MI weekly selection #19

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Could cellulose feed the world?

Researchers have discovered a way to turn cellulose into starch, a technique that could be used to create more food to feed the hungry.

Science Now

Chun You eta al (2013) Enzymatic transformation of nonfood biomass to starch PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302420110

 

Fire ants prefer shortest route in terms of time, not distance

Fire ants prefer to travel following Fermat’s principle thus lessening their total walking time, rather than distance traveled.

Phys.org

Jan Oettler at al (2013) Fermat’s Principle of Least Time Predicts Refraction of Ant Trails at Substrate Borders. PLoS ONE DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0059739

 

Scientists reveal discovery of 2 Earth-like planets

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft discovered a pair of Earth-like planets orbiting a star in the constellation Lyra about 1,200 light years away, astronomers said. Named Kepler 62f and Kepler 62e, scientists surmise the two planets are made of rock with oceans and cloudy skies.

The New York Times

 

Even 5-month-old babies have a sense of awareness

Babies as young as five months are capable of being conscious of the world around them, according to a study published in the journal Science. Researchers looked at the neural activity of babies and found that their brain showed evidence of activity when shown a subliminal image, suggesting awareness of their environment.

Science Now

Sid Koudier et al (2013) A Neural Marker of Perceptual Consciousness in Infants Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1232509

 

Beer’s taste, sans alcoholic effect, triggers dopamine in brain

Beer’s flavor alone may be enough to trigger the release of dopamine, even if the drink doesn’t contain alcohol. The research shows “for the first time the important role of an alcoholic drink’s flavor, absent alcohol’s pharmacological effects.”

LA Times

Brandon Oberlin et al (2013) Beer Flavor Provokes Striatal Dopamine Release in Male Drinkers: Mediation by Family History of Alcoholism Neuropsychopharmacology DOI: 10.1038/npp.2013.91

 

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