Mois : June - April - April - March - February - January -
23/06/2016 - Ready for the car with a licence to kill?
The first autonomous vehicles are expected in the next few years. They should ease traffic and reduce pollution and accidents compared with today's cars. But these self-driving cars (SDC) will face tragic dilemmas: for example, they will have to choose between saving the lives of their passengers or those of pedestrians. CNRS researchers (the first author of the study is a member of and Toulouse School of Economics at Université Toulouse Capitole and the CRM1
), and colleagues from the University of Oregon and MIT have carried out the first study of how Americans perceive these vehicles and whether they would use them. Surprisingly, the people surveyed had a strong moral preference for SDCs that "sacrificed" their passenger for the greater good. But they would be much less inclined to buy a SDC if the government required these vehicles to save the maximum number of people. Paradoxically, a law to this effect could actually cost more lives, by hindering the take-up of autonomous cars, which are safer than current vehicles. This study is published on June 24th in the journal Science. more...
21/06/2016 - An ocean lies a few kilometers beneath Enceladus's icy surface
With eruptions of ice and water vapor, and an ocean covered by an ice shell, Saturn's moon Enceladus is one of the most fascinating in the Solar System, especially as interpretations of data provided by the Cassini spacecraft have been contradictory until now. An international team including researchers from the Laboratoire de Planétologie Géodynamique de Nantes (CNRS/Université de Nantes/Université d'Angers), Charles University in Prague, and the Royal Observatory of Belgium1
recently proposed a new model that reconciles different data sets and shows that the ice shell at Enceladus's south pole may be only a few kilometers thick. This suggests that there is a strong heat source in the interior of Enceladus, an additional factor supporting the possible emergence of life in its ocean. The study has just been published online on the website of Geophysical Research Letters
20/06/2016 - Newborn giant planet grazes its star
For the past 20 years, exoplanets known as 'hot Jupiters' have puzzled astronomers. These giant planets orbit 100 times closer to their host stars than Jupiter does to the Sun, which increases their surface temperatures. But how and when in their history did they migrate so close to their star? Now, an international team of astronomers has announced the discovery of a very young hot Jupiter orbiting in the immediate vicinity of a star that is barely two million years oldthe stellar equivalent of a week-old infant. This first-ever evidence that hot Jupiters can appear at such an early stage represents a major step forward in our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve. The work, led by researchers at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP, CNRS/Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier)1
, in collaboration, amongst others2
, with colleagues at the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (CNRS/Université Grenoble Alpes)3
, is published on 20 June 2016 in the journal Nature
17/06/2016 - A novel research program on traumatic memories
How will the traumatic events of the terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015 evolve in people's memories, whether collective or individual? How does individual memory feed on collective memory and vice versa? Is it possible, by studying cerebral markers, to predict which victims will develop post-traumatic stress disorder and which will recover more quickly? These are a few of the questions addressed in the ambitious 13-Novembre
program, coordinated by the CNRS, Inserm and héSam Université, with the collaboration of numerous partners. This transdisciplinary research program, codirected by the historian Denis Peschanski and neuropsychologist Francis Eustache, is based on the collection and analysis of the accounts of 1000 volunteers, interviewed four times over ten years. Involving several hundred people, this study is a worldwide first in terms of size, number of disciplines encompassed and protocol used. Results are expected to benefit the socio-historical and biomedical fields, but also have implications for public policy and public health. more...
15/06/2016 - Gravitational waves spotted again
On 26 December 2015, scientists from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations received an unexpected Christmas gift when the Advanced LIGO detectors recorded a new gravitational wave signal, three months after the first detection1
. And once again, the signala tiny distortion of spacetimecame from the final spinning 'dance' of two black holes on the point of merging, a phenomenon known as coalescence. This second observation confirms that such cataclysmic events are relatively frequent, making it likely that more will be detected from late 2016, when the Advanced LIGO (US) and Advanced Virgo (Italy) resume operation following upgrading work. This will help scientists to better understand pairs of black holes, bodies that are so dense that neither light nor matter can escape from them. The discovery, made by an international collaboration including CNRS teams, is announced on 15 June 2016 at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, and is published in the journal Physical Review Letters
14/06/2016 - CO2 hits record highs in the Southern hemisphere
Last month, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) as measured at Amsterdam Island, in the southern Indian Ocean, for the first time exceeded the symbolic value of 400 ppm1
, or 0.04%. The CO2 concentrations recorded at the Amsterdam Island research station are the lowest in the world (excluding seasonal cycles), due to the island's remoteness from anthropogenic sources. The 400 ppm threshold was already crossed in the Northern hemisphere during the 2012/2013 winter. In addition, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is speeding up, growing by more than 2 ppm annually over the past four years. The data has been collected for the past 35 years at the Amsterdam Island research station by the French national observation service ICOS-France at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE, CNRS / CEA / UVSQ)2
, with the support of the Institut Polaire Français Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV). more...
07/06/2016 - LISA Pathfinder exceeds expectations
Mission accomplished for the LISA Pathfinder
spacecraft after only two months of science operations. Not only were the technologies needed for the future eLISA1
gravitational wave space observatory validated, but the performance of the ESA demonstrator also exceeded the project specifications by a factor of five, and was very close to requirements for eLISA
. These first results, which involved the Astroparticule et Cosmologie laboratory (CNRS/Université Paris Diderot/CEA/Observatoire de Paris), with support from CNES, are published on 7 June 2016 in the journal Physical Review Letters
. They represent a major step towards space-based gravitational astronomy2
, which will make it possible to study phenomena such as mergers between supermassive black holes. more...
26/05/2016 - Targeting metals to fight Staphylococcus aureus
Researchers from CEA, CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université and INRA, in France have discovered a unique system of acquisition of essential metals in the pathogenic bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. It represents a new potential target for the design of antibiotics. These results are being published in the journal Science on Friday the 27th of May 2016. more...
25/05/2016 - French cave sheds new light on the Neanderthals
Deep inside Bruniquel Cave, in the Tarn et Garonne region of southwestern France, a set of man-made structures1
336 meters from the entrance was recently dated as being approximately 176,500 years old. This discovery indicates that humans began occupying caves much earlier than previously thought: until now the oldest formally proven cave use dated back only 38,000 years (Chauvet). It also ranks the Bruniquel structures among the very first in human history. In addition, traces of fire show that the early Neanderthals, well before Homo sapiens
, knew how to use fire to circulate in enclosed spaces far from daylight. The research, reported in the 25 May 2016 issue of Nature
, was conducted by an international team including Jacques Jaubert from the University of Bordeaux, Sophie Verheyden from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and Dominique Genty of the CNRS, with logistical support from the Société Spéléo-Archéologique de Caussade under president Michel Soulier and the backing of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. more...
23/05/2016 - Ocean pollution: focusing on the fragmentation of plastic waste
First discovered by sailors, the masses of plastic debris floating at the center of vast ocean vortices called gyres are today under close scrutiny by scientists. To better understand the fragmentation of microplastics under the effect of light and abrasion by waves, researchers combined physico-chemical analyses with statistical modeling. They were thus able to show that pieces of plastic debris behave in very different ways according to their size. The bigger pieces appear to float flat at the surface of the water, with one face preferentially exposed to sunlight. However, the researchers observed fewer small-sized debris (around 1 mg) than predicted by the mathematical model. Several hypotheses are put forward to explain this lack. The findings were obtained by researchers from CNRS and Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier1
from samples collected during the 7th Continent Expedition. They are published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology
on 23 May 2016. more...
16/05/2016 - Lead pollution reveals the ancient history of Naples
Almost two thousand years after the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, certain periods of the history of Naples have just been reconstructed. Until now, historians and archaeologists had wondered about the impact of this volcanic eruption on the Aqua Augusta aqueduct which supplied Naples and neighboring cities with water. Recent geochemical analyses have made it possible to directly link the lead in the water pipes of the period with that trapped in the sediments of the old port of Naples. Results clearly show that the hydraulic network had been destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 and that it took around fifteen years to replace it. These findings are the subject of an article published in the journal PNAS
on May 16 2016 by the laboratory Archéorient environnements et sociétés de l'Orient ancien
(CNRS/Université Lumière Lyon 2)1
and Laboratoire de géologie de Lyon: Terre, planètes et environnement
(CNRS/ENS Lyon/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1), in collaboration with University of Glasgow, University of Southampton and Universita' degli Studi di Napoli Federico II2
16/05/2016 - Enhanced hippocampal-cortical coupling improves memory
For the first time, scientists in the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology (CNRS/INSERM/Collège de France) have produced direct evidence that the long-term storage of memories involves a dialogue between two brain structures, the hippocampus and cortex, during sleep; by enhancing this dialogue, they succeeded in triggering the consolidation of memories that would otherwise have been forgotten. This work is published in Nature Neuroscience on 16 May 2016. more...
13/05/2016 - Green chemistry: INCREASE brings together research and industry
How can green chemistry be developed? According to a novel network inaugurated on Friday 13 May at the University of Poitiers, the answer is to use biomass, a source of renewable carbon, as raw material. Set up by the CNRS with the support of the Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes region to the tune of M 1.165, INCREASE is a public-private collaborative network dedicated to eco-design and renewable resources. At present it brings together around 200 researchers from eight research laboratories, as well as players in various sectors of the chemical industry including cosmetics, agrifood and detergents. Benefiting from the synergy between research and industry, the network aims to carry out cutting-edge research while meeting the challenge of placing sustainable products and processes on the French and world markets. INCREASE also aims to become a worldwide reference network for the recycling of biomass by physical methods. more...
02/05/2016 - Although boiling, water does shape Martian terrain
At present, liquid water on Mars only exists in small quantities as a boiling liquid, and only during the warmest time of day in summer. Its role has therefore been considered insignificant until now. However, an international team including scientists from the CNRS, Université de Nantes and Université Paris-Sud and headed by Marion Massé, from the Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique de Nantes (CNRS/Université de Nantes)1
has now shown that even though water that emerges onto the surface of Mars immediately begins to boil, it creates an unstable, turbulent flow that can eject sediment and cause dry avalanches. The flow of small amounts of a boiling liquid therefore significantly alters the surface. The discovery of this exotic process, unknown on our planet, radically changes our interpretation of the Martian surface, making it difficult to undertake a direct comparison of flows on the Earth and on Mars. These findings are published on 2 May 2016 in the journal Nature Geoscience
27/04/2016 - A single-celled organism capable of learning
For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that an organism devoid of a nervous system is capable of learning. A team from the Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale
(CNRS/Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier) has succeeded in showing that a single-celled organism, the protist Physarum polycephalum, is capable of a type of learning called habituation. This discovery throws light on the origins of learning ability during evolution, even before the appearance of a nervous system and brain. It may also raise questions as to the learning capacities of other extremely simple organisms such as viruses and bacteria. These findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B
on 27 April 2016. more...
21/04/2016 - Giant plankton gains long-due attention
A team of marine biologists and oceanographers from CNRS, UPMC1
and the German organization GEOMAR have revealed the importance in all the world's oceans of a group of large planktonic organisms called Rhizaria
, which had previously been completely underestimated. According to their findings, these organisms make up 33% of the total abundance of large zooplankton in the world's oceans, and account for 5% of the overall marine biomass. The study was carried out on samples collected during eleven oceanographic campaigns (2008-2013) covering the world's main oceanic regions, and included the Tara Oceans
expedition. It is published on 20 April 2016 on the website of the journal Nature
(print edition 28 April2
21/04/2016 - Binding to produce flowers
The LEAFY protein, a transcription factor responsible 1
for flower development, is able to assemble itself in small chains made up of several proteins. This mechanism allows it to bind to and activate regions of the genome that are inaccessible to a single protein. These results were obtained by scientists in the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Végétale (CNRS/Inra/CEA/Université Grenoble Alpes) and the Institut de Biologie Structurale (CNRS/CEA/Université Grenoble Alpes)2
, working in collaboration with their international partners . Published on 21 April 2016 in Nature Communications
, they open the way to new research opportunities regarding the regulation of gene expression. more...
20/04/2016 - Recycling an anti-hypertensive agent to fight brain tumors
Treatments available for glioblastomamalignant brain tumorshave little effect. An international collaboration1 led by the Laboratoire Neurosciences Paris-Seine (CNRS/ INSERM/UPMC)2 tested active ingredients from existing medications and eventually identified one compound of interest, prazosin, on these tumors. Not only did it seem to be effective in this type of cancer, but it also acted on a signaling pathway that is common with other cancers. These promising findings are available online (advance publication) in EMBO Molecular Medicine. more...
14/04/2016 - Tara PACIFIC 2016-2018Coral reefs biodiversity facing climate change
The research schooner Tara will leave her home port of Lorient on May 28th 2016 for a new expedition in the Asian Pacific. The boat will sail nearly 100,000 km around the Pacific Ocean for more than two years. The interdisciplinary team of scientists aboard, coordinated by the CNRS and the Scientific Centre of Monaco (CSM), will examine in a new way the biodiversity of coral reefs and their evolution in response to climate change and human activities. This adventure is sponsored by the CNRS, PSL, CEA, CSM and many other public and private partners. more...
11/04/2016 - Malaria: a new route of access to the heart of the parasite
Scientists have just identified an Achilles heel in the parasite that causes malaria, by showing that its optimum development is dependent on its ability to expropriate RNA molecules in infected cells a host-pathogen interaction that had never previously been observed. Although the precise function of this deviation remains mysterious, these findings open new perspectives for the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents within the parasite. This study, performed by the CNRS Architecture et Réactivité de l'ARN laboratory (Strasbourg), in collaboration with the Malaria Infection and Immunity Unit at Institut Pasteur (Paris), is published in PNAS
the week of 11 April 2016. more...
07/04/2016 - Origin of life: an artificial comet holds the missing piece
Researchers have for the first time shown that ribose, a sugar that is one of the building blocks of genetic material in living organisms, may have formed in cometary ices. To obtain this result, scientists at the Institut de Chimie de Nice (CNRS/Université Nice Sophia Antipolis) carried out a highly detailed analysis of an artificial comet created by their colleagues at the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (CNRS/Université Paris-Sud). Along with other teams1, including one at the SOLEIL synchrotron, they propose the first realistic scenario for the formation of this key compound, which had never been detected in meteorites or cometary ices until now. Their findings, which shed new light on the emergence of life on Earth, are published in the journal Science dated 8 April 2016. more...
06/04/2016 - Nanoporous material's strange "breathing" behavior
High-tech sponges of the infinitely small, nanoporous materials can capture and release gaseous or liquid chemicals in a controlled way. A team of French and German researchers from the Institut de Recherche de Chimie Paris (CNRS/Chimie ParisTech) and the Institut Charles Gerhardt de Montpellier (CNRS/Université de Montpellier/ENSCM)1
has developed and described one of these materials, DUT-49, whose behavior is totally counterintuitive. When pressure is increased for a sample of DUT-49 to absorb more gas, the material contracts suddenly and releases its contentsas if, when inhaling, the lungs contracted and expelled the air that they contained. This work, published in Nature
on April 6, 2016, makes it possible to envisage innovative behavior in materials science. more...
29/04/2015 - Film: A Nero's folly
In 2009, in Rome, on the Palatine hill, an excavation carried out by a team of French and Italian archaeologists brought to light the remains of an outstanding building that could be the base of the revolving dining room of Nero's palace. Nero's palace was made famous by descriptions handed down by ancient authors, who emphasize its size and splendour. However, this "golden house", the Domus Aurea, is today still poorly known because the buildings erected by Nero's successors have largely covered it over. more...
24/04/2015 - The April issue of CNRS International Magazine is now available
Whether for refugees, displaced populations or migrants, camps are a new feature of global society. Renowned expert and author Michel Agier details the many complex facets of a phenomenon that affects some 20 million people worldwide. Also in this issue, a special report on permafrost and climate change; prototype robots for deep-sea archaeology; a survey of international regulations surrounding animal testing; 2014 Kavli Prize-winner Thomas Ebbesen; unraveling the Herculaneum scrolls; new ways to measure nanopollution; the future of voting is online; avoiding unnecessary chemotherapy; the LIMMS celebrates 20 years of excellence, and much more. more...
24/04/2015 - Close-up: A Good Pitch
“Brass instruments can be quite loud, and trombones are no exception. Musicians use various devices to dampen the emitted sound, the most common being the straight mute…” more...
31/03/2016 - The Moon thought to play a major role in maintaining Earth's magnetic field
The Earth's magnetic field permanently protects us from the charged particles and radiation that originate in the Sun. This shield is produced by the geodynamo, the rapid motion of huge quantities of liquid iron alloy in the Earth's outer core. To maintain this magnetic field until the present day, the classical model required the Earth's core to have cooled by around 3 000 °C over the past 4.3 billion years. Now, a team of researchers from CNRS and Université Blaise Pascal1
suggests that, on the contrary, its temperature has fallen by only 300 °C. The action of the Moon, overlooked until now, is thought to have compensated for this difference and kept the geodynamo active. Their work is published on 30 march 2016 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. more...
23/03/2016 - The past, present and future of African dust
So much dust is scattered across the planet by the winds of the Sahara that it alters the climate. However, the emission and transport of this dust, which can reach the poles, fluctuate considerably. Although many hypotheses have been put forward to explain this phenomenon, no unambiguous relationship between this dust and the climate had been established until now. According to research carried out by a French-US team of researchers from LATMOS1
(CNRS/Météo-France) and SIO3
, meteorological events such as El Niño and rainfall in the Sahel have an impact on dust emission, by accelerating a Saharan wind downstream of the main mountain massifs of Northwest Africa. The scientists have also developed a new predictive model showing that emissions of Saharan dust will decline over the next hundred years. Their work is published in the 24 March 2016 issue of the journal Nature
23/03/2016 - Staying in shape: How wood chemistry relates to structural stability
Wood has many uses, which require to know its shrinking1
and swelling capacity in relation to humidity (known as dimensional stability). Researchers from the CNRS and Cirad2
have shown that in Bagassa guianensis
, a fast-growing Guianese tree, the secondary metabolites, whose main purpose is to defend the tree against insects and fungi, also serve to reduce shrinkage. These metabolites therefore make B. guianensis
wood very stable. These results were obtained using a method that will be applied to a broad range of other tree species. They show how describing biodiversity through in-depth analysis of wood properties can help identify promising species for future plantation. These findings will be published in PLOS ONE
on March 23rd 2016. more...
16/03/2016 - Spasticity: two potential therapeutic avenues
Following spinal cord injury, most patients experience an exaggeration of muscle tone called spasticity, which frequently leads to physical disability. A team at the Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone (CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université) has just identified one of the molecular mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon. It has also proposed two therapeutic solutions that have proved conclusive in animals, one of which will be tested during phase II clinical trials as early as this year. This work, published in Nature Medicine
on 14 March 2016, thus opens new therapeutic avenues to reduce this physical disability. more...
16/03/2016 - A source accelerating Galactic cosmic rays to unprecedented energy discovered at the centre of the Milky Way
For more than ten years the H.E.S.S. observatory in Namibia, run by an international collaboration of 42 institutions in 12 countries, has been mapping the centre of our galaxy in very-high-energy gamma rays. These gamma rays are produced by cosmic rays from the innermost region of the Galaxy. A detailed analysis of the latest H.E.S.S. data, published on 16th March 2016 in Nature
, reveals for the first time a source of this cosmic radiation at energies never observed before in the Milky Way: the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Galaxy, likely to accelerate cosmic rays to energies 100 times larger than those achieved at the largest terrestrial particle accelerator, the LHC at CERN. more...
10/03/2016 - First non-utilitarian weapons found in the Arabian Peninsula
An exceptional collection of bronze weapons dating from the Iron Age II (900-600 BC) has been uncovered near Adam, in the Sultanate of Oman. The remains were discovered scattered on the ground in a building belonging to what is thought to be a religious complex, during excavations carried out by the French archaeological mission in central Oman. In particular, they include two complete quivers and weapons made of metal, including two bows, objects that are for the most part non-functional and hitherto unknown in the Arabian Peninsula. Additional archaeological research, which began in 2011 in the region, will be needed to elucidate the political system, social practices and rituals existing in the Arabian Peninsula at the time. Headed by Guillaume Gernez from the Laboratoire Archéologies et Sciences de l'Antiquité (CNRS / Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne / Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense), the excavations also involved the Laboratoire Archéorient (CNRS / Université Lyon 2). The campaign was notably supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, as well as by Oman's Ministry of Heritage and Culture. more...
09/03/2016 - Rosetta: type of ice reveals the age of comets
The ice buried inside comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko is mainly found in crystalline form, which implies that it originated in the protosolar nebula and is therefore the same age as the Solar System. This discovery was made by an international team led by a researcher at the LAM1
(CNRS/Aix Marseille Université) and also including scientists from the Laboratoire J.-L. Lagrange (OCA/CNRS/Université Nice Sophia Antipolis) and the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques (CNRS/ Université de Lorraine), with support from the CNES. Their findings were obtained by analyzing data from the Rosina2
instrument, placed on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft. This work has been published on 08 March 2016 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters
07/03/2016 - A New Source of Quantum Light
A new ultra-bright source of single photons - 15 times brighter than commonly used sources and emitting photons that are 99.5% indistinguishable from one another - has been developed by researchers from the CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, and Université Paris-Sud1
. This feat was achieved thanks to the nanometrically-precise positioning of a quantum dot2
within an optical microcavity. Adding an electrical control to the device helped reduce the "noise" around the quantum dot, which generally renders photons different from one another. Obtained in collaboration with researchers from Brisbane (Australia), these results make it possible to conduct quantum computing of unprecedented complexity, a first step toward the creation of optical quantum computers. The results will be published in Nature Photonics
on March 7, 2016. more...
03/03/2016 - 30 small neurons join forces against pain
Oxytocin plays a crucial role in modulating the response to pain, but until now the process leading to its release was unknown. An international team1
, coordinated by Alexandre Charlet, at the CNRS Institut des Neurosciences Cellulaires et Intégratives
in Strasbourg (France) and Valery Grinevich from the DKFZ2
in Germany, has just identified a new pain control center situated in the hypothalamus. It comprises some thirty neurons that are wholly responsible for coordinating the release of oxytocin into the blood and spinal cord, thus reducing painful sensations. These findings, which open new perspectives in the treatment of pathological pain, are detailed in an article published on 3 March 2016 in Neuron
02/03/2016 - Great tilt gave Mars a new face
The surface of the planet Mars tilted by 20 to 25 degrees 3 to 3.5 billion years ago. This was caused by a massive volcanic structure, the Tharsis volcanic dome1, which is the largest in the Solar System. Because of its extraordinary mass, it caused the outer layers of Mars (its crust and mantle) to rotate around its core. The discovery of this huge shift changes our vision of Mars during the first billion years of its history, at a time when life may have emerged. It also provides a solution to three puzzles: we now know why rivers formed where they are observed today; why underground reservoirs of water ice, until now considered anomalous, are located far from the poles of Mars; and why the Tharsis dome is today situated on the equator. These findings are published on 2 March 2016 in the journal Nature by a mainly French team including researchers from Géosciences Paris Sud (CNRS/Université Paris-Sud), Géosciences Environnement Toulouse (CNRS/Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier/IRD) and the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (CNRS/École polytechnique/UPMC/ENS), together with a researcher from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (University of Arizona, US). more...
23/02/2016 - Searching for Planet 9
Using observations from the Cassini spacecraft, a team of French astronomers from the Institut de mécanique céleste et de calcul des éphémérides (Observatoire de Paris / CNRS / UPMC / université Lille 1), and the laboratory GeoAzur (Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur / CNRS / Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis / IRD) have been able to specify the possible positions of a ninth planet in the Solar System. This research is published on 22nd February 2016 in Astronomy & Astrophysics letters
22/02/2016 - Ancient DNA reveals phylogeny of prehistoric armadillos
Before the last ice age, South America had an impressive array of megafauna including the megatherium, a sloth the size of an elephant, and a wide variety of glyptodonts, a group of imposing armored mammals. Glyptodonts have been traditionally considered to represent a phylogenetically distinct group close to the cingulates (armadillos). However, their exact affinities have remained an enigma until now. A research group led by the Institut des sciences de l'évolution de Montpellier (CNRS / Université de Montpellier / IRD / EPHE), the McMaster Ancient DNA Center in Canada1
, and also involving the Centre de recherche sur la paléobiodiversité et les paléoenvironnements in France (CNRS / MNHN Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle / UPMC) have answered this question by sequencing the whole mitochondrial genome of a 12,000-year-old specimen. The researchers managed to show that the glyptodonts are an extinct lineage of cingulates that experienced a spectacular increase in size following their appearance 35 million years ago. This research is published on 22nd February 2016 in the journal Current Biology
22/02/2016 - Soap bubbles' secrets go pop
Some phenomena that appear to be well understood are much more mysterious than it seems. In spite of the numerous applications that rely on the presence or absence of bubbles, no advanced scientific studies had been carried out so far into how bubbles form. A team of researchers in the Matière Molle Department at the Institut de Physique de Rennes (CNRS/Université Rennes 1) tackled this question and developed a self-sustaining bubble machine in the laboratory. The researchers have managed to determine the minimum speed at which air must be blown on a soap film to form bubbles, under various experimental conditions. This work, which would allow optimization of various industrial processes, was published on February 19, 2016 in Physical Review Letters
19/02/2016 - The intestinal microbiota: a new ally for optimum growth
The intestinal microbiota is necessary to ensure optimum postnatal growth and contributes to determining the size of adult individuals, notably in the event of undernutrition. The key element in this relationship is Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), whose production and activity are in part controlled by the microbiota. This has recently been demonstrated in mice by scientists at the Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon (CNRS/ENS Lyon/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1), the Laboratoire CarMeN (INSERM/INRA/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/Insa Lyon)1
, and Unit BF2I (INRA/INSA Lyon)2
. These findings, published on 19 February 2016 in Science
, and obtained in collaboration with researchers from the Czech Academy of Sciences, also show that some strains of intestinal bacteria belonging to the Lactobacillus plantarum
species may favor the postnatal growth of animals, thus offering a new opportunity to combat the harmful effects of chronic infantile undernutrition. more...
15/02/2016 - Clouds reveal new particle formation process
In addition to precipitation, clouds influence the climate in various ways: they cover 70% of the Earth's surface and represent nearly 15% of the volume of the atmosphere. Scientists need to understand their underlying chemical and physical mechanisms in order to better integrate them into climate change models. An international team of researchers at the Laboratoire interuniversitaire des systèmes atmosphériques (CNRS/Université Paris-Est Créteil/Université Paris Diderot)1
and the Laboratoire chimie de l'environnement (CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université) thus demonstrated for the first time the role played by cloud droplets in the atmospheric transformation of volatile organic pollutants. Volatile organic compounds, in gaseous form, condensate in these droplets to form secondary organic aerosols, which are a mixture of gas and solid or liquid particles. This work is published on 15 February 2016 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. more...
12/02/2016 - Humanoid robots in tomorrow's aircraft manufacturing
Developing humanoid robotic technology to perform difficult tasks in aircraft manufacturing facilities is the goal of a four-year joint research project, which is being conducted by the Joint Robotics Laboratory (CNRS/AIST)1
and Airbus Group. It will officially be launched on 12 February 2016 at the French Embassy in Tokyo2
. The introduction of humanoids on aircraft assembly lines will make it possible to relieve human operators of the most laborious and dangerous tasks, thus allowing them to concentrate on higher value-added ones. The primary difficulty for these robots will be to work in a confined environment and move without colliding with the numerous surrounding objects. This is the first issue researchers will have to solve by developing new algorithms for the planning and control of precise movements. more...
11/02/2016 - Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein's prediction
LIGO opens New Window on the Universe with Observation of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes. For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos. Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed. The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51 a.m. UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters
, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors. Around a hundred scientists working in six laboratories associated with the CNRS contributed to the discovery, as part of the Virgo collaboration. more...
10/02/2016 - Plankton network linked to ocean's biological carbon pump revealed
The ocean is the largest carbon sink on the planet. The community of planktonic organisms involved in the removal of carbon from the upper layers of the ocean has now been described by an interdisciplinary team bringing together oceanographers, biologists and computer scientists, principally from the CNRS, UPMC, Nantes University, VIB, EMBL and CEA. This first overview of the network of species linked to the oceanic biological pump has revealed some new players as well as the main bacterial functions participating in the process. It was obtained by analyzing samples collected by the Tara Oceans expedition in the nutrient-poor regions that cover most of the oceans. The scientists have also shown that the presence of a small number of bacterial and viral genes predicts variation in carbon export from the upper layers of the ocean. These findings should enable researchers to better understand the sensitivity of this network to a changing ocean and to better predict the effects that climate change will have on the functioning of the biological carbon pump, which is a key process for sequestering carbon at global scale. Published on 10 February 2016 on the website of the journal Nature, this work highlights the important role played by plankton in the climate system. more...
10/02/2016 - Forensic odorology scientifically validated
Odorology is a technique that uses specially-trained dogs to identify human scent. It is used in police investigations to establish that an individual has been at the scene of a crime. However, there is no international norm on how these dogs are trained. At the Centre de recherche en neurosciences de Lyon
(CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/Inserm), researchers specializing in scents and their memorization have analyzed data, provided since 2003 by the Division of the Technical and Scientific Police (DTSP, Ecully) on dog performances in scent identification tasks. Their results show that, at the end of a 24-month training program, the dogs are able to recognize the smell of an individual in 80-90% of cases and never mistake it for that of another. These findings validate the procedures that are currently in use and should convince the international community of the reliability of this method. This work was published on 10 February 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE
09/02/2016 - Update on the search for gravitational waves by the VIRGO and LIGO collaborations
A hundred years after Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, researchers of the LIGO and VIRGO collaborations (of which the CNRS is a founding member), are issuing an update on these tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time. more...
08/02/2016 - Toxoplasmosis: morbid attraction to leopards in parasitized chimpanzees
Researchers from the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive (CNRS/Université de Montpellier/Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3/EPHE) have shown that chimpanzees infected with toxoplasmosis are attracted by the urine of their natural predators, leopards, but not by urine from other large felines. The study, published on 8 February 2016 in Current Biology, suggests that parasite manipulation by Toxoplasma gondii is specific to each host. It fuels an ongoing debate on the origin of behavioral modifications observed in humans infected with toxoplasmosis: they probably go back to a time when our ancestors were still preyed upon by large felines. more...
01/02/2016 - Molecular models help to better understand shale gas
Although shale gas development is attracting a lot of attention, the recovery method used, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is raising increasing concerns. In order to develop more environmentally friendly methods, researchers need models and simulations validated by experiment and capable of reconstructing the complexity of such geological structures. With this in mind, molecular models of kerogen, whose breakdown produces shale gas, have been developed by researchers from the CNRS/MIT International Joint Unit 'Multi-Scale Materials Science for Energy and Environment' and the Institut de Sciences des Matériaux de Mulhouse (CNRS/Université de Haute-Alsace). Such models, derived from experimentally determined properties of kerogen, can be used to investigate the behavior of this organic material. This work is published on the website of Nature Materials
on 1 February 2016. more...
27/01/2016 - Tuberculosis: discovery of a critical stage in the evolution of the bacillus towards pathogenicity
It is the disappearance of a glycolipid from the bacterial cell envelope during evolution that may have considerably increased the virulence of tuberculosis bacilli in humans. Scientists from the CNRS, the Institut Pasteur and the Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier1
have hown that this disappearance modified the surface properties of Mycobacterium tuberculosis
, favoring its aggregation in "cords" and increasing its pathogenicity. These findings, which enable a better understanding of the mechanisms linked to the evolution and emergence of tuberculosis bacilli, constitute a major advance in our knowledge on this disease. They are published in Nature Microbiology
on 27 January 2016. more...
22/01/2016 - Cats domesticated in China earlier than 3000 BC
Were domestic cats brought to China over 5 000 years ago? Or were small cats domesticated in China at that time? There was no way of deciding between these two hypotheses until a team from the 'Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques et Environnements' laboratory (CNRS/MNHN), in collaboration with colleagues from the UK and China1
, succeeded in determining the species corresponding to cat remains found in agricultural settlements in China, dating from around 3500 BC. All the bones belong to the leopard cat, a distant relation of the western wildcat, from which all modern domestic cats are descended. The scientists have thus provided evidence that cats began to be domesticated in China earlier than 3 000 BC. This scenario is comparable to that which took place in the Near East and Egypt, where a relationship between humans and cats developed following the birth of agriculture. Their findings2
are published on 22 January 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE
21/01/2016 - The Snail-Absolute Tuning: visualize sounds and tune instruments precisely and intuitively
A novel process for analyzing and visualizing sound has been designed by the Laboratoire Sciences et Technologies de la Musique et du Son (CNRS/IRCAM/French Ministry of Culture and Communication/UPMC). The Snail-Absolute Tuning is a patented CNRS technology1
that offers novel ways of tuning a musical instrument, working on intonation, and visualizing music and sounds in real time. Beyond the marked scientific advance that it constitutes, this software program is innovative for musicians and all those who work with sound. It is suitable for both amateurs and professionals. It will be launched on January 21, 2016 and will be presented in Paris at the Salon Musicora on February 6-7, 20162
18/01/2016 - How ants self-organize to build their nests
Ants collectively build nests whose size can reach several thousand times that of individual ants and whose architecture is sometimes highly complex. However, their ability to coordinate several thousand individuals when building their nests remains a mystery. To understand the mechanisms involved in this process, researchers from CNRS, Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier and Université de Nantes1
combined behavioral analysis, 3D imaging and computational modeling techniques. Their work shows that ants self-organize by interacting with the structures they build thanks to the addition of a pheromone to their building material. This chemical signal controls their building activity locally and determines the shape of the nest. Its breakdown over time and due to environmental conditions also enables the ants to adapt the shape of their nests. This work is published in PNAS
on 18 January 2016. more...
18/01/2016 - Curiosity is not a "bad" defect in mice
When an unexpected event occurs, it is often necessary to act, even if one does not control all of the consequences. According to scientists in the Laboratoire Neurosciences Paris-Seine (CNRS/UPMC/INSERM)1
, mice will display their curiosity in a situation of uncertainty: they tend to explore their environment in order to comprehend it better. As a step on from this, the scientists have demonstrated the crucial role of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) in modulating these behaviors. Their findings may help us to clarify our understanding of certain psychiatric disorders. They were published on 18 January 2016 on the Nature Neuroscience
15/01/2016 - Anne Peyroche named CNRS Chief Research Officer
CNRS President Alain Fuchs has appointed Anne Peyroche as new Chief Research Officer. She will take up her post on 18 January 2016, replacing Philippe Baptiste, who is taking up other duties. Peyroche, a researcher at the French Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), is currently deputy cabinet director (in charge of research) at the French State Secretariat for Higher Education and Research. more...
12/01/2016 - Is autism hiding in a fold of the brain?
Scientists at CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université and AP-HM have identified a cerebral marker specific to autism that can be detected by MRI and is present as from the age of two years. The abnormality thus detected consists in a less deep fold in Broca's area, a region of the brain specialized in language and communication, functions that are impaired in autistic patients. This discovery may assist in the earlier diagnosis and management of these patients. It has been made possible by the medical imaging processing skills of the Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone (CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université) and access to a homogeneous cohort of patients diagnosed at a very young age and all assessed using the same protocol at the Centre de Ressources Autisme PACA. The results of their collaboration are published on 12 January 2016 in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neurosciences and Neuroimaging
12/01/2016 - Why prostate cancer is more aggressive in obese patients
Obesity has direct consequences on health and is associated with the onset of aggressive cancers, but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are little known. Researchers from the Institut de Pharmacologie et Biologie Structurale (CNRS/Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier)1
have recently elucidated one of these mechanisms in prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers in men: in obese patients, the adipose tissue surrounding the prostate gland facilitates the propagation of tumor cells outside the prostate. A patent2
has been filed for these results, which open new avenues for the treatment of prostate cancer, and are published in Nature Communications
on January 12, 2016. more...
27/01/2015 - Film: Gérard Berry, A Programming Pioneer
This film draws the portrait of Gérard Berry, computer scientist, awarded the 2014 CNRS Gold Medal. Gérard Berry, holder of the first chair in computer science at the Collège de France since 2012. From the formal processing of programming languages to the computer-assisted design of integrated circuits and parallel real-time programming, Berry's achievements have led to major advances in information technology, finding myriad applications in the daily lives of computer users the world over. more...
27/01/2015 - The January issue of CNRS International Magazine is now available
Scientific fraud, long downplayed or even denied, is now taken very seriously and has prompted a global response at all levels of research. Our special report investigates the causes, extent, and consequences of this shameful dysfunction of science, as well as the measures being implemented to eradicate it. Also in this issue, Rosetta’s close encounter with a comet; a novel method to predict solar flares; how letter recognition repurposes neural circuitry used to detect threats; 2014 CNRS Gold Medalist Gérard Berry; philosopher Barbara Cassin emphasizes the importance of linguistic diversity; the 1000 start-ups generated by CNRS research; understanding Africa’s next challenges; 60 years of CERN; why mangroves are an asset to treasure, and much more. more...
27/01/2015 - Snapshot: Scanning a Temple
In 2013, researchers from the MAP1 laboratory were able to render a 3D model of the Tholos of Delphi, a one-of-its-kind Greek temple at the base of Mount Parnassus... more...