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Fungi, the next alternative to plastic

Fungi really deserve more respect, as they have fantastic capabilities and can be grown, under certain circumstances, in almost any shape and be totally biodegradable.

They might even have the potential to replace plastics one day. The secret is in the mycelia.
Union College Biology Professor Steve Horton likens this mostly underground portion of fungi (the mushrooms that pop up are the reproductive structures) to a tiny biological chain of tubular cells.  “It’s this linked chain of cells that’s able to communicate with the outside world, to sense what’s there in terms of food and light and moisture,” he said.  “Mycelia can take in nutrients from available organic materials like wood and use them as food, and the fungus is able to grow as a result. “When you think of fungi and their mycelia, their function – ecologically – is really vital in degrading and breaking things down. Without fungi, and bacteria, we’d be I don’t know how many meters deep in waste, both plant matter and animal tissue,” Horton added.

Looking something like extremely delicate, white dental floss, mycelia grow in, through and around just about any organic substrate.

Whether it’s leaves or mulch, mycelia digest these natural materials and can also bind everything together in a cohesive mat.

Common sleep drug can boost memory

A team of sleep researchers has confirmed the mechanism that enables the brain to consolidate memory and found that a commonly prescribed sleep aid enhances the process. Those discoveries could lead to new sleep therapies that will improve memory for aging adults and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Earlier research found a correlation between sleep spindles — bursts of brain activity that last for a second or less during a specific stage of sleep — and consolidation of memories that depend on the hippocampus. The hippocampus, part of the cerebral cortex, is important in the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory, and spatial navigation. The hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s disease.

UC Riverside psychologist Sara C. Mednick and her research team demonstrated, for the first time, the critical role that sleep spindles play in consolidating memory in the hippocampus, and they showed that pharmaceuticals could significantly improve that process, far more than sleep alone.  “We found that a very common sleep drug could be used to increase verbal memory,” said Mednick, who led the study.

Mass solar ejections to disrupt satellites

The sun erupted with an earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), a solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space and can reach earth one to three days later and affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

Experimental Nasa research models, based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and ESA/Nasa’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, show that the CME left the sun at speeds of around 900 miles per second, which is a fairly fast speed for CMEs.

Historically, CMEs at this speed have caused mild to moderate effects on earth. The Nasa research models also show that the CME may pass by the Spitzer and Messenger spacecraft.

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