1. Antarctic ice melting

In a discovery that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.

The temperature record from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), demonstrates a marked increase of 2.4 degrees Celsius in average annual temperature since 1958 — that is, three times faster than the average temperature rise around the globe.

This temperature increase is nearly double what previous research has suggested. The findings were published online this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Research by University of Ohio researchers suggests that continued summer warming in West Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so that the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does. Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the WAIS could contribute to sea level indirectly, by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region’s natural ice flow into the ocean.

These findings place West Antarctica among the fastest-warming regions on Earth. Enhanced surface melting is already seen to be aiding the breakup of the Antarctic’s Larsen B Ice Shelf, where glaciers at the edge discharged massive sections of ice into the ocean that contributed to sea level rise. The stakes would be much higher if a similar event occurred to an ice shelf restraining one of the enormous WAIS glaciers. Researchers consider the WAIS especially sensitive to climate change. Since the base of the ice sheet rests below sea level, it is vulnerable to direct contact with warm ocean water. Its melting currently contributes 0.3 mm to sea level rise each year, second only to Greenland, whose contribution to sea level rise has been estimated as high as 0.7 mm per year.

2. Human Evolution linked to changes in environment

A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human evolution, according to researchers at Penn State and Rutgers University (USA).

The landscape early humans were inhabiting transitioned rapidly back and forth between a closed woodland and an open grassland about five to six times during a period of 200,000 years. These changes happened very abruptly, with each transition occurring over thousands to just a few hundred years.

The research suggests that evolutionary changes among humans during the period investigated were related to a long, steady environmental change or even one big change in climate.

Early humans went from having trees available to having only grasses available in just 10 to 100 generations, and their diets would have had to change in response. Changes in food availability, food type, or the ways of getting food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those changes. The result can be increased brain size and cognition, changes in locomotion and even social changes — how people interact with others in a group. Thus, the research suggests that the environment changed dramatically over a short time, and this variability coincides with an important period in human evolution.

3. New type of Nerve Cell Found in the Brain

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands, have identified a previously unknown group of nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rhythm and blood pressure. It is hoped that the discovery, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, will be significant in the long term in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in humans.

4. Discovering Secrets to Long Life and Disease Resistance in bats

Bats are amazing creatures. They’ve been around for at least 65 million years, and in that time have become one of the most abundant and widespread mammals on Earth.

Research by Australian Animal Health Laboratory and Beijing genome institute provides an insight into the evolution of the bat’s flight, resistance to viruses, and relatively long life. Researchers sequenced the genomes of two bat species — the Black Flying Fox, an Australian mega bat, and the David’s Myotis, a Chinese micro bat.

Once the genomes were sequenced, they compared them to the genomes of other mammals, including humans, to find where the similarities and differences lay.

Bats are a natural reservoir for several lethal viruses, such as Hendra, Ebola and SARS, but they often don’t succumb to disease from these viruses. They’re also the only mammal that can fly, and they live a long time compared to animals similar in size.

Flying is a very energy intensive activity that also produces toxic by-products, and bats have developed some novel genes to deal with the toxins. Some of these genes, including P53, are implicated in the development of cancer or the detection and repair of damaged DNA.

A deeper understanding of these evolutionary adaptations in bats may lead to better treatments for human diseases.

5. Men’s Insecurities affect their Views of Women

A new study suggests that men’s insecurities about relationships and conflicted views of women as romantic partners and rivals could lead some to adopt sexist attitudes about women. The study was recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a peer-reviewed journal.

Researchers at Lawrence University and Cazenovia College (USA), surveyed more than 400 men to gauge their responses to questions about their attachment style, hostile and benevolent sexism, and views on romance.

Attachment style refers to the way people relate to others in the context of intimate relationships, defined by two personality traits: attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. Both traits reflect different kinds of relationship insecurities; people who are low in both traits are considered secure.

Hostile sexism depicts women as mean-spirited foes who aim to dominate men. Benevolent sexism regards them as objects of adoration and affection, but also fragile and needy of chivalrous treatment.

Previous research has found that some men view women as offering the possibility of romantic fulfillment, but also competing with them in areas such as the workplace, where both vie for similar resources.

The study found that anxiously attached men tend to be ambivalent sexists — both hostile and benevolent — whereas avoidantly attached men typically endorse hostile sexism, while rejecting benevolent sexism.

The survey results also showed that anxiously attached men tend to be romantics at heart who adopt benevolently sexist beliefs, while avoidantly attached men lean toward social dominance. That, in turn, leads them to embrace hostile sexism.

The findings highlight how personality traits could predispose men to be sexists. This information could help couples build stronger relationships, particularly during therapy.

6. Discrimination Increases Risk-Taking, Anger, and Vigilance

Experiencing rejection not only affects how we think and feel — over the long-term it can also influence our physical and mental health. New research suggests that when rejection comes in the form of discrimination, people respond with a pattern of thoughts, behaviors, and physiological responses that may contribute to overall health disparities.

Psychological factors, like discrimination, have been suggested as part of the causal mechanisms that explain how discrimination gets ‘under the skin’ to affect health. Researchers from University of California wanted to explore the behavioral consequences that follow experiences of discrimination to better understand these mechanisms.

Based on previous research, the researchers hypothesized that people would react differently depending on whether they were rejected by members of their in-group or by members of an out-group. Specifically, they predicted that people who experienced perceived discrimination-rejection from someone of another race-would show responses characteristic of approach-orientation, including anger, increased blood flow, greater vigilance, and more risk-taking behavior.

The results from the study are reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The results indicate that people who experience discrimination had increased cardiac output, lower vascular resistance, and lower cortisol reactivity. They also showed more anger.


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