Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists to map fungal networks, determine climate role

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Scientists from the United States and Europe announced plans Tuesday to create the biggest map of underground fungal networks, arguing they are an important but overlooked piece in the puzzle of how to tackle climate change.

By working with around the world the researchers said they will collect 10,000 DNA samples to determine how the vast networks that create in the soil are changing as a result of human activity—including global warming.

“Fungi are invisible ecosystem engineers, and their loss has gone largely unnoticed by the public,” said Toby Kiers, a professor of evolutionary biology at Amsterdam’s Free University and co-founder of the non-profit Society for the Protection of Underground Networks that’s spearheading the effort.

“New research and are providing irrefutable evidence that the Earth’s survival is linked to the underground,” she said.

Experts agree that tracking how fungal networks, also known as mycelia, are affected by is important for protecting them—and ensure they can contribute to nature’s own mechanisms for removing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from the air.

Fungi can do this by providing nutrients that allow plants to grow faster, for example, or by storing carbon in the trillions of miles of root-like mass they themselves weave underground.

But Karina Engelbrecht Clemmensen, a fungal expert at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences not involved in the project, caution that while having better fungi maps would be useful for future conservation efforts, it was unclear how the researchers planned to go about that vast challenge.

“This is not trivial on a global scale,” she said.

Clemmensen and others also noted that many fungi don’t provide any benefits to plants or grow as underground networks, yet their role in climate change also merits investigation.

Some fungi actually produce as they break down for food—potentially contributing to if they release more CO2 into the atmosphere than they capture.

“When you talk about carbon cycles you really want to start thinking carefully about decomposers,” said Anne Pringle, a professor of botany and bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “A massive and coordinated effort to collect biodiversity data on a global scale is badly needed and will be very welcome”, she added, saying “there are good reasons to include all kinds of fungi in that effort.”

The impact that a hotter planet will have on the spread of harmful species likewise needs to be considered.

“When you’re talking about food security in a changing climate, you really want to think about and how they might become more or less prevalent on the planet,” said Pringle, who isn’t involved with the new project.

Kiers said the group, whose efforts are supported by a $3.5 million donation from the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, chose to focus its mapping project on fungal networks because of the crucial symbiotic relationship they have with plants.

More information:
SPUN website: https://spun.earth/

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Scientists to map fungal networks, determine climate role (2021, November 30)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers generate, for the first time, a vortex beam of atoms and molecules

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Vortices may conjure a mental image of whirlpools and tornadoes—spinning bodies of water and air—but they can also exist on much smaller scales. In a new study published in Science, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science, together with collaborators from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University, have created, for the first time, vortices made of a single atom. These vortices could help answer fundamental questions about the inner workings of the subatomic world and be used to enhance a variety of technologies—for example, by providing new capabilities for atomic microscopes.

Scientists have long been striving to produce various types of nano-scale vortices in the lab, with recent focus on creating vortex beams—streams of particles having spinning properties—where even their internal quantum structure can be made to spin. Vortices made up of elementary particles, electrons and photons, have been created experimentally in the past, but until now vortex beams of atoms have existed only as a thought experiment. “During a theoretical debate with Prof. Ido Kaminer from the Technion, we came up with an idea for an experiment that would generate vortices of single atoms,” says Dr. Yair Segev, who has recently completed his Ph.D. studies in the group of Prof. Edvardas Narevicius of Weizmann’s Chemical and Biological Physics Department.

In classical physics, spinning objects are often characterized by a property known as angular momentum. Similar to linear momentum, it describes the effort needed to stop a moving object in its tracks, or rather, to stop it from spinning. Vortices—characterized by the circulation of around an axis—embody this property perfectly in their relentless spin.

(Left) An example of a nano-grating design with transmitting (black) and blocking (white) areas that were used to shape the supersonic helium beam into vortices of helium atoms. (Right) Constructed image of all the collision events captured by the camera at the end of the four-and-a-half-meter-long experimental setup. The “donut” shapes are evidence that the atoms have been shaped to spin as a vortex after passing the grating. Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science

However, the very basic property of angular momentum, which characterizes naturally occurring vortices both big and small, takes on a different twist on the . Unlike their classical physics equivalents, quantum particles cannot take on any value of angular momentum; rather, they can only take on values in discrete portions, or “quanta.” Another difference is the way in which a vortex particle carries its angular momentum—not as a rigid, spinning propeller, but as a wave that flows and twists around its own of motion.

These waves can be shaped and manipulated similarly to how breakwaters are used to direct the flow of seawater close to shore, but on a much smaller scale. “By placing physical obstacles in an atom’s path, we can manipulate the shape of its wave into various forms,” says Alon Luski, a Ph.D. student in Narevicius’s group. Luski and Segev, who led the research along with Rea David from their group, collaborated with colleagues from Tel Aviv University to develop an innovative approach for directing the movement of atoms. They created patterns of nanometric “breakwaters” called gratings—tiny ceramic , several hundreds of nanometers in diameter, with specific slit patterns. When the slits are arranged into a fork-like shape, each atom that passes through them behaves like a wave that flows through a physical obstacle, in this way acquiring angular momentum and emerging as a spinning vortex. These “nano-forks” were produced through a nano-fabrication process that was developed specifically for this experiment by Dr. Ora Bitton and Hila Nadler, both of Weizmann’s Chemical Research Support Department.

To generate and observe atomic vortices, the researchers aim a supersonic beam of helium atoms at these forked gratings. Before reaching the gratings, the beam passes through a system of narrow slits that blocks some of the atoms, transmitting only the atoms that behave more like large waves—those that are better suited to being shaped by the gratings. When these “wavy” atoms interact with the “forks,” they are shaped into vortices, and their intensity is recorded and photographed by a detector.

The four-and-a-half-meter-long experimental setup starting with the supersonic beam of helium atoms aimed at the nanometric forked gratings, which generate atomic vortex beams that are then captured by the detector and photographed. Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science

This results in a donut-shaped image constructed from millions of vortexed helium atoms that collide with the detector. “When we saw the donut-shaped image, we knew we had succeeded in creating vortices of these helium atoms,” says Segev. Much like the “eye” of the storm, the center of these “donuts” represents the space where each atomic vortex is calmest—the intensity of the waves there is zero, so no atoms are found there. “The ‘donuts’ are the fingerprint of a series of different vortex beams,” explains Narevicius.

During the experiments, the researchers made an odd observation. “We saw that next to the perfectly shaped donuts, there were two small spots of ‘noise’ as well,” says Segev. “At first we thought this was a hardware malfunction, but after extensive investigation we realized that what we’re looking at are actually unusual molecules, each made of two helium atoms, that were joined together in our beams.” In other words, they had generated of not only atoms but also of molecules.

Although the researchers used helium in their experiments, the experimental setup may accommodate studies of other elements and molecules. It could also be used to study hidden subatomic properties, such as the charge distribution of protons or neutrons that may be revealed only when an atom is spinning. Luski gives the example of a mechanical clock: “Mechanical clocks are made of tiny gears and cogs, each moving at a certain frequency, similarly to the internal structure of an atom. Now imagine taking that clock and spinning it—this motion could change the internal frequency of the gears, and the internal structure could be expressed in the properties of the vortex as well.”

In addition to offering a new way of studying the very basic properties of matter, atomic beams might find use in several technological applications, such as in atomic microscopy. The interaction between spinning and any investigated material could lead to the discovery of novel properties of that material, adding significant, previously inaccessible data to many future experiments.

More information:
Alon Luski et al, Vortex beams of atoms and molecules, Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126/science.abj2451

Researchers generate, for the first time, a vortex beam of atoms and molecules (2021, November 30)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Domestic violence goes unrecognized in faith communities

Hexbyte Glen Cove

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Australians who are frequently involved in religion and who identify as religious are less likely to acknowledge domestic violence is an issue within their faith community, despite acknowledging it as a national issue, a new study has found.

Led by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) the study examined determinants of domestic violence among more than 1,200 people.

Lead author Professor Naomi Priest from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods said the study looked at the links between religious involvement and identity and determinants of domestic violence.

“Our study clearly shows people who are frequently engaged in religious activities, such as attending services or prayer, or who identify as religious, are less likely to acknowledge domestic violence is an issue in their faith community,” Professor Priest said.

“We also found the same among people who attended religious activities infrequently.

“However, this doesn’t mean that people who are religious don’t acknowledge domestic violence as an issue at all. Despite being less likely to acknowledge domestic violence as an issue within their own faith community, there was no evidence that religious involvement or identity were associated with failure to acknowledge domestic violence as a national issue.

“Simply put, this study found if you’re religious it doesn’t mean you think domestic violence isn’t happening. But, you are not inclined to recognize it as an issue among members of your own faith.”

The study, based on a representative sample of Australians, also looked at the prevalence of patriarchal gender attitudes among people who are religious. According to Professor Priest, patriarchal gender attitudes are a key determinant of domestic violence.

“In this study we found that the more religious people were, the more likely they were to have patriarchal gender attitudes,” Professor Priest said.

“Religious service attendance, frequency of prayer, and spiritual or religious identity were each associated with more patriarchal beliefs about gender roles.”

Professor Priest said the study’s findings were important as Australia still “grappled to address the serious burden of domestic violence across our whole society.”

“Religion plays a major role in the health and wellbeing of our population and religious communities are key to helping us prevent and respond to domestic violence,” she said.

“Addressing patriarchal beliefs and acknowledgment of domestic violence as an issue within among those who regularly attend services, pray and identify as religious, are key targets for action to address and improve population health,” she said.

“Our findings highlight that if we are to make progress there is still much work to be done.”

More information:
Naomi Priest et al, A ‘dark side’ of religion?’ – Associations between religious involvement, identity and domestic violence determinants, (2021). DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/9hf6d

Domestic violence goes unrecognized in faith communities (2021, November 30)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Echolocation builds prediction models of prey movement

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Bats rely on acoustic information from the echoes of their own vocalizations to hunt airborne insects. By amalgamating representations of prey echoes, bats can determine prey distance, size, shape, and density, as well as identify what they are tracking. Credit: Angeles Salles

Bats are not only using their acoustical abilities to find a meal—they are also using it to predict where their prey would be, increasing their chances of a successful hunt.

During the 181st Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, Angeles Salles, from Johns Hopkins University, will discuss how bats rely on acoustic information from the echoes of their own vocalizations to hunt airborne insects. The session, “Bats use predictive strategies to track moving auditory objects,” will take place Tuesday, Nov. 30.

In contrast to predators that primarily use vision, bats create discrete echo snapshots, to build a representation of their environment. They produce sounds for echolocation through contracting the larynx or clicking their tongues before analyzing the returning echoes. This acoustic information facilitates bat navigation and foraging, often in total darkness.

Echo snapshots provide interrupted about target insect trajectory to build prediction models of location. This process enables bats to track and intercept their prey.

“We think this is an innate capability, such as humans can predict where a ball will land when it is tossed at them,” said Salles. “Once a bat has located a target, it uses the acoustic information to calculate the speed of the prey and anticipate where it will be next.”

The calls produced by the bats are usually ultrasonic, so human hearing cannot always recognize such noises. Echolocating bats integrate the acoustic snapshots over time, with larger prey producing stronger echoes, to predict prey movement in uncertain conditions.

“Prey with erratic flight maneuvers and clutter in the environment does lead to an accumulation of errors in their prediction,” said Salles. “If the target does not appear where the bat expects it to, they will start searching again.”

By amalgamating representations of prey echoes, bats can determine prey distance, size, shape, and density, as well as identify what they are tracking. Studies have shown learn to steer away from prey they deem unappetizing.

Echolocation builds prediction models of prey movement (2021, November 30)
retrieved 1 December 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-echolocation-prey-movement.html

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