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.
Physics principle explains order and disorder of swarms
This looks like an exciting new development from the centre studying collective behaviour at Konstanz. See also my feature on their research from last October.
Bees? Please. These plants are putting ants to work
Authors claim it's the first example of plants adapting to enable pollination by ants. Is it? I had covered some plant-ant mutualism in my feature on insect success stories last year.
Roadkill study identifies animals most at risk in Europe
Ancient enzymes can contribute to greener chemistry
A research team at Uppsala University has resurrected several billion-year-old enzymes and reprogrammed them to catalyse completely different chemical reactions than their modern versions can manage. The method can be used to develop sustainable solutions within biotechnology, such as for enzyme bioreactors or to chemically degrade environmental toxins.
Study underlines importance of adequate PPE and training to prevent covid-19 infection
New recommendations on genetic testing for prostate cancer
Discovery of the oldest Chinese work of art
Carved from burnt bone, a miniature bird statuette is the oldest known Chinese work of art, according to an international team involving the CNRS. It was unearthed at Lingjing, a site in Henan Province, in an archaeological context dated to between 13,800 and 13,000 years ago. This discovery pushes back the origins of animal sculpture and representations in East Asia by more than 8,500 years.
Photo (top) and 3D reconstruction using microtomography (bottom) of the miniature bird sculpture. Its production combined four different techniques (abrasion, gouging, scraping and incision), which left 68 microfacets on the surface of the object.
Credit: © Francesco d'Errico and Luc Doyon
Mozart may reduce seizure frequency in people with epilepsy
Scientists predict the best strategy for lifting COVID-19 lockdown
Will lockdown loneliness make us loners?
Over the past months at least half of the world's population has been affected by some form of lockdown due to COVID-19. Many are experiencing the impact of social isolation. Loneliness affects both mental and physical health, but counterintuitively it can also result in a decreased desire for social interaction. To understand the mechanics of this paradox, UCL researchers based at the Wolfson Institute and the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre investigated social behaviour in zebrafish.
From the news media:
How to avoid a second wave - words of wisdom from Devi Sridhar
Barn owls back in the UK - my children had a book about a baby barn owl that was afraid to fly. I guess that's all I know about these birds, but maybe I should read up.