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  • richardmitnick 12:43 pm on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Completely artificial fluorescent beta-barrel protein, , ,   

    From Rosetta@home: “Fluorescent proteins designed from scratch” 


    From Rosetta@home

    17 Sep 2018
    University of Washington


    Dr. David Baker, Baker Lab, U Washington

    Congrats to all Rosetta@home volunteers who contributed to a recent report in Nature describing the design of a completely artificial fluorescent beta-barrel protein. As described by one of the main authors, Anastassia, in this forum post:

    The paper presents many “firsts” in computational protein design. It is the first de novo design of the beta-barrel fold (one of the most described folds in the past 35 years, yet mysterious until now). It is also the first de novo design of a protein tailored to bind a small-molecule, which requires very high accuracy in the placement of side chains on protein backbones assembled from scratch. Additionally, we could show that these new proteins could fold and function as expected in vivo! We hope that the advances described in the paper will further enable the de novo design of many biosensors and catalysts tailored for specific applications.

    Thanks to all the Rosetta@home volunteers who contributed to the validation of our designed proteins and binding sites.

    Here is the link to the IPD webpage that contains a copy of the paper. The work was also featured in the news articles below (the news in Science contains a video of one of our proteins glowing in living cells).

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Rosetta@home needs your help to determine the 3-dimensional shapes of proteins in research that may ultimately lead to finding cures for some major human diseases. By running the Rosetta program on your computer while you don’t need it you will help us speed up and extend our research in ways we couldn’t possibly attempt without your help. You will also be helping our efforts at designing new proteins to fight diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s (See our Disease Related Research for more information). Please join us in our efforts! Rosetta@home is not for profit.

    About Rosetta

    One of the major goals of Rosetta is to predict the shapes that proteins fold up into in nature. Proteins are linear polymer molecules made up of amino acid monomers and are often refered to as “chains.” Amino acids can be considered as the “links” in a protein “chain”. Here is a simple analogy. When considering a metal chain, it can have many different shapes depending on the forces exerted upon it. For example, if you pull its ends, the chain will extend to a straight line and if you drop it on the floor, it will take on a unique shape. Unlike metal chains that are made of identical links, proteins are made of 20 different amino acids that each have their own unique properties (different shapes, and attractive and repulsive forces, for example), and in combination, the amino acids exert forces on the chain to make it take on a specific shape, which we call a “fold.” The order in which the amino acids are linked determines the protein’s fold. There are many kinds of proteins that vary in the number and order of their amino acids.

    To predict the shape that a particular protein adopts in nature, what we are really trying to do is find the fold with the lowest energy. The energy is determined by a number of factors. For example, some amino acids are attracted to each other so when they are close in space, their interaction provides a favorable contribution to the energy. Rosetta’s strategy for finding low energy shapes looks like this:

    Start with a fully unfolded chain (like a metal chain with its ends pulled).
    Move a part of the chain to create a new shape.
    Calculate the energy of the new shape.
    Accept or reject the move depending on the change in energy.
    Repeat 2 through 4 until every part of the chain has been moved a lot of times.

    We call this a trajectory. The end result of a trajectory is a predicted structure. Rosetta keeps track of the lowest energy shape found in each trajectory. Each trajectory is unique, because the attempted moves are determined by a random number. They do not always find the same low energy shape because there are so many possibilities.

    A trajectory may consist of two stages. The first stage uses a simplified representation of amino acids which allows us to try many different possible shapes rapidly. This stage is regarded as a low resolution search and on the screen saver you will see the protein chain jumping around a lot. In the second stage, Rosetta uses a full representation of amino acids. This stage is refered to as “relaxation.” Instead of moving around a lot, the protein tries smaller changes in an attempt to move the amino acids to their correct arrangment. This stage is regarded as a high resolution search and on the screen saver, you will see the protein chain jiggle around a little. Rosetta can do the first stage in a few minutes on a modern computer. The second stage takes longer because of the increased complexity when considering the full representation (all atoms) of amino acids.

    Your computer typically generates 5-20 of these trajectories (per work unit) and then sends us back the lowest energy shape seen in each one. We then look at all of the low energy shapes, generated by all of your computers, to find the very lowest ones. This becomes our prediction for the fold of that protein.

    To join this project, download and install the BOINC software on which it runs. Then attach to the project. While you are at BOINC, look at some of the other projects to see what else might be of interest to you.

    U Washington Dr. David Baker

    Rosetta screensaver


    My BOINC

  • richardmitnick 9:10 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    From “First particle tracks seen in prototype for international neutrino experiment” 


    CERN and Fermilab announce big step in Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.

    18 September 2018 – The largest liquid-argon neutrino detector in the world has just recorded its first particle tracks, signaling the start of a new chapter in the story of the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

    DUNE collaboration

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    SURF building in Lead SD USA

    DUNE’s scientific mission is dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of neutrinos, the most abundant (and most mysterious) matter particles in the universe. Neutrinos are all around us, but we know very little about them. Scientists on the DUNE collaboration think that neutrinos may help answer one of the most pressing questions in physics: why we live in a universe dominated by matter. In other words, why we are here at all.

    The enormous ProtoDUNE detector – the size of a three-story house and the shape of a gigantic cube – was built at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, as the first of two prototypes for what will be a much, much larger detector for the DUNE project, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the United States. When the first DUNE detector modules record data in 2026, they will each be 20 times larger than these prototypes.

    CERN Proto Dune


    Cern ProtoDune

    It is the first time CERN is investing in infrastructure and detector development for a particle physics project in the United States.

    The first ProtoDUNE detector took two years to build and eight weeks to fill with 800 tons of liquid argon, which needs to be kept at temperatures below -184 degrees Celsius (-300 degrees Fahrenheit). The detector records traces of particles in that argon, from both cosmic rays and a beam created at CERN’s accelerator complex. Now that the first tracks have been seen, scientists will operate the detector over the next several months to test the technology in depth.

    “Only two years ago we completed the new building at CERN to house two large-scale prototype detectors that form the building blocks for DUNE,” said Marzio Nessi, head of the Neutrino Platform at CERN. “Now we have the first detector taking beautiful data, and the second detector, which uses a different approach to liquid-argon technology, will be online in a few months.”

    The technology of the first ProtoDUNE detector will be the same to be used for the first of the DUNE detector modules in the United States, which will be built a mile underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. More than 1,000 scientists and engineers from 32 countries spanning five continents – Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America – are working on the development, design and construction of the DUNE detectors. The groundbreaking ceremony for the caverns that will house the experiment was held in July of 2017.

    “Seeing the first particle tracks is a major success for the entire DUNE collaboration,” said DUNE co-spokesperson Stefan Soldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester, UK. “DUNE is the largest collaboration of scientists working on neutrino research in the world, with the intention of creating a cutting-edge experiment that could change the way we see the universe.”

    When neutrinos enter the detectors and smash into the argon nuclei, they produce charged particles. Those particles leave ionization traces in the liquid, which can be seen by sophisticated tracking systems able to create three-dimensional pictures of otherwise invisible subatomic processes. (An animation of how the DUNE and ProtoDUNE detectors work, along with other videos about DUNE, is available here:

    “CERN is proud of the success of the Neutrino Platform and enthusiastic about being a partner in DUNE, together with Institutions and Universities from its Member States and beyond” said Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of CERN. “These first results from ProtoDUNE are a nice example of what can be achieved when laboratories across the world collaborate. Research with DUNE is complementary to research carried out by the LHC and other experiments at CERN; together they hold great potential to answer some of the outstanding questions in particle physics today.”

    DUNE will not only study neutrinos, but their antimatter counterparts as well. Scientists will look for differences in behavior between neutrinos and antineutrinos, which could give us clues as to why the visible universe is dominated by matter. DUNE will also watch for neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which could reveal the formation of neutron stars and black holes, and will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay. Observing proton decay would bring us closer to fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.

    “DUNE is the future of neutrino research,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “Fermilab is excited to host an international experiment with such vast potential for new discoveries, and to continue our long partnership with CERN, both on the DUNE project and on the Large Hadron Collider.”

    To learn more about the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility that will house the experiment, and the PIP-II particle accelerator project at Fermilab that will power the neutrino beam for the experiment, visit

    DUNE comprises 175 institutions from 32 countries: Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States. The DUNE interim design report provides a detailed description of the technologies that will be used for the DUNE detectors. More information is at
    CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s leading laboratories for particle physics. The Organization is located on the French-Swiss border, with its headquarters in Geneva. Its Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Cyprus, Serbia and Slovenia are Associate Member States in the pre-stage to Membership. India, Lithuania, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine are Associate Member States. The European Union, Japan, JINR, the Russian Federation, UNESCO and the United States of America currently have Observer status.

    Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC, a joint partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, Inc. Visit Fermilab’s website at and follow us on Twitter at @Fermilab.

    DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

    See the Fermilab article here .
    See the Symmetry article here.
    See the Berkeley lab article here .
    See the CERN article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 8:39 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Super-Kamioka Neutrino Detection Experiment at Kamioka Observatory Tokyo Japan   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Hints of a fourth type of neutrino create more confusion” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    18 September 2018
    Katie Mack

    Anomalous experimental results hint at the possibility of a fourth kind of neutrino, but more data only makes the situation more confusing.

    Inside the Super-Kamioka Neutrino Detection Experiment at Kamioka Observatory, Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo

    It was a balmy summer in 1998 when I first became aware of the confounding weirdness of neutrinos. I have vivid memories of that day, as an embarrassingly young student researcher, walking along a river in Japan, listening to a graduate student tell me about her own research project: an attempt to solve a frustrating neutrino–related mystery. We were both visiting a giant detector experiment called Super-Kamiokande, in the heady days right after it released data that forever altered the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    Standard Model of Particle Physics from Symmetry Magazine

    What Super-K found was that neutrinos – ghostly, elusive particles that are produced in the hearts of stars and can pass through the whole Earth with only a miniscule chance of interacting with anything – have mass.

    A particle having mass might not sound like a big deal, but the original version of the otherwise fantastically successful Standard Model described neutrinos as massless – just like photons, the particles that carry light and other electromagnetic waves. Unlike photons, however, neutrinos come in three ‘flavours’: electron, muon, and tau.

    Super-K’s discovery was that neutrinos could change from one flavour to another as they travelled, in a process called oscillation. This can only happen if the three flavours have different masses from one another, which means they can’t be massless.

    The finding suggested there must be a fourth neutrino, one invisible in experiments.

    This discovery was a big deal, but it wasn’t the mystery the grad student was working to solve. A few years before, an experiment called the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND), based in the US, had seen tantalising evidence that neutrinos were oscillating in a way that made no sense at all with the results of other experiments, including Super-K. The LSND finding indirectly suggested there had to be a fourth neutrino in the picture that the other neutrinos were sometimes oscillating into. This fourth neutrino would be invisible in experiments, lacking the kind of interactions that made the others detectable, which gave it the name ‘sterile neutrino’. And it would have to be much more massive than the other three.

    As I learned that day by the river, the result had persisted, unexplained, for years. Most people assumed something had gone wrong with the experiment, but no one knew what.

    In 2007, the plot thickened. An experiment called MiniBooNE, designed primarily to figure out what the heck happened with LSND, didn’t find the distribution of neutrinos it should have seen to confirm the LSND result.


    But some extra neutrinos did show up in MiniBooNE in a different energy range. They were inconsistent with LSND and every other experiment, perhaps suggesting the existence of even more flavours of neutrino.

    Meanwhile, experiments looking at neutrinos produced by nuclear reactors were seeing numbers that also couldn’t easily be explained without a sterile neutrino, though some physicists wrote these off as possibly due to calibration errors.

    And now the plot has grown even thicker.

    In May, MiniBooNE announced new results that seem more consistent with LSND, but even less palatable in the context of other experiments. MiniBooNE works by creating a beam of muon neutrinos and shooting them through the dirt at an underground detector 450 m away. The detector, meanwhile, is monitoring the arrival of electron neutrinos, in case any muon neutrinos are shape-shifting. More of these electron neutrinos turn up than standard neutrino models predict, which implies that some muon neutrinos transform by oscillating into sterile neutrinos too. (Technically, all neutrinos would be swapping around with all others, but this beam only makes sense if there’s an extra, massive one in the mix.)

    But there are several reasons this explanation is facing resistance. One is that experiments just looking for muon neutrinos disappearing (becoming sterile neutrinos or anything else) don’t find a consistent picture. Secondly, if sterile neutrinos at the proposed mass exist, they should have been around in the very early universe, and measurements we have from the cosmic microwave background of the number of neutrino types kicking around then strongly suggest it was just the normal three.

    So, as usual, there’s more work to be done. A MiniBooNE follow-up called MicroBooNE is currently taking data and might make the picture clearer, and other experiments are on the way.


    It seems very likely that something strange is happening in the neutrino sector. It just remains to be seen exactly what, and how, over the next 20 years of constant neutrino bombardment, it will change our understanding of everything else.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 8:19 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Earth’s most volcanic places   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Earth’s most volcanic places” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    18 September 2018
    Vhairi Mackintosh

    Some countries are famous for images of spewing lava and mountainous destruction. However, appearances can be deceiving. Not all volcanoes are the same.

    Credit Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

    Volcanic activity. It’s the reason why the town of El Rodeo in Guatemala is currently uninhabitable, why the Big Island of Hawaii gained 1.5 kilometres of new coastline in June, and why Denpasar airport in Bali has closed twice this year.

    But these eruptions should not be seen as destructive attacks on certain places or the people that live in them. They have nothing to do with even the country that hosts them. They occur in specific regions because of much larger-scale processes originating deep within the Earth.

    According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), approximately 1,500 potentially active volcanoes exist on land around the globe. Here’s a look at four of the world’s most volcanically active spots, and the different processes responsible for their eruptions. As you’ll see, there is no one-size-fits-all volcano.


    Most volcanic eruptions go unnoticed. That’s because they happen continuously on the ocean floor where cracks in the Earth’s outer layer, the lithosphere (comprising the crust and solid upper mantle), form at so-called divergent plate boundaries. These margins form due to convection in the underlying mantle, which causes hot, less dense molten material, called magma, to rise to the surface. As it forces its way through the lithospheric plate, magma breaks the outer shell. Lava, the surface-equivalent of magma, fills the crack and pushes the broken pieces in opposite directions.

    Volcanism from this activity created Iceland. The country is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which forms the seam between the Eurasian and North American plates. Iceland is one of the few places where this type of spreading centre pops above sea level.

    However, volcanism on Iceland also happens because of its location over a hot spot. These spots develop above abnormally hot, deep regions of the mantle known as plumes.

    Each plume melts the overlying material and buoyant magma rises through the lithosphere – picture a lava lamp – to erupt at the surface.

    This volcanic double whammy produces both gentle fissure eruptions of basaltic lava as well as stratovolcanoes that are characterised by periodic non-explosive lava flows and explosive, pyroclastic eruptions, which produce clouds of ash, gas and debris.

    In 2010, the two-month eruption of the ice-capped Eyjafjallajökull stratovolcano – the one that no one outside Iceland can pronounce – attracted a lot of media attention because the resulting ash cloud grounded thousands of flights across Europe.

    Eruption at Fimmvörðuháls at dusk. Boaworm

    In fact, it was a relatively small eruption. It is believed that a major eruption in Iceland is long overdue. Four other volcanoes are all showing signs of increased activity, including the country’s most feared one, called Katla.

    Credit: Westend61 / Getty Images

    Photograph of Katla volcano erupting through Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in 1918. ICELANDIC GLACIAL LANDSCAPES
    Author Public Domain


    More than 197 million Indonesians live within 100 km of a volcano, with nearly nine million of those within 10 km. Indonesia has more volcanoes than any other country in the world. The 1815 eruption of its Mount Tambora still holds the record for the largest in recent history.

    Indonesia is one of many places located within the world’s most volcanically, and seismically, active zone, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. This 40,000 km horseshoe-shaped region, bordering the Pacific Ocean, is where many tectonic plates bang into each other.

    In this so-called convergent plate boundary setting, the process of subduction generates volcanism. Subduction occurs because when two plates collide, the higher density plate containing oceanic crust sinks beneath another less dense plate, which contains either continental crust or younger, hotter and therefore less dense oceanic crust. As the plate descends into the mantle, it releases fluids that trigger melting of the overriding plate, thus producing magma. This then rises and erupts at the surface to form an arc-shaped chain of volcanoes, inward of, but parallel to, the subducting plate margin.

    Indonesia marks the junction between many converging plates and, thus, the subduction processes and volcanism are complex. Most of Indonesia’s volcanoes, however, are part of the Sundra Arc, an island volcanic range caused by the subduction of the Indo-Australian Plate beneath the Eurasian Plate. Volcanism in eastern Indonesia is mainly caused by the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Eurasian Plate.

    The stratovolcanoes that form in convergent plate boundary settings are the most dangerous because they are characterised by incredibly fast, highly explosive pyroclastic flows. One of Indonesia’s stratovolcanoes, Mount Agung, erupted on 29 June for the second time in a year, spewing ash more than two km into the air and grounding hundreds of flights to the popular tourist destination, Bali.

    Mount Agung, November 2017 eruption – 27 Nov 2017. Michael W. Ishak (

    Credit: shayes17 / Getty Images


    The June 3 eruption of the Guatemalan stratovolcano, Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire), devastated Guatemalans, and the rest of the world, as horrifying images and videos of people trying to escape the quick-moving pyroclastic flow filled the news.

    Like Indonesia, Guatemala’s location within the Ring of Fire and the subduction-related processes that go along with its location are responsible for the volcanoes found here. Located on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, volcanism is caused by the subduction of the much smaller Cocos Plate beneath the North American-Caribbean Plate.

    Unlike Indonesia, however, the convergent boundary between these two plates occurs on land instead of within the ocean. Therefore, the Guatemalan arc does not form islands but a northwest-southeast trending chain of onshore volcanoes.

    The same process is responsible for the formation of the Andes – the world’s longest continental mountain range – further south along the western coast of South America. In this case, subduction of the Nazca-Antarctic Plate beneath the South American Plate causes volcanism in countries such as Chile and Peru.

    October 1974 eruption of Volcán de Fuego — seen from Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala. Paul Newton, Smithsonian Institution

    Credit: ShaneMyersPhoto / Getty Images


    When someone mentions Hawaii, it’s hard not to picture a volcano. But Hawaii’s volcanoes are actually not typical. That’s because they are not found on a plate boundary. In fact, Hawaii is slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific Plate – the world’s largest.

    Like Iceland, Hawaii is also underlain by a hot spot. However, because the Pacific Plate is moving to the northwest over this relatively fixed mantle anomaly, the resulting volcanism creates a linear chain of islands within the Pacific Ocean. A volcano forming over the hot spot will be carried away, over millions of years, by the moving tectonic plate. As a new volcano begins to form, the older one becomes extinct, cools and sinks to form a submarine mountain. Through this process, the islands of Hawaii have been forming for the past 70 million years.

    The typical shield volcanoes that form in this geological setting are produced from gentle eruptions of basaltic lava and are rarely explosive. The youngest Hawaiian shield volcano, Kilauea, erupted intensely on 3 May of this year, and 1,170 degree Celsius lava has been flowing over the island and into the ocean ever since. Kilauea, which has been continuously oozing since 1983, is regarded as one of the world’s most active volcanoes, if not the most.

    Looking up the slope of Kilauea, a shield volcano on the island of Hawaii. In the foreground, the Puu Oo vent has erupted fluid lava to the left. The Halemaumau crater is at the peak of Kilauea, visible here as a rising vapor column in the background. The peak behind the vapor column is Mauna Loa, a volcano that is separate from Kilauea. USGS

    An aerial view of the erupting Pu’u ‘O’o crater on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano taken at dusk on June 29, 1983.
    Credit: G.E. Ulrich, USGS


    It may be surprising to hear that despite the Himalayas, like the Andes, being located on a very active convergent plate boundary, they are not volcanically active. In fact, there are barely any volcanoes at all within the mountain range.

    This is because the two colliding plates that are responsible for the formation of the Himalayas contain continental crust at the convergent plate boundary, distinct from the oceanic-continental or oceanic-oceanic crustal boundaries in the Guatemalan and Indonesian cases, respectively.

    As the two colliding plates have similar compositions, and therefore densities, and both their densities are much lower than the underlying mantle, neither plate is subducted. It’s a bit like wood floating on water. As subduction causes the lithospheric partial melting that generates the magma in convergent plate boundary settings, volcanism is not common in continent-continent collisions.

    Unfortunately, Himalayan people don’t get off that easily though, because devastating earthquakes go hand-in-hand with this sort of setting.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 7:46 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Ceres’ lonely ice volcano is only one of many, , ,   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Ceres’ lonely ice volcano is only one of many” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    Bill Condie

    The mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images from its low-altitude mapping orbit, from an altitude of 385 kilometres in December 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

    NASA Dawn Spacescraft

    The dwarf planet Ceres has had as many as 22 ice volcanoes, new research suggests.

    Images from NASA’s Dawn mission has revealed there is currently a single volcano, an icy peak known as Ahuna Mons.

    But research based on data from the mission suggests that new volcanoes have appeared around every 50 million years over the past billion. They erupt, build up and then sink back into the surface.

    The research, published in Nature Astronomy, suggests that Ahuna Mons is relatively young.

    “Ahuna Mons has an upper age limit of 240 million years derived from crater size,” the researchers, led by University of Arizona planetary scientists Michael Sori, write. “But it may be much younger because the mountain itself is too small and has too few craters to be reliably dated.”

    Ice volcanoes, or cryovolcanoes, leave less impact on the surface than volcanoes on planets such as Earth.

    A simulated perspective view of Ceres’ lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

    Instead of molten rock, they erupt liquid or gaseous ammonia, water or methane.

    Traces of cryovolcanism have been found on several bodies in the outer Solar System. “Cryovolcanism may be an important planetary phenomenon in shaping the surfaces of many worlds in the outer Solar System and revealing their thermal histories,” the researchers say.

    “However, the physics, chemistry and ubiquity of this geologic process remain poorly understood, especially in comparison to the better-studied silicate volcanism on the terrestrial planets.”

    NASA’s Dawn spacecraft discovered Ahuna Mons while orbiting Ceres in 2015.

    Sori and colleagues used models of relaxing dome shapes to identify 22 former cryovolcanoes on Ceres in images taken by the Dawn mission. 

The authors also estimate that the total amount of icy material that has been erupted onto the surface of Ceres is one hundred to one hundred-thousand times less than the volumes of molten rock erupted on the Earth, Moon, Venus or Mars.

    Ceres was the first object discovered in the main asteroid belt when Italian astronomer Father Giuseppe Piazzi spotted the object in 1801. It was initially classified as a planet but later classified as an asteroid as more objects were found in the same region.

    In recognition of its planet-like qualities, Ceres was designated a dwarf planet in 2006 along with Pluto and Eris.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 7:30 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3Q: Sheila Widnall on sexual harassment in STEM, ,   

    From MIT News: “3Q: Sheila Widnall on sexual harassment in STEM” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    September 17, 2018
    David L. Chandler

    Sheila Widnall, MIT Institute Professor and former secretary of the U.S. Air Force. Image: Len Rubenstein

    National Academies report cites need for strong leadership and cultural change; will be focus of upcoming MIT panel discussion.

    Sheila Widnall, MIT Institute Professor and former secretary of the U.S. Air Force, was co-chair of a report commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to explore the impact of sexual harassment of women in those fields. Along with co-chair Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College, Widnall and dozens of panel members and researchers spent two years collecting and analyzing data for the report, which was released over the summer. On Sept. 18, Widnall, Johnson, and Brandeis University Professor Anita Hill will offer their thoughts on the report’s findings and recommendations, in a discussion at MIT’s Huntington Hall, Room 10-250. Widnall spoke with MIT News about some of the report’s key takeaways.

    Q: As a woman who has been working in academia for many years, did you find anything in the results of this report that surprised you, anything that was unexpected?

    A: Well, not unexpected, but the National Academy reports have to be based on data, and so our committee was composed of scientists, engineers, and social scientists, who have somewhat different ways of looking at problems. One of the challenges was to bring the committee together to agree on a common result. We couldn’t just make up things; we had to get data. So, we had some fundamental data from various universities that were taken by a recognized survey platform, and that was the foundation of our data.

    We had data for thousands and thousands of faculty and students. We did not look at student-on-student behavior, which we felt was not really part of our charge. We were looking at the structure of academic institutions and the environment that’s created in the university. We also looked at the relationship between faculty, who hold considerable authority over the climate, and the futures of students, which can be influenced by faculty through activities such as thesis advising, and letter writing, and helping people find the next rung in their career.

    At the end of the report, after we’d accumulated all this data and our conclusions about it, we said, “OK, what’s the solution?” And the solution is leadership. There is no other way to get started in some of these very difficult climate issues than leadership. Presidents, provosts, deans, department heads, faculty — these are the leaders at a university, and they are essential for dealing with these issues. We can’t make little recommendations to do this or do that. It really boils down to leadership.

    Q: What are some of the specific recommendations or programs that the report committee would like to see adopted?

    A: We found many productive actions taken by universities, including climate surveys, and our committee was particularly pleased with ombudsman programs — having a way that individuals can go to people and discuss issues and get help. I think MIT has been a leader in that; I’m not sure all universities have those. And another recommendation — I hate to use the word training, because faculty hate the word training — but MIT has put in place some things that faculty have to work through in terms of training, mainly to understand the definitions of what these various terms mean, in terms of the legal structure, the climate structure. The bottom line is you want to create a civil and welcoming climate where people feel free to express any concerns that they have.

    One of the things we did, since we were data-driven, was that we tried to collect examples of processes and programs that have been put in place by other societies, and put them forward as examples.

    We found various professional societies that are very aware of things that can happen offsite, so they have instituted special policies or even procedures for making sure that a meeting is a safe and welcoming environment for people who come across the country to go to a professional meeting. There are several examples of that in the report, of societies that have really stepped forward and put in place procedures and principles about “this is how you should behave at a meeting.” So I think that’s very welcome.

    Q: One of the interesting findings of the report was that gender harassment — stereotyping what people can or can’t do based on their gender — was especially pervasive. What are some of the impacts of that kind of behavior?

    A: A hostile work environment is caused by the uncivility of the climate. All the little microinsults, things like telling women they can’t solder or that women don’t belong in science or engineering. I think that’s really an important point in our report. Gender discrimination is most pervasive, and many people don’t think it’s wrong; they just don’t give it a second thought.

    If you have a climate where people feel that they can get away with that kind of behavior, then it’s more likely to happen. If you have an environment where people are expected to be polite — is that an old-fashioned word? — or civil, people act respectfully.

    It’s pretty clear that physical assault is unacceptable. So we didn’t deal a lot with that issue. It’s certainly a very serious kind of harassment. But we did try to focus on this less obvious form and the responsibilities of universities to create a safe and welcoming climate. I think MIT does a really good job of that.

    I think the numbers have helped to improve the climate. You know, when I came to MIT women were 1 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now it’s 46 percent, so clearly, times have changed.

    When I came here as a freshman, my freshman advisor said, “What are you doing here?” That wasn’t exactly welcoming. He looked at me as if I didn’t belong here. And I don’t think that’s the case anymore, not with such a high percentage of undergraduates being women. I think increasingly, people do feel that women are an inherent part of the field of engineering, in the field of science, in medicine.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 7:00 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Picture this: snap the sea for science   

    From CSIROscope: “Picture this: snap the sea for science” 

    CSIRO bloc

    From CSIROscope

    18 September 2018
    Natalie Kikken

    Contributing to water quality monitoring, from the palm of your hand

    Most people often think of water as blue, but in reality, it rarely is. Sometimes it turns brown after a storm, other times there might be floating green things in it, and sometimes there might be a rainbow sheen on the surface. All of that information is invaluable to scientists when assessing the quality of water. So when you see it, snap it, upload it using the Eye on Water Australia app and you can help scientists get a global picture of water quality.

    A simple tool for complex science

    Eye on Water enables you to take a photo of water – both fresh and sea water – and upload it to the app. This helps us monitor changes to Australian waters such as algae blooms, seasonal changes, sediment and salinity.

    Water colour can be seen from space using satellite imagery however it can be easily affected by clouds, lighting and the time of day. The information you capture will feed into a global database to monitor water quality while supporting our extensive research to calibrate in-water measurements with satellite data to understand any changes.

    How does the app work?

    The first step is to grab your mobile and download the free app. Then head to your nearest water source that’s relatively deep – the photo can’t have the bottom of the river or ocean in the shot. Ideally, find a spot where the sun is behind you then snap a photo of water. Make sure we can’t see anything else in the photo, like your feet or your finger! Once you have uploaded your image, you will be asked to compare the colour of the water in your photo to a colour chart and submit it. And that’s your job done – you can now call yourself a citizen scientist! You can even create your own profile in the app so you can keep track of your valuable contributions.

    Hit us with your best shot

    The citizen science images are used to validate satellite imagery acquired by our scientists. This means that any small changes in a water system can be accurately detected and monitored over time, such as heavy rainfall or dredging.

    Users can learn about how regular tidal or seasonal patterns can affect water colour. Recognising specific water colour traits can also educate users on the uniqueness of the waters in their area and the expected and unexpected parameters of a healthy water system.

    Starting young: students leading the water charge

    We have been introducing Eye on Water to community groups, schools and education programs to bring science to life for students. This provides them with hands-on learning tools and scientific knowledge, plus the opportunity to use other water quality methods such as Secchi disks to test water clarity and water properties like pH, salinity, temperature and conductivity. This information can also feed into the app.

    We recently visited the Broome Senior High School Bushrangers Group to conduct water quality testing, and are planning to visit more schools this year.

    Eye on Water Australia is an effective way to capture more data on our oceans which will help us better understand its current conditions, monitor changes and the effect this can have on the future. Make a splash and join us to build on our aquatic knowledge – all from the palm of your hand!

    Get snapping!

    Download the Eye on Water app

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

    Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

    Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

    With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 5:05 pm on September 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DU-Discover the Universe program, , NSERC-National Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, PromoScience Program,   

    From Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics: “New Funding Helps U Of T Astronomers Help Students Discover The Universe” 

    Dunlap Institute bloc
    From Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

    At U Toronto


    Sept. 17, 2018

    Julie Bolduc-Duval
    Discover the Universe
    p: 418-332-0428

    Professor Michael Reid
    Public Outreach Coordinator
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    p: 416-978-0307Dunlap

    The Dunlap Institute’s Discover the Universe program has been awarded significant financial support from the PromoScience Program of the National Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

    Discover the Universe (DU) provides instruction and resources, in French and English, that help science teachers across the country and around the world teach astronomy to their students. DU provides astronomy teaching support through live workshops, webinars and teaching resources for teachers.

    “Astronomy is a vast subject and it is intimidating to teach it when you have no training in the field,” says Julie Bolduc-Duval, who founded DU in 2011 with financial support from PromoScience. “That’s why we created Discover the Universe. We’re helping teachers so that more kids will be exposed to our wonderful Universe and understand our place within it.”

    DU is offered by the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, and the Canadian Astronomical Society, in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec.

    According to Professor Michael Reid, Outreach Coordinator for the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, “The Dunlap’s mission to share the thrill of astronomical discovery with people of all ages has made working with Discover the Universe a natural fit.”

    “We’re immensely grateful to NSERC,” says Reid, “without whom we wouldn’t be able to keep delivering innovative, bilingual teacher training to teachers across Canada and around the world. This funding will help ensure that thousands of Canadian kids have eye-opening encounters with the cosmos that we know can inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.”

    PromoScience is a NSERC program that offers financial support for organizations that promote an understanding of science, engineering, mathematics and technology in young Canadians. The newly announced award to DU includes funding for three years.

    Visit the Discover the Universe website.

    Visit the NSERC PromoScience program website.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Dunlap Institute campus

    The Dunlap Institute is committed to sharing astronomical discovery with the public. Through lectures, the web, social and new media, an interactive planetarium, and major events like the Toronto Science Festival, we are helping to answer the public’s questions about the Universe.
    Our work is greatly enhanced through collaborations with the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, David Dunlap Observatory, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Toronto Public Library, and many other partners.

  • richardmitnick 4:39 pm on September 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Forming Disks and Rings in Galactic Nuclei   

    From AAS NOVA: “Featured Image: Forming Disks and Rings in Galactic Nuclei “ 


    From AAS NOVA

    17 September 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    These dramatic simulated images reveal some of the circumnuclear gas structures that can form from the tidal disruption of molecular clouds in the nucleus of a galaxy. In a study led by Alessandro Trani (The University of Tokyo, Japan; International School for Advanced Studies, Italy; INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy), a team of scientists has conducted a series of simulations exploring what happens to gas in a galactic nucleus consisting of a supermassive black hole and a nuclear star cluster. Their work shows that the gas can be drawn into extended disks or compact rings, depending on whether the black hole’s influence is stronger than that of the nuclear star cluster. To read more about their outcomes, check out the paper below.


    “Forming Circumnuclear Disks and Rings in Galactic Nuclei: A Competition Between Supermassive Black Hole and Nuclear Star Cluster,” Alessandro A. Trani et al 2018 ApJ 864 17.

    Related journal articles
    See the full article for further references with links.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition


    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

  • richardmitnick 11:59 am on September 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 2015 Paris climate agreement, , Australia has no climate-change policy — again, , ,   

    From Nature: “Australia has no climate-change policy — again” 

    Nature Mag
    From Nature

    Scientists say the country will now struggle to meet it commitments to the Paris agreement.

    17 September 2018
    Adam Morton

    Large parts of Australia are enduring a crippling drought.Credit: David Gray/Reuters

    Australia’s new prime minister has abandoned the country’s policy for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Climate scientists say the move means the government has effectively dropped its commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

    “They’ve walked away from Paris without saying it, hoping no one would notice,” says Lesley Hughes, a climate-change scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney. Without a policy to cut carbon dioxide pollution, the government is dropping its international commitment by default, she says.

    Australia now becomes the second advanced economy after the United States to drop emissions-reduction policies since the 2015 Paris climate conference. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to start removing climate regulations in March 2017 and pulled the US out of the Paris agreement in June 2017.

    Australia’s effective abandonment of Paris can be traced back to late August, when the ruling conservative Liberal Party abruptly replaced former leader Malcolm Turnbull with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The leadership change came after some party members objected to a policy that would have required electricity companies to meet emissions targets. Morrison subsequently said that he was abandoning the policy, called the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), and would instead focus on reducing the cost of energy for the public.

    The NEG is the fourth national climate policy rejected by Australia’s conservative government since it was elected in 2013, and comes as large parts of country feel the effects of global warming — a crippling drought grips the eastern states and dozens of bushfires have erupted unseasonably early in those regions.

    Some government members have even suggested that the country should join the Trump administration in officially withdrawing from the Paris agreement. Morrison has rejected this idea. He says Australia is on track to meet the target it announced before the Paris conference: to cut emissions by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

    But there is little evidence to suggest the government will be able to meet this target without new policies. In August, government advisers said it was unlikely that the electricity sector, responsible for one-third of Australia’s emissions, would reduce its emissions by 26% unless a policy was introduced to drive cleaner energy generation over the next decade.

    National emissions have risen each year since 2014, when the government repealed laws requiring big industrial emitters to pay for their emissions. There are also no significant policies to reduce the other major sources of pollution, such as transport, agriculture, heavy industry and mining, which together generate nearly two-thirds of Australia’s carbon emissions.

    Although the NEG was a modest policy, proposed after several more effective schemes failed to win political support, it had the potential to win the backing of the centre-left opposition Labor Party, says John Church, a specialist in sea-level rise at the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. That would have enabled the policy to pass through parliament and into law. The policy also had the support of the business community, which has been calling for climate and energy strategies that encourage investment in new and cleaner power plants, he says. “Walking away from it was a disaster.”

    Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, an authority on heatwaves, also at the CCRC, says government motivation to do something about climate change seems to have disappeared altogether. When she briefed senior officials on the latest climate-change science in August, she left the meeting feeling optimistic that more policies were coming. “People were trying to get things done, but now that’s not the case at all,” she says. “I’m extremely frustrated.”

    Public concern

    The decision to drop the policy also goes against the public’s support for action on climate change, says Hughes. A poll of 1,756 people, published on 12 September by research and advocacy organization the Australia Institute, found that 73% of respondents were concerned about climate change and 68% wanted domestic climate targets in line with the country’s Paris commitment.

    But Australia’s lack of climate policy could be short-lived. A national election is due by May 2019, and recent polls suggest that the Labor Party, led by former union boss Bill Shorten, is favoured to win. Labor says it would set a new emissions target of a 45% cut by 2030, although it has not revealed how it would reach the target. In the meantime, some states have mandated ambitious renewable-energy targets, and business leaders say investment in clean energy is increasing because it is now the cheapest option.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

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