Boosting Galactan Sugars Could Boost Biofuel Production
Berkeley CA (SPX) Dec 26, 2012 – Galactan is a polymer of galactose, a six-carbon sugar that can be readily fermented by yeast into ethanol and is a target of interest for researchers in advanced biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass. Now an international collaboration led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified the first enzyme capable of substantially boosting … more

Molecular levers may make materials better
Durham, NC (SPX) Dec 26, 2012 – In a forced game of molecular tug-of war, some strings of atoms can act like a lever, accelerating reactions 1000 times faster than other molecules. The discovery suggests that scientists could use these molecular levers to drive chemical and mechanical reactivity among atoms and ultimately engineer more efficient materials. “We are interested in designing new, stress-responsive materials, … more

Small wasps to control a big pest?
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 26, 2012 – With the purpose of developing new biological methods to control one of the major pests affecting the southwest Europe pine stands, a joint collaboration leaded by the Instituto Nacional de Investigacao Agraria e Veterinaria, Portugal (R. Petersen-Silva, P. Naves, E. Sousa), together with the Universidad de Barcelona, Spain (J. Pujade-Villar) and a member of the Museum and Institute of Zoology f … more

Iran pays Russian women to cover up in nuclear plant: MP
Tehran (AFP) Dec 25, 2012 – Iran is paying Russian women working as technicians at its sole nuclear power plant to adhere to the Islamic dress code, an Iranian lawmaker told the ISNA news agency on Tuesday. Women in Iran, regardless of their nationality or religion, are required to cover their hair and much of the body. Those who do not abide by the rule – known as hijab – may face arrest or other punishment. “Ba … more

Space Export Control Reform Passes House and Senate
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 27, 2012 – Legislation reforming space-related export control has passed the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed by the President. The legislation is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, under Sec. 1261, Removal of Satellites and Related Items from the United States Munitions List (USML). The legislation contains restrictions, including prohibitions s …more

Hubble Eyes the Needle Galaxy
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 27, 2012 – Like finding a silver needle in the haystack of space, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced this beautiful image of the spiral galaxy IC 2233, one of the flattest galaxies known. Typical spiral galaxies like the Milky Way are usually made up of three principal visible components: the disk where the spiral arms and most of the gas and dust is concentrated; the halo, a rough and … more

A New State of Venus’s Atmosphere
Paris (ESA) Dec 27, 2012 – Observations from NASA’s Pioneer Venus orbiter, which reached Venus in 1978, suggested that Venus’s ionosphere had two states: a magnetized state with a large- scale horizontal magnetic field and an unmagnetized state with no large-scale magnetic field but with numerous small-scale thin magnetic structures known as flux ropes. Venus’s ionosphere was observed to be in the unmagnetized state … more

All Systems Go for Highest Altitude Supercomputer
Munich, Germany (SPX) Dec 27, 2012 – One of the most powerful supercomputers in the world has now been fully installed and tested at its remote, high altitude site in the Andes of northern Chile. This marks one of the major remaining milestones toward completion of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the most elaborate ground-based telescope in history. The special-purpose ALMA correlator has over 134 mil … more

Antarctic ice sheet warming faster than thought: study
Paris (AFP) Dec 23, 2012 – The West Antarctic Ice Sheet, whose melt may be responsible for 10 percent of the sea-level rise caused by climate change, is warming twice as quickly as previously thought, a study said Sunday. A re-analysis of temperature records from 1958 to 2010 revealed an increase of 2.4 degrees Celsius (36.3 degrees Fahrenheit) over the period – three times the average global rise. The increase w …more