Mois : March - February - January -
05/03/2014 - VLT: MUSE takes a look at the Universe
A unique new instrument dubbed MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) has been successfully installed on the European Southern Observatory (ESO)'s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal, in the heart of the Atacama desert in northern Chile. MUSE is one of four second-generation instruments selected by ESO (1) to equip the VLT (2), the flagship facility of European astronomy for the beginning of the third millennium. Thanks to its exceptional performance, this wide field of view, 3D spectrograph will be able to explore the distant Universe. It was developed in particular by two French research laboratories, the Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon), which headed the project, and the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (CNRS/Université Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier). During its highly successful 'first light' (test phase), MUSE observed distant galaxies, bright stars and many other celestial objects. more...
03/03/2014 - 30,000 year-old giant virus found in Siberia
A new type of giant virus called Pithovirus
has been discovered in the frozen ground of extreme north-eastern Siberia by researchers from the Information Génomique et Structurale laboratory (CNRS/AMU), in association with teams from the Biologie à Grande Echelle laboratory (CEA/INSERM/Université Joseph Fourier), Génoscope (CEA/CNRS) and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Buried underground, this giant virus, which is harmless to humans and animals, has survived being frozen for more than 30,000 years. Although its size and amphora shape are reminiscent of Pandoravirus
, analysis of its genome and replication mechanism proves that Pithovirus
is very different. This work brings to three the number of distinct families of giant viruses. It is published on the website of the journal PNAS
in the week of March 3, 2014. more...
03/03/2014 - Earth's mantle plasticity explained
The Earth's mantle is a solid layer that undergoes slow, continuous convective motion. But how do these rocks deform, thus making such motion possible, given that minerals such as olivine (the main constituent of the upper mantle) do not exhibit enough defects in their crystal lattice to explain the deformations observed in nature? A team led by the Unité Matériaux et Transformations (CNRS/Université Lille 1/Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Lille) has provided an unexpected answer to this question. It involves little known and hitherto neglected crystal defects, known as 'disclinations', which are located at the boundaries between the mineral grains that make up rocks. Focusing on olivine, the researchers have for the first time managed to observe such defects and model the behavior of grain boundaries when subjected to a mechanical stress. The findings, which have just been published in Nature
, go well beyond the scope of the geosciences: they provide a new, extremely powerful tool for the study of the dynamics of solids and for the materials sciences in general. more...
26/02/2014 - CNRS president Alain Fuchs reappointed
Alain Fuchs has been reappointed president of the CNRS for a four-year term by France's Council of Ministers on February 26, 2014, on the recommendation of the Minister for Higher Education and Research. more...
13/02/2014 - Culture influences young people's self-esteem
Regardless of our personal values, we base most of our self-esteem on the fulfilment of the dominant values of our culture, reveals a global survey supervised by Maja Becker, a social psychologist at the CLLE (Laboratoire Cognition, Langue, Langages, Ergonomie, CNRS / Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail). The results of the study, involving more than 5,000 teenagers and young adults in 19 countries, were recently published online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. more...
11/02/2014 - Are wind farms changing Europe's climate?
The development of wind farms in Europe only has an extremely limited impact on the climate at the continental scale, and this will remain true until at least 2020. These are the main conclusions of a study carried out by researchers from CNRS, CEA and UVSQ1
, in collaboration with INERIS and ENEA, the Italian agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable development. These results were established using climate simulations that included the effect on the atmosphere of wind farms located in Europe, on the basis of a realistic scenario forecasting a two-fold increase in wind energy production by 2020, in accordance with European countries' commitments. Published on the website of the journal Nature Communications
on 11 February 2014, the work highlights the importance of carrying out fresh studies to assess the impact of wind energy development by 2050. more...
05/02/2014 - Graphene ribbons highly conductive at room temperature
An international team including researchers from CNRS, Université de Lorraine, the SOLEIL synchrotron facility , Georgia Institute of technology, Oak Ridge National laboratory and Université de Leibniz have achieved a remarkable feat: they have produced graphene ribbons in which electrons move freely. The scientists have devised an entirely novel way of synthesizing such ribbons, and demonstrated their exceptional electrical conductivity at room temperature. The nanoribbons hold out great promise for cutting-edge electronics. The work is published in the 6 February 2014 issue of the journal Nature. more...
31/01/2014 - Researchers develop first single-molecule LED
The ultimate challenge in the race to miniaturize light emitting diodes (LED) has now been met: a team led by the Institut de Physique et de Chimie des Matériaux de Strasbourg (IPCMS, CNRS/Université de Strasbourg), in collaboration with UPMC and CEA, has developed the first ever single-molecule LED. The device is formed from a single polythiophene wire placed between the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope and a gold surface. It emits light only when the current passes in a certain direction. This experimental tour de force sheds light on the interactions between electrons and photons at the smallest scales. Moreover, it represents yet another step towards creating components for a molecular computer in the future. This work has recently been published in the journal Physical Review Letters. more...
29/01/2014 - The Wood-Cricket, Wave Propagation in the Air
The wood-cricket lives in the leaf litter in our forests. It's just a few millimeters long, and moves by walking or jumping. On its own scale, the grass, leaves and dead branches in the undergrowth form an extremely complex three-dimensional universe. The cricket is often hunted by the Pardosa lugubris, or wolf spider, which attacks it by surprise, running on the ground. It's been discovered that the cricket can sense the faintest breath of air pushed by the spider during an attack. This sensitivity can sometimes save its life, an exploit that intrigues the scientists… more...
29/01/2014 - Using rare earths to interpret certain fossils
Until now, interpreting flattened fossils was a major challenge. Now, a new approach for the analysis of such fossils has been developed by a team bringing together researchers from the IPANEMA unit (CNRS / French Ministry of Culture and Communication), the Centre de Recherche sur la Paléobiodiversité et les Paléoenvironnements (CNRS / MNHN / UPMC) and the SOLEIL synchrotron. This non-destructive method makes use of chemical elements known as rare earths. By locating and quantifying such elements in trace amounts, it is possible to improve interpretation of fossil morphology. This enabled the researchers to describe not only the anatomy but also the environment of preservation of three fossils of Cretaceous age. Published on 29 January in the journal Plos One
, the work should facilitate the interpretation of many flattened fossils, especially those that are exceptionally well conserved. more...
22/01/2014 - Water vapor discovered for the first time around an asteroid
An international team, including researchers from CNRS and the Paris Observatory at LESIA1
(Observatoire de Paris/CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie/Université Paris-Diderot) and at IMCEE2
(Observatoire de Paris/CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie/Université Lille 1), has discovered intermittent emissions of water vapor on Ceres, the largest of the asteroids, using the Herschel3
space telescope. These findings are published in the journal Nature
dated 23 January 2014. more...
21/01/2014 - Gold Wires : a picture seen in CNRS international magazine n°31
"This is not a dazzling jeweller's creation, but it is gold nonetheless, in the form of nanoparticles encapsulated in a cholesteric liquid crystal..." more...
21/01/2014 - The January issue of the CNRS International Magazine is now avalable
Last September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first volume of its Fifth Assessment Report. How was it prepared? How do scientists conduct research on climate change? All you ever wanted to know on IPCC reports is featured in this issue's Focus. Other subjects include a stroll on Mars with the rover Curiosity ; the latestinventory of the Amazon rainforest ; a new program to study meningitis outbreaks in Africa ; a fruitful collaboration with Azerbaidjan on archaeology; an interview of Alain Tarrius on a phenomenon he calls transmigration ; and a lot more… more...
17/01/2014 - First infrared satellite monitoring of peak pollution episodes in China
Plumes of several anthropogenic pollutants (especially particulate matter and carbon monoxide) located near ground level over China have for the first time been detected from space. The work was carried out by a team at the Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (CNRS / UPMC / UVSQ)1
in collaboration with Belgian researchers and with support from CNES, using measurements by the IASI2
infrared sounder launched on board the MetOp3
satellite. Their groundbreaking results are published online on the website of the journal Geophysical Research Letters
dated 17 January 2014. They represent a crucial step towards improved monitoring of regional pollution and forecasting of local pollution episodes, especially in China. more...
09/01/2014 - How fiber prevents diabetes and obesity
Scientists have known for the past twenty years that a fiber-rich diet protects the organism against obesity and diabetes but the mechanisms involved have so far eluded them. A French-Swedish team including researchers from CNRS, Inserm and the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (Unité Inserm 855 Nutrition et Cerveau) has succeeded in elucidating this mechanism, which involves the intestinal flora and the ability of the intestine to produce glucose between meals. These results, published in the journal Cell
on 9 January 2014, also clarify the role of the intestine and its associated microorganisms in maintaining glycaemia. They will give rise to new dietary recommendations to prevent diabetes and obesity. more...
05/01/2014 - Supervolcano triggers recreated in X-ray laboratory
Scientists have reproduced the conditions inside the magma chamber of a supervolcano to understand what it takes to trigger its explosion. These rare events represent the biggest natural catastrophes on Earth except for the impact of giant meteorites. Using synchrotron X-rays, the scientists established that supervolcano eruptions may occur spontaneously, driven only by magma pressure without the need for an external trigger. The results are published in Nature Geosciences.
The team was led by Wim Malfait and Carmen Sanchez-Valle of ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and comprised scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen (Switzerland), Okayama University (Japan), the Laboratory of Geology of CNRS, Université Lyon 1 and ENS Lyon (France) and the European Synchrotron (ESRF) in Grenoble (France). more...