Dutch researcher Yvonne van Breugel analysed rocks from seabeds millions of years old. Carbon occurs naturally in two stable forms; atomic mass 12 (99 percent) and atomic mass 13 (1 percent). Episodes in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were characterised by a relatively strong increase in 12C. The analyses have shown that this was caused by a sudden large-scale release of carbon from stocks stored in the ocean floor or peats and bogs.
The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is increasing as a consequence of the large-scale use of fossil fuels in the industrial era. This has apparently brought about a stronger relative increase in the light carbon isotope 12C. Due to this the ratio of the stable carbon isotopes 13C/12C has show a clearly measurable decrease of 0.1%. However in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, 180 and 120 million years ago, there were periods with a shift four times as large in a period of just several tens of thousands of years. Where did all of that light carbon suddenly come from?
Van Breugel investigated chemical fossils of marine algae and land plants from sediments deposited in the aforementioned periods. Plants and algae assimilate CO2 from the air and water. Consequently changes in the isotope ratio are recorded in organic material. These chemical fossils have been well preserved because large parts of the oceans in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods contained little (if any) oxygen.
Dr Yvonne van Breugel | alfa
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
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For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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