SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

231

By force of nature, every bit of spoken language is produced at a particular speed. However, this speed is not constant-speakers regularly speed up and slow down. Variation in speech rate is influenced by a complex combination of factors, including the frequency and predictability of words, their information status, and their position within an utterance. Here, we use speech rate as an index of word-planning effort and focus on the time window during which speakers prepare the production of words from the two major lexical classes, nouns and verbs. We show that, when naturalistic speech is sampled from languages all over the world, there is a robust cross-linguistic tendency for slower speech before nouns compared with verbs, both in terms of slower articulation and more pauses. We attribute this slowdown effect to the increased amount of planning that nouns require compared with verbs. Unlike verbs, nouns can typically only be used when they represent new or unexpected information; otherwise, they have to be replaced by pronouns or be omitted. These conditions on noun use appear to outweigh potential advantages stemming from differences in internal complexity between nouns and verbs. Our findings suggest that, beneath the staggering diversity of grammatical structures and cultural settings, there are robust universals of language processing that are intimately tied to how speakers manage referential information when they communicate with one another.

182

Although uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) are often self-limiting, most patients will be prescribed antibiotic treatment. We assessed whether treatment with ibuprofen was non-inferior to pivmecillinam in achieving symptomatic resolution by day 4, with a non-inferiority margin of 10%.

169

Past life on Mars will have generated organic remains that may be preserved in present day Mars rocks. The most recent period in the history of Mars that retained widespread surface waters was the late Noachian and early Hesperian and thus possessed the potential to sustain the most evolved and widely distributed martian life. Guidance for investigating late Noachian and early Hesperian rocks is provided by studies of analogous acidic and sulfur-rich environments on Earth. Here we report organic responses for an acid stream containing acidophilic organisms whose post-mortem remains are entombed in iron sulphates and iron oxides. We find that, if life was present in the Hesperian, martian organic records will comprise microbial lipids. Lipids are a potential sizeable reservoir of fossil carbon on Mars, and can be used to distinguish between different domains of life. Concentrations of lipids, and particularly alkanoic or “fatty” acids, are highest in goethite layers that reflect high water-to-rock ratios and thus a greater potential for habitability. Goethite can dehydrate to hematite, which is widespread on Mars. Mars missions should seek to detect fatty acids or their diagenetic products in the oxides and hydroxides of iron associated with sulphur-rich environments.

159

Coffee’s long-term effect on cognitive function remains unclear with studies suggesting both benefits and adverse effects. We used Mendelian randomization to investigate the causal relationship between habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function in mid- to later life. This included up to 415,530 participants and 300,760 coffee drinkers from 10 meta-analysed European ancestry cohorts. In each cohort, composite cognitive scores that capture global cognition and memory were computed using available tests. A genetic score derived using CYP1A1/2 (rs2472297) and AHR (rs6968865) was chosen as a proxy for habitual coffee consumption. Null associations were observed when examining the associations of the genetic score with global and memory cognition (β = -0.0007, 95% C.I. -0.009 to 0.008, P = 0.87; β = -0.001, 95% C.I. -0.005 to 0.002, P = 0.51, respectively), with high consistency between studies (Pheterogeneity > 0.4 for both). Domain specific analyses using available cognitive measures in the UK Biobank also did not support effects by habitual coffee intake for reaction time, pairs matching, reasoning or prospective memory (P ≥ 0.05 for all). Despite the power to detect very small effects, our meta-analysis provided no evidence for causal long-term effects of habitual coffee consumption on global cognition or memory.

146

Although the human gut microbiome plays a prominent role in xenobiotic transformation, most of the genes and enzymes responsible for this metabolism are unknown. Recently, we linked the two-gene ‘cardiac glycoside reductase’ (cgr) operon encoded by the gut Actinobacterium Eggerthella lenta to inactivation of the cardiac medication and plant natural product digoxin. Here, we compared the genomes of 25 E. lenta strains and close relatives, revealing an expanded 8-gene cgr-associated gene cluster present in all digoxin metabolizers and absent in non-metabolizers. Using heterologous expression and in vitro biochemical characterization, we discovered that a single flavin- and [4Fe-4S] cluster-dependent reductase, Cgr2, is sufficient for digoxin inactivation. Unexpectedly, Cgr2 displayed strict specificity for digoxin and other cardenolides. Quantification of cgr2 in gut microbiomes revealed that this gene is widespread and conserved in the human population. Together, these results demonstrate that human-associated gut bacteria maintain specialized enzymes that protect against ingested plant toxins.

135

Double emulsions are complex fluid systems, in which droplets of a dispersed liquid phase contain even smaller dispersed liquid droplets. Particularly, water-in-oil-in-water double emulsions provide significant advantages over simple oil-in-water emulsions for microencapsulation, such as carrier of both aqueous and oily payloads and sustained release profile. However, double emulsions are thermodynamically unstable systems consisting typically of relatively large droplets. Here we show that nanoscale water-in-oil-in-water double emulsions can be prepared by adding a silica precursor polymer, hyperbranched polyethoxysiloxane, to the oil phase without any additional surfactants. The resulting double miniemulsions are transformed to robust water@SiO2@polymer@SiO2 nanocapsules via conversion of the precursor to silica and polymerization of the oil phase. Other intriguing nanostructures like nanorattles and Janus-like nanomushrooms can also be obtained by changing preparation conditions. This simple surfactant-free double miniemulsion polymerization technique opens a promising avenue for mass production of various complex hybrid nanostructures that are amenable to numerous applications.

98

Hominin cranial remains from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa, represent multiple individuals of the species Homo naledi This species exhibits a small endocranial volume comparable to Australopithecus, combined with several aspects of external cranial anatomy similar to larger-brained species of Homo such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus Here, we describe the endocast anatomy of this recently discovered species. Despite the small size of the H. naledi endocasts, they share several aspects of structure in common with other species of Homo, not found in other hominins or great apes, notably in the organization of the inferior frontal and lateral orbital gyri. The presence of such structural innovations in a small-brained hominin may have relevance to behavioral evolution within the genus Homo.

97

Based on associated and three-dimensionally preserved cranial and postcranial remains, a new thalattosuchian crocodyliform, Magyarosuchus fitosi gen. et sp. nov. from the Lower Jurassic (Upper Toarcian) Kisgerecse Marl Formation, Gerecse Mountains, Hungary is described here. Phylogenetic analyses using three different datasets indicate that M. fitosi is the sister taxon of Pelagosaurus typus forming together the basal-most sub-clade of Metriorhynchoidea. With an estimated body length of 4.67-4.83 m M. fitosi is the largest known non-metriorhynchid metriorhynchoid. Besides expanding Early Jurassic thalattosuchian diversity, the new specimen is of great importance since, unlike most contemporaneous estuarine, lagoonal or coastal thalattosuchians, it comes from an ‘ammonitico rosso’ type pelagic deposit of the Mediterranean region of the Tethys. A distal caudal vertebra having an unusually elongate and dorsally projected neural spine implies the presence of at least a rudimentary hypocercal tail fin and a slight ventral displacement of the distal caudal vertebral column in this basal metriorhynchoid. The combination of retaining heavy dorsal and ventral armors and having a slight hypocercal tail is unique, further highlighting the mosaic manner of marine adaptations in Metriorhynchoidea.

78

There are mean differences in complex traits among global human populations. We hypothesize that part of the phenotypic differentiation is due to natural selection. To address this hypothesis, we assess the differentiation in allele frequencies of trait-associated SNPs among African, Eastern Asian, and European populations for ten complex traits using data of large sample size (up to ~405,000). We show that SNPs associated with height ([Formula: see text]), waist-to-hip ratio ([Formula: see text]), and schizophrenia ([Formula: see text]) are significantly more differentiated among populations than matched “control” SNPs, suggesting that these trait-associated SNPs have undergone natural selection. We further find that SNPs associated with height ([Formula: see text]) and schizophrenia ([Formula: see text]) show significantly higher variance in linkage disequilibrium (LD) scores across populations than control SNPs. Our results support the hypothesis that natural selection has shaped the genetic differentiation of complex traits, such as height and schizophrenia, among worldwide populations.

72

Economic globalization and concomitant growth in international trade since the late 1990s have profoundly reorganized global production activities and related CO2 emissions. Here we show trade among developing nations (i.e., South-South trade) has more than doubled between 2004 and 2011, which reflects a new phase of globalization. Some production activities are relocating from China and India to other developing countries, particularly raw materials and intermediate goods production in energy-intensive sectors. In turn, the growth of CO2 emissions embodied in Chinese exports has slowed or reversed, while the emissions embodied in exports from less-developed regions such as Vietnam and Bangladesh have surged. Although China’s emissions may be peaking, ever more complex supply chains are distributing energy-intensive industries and their CO2 emissions throughout the global South. This trend may seriously undermine international efforts to reduce global emissions that increasingly rely on rallying voluntary contributions of more, smaller, and less-developed nations.