Study shows how genes shape face: Scientists are starting to understand how our genes influence the way we look. A study with mice has shown that small changes to their DNA could alter the shape of their face. The findings are published in the journal Science.
25 October 2013
This study helps to explain how one person’s face can look so different from another’s. Scientists have identified thousands of sequences in our DNA that influence our appearance as we develop in the womb.
By looking at mice, they found that removing some of this genetic material subtly altered the rodent’s appearance. In some, the modified DNA led to a longer or shorter skull, while others had wider or narrower faces. The researchers say that although the work was carried out on animals, the human face is likely to develop in the same way.
Dr Axel Visel, from the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory in California led the study.
“We are trying to find out how the instructions for building the human face are embedded in the human DNA, so somewhere in there, there must be that blueprint that defines what our face looks like.”
The researchers say understanding this complex process could also help to reveal how facial birth defects – such as cleft lips and palates – arise.
Australian bush fires: A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales in Australia as firefighters continue to battle bush fires. Two hundred homes have been destroyed so far. Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate with high temperatures and strong winds forecast in the coming days.
21 October 2013
Here amid the smokey haze of the bush, the heat hits the senses. Temperatures are back in the mid-30s making the work of firefighters increasingly difficult. Helicopters whirr overhead dumping water on the nearby fire fronts. They’re trying to stop several fires from merging into one huge blaze spanning hundreds of kilometres.
In several communities, people are being warned not to try and stay put to defend their homes. With hundreds of houses already destroyed, disaster welfare centres have been set up where families can start the planning needed to rebuild their lives. Most of the firefighters are volunteers. Many look exhausted; some have even lost their own homes.
The fires follow unseasonably hot weather; conditions are expected to worsen throughout the week with dangerously strong winds forecast on Wednesday and little let-up in the temperature.
Monkeys ‘talk in turns’: Recordings of monkeys calling to one another have revealed that they take it in turns to make sounds, in a pattern very similar to human conversation. Scientists from Princeton University recorded marmosets as they called each other. The animals would wait several seconds before responding.
18 October 2013
(Sound made by a monkey)
These very high-pitched squeaks could provide a clue about the evolutionary route of our own conversational turn-taking.
The Princeton University team recorded these exchanges between marmosets as they sat in opposite corners of a room. The animals were separated by a curtain, so they could hear but not see one another.
After one of the diminutive monkeys called out, the other waited several seconds before responding.
(Sounds made by a two monkeys, one after the other)
The scientists suggest that sounds might contain information that the listener needs to take time to digest.
Whatever the reason for this polite pausing, these simple, squeaky exchanges could illustrate the foundations of the way we communicate – by talking and, perhaps more importantly, listening.
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