Astronomy: Star formation stirs up galaxies

Summaries of newsworthy papers include: Surprises from the Sun; Colour vision goes full circuit; Trapping with topography; Tropics feel the heat

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Astronomy: Star formation stirs up galaxies

Climate: Surprises from the Sun

Neuroscience: Colour vision goes full circuit

Nanotechnology: Trapping with topography

And finally… Tropics feel the heat

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Astronomy: Star formation stirs up galaxies (pp 684-686)

Observations of a rare type of galaxy in the nearby Universe have shed light on the origin of turbulence in similar, gas-rich disk galaxies that were prevalent when the Universe was young. The results, published in this week’s Nature, suggest that galaxy disk turbulence throughout the history of the Universe has been driven by the energy released by star formation.

Recent observations of galaxies in the early Universe have shown that two-thirds of them are massive, rotating disks, in which the gas velocity is typically five times more variable (higher ‘velocity dispersion’) than in today’s disk galaxies. These observations have prompted the question of what drives these fast, turbulent motions, and whether the processes governing the kinematics of early disk galaxies were fundamentally different from those in operation today.

Andrew Green and colleagues have addressed these questions by undertaking a systematic survey of nearby galaxies, for comparison with their more distant counterparts. In a sample of 65 nearby star-forming galaxies, the authors found 11 disks with high velocity dispersion, comparable to those seen in the early Universe. The authors find that in these galaxies the velocity dispersions are correlated with their star-formation rates, suggesting that — both in these galaxies and in their early counterparts — the energy released by star formation drives turbulent motions in galaxy disks.

Author contact
Andrew Green (Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Australia)
Tel: +61 3 9214 5846
E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Climate: Surprises from the Sun (pp 696-699; N&V)

Recent observations of some unexpected changes in the Sun’s spectrum may have counter-intuitive consequences for the effects of solar variability on climate, according to a paper in this week’s Nature.

The total radiation reaching the Earth from the Sun is known to wax and wane with the 11-year solar cycle. Recently, satellite measurements made during the declining phase of the last solar cycle (from 2004 to 2007) revealed a surprisingly large decrease in the ultraviolet portion of the solar output, partly compensated by an increase in radiation at visible wavelengths. Because the different components of the solar spectrum affect the thermal structure of the Earth’s atmosphere in different ways — in part through chemical reactions involving stratospheric ozone — it is important to incorporate this apparent spectral variability in models for the solar forcing of the Earth’s climate.

Joanna Haigh and colleagues have now done this, using a model incorporating photochemistry and radiative transfer to estimate the effects of the observed spectral changes on stratospheric ozone. They find that, above an altitude of 45 kilometres, ozone concentrations increase as the total solar output decreases, and this is confirmed by independent atmospheric measurements. They also find that the increase in visible radiation causes heating of the lower atmosphere, even as the solar irradiance is decreasing.

The authors emphasize that this counter-intuitive behaviour, observed over a short time period during a potentially anomalous solar cycle, cannot yet be generalized. But if further observations support the authors’ conclusions, it will be necessary to reconsider the influence of the solar cycle on climate, and to revise its representation in global climate models.

Author contact
Joanna Haigh (Imperial College London, UK)
Tel: +44 20 7594 7500
E-mail: [email protected]

Rolando Garcia (National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 303 497 1446
E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Neuroscience: Colour vision goes full circuit (pp 673-677; N&V)

The first cell-by-cell circuit diagram of the primate retina is revealed in this week’s Nature, helping to explain how our brains perceive colour.

Colour vision arises in the retina, where colour-sensitive cone cells relay information to ganglion cells, which then relay it to the brain. The diagrams, put together by Eduardo Chichilnisky and colleagues, demonstrate how individual cones connect with complete populations of retinal ganglion cells, providing input–output maps of the retina at unprecedented resolution and scale.

It is known that colour perception arises from the comparison of signals from different types of cone, but how these inputs are combined by ganglion cells has been less clear. This study helps resolve the debate.

Author contact
Eduardo Chichilnisky (Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 858 453 4100 ext. 1286
E-mail: [email protected]

Jonathan Demb (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 734 936 9547
E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Nanotechnology: Trapping with topography (pp 692-695; N&V)

A new method for contact-free trapping of nanoscale objects in a fluid is presented in this week’s Nature. Madhavi Krishnan and colleagues show that local indentations in nanofluidic channels can confine and suspend charged objects for up to several hours. With further optimization, the technique may be extendable to single proteins and other macromolecules.

Many fields, ranging from condensed-matter physics to clinical medicine, would benefit from the ability to trap nanometre-sized objects in a fluid. Existing methods, including the highly focused laser beams known as ‘optical tweezers’, work well for microscopic objects, but have limited ability to handle objects smaller than about 100 nanometres. These methods also often require expensive and complicated external apparatus.

The approach demonstrated by Krishnan and colleagues is very simple, relying only on the topography of micromachined fluid compartments and the electrostatic repulsion that naturally occurs between introduced particles and the glass compartment walls. The tiny traps can hold gold nanoparticles, polymer nanospheres or lipid vesicles for minutes to hours, without external intervention, and regardless of their mass or composition. The authors suggest ways in which, with suitable modifications, the technique might be used for trapping biological molecules, for sorting and fractionating nanoparticles, or for assembling them into high-density arrays.

Author contact
Madhavi Krishnan (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 44 63 34344
E-mail: [email protected]

Jan Eijkel (University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands) N&V author
Tel: +31 534 892 839
E-mail: [email protected]

[5] And finally… Tropics feel the heat (pp 704-706)

Tropical organisms are likely to be profoundly affected by recent and projected climate change despite the fact that warming is less pronounced in these regions, a Nature paper suggests.

The estimated warming-induced changes in metabolic rates of land-living ectotherms (animals that regulate their body temperature via the environment) are relatively large in the tropics compared with cooler regions that have experienced more warming, Michael Dillon and colleagues report.

This is likely to have serious knock-on effects: warmed tropical invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles will need more food and are likely to lose more water through evaporation, with repercussions felt across related food chains. Given the huge biodiversity found in the tropics, it is thought that these metabolic changes will have profound local and global consequences.

Author contact
Michael Dillon (University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA)
Tel: +1 307 766 5631
E-mail: [email protected]


[6] Melting above the anhydrous solidus controls the location of volcanic arcs (pp 700-703)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 06 October at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern Time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not appear in print on 07 October, but at a later date. ***

[7] A redox switch in angiotensinogen modulates angiotensin release
DOI: 10.1038/nature09505

[8] Jasmonate perception by inositol-phosphate-potentiated COI1–JAZ co-receptor
DOI: 10.1038/nature09430


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Epping: 1
Hawthorn: 1
Weston: 1

Toronto: 1

Tübingen: 5

Rehovot: 8

Yokohama: 8

Krakow: 3

Zurich: 4

Cambridge: 7
Glasgow: 3
London: 2
Nottingham: 7
Oxford: 4, 6


La Jolla: 3
Pasadena: 1
Santa Cruz: 3

Boulder: 2

Boston: 8

East Lansing: 8

St Louis: 8

New Jersey
Princeton: 3

New York
New York: 3

Dallas: 8

Pullman: 8
Seattle: 5, 8

Laramie: 5


From North America and Canada
Neda Afsarmanesh, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231
E-mail: [email protected]

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751
E-mail: [email protected]

From the UK
Rebecca Walton, Nature, London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502
E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 06 Oct 2010

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