” Thursday with a series of speeches.
Speaking to a crowded audience about theories concerning the origin and future of the universe, the panelists reflected on the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation that garnered widespread acceptance of the theory.
Two Harvard professors, one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a 1978 Nobel laureate in physics Robert W. Wilson, contributed to the talk as scientists who had conducted vital background radiation research.
Alan H. Guth, an MIT physics professor, spoke first about prominent competing theories for the origin of the universe before the “big bang” had gained widespread acceptance.
“It may be hard to conceive that the ‘big bang’ theory was not [at one time] the only theory that everybody thought was right,” said Gouth, pointing to the now out-of-date “steady state” theory.
Wilson recounted that when he was taught “steady state” theory, he liked the theory on philosophical grounds. He added that recent progress in the field of cosmology and his own research has further interested him in the subject.
“It has been very satisfying to see how this has developed,” Wilson said.
Robert P. Kirshner, the Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard, joked that he typically sees instructors and students alike possessing an egocentric view of the universe

Showing a comical diagram of the universe with a stick-figure man at the center, Kirshner said that faculty and students alike think “that they are the center of things.”
Kirshner went on to say that only four percent of the universe consists of atoms, while dark energy and cold dark energy make up the remaining portion of the universe. Even though scientists can figure out proportional numbers about the composition of the universe, he noted, mysteries still remain.
The last of the talks focused on theories on the future of the universe from Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s Astronomy Department.
Loeb said that while the majority of cosmology focuses on the inanimate, he wanted to “bring [humans] into the picture” by taking up the task of conceptualizing the future of the universe.
Addressing the fact that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, Loeb said that eventually the speed of expansion of distant stars and galaxies will approach the speed of light. In such circumstances, those celestial bodies would no longer be visible to the earth. According to Loeb, if extraterrestrial life were to try to contact humans, it would be impossible.
Speakers joked that as the universe changes over millions of years, they hope their work will be cited.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at theodore.delwiche@thecrimson.com.

2014年2月15日 星期六


2014年02月14日 07:19 AM“不應忽視全球定位系統遭破壞風險”英國《金融時報》 薩姆•瓊斯倫敦報導

被視為現代衛星定位設計師的布拉德•帕金森(Bradford Parkinson)上校表示,敵對國政府、網絡罪犯——甚至是越來越多地使用無線頻段、渴望獲得數據的普通公民——對GPS的損害,已成為一個“國家安全問題”。
西方政府“剛剛意識到這個問題”,帕金森在英國國家物理實驗室(National Physical Laboratory)參加一次國防會議的間隙接受英國《金融時報》採訪時表示。
“(在美國)我不知道誰真正負責這個問題。國土安全部(Department of Homeland Security)應該負責(但)……他們之中沒有人對此非常了解。他們倒是會安排個人在這方面發言,但是沒有任何預算經費。”

2014年2月14日 星期五

Termite-Inspired Robots That Can Build Houses

Termite-Inspired Robots That Can Build Houses

Harvard University researchers have designed a crew of tiny robots able to build complicated structures without blueprints or outside intervention. The scientists were inspired by termites, WSJ's Robert Lee Hotz reports. (Photo: Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

2014年2月13日 星期四


The Old Testament's made-up camels are a problem for Zionism

The earliest camel bones have been dated at 1,500 years after Genesis – which undermines Zionists' promised land narrative

The Sacrifice of Isaac
A detail from The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Jacopo da Empoli. Scientists have proved that the camels in the story of Abraham and Isaac are a fiction. Photograph: Corbis
There are 21 references to camels in the first books of the Bible, and now we know they are all made up.
Some of them are quite startlingly verisimilitudinous, such as the story of Abraham's servant finding a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24: "Then the servant left, taking with him 10 of his master's camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He made the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was towards evening, the time the women go out to draw water."
But these camels are made up, all 10 of them. Two Israeli archaeozoologists have sifted through a site just north of modern Eilat looking for camel bones, which can be dated by radio carbon.
None of the domesticated camel bones they found date from earlier than around 930BC – about 1,500 years after the stories of the patriarchs in Genesis are supposed to have taken place. Whoever put the camels into the story of Abraham and Isaac might as well have improved the story of Little Red Riding Hood by having her ride up to Granny's in an SUV.
How can you tell whether a camel skeleton is from a wild or tamed animal? You look at the leg bones, and if they are thickened this shows they have been carrying unnaturally heavy loads, so they must have been domesticated. If you have a graveyard of camels, you can also see what proportion are males, and which are preferred for human uses because they can carry more.
All these considerations make it clear that camels were not domesticated anywhere in the region before 1000BC.
Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef, the scientists who carried out the research, point out that the domestication of camels was hugely important economically, because they made trade possible over much larger regions of the Arabian peninsula. But that is not what has provoked excitement about their claim.
Obviously it has upset fundamentalists. Everyone else has known for decades that there is even less evidence for the historical truth of the Old Testament than there is for that of the Qur'an. But the peculiarly mealy-mouthed nature of the quotes they gave the New York Times (which is not much concerned with the feelings of Christian fundamentalists) shows where the real problem is.
The history recounted in the Bible is a huge part of the mythology of modern Zionism. The idea of a promised land is based on narratives that assert with complete confidence stories that never actually happened. There are of course other ways to argue for the Zionist project, and still further arguments about the right of Israelis to live within secure boundaries now that the country exists. But although those stand logically independent of the histories invented – as far as we can tell – in Babylonian captivity during the sixth century BC, they make little emotional sense without the history. And it is emotions that drive politics.

2014年2月4日 星期二


飛彈防禦系統變膠囊 腸癌現形

〔編譯詹立群/綜合報導〕以色列基文影像(Given Imaging)公司利用飛彈防禦系統研發、可吞下肚的無線傳輸結腸膠囊內視鏡PillCam Colon,3日獲美國食品藥物管理局(FDA)認可,可快速拍攝消化系統照片,取代令人害怕的大腸鏡,要價500美元(約1萬5000台幣)。國內醫院 如馬偕也有引進類似儀器。
傳統腸鏡是用一條1.2公尺長含有光纖的管子,一端連在機器上,另一端從肛門伸進體內檢查。膠囊內視鏡則是專為害 怕療程的患者所設計,這台電池驅動的微型相機像是在人體內悠遊的無人機一般,可「飛行」8小時,高速拍攝的影像透過繫在病人腰部的一台機器無線傳輸並加以 記錄,隨後交由醫生判讀。醫生將可據此快速判讀息肉,早期發現腸癌。

2014年2月1日 星期六

Horizon 2020: UK launch for EU's £67bn research budget

ERC scienceThe ERC funds activity across all fields of research, with the emphasis squarely on excellence

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The new European Union research budget has had its official UK launch.
Known as Horizon 2020, the programme is worth nearly £67bn (80bn euros) and covers the next seven years.
The funds are allocated through a competitive process, in which Britain traditionally fares very well - second only to Germany.
If this performance is maintained, UK universities, research centres and businesses could expect to receive £2bn in the first two years of Horizon 2020.
Such an allocation would equate to just over a fifth of the total British government spend on science.
"My challenge to the UK's researchers, universities, small and medium-sized enterprises, and large companies is to apply in huge numbers to participate in the programme," said EU Research Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.
"The competition will be fierce but I also believe that the excellence of the projects and the proposals coming from the UK means it will do very well out of Horizon 2020."
Frontier research
The European bloc's 28 member states approved the implementation of Horizon 2020 last autumn, leading to the first grant applications call in December. The opening day of the process saw 70,000 forms being downloaded every hour.
As with the previous "Framework Programmes", the old name given to EU science and research budgets, the intention is that the hefty investment can act as a kind of innovation growth factor, bringing on the next-generation high-value services and products that keep Europe at the forefront of world markets.
And as with those previous programmes, a large segment of the funding will be focused on some key areas of societal need or impact, such as health, climate change, the environment, energy, security, and transport.
But Horizon 2020 plans to put an even greater emphasis this time on basic, or frontiers, research.
The European Research Council, the EU's "blue riband" funding agency, has had its own pot increased 60% to £10.7bn.
The ERC's sole criterion in judging grant applications is excellence, and UK-based scientists have been by far the biggest beneficiaries of its awards.
A fifth of all the grants have gone to British science, representing an investment of some £1.4bn to date.
Business partnerships
Sir Paul Nurse is president of the UK's Royal Society, which hosted Friday's launch event.
He told BBC News: "European money is really important and it's very good that it is going up by 30%. I think also driving collaboration across Europe is really good because we get access to 350 million people - it's one of the reasons [science] works so well in the United States.
"But particularly, at least from my perspective at the discovery research end, the ERC has made a very real difference. The European Commission is very proud of it and rightly so."

Horizon 2020 - EU research budget

  • Worth nearly £67bn (80bn euros) over 7 years
  • Represents a 30% increase on last budget
  • Research accounts for 7% of total EU spend
  • UK contributes 11% of EU's total budget
  • But receives about 16% of EU science funds
  • UK-based researchers dominate ERC grants
Past Framework Programmes have been criticised for their bureaucracy. Companies have sometimes been dissuaded from applying because of the "expense" of winning an award (a grant will not cover all of the overheads of running a research project).
Horizon 2020 promises streamlined processes. "We've cut out loads of red tape," said Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn.
The hope is that many more businesses will now get involved, not least because they are the route through which discoveries become products, services, and jobs.
"Across Europe and elsewhere, we are concerned by impacts," said Robert-Jan Smits, whose job is to run Horizon 2020 within the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation.
"How can we ensure that the pounds we put into knowledge can be translated back into pounds again? That requires probably an industrial partner, to help ensure the results of research reach a market. There's no escape from that?"
International competition
The EU set a target in 2000 of making itself, "by 2010, the most competitive and the most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world".
One of the metrics to judge this aspiration was the desire to spend 3% of GDP on research. However, four years after the target date, the EU-wide R&D spend has not gone much beyond 2%.
The economic downturn is undoubtedly a major reason for the undershoot. Companies cut back on R&D during the recession and government austerity measures have hit public investments hard.
But Europe's competitors have not stood still. The likes of the US, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore all have more intense spending than the EU bloc.
China, too, is emerging rapidly. "If you look at the kind of massive investment they're making in research and innovation - I think that's a wake-up call for Europe," said Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn.
Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter:@BBCAmos

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〔駐歐洲特派記者胡蕙寧/倫敦報導〕全球最大科學研究計畫「地平線二○二○(Horizon 2020)」,一月三十一日在英國正式啟動,主要內容包括基礎研究、應用技術、社會挑戰等三大方向,幾乎囊括所有的歐盟科研項目,主力尤其放在整合歐盟各國的科研資源、提高科研效率、促進科技創新、推動經濟增長和增加就業機會等。選擇在英國啟動,被質疑為蓄意給「脫歐論」高漲的英國更多「歐盟利益」,預計英國可在未來七年中因此爭取到較多相關預算。