Tuesday, December 01, 2020

movements in tiers

Nine months into the plague year Bach project, I have stuck with the plan of studying one movement each month, but I have also accumulated a backlog of movements that I haven't quite managed to memorise. Therefore, I'll take the tenth month to fix some of the gaps before I move on with the front half of the third suite. Specifically, reorganising my revision list by the degree of success so far, I get three tiers (reminds me of something?!):

1) movements memorised in their entirety
1.4 Sarabande
1.5 Minuet I&II
1.6 Gigue

2) movements memorised in a significant part
1.3 Courante (2/3)
3.4 Sarabande (1/3)
3.5 Bourree I&II (1/2)
3.6. Gigue (2/3)

3) movements I've put aside for now
1.1. Prelude
1.2 Allemande

Re the movements and fractions of movements listed as "memorised": these I play at least once a week to check I still have them in my head and fix little problems here and there.

So for this month the main goal will be to shift some of the movements from tier 2 to tier 1. Starting with the bourrees, which should be no problem, and then I may also have time to complete the Gigue in C, which is great fun but quite long.

The Sarabande in C, last month's movement, may be hard to shift - while it is very short, there are far too many chords and shifts in this one. Took me all of November to memorise the first repeat, all of 8 bars long. Not a good sign. It also caused trouble with the Sarabande in G, as it uses some of the same chords in different sequence, so easy to get confused or to overwrite the memory of the first sarabande while trying to memorise the new one.

A freshly restored Heinrich in Regensburg, back in 1991.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

a whole new city

It only occurred to me recently that the generations from my grandparents back to their grandparents lived in towns and cities most of the time. One of those who lived all their lives in cities was Heinrich the cellist, and I am beginning to realise that his biography lines up some amazing places, including several where I wouldn't mind living myself. As I raved about Elberfeld/Wuppertal recently, I am now also going to introduce some of the other places he lived, beginning with Strasbourg. He arrived there in April 1901 when he joined the army, and he stayed until April 1906, when his regiment was moved to a smaller town as a punishment (Strafversetzung), although I don’t know what crime they were being punished for. He also met his future wife there. Maria arrived in 1903 to train as a secretary and must have stayed until they married in 1908, so she, too, spent around five years in the city.

Postcard sent in 1917, showing the view across the Neustadt with the neogothic church, towards the medieval core of the city with the gothic cathedral.
Source

Strasbourg in 1901 must have been amazing. After the newly founded German Empire had taken over the city in 1871, it went to huge efforts to expand it and make it a showcase of urbanisation (while forcing the city itself to pay the bills for the works). Inspired by the grand boulevards in Paris built in the 1850s by Haussmann under Napoleon III, the new quarters (Neustadt) were to triple the built area of the city and increase the population from 80,000 to 180,000 by 1914.

A new main station, new university buildings, administration, theatres, churches as well as a synagogue, everything had to be of the finest and designed with style. Even the army barracks where our cellist lived for five years were looking amazing (Manteuffel-Kaserne, now Quartier Stirn, used as an education facility by the French army). From neo-classicism to art nouveau, everything was there and much of it is still there today. Ironically, even though it is now back on French territory, the Neustadt in Strasbourg is the best-preserved example of German urban architecture of that era, and has become part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

I have to admit, although I’ve visited Strasbourg a dozen times (without really thinking much about the old cellist), I never explored the Neustadt beyond the main station and the always identical path which led me from there into the medieval centre of the city, on the main island. Essentially, Rue du Maire Kuss throught to Place Kleber. (Heck, I've even spent a night in the Neustadt, staying at the Hotel du Rhin, opposite the station!) Last time I was there, I noticed the church St. Paul (shown above), which was part of the Neustadt development and was inspired by the gothic Elisabethkirche in Marburg, but I only saw it from across the water, from the main island. Have to go back and visit properly.

Further Reading:
The Neustadt has Wikipedia entries in nine different languages right now. The French entry is very good.
ArchiWiki page about Quartier Stirn available in French, English, German, with lots of photos.
UNESCO World Heritage site: Strasbourg, Grande-Île and Neustadt

More postcards:
Main Post Office 1918
Kaiserpalast 1905
Panorama view from Kaiserplatz
Vogesenstrasse / rue des Vosges 1920

Friday, November 27, 2020

science news on the move

I started archiving the science news items here in January 2019 after tumblr started to hide my blog (which is also called proseandpassion), following the change to its censorship approach.

Recently, however, there have been days when blogger wasn't working when I needed it for the science news archive. As I have now started a new tumblr blog, which hasn't been hidden yet (prosepluspassion.tumblr.com), I'm now trying to move the science news back there, i.e. in addition to tweeting each item, I will also share it on tumblr with the tag "science" (plus up to four other tags for specific fields), so it should show up at https://prosepluspassion.tumblr.com/tagged/science.

You can access these pages without having an account with tumblr, just like any other blog. (If you do have an account, you can reblog them like you retweet things on twitter.) Seems to be working fine so far but let me know if there are any problems.

All other content that isn't strictly time sensitive, such as features, book reviews, etc remains here (and may be mirrored on tumblr if I remember to post the link). For these items it doesn't matter too much if the site isn't working one day and I have to post it the next.

Monday, November 23, 2020

bats revisited

Open Archive Day

A year ago, I wrote a feature about bats and why we should care about them and understand them better. I'm glad I included a section about viral loads, discussing the remarkable ability of bats to harbour viruses without getting noticeably sick. (In a rather interesting and complex way, this connects to their ability to fly.) Back then, the bat virus that served as an example was Ebola. Now it would obviously be the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19 and changing all our lives.

Which means that my feature is still topical in a way, and it is now freely accessible:

Why we should care about bats

Powered flight has enabled bats to expand into a wide variety of ecological niches from nectar feeding to insect hunting, making them one of the largest groups of mammals. The image shows a grey-headed flying fox (Choeronycteris mexicana) observed in Costa Rica. (Photo: Zdeneˇk Machácˇek/Unsplash.)

Sunday, November 22, 2020

stars tell their stories

The science books I get to review for C&I can be a bit of a mixed bunch, but here's one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anybody interested in anything astro-related:

A History of the Universe in 21 Stars: (and 3 Imposters)
by Giles Sparrow
Welbeck, London 2020
ISBN 978-1-78739-465-0

A snippet from my review:

"In his beautifully packaged book, Giles Sparrow merges the old and the new way of telling stories about stars. He introduces us to 24 individual dots on the firmament with their constellation and mythical backstory, and then connects each of them with the part of our modern understanding of the Universe that each has helped to elucidate."

The long essay review is out in:

Chemistry & Industry Volume 84, Issue 11 November 2020 Page 38

On page 39 of the same issue I also have a short review of a book about food science, which wasn't quite as satisfying.

access to both reviews via:

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

SCI (members)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

learning from Balzac

Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise

Dai Sijie

First published in 2000 and hugely successful, this is a short novel about two teenage boys caught up in Mao’s Cultural Revolution and sent to the remote countryside for re-education by the hardworking villagers. Instead, they find intellectual solace in an illicit stash of French novels by Balzac, Dumas, Flaubert et al. and also use them to re-educate themselves as well as the little seamstress of the title. Lives are changed, although perhaps not quite in the way they may have hoped.

(Cover of the 2001 folio edition I have, too. Later editions typically have images from the film.)

I managed to miss this when it came out and was swiftly made into a movie as well, I only vaguely remember seeing the title some time and wondering what it was about. Catching up with it now, I enjoyed the novel and I was amazed at how well it connected with my own experience of growing up around the same time. I was also stuck in the sticks, maybe not as remote and spectacular as the phoenix of the sky mountain villages with their dangerous paths, but still, as a vastly exaggerated fairytale metaphor for my youth, the novel works surprisingly well. And I found solace in the very same 19th century French novels. Today, I wouldn’t find time for Balzac, but I might revisit Flaubert one day.

It does make me think. Maybe there was a bit of Cultural Revolution going on in Europe as well? Between 1900 and 1960, everybody from whom I inherited DNA lived in towns and cities (eg Heinrich the cellist did all his life). Then, in the 1960s, People got cars, moved to the sticks, commuted to work. A slippery slope. I still get an allergic reaction when, ahead of the TV news, I see trailers for shows pretending that moving to the countryside is a good thing. The Cultural Revolution caused between 200,000 and 20 million deaths, depending on who you choose to believe, and traumatised millions like the author, Dai Sijie. We should heed that warning.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

science news 19.11.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

evolution

Lurking in genomic shadows: How giant viruses fuel the evolution of algae

Prehistoric shark hid its largest teeth
Some, if not all, early sharks that lived 300 to 400 million years ago not only dropped their lower jaws downward but rotated them outwards when opening their mouths. This enabled them to make the best of their largest, sharpest and inward-facing teeth when catching prey, paleontologists at the Universities of Zurich and Chicago have now shown using CT scanning and 3D printing.

With mouths closed, the older, smaller teeth of the ancestors of today's sharks stood upright on the jaw, while the younger and larger teeth pointed towards the tongue and were thus invisible when the mouth was closed.
Illustration: Christian Klug, UZH

nanoworld

Gold nanoparticles turn the spotlight on drug candidates in cells
A team including researchers from Osaka University has developed a surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) microscopy technique for tracking small molecules in live cells. The technique uses gold nanoparticles to boost the signal from alkyne group tags attached to the molecules. The alkyne group has a minimal effect on the drug molecule behavior and provides a signal that can be easily distinguished from the cell background. Their technique is expected to be useful in drug discovery.

biomedical

Technology lets clinicians objectively detect tinnitus for first time

humans

Lovestruck by oxytocin! Novel roles of the hormone in controlling male sexual function
Hormones are the master regulators of sexual functions in mammals. The hormone oxytocin has a well-established role in social bonding, sexual function, maternal instinct, nursing, and lactation. Researchers from Okayama University have now explored the roles of oxytocin in male sexual function for the first time. Findings from the study suggest that oxytocin-mediated control of male sexual function via the spinal cord may in fact be instrumental in treating erectile dysfunction.

dystopian futures

New test reveals AI still lacks common sense

---------------

From the news media:

Should robots have faces? asks the Guardian. Well, if you ask me, err, no?

Also for some lovely theremin music and explanations in German, check this radio programme celebrating the 100th anniversary of the theremin. With Lydia Kavina and Carolina Eyck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

science news 17.11.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

astrobiology

SwRI scientists expand space instrument's capabilities
A new study by Southwest Research Institute scientists describes how they have expanded the capabilities of the prototype spaceflight instrument Chemistry Organic and Dating Experiment (CODEX), designed for field-based dating of extraterrestrial materials. CODEX now uses two different dating approaches based on rubidium-strontium and lead-lead geochronology methods. The instrument uses laser ablation resonance ionization mass spectrometry (LARIMS) to obtain dates using these methods.
This is essentially about DATING on MARS - the PR people could have shown a bit more enthusiasm ...

earth

Scientists discover a new mineral
The research team headed by Stanislav Filatov, Professor at the Department of Crystallography at St Petersburg University, has discovered a new mineral species in Kamchatka - petrovite. The scientists named the find in honour of Tomas Petrov, an outstanding crystallographer and Professor at St Petersburg University. He together with his students Arkady Glikin and Sergei Moshkin, was the first in the world to create a technology for growing jewellery malachite.

Petrovit
Credit SPbU

evolution

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species
Fossil bones collected in the early 1990s on Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Group, have revealed a new species of Polynesian sandpiper. The Henderson Sandpiper, a small wading bird that has been extinct for centuries, is formally named Prosobonia sauli after Cook Islands-based ornithologist and conservationist Edward K Saul.

ecology

When temperatures rise, dog ticks more likely to choose humans over canines

Fish carcasses deliver toxic mercury pollution to the deepest ocean trenches

conservation

Seafood mislabeling is having negative impacts on the marine environment

sustainability

Biochar from agricultural waste products can adsorb contaminants in wastewater

humans

Making the best decision: Math shows diverse thinkers equal better results

dystopian futures

Could robots for sex, friendship improve our aging society?

---------------

From the news media:

Pet flea treatments poisoning rivers across England, reports the Guardian.

Monday, November 16, 2020

dinosaur dealings

For the last 20 years or so, the biography on my website included a statement along the lines that I write about "everything except dinosaurs" - so I now will have to change that, because my latest feature is actually about dinosaurs, and about the crazy commercialisation of their fossils.

In a sense this is related to the reason why I didn't cover dinosaurs - because they are getting too much attention already. The general public's obsession with dinosaurs has surely contributed to the phenomenon that people with more money than sense have started the craze of buying major fossils to set them up at their homes and impress their visitors with them. So mostly, the feature is about humans going crazy about dinosaurs:

Dealing with dinosaurs

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 22, 16 November 2020, Pages R1331-R1334

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

A cast of Stan the T rex, who plays a big role in this feature. Image: Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

a city through time

Looking into the 20th century transformations of Wuppertal (a conglomerate formed in 1929 the rivalling neighbour cities of Elberfeld and Barmen) to trace the steps of our old cellist, I was amazed at the changes around the Döppersberg station of the iconic suspension railway (Schwebebahn), next to the mainline station that is now Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof.

Looking from the station towards the historic centre of Elberfeld, postcards of 1902 show a futuristic Schwebebahn station on stilts looking like a spaceship has just landed, with the backdrop of a fairytale cityscape with spires and turrets. More to the point, perhaps, it could be an illustration from an original edition of a Jules Verne novel, and the whole Schwebebahn enterprise exudes the Verne spirit. Get on board for a ride through 1902 and into Döppersberg station (at 1:32) with this MoMA video (there is also a colourised version available and one juxtaposing the equivalent ride in 2015 - this last video is slower, the approach to Döppersberg is at 2:55).

By 1912 the spaceship is beginning to get sucked up by the surrounding architecture, but the fairytale cityscape remains intact:

Source (this site sells vintage postcards, but this one may have sold out).

My great-grandparents lived there from 1919 to 1960, and during these four decades the area changed beyond recognition, only the Schwebebahn line remains as a landmark. I am getting the impression that the widespread destruction in worldwar II wasn’t even the worst of it. After that came the planners thinking we have to get in more cars, and by 1974 it looked like this:

Source.

Further mess-ups followed, and when I visited this year, the whole area was still a building site, with a new Primark shop being about the only thing finished. Luckily the Schwebebahn has survived. No idea what it will look like when this round is done, but I’m quite sure the 1912 incarnation remains my favourite. I should say, however, that in the residential areas away from the main roads some of the art nouveau loveliness survives, and there are lots of green spaces in the city too, so mustn't grumble, and I'll be certainly happy to visit again.

Further postcards from Wuppertal are on twitter under the hashtag #talpost, and my photos from September are here.

What all this reminds me of is a series of 8 images by Jörg Müller of a fictional city going through the 20th century, published in 1976 as: Hier fällt ein Haus, dort steht ein Kran, und ewig droht der Baggerzahn. Many years ago I lived in a tiny room at the top of an old house in Marburg, where somebody had artfully displayed these images around the walls of the vast staircase. I think one followed the forward direction of the timeline while going up, but one could debate whether cities have really gone up or forward at all.

Friday, November 13, 2020

science news 13.11.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

astrobiology

Escape from Mars: how water fled the red planet

Cysteine synthesis was a key step in the origin of life
All proteins are built from the same 20 amino acids. One of these, cysteine, was assumed not to have been present at the origin of life. In a new study, published in Science, UCL scientists have recreated how cysteine was formed at the origins of life. Additionally, they have observed how, once formed, cysteine catalyses the fusion of peptides in water - a fundamental step in the path towards protein enzymes.

earth

Possible 1,000-kilometer-long river running deep below Greenland's ice sheet

evolution

San Diego zoo global biobanking advances wildlife conservation and human medicine worldwide
In a study that has unprecedented implications to advance both medicine and biodiversity conservation, researchers have sequenced 131 new placental mammal genomes, bringing the worldwide total to more than 250. The results of the mammal genome project, published in the Nov. 12 issue of the journal Nature, catalog and characterize whole branches of Earth's biodiversity, spanning approximately 110 million years of mammal evolution--the largest and most diverse mammalian comparative genomics project to date.

ecology

In a warming climate, can birds take the heat?

In a new University of Illinois study, tropical birds such as the cocoa woodcreeper (pictured) showed less acute heat stress when exposed to high temperatures than expected.
Credit: Henry Pollock, University of Illinois

nanoworld

Smaller than ever--exploring the unusual properties of quantum-sized materials
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) synthesize sub-nanometer particles with precisely controlled proportions of indium and tin using specific macromolecular templates called dendrimers. Through a screening process spanning different metallic ratios, they discovered unusual electronic states and optical properties originating from size-miniaturization and elemental-hybridization. Their approach could be a first step in the development of sub-nanoparticles with unique functionalities and characteristics for electronic, magnetic, and catalytic applications.

biomedical

Chemists studied the composition of oils extracted from popular medicinal plants

sustainability

Environmentally friendly method could lower costs to recycle lithium-ion batteries
A new process for restoring spent cathodes to mint condition could make it more economical to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The process, developed by nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego, is more environmentally friendly than today's methods; it uses greener ingredients, consumes 80 to 90% less energy, and emits about 75% less greenhouse gases.

Special issue: Cooling in a Warming World < > In this special issue of Science, Cooling in a Warming World, three Perspectives and three Reviews highlight the wide array of new and improved technologies and solutions that aim to keep us and the materials we rely on cool, in our rapidly warming planet.

---------------

From the news media:



Thursday, November 12, 2020

science news 12.11.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

evolution

Scientists release genomes of birds representing nearly all avian families

Rice has many fathers but only two mothers
University of Queensland scientists studied more than 3000 rice genotypes and found diversity was inherited through two maternal genomes identified in all rice varieties.


ecology

Rare deep sea Bigfin Squid sighted in Australian waters for first time

Noise and light alter bird nesting habits and success

The northern cardinal has a relatively low frequency song and delayed breeding in response to noise pollution.
Credit: David Keeling

conservation

Largest set of mammalian genomes reveals species at risk of extinction
An international team of researchers with the Zoonomia Project has released the whole genomes of more than 80 percent of all mammalian families, spanning almost 110 million years of evolution. The dataset, published in Nature, includes genomes from more than 120 species that were not previously sequenced, capturing mammalian diversity at an unprecedented scale. Zoonomia data have already helped researchers in another recent study to assess the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 across many species.

nanoworld

How molecular chaperones dissolve protein aggregates linked to Parkinson's disease

biomedical

COVID leads to measurable life expectancy drop in Spain, study finds

humans

The mental state of flow might protect against harmful effects of quarantine < >
In which "flow" refers to being so absorbed in an activity that you froget about your surroundings.

dystopian futures

Robotic AI learns to be spontaneous
Now I'm worried - if only about the endless philosophical discussions about the free will and independent mind of robots and people.

---------------

From the news media:



Monday, November 09, 2020

crispr crowned

Open Archive Day

Slightly belated echo to this year's Nobel prize in chemistry for Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. When the prize was announced, I checked and found that I had already recycled my most recent feature on crispr (applications in agriculture, here), but I didn't think of the previous one, from the early days after the discovery of Crispr, and the nascent discussions on implications for bioethics.

In all of this, I had the advantage that I already knew Jennifer Doudna was brilliant. Nobel laureate Tom Cech told us so back in 1994(ish), when he gave a seminar at Oxford and implored us to remember his postdoc's name because she will go on and do great things. I've often remembered his words and reflected on his remarkable foresight.

Anyhow, my 2015 feature on Crispr, complete with a lovely photo of this year's laureates, is here:

Bacterial scissors to edit human embryos?

Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier identified the nuclease Cas9 as a key part of the bacterial immune response to phages and adapted it for use as a universally applicable genome editing tool. (Photo: Justin Bishop/Breakthrough Prize http://www.breakthroughprize.org.)

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Streichquartett Elberfeld 1927- Suchanzeige

NB The English version of this blog entry is here.

Ich suche immer noch nach den Geigern und dem Bratschenspieler in dem Streichquartett, das in den 1920er und 30er Jahren in Elberfeld / Wuppertal aktiv war.

Es löste sich auf, nachdem die Nazi-Behörden erfuhren dass einer der Musiker jüdischer Abstammung war und begannen, unseren Cellisten unter Druck zu setzen, er solle seine Freizeit nicht mit Juden verbringen. Eine kurze Fassung der Geschichte auf Englisch ist hier, eine längere auf Deutsch hier.

Ich habe eine Liste von mehr als 50 Freunden (und wenigen Freundinnen) deren Geburtstage unser Cellist jedes Jahr in seinen neuen Taschenkalender übertrug. Obwohl die erhaltenen Kalender aus einer späteren Zeit stammen, wäre es möglich, dass sich in der Liste auch überlebende Mitglieder des Streichquartetts finden könnten. Deshalb veröffentliche ich hier die Namen mit dem Geburtsjahr und der Straße, in der Hoffnung, dass jemand der nach diesen Namen sucht, vielleicht einen der Musiker wiedererkennt.

Personen die aus dem einen oder anderen Grund nicht in Frage kamen, habe ich ausgelassen, so bleiben uns immerhin 34 Namen. Die Straße mit dem Sternchen heißt heute Friedrich-Engels-Allee und ist der nach Pariser Vorbild angelegte große Boulevard, der Barmen und Elberfeld verband, die heute die größten Stadtteile von Wuppertal sind.

Baak Fritz 1897 Am Brögel

Blasberg Werner 1902 Martin Fauststr.

Brill Robert 1893 Ad. H*tlerstr.

de Bruyer Albert 1897 Farbmühle

Dietrich Wilfried 1898 Emma Str.

Freimuth Paul 1885 E. Teutonenstr. 19

Friedewald Emil 1883 Von Behringstr.

Graus Heiner E. Hauentrief

Haase Kurt 1894 Ad. H*tlerstr

Hackenberg Emil 1879 Farbmühle

Herbst Ludwig 1902 Oberdenkmalstr.

Herhäuser Erich 1885 Hohenstein

Heuerz Josef 1891 Wartburgstr.

Hilger Gustav 1888

Homberg Helmut 1884 Wartburgstr.

Hühl Karl 1900 Schloßstr.

Kautz Hugo 1872 Haspeler Schulstr.

Klein Eduard 1896 Werlestr.

Kluge Hermann 1885 Unterdörnen

Knauer Dr. Karl 1883 Hünefeldstr.

Kobusch Walter 1887 Sudhoffstr.

Köster Erwin 1888 Wartburgerstr.

Luckhaus Hermann 1883 Wartburgstr.

Michael Karl 1887 Hohenstein

Möllmann Dr Hans 1902

Nippel Hans 1898 Sudhoffstr.

Reinsdorf Paul 1890 Ad. H*tlerstr.

Schäfer Karl 1889 Ad. H*tlerstr.

Scheffel Walter 1876 Am Brögel

Schlemmer Paul 1889 Heuberrstr.

Schulze Erich 1896 Ostlerstr.

Tiefenbach Heinrich 1899 Gewerbeschulstr.

Voß August 1893 Unionstr

Weierstall Walter 1891 Paracelsusstr.

Wir wissen, dass Robert Brill der Besitzer der gleichnamigen Rasenmäher-Fabrik war, und ich vermute, dass Hermann Kluge mit dem gleichnamigen Gründer der Klaviaturen-Fabrik verwandt ist, die heute noch die Klaviaturen für Steinway-Pianos herstellt. Das ist allerdings auch die einzige musikalische Verbindung, die ich bisher finden konnte.

Der Masterpost über das ganze Cello-familiengeschichtliche Projekt ist hier.

Monday, November 02, 2020

on the origins of numbers

When I saw the news story about the fraction signs of Linear A, the cuneiform writing system of ancient Minoans, I felt inspired to go looking for the origins of mathematics. I.e., I was asksing myself: where was the transition when natural abilities that you might also find in other animals led to calculating, book keeping, and the whole culture of mathematics that we have today.? I didn't really find that magic spark moment, but I still learned lots of interesting things about different cultures deal with numbers, and how scientists are debating the numerical (or just quantical) skills found in some animals.

The feature is out now:

Are numbers in our nature?

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 21, 2 November 2020, Pages R1283-R1285

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Animals from insects to primates can distinguish quantities, but their processing is different from the arithmetic we learn in school. (Photo: Luca Ambrosi/Unsplash.)

Sunday, November 01, 2020

second lockdown

Now a second lockdown is coming our way, so there will be plenty of quiet time to learn a second sarabande. The Bach project (36 movements in as many months) doesn't look quite as crazy now as it did in March. Although I also got to play tunes outdoors and with other people every once in a while, a couple of times under the remarkably reflective roof of the band stand in Florence Park.

I enjoyed the Gigue in C, which was my movement for October, and managed to memorise almost half of it, might get the other half into my head at some point, as it repeats many of the patterns I already know from the first half. I have now managed to memorise what was missing of the minuets from the first suite, so I can sort of play from memory the movements 4-6 of the first suite, along with most of the Courante, one of the Bourrees and bits of the others.

So onwards (or backwards, rather, as I did with the first suite) to the Sarabande in C. I'm starting with Inbal Segev's musings, as always, and I found recordings from:
Ophélie Gaillard
Alisa Weilerstein
I'm also adding these videos to my youtube playlist "cello repertoire".

Heinrich the cello enjoying the winter sun.

Revision list (newest addition first)

3.6. Gigue
1.1. Prelude
1.2 Allemande
1.3 Courante
1.4 Sarabande
1.6 Gigue
1.5 Minuet I&II
3.5 Bourree I&II


Saturday, October 31, 2020

string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927

(For a German version of this entry click here.)

I’m still looking for the violin players and viola player in this string quartet which was active in Elberfeld / Wuppertal, Germany in the 1920s and 30s:

It dissolved when authorities got wind that one of the members was Jewish and leaned on our cellist, Heinrich Groß not to spend his time with Jews. A short version of the story in English is here, and a longer one in German here (PDF).

I have a list of more than 50 friends whose birthdays our cellist used to copy over into each year’s pocket diary. While the two diaries I have are both from the war years, after the string quartet stopped playing, there is a chance that survivors of the quartet are hiding in this list, so I’m putting the names, year of birth, and street name here in the hope that any relatives looking for these individuals might find them here and recognise one of the musicians. (Although any other info on their connection to Heinrich the cellist would be welome too.)

I’ve left out people who for one reason or other were unlikely to be relevant, leaving 34 names. The street with the asterisk is now called Friedrich Engels Allee, it is the main boulevard linking the former cities of Barmen and Elberfeld, now the major districts of Wuppertal.

Baak Fritz 1897 Am Brögel

Blasberg Werner 1902 Martin Fauststr.

Brill Robert 1893 Ad. H*tlerstr.

de Bruyer Albert 1897 Farbmühle

Dietrich Wilfried 1898 Emma Str.

Freimuth Paul 1885 E. Teutonenstr. 19

Friedewald Emil 1883 Von Behringstr.

Graus Heiner E. Hauentrief

Haase Kurt 1894 Ad. H*tlerstr

Hackenberg Emil 1879 Farbmühle

Herbst Ludwig 1902 Oberdenkmalstr.

Herhäuser Erich 1885 Hohenstein

Heuerz Josef 1891 Wartburgstr.

Hilger Gustav 1888

Homberg Helmut 1884 Wartburgstr.

Hühl Karl 1900 Schloßstr.

Kautz Hugo 1872 Haspeler Schulstr.

Klein Eduard 1896 Werlestr.

Kluge Hermann 1885 Unterdörnen

Knauer Dr. Karl 1883 Hünefeldstr.

Kobusch Walter 1887 Sudhoffstr.

Köster Erwin 1888 Wartburgerstr.

Luckhaus Hermann 1883 Wartburgstr.

Michael Karl 1887 Hohenstein

Möllmann Dr Hans 1902

Nippel Hans 1898 Sudhoffstr.

Reinsdorf Paul 1890 Ad. H*tlerstr.

Schäfer Karl 1889 Ad. H*tlerstr.

Scheffel Walter 1876 Am Brögel

Schlemmer Paul 1889 Heuberrstr.

Schulze Erich 1896 Ostlerstr.

Tiefenbach Heinrich 1899 Gewerbeschulstr.

Voß August 1893 Unionstr

Weierstall Walter 1891 Paracelsusstr.

We know that Robert Brill was the owner of the eponymous company making lawnmowers (only the brand name survived a recent takeover), and I suspect Hermann Kluge was related to the eponymous founder of Kluge Klaviaturen, the company that makes keyboards for Steinway pianos (now at Remscheid, but it used to be at Elberfeld / Wuppertal). Which is the only musical connection I’ve been able to find.

PS: Masterpost on the whole cello / family history book project I'm pursuing is here.

Friday, October 30, 2020

science news 30.10.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

astrobiology

An Earth-sized rogue planet discovered in the Milky Way

evolution

Shining a (UV) light on the glow-in-the-dark platypus
Turns out platypus fur is biofluorescent - astonishing that this hasn't been noticed before.

The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is one of the oddities of nature: a mammal that lays eggs, and is like a mix of several other animals being duck-billed, beaver-tailed, and otter-footed.
Credit: Goddard Photography

Boo! How do mexican cavefish escape predators?

Study of ancient dog DNA traces canine diversity to the Ice Age

ecology

Touch and taste? It's all in the tentacles
Scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don't dissolve well in water. The research suggests these sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it's touching and whether that object is prey.

Male fin whales surprise scientists by swapping songs

conservation

Losing ground in biodiversity hotspots worldwide
Agriculture is eating into areas that are important in protecting some of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Most of this new agricultural land is being used to grow cattle feed.

nanoworld

Smart bottle brushes
They look like microscopic bottle brushes: Polymers with a backbone and tufts of side arms. This molecular design gives them unusual abilities: For example, they can bind active agents and release them again when the temperature changes. With the help of neutrons, a research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now succeeded to unveil the changes in the internal structure in course of the process.

sustainability

Advanced facade material for urban heat island mitigation

humans

Two studies expand insights into Denisovan ancestry and population history in East Asia
Lots of PRs from institutes involved have been promoting one study or the other, which got me confused, so I'm using the PR from science magazine which discusses both.

Bison engravings in Spanish caves reveal a common art culture across ancient Europe

---------------

From the news media:

New sensor offers a window into the secret lives of Britain's rarest bats
reports the Guardian

Monday, October 26, 2020

open cities

More than half of humankind is now living in cities, and urbanisation continues to grow. So in my contribution to last year's special issue on the anthropocene, I gazed into my crystal ball to work out how cities can be more sustainable in the future.

The resulting feature is now in the open archives:

The future is urbanised

Making cities resilient to climate interactions requires tailored solutions. Heat build-up is a problem for many cities, and the traditional approach of painting surfaces in reflective colours can help to keep the environment cool. (Photo: SofiaPapageorge/Pixabay.)

Friday, October 23, 2020

science news 23.10.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

astrobiology

OSIRIS-REx TAGs surface of asteroid Bennu

evolution

African crocodiles lived in Spain six million years ago
The crocodiles that inhabited the coasts of North Africa during the late Miocene period embarked on a journey to Europe across what is now the Mediterranean basin. This is confirmed by the analysis of the first fossils of the Crocodylus genus in the Iberian Peninsula, found in the Valencian site of Venta del Moro between 1995 and 2006, and which are now being described for the first time.

Bat-winged dinosaurs that could glide

This illustration shows a reconstruction of Ambopteryx in a glide. Credit: Gabriel Ugueto

conservation

The next generation of biodiversity conservation targets must aim higher than ever
Writing this week in Science, 40 researchers argue for a set of holistic actions for new biodiversity goals that are unambiguously clear, sufficiently ambitious, and based on the best knowledge available. Most importantly, the goals need to aim higher if they are to be successful in the face of worsening trends for the climate and life on Earth.

light and life

Researchers identify how night-shift work causes internal clock confusion

biomedical

Lab-grown mini-lungs mimic the real thing - right down to covid infection

dystopian futures

Comparing the promise and reality of e-scooters

---------------

From the news media:


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

it's all in the chemistry

Sexual chemistry keeps species alive but what if it fails? What if a mutation means that suddenly a chemical signal fails to find a receptor? There are a few examples where a change in chemistry visibly drives the separation of species, including a recent discovery where it is happening right now. I've discussed a few cases in my latest feature in C&I:

Chemical evolution

Chemistry & Industry Volume 84, Issue10 October 2020 Pages 22-26

access via:

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

SCI (members)

Here's the first page with a picture of some yeasts whose sexual reproduction is also discussed in the feature:

Monday, October 19, 2020

closing in on the RNA world

As a former ribosome researcher, I tend to obsess about the tail end of the RNA world (the early phase of evolution when life used only RNA, no proteins or DNA) sometimes, namely the point when a ribozyme started making peptide bonds, and cleared the way for the division of labour between proteins, DNA and RNA that dominates life today. Now, however it is time to get really excited about the beginning of the RNA world, the point when the very first ribozyme started making more of its own kind. Experiments using in-vitro evolution to find such a ribozyme and they are tantalisingly close to success. Which would be amazing because from that point, we could rerun the evolution of the RNA world in the lab ...

So, while we're waiting for this breakthrough, here's my feature explaining just how brilliant that will be.

Towards the birth of evolution

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 20, 19 October 2020, Pages R1233-R1235

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

The images thrown in were even more symbolic this time than normally:

Some sort of membrane or other enclosure was necessary for the early precursors of life to keep their molecules together and protect them from harm. (Photo: Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay.)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

wandering about Wuppertal

I recently visited Wuppertal to look at the places where our family cello Heinrich (and its eponymous owner) lived a century ago, in what was then Elberfeld and Barmen. The conglomerate of Wuppertal isn't generally known as a tourist destination, although I tend to think it should be, as the suspension railway (Schwebebahn) gliding through the airspace above the river Wupper makes it unique. On previous visits I have also seen art exhibitions in the Von der Heydt Museum and as a child I must have visited the zoo there.

Walking from the main station Wuppertal Hbf (which was Elberfeld Hbf a century ago - see this slideshow of old postcards) to the first address where Heinrich lived, I came past this neogothic marvel and took a photo just for touristy interest.

Only after I arrived back home and read up a few things about old Elberfeld did it dawn on me that this building, known as the new townhall (Neues Rathaus), must have been where Heinrich the cellist went to work - he came to Elberfeld because he found a job in the city administration there. Which fits nicely as it is only ten minutes walk away from the flat where he lived in the 1920s, in Schleswiger Str.:

From the 1930s till the end of his life he lived in Gronaustr, which is technically in Barmen but still very close to Elberfeld, and a very nice location too. Behind the buildings you have the botanic garden going up on a hillside, and to the front you look out over the valley of the river Wupper and towards the green hills on the other side.

There are more photos of my visit in the relevant Flickr album now, the ones specifically relating to Heinrich are tagged with his name. I've also thrown in a photo of his string quartet - I'm still trying to find out who the other three musicians were.

Amateur string quartet in Elberfeld, 1927 - can anybody identify the other musicians?

Amateur-Streichquartett Elberfeld 1927 - kann jemand die anderen Musiker identifizieren?

Background story is here.

Friday, October 16, 2020

science news 16.10.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

evolution

Monkey study suggests that they, like humans, may have 'self-domesticated'
Asif Ghazanfar led a team of scientists who determined that changing an infant monkey's verbal development also changed a physical marker of domesticity: a patch of white fur on its forehead. This is the first study linking the degree of a social trait with the size of a physical sign of domestication, in any species.

ecology

Bark beetle outbreaks benefit wild bee populations, habitat

Cows prefer "live" co-moo-nication, study reveals

light and life

Researchers deconstruct the "biological clock" that regulates birdsong < >

A team of researchers from Penn State and New York University has deconstructed an important "biological clock" in the zebra finch brain and found that the "wires" between neurons, called axons, play a critical role in the precise timing of the birds' courtship song.
Credit: Christopher Auger-Dominguez

biomedical

Bats save energy by reducing energetically costly immune functions during annual migration
relevant for zoonoses including covid, hence biomedical of sorts.

sustainability

Artificial cyanobacterial biofilm can sustain green ethylene production for over a month

dystopian futures

Researchers develop framework to identify health impacts of self-driving vehicles
Loving the use of the word "impacts" in that title.

---------------

From the news media:

Have some blue fluorescent tardigrades

Thursday, October 15, 2020

science news 15.10.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

earth

Volcanic eruptions may explain Denmark's giant mystery crystals
Researchers have long been stumped for an explanation of how tens of millions of years-old giant crystals known as glendonites came to be on the Danish islands of Fur and Mors. A recent study from the University of Copenhagen offers a possible explanation to the conundrum: major volcanic eruptions resulted in episodes of much cooler prehistoric climates than once thought.

ecology

'Honey bee, it's me'
Honey bees rely on chemical cues related to their shared gut microbial communities, instead of genetic relatedness, to identify members of their colony. This new work is significant in part because it shows an integral role for the microbiome in the essential, everyday social interactions of honey bees, the Earth's most important pollinators, researchers said.

Mapping out rest stops for migrating birds
A team of researchers have developed a new metric called the stopover-to-passage ratio that can help determine if a majority of birds are flying over a particular site or stopping at the site to refuel or rest. The answer to this question can have important implications for what action is ultimately taken on the ground to help migratory birds.

Whitebark pine declines may unravel the tree's mutualism with Clark's Nutcracker
A new study suggests inequality in the whitebark pine-Clark's Nutcracker mutualism may make this partnership vulnerable when the population of one partner declines. Whitebark populations are declining due to factors including blister rust disease, mountain pine beetle infestations and climate change. The study suggests that nutcrackers leave areas where whitebark is less abundant and seek resources elsewhere, which might mean that declining seed dispersal should be added to the list of current threats to whitebark.

A Clark's Nutcracker perches in a whitebark pine. Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Credit: Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

conservation

Ivory Coast without ivory? Elephant populations are declining rapidly in Cote d'Ivoire

sustainability

Sweetpotato biodiversity can help increase climate-resilience of small-scale farming

humans

Modern humans took detours on their way to Europe
Climate conditions shaped the geography of settlement by Homo sapiens in the Levant 43,000 years ago / findings of Collaborative Research Centre 806 'Our Way to Europe' published in 'PLOS ONE'

Fossil footprints tell story of prehistoric parent's journey
Hungry giant predators, treacherous mud and a tired, probably cranky toddler -- more than 10,000 years ago, that was the stuff of every parent's nightmare. Evidence of that type of frightening trek was recently uncovered, and at nearly a mile it is the longest known trackway of early-human footprints ever found.

Trash heaps in Israel reveal agricultural shifts during the Roman Imperial Period

Nerves that sense touch may play role in autism
Autism is considered a disorder of the brain. But a new study suggests that the peripheral nervous system, the nerves that control our sense of touch, pain and other sensations, may play a role as well. The exploratory study is published in the October 14, 2020, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

dystopian futures

Robot swarms follow instructions to create art

---------------

From the news media:

Thursday, October 08, 2020

legos and other building blocks

That awkward moment when I need to cite my own article from five months ago and find I have neither saved the PDF nor referenced it on the blog. So after a trawl through the Wiley Online Library, here are the publications in German I recently forgot to mention:

Von Viren und Tieren
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 68, Issue 5, March 2020, Pages 63-65
Access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English (animal sources of Sars-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses)

Proteomik: Den Urmenschen auf den Zahn gefühlt
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 54, Issue 3, June 2020, Page 147
Access via Wiley Online Library
Related content in English (dental proteomics of hominins)

Stammzelltherapien - was ist dran?
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 68, Issue 7/8, July/August 2020, Pages 62-64
Access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English (stem cell therapies)

Insekten-Pheromone: Scheidung auf Chemisch
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 54, Issue 4, August 2020, Page 215
Access via Wiley Online Library
Related content in English (coming soon)

Ausgeforscht: Langlebiges Lego
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 68, Issue 5, March 2020, Page 114
Access via Wiley Online Library

So entsteht eine Proteinfabrik
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 68, Issue 5, March 2020, Pages 65-67
Access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English (ribosome asembly and evolution)

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

second wave

As the UK is now steaming into a second Covid wave, I'm getting the opportunity to learn another Bach suite. In mid September, I completed my exploration of the first suite with an approximation to playing the Prelude. Then I had 2 1/2 weeks off in Düsseldorf without a cello (but with my grandmother's piano on which I am still more hopeless than on the cello), and now I am ready for the third suite (which is in C major, one of the three major keys I can almost handle). Of which I have already learned the Bourree 1 and 2, so only 5 movements left to do. Let's start at the tail end again, with the gigue:

I'm starting with Inbal Segev's musings, of course, but then there aren't as many videos to choose from as there were for the first suite. Let's try:
Ophélie Gaillard
Alisa Weilerstein
I'm also adding these videos to my youtube playlist "cello repertoire".

In September, Heinrich's first outing after six months of lockdown led us to the bandstand in Florence Park.

Revision list (newest addition first)

1.1. Prelude
1.2 Allemande
1.3 Courante
1.4 Sarabande
1.6 Gigue
1.5 Minuet I&II
3.5 Bourree I&II


Monday, October 05, 2020

sick of climate change

Today's issue of Current Biology includes a special section "The Microbial World". My contribution to the section looks into the effects of climate change on the ecology of pathogens. Amphibians are the canaries in the coalmine for this one, as they don't control their body temperature and changes in environmental temperature make them vulnerable to fungal infections that are already causing extinctions. But potentially climate-induced human diseases are also being investigated.

Disease in the times of climate change

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 19, 05 October 2020, Pages R1104-R1106

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(Actually, it is open right now as part of the special issue, but I suspect that this will change once the next issue appears in two weeks time. In that case, it will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Other goodies in the special issue include a primer on the phyllosphere (the above-ground microbiome of plants) by Britt Koskella and a quick guide to giant viruses by Chantal Abergel.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

lichenous liaisons

Blogger no longer allows me to switch back to the "classic" version, so this is my first attempt at writing a blog entry with the new one, and anything could happen. I'll stick to the important info:

My latest feature is about the evolution of lichens. Recent findings suggest they are more recent than thought (which is disappointing from an astrobiology perspective as it means they didn't pioneer the vegetation on dry land), but their evolution was also more complex than thought, with the symbiotic link being made and broken and remade in some lineages, which called for the lovely title (which I nicked from the press release, and amazingly nobody else did that before me):

Lichenous liaisons

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 18, 21 September 2020, Pages R1009-R1012

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)


Ophioparma, a lichen formed by a fungus and green algae, growing on rocks in the Alaskan tundra. The red spots are fungal fruiting bodies that release meiotically derived ascospores. (Photo: © Matthew P. Nelsen, Field Museum.)

Monday, September 14, 2020

sharks in the open

Open Archive Day

There has been some exciting shark news in recent week at the biology front (eg about angel sharks or about giant sharks from the Cretaceous), but not so much in conservation issues, as the global slaughter carries on, so the hard work of raising awareness of shark conservation continues. My most recent feature about sharks and how they may end up on your dinner plate appeared a year ago, so it is now in the open archives:

Stop the global slaughter of sharks



The scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) is one of the shark species whose fins were identified in a barcoding study of fish products in the UK. It also appears on the EDGE of Existence list of unique and endangered rays and sharks. (Photo: © Simon Rogerson.)

Friday, September 11, 2020

science news 11.9.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


earth

66 million years of Earth's climate uncovered from ocean sediments

Understanding the 'deep-carbon cycle'
New geologic findings about the makeup of the Earth's mantle are helping scientists better understand long-term climate stability and even how seismic waves move through the planet's layers.


evolution

Coming up for air: Extinct sea scorpions could breathe out of water, fossil detective unveils


ecology

In the absence of otters, climate warming leads to Aleutian Reef decline
Sea otters prey on urchins and keep their population in check. When otters disappear, urchin populations explode, leading to overgrazing on kelp and a decline in kelp forests.


conservation

The surprising rhythms of Leopards: Females are early birds, males are nocturnal
After 10 months of camera surveillance in the Tanzanian rainforest, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have become the first to conclude that female and male leopards are active at very different times of the day. The discovery contradicts previous assumptions and could be used to help protect the endangered feline, whose populations have dwindled by 85 percent over the past century.


biomedical

Antibody responses in COVID-19 patients could guide vaccine design
The results show that the neutralizing activity of antibodies from recovered patients is typically not strong, and declines sharply within one month after hospital discharge.


environment

Multiphase buffering by ammonia explains wide range of atmospheric aerosol acidity
Anthropogenic ammonia emissions and the water content matter more than dry particle composition for the acidity of atmospheric aerosols in populated regions.


humans

Tel Aviv University study confirms widespread literacy in biblical-period kingdom of Judah
based on the identification of 12 different handwritings? I'm not sure I follow that conclusion. They could have rounded up the only 12 people in the kingdom who were able to write?



Examples of Hebrew ostraca from Arad.
Credit: Michael Cordonsky, TAU and the Israel Antiquities Authority

Addicted to the sun? Research shows it's in your genes
Sun-seeking behaviour is linked to genes involved in addiction, behavioural and personality traits and brain function, according to a study of more than 260,000 people led by King's College London researchers.


dystopian futures

Experiments reveal why human-like robots elicit uncanny feelings

---------------


From the news media:

Thursday, September 10, 2020

science news 10.9.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

Where rocks come alive: NASA's OSIRIS-REx observes an asteroid in action

In Ancient Giant Viruses Lies the Truth Behind Evolution of Nucleus in Eukaryotic Cells
An exchange of genetic material that occurred when ancient giant viruses infected ancient eukaryotic cells could have caused the nucleus of the eukaryotic cell--its defining feature--to form. This is what Professor Masaharu Takemura of the Tokyo University of Science, Japan, suggests in his recent review in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. His novel evolutionary hypothesis opens doors to new discussions on the subject, bringing us one giant step closer to the truth.


earth

New insight on the impacts of Earth's biosphere on air quality
specifically, this is about the distribution of isoprene in the atmosphere.


conservation

At least 28 extinctions prevented by conservation action in recent decades

New tracking technology will help fight rhino poaching in Namibia
Interactive software that 'reads' and analyzes footprints left by black rhinoceroses can be used to monitor the movements of the animals in the wild, giving conservationists a new way to keep watch on the endangered species and help keep it safe from poachers, according to a Duke University-led study.



A black rhino and its calf; new technology that uses software to read unique features of rhino footprints will help protect this endangered species from poachers.
Credit: WildTrack


nanoworld

A chemist from RUDN developed a new type of one-molecule thick water-repellent film
... out of calixarenes, to be specific.


biomedical

More cats might be COVID-19 positive than first believed, study suggests


sustainability

Do as plants do: Novel photocatalysts can perform solar-driven conversion of CO2 into fuel


---------------


From the news media:

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

science news 9.9.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


earth

Deep channels link ocean to Antarctic glacier
meaning warm water can lick it away


evolution

New fossil ape is discovered in India
A 13-million-year-old fossil unearthed in northern India comes from a newly discovered ape, the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day gibbon. The discovery fills a major void in the ape fossil record and provides important new evidence about when the ancestors of today's gibbon migrated to Asia from Africa.

Skeletal study suggests at least 11 fish species are capable of walking
See also my feature on evolution of lineages gaining or losing their legs



Thailand's cave angel fish, Cryptotora thamicola, is famous for its ability to walk, using a salamander-like gait. But it may not be alone: At least 10 relatives share its unusual pelvic shape.
Credit: Zachary Randall/Florida Museum


ecology

International study gets at the root of what makes deer migrate
Researchers found that the dynamics of springtime plant growth, specifically whether green-up progresses like a wave or not, explain where deer migration occurs in many ecosystems.

Gulls pay attention to human eyes
Herring gulls notice where approaching humans are looking, and flee sooner when they're being watched, a new study shows.
For a moment I thought the gulls were checking if you're watching your food ...


conservation

Lost frogs rediscovered with environmental DNA
Scientists have detected signs of a frog listed extinct and not seen since 1968, using an innovative technique to locate declining and missing species in two regions of Brazil.


biomedical

High-intensity focused ultrasound _treatment_ for prostate cancer: First US study shows promising outcomes
The title originally didn't make it clear, but this is a new method of treating the cancer, instead of radiation or chemotherapy. It's not about diagnostic ultrasound.

Recharging N95 masks for continued usage
N95 masks achieve 95% efficiency at filtering out 0.3-micron particles, while maintaining reasonable breathability, thanks to a layer of polypropylene fibers incorporating electrical charges to attract particles. Extended usage and decontamination, provoked by severe shortages during the pandemic, can easily remove the charges and degrade filtration efficiency. In Physics of Fluids, researchers share a method to restore the filtration efficiency of N95 masks to out-of-box levels, as long as the mask is not structurally compromised.

Could singing spread COVID-19?
wear a mask, skip the consonants


humans

The oldest Neanderthal DNA of Central-Eastern Europe
A new study reports the oldest mitochondrial genome of a Neanderthal from Central-Eastern Europe. The mitochondrial genome of the tooth, discovered at the site of Stajnia Cave in Poland, is closer to a Neanderthal specimen from the Caucasus than to the contemporaneous Neanderthals of Western Europe. Stone tools found at the site are also analogous to the southern regions suggesting that Neanderthals living in the steppe/taiga environment had a broader foraging radius than previously envisaged.

Ancient hunters stayed in frozen Northern Europe rather than migrating to warmer areas, evidence from Arctic fox bones shows



---------------


From the news media:

Oxford Covid vaccine trial on hold after adverse reaction in one participant.
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