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Vol. 343 ,
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Top Stories: Siberian Winters, Fishy Thoughts, and Infrasound Navigation
1 February 2013 4:10 pm
Humans have lived in Siberia, where January temperature averages as low as -25°C, for tens of thousands of years. Now, scientists have identified three genetic mutations that help indigenous Siberians tolerate their frigid climate. The trio of genes, linked to muscle contraction and metabolism, show natural selection is still at work, even among modern humans.
For the first time ever, scientists can watch neurons fire in a freely moving animal. The neurons in genetically modified zebrafish flash brightly as they fire, letting scientists monitor neural activity as the fish hunt for food. Researchers hope the new approach will lead to a better understanding of the human brain, particularly how specific neural circuits are associated with specific behaviors.
Contrary to reports earlier in the week, one of Africa's most important historical archives, the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, has not been torched. The library in Timbuktu, Mali, contains key medieval texts and was feared lost after reports that Islamic fundamentalists burnt it down. But it appears that not only is the structure still standing, but also that most of its important manuscripts have escaped unscathed.
We've finally cracked the secret of avian GPS: infrasound. Although birds have long been lauded for their navigational abilities, the precise source of their skill has remained somewhat of a mystery. Now, scientists think birds use low-level background noise, or infrasound, to build "sound maps" to fly by. When the sound gets interrupted, they can get lost.
Scientists have identified the nerve cells that respond specifically to gentle stroking. Experiments with lab mice show that the furry creatures find the stimulation of these cells to be calming. The findings could eventually lead to feel-good drugs, or even lotions.