Scientists analyze how people feel about initiatives for environmental sustainability

People tend to be skeptical about the changes society will have to make to sustain the environment. In particular, according to a study by Paul Bain and Tim Kurz of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, most people are skeptical that we can achieve a more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable world at the same time.

In essence, people believe that the efforts being made to combat climate change and reduce pollution will have a significant cost in terms of quality of life. This is an additional obstacle that those who are responsible for carrying out these same changes will have to overcome in order to achieve the goal of achieving a more sustainable world in general.

The study, published in Nature Sustainability, analyzed the responses of over 2100 people from 12 developed and developing countries. The questions concerned the objectives that the countries are proposing to achieve this goal.

“A minority of people believe that everything can be achieved, but most people believe that not all problems can be solved at once, and wherever we direct our resources will have consequences elsewhere.”

The results of this study could help to design better communication policies to overcome public skepticism that a more sustainable world is actually achievable and that it does not have to conflict with quality of life.


Fake shrimps made from algae and vegetable proteins will come on the market

Shrimps made with layers of algae and vegetable proteins very similar, at least aesthetically, to the original ones: this is the purpose of New Wave Foods, one of the many new companies that are entering a rapidly growing market, namely that of “impossible” foods, imitations that may be acceptable from a visual point of view and possibly also from a taste point of view, of real foods.

Michelle Wolf, a materials scientist and biomedical engineer, as well as one of the people responsible for the technology linked to the production of these fake shrimps, says that the latter have the typical consistency and the characteristic “pop” when you bite the shrimps: “so much work has been dedicated to this,” she reports.

The algae and vegetable proteins used contain the eight amino acids found in shrimp meat, a characteristic that should not cause the taste of this imitation to differ too much from that of real shrimps. These “shrimps” would also provide a lower intake in terms of calories and salt.

New Wave Food was founded in 2015 by Wolf herself together with Dominique Barnes, an oceanographer.

But why shrimps? The fact is that the production of these crustaceans in aquaculture can be seriously damaging to different ecosystems and some scientists have already published a study in the past about the fact that the rapid growth of the shrimp market could have a direct impact on climate change.

Discriminatory shrimp fishing itself also leads to significant problems in terms of sustainability, first and foremost the unintended capture of other often protected or endangered species.


Study proposes a tax on sugary snacks

After the good results achieved by the taxes applied to sweetened beverages in various parts of the world, a research group proposes the same type of taxation for snacks with high sugar content.

According to the researchers, who published their study in the British Medical Journal, in order to combat the growing obesity among the population, it is necessary to seriously consider, subjecting it to further research, the possibility of increasing the prices of this type of snack.

In fact, according to the same researchers, this new tax could achieve even better results than that applied to sweetened beverages. The fact is that obesity is proving to be a sort of “pandemic”: it is increasing not only in the richest countries but in most regions of the world. And this leads to various problems, including economic ones, considering the costs that society often has to bear for the treatment of all diseases related to obesity.

To contribute to the same obesity, child and not, are also the large quantities of sugar present in the various “snacks”, biscuits, candies, chocolates, and so on and so forth. Supermarket shelves are increasingly full of such products.

In the course of the study, researchers used economic modeling and assessed the impact of a 20% increase in UK prices for sugar-rich snacks. The modeling was based on data from 36,324 UK households and 2544 adults in a national study.

Of course, other factors such as household income, body mass index, etc. were also taken into account by the researchers. The models show that a 20% tax in all households in each income bracket would result in a decrease in consumption of these products for an average annual loss of 8900 calories and an average weight loss of around 1 pound per year.


Student locates new armored archosaur that lived 200 million years ago

A new species of reptilian, which lived in the late Triassic period, about 200 million years ago, has been recognized as being classified by a student of the University of Bristol. The student, Erin Patrick, has analyzed two fossil fragments preserved, among other things, for several decades, in the shelves of the Museum of Natural History in London.

Helped by researchers Mike Benton and David Whiteside of the School of Earth Sciences in Bristol, she classified the Aenigmaspina pantyffynnonensis: the first term refers to a particular characteristic of the vertebrae, the second refers to the quarry of Pant-y-ffynnon in South Wales, where the findings were found.

The Aenigmaspina pantyffynnonensis was an armored creature, an archosaur of the group of crurotarsi very similar to the Erpetosuchus, another late triassic reptile whose remains were found in the past in Scotland and the eastern United States, as specified by Professor Benton. The pantyffynnonensis lived on a small limestone island that was part of a subtropical archipelago.

The fossil remains are represented by two blocks of rock showing various forms of small bones including vertebrae, ribs, a scapula and the shape of what researchers have classified as a kind of armor. The researchers analyzed all the details through magnification and recreated the body of the animal in a three-dimensional way.

The Aenigmaspina pantyffynnonensis is the fourth of the new species identified thanks to the remains found in the quarry of Pant-yffynnon. Among those already identified, there are also the crocodileomorph Terrestrisuchus and the dinosaur sauropodomorph Pantydraco.


The world’s smallest accelerometer created with graphene

A group of researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology has created what was defined as the world’s smallest accelerometer, a device that could revolutionize the wearable device compartment or that of video games.

The researchers used the nano material of the moment, graphene, to create the transducer, which can also be manufactured at low cost. It is an ultra-small accelerometer defined by Xuge Fan, a researcher at the Department of Micro and Nanosystems of KTH, “the smallest electromechanical accelerometer in the world” made thanks to the possibility of using thick components on an atomic scale such as those made of graphene.

The researchers have created a piezo-resistant NEMS (nano-electromechanical systems) accelerometer that, despite being very small, maintains the level of sensitivity required by these devices with a size measurable in a few millimeters for a device at least two orders of magnitude smaller than conventional accelerometers made with silicon, even the most advanced.

What are the possible uses? Monitoring systems for cardiovascular diseases as well as devices for the acquisition of data on ultra-sensitive and portable motion, able to monitor even the smallest movements of the human body, video game peripherals, resonators, gyroscopes and microphones.


Wolf dogs are spreading more and more accelerating the extinction of wolves

Herds of wolfdogs can pose serious difficulties and even lead to the extinction of wolves according to a new study produced by researchers of the University of Exeter. The wolf dogs, crossbreeds between dogs and wolves, could in fact drive out wolves from many regions of Europe, further reducing their habitats, until they accelerate their extinction.

The hybridization itself between dogs and wolves has been mostly driven by human activities. Humans have destroyed wolves’ habitats and encouraged an increasing spread of dogs in the wild, which has led to increasingly frequent crossings between the two species.

The study was based on the opinions of more than 40 scientists and experts on the subject, most of whom agree that it is a problem even though not everyone agrees on the methods to be used to address it. Not everyone agrees, for example, on the forced removal of dogs in freedom or on the fact that they should be kept in special facilities or sterilized or even suppressed.

The main author of the study, Valerio Donfrancesco, a researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter, states that these disagreements “have emerged from divergent ethical values among scientists from different backgrounds, such as ecologists and geneticists, from the lack of data on the effectiveness of different interventions and from the concern of some scientists that, on a practical level, allowing the removal of hybrids could open a legal loophole for the killing of wolves.

According to the other author of the study, Paolo Ciucci, of the Sapienza University of Rome, although the situation is indeed complex, there is still room for consensus “if further research will address topical issues such as the effectiveness and feasibility of control measures and their social acceptability”.

The study was published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.


DNA mutations accelerate biological age and aging

Research suggests that DNA changes can be one of the causes of serious age-related diseases, including heart disease and other age-related diseases.

Researchers have analyzed somatic mutations, that is DNA alterations that usually affect the work done by stem cells within the blood. According to the researchers, these very mutations, and the pathologies they can cause, accelerate the biological age of the individual regardless of the chronological age.

The biological age and the age that can be attributed to a person depending on his or her physical condition in relation to various reference standards and that can be unrelated to age.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. The researchers analyzed more than 1000 elderly people aged between 80 and 90 years.

The results showed that 6% of the participants with somatic mutations were almost four years older than the biological age of the participants without mutations.

The study was published in Current Biology.


Impact of climate change on banana cultivation studied

A new study analyses the impact that climate change is having and will have on banana related agricultural production. Produced by Dan Bebber of the University of Exeter, the study analyses this impact on 27 countries representing 86% of world banana production.

Since 1961, these countries have seen an average increase in crop yields due to climate change, largely due to higher heat levels in many regions, which naturally led to more favorable growth conditions. However, the same study shows that by 2050, if climate change continues at today’s rate, these yield gains will be almost completely offset.

This also applies to India, the world’s largest producer of bananas, and Brazil, the fourth. Only a few countries, including Ecuador and Honduras, could see an overall benefit in the quantity of the harvest.

Bebber himself, Professor of Life Sciences at Exeter University, says: “We are very concerned about the impact of diseases such as fusarium on bananas, but the impacts of climate change have been largely ignored. There will be winners and losers in the coming years and our study could stimulate vulnerable countries to prepare through investment in technologies such as irrigation.”


Scientists create a catalog of human gut bacteria

A team of researchers from MIT and the Broad Institute has created a vast sample book containing nearly 8000 strains of bacteria from the human intestinal microbiome. As has long been known, most of these bacteria are useful or otherwise not harmful but there is a small minority that contributes to various health problems, including inflammatory bowel diseases.

The data set is available to all other researchers the hope of its creators is that it will help shed more light on the various dynamics of the many populations of bacteria found in the digestive tract of humans, as specified by Eric Alm, director of the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics as well as professor at Al MIT.

The database was created by analyzing the stool collected from about 90 people in the Boston area over the course of two years. Currently, researchers are trying to improve the same database by analyzing samples from around the world. In this way, for example, it will be possible to identify and catalog the microbial strains that are not found in the intestinal tracts of those people who live in an industrialized area and in any case the catalog will certainly be more complete.

“Exploring this genetic and functional diversity is fascinating – wherever we look, we discover new things. I am convinced that enriching biobanks with a wide variety of strains from individuals living different lifestyles is essential for future progress in human microbiome research,” reports Mathilde Poyet, MIT researcher and one of the main authors of the study that appeared in Nature Medicine.

This study fits into the current stream of new research that is increasingly taking into account the weight and general importance of human microbes. Despite the numerous researches, at the moment it is still difficult to understand the functions of many bacteria and the links they may have with various diseases.


Researchers decode the pea genome

A team of researchers from the University of Western Australia has decoded the entire pea genome. The study, published in Nature Genetics, may be useful not only to understand how this legume evolved but also to improve the level of collection.

And, given that we are talking about one of the most consumed foods in the world, obtaining an improvement in crops may be a weapon against world hunger. The result was obtained by professors David Edwards and Jacqueline Batley of the School of Biological Sciences of the UWA and various other colleagues.

The entire genome of the pea extends for about 4.45 billion letters, as reported by Edwards and the same complete decoding has been possible only thanks to technological innovations that have taken place in recent years in the field of genome sequencing. A result that would have been impossible only 10-15 years ago.

According to the abstract of the study, compared to other genomes already sequenced of other legumes, this pea shows “an intense genetic dynamic” that is probably due to the expansion of the size of the genome itself when the Fabeae began to diverge in evolutionary level from the sister tribes.