Posts tagged as: science

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

 

I’ll grow marigolds on the moon, says scientist

‘In what marks an important step towards helping lunar colonists grow their own food, a Ukrainian team, working with the European Space Agency, ESA, has shown that marigolds can grow in crushed rock very like the lunar surface, with no need for plant food.

The research was presented at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, by Dr Bernard Foing of ESA, director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, and father of the SMART-1 moon probe, who believes it is an important milestone because it does away with the need to bring bringing nutrients and soil from Earth.

He has worked with Natasha Kozyrovska and Iryna Zaetz from the Ukranian Academy of Sciences in Kiev, who planted marigolds in crushed anorthosite, a type of rock found on Earth which is very similar to lunar soil, called regolith.

They did not grow well until the team added different types of bacteria, which made them thrive; the bacteria appeared to leach elements from the rock that the plants needed, such as potassium.’


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

 

German schoolboy, 13, corrects NASA’s asteroid figures

‘A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected NASA’s estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with Earth, a German newspaper reported Tuesday, after spotting the boffins had miscalculated.

Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.

NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right. [..]

Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.’

Followup to The Asteroid Threat is Out There.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

 

Boeing Patent Shuts Down AMC-14 Lunar Flyby Salvage Attempt

‘Attempts to salvage a wayward GEO comsat have come unstuck in the face of institutional disinterest and an aging patent of questionable validity.

The AMC-14 commercial geostationary satellite was launched in March by a Proton launch vehicle into space just short of its minimum geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). [..]

Following the failed launch, SES Americom looked into how they might salvage the satellite in a manner similar to the Asiasat-3 salvage in 1998.

However, SpaceDaily has now learned that a plan to salvage AMC-14 was abandoned a week ago when SES gave up in the face of patent issues relating to the lunar flyby process used to bring wayward GEO birds back to GEO Earth orbit. [..]

Industry sources have told SpaceDaily that the patent is regarded as legal “trite”, as basic physics has been rebranded as a “process”, and that the patent wouldn’t stand up to any significant level of court scrutiny and was only registered at the time as “the patent office was incompetent when it came to space matters”.’


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

 

Potent HIV killer found in alligator blood

‘Powerful infection-fighting proteins found in alligator blood could help fight HIV and antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ in humans, suggests new American research.

Scientists who successfully extracted the active proteins from alligators’ white blood cells have found that these kill a wide variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses. The findings were presented over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.

“We’re very excited about the potential of these alligator blood proteins as both antibacterial and antifungal agents,” says Mark Merchant, principal investigator at McNeese State University in Louisiana, USA, and co-author of the study. “There’s a very real possibility that you could be treated with an alligator blood product one day.”‘


Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

New twist to matter-antimatter mystery

‘According to the standard model of physics, matter and antimatter were created in equal quantities shortly after the Big Bang. The two types of particles should have thus cancelled each other out and the universe should be permeated by energy.

But as our existence attests, that did not happen. Experiments suggests the universe today is composed of about 75 per cent dark energy, 20 per cent dark matter, and five per cent matter/antimatter, with the overwhelming bulk of the latter consisting of normal matter.

A major mystery of modern physics is why normal matter particles are the building blocks of the observable universe. Why are we not made of antimatter? Or pure energy? Scientists speculate that a tiny imbalance in the early universe allowed a small fraction of normal matter – one particle for every one billion – to avoid annihilation and survive to form stars, planets, and humans.’


Botanist sues to stop CERN hurling Earth into parallel universe

‘A lawsuit has been filed in Hawaii in an attempt to hold up the start of operations by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) atom-smasher on the French-Swiss border.

A colourful American botanist, teacher, former biologist and sometime physicist says (in outline) that the LHC may rip a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum and so destroy the Earth. He wants the US government to act now and delay the LHC’s startup while a new safety review is carried out. [..]

Firstly Wagner is concerned that careless atom boffins might slip up and create a miniature black hole. This would then suck in surrounding mass, gaining unstoppably in size and power in a runaway process until it had engulfed the entire Earth and packed it down inside its swelling, unescapable event horizon.’


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

 

Weather Engineering in China

‘To prevent rain over the roofless 91,000-seat Olympic stadium that Beijing natives have nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, the city’s branch of the national Weather Modification Office–itself a department of the larger China Meteorological Administration–has prepared a three-stage program for the 2008 Olympics this August.

First, Beijing’s Weather Modification Office will track the region’s weather via satellites, planes, radar, and an IBM p575 supercomputer, purchased from Big Blue last year, that executes 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second. It models an area of 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) accurately enough to generate hourly forecasts for each kilometer. [..]’


Thursday, March 20, 2008

 

Writer Arthur C Clarke dies at 90

‘British science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90.

The Somerset-born author achieved his greatest fame in 1968 when his short story The Sentinel was turned into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

His visions of space travel and computing sparked the imagination of readers and scientists alike.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse paid tribute, hailing the writer as a “great visionary”.

Since 1995, the author had been largely confined to a wheelchair by post-polio syndrome.

He died at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) of respiratory complications and heart failure, according to his aide, Rohan De Silva.’


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

 

Workers Uncovering Mummified Dinosaur

‘Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota’s state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur unearthed in southwestern North Dakota in 2004, is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron. It’s among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

“This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh,” said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota.

“This is not the usual disjointed sentence or fragment of a word that the fossil records offer up as evidence of past life. This is a full chapter.”‘


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

 

Researcher: Basic Greenhouse Equations “Totally Wrong”

‘Miklós Zágoni isn’t just a physicist and environmental researcher. He is also a global warming activist and Hungary’s most outspoken supporter of the Kyoto Protocol. Or was.

That was until he learned the details of a new theory of the greenhouse effect, one that not only gave far more accurate climate predictions here on Earth, but Mars too. The theory was developed by another Hungarian scientist, Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist with 30 years of experience and a former researcher with NASA’s Langley Research Center.

After studying it, Zágoni stopped calling global warming a crisis, and has instead focused on presenting the new theory to other climatologists. The data fit extremely well. “I fell in love,” he stated at the International Climate Change Conference this week.’


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Sunday, March 16, 2008

 

On Manson’s trail, forensic testing suggests possible new grave sites

‘Bone-white stretches of salt, leached up from the lifeless soil, lay like a shroud over the high desert where a paranoid Charles Manson holed up after an orgy of murder nearly four decades ago.

Now, as then, few venture into this alkaline wilderness — gold-diggers, outlaws, loners content to live and let live.

But a determined group of outsiders recently made the trek. They were leading forensic investigators searching for new evidence of death — clues pointing to possible decades-old clandestine graves.

And the results of just-completed followup tests suggest bodies could indeed be lying beneath the parched ground. The test findings — described in detail to The Associated Press, which had accompanied the site search — conclude there are two likely clandestine grave sites at Barker Ranch, and one additional site that merits further investigation.

Next step, the ad hoc investigators urge: Dig.’


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Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say

‘The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.

Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.’


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AP Probe Finds Drugs in Drinking Water

‘A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.’


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Friday, March 7, 2008

 

Eat whale and save the planet

‘Eat a whale and save the planet, a Norwegian pro-whaling lobby said on Monday of a study showing that harpooning the giant mammals is less damaging to the climate than farming livestock.

Environmental group Greenpeace dismissed the survey, saying almost every kind of food was more climate friendly than meat.

The survey, focused on whale boats’ fuel use, showed that a kilo (2.2 lbs) of whale meat represented just 1.9 kilo (4.2 lbs) of greenhouse gases against 15.8 for beef, 6.4 for pork and 4.6 for chicken.

“Basically it turns out that the best thing you can do for the planet is to eat whale meat compared to other types of meat,” said Rune Froevik of the High North Alliance, which represents the interests of coastal communities in the Arctic.’


Vatican recants with a statue of Galileo

‘Four hundred years after it put Galileo on trial for heresy the Vatican is to complete its rehabilitation of the great scientist by erecting a statue of him inside the Vatican walls.

The planned statue is to stand in the Vatican gardens near the apartment in which Galileo was incarcerated while awaiting trial in 1633 for advocating heliocentrism, the Copernican doctrine that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Nicola Cabibbo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and a nuclear physicist, said: “The Church wants to close the Galileo affair and reach a definitive understanding not only of his great legacy but also of the relationship between science and faith.”‘


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

 

Prozac, used by 40m people, does not work say scientists

‘Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

The study examined all available data on the drugs, including results from clinical trials that the manufacturers chose not to publish at the time. The trials compared the effect on patients taking the drugs with those given a placebo or sugar pill.

When all the data was pulled together, it appeared that patients had improved – but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs.’


Monday, February 25, 2008

 

Aussie scientists develop wireless breakthrough

‘Australian scientists have developed a computer chip that promises to remove the wires from your home entertainment system.

The chip was developed by National Information Computer Technology Australia (NICTA) at the University of Melbourne, and could appear in a range of electronic devices including laptops, televisions and home entertainment systems.

NICTA chief executive officer Dr David Skellern said the team had to overcome significant challenges in developing the chip. [..]

The chip uses the unlicensed 57-64 gigahertz frequency band to transmit and receive data.

It can transfer data at speeds of up to five gigabits per second within a range of 10 metres. This would allow the wireless transfer of the entire contents of a DVD in less than five seconds, 20 times faster than the current Wi-Fi standard.’


Electron Caught On Film For The First Time

‘It has always been impossible to clearly photograph electrons since their extremely high velocities have produced blurry pictures. In order to capture these rapid events, extremely short flashes of light are necessary, but such flashes were not previously available.

With the use of a newly developed technology for generating short pulses from intense laser light, so-called attosecond pulses, scientists at the Lund University Faculty of Engineering in Sweden have managed to capture the electron motion for the first time.

The movie shows how an electron rides on a light wave after just having been pulled away from an atom. This is the first time an electron has ever been filmed, and the results are presented in the latest issue of Physical Review Letters.’


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

 

Titan’s Oil Resources

‘Scientists have discovered immense oil resources in Titan, which is a moon of Saturn. The oil reserve of Titan is estimated to be several hundred times greater than that of earth. [..]

Titan has several hundreds times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the available oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, said the European Space Agency (ESA).

In Titan, the ethane and methane falls from the sky in the form of rain, forming massive lakes and seas. It is believed that complex organic molecules called tholins are responsible for Titan’s oily dunes, said the ESA.

“Titan is just enclosed in a carbon covered material. It is a giant factory of organic chemicals,” said scientist Ralph Lorenz.’


Religion Colors Americans’ Views Of Nanotechnology

‘Is nanotechnology morally acceptable? For a significant percentage of Americans, the answer is no, according to a recent survey of Americans’ attitudes about the science of the very small. [..]

“Our data show a much lower percentage of people who agree that nanotechnology is morally acceptable in the U.S. than in Europe,” says Scheufele, an expert on public opinion and science and technology. [..]

In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable.’


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Female G spot ‘can be detected’

‘The mysterious G spot – supposedly a route to female sexual satisfaction – can be located with ultrasound, claim Italian scientists.

Some women say stimulating a certain part of the vagina triggers powerful orgasms, but medicine has not been able to pin down the exact location.

Researchers told New Scientist magazine they found an area of thicker tissue among the women reporting orgasms.

But specialists warned there could be other reasons for this difference.’


Scientists Make First Map Of Emerging-Disease Hotspots

‘An international research team has provided the first scientific evidence that deadly emerging diseases have risen steeply across the world, and has mapped the outbreaks’ main sources. They say new diseases originating from wild animals in poor nations are the greatest threat to humans. Expansion of humans into shrinking pockets of biodiversity and resulting contacts with wildlife are the reason, they say. Meanwhile, richer nations are nursing other outbreaks, including multidrug-resistant pathogen strains, through overuse of antibiotics, centralized food processing and other technologies. The study appears in the Feb. 21 issue of the leading scientific journal Nature.

Emerging diseases–defined as newly identified pathogens, or old ones moving to new regions–have caused devastating outbreaks already. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, thought to have started from human contact with chimps, has led to over 65 million infections; recent outbreaks of SARS originating in Chinese bats have cost up to $100 billion. Outbreaks like the exotic African Ebola virus have been small, but deadly.’


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

 

Tick saliva protein blocks HIV-1

‘A U.S. study said a protein in the saliva of deer ticks prevents HIV-1 from attaching to the surface of white blood cells called T Cells.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said the finding may lead to new treatments for autoimmune diseases and prevent rejection of organ transplants, the university said Friday in a release.

The researchers said the HIV-1 virus cripples the human immune system by targeting T cells that form the body’s first line of defense in fighting infection. Deer tick saliva contains the protein Salp15, which stops T cells from activating by binding to a specific site on their surface called the CD4 receptor.’


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Sunday, February 17, 2008

 

Genetic Breakthrough Creates Immunity to Viruses

‘Scientists at Canada’s McGill University have discovered a way to boost an organism’s natural anti-virus defenses, effectively making its cells immune to influenza and other viruses. In effect, this makes the cells immune to flu and other viruses.

The researchers performed their study with mice, and knocked out two key genes that repress production of interferon. Without these repressor genes, the mouse cells produced much higher levels of interferon, which effectively blocked viruses from reproducing. The researchers tested the process on influenza virus, encephalomyocarditis virus, vesicular stomatitis virus and Sindbis virus.

“People have been worried for years about potential new viral pandemics, such as avian influenzas,” Dr. Sonenberg, the study’s lead author, said in a press release issued by McGill University. “If we might now have the means to develop a new therapy to fight flu, the potential is huge.”‘


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Thursday, February 7, 2008

 

Warning over cannabis lung harm

‘Heavy cannabis users may be at greater risk of chronic lung disease – including cancer – compared to tobacco smokers, two studies suggest.

One study found a higher risk of lung cancer for those who smoked one joint a day compared with those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day over the same period.

Another found bullous disease – a form of emphysema – occurs 20 years earlier in cannabis smokers.

The studies appear in Respirology and the European Respiratory Journal.’


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Study finds high levels of chemicals in infants using baby cosmetics

‘Infants and toddlers exposed to baby lotions, shampoos and powders carry high concentrations of hormone-altering chemicals in their bodies that might have reproductive effects, according to a new scientific study of babies born in Los Angeles and two other U.S. cities.

The research, to be published today in the medical journal Pediatrics, found that as the use of baby care products rose, so did the concentration of phthalates, which are used in many fragrances.

The lead scientist in the study, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana of the University of Washington’s Department of Pediatrics, said the findings suggested that many baby care products contain a variety of phthalates that enter children’s bodies through their skin.’


The vasectomy you can switch on and off at the push of a button

‘Vasectomies could be a thing of the past thanks to a remotecontrolled implant that can stop the flow of sperm.

The valve-like device can be opened and shut at the press of a button, using the same technology that locks a car using a key fob.

Scientists who invented the implant say it could be used as a form of male contraception.

Men who change their minds about having children would then simply point the remote handset at their testicles and press a button to open up the valve. [..]

Once the handset is pressed, it sends a coded radio signal through the skin to the implant, which contains a tiny antenna. The antenna picks up the signal and converts it into sound waves that “ripple” through the valve.

Since the valve itself is soft and flexible, the sound waves make it flap open – allowing sperm to pass through. As with cars, each device would have its own unique code so it could not be opened by anyone else.’


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Japanese astronaut to throw boomerang in space

‘A Japanese astronaut plans to throw a boomerang inside a space station to test how it can fly in zero gravity, an official said Wednesday.

Astronaut Takao Doi, 53, is set to travel on a US shuttle in March to the International Space Station, where he will be in charge of construction of a Japanese scientific testing room.

It is believed gravity is needed for a boomerang to fly back to the throwing spot, but no one has tried in zero gravity.

“Mr. Doi said he will personally carry a paper boomerang for the upcoming mission and we presume he will try it when he has spare time,” said an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.’


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

 

Finnish patient gets new jaw from own stem cells

‘Scientists in Finland said they had replaced a 65-year-old patient’s upper jaw with a bone transplant cultivated from stem cells isolated from his own fatty tissue and grown inside his abdomen.

Researchers said on Friday the breakthrough opened up new ways to treat severe tissue damage and made the prospect of custom-made living spares parts for humans a step closer to reality.

“There have been a couple of similar-sounding procedures before, but these didn’t use the patient’s own stem cells that were first cultured and expanded in laboratory and differentiated into bone tissue,” said Riitta Suuronen of the Regea Institute of Regenerative Medicine, part of the University of Tampere.’

I hope the people in favour of banning stem cell research have their jaws fall off. That’ll teach ’em. 🙂 No new jaws for you, motherfuckers.


Link Between Smoking In Pregnancy And Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Explained

‘Researchers at McMaster University have found a mechanism that explains why an infant’s ability to respond to oxygen deprivation after birth–or a hypoxic episode–is dramatically compromised by exposure to nicotine in the womb, even light to moderate amounts.

“While cigarette smoke contains many different compounds, we found there is a direct impact of one component, nicotine, on the ability of certain cells to detect and respond to oxygen deprivation,” says Josef Buttigieg, lead author and a PhD graduate student in the department of Biology. “When a baby is lying face down in bed, for example, it should sense a reduction in oxygen and move its head. But this arousal mechanism doesn’t work as it should in babies exposed to nicotine during pregnancy.”‘


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