Flood waters enter newer areas in Dhemaji district

first_imgThe flood in Assam spread to newer areas in Dhemaji district on Sunday with over 41,000 people affected in six districts of the State.According to a report by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), more than 41,000 people are affected at present in six districts — Dhemaji, Chirang, Morigaon, Nagaon, Golaghat and Cachar districts.Till yesterday, over 41,500 people were affected by the latest wave of flood across five districts — Chirang, Morigaon, Nagaon, Golaghat and Cachar.The third wave of devastating flood has so far claimed the lives of 74 people across the State. With these, the flood toll in Assam went up to 158, including eight in Guwahati.As per the report issued today, Nagaon is the worst affected with 23,500 people, followed by Morigaon with over 12,500 people affected in the deluge.Currently, 149 villages are under water and over 5,500 hectares of crop areas are inundated, the ASDMA said. Currently, Dhansiri river at Numaligarh in Golaghat, Jia Bharali at NT Road Crossing in Sonitpur and Kushiyara at Karimganj town are flowing above the danger mark.last_img read more

Ara hooch tragedy: all 15 accused convicted

first_imgAll the 15 accused in the Ara hooch tragedy case, in which 21 poor people had died in December 2012, were convicted on Tuesday by a local court and sent to judicial custody. The court will pronounce quantum of sentence against them on July 26.While hearing the case, Additional District and Sessions Judge-1 Ramesh Chandra Dwivedi held all the accused guilty under various sections of the IPC, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Excise Act. Of the 15 accused, five are women. The quantum of sentence would be pronounced on July 26. Legal experts told The Hindu that the guilty are likely to face a minimum punishment of 10 years in jail and a maximum of a life term.On December 7, 2012, a total of 21 people from the Mahadalit community of Mushari Tola of Anaith village under the Nawada police station of Ara in Bhojpur district had died in the span of three days after consuming illegal country-made liquor. Their death had sparked widespread protests in the district with hundreds of students blocking roads and burning tyres. Later in April 2016, the Nitish government had declared Bihar a dry State with promulgation of a stringent Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016.last_img read more

Maratha quota is a betrayal: OBC groups

first_imgA day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a new Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) category under which Marathas will be given reservation, organisations of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) said on Monday that this was an attempt to give a share of their reservation to that community. They said the BJP-led State government had betrayed the OBCs. “As per Section 340 of the Constitution, the term Socially and Educationally Backward Class is being used for the OBCs. How can Marathas be termed so and get the same reservation? This is nothing but an attempt to encroach on our legal share of reservation, and OBC organisations across the State will unite against this,” Shravan Deore, president, Maharashtra OBC Organisation, said.He said the State Backward Classes Commission report, by giving Marathas the SEBC status, had included them in the OBCs. They would hence be eligible for a share of OBC reservation. The Chief Minister’s claim it would not happen had no basis. “In addition, the report of the Backward Classes Commission, which the government is talking about, should be scrutinised. The commission had an overwhelming majority of Marathas, and the report came out in favour of Marathas,” he said. “We will show our power through vote bank. It was we who supported the BJP in 2014, and it will be us who will bring them down in 2019,” he said. The Opposition parties on Monday alleged that the government was delaying reservation for Marathas. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that with the report of the Backward Classes Commission in hand, why was the Chief Minister waiting to announce the exact quantum of the reservation? “What’s the need of a sub-committee? Why has the report not been tabled in Assembly yet,” he asked.Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said this reservation would not help Marathas benefit in Central exams or services. “This government had announced reservation for Dhangars in the first Cabinet meeting. It has now passed the topic to the Centre,” he said.last_img read more

Seven killed as truck rams hutment in U.P.

first_imgFour minors, aged between 3 to 8, were among seven persons who died when a truck carrying cattle rammed into a hutment in Uttar Pradesh’s Chandauli district on New Year’s Day, police said. The incident occurred around 5.30 a.m. at Malda village in Chakia area – around 20 km from the district headquarters of Chandauli town, Superintendent of Police Santosh Kumar Singh said. Seven personse have died and one girl was injured. She has been admitted to a hospital, the officer said. The deceased have been identified as Shyama (60), Ram Kishun (27), Suhagin (25) and four children – Golu (3), Munni (4), Monu (5) and Nisha (8), police said.SHO suspendedThe SP has suspended the Station House Officer of Ilia police station and the in-charge of Malda police outpost. The SHO of Chakia police station has been sent to police lines and two constables, along with a Dial-100 team, have also been suspended.last_img read more

Alliance partners fight over seats in Jharkhand

first_imgThe grand alliance of Opposition parties in Jharkhand has run into trouble following tussle among the Congress, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) over seat distribution.This comes just days before the Congress is to launch its campaign with a rally by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the other four alliance partners — the JVM, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the CPI — on March 2 in Ranchi.In principle, the alliance partners have agreed that the Congress will contest seven seats, the JMM four seats, the JVM two seats and the RJD one. The Congress is driving a hard bargain to improve its electoral presence here. In 2014, it drew a blank and in 2009, it won only one seat.The Congress and the JVM are both keen to contest from the Godda Lok Sabha constituency, currently held by BJP’s Nishikant Dubey. According to sources, JVM chief Babulal Marandi is adamant that Godda seat should go to his close associate Pradeep Yadav. The Congress, however, is not willing to concede the seat that it counts among one of its strongholds. Instead of Godda, the Congress has asked the JVM to fight from Chattra. The other seat it is offering is Kodarma which Mr. Marandi has won twice in 2006 and 2009.What makes it trickier for the Congress is that the JVM has a pan-Jharkhand presence and if it is not kept in good humour the party has the capacity to hurt the alliance in every seat.“We have resolved the issue but at this point I can’t say who will be fielded from Godda,” Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajoy Kumar said. Talks on: MarandiMr. Marandi, however, had a different take. He said the talks were still on. “The Congress should remember that the aim at present should be to stall the BJP and Narendra Modi. And for that, one must choose the person who has the best chance to win,” Mr. Marandi told The Hindu. He conceded that considering the pressure from cadres in both parties, the resolution may take some more time.The Congress has also rejected the CPI’s demand for the Hazaribagh seat, which is currently held by BJP leader and Union Minister Jayant Sinha. The CPI candidate, Bhubneshwar Prasad Mehta, has won the seat twice in 2004 and in 1991. “We have already conveyed to the CPI that we will not able to spare any Lok Sabha seat for the party but will suitably accommodate it in the Assembly elections scheduled for the end of the year,” Mr. Kumar said.The CPI is mulling on going it alone in the Lok Sabha election as per the demand of its rank and file.The JMM too has been trying to get the Jamshedpur constituency. The PCC president is expected to fight from there and the Congress has told in no uncertain terms that it will not sacrifice the seat for the alliance. The four seats that are expected to go to JMM are Rajmahal, Dumka, Giridih and Khunti. Palmau, the Lok Sabha seat bordering Bihar, is expected to go to the RJD.last_img read more

ScienceShot: Greenland’s Hidden Valley Revealed

first_imgThis vast gorge might rival the Grand Canyon in splendor … if only it weren’t smothered by a couple of kilometers of ice. By stitching together data gathered by ice-penetrating radar equipment suspended from aircraft, researchers have discovered a massive canyon that has likely been hidden for millions of years. This unexpected, yet-to-be-named feature (colored mid- to dark brown in the exaggerated topography above) stretches 750 kilometers—about twice the length the Grand Canyon—from central Greenland (lower center of image) all the way to a fjord along the northwestern coast (top of image). It’s about as wide as the Grand Canyon (10 kilometers) and nearly half as deep at its deepest point (800 meters), the researchers report online today in Science. The proportions of the canyon, as well as its meandering path, suggest that the feature was carved by a great river well before the island was coated with ice, not by glacial action in the years since. Without the ice sheet that is now weighing down Greenland’s terrain, a river in the canyon would, on average, drop about 30 centimeters for every kilometer it flowed seaward, the team estimates. The continually dropping slope helps explain why northern Greenland, unlike Antarctica, has no large subglacial lakes: Meltwater that either forms at the base of Greenland’s ice sheet or ends up there after draining from the ice sheet’s upper surface flows away uninterrupted. This massive flow may also help explain the gargantuan channels on the underside of the floating ice shelf attached to the coast where this canyon meets the sea, the researchers contend. Previous studies have attributed those undersea channels—which measure between 1 and 2 km wide and extend up into the ice shelf as much as 400 meters—solely to the melting action of seawater.See more ScienceShots.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

ScienceShot: Largest Genome Ever Sequenced

first_imgA loblolly pine tree on the 17th hole of the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia blocked so many of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s shots that in 1956 he tried to get the tree chopped down. Now, loblolly pines (Pinus taeda) are making a different kind of history: Their genome is the largest of any organism yet sequenced. The tree’s extensive use for research and lumber in the southeastern United States made it an early candidate for genetic sequencing. However, its large genome was too cumbersome for conventional whole-genome shotgun sequencing, which sequences short fragments of the genome and then stitches the results together. In a new study, reported today in Genome Biology and Genetics, researchers bolstered the shotgun approach by preprocessing the individual fragments using genetic cloning, allowing them to more easily assemble the complete genome. Using a single pollinated pine seed, the team assembled the largest genome ever sequenced: 22.18 billion base pairs, more than seven times longer than the human genome. The team found that 82% of the genome was made up of duplicated segments, compared with just 25% in humans. The researchers also identified genes responsible for important traits such as disease resistance, wood formation, and stress response; they did not, however, find any genes for ruining presidential golf games.See more ScienceShots.*Update, 21 March, 11:30 a.m.: This item has been updated. We have added a link to the journal Genetics.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

Cheaper Fuel From Self-Destructing Trees

first_imgWood is great for building and heating homes, but it’s the bane of biofuels. When converting plants to fuels, engineers must remove a key component of wood, known as lignin, to get to the sugary cellulose that’s fermented into alcohols and other energy-rich compounds. That’s costly because it normally requires high temperatures and caustic chemicals. Now, researchers in the United States and Canada have modified the lignin in poplar trees to self-destruct under mild processing conditions—a trick that could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels.“This work has the potential to fundamentally change the economics of lignin degradation,” says Ronald Sederoff, a plant geneticist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. If researchers can add the same self-destructing lignin to agricultural plants such as corn and energy crops such as switchgrass—an effort already under way—that could open the spigots for cellulosic ethanol, made from plant waste rather than food. The U.S. Department of Energy has backed a number of cellulosic ethanol producers, and in 2007 it forecast that by this year they would be making more than 6 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol. Yet this year’s actual production is expected to be just 1% of that volume.The problem is the lignin. More than two-thirds of plant matter consists of cellulose and hemicellulose fibers, both made up of long chains of glucose and other sugar molecules. Much of the rest is the lignin that wedges between the other fibers and glues them together, providing rigidity and preventing pathogens from lunching on the sugary materials. To remove that glue, engineers typically heat biomass to 170°C for several hours in the presence of sodium hydroxide or other alkaline compounds that break lignin apart. This “pretreatment” accounts for between one-quarter and one-third of the cost of making cellulosic ethanol, says Bruce Dale, a chemical engineer and biomass pretreatment expert at Michigan State University in East Lansing.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Plant biologists have tried for decades to work around their troubles with lignin. One early approach decreased the expression of plants’ lignin-producing genes. But that backfired, as the plants either wound up with stunted growth or keeled over when hit with a gust of wind. “Plants really need lignin,” says John Ralph, a plant biochemist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.Among the strategies for dealing with lignin, numerous teams have tried altering the chemicals that make up lignin. Although the structure of lignin varies from species to species, most plants assemble it from three main building blocks called coniferyl alcohol (CA), sinapyl alcohol (SA), and p-coumaryl alcohol, producing chains abbreviated G lignin, S lignin, and H lignin, respectively. Several teams have manipulated plant genes to change the proportions of building blocks, hoping to create a lignin that degrades more easily. Researchers led by Clint Chapple of Purdue University reported in Nature last month, for example, that plants engineered to produce only H lignin wound up dwarfed, but knocking out certain regulatory genes enabled them to grow to a near-normal size. H lignins give up their sugars with less pretreatment, but the chemical bonds between the remaining lignin molecules are still hard to break.Ralph and his colleagues opted for another path. Instead of altering the proportions of lignin building blocks, they added a new one—ferulic acid (FA)—that pairs up with CA and SA building blocks. These pairs then form bonds with their neighbors that are easier for chemists to break. (A few plants naturally use these FA-contianing pairs in making lignins that serve as plant defense compounds, Ralph says.) They hoped that by introducing paired building blocks throughout the lignin, they could later “unzip” the lignin’s structure during pretreatment.The feat took several years to pull off. Ralph’s team had to isolate the genes for the synthesis of FA-containing building blocks, insert them into plants, show that the plants could make the compounds, send them to the cell walls, and incorporate them into lignins. But online today in Science, Ralph and his colleagues report that they’ve now produced “zip-lignins” in young poplar trees. The plants appear healthy and show every sign of normal growth in the greenhouse. But when ground up and subjected to a mild base at 100°C, the lignins readily fall apart, releasing twice as many sugars as their wild-type kin do under the same conditions. “It’s the most promising method of changing lignin that I’ve seen so far,” Sederoff says.Ralph says his team is already working to insert zip-lignins into corn plants. If the effort succeeds, it could save cellulosic biofuel companies serious cash and may even propel them to profitability, Dale says. It could also spawn a new generation of biorefineries that convert plant cellulose into plastics and other industrial materials. But Dale and others caution that it could take a decade or more. Any newly engineered plants and trees must still be field-tested to show that they grow normally and aren’t more susceptible to pests, among other things. Then researchers must also show that they pass economic muster in pilot-scale and demonstration biorefineries. But if the strategy works, biofuel-makers may finally find a way out of the glue that has trapped them for decades.last_img read more

Top Stories: Mathematical Monkeys, Complex Sex Switches, and the Male Libido

first_img 00:0000:0000:00 Coexisting With Lions, Monkeys Doing Math, and the Importance of the Y Chromosome Y Chromosome Is More Than a Sex SwitchThe male sex chromosome is often shrugged off as doing little more than determining the sex of a developing fetus—but it may actually impact human biology in a big way. Two studies have concluded that the Y chromosome, which shrank millions of years ago, retains the handful of genes that it does not by chance, but because they are key to our survival. The findings may also explain differences in disease susceptibility between men and women.Panel Says U.S. Not Ready for Inevitable Arctic Oil SpillSign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)As eagerness to explore the Arctic’s oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report recommends beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves HearingMany people with profound hearing loss have been helped by devices called cochlear implants, but their hearing is still far from normal. Now, researchers have found a clever way of using these implants to deliver new genes right into the ear—a therapy that, in guinea pigs, dramatically improves hearing.Pain No Deterrent for Male LibidoIt takes a lot to deter a male from wanting sex. A new study has found that male mice keep trying to copulate even when they are in pain, whereas females engage in less sex. But when given drugs that target pleasure centers in the human brain, the females again became interested. The findings could shed light on the nature of libido across various animal species.Does the Sky Have a Faulty Filter?Just when scientists thought the ozone layer’s worst days were behind it, it turns out they may have been missing a big threat to its health. Soon-to-be-published findings suggest that a natural mechanism that filters air rising to the top of the sky may not work as well as previously thought. If subsequent studies confirm the findings, the faulty filter could also have big implications for global climate.Monkeys Can Do MathResearchers have shown that rhesus macaques can do basic arithmetic with numbers and symbols. The finding doesn’t just reveal a hidden talent—it also helps show how the values of numbers are encoded in the mammalian brain, including our own.last_img read more

CDC explains mix-up with deadly H5N1 avian flu

first_imgA federal scientist may have accidentally contaminated a relatively benign avian influenza strain with the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in part because he or she was overworked and rushing to make a lab meeting, according to an internal report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).In the March incident, CDC sent a sample of low-pathogenicity H9N2 bird flu virus that a lab had unknowingly contaminated with H5N1 to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lab, which discovered the mistake when test chickens died. CDC Director Thomas Frieden first disclosed the incident in July at a press conference about other lab accidents. Frieden was especially troubled, he said, because the H5N1 incident was not reported to top CDC leaders for 6 weeks.According to the 16-page report released today, the H9N2 sample probably became contaminated with H5N1 on 17 January when an experienced researcher did not follow proper decontamination or other protocols between inoculating cell cultures with the H9N2 flu strain and H5N1 using the same biosafety cabinet. The worker was “being rushed to attend a laboratory meeting at noon” and was also under a “heavy workload” as his or her team hurried to generate data for a February vaccine meeting at the World Health Organization, the report says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The CDC flu lab sent USDA an H9N2 sample on 12 March; the USDA lab notified CDC of the contamination on 23 May. The delay in reporting resulted in part from unclear CDC rules for reporting incidents with select agents. Contaminated samples were also sent to another CDC lab, the report says. Workers were unlikely to have been exposed, however, because the samples were handled under enhanced biosafety-level 3 conditions, which includes many safety measures such as workers wearing protective suits and respirators.The report describes new training and operating procedures to prevent future incidents, along with CDC-wide safety reforms already under way including closing the flu lab.In a lengthy USA Today article about the report, CDC official Anne Schuchat called the mistakes “unacceptable” and said: “We just don’t think shortcuts are permissible when working with these kinds of dangerous pathogens.” Among measures that CDC is taking are disciplinary actions, Schuchat said.*Correction, 19 August, 12:05 p.m.: The photo credit was incorrect; it has been fixed.last_img read more

Gombe chimpanzee calls available after 40-year wait

first_imgFrans Plooij was a graduate student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 1971 when he went to the Gombe National Park in Tanzania to study chimpanzee migration with his new wife, Hetty van de Rijt-Plooij. She had hoped to teach in a local school. But upon realizing that there were no settlements nearby, she decided to keep busy by using recording equipment to analyze the vocalizations of chimpanzees.With an outstretched hand holding a directional microphone, she diligently recorded the primates’ grunts, pant-hoots, and hoos, a sound like a whimper. The primates had gathered at a feeding site to eat bananas from a covered trench managed by scientists. Over 2 years, she recorded 28 tapes—more than 10 hours—of infant, juvenile, and adult chimpanzee calls. Now, for the first time, these calls are available to researchers in an article appearing in Scientific Data, a new open-access, online-only journal from Nature.In 1973, Plooij joined ethologist Robert Hinde at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and the couple had neither the time nor the resources to capitalize on their unique collection. After earning his doctoral degree from Groningen in 1980, Plooij spent the next 3 decades working in child development, while van de Rijt-Plooij earned her doctoral degree from Cambridge in physical anthropology and co-wrote with her husband a parenting book called The Wonder Weeks. “Your life moves on,” Plooij says. “We collected far too much, and the sound recordings remained in the attic.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Shortly before she died in 2003, van de Rijt-Plooij urged her husband to make the collection accessible to other researchers in hopes that the chimp calls might shed some light on the evolution of human language. And this week, Plooij was finally able to honor her wish, as information about the now-digitized recordings and her field notes is now freely available. “This is a unique collection that probably nobody will ever repeat,” he says. “So there was a great need, we felt, to make it available.”In Gombe, female chimpanzees often carry their infants with them into trees, making it very difficult for researchers to get accurate recordings from the ground. Anne Pusey, a behavioral ecologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who also worked in Gombe, notes that the infants’ grunts are also “quite soft, so it’s difficult to get within range and record them.” However, at Gombe, mother chimpanzees would bring their infants as they checked the trench for bananas, giving van de Rijt-Plooij the chance to note their interactions and record their vocalizations.Apart from the quantity of information, the new collection also includes two elements rarely captured: quiet vocalizations like a chimpanzee’s “hoo” of surprise, and young chimps’ soft grunts. Lorraine McCune, a language researcher at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, analyzes human infants’ grunts and coos to understand the acquisition of language. From infancy to adulthood, chimpanzees come to use grunts for communication, similar to the way humans learn to communicate through grunts like “mm” or “mm-hmm” as they grow. Chimpanzees’ calls are more stereotyped and less complicated than human language, but McCune hopes that comparing chimpanzee infants’ sounds with those of human infants may help reveal what’s unique about human infants’ sounds.“We don’t know how acoustically similar a chimpanzee infant’s grunt would be to a human infant’s grunt,” McCune says. “If [Plooij] has all the vocalizations and the field notes that say what was happening at the time, it would be much easier for me to see how those particular grunts related to what I find in human infants.”The data now reside in Cornell University’s Macaulay Library and the Dryad Digital Repository, another online resource.last_img read more

Australia’s chief scientist unveils science strategy

first_imgOffering a glimmer of hope for Australia’s embattled scientific community, the nation’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb, outlined a national science strategy at a press conference in Canberra today. Among a raft of recommendations, his report calls for creating an Australian Innovation Board to identify priorities that would receive earmarked funding, adding to the rolls of science teachers, adopting a long-term R&D plan, and using science as a tool in Australian diplomacy.Australian science has suffered a number of setbacks in recent months. In September 2013, Prime Minister Tony Abbott abolished the science ministry, handing much of the science portfolio to Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane. And coping with an AU$115 million budget cut to its 2014 to 2015 budget, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation revealed in May that it would shutter eight research facilities.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)In an editorial in Science last week titled “Australia needs a strategy,” Chubb, a neuroscientist by training who has served as chief scientist since May 2011, wrote: “It troubles me that Australia remains the only country among the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) without a science or technology strategy.” Part of the problem is a sense of complacency over Australia’s perceived scientific prowess. “Whilst we claim to ‘punch above our weight’ in research,” he notes in his new report, “we do not out-perform the countries with an embedded scientific culture that we might aspire to match such as the Western European democracies, Scandinavia or the US and Canada. We can and should aim higher.”It’s unclear how much of Chubb’s advice will be heeded. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Chubb, after expressing disappointment with Australia’s efforts in renewable energy, said: “I’ll make my views known and I don’t know whether it would carry any particular weight or not, but part of my job I think is to make sure that I do express those views when there is a need.” MacFarlane told The Australian that “I don’t think we’re poles apart” and that the government would soon announce initiatives that would “reinforce” some of the ideas in Chubb’s report.*Clarification, 3 September, 12:05 p.m.: This article has been updated to clarify Chubb’s statements in his interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.last_img read more

Physical scientists offer outside-the-box idea for funding U.S. basic research

first_imgSAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Researchers across the United States are well aware that times are tight. Despite a recent budget proposal from the Obama administration to increase spending on federal R&D by 7% next year, dollars flowing to research have largely been flat in recent years, and declining when inflation is taken into account. The long-term outlook is even worse. Growing federal commitments to Medicare, Medicaid, social security, and interest on the federal debt continue to chew up a greater proportion of the federal budget. The money for “discretionary” items that’s left over—including R&D—is expected to drop to 23% of the federal budget by 2040, down from 67% in 1970 and 36% in 2012. So it’s perhaps no surprise that basic researchers are beginning to look for new sources of support.At the annual March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) here this week, a pair of physicists floated one new idea: Congress should create a $100 billion national endowment to help fund basic research. The endowment, which they’re calling the National Research Bank, isn’t an official proposal of APS. Rather, says Michael Lubell, a physicist at the City College of New York who is pushing the idea, “we’re trying to start a conversation.”That conversation began last summer when Lubell got together with a longtime friend, Tom Culligan, then the legislative director for Representative Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia who had just announced his decision to retire from Congress. Wolf and Culligan were staunch supporters of federal funding for basic research. So Culligan and Lubell began hashing out ideas for coming up with a new pot of money for supporting research that wouldn’t fall prey to the ever-tightening budget realities of Washington.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)They settled on an idea that hinges on proposed Congressional action to rewrite the rules governing U.S. corporate income taxes, an idea that enjoys widespread bipartisan support in Washington. Companies are currently charged a 35% tax on corporate profits earned in the United States, a level that many business leaders argue is excessive. To get around those taxes, multinationals often shift earnings to overseas subsidiaries or parent companies, which face little or no U.S. taxes unless the money is brought back to the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. companies have accumulated an estimated $2 trillion in foreign profits. President Barack Obama recently proposed charging companies a 14% tax on those accumulated earnings, and charging them 19% of future overseas profits, in an effort to help pay for infrastructure improvements to the nation’s roads, bridges, and airports. Members of Congress, meanwhile, have proposed dropping the corporate tax rate even further.If any of these proposals come to fruition, the result could bring in hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. Treasury. So Lubell and Culligan hatched the idea of the Research Bank, which would take $100 billion of the newly repatriated money. Like a university endowment, Lubell says, the idea would be to invest the funds and use the proceeds to fund research deemed worthy by the Bank’s board of directors. The endowment, Lubell suggests, could be managed as a public-private partnership, so that it couldn’t be tapped by Congress to pay for pressing budgetary needs. At current rates of return, a $100 billion endowment would bring in roughly $7 billion a year. (That’s about equal to the current budget of the National Science Foundation.) About $2 billion of that would be eaten up by inflation, leaving $5 billion to support research.While sizable, that’s still a small sum compared with the $32.7 billion that the U.S. government is expected to spend on basic research this year. Nevertheless, Lubell says it could help pay for research that’s increasingly being squeezed out of the federal system. “It could be used to provide matching funds for agency funding, and look at high-risk projects,” he says.But the idea faces a long road through Congress. Not only would corporate tax reform need to make it through today’s Washington gridlock, but even if it did, other special interests will likely be angling for their cut of the windfall. Another concern is whether a future Congress would be more apt to cut federal support for basic research even further, knowing that the endowment might pick up the slack. But Scott Franklin, a physicist at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York who has been helping Lubell push the Research Bank idea, says he doubts this relatively small fund would change the equation. “Those pressures are already there,” Franklin says.In an effort to get their idea out there, 2 weeks ago Lubell, Franklin, and other researchers went to Capitol Hill and met with staff members of 160 members of Congress. “The visit was very positive,” Franklin says. “They encouraged us to continue the dialogue.” Franklin adds that he and his colleagues plan to do just that in an upcoming presentation to the APS’s policy committee. Convincing them should be the easy part. Then it gets hard. Says Lubell: “It’s a heavy lift.”Meanwhile, physical scientists aren’t the only researchers thinking about creative funding methods. Last week, a coalition of biomedical research advocacy groups and a Washington, D.C.–based think tank released a report outlining a number of strategies for sustaining the more than $30 billion budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provides about one-half of all U.S. funding for basic research. “[P]olicymakers should consider separating NIH’s budget from the broader” battles over federal spending, urges the report, Healthy Funding: Ensuring a Predictable and Growing Budget for the National Institutes of Health. Among the options: moving to multiyear funding, instead of annual appropriations, and dedicating certain revenue streams to NIH. But Congress would have to approve those changes, too—an unlikely scenario in the short term.last_img read more