Complex cells take care of their own

Yeasts are equivalent to lab mice when it comes to understanding how cells work and interact. Scientists test yeast in food fermentation, alcohol production, and also modeling complex cells, such as human cells.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom tested yeast once more to better comprehend how cells transfer nutrients to one another and discovered “behaviors” never truly observed before.

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Imperfect robots could be pretty good at being human

Robots are commonly used as everyday tools in anything from construction and building to engineering and even medical care. However, as most tools transition from needs to wants, the demand for “companion” robots have increased due to a growing desire for sociability.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom recently sought the best way for robots to communicate with people in general. Their study was accepted in early October at the 2015 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Hamburg, Germany.

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Neuroscientists gain understanding through reconstructed brain simulation

The complexities of the brain and how it works have stumped researchers for ages. Neuroscientists have searched for any possible method in many different fields of study to learn just a little more about what takes place inside our heads.

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Sweden published an animal study on October 8 in the journal, Cell, which explained how they deconstructed a piece of a young rat brain to simulate on a supercomputer. The research was a part of the Blue Brain Project, an initiative under the Human Brain Project that focuses on computational simulation of the brain.

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Voice Imitation: A new kind of identity theft

Issues with password security and cyber identity theft have been the bane of most financial and retail institutions in the last decade. Places such as Target and JPMorgan Chase were hacked as a result of poor identification protection. As more people begin to share lots of content over the Internet and are less careful with their content's security, there are more opportunities for people with malicious intent to steal identities and invade privacy.

Information security researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that both speaker verification software and humans can easily be duped by a “morphed” voice, in which a hacker steals a victim’s voice and manipulates it through basic audio editing software. This is the latest in content abuse that takes one of the most valuable pieces of a person’s identity. The research was presented Sept. 25 at the 20th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security in Vienna, Austria and will also be published in the symposium’s annual research catalog.

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Reading minds to get an answer

New technologies are beginning to show up in places that people once believed as common, Sci-­Fi tropes. The infamous far-off ability of mind reading is now much closer to reality than once thought. Researchers at the University of Washington attempted a form of mind reading through a long ­distance guessing game by connecting participant pairs from a mile away and transmitting their brain signals over the Internet as a novel form of communication.

Their study was published in PLOS ONE, a peer­ reviewed, open­-access journal by the Public Library of Science, and is considered one of the first effective methods to show that one person can guess what the other is thinking.

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Engaging women to pioneer the technological age

When you think of a programmer, what’s the first image that comes to mind?

Is it an isolated, elite hacker in the darkness of a basement? A Silicon Valley, startup mogul making billions from the latest social media app? How about a developer making the next greatest hit in the video game industry?

Did you imagine any of these people as a woman? Probably not.

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Changing the scope of restaurant health inspections

In Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood, Joy Yee Noodles failed its city restaurant and food service inspection late last February. City health inspectors found multiple violations at this hot spot for students from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which include unclean food preparation stations and a minor pest problem.

The pan-Asian restaurant located on 1335 S. Halsted Street, managed to fix all of its violations and pass the next inspection in the following week. For Joy Yee and other restaurants in major, metropolitan areas, this repeated pass-fail scrutiny has become inefficient in combating the issues of foodborne illness and product contamination.

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Alderman continues use of campaign donations for personal reasons

Alderman George Cardenas continues to use campaign contributions and taxpayer dollars for property he rents from his own family for over five years, while also paying relatives with these funds.

In 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported in their city council expense database that Cardenas, the democratic alderman of the 12th Ward, used 99 percent of his ward expense limit of $73,280, which is the same amount granted to all 50 wards in Chicago. This money is an allowance from the city, which is a taxpayer-funded account. Paying for the rental space for his ward office – provided by his family at the corner of West 38th Street – was the second largest expense that year. Since 2013, over $40,000 annually has gone toward rent in that same location.

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Antsy to exceed

The average person would probably cringe at the sight of creatures with more than four legs, and possibly go to extremes to get rid of these so-called “pests.”

Quite frankly, studying creepy crawlers like arthropods and insects have been more of a “man’s job” until Corrie Moreau came along to shake up the status quo.

Moreau is an associate curator for the department of science and education at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and also teaches evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. Her interests include studying evolution, insect microbiomes, biogeography and more importantly, all things ants.

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From oceans to lakes: Plastic pollution affects more people than originally thought

It was nearly 20 years ago that the world was first exposed to the wasteful nature of human consumption.

Captain Charles Moore, an oceanographer and avid sailor, passed through the North Pacific Gyre ­– a convergence zone in the ocean due to water surface currents – where he found massive piles of floating trash, mostly made of plastic. People rarely travel through these zones, so Moore was the first to discover that most garbage was not making it to the landfill but was spilling into the sea.

As the founder of the non-profit organization Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Moore and his fellow researchers directed huge efforts to study ocean pollution. Awareness of unclean oceans and loss of aquatic life grew immensely, though this same problem exists elsewhere. In the past decade, researchers began to see spikes in plastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems, like the Great Lakes of North America and realized that drinking water reserves may become compromised.

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Mysteriously high mortality of the Southern Right Whale

The largest mammals of modern day reside in the oceans and are often referred to as one of the world’s gentlest creatures. With their grandeur and modesty aside, whales suffer from extremely high mortality rates. Much of the depletion of most whales was caused by excessive, commercial whaling as early as the 1600s, but for one species, there is far more at play.

The southern right whale, a species of baleen whales native to the southern hemisphere, rebounded from near extirpation in most of their southern habitats after centuries of hunting. Now that more regulation has been enforced and whaling is internationally illegal, their population bounced back almost to the size of the pre-whaling era.

But oddly enough, since the 1970s, researchers have seen some sharp declines in population around Peninsula Valdes in Patagonia, Argentina that isn't due to human intervention. Multiple hypotheses have been tossed around, but no one can respond with a reason as to why they are seeing some of the worst baleen whale die-offs in recent years.

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Sudden but Certain: Genetic health concerns in Asian Indians

Kewalnain Sachdev turned 51 only two days before his first heart attack.

He survived the ordeal, and a couple weeks of recuperation gave Renu Sachdev and their family hope for his recovery.

On the evening of Jan. 12, 2003, Mr. Sachdev’s health suddenly declined, and he could no longer breathe. He was admitted into the hospital with his second heart attack. Like the first time, the situation began to mellow.

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Individual struggles, communal support

Local organizations and families gathered on Sept. 27 at Oak Brook Sports Core for the 20th-annual American Heart Association Heart Walk.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, and extensive research requires huge donations each year. The AHA has created a unique setting for victims of cardiovascular disease and their family members to come and express their losses in a positive way.

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Reducing the carbon footprint in lesser known areas

Rapid climate change is an invisible ghost haunting the planet due to our excessive lifestyle and thirst for progress. It was not until the late 20th century that people began to see the mistakes made in the past that are now leading to worldwide consequences.

Heightened awareness has brought with it the concept of the “carbon footprint,” the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a person or group. Entire nations are looking for reasonable solutions to tame the extreme changes while providing economic stability to their citizens. Some solutions that have received the greatest attention are renewable energies, such as solar, wind and geothermal. Other solutions revolve around making lifestyle changes like riding bikes more than driving or switching from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent.

One solution that is often overlooked, but can be the easiest to make in daily life is to consume less meat and dairy products. Agricultural practices are constantly evolving with practitioners looking for new ways to efficiently produce more. But today’s standard, known as factory farming, has been deemed the biggest source of carbon emissions and is highly inefficient.

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Downers Grove recycles its Recycling Extravaganza

Nick Santoro sat at a large table, sifting through stacks of paper and several dried out pens in order to keep track of all the local companies he needs to contact in the upcoming months.

As the only staff liaison for Downers Grove’s Environmental Concerns Commission, an influx of requests, applications and general feedback makes its way to him before any of the five commissioners of the committee hear about it.

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Local book sale goes strong for 56 years

Dense rows and stacked boxes of books line the Henry Puffer Elementary school gym with avid readers weaving in and out, looking for the best of the bunch.

Fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks and even volumes of Shakespeare were recycled into the 56th annual used book sale, run by the Downers Grove branch of the American Association of University Women.

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Charter school grabs site for renovation


Noble Network of Charter Schools plans to vacate a portion of a North-South public alley near West Grand Avenue for the continued construction of a new college prep high school, ITW David Speer Academy.

The new school is predicted to open in the fall of 2014 with a class of 300 freshmen entering their first year. The academy focuses on the fields of science, math, and engineering. Noble Network has 14 campuses that serve 9,000 Chicago public high school students.

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Organic, local produce trend migrates to the western Chicago suburbs

Hot, sunny Saturday mornings are a treat when a large glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade is involved. The Downers Grove farmers market was filled to the brim with customers who rise early for produce picked within the last 24 hours. In just one morning, more than a thousand people visited and engaged with their local farmers, then left with fresh produce and maybe even a pitcher of that sweet lemonade.

The Downers Grove farmers market has been an annual event for 24 years. In the past five years, there has been a great rise in the consumer turnout in suburban markets across the nation.

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Optimism in Five-Year Housing Plan

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development worked with the city and third-party organizations to create three initiatives that will be a part of a larger five-year housing plan.

The first-quarter report mentioned almost $45 million helped support over 3,700 units which “represents 45 percent of the 2014 unit goal and 17 percent of the 2014 resource allocation goal.” This means the city’s resources and money were well spent in the first quarter in multiple housing and lot developments, as well as the development locations.

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