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Icelandic drinking horn changes our historic understanding of St. Olav

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Drinking horns were status symbols and widely used as gifts, both in the Middle Ages and in the centuries after the Reformation. The picture shows one of the few drinking horns that have remained in Icelandic possession, called the "Three kings horn." It shows Saint Olav juxtaposed with Old Testament kings Solomon and David. Photo: National Museum of Iceland

After the Reformation, Norway's Olav Haraldsson was no longer supposed to be worshipped as a saint. An Icelandic drinking horn offers some clues on how the saint’s status changed over time. Drinking horns were considered valuable objects, and were imbued with great symbolic value in the Middle Ages. Among other things, it was said that these kinds of horns came from the foot or claw of the fabled griffin. Drinking horns often had names, and were status symbols and collector’s items. Some were stolen and many ended up in princely cabinets. “Mediaeval drinking horns are scattered in collections throughout northern Europe. They were coveted collectibles. Mediaeval art often remained in churches until it went out of fashion or was removed due to errors in iconography, whereas drinking horns ended up in princely collections and cabinets and have kept their status to the present day,” says Associate Professor Margrethe Stang, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Art and Media Studies.

 

Antarctica: Everyone wants it, but no one owns it

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Antarctica. Photo: Pablo Ruiz, Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH)

 

For over 70 years seven different countries have claimed sovereignty over parts of Antarctica. But are these claims legitimate? This issue is now going to be considered by a group of philosophers. Queen Maud's Land constitutes one sixth of Antarctica, and Norway has claimed this territory since 1939, but this has never been approved by the rest of the world. The same applies to the claims of six other countries; New Zealand, Australia, France, Great Britain, Chile and Argentina have all made territorial claims over different parts of Antarctica. All of these countries also believe that they have an entitlement to the South Pole. A group of philosophers from Norway, Ireland, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Chile are now getting to grips with this matter. They believe that it is high time to look at these claims from a moral point of view.

 

First Global Guidance for HPV Vaccination for Cervical Cancer Prevention

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The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) today issued a clinical practice guideline on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for the prevention of cervical cancer. This is the first guideline on primary prevention of cervical cancer that is tailored to multiple regions of the world with different levels of socio-economic and structural resource settings, offering evidence-based guidance to health care providers worldwide. The guideline includes specific recommendations according to four levels of resource settings: basic, limited, enhanced and maximal. The levels pertain to financial resources of a country or region, as well as the development of its health system — including personnel, infrastructure and access to services. The guideline complements ASCO’s two other global, resource-stratified guidelines on cervical cancer, also stratified to these four levels of resources.1,2

 

Pacemaker Program Can Reduce Dangerous Fainting Episodes

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Patients with recurrent fainting episodes (syncope) who received a pacemaker delivering a pacing program designed to detect and stop the abnormal heart rhythms that precede syncope had a seven-fold reduction in fainting compared with patients in a placebo pacing group, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session. The study—the first prospective double-blind placebo-controlled trial to show robustly positive results for the pacing program, known as Closed Loop Stimulation (DDD-CLS), in patients with recurrent syncope—met its primary endpoint of a significant reduction in fainting episodes with DDD-CLS compared to placebo pacing.

 

Securing the future of cattle production in Africa

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Boran Cattle in Africa

 

A ‘world-first’ study of the genomes of indigenous cattle in Africa has revealed vital clues that will help secure the future of cattle production on the continent. Cattle are an increasingly important resource in Africa as sustainable sources of food, milk, traction and manure. With its human population growing and the economy and subsequent wealth predicted to expand greatly, there will also be a huge increase in demand for livestock. Now Professor Olivier Hanotte from The University of Nottingham and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Ethiopia, with Professor Heebal Kim from Seoul National University, have mapped the genomes of five breeds of African cattle and discovered some unique genetic adaptations that could inform and improve future breeding programs. The research is published in the journal Genome Biology.

 

How Do Ebola Virus Proteins Released in Exosomes Affect the Immune System?

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Cells infected by the deadly Ebola virus may release viral proteins such as VP40 packaged in exosomes, which, as new research indicates, can affect immune cells throughout the body impairing their ability to combat the infection and to seek out and destroy hidden virus. The potential for exosomal VP40 to have a substantial impact on Ebola virus disease is examined in a review article published in DNA and Cell Biology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the DNA and Cell Biology website until April 13, 2017.

 

Yuan Chang and Patrick Moore win prize for the discovery of two cancer viruses

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Scientists looking for new tumor viruses have to keep an eye out for the virus genes rather than the viral particles. This year's winners of the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize were twice successful with this strategy.

Two Americans, Yuan Chang and Patrick S. Moore, will receive the 2017 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize today in Frankfurt's Paulskirche for their discovery of the tumor viruses HHV-8 and MCV by means of a clever subtraction strategy. HHV-8 is the human herpesvirus 8, and MCV stands for Merkel cell polyomavirus.  "With their decision to search for the viral genes rather than the viral particles, the prizewinners have taken a major step forward in the hunt for new human tumor viruses and have laid the foundation for further discoveries. The discovery of further human tumor viruses in future remains a distinct possibility," wrote the Scientific Council in substantiating its decision. One in every six cancers in the world is related to a viral infection However, the risk of cancer from a viral infection is lower in the Western industrial countries than in the developing world. Yuan Chang is Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Patrick Moore is Professor and Director of the Cancer Virology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. They are a wife and husband team.

 

Eruptions on the Sun trigger surprising phenomenon near Earth

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Nordlys_ISS_Hoeg_feb_2017_

New research from DTU and partners from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of New Brunswick shows that eruptions on the Sun’s surface not only send bursts of energetic particles into the Earth’s atmosphere causing disturbances in our planet’s magnetic field, they can also strangely decrease the number of free electrons over large areas in the polar region of the ionosphere. Eruptions on the Sun’s surface, also called solar storms, trigger geomagnetic storms and this usually causes disturbances globally in the ionosphere and the magnetosphere, which is the region of the atmosphere governed primarily by the Earth’s magnetic field. Now new research shows that these eruptions on the sun’s surface not only send bursts of energetic particles into the Earth’s atmosphere causing disturbances in the magnetic field, but they may also significantly decrease the number of free electrons over large areas in the polar region of the ionosphere — the ionized part of the upper atmosphere.

 

Intensive aquatic resistance training decreases body fat mass and improves physcial function in women with mild knee osteoarthritis

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Aquatic resistance training significantly decreases body fat mass and increases walking speed, i.e., phsyical function in postmenopausal women with mild knee osteoarthritis. The effect of aquatic resistance training on walking speed are long lasting and are maintained one-year after training is ceased. However, higher overall levels of leisure time physical activity are required for long-term management of fat and body mass. This was observed in the study carried out in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. This study investigated the effect of a 4-month intensive aquatic resistance training program as well as the association between overall leisure time physical activity on body composition and functional capacity in post-menopausal women with mild knee OA. This study was conducted in cooperation with the Central Finland Central Hospital, the Department of Medical Technology, Institute of Biomedicine in University of Oulu, Finland and the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology in University of Helsinki, Finland.

 

Spiders Eat 400-800 Million Tons of Prey Every Year

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Jumping spider Phidippus mystaceus feeding on a tree-dwelling moth caterpillar (photo by David E. Hill, Peckham Society, Simpsonville, South Carolina)

 

It has long been suspected that spiders are one of the most important groups of predators of insects. Zoologists at the University of Basel and Lund University in Sweden have now shown just how true this is – spiders kill astronomical numbers of insects on a global scale. The scientific journal The Science of Nature has published the results. With more than 45,000 species and a population density of up to 1,000 individuals per square meter, spiders are one of the world’s most species-rich and widespread groups of predators. Due to their secretive lifestyle – many spiders are nocturnal or live well camouflaged in vegetation – it was previously difficult to demonstrate their ecological role, but zoologists at the University of Basel and Lund University (Sweden) have now used calculations to conclude that spiders indeed have an enormous ecological impact as natural enemies of insects.

 

Endangered giants: large freshwater species among those most threatened with extinction on the planet

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The Yangtze Finless Porpoise is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. These animals are threatened by incidental catch, vessel collision, pollution, and habitat degradation. Photo: Huigong Yu

 

Freshwater megafauna such as river dolphins, crocodilians and sturgeons play vital roles in their respective ecosystems. In a recent scientific publication, researchers of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin have teamed up with international colleagues to illustrate the factors that currently threaten these large vertebrates. The authors also call for a more comprehensive assessment on these large freshwater animals and for a more targeted conservation plan. Also, a wider range of freshwater species and freshwater ecosystems suffering from biodiversity decrease have the potential to benefit from such megafauna-based actions.

 
 
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