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This undated image made available by Geraldine Wright shows a honeybee visiting a citrus flower. A new study says honeybees get a shot of caffeine from certain flowers, and it perks up their memory. That spurs them to return to the same type of plant, boosting its prospects for pollination and the future of the plant species. Some citrus plants such as orange and grapefruit blossoms have a small amount of caffeine. The work, by Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University in England and co-authors, was reported Thursday, March 7, 2013 in the journal Science. (Geraldine Wright/AP)
This undated image made available by Geraldine Wright shows a honeybee visiting a citrus flower. A new study says honeybees get a shot of caffeine from certain flowers, and it perks up their memory. That spurs them to return to the same type of plant, boosting its prospects for pollination and the future of the plant species. Some citrus plants such as orange and grapefruit blossoms have a small amount of caffeine. The work, by Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University in England and co-authors, was reported Thursday, March 7, 2013 in the journal Science. (Geraldine Wright/AP)

Bees get a caffeine buzz too, and other science news Add to ...

A roundup of some of the week’s science headlines:

Melting, eh? Canada’s little-studied glaciers – the world’s third biggest store of ice after Antarctica and Greenland – seem headed for an irreversible melt that will push up sea levels, scientists said. About 20 per cent of the ice in glaciers on islands such as Ellesmere or Devon off northern Canada could vanish by the end of the 21st century in a melt that would add 3.5 centimetres to global sea levels, defying previous predictions of a sea level rise of perhaps two centimetres, they said. Lead author Jan Lenaerts of the University of Utrecht said the trend seemed unstoppable because a thaw of white glaciers would expose dark-coloured tundra that would soak up more of the sun’s heat and further accelerate the melt. Most past estimates of Canada’s glaciers were based on less precise data of their size and melt rates. The projection of a 20 per cent loss of volume was based on a scenario in which world temperatures would rise by 3C this century and by 8C in Canada’s Arctic, well within most UN scenarios. The paper was published online Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters. – Reuters

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Talk about a caffeine buzz: A new study says honeybees get a shot of caffeine from certain flowers, and it perks up their memory. That spurs them to return to the same type of plant, boosting its prospects for pollination and the future of the plant species. Flowers include the (somewhat obvious) coffee plant, the nectar of which offers about as much caffeine concentration as a cup of instant coffee, according to researchers. Some citrus plants serve caffeine too, albeit in lower concentrations. The study helps scientists gain a basic understanding of how caffeine affects our brains as well, since human and bee brains function similarly when you look at cells, proteins and genes, researchers said in a release. The work, by Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University in England and co-authors, was reported Thursday by the journal Science. – The Associated Press and Aleysha Haniff

Infection prevention?: Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have isolated a compound that could some day successfully lead to immunizations for newborns. New babies lack most aspects of the immune response, putting them at risk for infections such as rotavirus and whooping cough. (The researchers note that more than two million babies under 6 months old die from infection around the world.) However, they do have one white blood cell receptor, called TLR8, that stimulates the body’s defence system. The researchers targeted that receptor with a panel of compounds known as benzazepines, and one of them triggered a strong response – at least 10 times more powerful than what was the best TLR8 “activator,” they said in a release. “This one receptor seems to lead to more adult-like responses – immediate, short-term responses that are more appropriate for fighting infections,” said David Dowling who helped author the study, which was published Monday by PloS ONE. – Aleysha Haniff

High Higgs hopes: Scientists’ hopes that last summer’s triumphant trapping of the particle that shaped the post-Big Bang universe would quickly open the way into exotic new realms of physics such as string theory and new dimensions have faded this past week. Five days of presentations on the particle, the Higgs boson, at a scientific conference high in the Italian Alps point to it being the last missing piece in a 30-year-old cosmic blueprint and nothing more, physicists following the event say. That conclusion, shared among analysts of vast volumes of data gathered over the past three years, would push to well beyond 2015 any chance of sighting exotica like dark matter or super symmetric particles in the giant machine. You can read more here. – Reuters

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