Author Archives: Dave White

Rising sea levels could trigger strong inland migration in the US

Several times it has been reported that several coastal areas of the United States will also suffer from sea level rise and now a new study, conducted by researchers from the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California, seems to certify it. According to the researchers, the rise in sea levels could cause real inland mass migrations by the populations of coastal areas that would pour into inland cities.

Published in PLOS ONE, the study used the technique of machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence algorithm, to calculate the migration patterns that would result from sea-level rise along the U.S. coast. The results show that the impacts would literally spread throughout the country and that not only the populations on the coast, which will naturally be those directly subject to the effects, such as floods, will suffer, but also the populations of inland areas given the strong migratory flows that would be triggered.

By doing some calculations, researchers have come to the conclusion that at least 13 million people would be forced to move from coastal areas to inland areas by the year 2100. This flow will bring about very important changes for several cities in terms of population increase or decrease. Adverse effects would include those related to the economy, with more competition for jobs, higher house prices and generally greater pressure on infrastructure.

“Our results indicate that everyone should be concerned about rising sea levels, whether they live on the coast or not. This is a global impact problem,” says Bistra Dilkina, one of the researchers involved in the study. The researchers have also calculated that the main destination for climate migrants on the southeast coast will also be Houston, Dallas and especially Austin, a city that should see a sharp increase in population. Several counties around Los Angeles are also expected to see many of their inhabitants leaving to live in safer inland destinations.

Scientists discover that loose RNA molecules restructure the skin

Particular RNA molecules can be used to restructure the cellular damage of the epidermis and therefore, in a future perspective, also to rejuvenate the skin: it is the discovery made by a group of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University medical school.

The study, published in Nature Communications, speaks of free RNA fragments, called non-coding double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that can stimulate a particular regeneration of hair follicles after a wound. This is a type of regeneration already known and used by rodents when they need to regenerate their skin after damage.

According to the authors of this new study, dsRNA is released from the damaged cells at the site of the injury. To arrive at this discovery, the researchers performed biopsies on 17 female patients on whom laser therapies were performed for rejuvenation or skin modeling, for example to clear sun spots or wrinkles. The treatments were performed on the face and arms and the average age of the patients was 55 years.

By analyzing the expression levels of genes in the samples collected, the researchers discovered the important role of dsRNA and the genes involved in the production of natural retinoic acid. After laser treatments, the expressions of these genes had much higher levels. By treating skin cells isolated in the laboratory directly with the dissolved dsRNA, the researchers imitated the effect of the lasers by increasing retinoic acid in the cells themselves.

Among other things, the latter is already available in some commercial products to treat acne and other skin defects.

This means that these treatments and the same retinoic acid “are really working in the same molecular pathways and no one knew it until now,” as specified by Luis Garza, professor of dermatology and one of the authors of the study.

These results could help in the implementation of new therapies or strategies to reduce skin defects such as wrinkles or burn scars by directly using retinoic acid in new ways.

Mothers of African australopiths suckled children for a long time to make up for food shortages

Analyzing the fossils of teeth of Australopithecus africanus, a species of hominid lived in Africa between 2 and 3 million years ago, a group of researchers from the University of Monash has better delineated some behaviors of the species, in particular the roles within the family and even more particularly the evolution of maternal roles and parental responsibilities.

The study, published in Nature, was based on the analysis of various remains of teeth from Australopithecus africanus fossils found in South Africa. One of the first pieces of information, among the most interesting traced by the researchers, is related to breastfeeding: the babies were nursed continuously from birth until they were one year old but any adverse environmental conditions, above all the scarcity of food, induced the mothers to feed the young even longer, supplementing the scarce food with the mother’s milk.

This is the first research that shows the existence of what can be considered as a very lasting bond between mothers and children in Australopithecus, as stated by Luca Fiorenza, a researcher at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Australia, and one of the authors of the research.

In the era in which Australopithecus africanus lived in Africa, there were strong climatic-environmental upheavals that testified to the difficulties these hominids had to overcome, at least for most of their history.

Researchers used special laser sampling techniques to analyze teeth by vaporizing microscopic portions. The gas obtained was analyzed to discover the chemical signatures, in a sort of mass spectrometry, which has shown results since the researchers found a variety of information about the diet of these populations.

They also discovered that the food they used was rich in lithium, an element that reduces the protein deficit in those little ones who have major growth problems in adverse environmental conditions, as Joannes-Boyau, a researcher at Southern Cross University in Lismore, states.

Probably these tactics, which saw the little ones always cared for longer and weaned later and later, also reduced the number of children that women could do or make to survive.

In addition, such strong ties between mothers and children also changed the very structure of these societies and the ways these hominid populations put in place to procure food and in general to survive.

New, large and young stars discovered in clusters 33,000 light-years away

A group of astronomers from the University of Montpellier, France, made new observations of a group of young stars called VVV CL074 using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) spectrograph.

It is a massive cluster of stars formed mostly by stars and big youngsters whose astronomers have examined the main spectral properties, especially those of the brightest stars, and have identified new stars including some of the Wolf-Rayet type.

As many as 19 of the objects analyzed had never been identified before and 15 of these objects are most likely part of the massive cluster. The other four stars should then be classified as foreground stars, therefore not belonging to the cluster but interposed between us and it.

The distance of this cluster has been evaluated in about 33,000 light-years and the distance makes this cluster one of the most interesting ever studied, in addition to one of the youngest and largest among those identified to date in the Milky Way. These are young stars: most of them have an estimated age of 3 to 6 million years.

Astronomers were also able to estimate the mass of the two of the stars taken into consideration, classified as WN8 and WC9, evaluated at 40 and in 60 solar masses.

The discovery could be helpful in understanding the evolution of stars, a process not yet fully understood.

Panspermia is very likely according to new calculations

A new study takes into consideration the hypothesis of the so-called “panspermia,” ie the hypothesis that life can spread from a star system to a star system through ejected bodies, primarily asteroids. According to new calculations, this phenomenon would be very likely.

The new study, carried out by a researcher from the Institute of Theory and Computation at Harvard University, Idan Ginsburg, is based on the most complete calculation that has ever been made regarding the probability of this event taking place, at least in the Milky Way. The results that the researcher, together with his colleagues, achieved, through naturally computerized simulations, surprised the researchers themselves.

The results would show that up to 10 trillion objects of the size of a normal asteroid can exist that can carry life in the form of microorganisms. These objects would be joined by another 100 million bodies the size of Enceladus (about 500 miles in diameter) and another 1000 objects of the size of the Earth that carry life or prebiotic material.

This means that panspermia within the Milky Way “is not only possible, it is probable,” as suggested by Ginsburg himself. The problem relating to ultraviolet radiation, potentially destructive of all life, would not be so serious according to the researcher: even a few centimeters of ice rock would be enough to provide sufficient protection.

This is without counting that there are extremophile life forms, such as the tardigrades, that can survive in space even without protection. Moreover, it has been discovered in recent years that many bacteria and microorganisms can survive in space and in theory also in the “re-entry” phase, ie the impact of the body that transports life onto the surface of another astronomical body, typically a planet.

In this regard, it could be precisely the galactic center that acts as a “dandelion” to sow these objects throughout the rest of the galaxy.

In this area there are in fact numerous astronomical bodies of all sizes, planetesimals, comets, asteroids, moons of all kinds, which, once expelled from their own galactic courtyard, could act as vehicles for the transport of life in every area of ​​the galaxy.