82 articles from THURSDAY 7.11.2019

Boeing traces problem with Starliner parachute system to an unsecured pinFor want of a pin, the use of a spaceship's parachute was lost. That may be a simplistic way to explain why one of the three parachutes on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner space taxi failed to open. It does, however, serve as a cautionary tale about the one obvious glitch in Monday's pad abort test of the Starliner, a craft that's due to start transporting NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station next year. Overall, the test was judged a success: The uncrewed Starliner fired the rocket engines on its launch abort system, slowed its descent with the aid… Read More


Photo of petri dish with mosquitoes in it

A NASA-enhanced website that began in California to strengthen mosquito control efforts has gone cross-country. Utah and New Jersey state public health officials and mosquito control agencies are now using the California Vectorborne Disease Surveillance System (CalSurv) to help monitor and respond to potential outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases.

Data have been used from several Earth-observing satellites to map mosquitoes that can carry these deadly viruses, including precipitation observations from the Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM), land cover/land use data from the Landsat satellites, and land-surface temperature data from NASA’s Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS). Vegetation data are also incorporated from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, and NASA’s North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS). 

Read more Making Space for Earth blog posts

Master Image: 
Photo of petri dish with mosquitoes in it

Adult stem cells are essential for tissue homeostasis. In skeletal muscle, muscle stem cells (MuSCs) reside in a quiescent state, but little is known about the mechanisms that control homeostatic turnover. Here we show that, in mice, the variation in MuSC activation rate among different muscles (for example, limb versus diaphragm muscles) is determined by the levels of the transcription factor Pax3. We further show that Pax3 levels are controlled by alternative polyadenylation of its transcript, which is regulated by the small nucleolar RNA U1. Isoforms of the Pax3 messenger RNA that differ in their 3' untranslated regions are differentially susceptible to regulation by microRNA miR206, which results in varying levels of the Pax3 protein in vivo. These findings highlight a previously unrecognized mechanism of the homeostatic regulation of stem cell fate by multiple RNA species.

Ancient Rome was the capital of an empire of ~70 million inhabitants, but little is known about the genetics of ancient Romans. Here we present 127 genomes from 29 archaeological sites in and around Rome, spanning the past 12,000 years. We observe two major prehistoric ancestry transitions: one with the introduction of farming and another prior to the Iron Age. By the founding of Rome, the genetic composition of the region approximated that of modern Mediterranean populations. During the Imperial period, Rome’s population received net immigration from the Near East, followed by an increase in genetic contributions from Europe. These ancestry shifts mirrored the geopolitical affiliations of Rome and were accompanied by marked interindividual diversity, reflecting gene flow from across the Mediterranean, Europe, and North Africa.

Chorev et al. (Reports, 16 November 2018, p. 829) describe mass spectrometry on mitochondrial membrane proteins ionized directly from their native environment. However, the assignments made to measured masses are incorrect or inconclusive and lack experimental validation. The proteins are not in their "native" condition: They have been stripped of tightly bound lipids, and the complexes are fragmented or in physiologically irrelevant oligomeric states.

NOx lifetime relates nonlinearly to its own concentration; therefore, by observing how NOx lifetime changes with changes in its concentration, inferences can be made about the dominant chemistry occurring in an urban plume. We used satellite observations of NO2 from a new high-resolution product to show that NOx lifetime in approximately 30 North American cities has changed between 2005 and 2014 in a manner consistent with our understanding of NOx chemistry.

Activating mutations in PIK3CA are frequent in human breast cancer, and phosphoinositide 3-kinase alpha (PI3Kα) inhibitors have been approved for therapy. To characterize determinants of sensitivity to these agents, we analyzed PIK3CA-mutant cancer genomes and observed the presence of multiple PIK3CA mutations in 12 to 15% of breast cancers and other tumor types, most of which (95%) are double mutations. Double PIK3CA mutations are in cis on the same allele and result in increased PI3K activity, enhanced downstream signaling, increased cell proliferation, and tumor growth. The biochemical mechanisms of dual mutations include increased disruption of p110α binding to the inhibitory subunit p85α, which relieves its catalytic inhibition, and increased p110α membrane lipid binding. Double PIK3CA mutations predict increased sensitivity to PI3Kα inhibitors compared with single-hotspot mutations.

In general, mixed cations and anions containing formamidinium (FA), methylammonium (MA), caesium, iodine, and bromine ions are used to stabilize the black α-phase of the FA-based lead triiodide (FAPbI3) in perovskite solar cells. However, additives such as MA, caesium, and bromine widen its bandgap and reduce the thermal stability. We stabilized the α-FAPbI3 phase by doping with methylenediammonium dichloride (MDACl2) and achieved a certified short-circuit current density of between 26.1 and 26.7 milliamperes per square centimeter. With certified power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) of 23.7%, more than 90% of the initial efficiency was maintained after 600 hours of operation with maximum power point tracking under full sunlight illumination in ambient conditions including ultraviolet light. Unencapsulated devices retained more than 90% of their initial PCE even after annealing for 20 hours at 150°C in air and exhibited superior thermal and humidity stability over a control device in which FAPbI3 was stabilized by MAPbBr3.

Spin-orbit interactions lead to distinctive functionalities in photonic systems. They exploit the analogy between the quantum mechanical description of a complex electronic spin-orbit system and synthetic Hamiltonians derived for the propagation of electromagnetic waves in dedicated spatial structures. We realize an artificial Rashba-Dresselhaus spin-orbit interaction in a liquid crystal–filled optical cavity. Three-dimensional tomography in energy-momentum space enabled us to directly evidence the spin-split photon mode in the presence of an artificial spin-orbit coupling. The effect is observed when two orthogonal linear polarized modes of opposite parity are brought near resonance. Engineering of spin-orbit synthetic Hamiltonians in optical cavities opens the door to photonic emulators of quantum Hamiltonians with internal degrees of freedom.