Hexbyte Glen Cove Molecule snapshot by explosion

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Coulomb explosion imaging of iodopyridine (artists view). Credit: Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

Exploding a photo subject in order to take its picture? An international research team at the European XFEL, the world’s largest X-ray laser, applied this “extreme” method to take pictures of complex molecules. The scientists used the ultra-bright X-ray flashes generated by the facility to take snapshots of gas-phase iodopyridine molecules at atomic resolution. The X-ray laser caused the molecules to explode, and the image was reconstructed from the pieces. “Thanks to the European XFEL’s extremely intense and particularly short X-ray pulses, we were able to produce an image of unprecedented clarity for this method and the size of the molecule,” reports Rebecca Boll from the European XFEL, principal investigator of the experiment and one of the two first authors of the publication in the scientific journal Nature Physics in which the team describes their results. Such clear images of complex molecules have not been possible using this experimental technique until now.

The images are an important step towards recording molecular movies, which researchers hope to use in the future to observe details of biochemical and chemical reactions or physical changes at high resolution. Such films are expected to stimulate developments in various fields of research. “The method we use is particularly promising for investigating photochemical processes,” explains Till Jahnke from the European XFEL and the Goethe University Frankfurt, who is a member of the core team conducting the study. Such processes in which chemical reactions are triggered by light are of great importance both in the laboratory and in nature, for example in photosynthesis and in visual processes in the eye. “The development of molecular movies is fundamental research,” Jahnke explains, hoping that “the knowledge gained from them could help us to better understand such processes in the future and develop new ideas for medicine, sustainable energy production and materials research.”

In the method known as Coulomb explosion imaging, a high-intensity and ultra-short X-ray laser pulse knocks a large number of electrons out of the molecule. Due to the strong electrostatic repulsion between the remaining, positively charged atoms, the molecule explodes within a few femtoseconds—a millionth of a billionth of a second. The individual ionized fragments then fly apart and are registered by a detector.

“Up to now, Coulomb explosion imaging was limited to small molecules consisting of no more than five atoms,” explains Julia Schäfer from the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) at DESY, the other first author of the study. “With our work, we have broken this limit for this method.” Iodopyridine (C5H4IN) consists of eleven atoms.

The film studio for the explosive molecule images is the SQS (Small Quantum Systems) instrument at the European XFEL. A COLTRIMS reaction microscope (REMI) developed especially for these types of investigations applies electric fields to direct the charged fragments onto a detector. The location and time of impact of the fragments are determined and then used to reconstruct their momentum—the product of mass and velocity—with which the ions hit the detector. “This information can be used to obtain details about the molecule, and with the help of models, we can reconstruct the course of reactions and processes involved,” says DESY researcher Robin Santra, who led the theoretical part of the work.

Coulomb explosion imaging is particularly suitable for tracking very light atoms such as hydrogen in . The technique enables detailed investigations of individual molecules in the gas phase, and is therefore a complementary method for producing molecular movies, alongside those being developed for liquids and solids at other European XFEL instruments.

“We want to understand fundamental photochemical processes in detail. In the gas phase, there is no interference from other molecules or the environment. We can therefore use our technique to study individual, isolated molecules,” says Jahnke. Boll adds that they “are working on investigating as the next step, so that individual images can be combined into a real molecular movie, and have already conducted the first of these experiments.”



More information:
Rebecca Boll, X-ray multiphoton-induced Coulomb explosion images complex single molecules, Nature Physics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41567-022-01507-0. www.nature.com/articles/s41567-022-01507-0

Citation:
Molecule snapshot by explosion (20

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Balkanatolia: The forgotten continent that sheds light on the evolution of mammals

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Map showing Balkanatolia 40 million years ago and at the present day. Credit: Alexis Licht & Grégoire Métais

A team of French, American and Turkish paleontologists and geologists led by CNRS researchers1 has discovered the existence of a forgotten continent they have dubbed Balkanatolia, which today covers the present-day Balkans and Anatolia. Formerly inhabited by a highly specific fauna, they believe that it enabled mammals from Asia to colonize Europe 34 million years ago. Their findings are published in the March 2022 volume of Earth Science Reviews.

For millions of years during the Eocene Epoch (55 to 34 million years ago), Western Europe and Eastern Asia formed two distinct land masses with very different mammalian faunas: European forests were home to endemic fauna such as Palaeotheres (an extinct group distantly related to present-day horses, but more like today’s tapirs), whereas Asia was populated by a more diverse fauna including the mammal families found today on both continents.

We know that, around 34 million years ago, Western Europe was colonized by Asian species, leading to a major renewal of vertebrate fauna and the extinction of its endemic , a sudden event called the “Grande Coupure.” Surprisingly, fossils found in the Balkans point to the presence of Asian mammals in southern Europe long before the Grande Coupure, suggesting earlier colonization.

Now, a team led by CNRS researchers has come up with an explanation for this paradox. To do this, they reviewed earlier palaeontological discoveries, some of which date back to the 19th century, sometimes reassessing their dating in the light of current geological data. The review revealed that, for much of the Eocene, the region corresponding to the present-day Balkans and Anatolia was home to a terrestrial fauna that was homogeneous, but distinct from those of Europe and eastern Asia. This exotic fauna included, for example, marsupials of South American affinity and Embrithopoda (large herbivorous mammals resembling hippopotamuses) formerly found in Africa. The region must therefore have made up a single land mass, separated from the neighboring continents.

Site excavated in Turkey (Büyükteflek). Credit: Alexis Licht & Grégoire Métais

The team also discovered a new fossil deposit in Turkey (Büyükteflek) dating from 38 to 35 million years ago, which yielded mammals whose affinity was clearly Asian, and are the earliest discovered in Anatolia until now. They found jaw fragments belonging to Brontotheres, animals resembling large rhinoceroses that died out at the end of the Eocene.

All this information enabled the team to outline the history of this third Eurasian continent, wedged between Europe, Africa and Asia, which they dubbed Balkanatolia. The continent, already in existence 50 million years ago2 and home to a unique fauna, was colonized 40 million years ago by Asian mammals as a result of geographical changes that have yet to be fully understood. It seems likely that a major glaciation 34 million years ago, leading to the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet and lowering sea levels, connected Balkanatolia to Western Europe, giving rise to the “Grande Coupure.”



More information:
Alexis Licht et al, Balkanatolia: The insular mammalian biogeographic province that partly paved the way to the Grande Coupure, Earth-Science Reviews (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2022.103929

Citation:
Balkanatolia: The forgotten continent that sheds light on the evolution of mammals (2022, February 21)
retrieved 22 February 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-balkanatolia-forgotten-continent-evolution-mammals.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Gaza construction workers find 31 Roman-era tombs

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A general view shows a newly discovered Roman cemetery containing ornately decorated graves, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.

Construction workers at a building site in northern Gaza have uncovered 31 Roman-era tombs dating from the first century AD, the Palestinian territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas said Monday.

The tombs were discovered near the town of Beit Lahia as work began on an Egyptian-funded residential area, part of the $500 million reconstruction package Cairo pledged after the 11-day war in May between Israel and in the Gaza Strip.

Naji Sarhan, an official at Gaza’s Ministry of Public Works, confirmed the find and said there is “evidence that there are other graves” at the site.

Construction work has been halted and technicians from Gaza’s Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism have been sent to the site to catalogue gravestones and artefacts, officials said.

One technician, who requested anonymity, said the tombs were believed to be part of a cemetery linked to a nearby Roman site in Balakhiya.

The find was the latest in Gaza, where tourism to archaeological sites is limited due to an Israeli blockade imposed since Hamas took over the strip in 2007.

Israel and Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, tightly restrict the flow of people in and out of the impoverished strip, which is home to about 2.3 million Palestinians.

Last month, Hamas reopened the remains of a fifth-century Byzantine church following a years-long restoration effort backed by foreign donors.



© 2022 AFP

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Mount Etna roars again, sends up towering volcanic ash cloud

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Volcanic ashes ascend from the southeastern crater of the Mt. Etna volcano as seen from Pedara, Sicily, Italy, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The second-strongest paroxysm of 2022 produced volcanic smoke and ashes that rose for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) forcing the temporary closure of the nearby Vincenzo Bellini international airport in Catania. Credit: AP Photo/Salvatore Allegra

Mount Etna has roared back to spectacular action after a few months of relative quiet, sending up a 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) high volcanic ash cloud over eastern Sicily.

The lava flow from Etna, one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, was centered around the crater on the mountain’s southeast slope, Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology said Monday.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or property damage on the inhabited towns ringing the slopes of the volcano, which is popular with hikers, skiers and other tourists.

By Monday afternoon, the lava flow from the crater had stopped, the institute said. But earlier in the day, while the volcanic cloud was pouring out of Etna, the institute issued a warning for aircraft in the area.

The towering cloud, visible for kilometers, was the latest impressive show of Etna’s power this month. Earlier in February, a particularly powerful eruption sent bolts of lightning dramatically across the sky over eastern Sicily.

Etna has had scores of known eruptions in its history. In 1669, in what has been considered the volcano’s worst-known eruption, lava buried a swath of Catania, the largest city in the east on the island of Sicily, and devastated dozens of villages.

  • Volcanic ashes belched by the southeastern crater of the Mt. Etna volcano, cover the streets of Zafferana Etnea, Sicily, Italy, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The second-strongest paroxysm of 2022 produced volcanic smoke and ashes that rose for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) forcing the temporary closure of the nearby Vincenzo Bellini international airport in Catania. Credit: AP Photo/Salvatore Allegra
  • Volcanic ashes ascend from the south-east crater of the Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily, Italy, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The second-strongest paroxysm of 2022 produced volcanic smoke and ashes that rose for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) forcing the temporary closure of the nearby Vincenzo Bellini international airport in Catania. Credit: AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli
  • People look at volcanic ashes ascending from the south-east crater of the Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily, Italy, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The second-strongest paroxysm of 2022 produced volcanic smoke and ashes that rose for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) forcing the temporary closure of the nearby Vincenzo Bellini international airport in Catania. Credit: AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli

More recently, in 1983, dynamite was used to divert lava threatening towns. In 1992, the army built an earthen wall to contain the lava, flowing from Etna for months, so it wouldn’t barrel into one of the villages on the slopes.



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Hexbyte Glen Cove How vacation photos of zebras and whales can help conservation

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Vacation photos of zebras and whales that tourists post on social media may have a benefit they never expected: helping researchers track and gather information on endangered species.

Scientists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze photos of zebras, sharks and other animals to identify and track individuals and offer new insights into their movements, as well as population trends.

“We have millions of images of endangered and threatened animals taken by scientists, camera traps, drones and even tourists,” said Tanya Berger-Wolf, director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute at The Ohio State University.

“Those images contain a wealth of data that we can extract and analyze to help protect animals and combat extinction.”

And a new field called imageomics is taking the use of wildlife images a step further by using AI to extract biological information on animals directly from their photos, said Berger-Wolf, a professor of computer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State.

She discussed recent advances in using AI to analyze wildlife images and the founding of imageomics in a presentation Feb. 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She spoke at the scientific session “Crowdsourced Science: Volunteers and Machine Learning Protect the Wild for All.”

One of the biggest challenges that environmentalists face is the lack of data available on many threatened and .

“We’re losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate and we don’t even know how much and what we’re losing,” Berger-Wolf said.

Of the more than 142,000 on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the status of greater than half are not known because there is not enough data, or their population trend is uncertain.

“If we want to save African elephants from extinction, we have to know how many there are in the world, and where they are, and how fast they’re declining,” Berger-Wolf said.

“We don’t have enough GPS collars and satellite tags to monitor all the elephants and answer those questions. But we can use AI techniques such as to analyze images of elephants to provide much of the information we need.”

Berger-Wolf and her colleagues created a system called Wildbook that uses computer vision algorithms to analyze photos taken by tourists on vacation and researchers in the field to identify not only species of animals, but individuals.

“Our AI algorithms can identify individuals using anything striped, spotted, wrinkled or notched—even the shape of a whale’s fluke or the dorsal fin of a dolphin,” she said.

For example, Wildbook contains more than 2 million photos of about 60,000 uniquely identified whales and dolphins from around the world.

“This is now one of the primary sources of information scientists have on killer whales—they are data deficient no longer,” she said.

In addition to sharks and whales, there are wildbooks for zebras, turtles, giraffes, African carnivores and other species.

Berger-Wolf and her colleagues have developed an AI agent that searches publicly shared posts for relevant species. That means many people’s vacation photos of sharks they saw in the Caribbean, for example, end up being used in Wildbook for science and conservation, she said.

Together with information about when and where images were taken, these photos can aid in conservation by providing population counts, birth and death dynamics, species range, social interactions and interactions with other species, including humans, she said.

This has been very useful, but Berger-Wolf said researchers are looking to move the field forward with imageomics.

“The ability to extract biological information from images is the foundation of imageomics,” she explained. “We’re teaching machines to see things in images that humans may have missed or can’t see.”

For example, is the pattern of stripes on a zebra similar in some meaningful way to its mother’s pattern and, if so, can that give information about their genetic similarities? How do the skulls of bat species vary with environmental conditions, and what evolutionary adaptation drives that change? These and many other questions may be answered by machine learning analysis of photos.

The National Science Foundation awarded Ohio State $15 million in September to lead the creation of the Imageomics Institute, which will help guide scientists from around the world in this new field. Berger-Wolf is a principal investigator of the institute.

As the use of AI in analyzing wildlife images continues to grow, Berger-Wolf said, one key will be to make sure the AI is used equitably and ethically.

For one, researchers have to make sure it does no harm. For example, data must be protected so that it cannot be used by poachers to target endangered species.

But it must be more than just that.

“We have to make sure that it is a human-machine partnership in which humans trust the AI. The AI should, by design, be participatory, connecting among the people, among the data and among the geographical locations,” she said.



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Hexbyte Glen Cove Ethiopia starts generating power at Nile mega-dam

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says the commissioning of the GERD is ‘the birth of a new era’

Ethiopia began generating electricity from its mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Sunday, a milestone in the controversial multi-billion dollar project.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, accompanied by high-ranking officials, toured the power station and pressed a series of buttons on an electronic screen, a move that officials said initiated production.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa but has been at the centre of a dispute with downstream nations Egypt and Sudan ever since work first began in 2011.

Abiy described Sunday’s development as “the birth of a new era”.

“This is a good news for our continent & the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together,” he said on Twitter.

Addis Ababa deems the project essential for the electrification and development of Africa’s second most populous country, but Cairo and Khartoum fear it could threaten their access to vital Nile waters.

Abiy dismissed those concerns.

“As you can see this water will generate energy while flowing as it previously flowed to Sudan and Egypt, unlike the rumours that say the Ethiopian people and government are damming the water to starve Egypt and Sudan,” he said as water rushed through the concrete colossus behind him.

But Cairo denounced Sunday’s start-up, saying Addis Ababa was “persisting in its violations” of a 2015 declaration of principles on the project.

Map of East Africa showing the Nile and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

‘Resisting external pressure’

The $4.2-billion (3.7-billion-euro) dam is ultimately expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current output.

Only one of 13 turbines is currently operational, with a capacity of 375 megawatts.

A second will come online within a few months, project manager Kifle Horo told AFP, adding that the dam is currently expected to be fully completed in 2024.

The 145-metre (475-foot) high structure straddles the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees it as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding, but fears its own dams could be harmed without agreement on the GERD’s operation.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) sits astride the Blue Nile.

Both have long been pushing for a binding deal over the filling and operation of the massive dam, but African Union-sponsored talks have failed to achieve a breakthrough.

William Davison, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the GERD is seen domestically “as a symbol of Ethiopia resisting external pressure”.

“The government has propagated the idea that foreign actors are trying to undermine Ethiopia’s sovereignty, so I think this will be cast as showing they are still making progress despite a hostile environment.”

Addisu Lashitew of the Brookings Institution in Washington described the GERD’s commissioning as a “rare positive development that can unite a deeply fractured country” after 15 months of brutal conflict with Tigrayan rebels.

“The newly-generated electricity from the GERD could help revive an economy that has been devastated by the combined forces of a deadly war, rising fuel prices and the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Work on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) first began in 2011.

Project delays

The dam was initiated under former prime minister Meles Zenawi, the Tigrayan leader who ruled Ethiopia for more than two decades until his death in 2012.

Civil servants contributed one month’s salary towards the project in the year it launched, and the government has since issued dam bonds targeting Ethiopians at home and abroad.

Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front that has been at war with government forces since November 2020, said Abiy was taking credit for a project launched under a Tigrayan-led government.

“Today #AbiyAhmed is trying to cash in on a project that he once publicly downplayed as a meaningless publicity stunt,” he tweeted.

But officials on Sunday credited Abiy with reviving the dam after delays they claim were caused by mismanagement.

“Our country has lost so much because the dam was delayed, especially financially,” project manager Kifle said.

The process of filling the vast reservoir began in 2020, with Ethiopia announcing in July of that year it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres.

The reservoir’s total capacity is 74 billion cubic metres, and the target for 2021 was to add 13.5 billion.

Last July Ethiopia said it had hit that target, meaning there was enough water to begin producing energy, although some experts had cast doubt on the claims.

Kifle declined to reveal how much water was collected last year or what the target is for the coming rainy season.



© 2022 AFP

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Ethiopia starts generating power at Nile mega-dam (2022, February 20)
retrieved 21 February 2022
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