According to a report released recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in which the scientists explored the risk of coral bleaching around the world, Florida coral reefs are significantly affected by the effects of climate change.

The experts explain that coral bleaching occurs when the oceans are warmed due to climate change. Because of this warming, the algae that live close to the corals leave, which makes the coral lose its vibrant colors. The corals then turn white as more algae leave.

Coral bleaching has been happening more frequently in recent years, becoming more acute in the last 20 years.
Previous studies suggest that the majority of coral reefs found in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico will experience bleaching in the near future.

The latest report from NOOA has detailed when and where coral bleaching will take place. According to the study published in the journal Global Change Biology, coral bleaching may vary in timing and location.

Ruben van Hooidonk, a researcher at NOOA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and one of the lead authors of the study, explained that the recent findings will help resource managers to better understand how coral bleaching occurs and how to avoid it from happening.

The researchers refer to some locations as “relative refugia” saying that these locations are less likely to experience extreme events and temperature changes, which will give them time to adapt to the increasing effects of climate change.

Van Hooidonk said that because of this, managers can use this information to try and protect these locations, treating them as refuges.

Also, these special locations could be helped if the managers reduce the damaging effects of human activities.
NOOA identified other locations, aside from Florida, that are expected to experience coral bleaching in the next 15 or so years. These other regions include Mexico, the Bahamas, Cuba, Caicos, Turks, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

These areas should be protected first, according to the NOOA report.
The disappearance of coral reefs can have an economic, ecological and social effect, the researchers explain. Without these coral reefs, many species of fish will lose the habitat they need in order to thrive, which will affect the people whose main food source is fish.

Also, if coral reefs will disappear, it will affect the tourist business, as there are many people who visit certain locations just to dive and see the corals.
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New research in the field of optics offers high hopes for blind people due to a successful experiment promising to advance efforts further than other experts reached so far.

Scientists succeeded in providing sensory input to rats by connecting their brains directly to some tiny digital compasses. The journal Current Biology has published the discovery and sparked some real interest in creating a strange sixth sense in sighted humans. Apparently, they could broaden their senses in order to detect ultrasound waves and ultraviolet radiation.

A team of Japanese researchers endeavored to experiment with adult rats whose eyes were sewn shut simulating blindness. Then their visual cortex was connected to a digital compass, similar to the ones used in smartphones.

The experiment meant the compass was to be connected to a microstimulator, which in turn emitted different electrical signals. At the receiving end, the rat’s visual cortex caught the signals and guided the rat when pointing north or south; therefore, they could essentially “see” via geomagnetic signals.

Without the compass, the rats could not find their way inside the mazes. However, after the compass was attached, it took them only a few days to get used to the way geomagnetic information helped them solve the mazes. Remarkable results showed their performance levels almost reached the standard set by normally sighted rats.

Yuji Ikegaya from the University of Tokyo who co-authored the study said in a statement that the team was surprised to see the rats adapting to the new sense without being “explained” how to use it, and implementing it in solving behavioral tasks in a matter of two or three days.

According to Ikegaya, what the paper tried to show is the immeasurable, albeit latent, capacity of the brain to adapt. The fact that adult rats were used in the experiments pointed to the flexibility of the mammalian brain – even in adulthood. The already developed brain did not stop learning to incorporate a new and never-experienced-before modality into the task at hand.

One obvious application of the study’s findings is the help that it brings to blind people through the attachment of a geomagnetic sensor to walking canes. This, however, is only a small part of what the researchers thought of.

According to their demonstrations, this type of technology might also be used to broaden our senses. Further research could also help humans read and interpret information gleaned from ultrasound waves, ultraviolet radiation – signals not yet detected by our brains.

Reality might gain some new colors if we will learn to be assisted into using our brain to fuller capacity.

Image Source: Humane Research

A government research found that it is very hard for Americans to find healthful food in U.S. grocery stores.

The findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that fewer than half of packaged products that are for sale in almost every grocery-store in the country met Food and Drug Administration requirements for being considered as a “healthy” food.

The results of the study were published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The new data may offer an explanation on why more than 90 percent of Americans consume more salt than recommended.

According to the FDA, more than 70 percent of pizzas, meat mixed dishes and pasta mixed dishes and 50 percent to 70 percent of sandwiches, soups or cold cuts exceed the standards for sodium. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of breads, cheeses and snacks have been found to contain more salt than required.

“More than 70 percent of pizzas, pasta mixed dishes, and meat mixed dishes and 50 percent to 70 percent of cold cuts, soups, and sandwiches exceeded FDA ‘healthy’ labeling standards for sodium, whereas less than 10 percent of breads, savory snacks, and cheeses did,”

Linda Schieb, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and her team researched regional differences across the U.S. in sodium level of foods. Sodium content is a good marker for finding which foods are unhealthy, but is not the only one, sugar content or fat levels are also very important.

“Generally, if you look at the sodium content, it does give you a good indication of how healthy the food would be,” Schieb explained.

The group found out that wherever you live, grocery stores are filled with unhealthy foods, while Americans are buying most of the unhealthful options. The researchers compared all sales in 2009 from grocery stores in three U.S. regions: the South Atlantic, the Pacific and East North Central. In all three division, more than half of products sold exceeded the sodium conditions for healthy foods.

The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture want to get Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fat, sugar and sodium.

The American Heart Association added that people should eat 2,300 milligrams of salt or less every day, but this target is almost impossible to reach in the United States. The main reason is because almost all foods have high levels of sodium.

Image Source: Slate

The most widespread Ebola epidemic in history is showing slow, but sure signs of dying out, as two out of the three West African countries that still have an active outbreak are making significant progress towards getting rid of it. However, this doesn’t mean that the virus isn’t still claiming its victims by the numbers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

In Sierra Leone, streets of major cities will mostly be empty throughout the weekend, as president Ernest Bai Koroma ordered a full lockdown for the country’s six million people, which started Friday at 06:00 AM local time and will end Sunday at 06:00 PM. During this period, the only ones allowed on the streets will be healthcare workers, who will also try and discover hidden cases of infection with the virus. Exceptions for the lockdown will be made for religious prayers/church services.

The lockdown comes as 33 new Ebola cases were discovered last week throughout the country, a sharp rise after a couple of weeks in which numbers of new infections were at their lowest since the start of the epidemic in late 2013. As such, the lockdown was put in place out of fear that the virus might regain its former deathly rate.

On the other side, the last known sufferer from the disease in Liberia died on Friday while being at a treatment center, as stated by the country’s ebola response team chief Francis Ketteh. Reports suggest that the woman may have contracted the disease sexually. At any rate, if no other cases appear in the country over the next forty-two days – representing double the time needed for the virus to end its incubation period – then Liberian government officials may declare the country Ebola-free.

As the epidemic has its highs and lows, international boasting about merits seems to be the name of the game in China. The Chinese official press agency Xinhua posted an article on the English version of its site in which it praises the country’s implication in the Ebola fight as being exemplary. The news agency pointed out China’s aid to Sierra Leone in particular, stating that it was one of the first to offer aid to the country when the epidemic start, and that the most important part of it was that the help came with “no strings attached”.

Image Source: CBC

Facebook just finished hosting it’s not-so-annual F8 developer’s conference, and the announcements that went out of it shaped somewhat the company’s future direction: one in which it plans to adapt its role as a social media mastodon to fit more and more necessities of our day-to-day lives.

Whatever thoughts you might have about this, it’s clear that Zuckerberg’s giant is not just planning on waiting and capitalizing on its already huge success: the plethora of announcements sees it take daring steps towards ideas that might reshape the way we interact through the online each day, but could as well fall flat on their back

The biggest announcement was something that leaked about a week before the conference, with Facebook announcing that their Messenger service will be open to modification by third-party apps; over 40 developers were invited to create such modifications initially, with rumors suggesting that depending on the success of this experiment, the company might decide to leave third-party app development free.

These initial modifications range from the goofy cosmetic ones – such as custom GIF or animation creators, photo effects and much more – to massive functionality changes. One of these has businesses keeping in track with their customers, by creating special channels for customer support. From the customer standpoint, they can elect to get receipts and updates on order status directly through the Messenger.

A number of new functionality changes will also be added to the site; the comment system will get an overhaul so that comments will appear in real-time both on story page and the shared feed, while Facebook videos will now have the possibility of being embedded on different sites.

It’s been more than year since Facebook curiously bought Oculus VR, as the two companies are mostly unrelated in their domains – Oculus is known for developing the Rift, a virtual reality headset which was designed with gaming in mind – and no real direction or progress was announced since then. Nothing really changed in this regard at F8, except for one intriguing presentation – the introduction of 3D spherical videos on the newsfeed.

Beyond looking awkward on flat screens, the fully 3D videos – within which users can change perspective as they wish – were designed to show the potential use of VR headsets on the site and within normal user activities such as Facebook browsing.

Image Source: Firstpost

NASA has announced on Wednesday that it has decided on sending a spacecraft to the Moon, which would extract a boulder from it and then stay in its orbit, to serve as a testing basis for future human based exploration of more distant targets.

This sets the future direction of its announced Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which would have a manned space mission interact with a celestial body situated in the Moon’s orbit during the 2020’s. The purpose of the mission revolves around testing and experimenting with these kinds of interactions for upcoming exploration of asteroids, satellites and even planets.

At this state, the first phase of ARM will have an unmanned spacecraft sent to the Moon in 2020, which will have to select and extract a small boulder from its surface within three years, and then remain in its orbit. After that, a 2025 manned mission on NASA’s future Orion spacecraft will have astronauts link with the original craft and interact with the boulder, analyzing it on board and sending back data to the space agency’s headquarters.

This will help NASA analyze possible scenarios and technologies that will be involved in exploring celestial bodies both bigger and further away, with the ultimate aim of having a manned craft sent to Mars in the 2030’s. The original unmanned spacecraft will also incorporate technology untested until now, such as a propulsion system that relies on solar panels, which might prove way more viable in long-distance missions than the current chemical fuel-based propulsion.

Extracting a boulder from the Moon was considered a more viable option by mission planners than the other option of capturing a real near-Earth small asteroid and sending it into our satellite’s orbit, both cost and risk-wise. The Moon option also gives researchers at the space agency the occasion to test out a robotic claw on the spacecraft, which wasn’t included in the asteroid plan. It will also provide a basis for testing out methods in which a spacecraft might deflect asteroids that are on course to crash into the Earth

However, the mission’s start date is still some way ahead, so its details might incur changes until it is set to commence in December 2020.

Image Source: Spaceflightnow

The coffin carrying the remnants of 15th century English king Richard III, initially discovered in 2012, stopped today for a brief moment at the site of his death in the Battle of Bosworth Bay about 520 years.

The procession entered the city of Leicester on Sunday morning with crowds of hundreds assisting it throughout the road. It first stopped at Fenn Lane Farm, which historians believed to be closest to the location of his demise. The cortege was saluted with cannon fire while stopped there.

It then stopped at the University of Leicester, where a short ceremony took place in which archaeologists, researchers and even descendants of Richard’s Plantagenet dynasty taking part. One of the Plantagenet descendants in attendance, Canadian carpenter Michael Ibsen, made the coffin carrying the king’s remains out of English oak.

Richards’s remains were discovered during an archeological excavation in September 2012 on the site of an old Greyfriar church, currently a parking lot in Leicester. The University of Leicester confirmed in February 2013 that analysis of wounds and radiocarbon dating proved the veracity of the remains.

The cortege has stopped at Leicester Cathedral, where the coffin will be open to the public until Wednesday night. The king will be reinterred on Thursday after a religious service will be performed.

Richard III ascended to the throne after usurping the throne from 12 year old Edward V, son of the first Yorkist King of England and Richard’s brother Edward IV. Richard was nominated as Lord Protector under Edward’s will after his death, but he ended up taking the throne for himself in 1483 after nullifying his nephew’s claim, while many historians believe he was also responsible for the disappearance of the latter.

His reign as king lasted for just two years, with his most notable achievement being the suppression of a series of rebellions started by nobles loyal to the former king. Richard III faced challenges for the throne from the rival Lancaster house, culminating with the Battle of Bosworth Bay, in which his forces were defeated by those of Henry Tudor despite having numerical superiority, while he was slain in battle. This marked the end of the Wars of the Roses and of the rule of the Plantagenet dynasty over England.

Image Source: BBC

Since he met the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 5, Vladimir Putin has not made any public appearance. This has led to a lot of speculation in the media regarding his whereabouts. Rumors have circulated that the Russian president is either ill, or visiting a supposed lover of his, the gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is said to have given birth to a son by Putin. The latter information has been firmly denied by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Putin’s absence wouldn’t have seemed so unnatural if it hadn’t been for the fact that on Friday the state-controlled Russian TV Channel Rossiya 24 broadcasted the news of Putin’s meeting with Almazbek Atambayev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, a meeting that hasn’t yet taken place. The news channel spoke of the official conference between the two leaders in the Russian past tense, as if it had already happened on this Monday, although it was known that the meeting was scheduled for the next Monday, March 16. The TV channel sent a spokesperson to apologize for this blunder, saying it was a simple mistake, but the international public opinion was reluctant to accept this explanation.

A similar thing happened on NTV channel, where images of Putin meeting Supreme Court president Vyacheslav Lebedev at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo were broadcasted on Friday. Since no evidence showed that the images were indeed shot on Friday, rumors continued to circulate, fed by the fact that Kremlin had already tried to present old photographs of Putin as recent ones.

Now, that the actual date of the meeting is less than 24 hours away, speculations are at their highest. This, according to Leonid Bershidsky from Bloomberg News, is due to the fact that the Russian president has never dropped out of sight for such a long time in the 15 years since his first election as president.

According to Daily Mail, former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev organized a coup d’état to “neutralize” Putin. The Russian leader is said to be alive, but “neutralized at the moment”. At least this is what pro-Kremlin chairman Geydar Dzhemal declared last night. The presence of a number of large trucks parked outside the Kremlin palace gave birth to rumors about a supposed flight attempt of the president’s, but some say that they are part of the preparation for celebrating a year from the annexation of Crimea.

image: lorries outside Kremlin (source: Daily Mail)

That the experience of time depends on people’s state of mind (a feeling of anticipation can make it appear to go by slowly, while fear or stress can make it seem to pass faster) is already common knowledge to psychologists. However, we had not had data so far regarding the way people with mental disorders perceive the passage of time. Recently, a new analysis of 16 individual studies, collected and compared in a meta-study conducted by psychologists Dr. Sven Thönes and Dr. Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, revealed that patients suffering from depression perceive time as passing more slowly.

The 16 studies upon which the meta-study was based included 433 patients with depression and 485 control subjects. The earliest of the studies dates back to 1977, although interest in the topic stemmed as early as the 1940s. Dr. Oberfeld-Twistel said that many doctors, nurses, and psychologists had noticed depressed people’s complaints that time hardly seems to pass, which is why they conducted the study. Their results confirmed that the subjective perception of time is altered by depression, meaning that people affected by the illness feel that time nearly ceases to advance.

However, depressed persons did not differ significantly from healthy subjects when it came to objective time-approximation. Subjects with depression were able to estimate how many minutes a movie lasts, to press a button for a number of seconds, or to discriminate which of two sounds lasted longer just as precisely as subjects without this mental condition. No significant statistical difference was recorded between the two groups, which means that depressive people’s subjective perception of time-passage does not alter their evaluation of actual time intervals. This proves that there is more than one area in the brain responsible for time estimation. Depression only affects part of these areas.

The studies that Thönes and Oberfeld-Twistel analyzed in their meta-study did not include relevant information about the effects of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Neither were the cases of bipolar disorder included, as far as time-perception is concerned. The authors suggest that future studies are required to establish the difference between subjective time-perception and time-estimation capacities. The findings of the Mainz-based scholars were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

image source: life hacker

A new study has found that both physical and mental exercises may protect against age-related dementia. The results of the study were published in the journal The Lancet.

The study conducted by researchers from Finland and Sweden was meant to examine if a healthy, active lifestyle that included brain training, correct management of vascular and metabolic risk factors and exercise had any impact on age-related dementia.

For the study, 1,260 Finnish participants with ages between 60 and 77 were recruited. There were given standardized tests and it was concluded that all the patients were considered to be at risk of dementia. Then, the group was split in two: the control group and the intervention group.

The people in the intervention group had regular meetings over the course of 2 years with health professionals. They were given comprehensive advice on how to maintain a healthy diet, they were told how to train their muscles and hearts, they were taught how to perform mental exercises and how to use blood tests to manage vascular and metabolic risk factors.

The control group did not receive any training or advice of any kind.

At the end of the 2-year study period, the participants were given the standardized Neuropsychological Test Battery to have their mental function assessed. It was found that the intervention group scored 25% higher (which translated into better mental functioning) than the control group.

The researchers also found that the intervention group also scored 83% higher that the control on the ability to regulate and organize thought processes and a whopping 150% higher on processing speed.

In order to establish whether the reduction in cognitive decline is also followed by a reduction in diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the participants will be followed for at least 7 more years.

Lead author of the study, Professor Miia Kivipelto, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden declared that much of the research done previous to theirs has shown that there are links between age-related cognitive decline and factors such as fitness, diet and heart health. She concluded:

However, our study is the first large randomized controlled trial to show that an intensive program aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia.

Image Source: WebMD