SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

78

The variation of microbial communities associated with the human body can be the cause of many factors, including the human genetic makeup, diet, age, surroundings, and sexual behavior. In this study, we investigated the effects of intimate kissing on the oral microbiota of 21 couples by self-administered questionnaires about their past kissing behavior and by the evaluation of tongue and salivary microbiota samples in a controlled kissing experiment. In addition, we quantified the number of bacteria exchanged during intimate kissing by the use of marker bacteria introduced through the intake of a probiotic yoghurt drink by one of the partners prior to a second intimate kiss.

Concepts: Genetics, Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Escherichia coli, Human body, Human sexual behavior, Personal life

38

Trust in others' honesty is a key component of the long-term performance of firms, industries, and even whole countries. However, in recent years, numerous scandals involving fraud have undermined confidence in the financial industry. Contemporary commentators have attributed these scandals to the financial sector’s business culture, but no scientific evidence supports this claim. Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific to bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient. Our results thus suggest that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.

Concepts: Bond, Finance, Bank, Interest rate, Cheque, Financial services, Private banking, Overdraft

30

The Himalayan mountains are dissected by some of the deepest and most impressive gorges on Earth. Constraining the interplay between river incision and rock uplift is important for understanding tectonic deformation in this region. We report here the discovery of a deeply incised canyon of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, at the eastern end of the Himalaya, which is now buried under more than 500 meters of sediments. By reconstructing the former valley bottom and dating sediments at the base of the valley fill, we show that steepening of the Tsangpo Gorge started at about 2 million to 2.5 million years ago as a consequence of an increase in rock uplift rates. The high erosion rates within the gorge are therefore a direct consequence of rapid rock uplift.

Concepts: People's Republic of China, Erosion, Himalayas, Yarlung Zangbo River, Brahmaputra River, Geography of Tibet, Rivers of Tibet, Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon

14

Populations of at least 20 asteroid species on the Northeast Pacific Coast have recently experienced an extensive outbreak of sea-star (asteroid) wasting disease (SSWD). The disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of turgor, limb autotomy, and death characterized by rapid degradation (“melting”). Here, we present evidence from experimental challenge studies and field observations that link the mass mortalities to a densovirus (Parvoviridae). Virus-sized material (i.e., <0.2 μm) from symptomatic tissues that was inoculated into asymptomatic asteroids consistently resulted in SSWD signs whereas animals receiving heat-killed (i.e., control) virus-sized inoculum remained asymptomatic. Viral metagenomic investigations revealed the sea star-associated densovirus (SSaDV) as the most likely candidate virus associated with tissues from symptomatic asteroids. Quantification of SSaDV during transmission trials indicated that progression of SSWD paralleled increased SSaDV load. In field surveys, SSaDV loads were more abundant in symptomatic than in asymptomatic asteroids. SSaDV could be detected in plankton, sediments and in nonasteroid echinoderms, providing a possible mechanism for viral spread. SSaDV was detected in museum specimens of asteroids from 1942, suggesting that it has been present on the North American Pacific Coast for at least 72 y. SSaDV is therefore the most promising candidate disease agent responsible for asteroid mass mortality.

Concepts: AIDS, Epidemiology, Diseases and disorders, Death, Vaccination, Solar System, Mars, Jupiter

12

Cooling is a significant end-use of energy globally and a major driver of peak electricity demand. Air conditioning, for example, accounts for nearly fifteen per cent of the primary energy used by buildings in the United States. A passive cooling strategy that cools without any electricity input could therefore have a significant impact on global energy consumption. To achieve cooling one needs to be able to reach and maintain a temperature below that of the ambient air. At night, passive cooling below ambient air temperature has been demonstrated using a technique known as radiative cooling, in which a device exposed to the sky is used to radiate heat to outer space through a transparency window in the atmosphere between 8 and 13 micrometres. Peak cooling demand, however, occurs during the daytime. Daytime radiative cooling to a temperature below ambient of a surface under direct sunlight has not been achieved because sky access during the day results in heating of the radiative cooler by the Sun. Here, we experimentally demonstrate radiative cooling to nearly 5 degrees Celsius below the ambient air temperature under direct sunlight. Using a thermal photonic approach, we introduce an integrated photonic solar reflector and thermal emitter consisting of seven layers of HfO2 and SiO2 that reflects 97 per cent of incident sunlight while emitting strongly and selectively in the atmospheric transparency window. When exposed to direct sunlight exceeding 850 watts per square metre on a rooftop, the photonic radiative cooler cools to 4.9 degrees Celsius below ambient air temperature, and has a cooling power of 40.1 watts per square metre at ambient air temperature. These results demonstrate that a tailored, photonic approach can fundamentally enable new technological possibilities for energy efficiency. Further, the cold darkness of the Universe can be used as a renewable thermodynamic resource, even during the hottest hours of the day.

Concepts: Energy, Light, Sun, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Atmosphere, Entropy

9

Early observations indicated that the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts could be separated into an inner zone dominated by high-energy protons and an outer zone dominated by high-energy electrons. Subsequent studies showed that electrons of moderate energy (less than about one megaelectronvolt) often populate both zones, with a deep ‘slot’ region largely devoid of particles between them. There is a region of dense cold plasma around the Earth known as the plasmasphere, the outer boundary of which is called the plasmapause. The two-belt radiation structure was explained as arising from strong electron interactions with plasmaspheric hiss just inside the plasmapause boundary, with the inner edge of the outer radiation zone corresponding to the minimum plasmapause location. Recent observations have revealed unexpected radiation belt morphology, especially at ultrarelativistic kinetic energies (more than five megaelectronvolts). Here we analyse an extended data set that reveals an exceedingly sharp inner boundary for the ultrarelativistic electrons. Additional, concurrently measured data reveal that this barrier to inward electron radial transport does not arise because of a physical boundary within the Earth’s intrinsic magnetic field, and that inward radial diffusion is unlikely to be inhibited by scattering by electromagnetic transmitter wave fields. Rather, we suggest that exceptionally slow natural inward radial diffusion combined with weak, but persistent, wave-particle pitch angle scattering deep inside the Earth’s plasmasphere can combine to create an almost impenetrable barrier through which the most energetic Van Allen belt electrons cannot migrate.

Concepts: Electron, Earth, Plasma, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Van Allen radiation belt, James Van Allen, Magnetic mirror

9

Sounding rockets represent an excellent platform for testing the influence of space conditions during the passage of Earth’s atmosphere and re-entry on biological, physical and chemical experiments for astrobiological purposes. We designed a robust functionality biomarker assay to analyze the biological effects of suborbital spaceflights prevailing during ballistic rocket flights. During the TEXUS-49 rocket mission in March 2011, artificial plasmid DNA carrying a fluorescent marker (enhanced green fluorescent protein: EGFP) and an antibiotic resistance cassette (kanamycin/neomycin) was attached on different positions of rocket exterior; (i) circular every 90 degree on the outer surface concentrical of the payload, (ii) in the grooves of screw heads located in between the surface application sites, and (iii) on the surface of the bottom side of the payload. Temperature measurements showed two major peaks at 118 and 130°C during the 780 seconds lasting flight on the inside of the recovery module, while outer gas temperatures of more than 1000°C were estimated on the sample application locations. Directly after retrieval and return transport of the payload, the plasmid DNA samples were recovered. Subsequent analyses showed that DNA could be recovered from all application sites with a maximum of 53% in the grooves of the screw heads. We could further show that up to 35% of DNA retained its full biological function, i.e., mediating antibiotic resistance in bacteria and fluorescent marker expression in eukariotic cells. These experiments show that our plasmid DNA biomarker assay is suitable to characterize the environmental conditions affecting DNA during an atmospheric transit and the re-entry and constitute the first report of the stability of DNA during hypervelocity atmospheric transit indicating that sounding rocket flights can be used to model the high-speed atmospheric entry of organics-laden artificial meteorites.

Concepts: Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Molecular biology, Atmosphere, Spaceflight, Rocket, Sub-orbital spaceflight

9

Apotropaic observances-traditional practices intended to prevent evil-were not uncommon in post-medieval Poland, and included specific treatment of the dead for those considered at risk for becoming vampires. Excavations at the Drawsko 1 cemetery (17th-18th c. AD) have revealed multiple examples (n = 6) of such deviant burials amidst hundreds of normative interments. While historic records describe the many potential reasons why some were more susceptible to vampirism than others, no study has attempted to discern differences in social identity between individuals within standard and deviant burials using biogeochemical analyses of human skeletal remains. The hypothesis that the individuals selected for apotropaic burial rites were non-local immigrants whose geographic origins differed from the local community was tested using radiogenic strontium isotope ratios from archaeological dental enamel. 87Sr/86Sr ratios ( = 0.7112±0.0006, 1σ) from the permanent molars of 60 individuals reflect a predominantly local population, with all individuals interred as potential vampires exhibiting local strontium isotope ratios. These data indicate that those targeted for apotropaic practices were not migrants to the region, but instead, represented local individuals whose social identity or manner of death marked them with suspicion in some other way. Cholera epidemics that swept across much of Eastern Europe during the 17th century may provide one alternate explanation as to the reason behind these apotropaic mortuary customs, as the first person to die from an infectious disease outbreak was presumed more likely to return from the dead as a vampire.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Death, Vampire, Burial, Cemetery, Cremation, Undead

9

Vultures are scavengers that fill a key ecosystem niche, in which they have evolved a remarkable tolerance to bacterial toxins in decaying meat. Here we report the first deep metagenomic analysis of the vulture microbiome. Through face and gut comparisons of 50 vultures representing two species, we demonstrate a remarkably conserved low diversity of gut microbial flora. The gut samples contained an average of 76 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) per specimen, compared with 528 OTUs on the facial skin. Clostridia and Fusobacteria, widely pathogenic to other vertebrates, dominate the vulture’s gut microbiota. We reveal a likely faecal-oral-gut route for their origin. DNA of prey species detectable on facial swabs was completely degraded in the gut samples from most vultures, suggesting that the gastrointestinal tracts of vultures are extremely selective. Our findings show a strong adaption of vultures and their bacteria to their food source, exemplifying a specialized host-microbial alliance.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Gut flora, Microbiology, Species, Bird, Vulture, Human flora

9

The laboratory mouse shares the majority of its protein-coding genes with humans, making it the premier model organism in biomedical research, yet the two mammals differ in significant ways. To gain greater insights into both shared and species-specific transcriptional and cellular regulatory programs in the mouse, the Mouse ENCODE Consortium has mapped transcription, DNase I hypersensitivity, transcription factor binding, chromatin modifications and replication domains throughout the mouse genome in diverse cell and tissue types. By comparing with the human genome, we not only confirm substantial conservation in the newly annotated potential functional sequences, but also find a large degree of divergence of sequences involved in transcriptional regulation, chromatin state and higher order chromatin organization. Our results illuminate the wide range of evolutionary forces acting on genes and their regulatory regions, and provide a general resource for research into mammalian biology and mechanisms of human diseases.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Evolution, Biology, Species, Transcription factor