Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blind To Be Cured With Stem Cells

From Times Online:

BRITISH scientists have developed the world’s first stem cell therapy to cure the most common cause of blindness. Surgeons predict it will become a routine, one-hour procedure that will be generally available in six or seven years’ time.

The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with new ones created from embryonic stem cells. It was pioneered by scientists and surgeons from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital.

This week Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical research company, will announce its financial backing to bring the therapy to patients.

Read more ....

Why Leaves Turn Red

From Live Science:

Scientists have long wondered if the red color of fall leaves was more than just a sign of death. The process of turning leaves to brilliant colors requires energy, but doesn't seem to benefit the trees.

Some have suggested that fall colors act as sunscreen and keep trees from freezing. In 2001, British evolutionary biologist William Hamilton suggested the color might ward off bugs that would otherwise feast on the tree.

Hamilton looks to be on to something, a new study suggests. And the methodology is cool:

Read more ....

Do 'Vicious' Dogs Learn From Their Owners?

From New Scientist:

ARE you right to trust your instincts if you cross the street when you encounter a snarling pit bull with an equally forbidding owner? A new study suggests that the owners of so-called "vicious" dogs commit more crimes than those who do not own such a dog.

Laurie Ragatz and her colleagues at the University of West Virginia in Morgantown examined whether owners of vicious dogs - those classed by the American Kennel Club as breeds with a high risk of causing injury to humans - were different in personality and behaviour to others. Their online questionnaire of 758 students, 563 of whom owned dogs, revealed owners of vicious dogs were significantly more likely to admit crimes such as vandalism, illegal drug use and fighting than other dog owners and those without dogs

Read more ....

Newly Discovered Iron-Breathing Species Have Lived In Cold Isolation For Millions Of Years

A cross-section of Blood Falls showing how micorbial communities survive. (Credit: Zina Deretsky / NSF)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2009) — A reservoir of briny liquid buried deep beneath an Antarctic glacier supports hardy microbes that have lived in isolation for millions of years, researchers report April 17 in the journal Science.

The discovery of life in a place where cold, darkness, and lack of oxygen would previously have led scientists to believe nothing could survive comes from a team led by researchers at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. Their work was funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and Harvard's Microbial Sciences Initiative.

Read more ....

The Hunt For Another Earth Begins: Nasa's New Telescope Scours Space For Life-Supporting Planets

The Kepler telescope pictures the eight-billion-year-old star cluster NGC 6791, 13,000 light years from Earth. It will focus on the 'Goldilocks' zone - an orbital band where temperatures are not too hot and not too cold, but just right to allow the existence of watery oceans, lakes and rivers

From The Daily Mail:

These are the first incredible pictures captured by Nasa's new telescope, preparing to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.

Kepler's first image reveals a vast star field in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

One fascinating picture is ablaze with stars filling the telescope's entire field of view, while two others zoom in on targeted stars and clusters.

Read more ....

CO2, EPA, Politics, And All That

From Watts Up With That?:

In a stunning act of political kowtowing, the EPA caved to special interest groups and politics and declared CO2 a “dangerous pollutant”, even though it is part of the natural cycle of life. Now the gloves come off and the real fight begins during the 60 day public comment period. If you’ve never stood up to “consensus” before, now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. See instructions below for submitting public comment. - Anthony

Read more ....

Video: How The International Space Station Was/Is Being Built

WNU Editor: The following link shows an excellent flash video of how the International Space Station was built .... from start to where it will be finished.

The link is HERE.

Revealed: Antarctic Ice Growing, Not Shrinking

From The Australian:

ICE is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.

The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent's western coast.

Antarctica has 90 per cent of the Earth's ice and 80 per cent of its fresh water. Extensive melting of Antarctic ice sheets would be required to raise sea levels substantially, and ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica. The destabilisation of the Wilkins ice shelf generated international headlines this month.

Read more ....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Key to Happiness: Location, Location, Location

A San Diego sunset is not a cure for depression, but it can't hurt. Image credit: Dreamstime

From Live Science:

I am boarding a plane headed to San Diego, Calif., from my home town of Ithaca, New York, and pondering the recent announcement that where one lives is connected to the incidence of Frequent Mental Distress (FMD).

As I take off my down coat (yes, it's April, but we just had snow), discard my galoshes, and roll up the sleeves of my flannel shirt, I am thinking hard about the researchers from San Diego who presumably averted their gaze from the pounding surf before their office windows long enough to analyze surveys on mental health from the Centers for Disease Control to discover that people who live on, say, Hawaiian beaches have fewer bouts of stress, depression and emotional problems than people who live in the misty hollows of Appalachia.

Read more ....

RNA Used To Reprogram One Cell Type Into Another

Rat neuron with a micropipette inserting mRNAs directly onto the cell. After laser photoporation the mRNA goes into the cell and the TIPeR-induced changes in cell phenotype are initiated. (Credit: Chia-wen Wu, PhD and James Eberwine, PhD University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2009) — For the past decade, researchers have tried to tweak cells at the gene and nucleus level to reprogram their identity. Now, working on the idea that the signature of a cell is defined by molecules called messenger RNAs, which contain the chemical blueprint for how to make a protein, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering have found another way to change one cell type into another.

By simply flooding one cell type, a nerve cell, with the an abundance of a specific type of messenger RNA (mRNA) from another cell type, the investigators changed a neuron into an astrocyte-like cell, a star-shaped brain cell that helps to maintain the blood-brain barrier, regulates the chemical environment around cells, responds to injury, and releases regulatory substances.

Read more ....

Early Warning Clue For Dementia

From BBC:

Heightened activity in an area of the brain that deals with memory may give a subtle early warning of dementia decades later, UK research suggests.

It was known that carrying a rogue version of a gene called ApoE4 raised the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Now researchers have linked the same mutation with raised activity in an area of the brain called the hippocampus in people as young as 20.

The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Read more ....

Is Fringe's Genetic Monster Possible?

(Photograph by Craig Blankenhorn/FOX)

From Popular Mechanics:

In last night's episode of Fringe, "Unleashed," a genetically generated monster terrorizes Boston—and mad scientist Walter Bishop, son Peter and FBI agent Olivia Dunham must find the transgenic animal, a gila monster-wasp-bat hybrid that activists had let loose from an animal testing facility. The creature—which had physical characteristics of all the animals it was spliced together from—mostly kills people with its massive claws and prodigious fangs, but its real drive is to infect people with its larvae to create more monsters. PM spoke with geneticists to find out just how close science is to creating a Fringe-style supermonster.

When a car-full of dead college students—their bodies mangled by an animal "not indigenous to the area," according to the local coroner—it's not long before Walter pinpoints a transgenic animal as the culprit. "It's an animal creation, an organism made up of the genes of many species," he explains. "It's accelerated Darwinism!" Bishop, of course, had worked on such animals during his heyday, but none of his creations had survived. "It's possible, in theory," he says. "You would have to solve many problems," like stopping gene rejection similar to what people experience when their bodies reject donor organs.

Read more ....

Pirate Bay Verdict Is Guilty -- News Updates And Commentaries

The Pirate Bay Guilty; Jail for File-Sharing Foursome -- Wired News

Four men connected to The Pirate Bay, the world's most notorious file sharing site, were convicted by a Swedish court Friday of contributory copyright infringement, and each sentenced to a year in prison.

Pirate Bay administrators Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Peter Sunde were found guilty in the case, along with Carl Lundström, who was accused of funding the five-year-old operation.

In addition to jail time, the defendants were ordered to pay damages of 30 million kronor ($3.6 million) to a handful of entertainment companies, including Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Bros, EMI and Columbia Pictures, for the infringement of 33 specific movie and music properties tracked by industry investigators.

Read more .....

More News On The Pirate's Bay Verdict

‘Pirate Bay’ founders convicted by Swedish court
-- Christian Science Monitor
What does the Pirate Bay verdict mean for innovation? -- The Guardian
Analysis: why the Pirate Bay prosecution is no deterrent -- Times Online
Pirate Bay Operator: “Definitely Not a Fair Judgment” -- Wall Street Journal
The Pirate Bay Guilty of Breaching Copyrights -- Time Magazine
Pirate Bay four jailed for breaking copyright in Swedish file-sharing trial -- The Telegraph
Pirate Bay Founders Sentenced to Jail, Fines for Violating Copyright Law -- Rolling Stone
The Pirate Bay Verdict and the Future of File-Sharing -- PC World
Guilty Pirate Bay Defendant Still Calls Verdict 'Epic Win' -- Extreme Tech
PirateBay founders guilty -- ZDNet
Pirate Bay defendants to fight on -- CNET News
Copyright holders cheer Pirate Bay verdict -- CNET News
Pirate Bay founders found guilty, get jail sentence -- Techspot
A to Z of online piracy -- CNN

U.S. Astronauts Might Hitch Rides on Chinese Spacecraft

An artist's depiction of China's Shenzhou manned spacecraft in space. Credit: Simon Zajc


Once NASA's space shuttle fleet is retired next year, U.S. astronauts might arrive at the International Space Station via Chinese spacecraft, according to U.S. President Barack Obama's science chief.

The prospect is being aired by presidential science adviser John Holdren, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology, in an interview posted on ScienceInsider - a web-based blog from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the ScienceInsider interview, Holdren underscored the fact that President Obama's administration is intent on retiring the space shuttle in 2010, with the president open to an additional shuttle mission flown within 2010.

Read more ....

Capturing The Quake: Fascinating satellite image Which Reveals How The Earth Moved In Italy Tragedy

Pictured: An 'interferogram' shows the Earth's deformation pattern over the L'Aquila area in central Italy following the devastating quake last week

From The Daily Mail:

This intriguing image is being scrutinised by Italian scientists trying to unravel exactly how the Earth moved during Italy's devastating quake last week.

The picture shows shock waves radiating from the epicentre of the massive 6.3 seismic event in the medieval town of L’Aquila.

Its rainbow-coloured interference patterns were deduced using 'synthetic aperture radar' (SAR) data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Envisat and the Italian Space Agency’s COSMO-SkyMed satellites.

Read more ....

Archaeologists Discover Temple That Sheds Light On So-called Dark Age

TAP excavations on the Tayinat Citadel. (Credit: Tim Harrison)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2009) — The discovery of a remarkably well-preserved monumental temple in Turkey — thought to be constructed during the time of King Solomon in the 10th/9th-centuries BCE — sheds light on the so-called Dark Age.

Uncovered by the University of Toronto's Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) in the summer of 2008, the discovery casts doubt upon the traditional view that the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive.

Read more ....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Chemistry of Life: The Human Body

From Live Science:

You are what you eat. But do you recall munching some molybdenum or snacking on selenium? Some 60 chemical elements are found in the body, but what all of them are doing there is still unknown.

Roughly 96 percent of the mass of the human body is made up of just four elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with a lot of that in the form of water. The remaining 4 percent is a sparse sampling of the periodic table of elements.

Some of the more prominent representatives are called macro nutrients, whereas those appearing only at the level of parts per million or less are referred to as micronutrients.

Read more ....

West Africa Faces 'megadroughts'

From The BBC:

Severe droughts lasting centuries have happened often in West Africa's recent history, and another one is almost inevitable, researchers say.

Analysis of sediments in a Ghanaian lake shows the last of these "megadroughts" ended 250 years ago.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers suggest man-made climate change may make the situation worse.

Read more ....

Total Recall: The Woman Who Can't Forget

From Wired:

It's a Monday afternoon in November, and I'm driving down Ventura Boulevard with Jill Price, the woman who can't forget. Price, who is 43, has spent most of her life here in Los Angeles, and she remembers everything. In the space of two minutes, she tells me about the former motel lodge with a bear in front, the Courtyard hotel that used to be a Hilton, and a bowling alley—since replaced by a Marshalls—where a Nicolas Cage film was shot. All this comes pouring out so fast, I wonder aloud whether Price has had too much coffee. She laughs, says no, pulls slightly at her blond hair, and starts up again.

Read more ....

Would Life Form Differently Around Cool Stars?

This artist's conception shows a young, hypothetical planet around a cool star. Credit: JPL

From Universe Today:

“Life as we know it” seems to be the common caveat in our search for other living things in the Universe. But there’s also the possibility of life “as we don’t know it.” A new study from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope hints that planets around stars cooler than our sun might possess a different mix of potentially life-forming, or “prebiotic,” chemicals. While life on Earth is thought to have arisen from a hot soup of different chemicals, would the same life-generating mix come together around other stars with different temperatures? (And should we call it ‘The Gazpacho Effect?’) “Prebiotic chemistry may unfold differently on planets around cool stars,” said Ilaria Pascucci, lead author of the new study.

Read more ....

Do You Think Bandwidth Grows On Trees?

From Slate:

User-generated content may have changed the Internet, but sites like YouTube are suffocating under the costs of storing it.

Everyone knows that print newspapers are our generation's horse-and-buggy; in the most wired cities, they've been pummeled by competition from the Web. But it might surprise you to learn that one of the largest and most-celebrated new-media ventures is burning through cash at a rate that makes newspapers look like wise investments. It's called YouTube: According a recent report by analysts at the financial-services company Credit Suisse, Google will lose $470 million on the video-sharing site this year alone. To put it another way, the Boston Globe, which is on track to lose $85 million in 2009, is five times more profitable—or, rather, less unprofitable—than YouTube. All so you can watch this helium-voiced oddball whenever you want.

Read more ....

Love Eternal? Egyptian Dig Hopes To Uncover Cleopatra And Mark Antony Side By Side

From The Daily Mail:

The burial place of doomed lovers Cleopatra and Mark Antony has remained an enduring mystery, but new evidence suggests it could soon be laid to rest.

Archaeologists are to begin searching three new sites identified in a radar survey of a temple close to Alexandria for the tombs of the celebrated queen of Egypt and the Roman general.

Egypt's top archaeologist Zahi Hawass said the finds have raised hopes that the legendary couple will be found together in a system of tunnels beneath the temple of Tabusiris Magna.

The discovery would be even bigger than the uncovering of King Tutankhamun's tomb, which was found in 1922, according to Dr Hawass.

Read more ....

Factors Other Than Genes Could Cause Obesity, Insulin Study Shows

Purdue researchers have uncovered new evidence that factors other than genes could cause obesity, finding that genetically identical cells store widely differing amounts of fat depending on subtle variations in how cells process insulin. Here, insulin (green) is present in cells with no fat storage and absent in cells with fat storage at two days after insulin addition. This observation indicates faster insulin processing rates in cells with fat storage. Fluorophore-labeled insulin (green) is visualized with fluorescence imaging, and fat is visualized with coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering - or CARS - imaging (red/white). (Credit: Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2009) — Researchers have uncovered new evidence suggesting factors other than genes could cause obesity, finding that genetically identical cells store widely differing amounts of fat depending on subtle variations in how cells process insulin.

Learning the precise mechanism responsible for fat storage in cells could lead to methods for controlling obesity.

"Insights from our study also will be important for understanding the precise roles of insulin in obesity or Type II diabetes, and to the design of effective intervention strategies," said Ji-Xin Cheng, an assistant professor in Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry.

Read more ....

Strange 1761 Atmospheric Phenomenon Explained

From Live Science:

Unusual atmospheric phenomena were recorded worldwide in 1761, unexplained at the time.

Now independent astronomer Kevin D. Pang of La Cañada Flintridge, California, says he's figured out the cause — and he credits Benjamin Franklin with a conceptual assist.

While serving as American ambassador in Paris, Franklin first made the connection between a "dry fog" that had obscured the Sun for months in 1784, the extremely cold weather in Europe and North America that same year, and the 1783 eruption of Iceland's Laki volcano. The fog was, we now know, droplets of sulfuric acid, called vog (volcanic fog).

Read more ....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why Some People Sneeze When The Sun Comes Out

Every time some people go out into the sun, they sneeze: why does it happen?
(Image: RESO / Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

Are you a photic sneezer? Take the questionnaire and find out

I WAS rounding the corner to the bus stop when it hit me - a bright shaft of sunlight smack between the eyes. My reaction was immediate: an unpleasant prickling in my nose, a quickening of my breath, an uncontrollable watering of my eyes. Then, almost as quickly as the sensation came, relief, blessed relief. Aaaaa-tisshoo! A sneeze.

It wasn't the first time. In fact, the same thing happens every time I go into the sun. For a long time, I thought it was a quirk all of my own. Then a friend mentioned she was similarly afflicted. Next my mother came out of the closet. With a bit of digging around I came to a startling realisation: not only am I not alone, but the "photic sneeze reflex" is actually common. Quite how common, no one knows exactly - but anything between 1 in 10 and 1 in 3 of us might be affected.

Read more ....

PIN Crackers Nab Holy Grail Of Bank Card Security

From Wired/Threat Level:

Hackers have crossed into new frontiers by devising sophisticated ways to steal large amounts of personal identification numbers, or PINs, protecting credit and debit cards, says an investigator. The attacks involve both unencrypted PINs and encrypted PINs that attackers have found a way to crack, according to an investigator behind a new report looking at the data breaches.

The attacks, says Bryan Sartin, director of investigative response for Verizon Business, are behind some of the millions of dollars in fraudulent ATM withdrawals that have occurred around the United States.

Read more ....

Why Teenagers Are Moody, Scientists Find The Answer

From The Telegraph:

Teenagers are selfish, reckless and irritable because their brains develop slower than their bodies, scientists have claimed.

Psychologists used to blame the unpleasant characteristics of adolescence on hormones.

However, new brain imaging scans have revealed a high number of structural changes in teenagers and those in their early 20s.

Read more ....

Technology Opens Promise, Perils Of Ocean Mining

This 1997 photo released by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shows the robotic arm of an unmanned aquatic vehicle reaching toward a hydrothermal vent in the east Pacific Ocean far off the coast of Chile. New technology and worldwide demand for metals have combined to make feasible deep ocean mining of the mineral-laden liquid spewed from these vents. By Pat Hickey, AP

From USA Today:

BOSTON — There's gold in that thar sea floor. Silver, copper, zinc and lead, too. The problem is, it's a mile or two underwater and encased in massive mineral deposits that layer a dark, mysterious world. But new technology and worldwide demand have combined to make mining for these metals economically feasible for the first time.

A breakthrough project is moving forward in New Guinea, and new rules to govern deep ocean mining will be set by an international authority this spring.

On Thursday, scientists, businessmen and policymakers from 20 countries meet on Cape Cod for a public forum on how to best extract these riches while protecting hidden worlds in the earth's oceans. Strange animals, from six-foot tubeworms to "blind" shrimp, thrive in water as acidic as battery acid, near "hydrothermal vents" that spew out mineral-laden liquid as hot as 750 degrees.

Read more ....

The Next Phage

Inphasion: Phages [in orange] prey on a lone bacterium, using prong-like proteins to anchor themselves to the cell before they inject their genes into it Lee D. Simon/Photo Researchers


How to heal an infection that defies antibiotics? Another infection. Doctors in Eastern Europe have used lab-grown viruses to safely cure millions of wounds. So why can't we do the same here?

It seemed like nothing at first. The red patch that appeared on Roy Brillon's thigh could have been a spider bite. But as the weeks passed, it grew and grew. By December 2004, the innocuous-looking bump had become an open wound the size of the palm of his hand. Brillon's doctor, Randy Wolcott, prescribed just about every antibiotic he could think of to cure the infection, but the lesion just got worse. "It was really bad," says Brillon, a 62-year-old retired housepainter from Lubbock, Texas. "I had to give up work because I couldn't climb ladders anymore."

Read more .....

PG&E Makes Deal For Space Solar Power


Utility to buy orbit-generated electricity from Solaren in 2016, at no risk.

California's biggest energy utility announced a deal Monday to purchase 200 megawatts of electricity from a startup company that plans to beam the power down to Earth from outer space, beginning in 2016.

San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric said it was seeking approval from state regulators for an agreement to purchase power over a 15-year period from Solaren Corp., an 8-year-old company based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The agreement was first reported in a posting to Next100, a Weblog produced by PG&E.

Read more .....

Cure For Honey Bee Colony Collapse?

Beekeeper with honeycomb. (Credit: iStockphoto/Kamilla Mathisen)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2009) — For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

In a study published in the new journal from the Society for Applied Microbiology: Environmental Microbiology Reports, scientists from Spain analysed two apiaries and found evidence of honey bee colony depopulation syndrome (also known as colony collapse disorder in the USA). They found no evidence of any other cause of the disease (such as the Varroa destructor, IAPV or pesticides), other than infection with Nosema ceranae. The researchers then treated the infected surviving under-populated colonies with the antibiotic drug, flumagillin and demonstrated complete recovery of all infected colonies.

Read more ....

Three Subgroups of Neanderthals Identified

A Neanderthal Family. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

From Live Science:

We tend to think of Neanderthals as one species of cavemen-like creatures, but now scientists say there were actually at least three different subgroups of Neanderthals.

Using computer simulations to analyze DNA sequence fragments from 12 Neanderthal fossils, researchers found that the species can be separated into three, or maybe four, distinct genetic groups.

Read more ....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Egypt Discovers Dozens Of Well-Preserved Mummies In 4,000-Year-Old Necropolis In Fayoum

Ancient beauty: A wooden coffin containing a linen-wrapped mummy covered in cartonnage found by the Egyptian archaeological mission

From The Daily Mail:

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered an ancient necropolis containing dozens of beautifully preserved mummies dating back as far as 4,000 years.

Excavations sponsored by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities revealed 53 tombs cut into rock south east of the Illahun pyramids in the oasis of Fayoum.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass described four of the mummies, dating to the 22nd Dynasty (931-725 BC), as among the most beautiful ever discovered.

Read more ....

Da Vinci Portrait Found In Cathedral Window

This stained-glass scene by the French artist Guillaume de Pierre di Marcillat (above) depicts an aging Leonardo da Vinci, argues Italian scholar Alezzandro Vezzosi. When compared with a scene from Leonardo's masterpiece "The Last Supper" (below), "the figure next to the old bearded man" in the stained-glass work "strongly recalls the profile of the apostle Matthew in Leonardo's masterpiece," said Vezzosi.

From Discovery:

A new, vividly colored portrait of Leonardo da Vinci has emerged from the windows of Arezzo's Cathedral in Tuscany, Italy, claims an Italian scholar who has published the finding in a new book, "The Portraits of Leonardo."

Depicting an amiable, bearded old man wearing a red hat, the portrait is one of many figures appearing in the stained glass on the cathedral's right wall.

The scene, which shows the biblical story known as the Raising of Lazarus, is part of a renowned portfolio of stained-glass work by the undisputed master of the time, the French artist Guillaume de Pierre di Marcillat (1475-1529).

Read more ....

Just Say No To Aging?

From Newsweek:

A provocative new book from a Harvard psychologist suggests that changing how we think about our age and health can have dramatic physical benefits.

Imagine that you could rewind the clock 20 years. It's 1989. Madonna is topping the pop charts, and TV sets are tuned to "Cheers" and "Murphy Brown." Widespread Internet use is just a pipe dream, and Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Montana are on recent covers of Sports Illustrated.

Read more ....

Hand Of God: Scientists Reveal Amazing X-ray Image Of A Supernova In Deep Space

The Hand of God: A small, dense object only 12 miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years

From The Daily Mail:

We've already seen pictures of his eye... now we have the first image of the hand of God.

The ghostly blue cloud seems to form an outstretched thumb and fingers grasping a burning lump of coal.

This astonishing image was taken by Nasa's Chandra X-ray observatory, which is orbiting 360 miles above the Earth's surface.

It recalls those of the Helix planetary nebula, whose blue centre surrounded by white clouds earned it the nickname 'the eye of God'.

The hand was created when a star exploded in a supernova, creating a rapidly-spinning 12-mile-wide star called a pulsar, which is deep inside the white blob at the hand's wrist.

Read more ....

Stomach Bug Crystallizes A Threat From Antibiotics

Stuart Bradfor

From New York Times:

Earlier this year, Harold and Freda Mitchell of Como, Miss., both came down with a serious stomach bug. At first, doctors did not know what was wrong, but the gastrointestinal symptoms became so severe that Mrs. Mitchell, 66, was hospitalized for two weeks. Her husband, a manufacturing supervisor, missed 20 days of work.

A local doctor who had worked in a Veterans Affairs hospital recognized the signs of Clostridium difficile, a contagious and potentially deadly bacterium. Although the illness is difficult to track, health officials estimate that in the United States the bacteria cause 350,000 infections each year in hospitals alone, with tens of thousands more occurring in nursing homes. While the majority of cases are found in health care settings, 20 percent or more may occur in the community. The illness kills an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people annually.

Read more ....

Driller Thriller: Antarctica's Tumultuous Past Revealed

From The New Scientist:

THE midnight sun hangs low in the sky on this November evening. A plain of flat ice sweeps in all directions and mountains rise in the distance. Perched on the sea ice is a massive, teepee-shaped tent. A mechanised rumble emanates from within.

Inside the tent, men in hard hats tend a rotating shaft of steel. This drill turns day and night through 8 metres of sea ice covering the surface of McMurdo Sound, off the coast of Antarctica, and through 400 metres of water beneath it and into the seabed.

Read more ....

Hemp Could Be Key To Zero-carbon Houses

The Renewable House is a timber frame house with hemp-lime walls. (Credit: Image from the National Non-Food Crops Centre)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2009) — Hemp, a plant from the cannabis family, could be used to build carbon-neutral homes of the future to help combat climate change and boost the rural economy, say researchers at the University of Bath.

A consortium, led by the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials based at the University, has embarked on a unique housing project to develop the use of hemp-lime construction materials in the UK.

Read more ....

Got Nature? Why You Need to Get Out

A little time spent in a green space can improve psychological and physical health, researchers are finding. Credit: stock.xchng

From Live Science:

NEW YORK — In our increasingly urbanized world, it turns out that a little green can go a long way toward improving our health, not just that of the planet.

That could mean something as simple as a walk in the park or just a tree viewed through a window. It's not necessarily the exercise that is the key. It's the refreshing contact with nature and its uncomplicated demands on us.

Read more ....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Next-Gen Atom Smashers: Smaller, Cheaper and Super Powerful

From Wired News:

Size matters in particle physics: The bigger the machine, the more violently physicists can smash atoms together and break open the deepest mysteries of the subatomic world. But a revolutionary new technology could eventually render some gargantuan particle accelerators passé.

Using simulations, a team of German and Russian physicists have pioneered a new technique for particle acceleration, called proton-driven plasma-wakefield acceleration (PWFA). The technique may one day allow machines a fraction of the size of today's accelerators to create the highest-energy particles ever.

Read more ....

World's Highest-Energy Laser To Create Mini-Stars (Pictures)

To produce the temperatures and pressures needed for fusion, the facility will aim all of its 192 laser beams simultaneously on a hydrogen target. This all happens inside this 10-metre-diameter chamber, which weighs 130 tonnes. The sphere is made up of 18 aluminium sections that are each 10 centimetres thick.The square openings are for the lasers, and the round openings are used to accommodate nearly 100 pieces of diagnostic equipment. (Image: Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory/Department of Energy)

From New Scientist:

In early April, the $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, was given the green light to begin a series of experiments. Researchers hope they will culminate in the first ever self-sustained, stable fusion reaction that will release many times more energy than the energy used to trigger the reaction. The stadium-sized facility will train 192 laser beams on tiny targets, producing pressures and temperatures that could illuminate the interiors of giant planets and pave the way to the first fusion reactors.

Read more ....

Climate Change 'Own Goal': Laws To Combat Acid Rain Are DRIVING Arctic Warming, Claims Nasa

From The Daily Mail:

It is widely recognised that humans are their own worst enemies when it comes to global warming.

But the latest research from Nasa suggests laws created to preserve the environment are causing much of the damage.

Legislation to improve air quality and cut acid rain has accounted for a shocking half of Arctic warming over the past three decades, the space agency reports.

Climate scientist Drew Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York found that declines in solid 'aerosol' particles brought in under laws to improve air quality likely triggered 45 per cent of temperature rises.

Read more ....

Dance Your Way To Successful Aging

New research shows that older people can dance their way towards improved health and happiness. (Credit: iStockphoto/Georgy Markov)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2009) — Older people can dance their way towards improved health and happiness, according to a report from the Changing Ageing Partnership (CAP).

The research, by Dr Jonathan Skinner from Queen’s University Belfast, reveals the social, mental and physical benefits of social dancing for older people. It suggests that dancing staves of illness, and even counteracts decline in ageing.

Recommendations include the expansion of social dance provision for older people in order to aid successful ageing and help older people enjoy longer and healthier lives.

Read more ....

The Search For The Solar System's Lost Planet

Artist's conception of the hypothetical impact of Theia and young Earth. Credit: NASA/GSFC

From Live Science:

The solar system might once have had another planet named Theia, which may have helped create our own planet's moon.

Now two spacecrafts are heading out to search for leftovers from this rumored sibling, which would have been destroyed when the solar system was still young.

"It's a hypothetical world. We've never actually seen it, but some researchers believe it existed 4.5 billion years ago — and that it collided with Earth to form the moon," said Mike Kaiser, a NASA scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Read more ....

One Speck Of Blood Or Tissue May Be Enough To Diagnose Cancer

From Times Online:

A drop of blood or speck of tissue no bigger than a full stop could soon be all that is required to diagnose cancers and assess their response to treatment, research suggests.

New technology that allows cancer proteins to be analysed in tiny samples could spell the end of surgical biopsies, which involve removing lumps of tissue, often under general anaesthetic.

Researchers at Stanford University, California, have developed a machine that separates cancer-associated proteins by means of their electric charge, which varies according to modifications on the protein’s surface.

Read more ....

Finding Pages From Browser History

From Technology Review:

A new tool aims to make a Web browser's history more useful.

Web browsers remember the sites that they have visited in the past, but few people seem to use this information. Jing Jin, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, has developed a new browser-history tool, which she and her colleagues developed after studying how people use their browser history. They demonstrated the prototype in a presentation this week at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI 2009) Conference, in Boston.

Read more ....

Brown Fat: A Fat That Helps You Lose Weight?

From Time Magazine:

For most people, fat is a burden. It doesn't really matter whether it appears as cellulite on our thighs or cholesterol in our veins — we just don't want it.

But it turns out that our bodies also make a unique form of fat tissue that behaves remarkably unlike any other: rather than storing excess energy, this fat actually burns through it.

It's called brown fat (as opposed to the more familiar white fat that hangs over belt buckles and swings from the backs of arms), and a series of papers published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirm for the first time that healthy adults have stores of this adipose tissue, which researchers hope to study further as a potential new weight-loss treatment.

Read more ....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Google CEO Sees Future For News In Advertising

From The Globe And Mail:

SAN DIEGO — Google's CEO Eric Schmidt recommends that news organizations continue to rely on advertising but seek new ways to reach readers.

Without providing specific recipes, Mr. Schmidt's speech Tuesday lays out a few possibilities.

One is a site for medicine similar to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which lets users collectively contribute and edit entries.

He says there's still room for subscription and pay-by-the-piece journalism but he emphasizes advertising, the source of 98 per cent of Google Inc.'s revenue.

Read more ....

Oldest Stone Blades Uncovered

Cutting-edge technology. A stone core (lower left) and three of the recently found blades. Credit: Cara Roure Johnson and Sally McBrearty/University of Connecticut

Science Now:

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--Paleoanthropologists working in Africa have discovered stone blades more than a half-million years old. That pushes the date of the earliest known blades back a remarkable 150,000 years and raises a question: What human ancestor made them?

Not long ago, researchers thought that blades were so hard to make that they had to be the handiwork of modern humans, who had evolved the mental wherewithal to systematically strike a cobble in the right way to produce blades and not just crude stone flakes. First, they were thought to be a hallmark of the late Stone Age, which began 40,000 years ago. Later, blades were thought to have emerged in the Middle Stone Age, which began about 200,000 years ago when modern humans arose in Africa and invented a new industry of more sophisticated stone tools. But this view has been challenged in recent years as researchers discovered blades that dated to 380,000 years in the Middle East and to almost 300,000 years ago in Europe, where Neandertals may have made them (ScienceNOW, 1 December 2008).

Read more ....

Sleep: Spring Cleaning For The Brain?

On the left, the brain of the well-rested blue fly has low levels of a synaptic protein called BRP in this 3D view from a confocal mircoscope. On the right, the brain of the sleep-deprived fly glows orange in areas of BRP concentration. (Bruchpilot or BRP is a protein involved in communication between neurons.)In the tired fly, the protein is present at high concentartions in three major areas of the fly's brain that are associated with learning. Sleep reduces the levels of this protein, an indication that synapses get smaller and/or weaker. This process of "downscaling" may be important so the brain is reset to normal levels of synaptic activity and can begin learning again the next day. (Credit: Courtesy of UW Health Public Affairs)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2009) — If you've ever been sleep-deprived, you know the feeling that your brain is full of wool.

Now, a study published in the April 3 edition of the journal Science has molecular and structural evidence of that woolly feeling — proteins that build up in the brains of sleep-deprived fruit flies and drop to lower levels in the brains of the well-rested. The proteins are located in the synapses, those specialized parts of neurons that allow brain cells to communicate with other neurons.

Read more ....

Great Golfers' Brains Have More Gray Matter

From Live Science:

As Tiger Woods goes for his fifth green jacket in this weekend's Masters Tournament, mortal golfers wonder what's inside his head that keeps him winning. Well, chances are his brain actually has more gray matter than the average weekend duffer.

Researchers at the University of Zurich have found that expert golfers have a higher volume of the gray-colored, closely packed neuron cell bodies that are known to be involved with muscle control. The good news is that, like Tiger, golfers who start young and commit to years of practice can also grow their brains while their handicaps shrink.

Read more ....