Favorites Beijing get past tough Sichuan test

A tenacious Sichuan women's ice hockey team gave title favorites Beijing a tough test in the women's ice hockey competition at the National Winter Games on Friday, with the game eventually decided in a shootout.

Boasting several China internationals such as Zhang Mengying and Guan Yingying, Beijing dominated the first three periods but were unable to score due to Sichuan's defensive tactics.

"That was beyond our expectations of the opponents' defense," captain Zhang told the Global Times, expressing regret for her team's failure to score in the three 20-minute periods.

The match was the Beijing team's debut at the National Winter Games. Players from Beijing had 61 shots on goal while Sichuan had only a dozen.

"Their tenacity deserves credit, I have to admit," Zhang said. "Our goal is to win the remaining five matches. But we need to improve our accuracy in shooting."

Sichuan's goalkeeper Wei Xueqin, who transferred to ice hockey from field hockey just over four years ago, was applauded for Sichuan's clean sheet.

"I am satisfied with my performance," Wei told the Global Times. "We met Beijing before but were defeated in a shootout. It's unlucky this time it was in a shootout again."

The Sichuan team, whose players are mostly in their early 20s, are considered underdogs at the National Winter Games.

Most of the Sichuan players moved from other sports into ice hockey, unlike the Beijing players who grew up playing ice hockey.

Only seven teams - Guangdong, Sichuan, Hebei, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Shaanxi and Shanghai - are competing in the women's event. The tournament is played in a round-robin format that will last until July 22.

Friday also saw title favorites Guangdong beat Hebei with a late surge, while 2020 national champions Shanghai defeated Shaanxi 2-0.

It is rare for the adult ice hockey competition of the National Winter Games to be held in the summer.

The Games were originally scheduled to be held in 2020 in Hulun Buir but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be held from February 17 to 27 in 2024.

HK documentary shows full face of Xinjiang and Xizang

Documentary No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse, which shows the full face of Northwest China's Xin-jiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, recently premiered on Hong Kong Television Broadcasting Company's (TVB) Jade Channel, bringing in impressive viewership numbers.

The production team embarked on a groundbreaking journey, spending two months driving 14,000 kilometers to focus their lenses on Xinjiang and Xizang. They interacted with various minority ethnic groups, gaining insight into their current situation in education, healthcare, housing, population and employment.

Janis Chan, the TVB host who acts as a guide for audiences in the documentary, shared her unforgettable experience with the Global Times.

Recalling her excitement upon learning about the destinations, she revealed her eagerness to explore these two places in depth.

Chan used one word, "beautiful," to describe Xinjiang, and highlighted not only the region's scenic beauty but also the positive mind-set of the local people. She described local people's carefree dances and joyful songs after dinner, creating a natural and uplifting atmosphere. These moments were captured in the program, showcasing the beauty of their smiles against the backdrop of breathtaking landscapes.

Chan expressed pleasant surprise at Xinjiang's development. Starting the journey by flying from Hong Kong to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, she initially worried about forgetting essential items, only to discover that the city had everything one could need.
Venturing into the Kashgar Prefecture, near the Afghanistan border in China's westernmost region, the shooting team interviewed local minority groups and observed school activities. Chan said she was pleased to see the students' proficiency in English and listen to their dreams of continuing their education in big cities.

In contrast to Xinjiang's liveliness, Xizang had a more mysterious aura for Chan, as she hadn't visited there before. The development and material sufficiency were evident, and locals exhibited spiritual richness and fulfillment.

Reminiscing about the journey in Xizang, Chan described a sense of tranquility and depth, which was challenging to put into words. Sitting quietly on the grasslands or strolling amid Xizang friends herding cattle, she felt like she was in a beautiful painting.

The team visited Medog, the last county to be connected by a road to the rest of China. While there, residents shared stories from the past when essential supplies arrived by a five-day mountainous journey and talked about how the road has greatly helped improve their standard of living. Chan sensed a deep appreciation for life and gratitude in their smiles, which made a profound impact on her.

"Driving down the roads, including the G318 National Highway from Southwest China's Sichuan Province to Xizang and Xinjiang's Duku Highway, namely Dushanzi to Kuqa section of G217 National Highway, was very unforgettable. None of them were easy to build. Driving all the way, in addition to enjoying the unique geographical environment, I could also feel the great effort of the crew who built the road," Chan recalled.

As a media person who has personally visited Xinjiang and Xizang, Chan said that "experiencing these places firsthand" is the best response to some of the biased views presented by certain overseas media outlets. The documentary aims to be the eyes of the audience, taking them on a journey to experience different cultures. Through dialogue, the team aims to provide a deep understanding of the authentic lives of the people in Xinjiang and Xizang.

"As documentary makers, we feel a sense of mission - to do justice to our interviewees and the era. This has been our goal all along," Chan said.

No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse premiered on November 8 on TVB Jade, with subsequent updates every Thursday and Friday at 10:30 pm.

As the third season of TVB's hit documentary No Poverty Land series, the documentary so far has garnered a viewership rating of 15.9 points in its first week, with approximately 1.02 million viewers, a significant achievement in Hong Kong.

"There are more than 7 million people in Hong Kong, which is equivalent to 1 out of 7 people having watched our program, so I am still very happy with this result," Chan said, adding that she also got a lot of positive feedback on social media. As few people from Hong Kong had visited these places, they hoped the documentary would provide insight into these regions.

The satisfaction Chan derives from this journey scores a perfect 100. After the immense success and positive reviews of the first two seasons, many wondered if host Chan felt pressure for the third installment. She responded that the current challenge is to authentically present her 100 percent experience in the program, a task that requires daily brainstorming from the team.

Thailand: ASEAN Family Day 2023 celebrated in Shanghai

The Royal Thai Consulate General in Shanghai along with representatives of Thai-owned businesses operating in the city participated in the ASEAN Family Day 2023 celebrations, held on July 15, with the aim of building ASEAN family ties, strengthening mutual understanding, solidarity, and friendship among members of the ASEAN family, as well as promoting the role and awareness of ASEAN in Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta (YRD).

Organized by the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai, the event was attended by the ASEAN Consuls General in Shanghai from Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam, as well as some 200 citizens of ASEAN member states. Officials and representatives from the Foreign Affairs Office of the Shanghai Municipal People's Government and other government officials in Shanghai were also in attendance.

The event included an opening ceremony, parade performances, fellowship activities, friendly sports matches, and dance competitions. Additionally, the Consulate General of Thailand showed its support for the event by providing Thai food and organizing a cooking demonstration.

US’ intention to turn Taiwan island into powder keg laid bare in military drills

Citing sources from the US, Japanese media on Sunday reported that troops from Taiwan island last month attended military exercises led by the US National Guard in Michigan. 

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that Taiwan troops' participation in the US National Guard exercises shows that Taiwan island is enhancing cooperation with all levels of US military forces including the National Guard, while at the same time strengthening its urban terrain operational capabilities in case of an urban war.

Zhang Hua, a research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, echoed Song's view, adding that the US and the island of Taiwan are confusing the "cause" and "effect." They say their cooperation is a result of pressure from the mainland, but fail to mention the pressure is a result of "Taiwan independence," Zhang told the Global Times.

Although Japanese media reported that it was the National Guard, instead of the US Armed Forces, that led the Michigan exercises, an arrangement in a bid not to provoke China too much, the two Chinese experts believed this actually constitutes a full-fledged challenge against China and that the depth and width of cooperation between US and Taiwan forces is expanding.

The US keeps arming Taiwan by selling a large amount of weapons and equipment to Taiwan and encouraging Taiwan to "reject reunification with force," a move that aims to incite tensions across the Straits and will inevitably exacerbate the tension between China and the US which may lead to a conflict.

The US is unwilling to confront the Chinese People's Liberation Army directly. What it hopes more is a "wolfpack tactic" that relies on its allies. But at the same time, the US is worried that allies such as Japan, South Korea and Australia may not be willing to come to the front line to participate should a war break out. Therefore, its strategy is to encourage "self-defense" of the Taiwan authorities. The training, exercises, weapons and equipment provided by the US are all aimed at enabling the Taiwan authorities to achieve this goal.

As recent as July 28, the Biden administration announced a $345 million weapons package for Taiwan. Then in late August, for the first time it approved sending direct US military aid, which comprised an $80 million package to Taiwan under the Foreign Military Financing program. From the perspective of the US, whether it is the "porcupine strategy," "hedgehog strategy" or "iron keg strategy," it all boils down to the same thing, the US wants Taiwan to buy both offensive and defensive weapons and equipment from the US, and it wants to turn Taiwan into an "iron keg." And song pointed out that the US never cares about the security of the people on the Taiwan island.

China's bottom line on the Taiwan question is clear. Article 8 of China's Anti-Secession Law has explained that the country "shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity" in the event that the "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted. The Chinese mainland has never promised to renounce the use of force, and this is the Sword of Damocles hanging over the US government and Taiwan authorities.

To solve global challenges, the global community must join forces

Editor's Note:

China's State Council Information Office issued an informative white paper, entitled "A Global Community of Shared Future: China's Proposals and Actions," to review and preview the China-led vision of co-building a global community of shared future on Tuesday in Beijing. Humanity is yet again at another crossroads in history, and the choices between unity and division, between opening up and closing off, as well as between cooperation and confrontation test the wisdom of all countries, the white paper said. How should we understand the global community of shared future? How should countries around the world work together to promote the construction of the global community of shared future? Global Times invited two foreign scholars to share their views on this issue.

Building a global community of shared future is a Chinese proposal to jointly address global challenges and create a better future for humanity. Under this proposal, China advocates building a world of lasting peace through dialogue and consultation, building a world of common security for all through joint efforts, building a world of common prosperity through win-win cooperation, and building an open and inclusive world through exchanges and mutual learning and making the world clean and beautiful by pursuing green and low-carbon development. This is the beautiful vision of the global community of shared future presented by China in the new era. 

The world is currently undergoing unprecedented changes that have not been seen in a century. On the one hand, there is a historical inclination toward peace and the recognition of the need to eliminate irreparable conflicts that are detrimental to the planet. Additionally, there is a growing tendency toward development, cooperation and mutual benefit that cannot be stopped. On the other hand, the presence of hegemonism and bullying between countries and peoples is causing significant harm, leading to unprecedented challenges for the international community. As a result, the world finds itself at a crucial juncture in history. The establishment of a global community of shared future is of the utmost importance for humanity. This concept enables the international community to confront the new challenges brought about by these major changes and work together toward a common goal.

Furthermore, it is imperative to align with the current trend of the times, which is characterized by a new scientific and technological revolution driven by information technology. The internet has revolutionized the world, bringing the international community closer than ever before. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the future is also shared in cyberspace. This entails promoting common development, enhancing security and actively participating in governance, with a commitment to jointly sharing the outcomes. The first strategic goals should be to prioritize responsibility and interests that benefit all of mankind.

A further step toward shared future is to improve human welfare and well-being. We also need cultural exchanges to promote knowledge and mutual learning; innovative economic development for common prosperity; ensuring international security and fostering orderly development. Furthermore, the strengthening of the authority of the United Nations, whose documents are all too often disregarded and advancing equity and justice to provide a practical approach and a pathway to peace are also needed.

Unfortunately, the world is currently facing the dangers of unilateralism, protectionism, and hegemonism. Unilateralism refers to a major power that, regardless of the wishes of the majority of countries and citizens, takes the initiative to withdraw or defy the rules and regulations that have been drafted and negotiated to maintain international, regional and collective peace. These systems, behaviors and tendencies have destructive effects and consequences on global or local peace, development and progress. Therefore, a reform in international governance is necessary to ensure that global governance adheres to the principles of opposing protectionism and unilateralism. This reform should also contribute to promoting the process of trade liberalization and investment facilitation worldwide, ultimately serving the principle of non-discrimination among peoples.

As is well known, hegemonism refers to the oppression, domination, interference and subversion of small, weak and poor countries by large, powerful and rich countries. It does not respect the independence and sovereignty of others and exercises control and rule by force. Hegemonism can be observed at both global and regional levels. Throughout history, many powers, particularly the US, have all attempted to gain world hegemony, often disguising their actions as neo-colonialism. The evidence of hegemonism can be seen by examining history. In order to maintain peace, the only solution is to counteract it.

Joining forces to build a global community of shared future is a realistic requirement and the only choice for the survival and development of mankind. Building such a community is an important trend in history and is inevitable. However, achieving this goal is not something that can happen overnight; it requires a long and difficult process.

In reality, building a global community of shared future faces challenges such as differences in strategic thinking, cultural values and global strength among countries around the world. Additionally, there are risks of conflicts arising from fundamental interests in the international arena. It is important to understand these challenges objectively and propose targeted response strategies. Taking the initiative to resolve crises quickly, opening up new opportunities for change, maximizing advantages and avoiding disadvantages are crucial steps in this process. It is also important to explore constructive practices that rule out war as a solution. Only by doing so can we make steady progress toward this goal.

China releases first Mars global color images obtained from country’s first mission on Space Day

China on Monday released the first Mars global images obtained from its first Mars exploration mission, providing an improved quality base map for scientific and exploration tasks on the Red Planet, the Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) at the opening ceremony of this year's Space Day of China.

The color images, jointly issued by the CNSA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), included orthographic, Robinson, Mercator and azimuthal projections of the eastern and western hemispheres of Mars with a spatial resolution of 76 meters. 

The image maps will provide an improved quality base map for Mars exploration projects and scientific research, the CNSA said, and data obtained by the Tianwen mission will make key contributions to humanity's in-depth knowledge of the planet. 

The medium-resolution camera onboard Tianwen-1 took 284 orbital remote sensing images from November 2021 to July 2022, so as to achieve global coverage of the Martian surface. Some 14,757 images were acquired by the ground-based application system, which were then processed to obtain the global color image map of Mars.

China's panoramic map of Mars is one of the most advanced in the field that is open to the public, experts noted, and it means that China is willing to share cutting-edge technology and information with its peers.  

"This year's China Space Day underscores our willingness to share information with the world, showing that China's space achievements are entirely for the development of human scientific and technological progress. It also suggests our growing confidence in this field," Song Zhongping, a space analyst and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"Technology has no borders, but the US has been constantly putting up shields and fences to block others from its technology, as well as engaging in technological monopolies, information hegemony and a Cold War in space," he said. 

At the opening ceremony on Monday, the CNSA also disclosed that 22 sites on Mars have been given Chinese names. 

China's research teams have identified a large number of geographical entities near the landing site of Tianwen through high-resolution images, and the International Astronomical Union has named 22 of them after villages in China with historical and cultural significance and a population of less than 100,000. 

In this way, China's presence is permanently engraved on Mars' surface.

Tianwen-1, China's first Mars mission probe, embarked on its journey on July 23, 2020, and after 202 days of travel, it began to orbit Mars. On May 15, 2021, the land rover Zhurong landed in a designated spot on the Martian surface and started its trek. It completed its 90-Martian-day scientific exploration task and kept working for another 268 Martian days, and has remained in hibernation mode since. 

As of June 29, 2022, the Mars orbiter had carried out global remote sensing for more than 1,000 days, and it is still carrying on its mission in fine condition. 

China's first Mars mission, which orbits Mars, land and rove in one go, was completed successfully. 

The 13 payloads carried by the mission have accumulated 1,800 gigabytes of scientific data and formed standard data products.

Over the past two years, Tianwen-1 has obtained first-hand detection data and achieved notable scientific research results, which analysts said would be continued with further multi-dimensional exploration missions being carried out. 

In May 2022, a research team from the CAS detected water-bearing minerals on Mars by analyzing data collected by the Zhurong rover, marking a world first that water-bearing minerals on the planet were detected by a short-wave infrared spectrometer on a Mars rover. The findings have been published in detail in the journal Science.

Another major discovery by the Chinese Mars rover came when scientists used a ground-penetrating radar on Zhurong to find possible evidence of floods on the Red Planet billions of years ago. Though no direct evidence for liquid water was found in the shallow subsurface, the study lends weight to the theory that the rover's landing area - the Utopia Planitia - once hosted an ancient ocean, researchers from the CAS and Peking University said in a Nature paper published in September 2022. 

Xi stresses greater efforts to build beautiful Xinjiang in pursuing Chinese modernization

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday urged firmly grasping the strategic positioning of Xinjiang in the overall national situation and better building a beautiful Xinjiang in the process of pursuing Chinese modernization.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks when he was briefed in Urumqi about the work of the Party committee and government of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

He demanded thorough, meticulous, concrete and sustained efforts to develop a beautiful Xinjiang that is united, harmonious, prosperous, and culturally advanced, with healthy ecosystems and people living and working in contentment, in the process of pursuing Chinese modernization.

Xi was in Xinjiang after returning to China from the 15th BRICS Summit and a state visit to South Africa.

Recognizing Xinjiang's achievements in various aspects, Xi said the work related to Xinjiang is of special importance in the work of the Party and the country, and concerns the overall task of building China into a strong modern socialist country in all respects and promoting the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Efforts should be made not only to address prominent problems currently constraining Xinjiang's development and stability, but also to make long-term arrangements to promote fundamental, basic and long-term work for enduring prosperity and stability in the region, he said.

Maintaining social stability is a top priority, Xi said, urging efforts to coordinate the work of maintaining stability and advancing development, the two aspects that are mutually promoted. He also called for efforts to enhance the rule of law to build a solid legal foundation for enduring stability.

The mechanism for forestalling and defusing major risks and potential dangers should be improved, Xi said, adding that the fight against terrorism and separatism should be integrated with law-based and constant work of maintaining stability.

Forging a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation is a focus of the CPC's work on ethnic affairs in the new era and all work in areas with large ethnic minority populations, Xi said.

He said the education on standard spoken and written Chinese must be resolutely carried out to enhance people's consciousness and capability to use it.

He also stressed the importance of strengthening the protection and use of cultural relics and heritage to help officials and the public develop an accurate understanding of state, ethnicity, history, and religions.

Xi called for enhanced education on modern civilization and science among the youth and teenagers and encourage them to get involved in modern life. He emphasized advancing people-centered new urbanization and promoting exchanges and interactions among all ethnic groups.

Xi said Xinjiang should take the initiative in grasping fresh opportunities arising from the nation's drive to create a new development pattern, advance high-quality development and push for Chinese modernization.

Xinjiang should advance innovation in science and technology, foster and develop industries with unique advantages, and actively develop emerging industries. Efforts should be made to accelerate the construction of a modern industrial system that reflects Xinjiang's characteristics and strengths, and help Xinjiang advance on the track of high-quality development, he said.

To achieve social stability and high-quality development in Xinjiang, the most arduous task is in rural areas, Xi said, emphasizing the work to consolidate and build on the achievements of poverty alleviation and promote rural revitalization.

He called for more industrial cooperation and personnel exchange between Xinjiang and the rest of the country, and encouraged people from Xinjiang to work outside the region and people in other parts of the country to start business and live in Xinjiang.

With unique geographical advantages, Xinjiang should accelerate the construction to make itself the gateway of China's westward opening up, Xi said.

Xi asked Party members and officials to stay engaged with the people and their communities. He said Party organizations at the primary level must be strengthened to learn about the people's concerns and timely respond to their difficulties and problems.

He stressed the need to better tell Xinjiang stories in the new era through multiple channels to show an open and confident Xinjiang, while refuting fake and baleful statements targeting Xinjiang.

Xinjiang will open more widely for tourism and encourage domestic and overseas tourists to travel in the region, he said.

Xi stressed upholding the Party's overall leadership and strengthening the Party building in Xinjiang. He underscored the importance of resolutely upholding the Party Central Committee's authority and its centralized, unified leadership.

Cai Qi, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, attended the briefing.

Brain holds more than one road to fear

In a pair of twin sisters, a rare disease had damaged the brain’s structures believed necessary to feel fear. But an injection of a drug could nevertheless make them anxious.

The results of that experiment, described in the March 23 Journal of Neuroscience, add to evidence that the amygdalae, small, almond-shaped brain structures tucked deep in the brain, aren’t the only bits of the brain that make a person feel afraid. “Overall, this suggests multiple different routes in the brain to a common endpoint of the experience of fear,” says cognitive neuroscientist Stephan Hamann of Emory University in Atlanta.
The twins, called B.G. and A.M., have Urbach-Wiethe disease, a genetic disorder that destroyed most of their amygdalae in late childhood. Despite this, the twins showed fear after inhaling air laden with extra carbon dioxide (an experience that can create the sensation of suffocating), an earlier study showed (SN: 3/23/13, p. 12). Because carbon dioxide affects a wide swath of the body and brain, scientists turned to a more specific cause of fear that stems from inside the body: a drug called isoproterenol, which can set the heart racing and make breathing hard. Sensing these bodily changes provoked by the drug can cause anxiety.

“If you know what adrenaline feels like, you know what isoproterenol feels like,” says study coauthor Sahib Khalsa, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Okla.

After injections of isoproterenol, both twins felt shaky and anxious. B.G. experienced a full-blown panic attack, a result of the drug that afflicts about a quarter of people who receive it, says Khalsa. In a second experiment, researchers tested the women’s ability to judge their bodies’ responses to the drug. While receiving escalating doses, the women rated the intensity of their heartbeats and breathing. A.M., the woman who didn’t have a panic attack, was less accurate at sensing the drug’s effects on her body than both her sister and healthy people, researchers found.

It’s not clear why the twins responded differently, Khalsa says. Further experiments using brain scans may help pinpoint neural differences that could be behind the different reactions.

The results suggest that the amygdala isn’t the only part of the brain involved in fear and anxiety, but there’s more work to do before scientists understand how the brain creates these emotions, Khalsa says. “It’s definitely a complicated question and a debate that’s unresolved,” he says.

Phytoplankton’s response to climate change has its ups and downs

Armor-plated marine microbes surprised scientists a few years ago by recovering their shell-building prowess in levels of ocean acidification expected under future climate change. But those gains were short-lived, new research shows.

For four years, marine ecologist Lothar Schlüter and colleagues steeped Emiliania huxleyi phytoplankton in seawater acidified by carbon dioxide. After an initial drop in shell calcification — a process that helps sequester CO2 from the atmosphere — the microbes mostly restored their calcification activities within a year, the researchers had reported.
But as the experiment continued, the phytoplankton began making less and less shell material. By the end of the experiment, the phytoplankton in the acidified water were calcifying less than a population that hadn’t been exposed to such harsh conditions, the researchers report July 8 in Science Advances.

In the future, the shell-making phytoplankton “may calcify even less than we assume today based on short-term experiments,” says study coauthor Thorsten Reusch, a marine ecologist who works with Schlüter at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany. “One year just isn’t long enough to tell us something about how evolutionary adaptation will play out.”
While phytoplankton in the ocean may ultimately follow a different evolutionary path than those under lab conditions, the work shows that the evolutionary response to climate change is more complex than previously thought, Reusch says. There is a silver lining, though: When returned to present-day seawater conditions, the phytoplankton bounced back to their original calcification rates. So even if ocean acidification continues, the phytoplankton could quickly restart calcifying if conditions ever improved. “This isn’t a case of ‘use it or lose it,’” Reusch says.
Photosynthetic plankton produce about half of Earth’s oxygen and their sinking carcasses transport carbon from the ocean surface to the seafloor — both key steps in the temperature-regulating carbon cycle. The weight of E. huxleyi’s circular, shieldlike shells serves as ballast during the descent, accelerating the carbon drawdown.

The shell-making process requires E. huxleyi to lower its own acidity by pushing protons out through its cell wall. But as the ocean becomes more acidic, that proton pushing will require more energy to overcome an increasing acidity difference between the inside and outside of the cell. Many scientists worry that that energy cost could cause calcifying phytoplankton such as E. huxleyi to ultimately give up their shells. That would slow the CO2 drawdown and worsen climate change, the scientists fear.

Schlüter, Reusch and colleagues started their tests with a single cell of E. huxleyi collected off the coast of Norway in 2009. Populations grown from this cell lived in containers of acidified seawater about the size of soda cans. Around 2,100 generations later, at the end of the study, the acidity-acclimated phytoplankton population calcified about four-fifths as much shell material as a population that had been kept in regular seawater before being plopped into acidified water.

That calcification decline could be an evolutionary trade-off, Reusch says. The shells probably protect E. huxleyi from predators and pathogens. But in more acidic waters, the energy costs of building shells may outweigh their benefits. The researchers plan to conduct the same experiment again, this time introducing predators to see if the added hazard makes the phytoplankton hold on to their shells.

“There are a lot of surprises in store for us in terms of the kinds of evolutionary responses these organisms can have,” says Tatiana Rynearson, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett campus who was not involved in the study. “Evolution continues.”

The nose knows how to fight staph

MANCHESTER, England — The human nose harbors not only a deadly enemy — Staphylococcus aureus — but also its natural foe. Scientists have now isolated a compound from that foe that might combat MRSA, the methicillin-resistant strain of S. aureus.

“We didn’t expect to find this. We were just trying to understand the ecology of the nose to understand how S. aureus causes problems,” bacteriologist Andreas Peschel of the University of Tübingen in Germany said at a news briefing July 26 during the EuroScience Open Forum. Investigating the intense interspecies competition in the nose — where microbes fight for space and access to scant sugars and amino acids — might offer a fertile alternative to searching for new drug candidates in soil microbes.
Antibiotic researcher Kim Lewis of Northeastern University in Boston agrees in general that the approach might produce new drug discovery leads. But so far the human microbiome has produced only a handful of potential new antibiotics (including lactocillin). If “the compound they found is membrane-acting, [it] will be useful for topical applications, but not as a systemic antibiotic,” he wrote in an e-mail. And new systemic antibiotics are needed most, he says.
Despite being a relatively nutrient-poor environment, the human nose is home to more than 50 species of bacteria. One of these is S. aureus, a dominant cause of hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA, as well as infections of the blood and heart. But there’s a huge variability in the nasal microbe scene between individuals: while S. aureus is present in the nasal passages of roughly 30 percent of people, the other 70 percent don’t have any sign of it.

Trying to explain this difference led Peschel and colleagues to study “the ecology of the nose.” They suspected that other nasal inhabitants, well-tuned to compete in that harsh niche, might be blocking S. aureus from colonizing the nose in those who don’t carry it.

From nasal secretion samples, the team isolated 90 strains of different Staphylococcus species. Of these, one bacterium, S. lugdunensis, killed S. aureus when the two were grown together in a dish. Introducing a variety of mutations into S. lugdunensis produced a strain that didn’t kill. The missing gene, the team showed, normally produced an antibiotic, which the researchers named lugdunin; it represents the first example of a new class of antibiotic.

Lugdunin was able to fend off MRSA as well as a strain of Enterococcus resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. Neither bacteria developed resistance. The team also pitted S. lugdunensis against S. aureus in test tube and mouse studies, with S. lugdunensis besting S. aureus. Only 5.9 percent of 187 hospital patients had S. aureus in their noses if they also carried S. lugdunensis, the team found, while S. aureus was present in 34.7 percent of those without S. lugdunensis. Peschel and colleagues also reported the results July 28 in Nature.
Lugdunin cleared up a staph skin infection in mice, but it’s unclear how the compound works. Researchers could not rule out that it damages the cell membrane, which could limit its use in humans to a topical antibiotic. Peschel and coauthor Bernhard Krismer also suggest that the bacterium itself might be a good probiotic, applied nasally, to fend off staph infections in vulnerable hospital patients.