There and Back Again: Mantle Xenon Has a Story to Tell

By Talia Ogliore

The Earth has been through a lot of changes in its 4.5 billion year history, including a shift to incorporating and retaining volatile compounds such as water, nitrogen and carbon from the atmosphere in the mantle before spewing them out again through volcanic eruptions.

This transport could not have begun much before 2.5 billion years ago, according to researchers at UC Davis and Washington University in St. Louis, published Aug. 9 in the journal Nature.

Markers of Cellular Aging Improve During Insight Meditation Retreat

By Anahita Hamidi

Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences that act as protective “caps” at the end of DNA strands. As cells age, either as a function of time or as a result of stress and poor health, telomeres tend to shorten. As such, telomere length can be used as a crude biological marker of health and well-being.

Telomeres are caps at the end of a chromosome. They become shorter with aging. (Getty Images)

A recent study by researchers at the University of California Davis, Center for Mind and Brain, measured changes in telomere length, telomerase (the enzyme which replenishes telomeres), and telomere-regulating genes in a group of individuals who participated in a month-long Insight meditation retreat.

Defend Against Predators or Run? Evolutionary Tradeoffs in Butterflyfish

How does a fish avoid being eaten by a bigger fish? Evolution could build up defenses such as spines or armor, or favor avoidance strategies such as quick reactions, swimming away and hiding. The rules of evolution are tough, so you cannot really have both, the argument goes.

But this hypothesis has been difficult to test in practice. Now Jennifer Hodge, a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Peter Wainwright and colleagues in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences, has carried out a survey of hundreds of specimens of butterflyfish, carefully measuring their physical traits and defenses compared to feeding style.

Reversing Cause And Effect Is No Trouble For Quantum Computers

Watch a movie backwards and you’ll likely get confused – but a quantum computer wouldn’t.

In research published 18 July in Physical Review X, an international team shows that a quantum computer is less in thrall to the arrow of time than a classical computer. In some cases, it’s as if the quantum computer doesn’t need to distinguish between cause and effect at all.

We find it easier to understand events in time sequence, but a quantum computer may not be so limited, say researchers at UC Davis and the National University of Singapore. Image by Aki Honda/Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore.

Shedding Light on the Energy-Efficiency of Photosynthesis

By Amy Quinton

Photosynthesis is one of the most crucial life processes on earth. It’s how plants get their food, using energy from sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide from the air into sugars. It’s long been thought that more than 30 percent of the energy produced during photosynthesis is wasted in a process called photorespiration.

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, suggests that photorespiration wastes little energy and instead enhances nitrate assimilation, the process that converts nitrate absorbed from the soil into protein.

Study shows plants may not lose energy during photosynthesis. (Getty Images)

Zika Virus May Pose Greater Threat Of Miscarriages Than Previously Thought

26 Percent Of Nonhuman Primates Lost Pregnancies Despite Not Showing Symptoms

By AJ Cheline

Research from several institutions, including the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, suggests that more women could be losing their pregnancies to the Zika virus without knowing they are infected.

The study, published in Nature Medicine July 2, found 26 percent of nonhuman primates infected with Zika during early stages of pregnancy experienced miscarriage or stillbirth even though the animals showed few signs of infection.

Young monkeys

Non-human primates such as these Rhesus macaques have similar brain development and reproductive physiology to humans, making them a good model to study Zika virus infection. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)

Playing It Cool at Ocean Vents

“Black smokers,” or high-temperature hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, have generated a lot of scientific interest since they were discovered forty years ago. By belching hot, mineral-laden water, these vents support communities of microbes and animals far from sunlight.

Octopuses incubate their eggs near the slightly warmer streams of water from cool hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

But not all ocean vents are hot. Cool hydrothermal systems, or cool vents, are much harder to spot because the fluids they release are clear and only a bit warmer than surrounding water. Yet they could play a major role in releasing minerals into the deep ocean.

Success Is Not Just How You Play Your Cards, But How You Play Your Opponents

  •  Poker-playing techniques can apply to strategies in many situations
  • Study can influence scientific approaches to negotiation
  • By Karen Nikos-Rose

    In high-stakes environments, success is not just about playing your cards right, but also playing your opponents right.

    Looking at how more than 35,000 individuals interacted when playing millions of poker hands online during a three-week period, a University of California, Davis, study published today reveals that game experts are an excellent source of insight into how people process strategic information in competitive settings.

    Curiosity Finds Organic (Carbon-based) Material in Gale Crater, Mars

    The Mars Curiosity rover team announced today (June 7) finding organic matter – carbon-based compounds – in three billion year old mudstone sediments from Gale Crater. They also found seasonal changes in the amount of methane in the local atmosphere.

    Scientist and Mars rover

    Dawn Sumner is a member of the Mars Curiosity team.

    Dawn Sumner, professor of earth and planetary sciences at UC Davis, is a member of the Mars Curiosity team and coauthor on the first paper. She helps with sample selection and mission planning and was instrumental in promoting Gale Crater as a landing site for Curiosity.

    Podcast: New Insight on Spinal Injuries

    Spinal injuries are life-changing, and it used to be thought that recovery of limb movement below the injury was impossible. But new research is showing that with the right therapies, the body can find ways to work around spinal injuries. Professor Karen Moxon of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering talks about her work with rats and how they can recover from injury.

    Listen: Three Minute Egghead: New Insight on Spinal Injuries (Soundcloud)

    More information

    Working Around Spinal Injuries (News release)

    Cortex-dependent recovery of unassisted hindlimb locomotion after complete spinal cord injury in adult rats (eLife)