Rhinovirus vaccine development is about more than fighting colds

Rhinovirus, the pathogen behind the common cold, can cause severe, acute lung disease in children and those with underlying respiratory conditions. Since the 1970s, vaccine development has been hindered by the presence of numerous virus serotypes and the lack of a good animal model to test vaccine candidates. However, several different research groups are now making good progress on rhinovirus vaccines, using a variety of different techniques.

The researchers working on a vaccine for rhinovirus, the infection that causes the common cold, are all clear on one important point — they’re not trying to cure the sniffles.

“Rhinovirus is more than just a nuisance,” says Martin Moore, a virologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “Sniffles in adults are not why we are doing this.” Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Nature’s Most Wanted: Conservationists Launch New Quest for Lost Species

Expeditions will delve into the wild, looking for species that haven’t been seen for at least a decade.

Somewhere deep in the remote and largely inaccessible wetlands of northern Myanmar, Richard Thorns hopes to find a ghost. This fall, the ambulance driver and amateur ornithologist plans to leave his home in Crowborough, England to launch his seventh expedition in search of the elusive — and quite possibly extinct — pink-headed duck.

The striking but shy bird was always a rare sight in the marshes of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and little is known about its behavior and habits. Its large, dark brown body, with characteristic pink plumage adorning its head and neck, has not been conclusively seen in the wild since 1949. But Thorns has made it his personal mission to prove that the bird is still out there. Read more in Inside Science.

Monkey mafia steal your stuff, then sell it back for a cracker

Long-tailed macaques living near an Indonesian temple have figured out how to run a ransom racket on visiting tourists.

The monkeys grab valuables, such as glasses, hats, cameras or, in one case, a wad of cash from the ticket booth, then wait for temple staff to offer them food before dropping their ill-gotten gains and dashing off with the tasty prize. Read more in New Scientist.

Plant Trees and Chill

Software helps a conservation group see where shade trees will best cool a river. Then the hard work starts.

In 2011, the city of Medford in Oregon had a problem. The treated water being released into the Rogue River from its sewage treatment plant was too warm, threatening the river’s fish.

The historically cool Rogue River was already warming, and Medford’s discharge could raise the temperature by another 0.18 degrees Celsius. Warmer rivers have less oxygen, and cause fish to hatch earlier and die younger. To stay on the right side of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Medford had to find a way to cool down its wastewater.

“We looked at agricultural re-use, chillers, cooling towers and lagoons, but all the options were really expensive – more than $15 million,” said Tom Suttle, construction manager for the city’s water reclamation division. Read more in Inside Science.

Kinetica Dynamics: Skyscraper stabilizer

Kinetica Dynamics may be a young start-up, but its approach to stabilizing tall buildings is based on a well-established idea.“It’s a reinvigoration of an old vibration damping technology,” says Michael Montgomery, an engineer and the company’s co-founder and chief executive.

The technology, a polymer that diminishes vibration and shock, is bonded tightly to the structure of buildings and was first used in the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center to prevent motion sickness caused by the upper parts of the towers moving in the wind. The polymer, which was created by the US technology company 3M, was installed between the steel frames throughout the towers to dissipate vibrations. Read more in Nature.

SSIMWave: Seeing the screen

“We want to become synonymous with good user experience for video,” says Abdul Rehman, co-founder and chief executive of SSIMWave. The start-up, which was spun out of the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2013, wants to improve how people watch videos online.

The company’s technology is based on a family of algorithms developed by Zhou Wang, a computer engineer at Waterloo and Rehman’s PhD supervisor. The structural similarity, or SSIM, algorithms can predict how someone will perceive the technical quality of a video, and thus help to ensure that viewers have the best possible experience. Read more in Nature.

Snowball Earth melting led to freshwater ocean 2 kilometres deep

A little more than 600 million years ago, you could have drunk from the ocean.

After an extreme ice age known as snowball Earth, in which glaciers extended to the tropics and ice up to a kilometre thick covered the oceans, the melt formed a thick freshwater layer that floated on the super-salty oceans. Read more in New Scientist.

Isolated crayfish are more resistant to the effects of alcohol

For crayfish at least, a more sociable life makes booze work quicker. When crayfish were put in water containing a little alcohol, the ones who had been kept on their own over the preceding week took longer to show signs of alcohol exposure – such as tail flips – than those who had been living with others of their kind. Read more in New Scientist.

Review of Canadian science calls for better oversight, coordination—and more money

To reinvigorate its science base, Canada needs to “reinvest” almost CAD$500 million in basic, investigator-led research over the next 4 years, according to a long-awaited review of the country’s science and innovation landscape released today.

“A crucial shortcoming in the system is the level of support for independent investigator-initiated research,” David Naylor, a former president of the University of Toronto in Canada who led the nine-person review panel, told ScienceInsider. “That support has been squeezed for about a decade.” Read more in Science.

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