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Updated: 1 year 51 weeks ago

[In Depth] Mysterious Antarctic lake will remain out of reach

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Budget cuts and a weak ruble have forced Russia to put on ice one of its highest profile science projects: a 20-year odyssey to drill into a lake under the Antarctic Ice Sheet in search of long-buried life. In 2012, the Russian Antarctic Expedition completed drilling through nearly 4 kilometers of ice to reach the surface of subglacial Lake Vostok. Subsequent expeditions have attempted to retrieve pristine samples of water from the lake in hopes of discovering life. Postponing the pricey effort for the current scientific season is a sign of hard times in Russia's broader Antarctic program. But some outside scientists, concerned about contamination, think it is time to rethink the complex project. Author: Carolyn Gramling
Categories: Journal Articles

[In Depth] Crisis manager with 194 bosses

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
As director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan is often ranked among the most powerful women in the world. But her agency appeared to be powerless to stop a devastating epidemic of Ebola last year. Critics have slammed WHO's performance, and reviews have called for drastic reforms (Science, 17 July, p. 223). Chan is used to crises; as director of health in Hong Kong, China, she fought devastating outbreaks of bird flu and SARS before taking WHO's top job in 2006. Science talked to Chan on 10 October in Berlin, Germany, where she spoke about the lessons from Ebola and the dangers of antimicrobial resistance at a meeting of the G7 health ministers. Chan complained that many countries were not serious about managing the WHO and she said she was determined to push through reform of the organization: "I only have 21 months," she said. Author: Kai Kupferschmidt
Categories: Journal Articles

[Feature] Cradle of life

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
The Amazon rainforest contains 10% of the world's known species, making it one of the most biodiverse places in the world. But when, and why, did it come to be that way? Scientists agree that the Amazon's rich biodiversity was shaped by convulsive geological changes—mountains rising, coasts shifting, rivers changing course. By fragmenting and transforming habitats, these landscape changes would have driven bursts of speciation. But the experts differ, often vehemently, about just what form those upheavals took and which of them supercharged Amazonian speciation. Was it a flood of seawater invading the continent from the Caribbean? Or was it an extremely old mountain range rising along South America's west coast? As competing scientific teams descend on the Amazon in search of data, a solution to the longstanding mystery of its staggering species richness may finally be at hand. Author: Lizzie Wade
Categories: Journal Articles

[Book Review] Adventures in time and space

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
From the robots of Isaac Asimov to the vision of cyberspace conjured by William Gibson, science fiction can both inspire scientific advancement and offer readers a glimpse into how today's technologies might fit into the world of tomorrow. Not to mention the fact that the fantastical story lines for which the genre is well known make for awfully fun reading. The prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards recognize outstanding new works in science fiction and fantasy, as nominated and chosen by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and World Science Fiction Society, respectively. Here, we review the most recent winners and finalists for best novel for each of these awards.
Categories: Journal Articles

[Book Review] Culture shock

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Categories: Journal Articles

[Books et al.] Books Received

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
A listing of books received at Science during the week ending 23 October 2015.
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] Pinched topography initiates the critical zone

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
In Earth sciences, the critical zone represents the intersection of the biosphere with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere (1, 2). The myriad interactions and feedbacks among these systems assure us of a world with considerable complexity, in which the critical zone varies in thickness, mineralogy, permeability (3), and structure of ecosystems (4). It is no wonder, then, that we lack a general theory of how the critical zone works. On page 534 of this issue, St. Clair et al. (5) argue that we must take the broadest possible view of, and acknowledge a role for, largescale tectonic stresses in guiding the pattern of cracking of rock in the subsurface. Author: Robert S. Anderson
Categories: Journal Articles

[Policy Forum] A unified initiative to harness Earth's microbiomes

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Despite their centrality to life on Earth, we know little about how microbes (1) interact with each other, their hosts, or their environment. Although DNA sequencing technologies have enabled a new view of the ubiquity and diversity of microorganisms, this has mainly yielded snapshots that shed limited light on microbial functions or community dynamics. Given that nearly every habitat and organism hosts a diverse constellation of microorganisms—its “microbiome”—such knowledge could transform our understanding of the world and launch innovations in agriculture, energy, health, the environment, and more (see the photo). We propose an interdisciplinary Unified Microbiome Initiative (UMI) to discover and advance tools to understand and harness the capabilities of Earth's microbial ecosystems. The impacts of oceans and soil microbes on atmospheric CO2 are critical for understanding climate change (2). By manipulating interactions at the root-soil-microbe interface, we may reduce agricultural pesticide, fertilizer, and water use enrich marginal land and rehabilitate degraded soils. Microbes can degrade plant cell walls (for biofuels), and synthesize myriad small molecules for new bioproducts, including antibiotics (3). Restoring normal human microbial ecosystems can save lives [e.g., fecal microbiome transplantation for Clostridium difficile infections (4)]. Rational management of microbial communities in and around us has implications for asthma, diabetes, obesity, infectious diseases, psychiatric illnesses, and other afflictions (5, 6). The human microbiome is a target and a source for new drugs (7) and an essential tool for precision medicine (8). Authors: A. P. Alivisatos, M. J. Blaser, E. L. Brodie, M. Chun, J. L. Dangl, T. J. Donohue, P. C. Dorrestein, J. A. Gilbert, J. L. Green, J. K. Jansson, R. Knight, M. E. Maxon, M. J. McFall-Ngai, J. F. Miller, K. S. Pollard, E. G. Ruby, S. A. Taha,
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] Randomness rules

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Phase transitions are perfect examples of physical phenomena for which statistical physics offers powerful predictions. Different types of phase transitions, ranging from liquid-vapor to ferromagnetic transitions, can be treated within the same theoretical framework. This yields useful expressions for characteristic physical properties of the system, such as resistivity, heat capacity, or free energy near the phase transition. The theoretical predictions can be strongly affected by random disorder, such as impurities or vacancies that are inevitably present in all real physical systems. In some systems, rare but large spatial regions are present in which there are no impurities. Such rare regions may be in a phase different from that of the bulk of the system and can dramatically alter the nature of the transition, causing certain physical properties of the system to diverge to infinity in the vicinity of the transition. These infinities are called Griffiths singularities (1) and can be expected to occur in a variety of systems, but they are not easily observed experimentally (2). On page 542 of this issue, Xing et al. (3) report the first experimental evidence of a Griffiths singularity near a quantum phase transition in a two-dimensional (2D) superconducting system. Author: Nina Markovic
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] Neuroscience Neurotransmitter-tailored dendritic trees

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mature brain but functions as an excitatory transmitter in the developing nervous system (1, 2). GABA has also been identified as a trophic factor stimulating growth of the embryonic nervous system (3, 4). On page 554 of this issue, Chen and Kriegstein (5) forge a link between neuronal excitation by GABA, calcium signaling, and the morphogenesis of specific neocortical neurons in the growing brain, setting a new standard for analysis of activity-dependent neuronal circuit assembly. The changes in dendritic trees that they report are consistent with those observed in schizophrenia and autism (6, 7). Author: Nicholas C. Spitzer
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] Visualizing trans-infection

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
A fuller understanding of how a virus establishes infection should help in developing approaches that minimize the associated pathology. On page 563 in this issue, Sewald et al. (1) succeed in visualizing interactions between retroviruses and cells within the immune tissues of live mice. This is exciting and notable for two reasons. It provides visual insights into the earliest steps leading to systemic infection in a living animal. Additionally, it demonstrates that multiple modes of infection can be used by a virus during dissemination. The observations described begin to reveal the complex steps that a virus must take to establish systemic infection. Author: Thomas J. Hope
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] From the lab to the real world

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Until the late 1980s, textbooks portrayed economics as a nonexperimental science because it was thought that “Economists…cannot perform the controlled experiments of chemists or biologists.…Like astronomers or meteorologists, they generally must be content largely to observe” (1). Since then, economics has experienced an experimental revolution (2–6). However, there has been a debate on the extent to which insights from economic lab experiments can be generalized to field settings (7–11). On page 545 of this issue, Herbst and Mas (12) show that the results of a class of lab experiments can be generalized to the field because they provide quantitatively precise descriptions of productivity spillovers between workers. Authors: Gary Charness, Ernst Fehr
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] Synthetic immunobiology boosts the IQ of T cells

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Pharmaceutical small-molecule drugs are the first “pillar” of modern medicinal therapeutics, with recombinant protein biologics claiming the second pillar. If the emergent third pillar of medicine is cell-based therapeutics, cellular immunotherapy of cancer stands as the pillar's current poster child (1). This approach includes adoptive T cell therapy, which has seen major advances recently. Underlying some of this progress are developments in synthetic tumor recognition receptors. Although it's early days for applied synthetic immunobiology, increasing momentum in this field may soon lead to the application of engineered T cells to a broader spectrum of cancers as well as to infectious and autoimmune diseases. Author: Michael C. Jensen
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] A window into ape evolution

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Humans, Old World monkeys, gibbons, and the great apes of Africa and Asia are the only survivors of a highly diverse evolutionary radiation that began at least 28 million years ago (1, 2). The fossil record of human evolution after we diverged from apes is rich, but much less is known about the evolutionary history of modern apes. Not only is the fossil record incomplete but also the morphology of primitive apes from the Miocene (25 to 5 million years ago) seldom conforms to expectations based on living species. The ancestors of gibbons are particularly elusive. On page 528 of this issue, Alba et al. describe a Miocene fossil from Catalonia, Spain, that may bridge the gap between earlier small-bodied African apelike primates and living gibbons (3). Authors: Brenda R. Benefit, Monte L. McCrossin
Categories: Journal Articles

[Perspective] Eric Davidson (1937–2015)

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Eric Davidson made major contributions to elucidating the mechanisms and logical structure of developmental gene regulatory networks. The Norman Chandler Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology, Eric died of a heart attack on 1 September 2015 in Pasadena, California. Eric's death came just a few months after the publication of his latest book, Genomic Control Process: Development and Evolution, coauthored with his colleague Isabelle Peter. In this book, Eric and Isabelle continued to push forward his career-long project of applying rigorous experimental, modeling, and conceptual studies to understanding mechanisms responsible for the operation of gene regulatory networks, as well as how they had evolved through time. Author: Douglas H. Erwin
Categories: Journal Articles

[Letter] Hunted carnivores at outsized risk

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Authors: Miha Krofel, Adrian Treves, William J. Ripple, Guillaume Chapron, José V. López-Bao
Categories: Journal Articles

[Letter] Repainting citizen science

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Authors: Mathilde Bonnefond, Livio Riboli-Sasco, Guillaume Sescousse
Categories: Journal Articles

[Letter] Policies undermine Brazil's GHG goals

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Authors: Raoni Rajão, Britaldo Soares-Filho
Categories: Journal Articles

[Technical Comment] Comment on “Crystal structures of translocator protein (TSPO) and mutant mimic of a human polymorphism”

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Li et al. (Reports, 30 January, p. 555) reported on a crystal structure for a translocator protein (TSPO) from Rhodobacter sphaeroides in which some of the electron density is modeled as a porphyrin. The analysis of the x-ray data discussed here suggests that this assignment is incorrect. Author: Jimin Wang
Categories: Journal Articles

[Technical Response] Response to Comment on “Crystal structures of translocator protein (TSPO) and mutant mimic of a human polymorphism”

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:00
Wang comments that the diffraction data for the structure of the A139T mutant of translocator protein TSPO from Rhodobacter sphaeroides should be used to 1.65 instead of 1.8 angstroms and that the density interpreted as porphyrin and monoolein is better fitted as polyethylene glycol. Although different practices of data processing exist, in this case they do not substantially influence the final map. Additional data are presented supporting the fit of a porphyrin and monooleins. Authors: Fei Li, Jian Liu, Yi Zheng, R. Michael Garavito, Shelagh Ferguson-Miller
Categories: Journal Articles