Posts tagged as: science

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

 

Cold sore virus secret revealed

‘The secret of how the cold sore virus manages to persist for a lifetime in the human body may have been cracked by US scientists.

The herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) can lie dormant in facial nerves, emerging periodically to cause sores.

A Duke University Medical Center team may have uncovered how it can reactivate itself from a dormant state.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, could eventually lead to new treatments.

When fighting a virus, the immune system relies heavily on the protein chemicals produced by the virus which it uses to help mark it for destruction.

Herpes viruses manage to evade the immune system by shutting down production of these proteins completely, and remaining in this state for long periods before starting to replicate again.’


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Ghost-imaging could have satellite application

‘Investigators funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research are conducting research under the name of “ghost-imaging,” where a visual image of an object is created by means of light that has never interacted with the object.

The new technology may result in a more versatile use of field sensors, and have space applications. [..]

Ghost-imaging is similar to taking a flash-lit photo of an object using a normal camera. The image forms from photons that come out of the flash, bounce off the object, and then are focused through the lens onto photo-reactive film or a charge-coupled array.

“But, in this case, the image is not formed from light that hits the object and bounces back,” Dr. Shih said. “The camera collects photons from the light sources that did not hit the object, but are paired through a quantum effect with others that did. An image of the toy begins to appear after approximately a thousand pairs of photons are recorded.’


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Super atoms turn the periodic table upside down

‘Researchers at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands have developed a technique for generating atom clusters made from silver and other metals. Surprisingly enough, these so-called super atoms (clusters of 13 silver atoms, for example) behave in the same way as individual atoms and have opened up a whole new branch of chemistry. A full account can be read in the new edition of TU Delft magazine Delft Outlook.

If a silver thread is heated to around 900 degrees Celsius, it will generate vapour made up of silver atoms. The floating atoms stick to each other in groups. Small lumps of silver comprising for example 9, 13 and 55 atoms appear to be energetically stable and are therefore present in the silver mist more frequently that one might assume. Prof. Andreas Schmidt-Ott and Dr. Christian Peineke of TU Delft managed to collect these super atoms and make them suitable for more detailed chemical experiments.’


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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

 

Study shows Spiritual effects of mushrooms last a year

‘The “spiritual” effects of psilocybin from so-called sacred mushrooms last for more than a year and may offer a way to help patients with fatal diseases or addictions, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

The researchers also said their findings show there are safe ways to test psychoactive drugs on willing volunteers, if guidelines are followed.

In 2006, Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues gave psilocybin to 36 volunteers and asked them how it felt. Most reported having a “mystical” or “spiritual” experience and rated it positively.

More than a year later, most still said the experience increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction, Griffiths and colleagues report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“This is a truly remarkable finding,” Griffiths said in a statement. “Rarely in psychological research do we see such persistently positive reports from a single event in the laboratory.”‘


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

 

Roundest objects in the world created

‘When asked by the Pope to demonstrate his artistic skill, 14th century Italian painter Giotto di Bondone supposedly drew a perfect circle freehand and said: “That’s more than enough.” Now, an international group of engineers and craftsmen has gone him one better and built a pair of nearly perfect spheres that are thought to be the roundest objects in the world.

The unusual balls, discussed last week at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference in France, were created as an answer to the “kilogram problem”.

The kilogram is the only remaining standard of measurement tied to a single physical object: a 120-year-old lump of platinum and iridium that sits in a vault outside of Paris, France. But the mass of this chunk of metal is slowly changing relative to the 40-odd copies kept by other countries, and no one knows why or by how much.’


Saturday, June 28, 2008

 

Martian soil appears able to support life

‘”Flabbergasted” NASA scientists said on Thursday that Martian soil appeared to contain the requirements to support life, although more work would be needed to prove it.

Scientists working on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which has already found ice on the planet, said preliminary analysis by the lander’s instruments on a sample of soil scooped up by the spacecraft’s robotic arm had shown it to be much more alkaline than expected.

“We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past present or future,” Sam Kounaves, the lead investigator for the wet chemistry laboratory on Phoenix, told journalists.

“It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. … It is very exciting for us.”‘


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Thursday, June 26, 2008

 

Scientists: It Once Rained on Mars

‘Drizzle once fell on Martian soil, according to a new geochemical analysis by Berkeley scientists, though the rain probably stopped several billion years ago.

Drawing on soil data from the five missions to Mars before the current Phoenix Lander and comparing it to information collected in Earth’s driest places, the scientists concluded that water must have fallen from above, not welled up from below, as has been thought. [..]

Amundson’s key observation is that Martian soil has a layer of sulfates sitting on top of chlorides. That’s a pattern consistent with water moving downward from the atmosphere to the regolith in places on Earth.

Though he can’t say for sure whether the precipitation on Mars fell as snow, sleet or rain, the evidence of reacting with rocks suggests that the water was liquid on the ground.’


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

When threatened, a few African frogs can morph toes into claws

‘Biologists at Harvard University have determined that some African frogs carry concealed weapons: When threatened, these species puncture their own skin with sharp bones in their toes, using the bones as claws capable of wounding predators. [..]

“It’s surprising enough to find a frog with claws,” says Blackburn, a doctoral student in Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. “The fact that those claws work by cutting through the skin of the frogs’ feet is even more astonishing. These are the only vertebrate claws known to pierce their way to functionality.”

“Most vertebrates do a much better job of keeping their skeletons inside,” he adds.

Blackburn first became aware of the clawed frogs while conducting fieldwork in the central African nation of Cameroon. When he picked up one of the hulking fist-sized frogs, it flailed its hind legs violently, scratching him and drawing blood.’


Diamonds on Demand

‘I’m sitting in a fast-food restaurant outside Boston that, because of a nondisclosure agreement I had to sign, I am not allowed to name. I’m waiting to visit Apollo Diamond, a company about as secretive as a Soviet-era spy agency. Its address isn’t published. The public relations staff wouldn’t give me directions. Instead, an Apollo representative picks me up at this exurban strip mall and drives me in her black luxury car whose make I am not allowed to name along roads that I am not allowed to describe as twisty, not that they necessarily were.

“This is a virtual diamond mine,” says Apollo CEO Bryant Linares when I arrive at the company’s secret location, where diamonds are made. “If we were in Africa, we’d have barbed wire, security guards and watch towers. We can’t do that in Massachusetts.” Apollo’s directors worry about theft, corporate spies and their own safety. When Linares was at a diamond conference a few years ago, he says, a man he declines to describe slipped behind him as he was walking out of a hotel meeting room and said someone from a natural diamond company just might put a bullet in his head. “It was a scary moment,” Linares recalls.’


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

 

Study shows that chronic grief activates pleasure areas of the brain

‘Grief is universal, and most of us will probably experience the pain grief brings at some point in our lives, usually with the death of a loved one. In time, we move on, accepting the loss.

But for a substantial minority, it’s impossible to let go, and even years later, any reminder of their loss — a picture, a memory — brings on a fresh wave of grief and yearning. The question is, why? Why do some grieve and ultimately adapt, while others can’t get over the loss of someone held dear?

Reporting in the journal NeuroImage, scientists at UCLA suggest that such long-term or “complicated” grief activates neurons in the reward centers of the brain, possibly giving these memories addiction-like properties [..]’


Monday, June 23, 2008

 

NASA Plans To Visit The Sun

‘For more than 400 years, astronomers have studied the sun from afar. Now NASA has decided to go there.

“We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time,” says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. “This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts.”

The name of the mission is Solar Probe+ (pronounced “Solar Probe plus”). It’s a heat-resistant spacecraft designed to plunge deep into the sun’s atmosphere where it can sample solar wind and magnetism first hand. Launch could happen as early as 2015. By the time the mission ends 7 years later, planners believe Solar Probe+ will solve two great mysteries of astrophysics and make many new discoveries along the way.

[..] “To solve these mysteries, Solar Probe+ will actually enter the corona,” says Guhathakurta. “That’s where the action is.”‘


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Saturday, June 21, 2008

 

Is There Ice On Mars? Apparently So

‘NASA spent $420 million to send the Phoenix Lander to Mars last year. Festooned with state-of-the-art detection equipment, the rover’s task was to scour the red surface in search of elusive Martian ice. And today, the NASA mission finally did uncover some extraterrestrial frost, and it did it with its simplest tool, a shovel.

The rover was digging a trench nicknamed Dodo-Goldilocks with its robotic arm when it hit some hard, refelective material. The scientists back on Earth who control Phoenix halted the digging, and spent the next couple of days taking photographs of the hole, trying to figure out what they were looking at in the ditch. Was the whitish material a kind of salt? But over those days of photography and scrutiny, something interesting happened to the marble-sized chunks. They evaporated. Long entombed beneath the iron-oxide surface of the red planet, the substance turns out to be part of a frozen layer of water just below the ground covered by Phoenix.’


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

 

Bacteria make major evolutionary shift in the lab

‘A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientists have been able to replay history to show how this evolutionary novelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chance events. [..]

But sometime around the 31,500th generation, something dramatic happened in just one of the populations – the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use.

Indeed, the inability to use citrate is one of the traits by which bacteriologists distinguish E. coli from other species. The citrate-using mutants increased in population size and diversity.’


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Japanese scientists create diesel-producing algae

‘Under the gleam of blinding lamps, engulfed by banks of angrily frothing flasks, Makoto Watanabe is plotting a slimy, lurid-green revolution. He has spent his life in search of a species of algae that efficiently “sweats” crude oil, and has finally found it.

Now, exploiting the previously unrecognised power of pondlife, Professor Watanabe dreams of transforming Japan from a voracious energy importer into an oil-exporting nation to rival any member of Opec. [..]

Professor Watanabe’s vision arises from the extraordinary properties of the Botryococcus braunii algae: give the microscopic green strands enough light – and plenty of carbon dioxide – and they excrete oil. The tiny globules of oil that form on the surface of the algae can be easily harvested and then refined using the same “cracking” technologies with which the oil industry now converts crude into everything from jet fuel to plastics.’


forum

Most complex crop circle ever discovered in British fields

‘The most complex, “mind-boggling” crop circle ever to be seen in Britain has been discovered in a barley field in Wiltshire.

The formation, measuring 150ft in diameter, is apparently a coded image representing the first 10 digits, 3.141592654, of pi.

It is has appeared in a field near Barbury Castle, an iron-age hill fort above Wroughton, Wilts, and has been described by astrophysicists as “mind-boggling”.

Michael Reed, an astrophysicist, said: “The tenth digit has even been correctly rounded up. The little dot near the centre is the decimal point. [..]’


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Study indicates grape seed extract may reduce cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease

‘A compound found in grape seed extract reduces plaque formation and resulting cognitive impairment in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, new research shows. The study appears in the June 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Lead study author Giulio Pasinetti, MD, PhD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues found that the grape seed extract prevents amyloid beta accumulation in cells, suggesting that it may block the formation of plaques. In Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid beta accumulates to form toxic plaques that disrupt normal brain function. [..]

Moderate consumption of red wine—approximately one glass for women and two glasses for men, according to the Food and Drug Administration—and its constituent grape compounds has reported health benefits, particularly for cardiovascular function. Pasinetti previously found that red wine reduced cognitive decline in mice genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s disease. In subsequent studies, Pasinetti and colleagues have attempted to isolate which of the nearly 5,000 molecules contained in red wine are important in disease prevention. “Our intent is to develop a highly tolerable, nontoxic, orally available treatment for the prevention and treatment of Alzeheimer’s dementia,” Pasinetti said.’


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

 

Long-Tailed Macaques Spotted Catching Fish

‘Long-tailed macaques eat mostly fruit — but when resources are scarce, they’ve been known to get creative with their cuisine. When living near humans, they raid gardens and learn to beg for food. Sometimes they even steal food from inside houses.

Now, for the first time, scientists have observed long-tailed macaques fishing with their bare hands. [..]

The macaques’ eyes scanned the water. After about three minutes, one of the macaques reached into the river. With her bare hands, she pulled out a fish and quickly ate it. Other macaques watched her — and one even tried unsuccessfully to catch a fish herself.

“Clearly it may raise the question of whether there is some sort of learning going on,” says Meijaard. “If perhaps a couple of generations back, one primate caught a fish and it was subsequently copied.”’


Ovulation moment caught on camera

‘A human egg has been filmed in close-up emerging from the ovary for the first time, captured by chance during a routine operation.

Fertile women release one or more eggs every month, but until now, only animal ovulation has been recorded in detail.

Gynaecologist Dr Jacques Donnez spotted it in progress during a hysterectomy.

The pictures, published in New Scientist magazine, were described as “fascinating” by a UK fertility specialist.

Human eggs are produced by follicles, fluid-filled sacs on the side of the ovary, which, around the time of ovulation, produce a reddish protrusion seen in the pictures.’


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Thursday, June 5, 2008

 

Morphine Makes Lasting – and Surprising – Change in the Brain

‘Morphine, as little as a single dose, blocks the brain’s ability to strengthen connections at inhibitory synapses, according to new Brown University research published in Nature.

The findings, uncovered in the laboratory of Brown scientist Julie Kauer, may help explain the origins of addiction in the brain. The research also supports a provocative new theory of addiction as a disease of learning and memory.

“We’ve added a new piece to the puzzle of how addictive drugs affect the brain,” Kauer said. “We’ve shown here that morphine makes lasting changes in the brain by blocking a mechanism that’s believed to be the key to memory making. So these findings reinforce the notion that addiction is a form of pathological learning.”‘


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

 

Heavy pot smokers shrinking their brains

‘Australian researchers have found that long-term heavy use of marijuana may cause parts of the brain to shrink.

Published in this month’s Archives of General Psychiatry, the study found that the hippocampus and amygdala were smaller in men who were heavy marijuana users compared to non-users.

The study looked at 15 men heavy marijuana users, who had smoked at least five marijuana cigarettes daily for on average of 20 years.

Brain scans showed that on average their hippocampus volume was 12% less and amygdala volume was 7% less than in the 16 men who were not marijuana users.

The hippocampus regulates memory and emotion, while the amygdala plays a critical role in fear and aggression.’


Saturday, May 31, 2008

 

‘Pixie Dust’ May Regrow Troop’s Finger

‘Doctors at Brook Army Medical Center are testing a regeneration powder that could help injured soldiers regrow fingers and other body parts lost in battle.

The powder, nicknamed “Pixie Dust” after the fairy dust that enabled children to fly in Disney’s Peter Pan, is made from tissue extracted from pigs. It attracts stem cells and convinces them to grow into the tissue that used to be there. This was reported first on CNN.

Doctors at BAMC used the powder last week on a wounded soldier to encourage the regeneration of a finger in lost in Iraq.

“If it is next to the skin, it will start making skin. If it’s next to a tendon, it will start making a tendon, and so that’s the hope, at least in this particular project, that we can grow a finger,” Dr. Steven Wolf told CNN.

Doctors said they are watching patients for unexpected side effects, such as cancer.’


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Saturday, May 24, 2008

 

Acidified ocean water rising up nearly 100 years earlier than scientists predicted

‘Climate models predicted it wouldn’t happen until the end of the century.

So Seattle researchers were stunned to discover that vast swaths of acidified sea water are already showing up along the Pacific Coast as carbon dioxide from power plants, cars and factories mixes into the ocean.

In surveys from Vancouver Island to the tip of Baja California, the scientists found the first evidence that large amounts of corrosive water are reaching the continental shelf — the shallow sea margin where most marine creatures live. In some places, including Northern California, the acidified water was as little as four miles from shore.

“What we found … was truly astonishing,” said oceanographer Richard Feely, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. “This means ocean acidification may be seriously impacting marine life on the continental shelf right now.”‘


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

 

Missing matter found in deep space

‘Astronomers have found some matter that had been missing in deep space and say it is strung along web-like filaments that form the backbone of the universe.

The ethereal strands of hydrogen and oxygen atoms could account for up to half the matter that scientists knew must be there but simply could not see, the researchers reported on Tuesday.

Scientists have long known there is far more matter in the universe than can be accounted for by visible galaxies and stars. Not only is there invisible baryonic matter — the protons and neutrons that make up atoms — but there also is an even larger amount of invisible “dark” matter.

Now about half of the missing baryonic matter has turned up, seen by the orbiting Hubble space telescope and NASA’s Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE.’


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

 

Large Hadron Countdown

‘Welcome to LHCountdown.com, this site is primarily a countdown site to the activation of the Large Hadron Collider but is also a hub collecting all articles relating to and about the LHC.’

.. It’s a bit late in the game to find a counter now. There’s only 14 hours to go.

Still, that’s 14 hours of waiting for the LHC to destroy us all with a blackhole. So I can pretend it’s a doomsday clock. 🙂


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

 

Taking the Piss

‘In homes, apartments, and shanties throughout Buenos Aires, thousands of graying women joyfully pee into plastic containers at all hours of the day.

It isn’t exactly the picture postcard image that Argentina’s Secretariat of Tourism wants spread around the globe.

Gauchos, mountain peaks, tango, Patagonia, steak – now that’s the stuff of travel brochures.

Yet at any given moment, there are thousands more 65-year-old matrons holding a piece of Tupperware between sagging thighs – silently praying that their hand is steady and aim direct – than tight-assed 20-year-olds twirling the Tango.

Properly aged piss, it turns out, is one of Argentina’s least-known but most-valued exports.

The liquid gold from the ripe bladders of postmenopausal women has been helping “float” the Argentine economy by tens of millions of dollars a year for the last decade. Somewhere deep within the pungent molecules of senescent whiz – we’re clearly running out of original ways to say pee – is a high-value hormone used to combat infertility in younger women with ripe, but unwilling eggs.’


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Saturday, May 10, 2008

 

MRI Danger

(367kB and 3.8meg Flash videos)

see it here »


forum

Thursday, May 8, 2008

 

Conservatives Happier Than Liberals

‘Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person’s tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities. [..]

To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one’s social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified.

If your beliefs don’t justify gaps in status, you could be left frustrated and disheartened, according to the researchers, Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University. They conducted a U.S.-centric survey and a more internationally focused one to arrive at the findings.’


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Friday, May 2, 2008

 

Scientists Create First Memristor: Missing Fourth Electronic Circuit Element

‘Researchers at HP Labs have built the first working prototypes of an important new electronic component that may lead to instant-on PCs as well as analog computers that process information the way the human brain does.

The new component is called a memristor, or memory resistor. Up until today, the circuit element had only been described in a series of mathematical equations written by Leon Chua, who in 1971 was an engineering student studying non-linear circuits. Chua knew the circuit element should exist — he even accurately outlined its properties and how it would work. Unfortunately, neither he nor the rest of the engineering community could come up with a physical manifestation that matched his mathematical expression.

Thirty-seven years later, a group of scientists from HP Labs has finally built real working memristors, thus adding a fourth basic circuit element to electrical circuit theory, one that will join the three better-known ones: the capacitor, resistor and the inductor.’


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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

 

Will Mercury Hit Earth Someday?

‘First, the bad news: the inner solar system is unstable. Given enough time, Jupiter’s gravity could yank Mercury out of its present orbit.

Two new computer simulations of long-term planetary motion — one by Jacques Laskar (Paris Observatory), the other by Konstantin Batygin and Gregory Laughlin (University of California, Santa Cruz) — have both reached the same disturbing conclusion.

Says Laughlin, “The solar system isn’t as stable as we’d thought.” Both teams have found that Jupiter’s gravity can increase Mercury’s orbital eccentricity over time. Mercury’s path around the Sun is already nearly as elliptical as Pluto’s. But Jupiter can make Mercury’s orbit so out of round that it overlaps the path of Venus. A close encounter between them could send the innermost planet careening off wildly.

“Once Mercury crosses Venus’s orbit,” Laughlin says, “Mercury is in serious trouble.”

So is Earth.’


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

 

You Walk Wrong

‘Walking is easy. It’s so easy that no one ever has to teach you how to do it. It’s so easy, in fact, that we often pair it with other easy activities—talking, chewing gum—and suggest that if you can’t do both simultaneously, you’re some sort of insensate clod. So you probably think you’ve got this walking thing pretty much nailed. As you stroll around the city, worrying about the economy, or the environment, or your next month’s rent, you might assume that the one thing you don’t need to worry about is the way in which you’re strolling around the city.

Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you: You walk wrong.

Look, it’s not your fault. It’s your shoes. Shoes are bad. I don’t just mean stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or tottering espadrilles, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we wincingly jam our feet. I mean all shoes. Shoes hurt your feet. They change how you walk. In fact, your feet—your poor, tender, abused, ignored, maligned, misunderstood feet—are getting trounced in a war that’s been raging for roughly a thousand years: the battle of shoes versus feet.’


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