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Oxford University Scientists have discovered 320 million year-old fossil containing oldest plant root cell

The fossils studied during the research are the remains of the soil from the first giant tropical rainforests on Earth

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Scientists in laboratory Image source: Wikimedia commons

Oxford University Herbaria has found in a fossilized root tip, the cells which gave rise to the roots of an ancient plant. The researchers also found, it is the first ever actively growing fossilized root i.e an ancient plant frozen in time. The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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‘I was examining one of the fossilised soil slides held at the University Herbaria as part of my research into the rooting systems of ancient trees when I noticed a structure that looked like the living root tips we see in plants today. I began to realize that I was looking at a population of 320 million-year-old plant stem cells preserved as they were growing — and that it was the first time anything like this had ever been found. It gives us a unique window into how roots developed hundreds of millions of years ago.’ Oxford Plant Sciences PhD student Alexander (Sandy) Hetherington, who made the discovery during the course of his research, said.

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Plant cells. Image source: Wikimedia

These stem cells are located in the meristems (in plants at the tips of roots and shoots) of multicellular organisms. These stem cells are renewing cells which form these organisms. The 320 million-year-old stem cells discovered are different to all those living today, with a unique pattern of cell division that remained unknown until now. That tells us that some of the mechanisms controlling root formation in plants and trees have now become extinct and may have been more diverse than thought.

These roots were important because they comprised the rooting structures of the plants growing in Earth’s first global tropical wetland forests with tall trees over 50m in height and were in part responsible for one of the most dramatic climate change events in history. The evolution of deep rooting systems increased the rate of chemical weathering of silicate minerals in rocks — a chemical reaction that pulled CO2 out of the atmosphere, leading to the cooling of Earth and thus one of the planet’s great ice ages.

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The fossils studied during this research are the remains of the soil from the first giant tropical rainforests on Earth. The rock in which the soil is preserved formed in the Carboniferous swamps that gave rise to the coal sources spanning what is now Appalachia to central Europe, including the coal fields in Wales, northern England and Scotland.

Sandy has named the stem-cell fossil Radix carbonica (Latin for ‘coal root’).

‘These fossils demonstrate how the roots of these ancient plants grew for the first time. It is startling that something so small could have had such a dramatic effect on Earth’s climate. This discovery also shows the importance of collections such as the Oxford University Herbaria — they are so valuable, and we need to maintain them for future generations.’ says Professor Liam Dolan, Head of the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University and senior author of the paper.

-by Vrushali Mahajan, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @Vrushali Mahajan 

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Scientists Trace The Origin of ‘Zero’ to Ancient Indian Manuscript

Scientists have relied on carbon dating technology to determine the world’s oldest recorded derivation of the zero that is now used by people world over

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Scientists have now traced the origin of zero to the Bakhshali manuscripts that date from the 3rd or the 4th century. Pixabay

Oxford, September 16, 2017 : The eminent Indian mathematician Brahmagupta has been credited globally for writing the first-ever text that described zero as a number in 628 AD. According to Professor Marcus Du Sautoy of the University of Oxford, the creation of zero has to be credited as the “greatest breakthrough” in mathematics. But carbon dating of an ancient text has pushed the story of zero’s origin back by 500 years!

Scientists have now traced the origin of zero to the Bakhshali manuscripts that date from the 3rd or the 4th century- over 500 years older than previously thought, which makes it the world’s oldest recorded derivation of the zero that is now used by people world over.

The new search results stemming from the manuscript assert an earlier reference to the symbol of zero that is considerably older than the previously known inscription on a temple in Gwalior, India dating the ninth-century.

We present six astounding facts about the symbol ‘0’,

  1. The Bakhshali script is a fragmentary text, inscribed on 70 leaves of the bark of the birch tree and contains material from three different periods- 224-383 AD, 680-779 AD and 885-993 AD. This also raises critical questions about how the text was clubbed together as a single document.
  2. The ancient text was named after the village it was found buried in. The Bakhshali manuscript was first found in 1881 in a village near Peshawar (present-day Pakistan) called Bakshali. The text was discovered by a local farmer, and was later acquired by the indologist Rudolf Hoernle who later submitted it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
  3. Translations of the Bakhshali manuscript, which was originally written in a form of Sanskrit, reveal that the text was guidance manual for merchants practicing their trade along the Silk Road. The transcript includes multiple practical arithmetic exercises and a proto-type of algebra.
  4. The zero is nowhere used as a ‘number’ having its own value in the Bakhshali manuscript but merely as a placeholder in the system of numeration. This can be better understood by examining the position of ‘0’ in ‘205’ which does not indicate tens. Here, absence of a value, in other words the answer to a problem which is zero is left blank as a way to distinguish 1 from 10 and 100.
  5. Multiple ancient civilizations had evolved an independent placeholder that held no independent value –
  • about 5,000 years ago, the Babylonians made use of a double wedge to denote absence
  • Mayans incorporated a shell to indicate ‘nothing’ in their ancient calendar system

However, the Bakhshali manuscript featured the first ‘dot’ symbol that eventually transformed into the ‘0’ symbol with the hollow centre that is used today.

  1. The Bakhshali script was the first to explore the possibility to use zero as a number- this was later described in a text called Brahmasphutasiddhanta, which had been written and compiled in 626 AD by the great Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta.

The development of zero dramatically changed the field of mathematics, supplementing an implausible range of further work, including the notion of infinity, calculus, digital technology and also some of the larger questions of cosmology about the beginning of the Universe and how its existence might disappear in future.

ALSO READ India Invented Principles of Calculus 250 Years Before Newton. Indian Scholars from a Kerala School Did it

According to a report by The Guardian, the head of the Bodleian Library, Richard Ovenden was quoted as saying that these astounding research results highlight the rich and ancient scientific tradition of South Asia and also draw attention to the Western bias that often left the contributions of these scholars overlooked and ignored.


 

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Treating insomnia in young people can ease mental health problems like Anxiety, Depression: Study

The study is published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal

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A study published Wednesday found that treating insomnia in young people could ease mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
A study published Wednesday found that treating insomnia in young people could ease mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. VOA

London, USA, September 7, 2017: Treating young people who suffer from insomnia by using online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could reduce debilitating mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, scientists said Wednesday.

In a large trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, researchers at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute also found that successfully treating sleep disruption eased psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and paranoia.

“Sleep problems are very common in people with mental health disorders, but for too long insomnia has been trivialized as merely a symptom, rather than a cause, of psychological difficulties,” said Daniel Freeman, a professor of clinical psychology who led the work.

“This study turns that old idea on its head, showing that insomnia may actually be a contributory cause of mental health problems.”

The research involved 3,755 university students from across Britain who were randomized into two groups. One group had six sessions of online CBT, each lasting about 20 minutes, and delivered via a digital program called Sleepio. The others had access to standard treatments but no CBT.

Freeman’s team monitored participants’ mental health with a series of online questionnaires at zero, three, 10 and 22 weeks from the start of treatment.

The researchers found that those who had the CBT sleep treatment reduced their insomnia significantly as well as showing small but sustained reductions in paranoia and hallucinatory experiences.

The CBT also led to improvements in depression, anxiety, nightmares, psychological well-being, and daytime work and home functioning.

Andrew Welchman, head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust health charity, which helped fund the research, said the results suggested improving sleep may provide a promising route into early treatment to improve mental health.

Freeman added: “A good night’s sleep really can make a difference to people’s psychological health. Helping people get better sleep could be an important first step in tackling many psychological problems and emotional problems.” (VOA)

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TLC Premiers New Season Of Duster Adventures: Thrilling Journey to the Mountain State of Uttarakhand

Shibani will cover the terrain of Uttarakhand and indulge in adventure sports like paragliding, off-roading, and cliff-jumping amongst many more

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Uttarakhand
Shibani Dandekar on a thrilling journey to the mountain state of Uttarakhand on TLC’s brand new season of DUSTER ADVENTURES

New Delhi, August 27, 2017: Starting Sunday, August 27- Join Shibani Dandekar on a thrilling journey to the mountain state of Uttarakhand on TLC’s brand new season of DUSTER ADVENTURES. Airing every Sunday at 8:30 pm, the series features Shibani on an exploration of Uttarakhand through its mountains, rivers, and plains with adventure and excitement at every step of the way.

Cruising around in a RENAULT DUSTER, Shibani will cover the terrain of Uttarakhand and indulge in adventure sports like paragliding, off-roading, and cliff-jumping amongst many more.

Join Shibani on an epic journey around Uttarakhand, on TLC’s DUSTER ADVENTURES 2, every Sunday at 8:30 PM

The 5-part series will introduce viewers to Uttarakhand’s amazing landscape, culture, people and their heart-warming stories as the host takes you on the journey of a lifetime. One of India’s youngest states, Uttarakhand lies in the lap of nature with beautiful mountains, vistas and a diversity of flora and fauna. From Nainital to Rishikesh and Ramnagar to Devprayag, the state has something for every kind of traveler.

Talking about her adventure, Shibani Dandekar said, “DUSTER ADVENTURES has been a thrilling journey that captures the essence of Uttarakhand. The series encapsulates the beauty of the state and brought me closer to nature. I am sure viewers will enjoy watching my journey as much as I enjoyed traveling across this beautiful state.”

Mr. Virat Khullar, Head of Marketing, Renault India said, “Renault Duster is a cult brand in the automotive space, like TLC is, in the realm of travel and lifestyle television, and is equated with exploration, adventure, and unmatched passion. We are young in India and Renault Duster has firmly established the Renault brand here.

When we launched Renault Duster in India, we created an all new segment in the Indian automotive industry. As a forward-looking company, we have kept Renault Duster fresh and contemporary, and it continues to be India’s preferred SUV. This association will be a thrilling journey for fans of Renault Duster and TLC, and will take the excitement to an all new high.”

Catch all the adventure with Shibani Dandekar in DUSTER ADVENTURES starting 27th August, every Sunday at 8:30 pm, only on TLC!