Where do rubber trees get their rubber?

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan along with collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have succeeded in decoding the genome sequence for Hevea brasiliensis, the natural rubber tree native to Brazil. Published in Scientific Reports, the study reports a draft genome sequence that covers more than 93% of expressed genes, and pinpoints regions specific to the biosynthesis of rubber.Natural rubber flows in latex ducts and protects plants from insects when the plant becomes injured. For humans, it is an important resource for many industrial applications because it has several useful properties that have not been reproducible in synthetic petroleum-based rubber. While some strains of rubber tree yield higher amounts of rubber than others, the reasons for this are still unknown. The team led by Minami Matsui at the RIKEN CSRS and Alexander Chong at USM set out to sequence and analyze the H. brasiliensis genome. Explains first author Nyok Sean Lau, "genomic information can reveal which genes contribute to the rubber tree's capacity to produce high amounts of latex. This in turn will help us develop rubber trees with higher yields."

Energy from sunlight: Further steps towards artificial photosynthesis

Chemists from the Universities of Basel and Zurich in Switzerland have come one step closer to generating energy from sunlight: for the first time, they were able to reproduce one of the crucial phases of natural photosynthesis with artificial molecules. Their results have been published by the journal Angewandte Chemie (international edition).Green plants are able to temporarily store electric charges after the absorption of sunlight by using a so-called molecular charge accumulator. The two research teams were able to observe this process in artificial molecules that they created specifically for this experiment.

Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer

Future global warming will not only depend on the amount of emissions from man-made greenhouse gasses, but will also depend on the sensitivity of the climate system and response to feedback mechanisms. By reconstructing past global warming and the carbon cycle on Earth 56 million years ago, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute among others have used computer modelling to calculate the potential perspective for future global warming, which could be even warmer than previously thought. The results are published in the scientific journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

Researchers discover oldest evidence of 'farming' — by insects

Scientists have discovered the oldest fossil evidence of agriculture -- not by humans, but by insects.The team, led by Eric Roberts of James Cook University along with researchers from Ohio University, discovered the oldest known examples of "fungus gardens" in 25 million-year-old fossil termite nests in East Africa.The results are published today in the journal PLOS ONE.Some termite species cultivate fungi in "gardens" in subterranean nests or chambers, helping to convert plant material into a more easily digestible termite food source.

Volcanoes get quiet before they erupt!

When dormant volcanoes are about to erupt, they show some predictive characteristics--seismic activity beneath the volcano starts to increase, gas escapes through the vent, or the surrounding ground starts to deform. However, until now, there has not been a way to forecast eruptions of more restless volcanoes because of the constant seismic activity and gas and steam emissions. Carnegie volcanologist Diana Roman, working with a team of scientists from Penn State, Oxford University, the University of Iceland, and INETER* has shown that periods of seismic quiet occur immediately before eruptions and can thus be used to forecast an impending eruption for restless volcanoes. The duration of the silence can indicate the level of energy that will be released when eruption occurs. Longer quiet periods mean a bigger bang. The research is published inEarth and Planetary Science Letters.

Probing giant planets' dark hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe. It's also the simplest--sporting only a single electron in each atom. But that simplicity is deceptive, because there is still so much we have to learn about hydrogen.One of the biggest unknowns is its transformation under the extreme pressures and temperatures found in the interiors of giant planets, where it is squeezed until it becomes liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. New work published in Physical Review Letters by Carnegie's Alexander Goncharov and University of Edinburgh's Stewart McWilliams measures the conditions under which hydrogen undergoes this transition in the lab and finds an intermediate state between gas and metal, which they're calling "dark hydrogen."

2 ways to limit the number of heat-related deaths from climate change

By the 2080s, as many as 3,331 people could die every year from exposure to heat during the summer months in New York City. The high estimate by Columbia University scientists is based on a new model--the first to account for variability in future population size, greenhouse gas trajectories, and the extent to which residents adapt to heat through interventions like air conditioning and public cooling centers. Results appear online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

94-million-year-old climate change event holds clues for future

A major climate event millions of years ago that caused substantial change to the ocean's ecological systems may hold clues as to how the Earth will respond to future climate change, a Florida State University researcher said.In a new study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Assistant Professor of Geology Jeremy Owens explains that parts of the ocean became inhospitable for some organisms as the Earth's climate warmed 94 million years ago. As the Earth warmed, several natural elements -- what we think of as vitamins -- depleted, causing some organisms to die off or greatly decrease in numbers.

Laplace's Equation: Mathematical Key to Everything

PHYSICS HAS ITS own Rosetta Stones. They’re ciphers, used to translate seemingly disparate regimes of the universe. They tie pure math to any branch of physics your heart might desire.It’s in electricity. It’s in magnetism. It’s in fluid mechanics. It’s in gravity. It’s in heat. It’s in soap films. It’s called Laplace’s equation. It’s everywhere.Laplace’s equation is named for Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician prolific enough to get a Wikipedia page with several eponymous entries. In 1799, he proved that the the solar system was stable over astronomical timescales—contrary to what Newton had thought a century earlier. In the course of proving Newton wrong, Laplace investigated the equation that bears his name.It has just five symbols. There’s an upside-down triangle called a nabla that’s being squared, the squiggly Greek letter phi (other people use psi or V or even an A with an arrow above it), an equals sign, and a zero. And with just those five symbols, Laplace read the universe.

Particle zoo in a quantum computer

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The discovery of the Higgs boson at the CERN in 2012 constitutes a further step towards the confirmation of the Standard Model. However, many aspects of this theory are still not understood because their complexity makes it hard to investigate them with classical computers. Quantum computers may provide a way to overcome this obstacle as they can simulate certain aspects of elementary particle physics in a well-controlled quantum system. Physicists from the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences have now done exactly that: In an international first, Rainer Blatt's and Peter Zoller's research teams have simulated lattice gauge theories in a quantum computer. They describe their work in the journal Nature.