Hexbyte Glen Cove UK university can reduce CO2 emissions by 4% with shorter winter semesters

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, reporting in the journal iScience on December 8, found that shifting learning weeks to the summer term and extending the winter vacation period can reduce the university’s yearly CO2 emissions by more than 4%.

While strategies to reduce normally require significant time and financial investment, the authors say that this kind of schedule change could offer a simple and low-cost way to reduce carbon emissions. “This approach does not really require any significant investment,” says Wei Sun, an system researcher and Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and author on the paper. “We just need willingness from staff and students to be open to the changes in semester dates.”

Sun and his colleagues monitored how more than 20 universities are currently managing their energy consumptions on campus, including their semester schedules. Then, the team looked at heat and for the University of Edinburgh, where some of them work, over the course of the year. This helped them propose the most environmentally friendly semester schedule for the university.

They found that by starting a new semester on the second week of September, followed by a 12-week winter learning semester and a 5-week winter holiday, they could reduce CO2 emissions by 167 tonnes, 4.2% of the university’s total.

“This would mean there was an extended period off during the winter period, and in turn, longer summer semesters. This could contribute to lower heating costs during the period and a decrease in emissions overall,” says Sun.

Other universities could adopt a similar approach but timings would need to vary based on where they are located, he says. “In future studies, it would be useful to adapt our approach to compare the energy consumptions of universities under different climate zones to see what impact our approach would have globally. But for UK universities, it’s clear that changing semester times could reduce emissions,” says Sun.

This study was conducted before the pandemic, and Sun and his colleagues would like to explore how hybrid learning would affect their recommendations. “In a post-pandemic world, we will be looking into other strategies to reduce emissions,” he says. “We saw a huge carbon reduction during the pandemic and now things are slowly getting back to normal, so we’d like to see if emissions continue to drop with lectures now online and less physical attendance in person.”

More information:
Wei Sun, Arranging university semester date to minimize annual CO2 emission: a UK university case study, iScience (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.103414. www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext … 2589-0042(21)01385-7

UK university can reduce CO2 emissions by 4% with shorter winter semesters (2021, December 8)
retrieved 9 December 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-12-uk-university-co2-emissions-shorter.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Going for gold to reduce antibiotic resistance

Hexbyte Glen Cove

The gold nanoclusters in their “molecular envelope.” The ligands in blue are the zwitterionic ones while those in red are positively charged ones. They are bound to the Au25 cluster (in brown) via thiol molecules (yellow). Credit: University of Leeds

Tiny particles of gold could be the new weapon in the fight against bacterial antibiotic resistance, according to research just published.

Scientists have been investigating the use of gold nanoclusters—each made up of about 25 atoms of gold—to target and disrupt , making them more susceptible to standard antibiotic treatments.

A report from the World Health Organization last year said, “Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” and called for greater investment in ways to tackle the problem.

For several years, researchers have recognized the antimicrobial properties of specially-adapted gold nanoparticles, but they have struggled to find a way of getting the nanoparticles to the site of a bacterial infection without harming healthy host mammalian .

Now a study by an international team of scientists from the University of Leeds, Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen and Fudan University, Shanghai, both in China, has identified a way of packaging the gold nanoclusters in a molecular envelope that makes them less toxic to healthy tissue without affecting their antibacterial properties.

Laboratory studies have shown that the approach has had a “strong effect” in terms of killing a range of bacteria, some linked to hospital acquired infections and resistant to standard antibiotic treatments.

The findings, which are based on laboratory investigations and not patient trials, have been published in the journal Chemical Science.

Forces of nature

The scientists’ solution exploits electrostatic forces in nature.

Bacterial cell walls are more strongly negatively charged than the cells of mammals. Using the idea that opposite charges attract, the gold nanoclusters are wrapped in a molecule called a ligand that is positively charged. Like a carrier pigeon, it finds and delivers the nanoclusters to the wall of bacteria cells, where they disrupt the bacterial cell membrane.

The disruption to the cell membrane increases the permeability of the bacterial cell to standard antibiotic treatments, giving a new lease of life to that are either ineffective or have waning effectiveness against resistant bacteria.

The problem, though, is the positively charged molecule wrapped around each is also toxic to healthy host mammalian cells.

Reducing toxicity

To protect host cells, the scientists have added a second ligand to the envelope around each nanocluster. These molecules have both positive and negative charges and are called zwitterionic groups, which are also found in the lipids of cell membranes in mammals. This makes the gold nanoclusters more compatible with host mammalian cells, and easier for the gold nanoclusters to pass through the kidney and be excreted from the body.

In , the scientists investigated whether the gold nanoclusters would be effective in reducing the defenses of the bacterial cells—and make them more susceptible to antibiotic treatment.

They used a bacterial strain called methicillin resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis (MRSE), which is responsible for some hospital-acquired infections.

They tested three antibiotics—each representing a class of antibiotics—against MRSE with and without the gold nanoclusters.

In those cases where the antibiotic was used in combination with the gold nanoclusters, there was an improved antimicrobial effect. With one class of antibiotics, there was a 128-fold decrease in the amount of antibiotic needed to inhibit growth of MRSE.

Dejian Zhou, Professor at Nanochemistry at the University of Leeds and one of the supervisors of the research, said, “Despite extensive research in antibacterial nanomaterials, most of the research has only focused on boosting antibacterial potency without considering their biocompatibility, stability and ability to be excreted from the body. These are essential requirements for clinical approval. As a result, many of the promising antibacterial nanomaterials will not progress to become therapeutic agents to be used in medicine.

“By systematically tuning the ratio of the two ligands, we have identified a way of using gold nanoclusters not only to act as effective antimicrobial agents, but as a mechanism to enhance the potency of antibiotics which have become ineffective because of bacterial drug resistance.

“The research has a significance on the way we should be thinking about responding to antimicrobial resistance.”

Professor Zhou hopes that the research findings will be picked up by the pharmaceutical industry. He believes combing nanoclusters with existing antibiotics will be a faster and cheaper alternative to developing a host of new antibiotics in response to .

More information:
Zeyang Pang et al, Controlling the pyridinium–zwitterionic ligand ratio on atomically precise gold nanoclusters allowing for eradicating Gram-positive drug-resistant bacteria and retaining biocompatibility, Chemical Science (2021). DOI: 10.1039/D1SC03056F

Going for gold to reduce antibiotic resistance (2021, November 9)
retrieved 9 November 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-gold-antibiotic-resistance.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Want to reduce cockroach sex? Block an enzyme thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Want to reduce cockroach sex? Block an enzyme

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

It’s not the look in her compound eyes or the shape of her carapace that really attracts the male cockroach to his mate. Instead, it’s all those 29-carbon hydrocarbons in her cuticle that drive him wild. How the female cockroach regulates production of these contact sex pheromones, and what happens when she produces too few, is the subject of a new study publishing on July 27th in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Tong-Xian Liu of Northwest A&F University in Yangling, China, and colleagues.

The German , Blatella germanica, is the most common, and most despised, cockroach around the world. Like other insects, its exoskeleton is impregnated with a rich mix of molecules, including oily hydrocarbons that help keep the cockroach from drying out. A key feature that distinguishes male from female cockroaches is the abundance of one such , called 3,11-DimethylC29, which is chemically converted into a female sex pheromone. When the male senses the pheromone with his antennae, he raises his wings to expose a nutrient-containing gland. While the female feasts on its contents, the male copulates with her.

Like other long-chain fatty molecules, the pheromone precursor is synthesized in part by elongating a shorter hydrocarbon chain, through the action of a type of enzyme called an elongase. To better understand how that synthesis is regulated, the authors blocked the set of cockroach elongases using RNA interference. When one elongase, BgElo12, was knocked down, they found that the level of the pheromone was reduced and males were less attracted to the affected females.

Using RNAi knockdown, they showed that BgElo12 production was regulated by two insect sex differentiation studied previously in fruit flies. In male cockroaches, a gene called Doublesex repressed the production of the elongase, limiting the amount of pheromone produced. In females, however, another gene, called Transformer, blocked the effect of Doublesex, turning on the elongase gene. The authors showed that knocking down Transformer in females led again to limited production and to reduced sexual attractiveness.

“The identification of this pathway regulating female contact pheromones is valuable,” Liu said, “as it enriches our general understanding of the regulation of insect sexual behavior. Further, the elucidation of this key pathway in the cockroach in particular may well lead to better ways to control reproduction of this globally significant pest.”

More information:
Xiao-Jin Pei et al, Modulation of fatty acid elongation in cockroaches sustains sexually dimorphic hydrocarbons and female attractiveness, PLOS Biology (2021). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001330

Want to reduce cockroach sex? Block an enzyme (2021, July 27)
retrieved 28 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-cockroach-sex-block-enzyme.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove An easy way to reduce socioeconomic disparities thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove An easy way to reduce socioeconomic disparities

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Researchers from Columbia University and Temple University published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that examines how choice architecture can reduce socioeconomic disparities.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Do Nudges Reduce Disparities? Choice Architecture Compensates for Low Consumer Knowledge” and is authored by Kellen Mrkva, Nathaniel Posner, Crystal Reeck, and Eric Johnson.

As Mrkva explains, “Our research demonstrates that people with (SES), low numerical ability, and low knowledge are most impacted by nudges. As a result, ‘good nudges,’ designed to encourage selection of options that are in people’s best interests, reduce SES disparities, helping low-SES people more than high-SES people.” On the other hand, nudges that encourage selection of inferior options exacerbate disparities relative to “good nudges” because low-SES consumers are more likely to retain inferior default options. In other words, nudges are a double-edged sword that can either reduce disparities or make matters worse because they impact low-SES people most. The research team generalized its findings across three different types of nudges, several different consumer contexts, and real retirement decisions.

This research has major implications, including for the COVID vaccination process. Across the country, millions of people are now eligible to get a COVID vaccine. However, the signup process is often unnecessarily complex. New York’s nycHealthy sign-up portal, for example, includes as many as 51 questions and requests that you upload your insurance card. As a result, many people, especially the elderly, poor, and less digitally literate, have struggled or failed to make an appointment. As Johnson explains, “Our research suggests that making beneficial behaviors like vaccination simpler has a crucial and underappreciated advantage—it reduces socioeconomic disparities. On the other hand, when these behaviors are unnecessarily complex, it is typically low-SES consumers who are harmed the most.”

In five experiments as well as data from real retirement decisions, the researchers show that people who are lower in SES, domain knowledge, and numeracy are impacted more by a variety of nudges. As a result, “good nudges” that facilitate selection of welfare-enhancing options reduce disparities by helping low-SES, low-knowledge, and low-numeracy consumers most.

In Study 1, participants made five consumer financial decisions. For each decision, they were randomly assigned to a “no default,” “good default,” or “bad default” condition (the latter two pre-selected correct or incorrect options, respectively). After they made these five decisions, participants completed common measures of the three hypothesized moderators—financial literacy, numeracy, and socioeconomic status. As predicted, there was a large default effect. There were also interactions between the default condition and the three moderators; participants lower in these moderators were more impacted by defaults. These effects remained significant when adding survey engagement, comprehension, need for cognition, agreeableness, decision time, and their interactions with condition to the model as covariates.

Study 2 examines whether these effects generalized across three different types of nudges and three decision contexts. It replicated the SES and financial literacy effects of Study 1 across all nudges and contexts. Unlike Study 1 and all subsequent studies, the x numeracy interaction was not significant. The key effects remained significant when controlling for a measure of fluid intelligence.

Study 3 uses syndicated data from stratified random samples of American households about their retirement investment decisions to examine a sample of people who work for companies that use defaults to automatically enroll employees into retirement contributions. Respondents reported whether they retained or opted out of the default contribution amount and default investment allocation. Evidence supports that lower-SES and less financially literate people are more impacted by nudges and thus less likely to opt out of these retirement defaults: Lower-SES participants were less likely to opt out as were participants with lower financial literacy.

Study 4 replicated these effects in the context of COVID-19 health decisions (e.g., deciding whether to wear a mask). Additionally, domain-specific health knowledge moderated default effects whereas other-domain knowledge did not. Studies 5-6 replicated the predicted moderators from Study 1 with incentives. Mediation models suggest that people with lower SES, domain knowledge, and numeracy were more impacted by nudges partly because they experience higher uncertainty and decision anxiety when making decisions.

Across the six studies, nudges influenced choice disparities across people. Posner summarizes the study by saying “Our results suggest that nudges that make behaviors such as retail purchases, vaccine sign-up, and retirement contributions more automatic can reduce socioeconomic inequities.”

More information:

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