‘More people are using the cannabis plant as modern basic and clinical science reaffirms and extends its medicinal uses. Concomitantly, concern and opposition to smoked medicine has occurred, in part due to the known carcinogenic consequences of smoking tobacco. Are these reactions justified? While chemically very similar, there are fundamental differences in the pharmacological properties between cannabis and tobacco smoke. Cannabis smoke contains cannabinoids whereas tobacco smoke contains nicotine. Available scientific data, that examines the carcinogenic properties of inhaling smoke and its biological consequences, suggests reasons why tobacco smoke, but not cannabis smoke, may result in lung cancer.’
‘An Italian doctor has been getting dramatic results with a new type of treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, which affects up to 2.5 million people worldwide. In an initial study, Dr. Paolo Zamboni took 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, performed a simple operation to unblock restricted bloodflow out of the brain – and two years after the surgery, 73% of the patients had no symptoms. Dr. Zamboni’s thinking could turn the current understanding of MS on its head, and offer many sufferers a complete cure. [..]
It’s generally accepted that there’s no cure for MS, only treatments that mitigate the symptoms – but a new way of looking at the disease has opened the door to a simple treatment that is causing radical improvements in a small sample of sufferers.
Italian Dr. Paolo Zamboni has put forward the idea that many types of MS are actually caused by a blockage of the pathways that remove excess iron from the brain – and by simply clearing out a couple of major veins to reopen the blood flow, the root cause of the disease can be eliminated.’
‘Using an atomic-force microscope, scientists at IBM Research in Zurich have for the first time made an atomic-scale resolution image of a single molecule, the hydrocarbon pentacene.
Atomic-force microscopy works by scanning a surface with a tiny cantilever whose tip comes to a sharp nanoscale point. As it scans, the cantilever bounces up and down, and data from these movements is compiled to generate a picture of that surface. These microscopes can be used to “see” features much smaller than those visible under light microscopes, whose resolution is limited by the properties of light itself. Atomic-force microscopy literally has atom-scale resolution.
Still, until now, it hasn’t been possible to use it to look with atomic resolution at single molecules. On such a scale, the electrical properties of the molecule under investigation normally interfere with the activity of the scanning tip. Researchers at IBM Research in Zurich overcame this problem by first using the microscope tip to pick up a single molecule of carbon monoxide. This drastically improved the resolution of the microscope, which the IBM scientists used to make an image of pentacene. They arrived at carbon monoxide as a contrast-enhancing addition after trying many chemicals.’
‘A homeless man was acquitted of charges that he smacked a fellow transient in the face with a skateboard as the victim was engaged in a conversation about quantum physics in South San Francisco, authorities said Friday. [..]
Shortly before the incident, Fava was chatting with an acquaintance, who is also homeless, about “quantum physics and the splitting of atoms,” according to prosecutors.
Authorities had said Keller joined in the conversation and, for reasons unknown, got upset. He was accused of picking up his skateboard and hitting Fava in the face with it, splitting his lip. Fava then fell and broke his ankle.
Deputy District Attorney Sharon Cho said the jury that acquitted Keller of assault and battery charges couldn’t sort out the conflicting statements of prosecution witnesses.’
There are a few stories of Thomas Edison’s adventures. Science was extremely dodgy in the past. 🙂 For example:
“I had read in a scientific paper the method of making nitroglycerine, and was so fired by the wonderful properties it was said to possess, that I determined to make some of the compound. We tested what we considered a very small quantity, but this produced such terrible and unexpected results that we became alarmed, the fact dawning upon us that we had a very large white elephant in our possession. At 6 A.M. I put the explosive into a sarsaparilla bottle, tied a string to it, wrapped it in a paper, and gently let it down into the sewer, corner of State and Washington Streets.”
‘Astronauts aboard the ISS can add one more mission to their list: locate a spider that has disappeared.
When Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from Kennedy Space Center this month, the crew carried two spiders with them.
The spiders were sent in an enclosed box for a school science program. Students want to know if spiders can survive and make webs in space, but now only one spider can be seen in the container.
NASA isn’t sure where the spider could have gone.’
‘Scientists have identified the single chance encounter about 1.9 billion years ago to which almost all life on Earth owes its existence.
It saw an amoeba-like organism engulf a bacterium that had developed the power to use sunlight to break down water and liberate oxygen.
The bacterium was probably intended as prey but instead it became incorporated into its attacker’s body – turning it into the ancestor of every tree, flowering plant and seaweed on Earth. The encounter meant life on the planet could evolve from bacterial slime into the more complex forms we see today. “That single event transformed the evolution of life on Earth,” said Paul Falkowski, professor of biogeochemistry and bio-physics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “The descendants of that tiny organism transformed our atmosphere, filling it with the oxygen needed for animals and, eventually, humans to evolve.”’
‘Behavior of young children in a situation simulating entrapment in refrigerators was studied in order to develop standards for inside releasing devices, in accordance with Public Law 930 of the 84th Congress.
Using a specially designed enclosure, 201 children 2 to 5 years of age took part in tests in which six devices were used, including two developed in the course of this experiment as the result of observation of behavior.
Success in escaping was dependent on the device, a child’s age and size and his behavior. It was also influenced by the educational level of the parents, a higher rate of success being associated with fewer years of education attained by mother and father combined. Three major types of behavior were observed: (1) inaction, with no effort or only slight effort to get out (24%); (2) purposeful effort to escape (39%); (3) violent action both directed toward escape and undirected (37%).’
‘The father of a family allegedly given a cup of gelato laced with human faeces at the Coogee Bay Hotel has reiterated his willingness to undertake a DNA test to prove he did not put it there himself, following the release of footage of the incident yesterday.
The footage, released by the hotel, appears to show Stephen Whyte leaving the table and heading towards the bathroom after the arrival of the gelato.
But Mr Whyte strenuously denied he had put his faeces into the dessert bowl yesterday. [..]
“It probably took me four minutes from putting it in my mouth and spitting it out from actually realising, ‘Oh my God, I just had shit in my mouth’,” Ms Whyte said. “I’m not going to stand down until I have public acknowledgement from the hotel that the incident happened.”‘
‘Researchers at the University of Cambridge said Thursday they have found that a drug originally developed to treat leukaemia can halt and even reverse the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS).
In trials, alemtuzumab reduced the number of attacks in sufferers and also helped them recover lost functions, apparently allowing damaged brain tissue to repair so that individuals were less disabled than at the start of the study.
“The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair is unprecedented,” said Dr Alasdair Coles, a lecturer at Cambridge university’s department of clinical neurosciences, who coordinated many aspects of the study.
“We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of the damaged brain tissue.”‘
‘Scotch tape is not only see-through, it can also see through, for the product can be used to take X-rays, bemused scientists say.
Peeling tape from a roll of Scotch releases tiny bursts of X-rays that are powerful enough to take images of bones in fingers and hands, researchers have found.
The unusual discovery was made by a University of California at Los Angeles team, intrigued after hearing that Soviet scientists in the 1950s found that sticky tape, when separated at the right speed, released pulses in the X-ray part of the energy spectrum.
Reporting in Thursday’s issue of the British-based science journal Nature, the investigators used a motorised peeling machine to unwind a standard roll (25.4 metres in length by 19 mm) of Photo Safe 3M Scotch tape at a speed of three centimetres (1.18 inches) a second.’
‘As if the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy weren’t vexing enough, another baffling cosmic puzzle has been discovered.
Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can’t be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon “dark flow.”
The stuff that’s pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude.’
‘It is the baby turtle that proves two heads really are better than one.
While its siblings grow at a the usual steady pace, this tiny creature is speeding ahead.
The reason for its extraordinary growth spurt is simple: having two heads mean it eats twice as fast. [..]
Water World spokesman Jimmy Hu said: ‘We got it two weeks ago and it’s growing fast, probably because it can eat twice as fast as the others.
‘It was mixed among many other turtles and we only discovered it this week.’
Mr Hu added: ‘It’s very rare to see a turtles with two heads, we plan to keep it and raise it carefully for future research.”
‘The Large Hadron Collider fired its first beam around the machine’s full track at 10:28 AM local time (1:36 AM Pacific time).
No actual atoms were smashed today — that won’t start for weeks — and no results are expected for months, at the earliest. Still, like first light in a telescope, the first beam in the particle accelerator is a landmark moment for a program that has spanned more than 20 years and involved tens of thousands of scientists.
“What has been shown today is that technically it all works,” said Jos Engelen, chief science officer for CERN, the European scientific research agency directing the efforts, in a live webcast from Geneva.’
‘Data from satellites and observatories around the globe show a jet from a powerful stellar explosion witnessed March 19 was aimed almost directly at Earth.
NASA’s Swift satellite detected the explosion – formally named GRB 080319B – at 2:13 a.m. EDT that morning and pinpointed its position in the constellation Bootes. The event, called a gamma-ray burst, became bright enough for human eyes to see. Observations of the event are giving astronomers the most detailed portrait of a burst ever recorded.
“Swift was designed to find unusual bursts,” said Swift principal investigator Neil Gehrels at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “We really hit the jackpot with this one.”
In a paper to appear in Thursday’s issue of Nature, Judith Racusin of Penn State University and a team of 92 coauthors report on observations across the spectrum that began 30 minutes before the explosion and followed its afterglow for months. The team concludes the burst’s extraordinary brightness arose from a jet that shot material directly toward Earth at 99.99995 percent the speed of light.’
They are the toughest animals on the planet – and now scientists have discovered that they can even survive in space.
The tiny creatures, known as tardigrades or water bears, are certainly strange-looking with their eight chubby legs, little claws and probing heads.
Some experts have compared their shape with jelly babies or moles but tardigrades they should not be judged by their ‘cute’ appearance. They are virtually indestructible – they will not die even if they are boiled, frozen, squeezed under pressure or desiccated.
In fact, they can be completely dried out for years – and then spring back to life as if nothing had happened.
Now researchers have revealed that tardigrades – which usually measure no more than a millimetre in length and live in moss – have withstood the airless extremes of space.’
‘Chemicals in marijuana may be useful in fighting MRSA, a kind of staph bacterium that is resistant to certain antibiotics. Researchers in Italy and the U.K. tested five major marijuana chemicals called cannabinoids on different strains of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). All five showed germ-killing activity against the MRSA strains in lab tests.
Some synthetic cannabinoids also showed germ-killing capability. The scientists note the cannabinoids kill bacteria in a different way than traditional antibiotics, meaning they might be able to bypass bacterial resistance. At least two of the cannabinoids don’t have mood-altering effects, so there could be a way to use these substances without creating the high of marijuana. [..]
In the study, published in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers call for further study of the antibacterial uses of marijuana. There are “currently considerable challenges with the treatment of infections caused by strains of clinically relevant bacteria that show multi-drug resistance,” the researchers write.
New antibacterials are urgently needed, but only one new class of antibacterial has been introduced in the last 30 years. “Plants are still a substantially untapped source of antimicrobial agents,” the researchers conclude.’
‘Here’s an interesting conundrum involving nuclear decay rates.
We think that the decay rates of elements are constant regardless of the ambient conditions (except in a few special cases where beta decay can be influenced by powerful electric fields).
So that makes it hard to explain the curious periodic variations in the decay rates of silicon-32 and radium-226 observed by groups at the Brookhaven National Labs in the US and at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesandstalt in Germany in the 1980s.
Today, the story gets even more puzzling. Jere Jenkins and pals at Purdue University in Indiana have re-analysed the raw data from these experiments and say that the modulations are synchronised with each other and with Earth’s distance from the sun. (Both groups, in acts of selfless dedication, measured the decay rates of siliocn-32 and radium-226 over a period of many years.)
In other words, there appears to be an annual variation in the decay rates of these elements.’
‘Meet Gordon, probably the world’s first robot controlled exclusively by living brain tissue.
Created from cultured rat neurons, Gordon’s primitive grey matter was designed at the UK’s University of Reading by scientists who unveiled the neuron-powered machine yesterday.
Their groundbreaking experiments explore the vanishing boundary between natural and artificial intelligence, and could shed light on the basic building blocks of memory and learning, a lead researcher said.
“The purpose is to figure out how memories are stored in a biological brain,” said Kevin Warwick, a professor at the University of Reading and one of the robot’s principle architects.’
This week, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)—the world’s most powerful particle accelerator—began test runs, sending a stream of protons around a quarter of its 27-kilometer circumference. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN), in Geneva, Switzerland, where the LHC is housed, says the tests are part of the preparations for the machine’s projected 10 September start-up date.
The experiment will hurtle two hair-thin beams of hundreds of trillions of protons around a ring-shaped accelerator at 99.99 percent the speed of light, knocking the beams together 11 000 times each second. According to CERN LHC accelerator physicist Rüdiger Schmidt, who is in charge of machine protection systems, each unimpeded beam is capable of melting a 500-kilogram block of copper.
Even the slightest malfunction could lead to a catastrophic accident, so CERN has spent nearly two decades devising an interlocking system of fail-safes. One of these is a method of safely purging a proton beam, which has a higher chance of becoming unstable the longer it is whipped around the circular accelerator. Every 10 hours the accelerator gets fresh beams. But first the old ones are dumped into specially designed absorbers called beam dump blocks.’
‘A scriptwriter in Hollywood has become the first person to order a commercial firm to clone a pet. Bernann McKinney paid a Korean company US $50,000 for five copies of Booger – her beloved pit bull terrier who died recently.
The lab used ear tissue from the diseased dog to re-create Booger. The five puppies were born from two surrogate mothers in late June, according to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper. [..]
McKinney became deeply attached to Booger after it allegedly saved her life by chasing off a ferocious mastiff. [..]
Ra Jeong-Chang is the CEO of RNL Bio – the company that did the cloning for McKinney. He said his next project will be cloning camels for Middle East sheikhs.’
‘What a day. Just after I’d hit the publish button on the blog below, musing about what the big news was that the Phoenix lander was rumoured to have discovered about the ‘potential for life’ on Mars, I received a NASA email suggesting Phoenix may have actually found a chemical that might harm life.
It seems that the lander’s wet chemistry lab, part of its MECA instrument, has detected what seems to be perchlorate, a highly oxidising substance, in two soil samples it has studied.
But so far it’s been difficult to confirm the detection with another onboard instrument called TEGA. A soil sample studied by TEGA on Sunday – taken from just above a layer of ice – found no evidence of the compound. But TEGA had found that an earlier sample of soil, taken from near the surface, was “consistent with but not conclusive of the presence of perchlorate”, said principal investigator Peter Smith in a statement.’
‘As opening day for the 2008 Summer Olympics draws near, thousands of Chinese villagers are in training. Loading up artillery shells and readying rocket launchers, they await a call to arms.
The villagers aren’t part of some civilian security corps. They’re part of China’s weather modification program. Their mission: to shoot dust into threatening clouds in advance of the opening ceremony Friday in Beijing.
Rain will not be allowed to dampen this Olympic flame.
China is home to one of the oldest, largest and most costly weather modification programs in the world. [..]
That has meteorologists and weather modifiers in the United States chuckling. The thought of being asked to seed clouds to prevent rain on Super Bowl Sunday, for example, makes them snort. [..]
Recalling the fate of China’s former food and drug administrator, who was executed for corruption amid product safety scandals, Ahlness, at Weather Modification Inc., said his sympathies were with the Chinese scientists charged with holding the umbrella.
“I don’t think I’d want to run their weather modification program,” Ahlness said. “I hope they have clear weather just so they don’t have to try anything.”‘
Followup to Weather Engineering in China.
‘A baby dying from kidney failure was saved when her doctor designed and built her a dialysis machine from scratch in his garage.
Millie Kelly was too small for conventional NHS machines, so Dr Malcolm Coulthard and a colleague constructed a scaled-down version.
Two years later, her mother Rebecca says she is “fit as a fiddle”. [..]
Rebecca, from Middlesbrough, said: “It was a green metal box with a few paint marks on it with quite a few wires coming out of it into my daughter – it didn’t look like a normal NHS one.
“But it was the only hope for her – even when she got hooked up to the dialysis machine, they said that every hour was a bonus.
“She’s fine now, a normal two-year-old – I just can’t thank him enough for saving my baby’s life.”‘
‘Queensland will become hotter and super-cyclones will batter the coast as far south as Brisbane by 2070, the nation’s top scientists have warned.
In a top-level ministerial briefing note seen by The Courier-Mail, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, the co-ordinating body for the nation’s 15 peak scientific bodies, offers stark predictions about climate change. [..]
The latest climate change projections predict that by 2030: Average annual temperature will increase by between 0.6C and 1.2C, and that after 2030, the rate of increase will be highly dependent on emission levels.
Also, cyclones will be stronger, more frequent and last longer, and the region of cyclone activity will shift southwards, affecting areas 300km further south by 2070.
Local sea levels will be 13 to 20cm above 1990 levels, and 49 to 89cm above 1990 levels by 2070.’
‘Sleep patterns in middle-aged women can increase their risk for stroke, researchers in the United States have found. The greatest increase in stroke risk — 70 percent — was noted among women who slept 9 hours or more per night, according to their report in the medical journal Stroke.
A link between sleep duration and mortality has previously been noted in a number of studies, but evidence of an association between sleep patterns and cardiovascular disease has been lacking, Dr. Jiu-Chiuan Chen, from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and co-researchers note. [..]
After following the group for an average of 7.5 years, the researchers found that 1,166 women experienced an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked. This prevents oxygen from reaching the brain and the brain’s tissue begins to die.
Upon further analysis, Chen’s group found that women with a sleep duration of 6 hours or less, 8 hours, or 9 hours or more increased the risk of stroke by 14 percent, 24 percent, and 70 percent, respectively, compared with sleeping 7 hours.’
‘Scientists have identified about two dozen genes that control embryonic stem cell fate. The genes may either prod or restrain stem cells from drifting into a kind of limbo, they suspect. The limbo lies between the embryonic stage and fully differentiated, or specialized, cells, such as bone, muscle or fat.
By knowing the genes and proteins that control a cell’s progress toward the differentiated form, researchers may be able to accelerate the process – a potential boon for the use of stem cells in therapy or the study of some degenerative diseases, the scientists say.
Their finding comes from the first large-scale search for genes crucial to embryonic stem cells. The research was carried out by a team at the University of California, San Francisco and is reported in a paper in the July 11, 2008 issue of “Cell.”
“The genes we identified are necessary for embryonic stem cells to maintain a memory of who they are,” says Barbara Panning, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, and senior author on the paper. “Without them the cell doesn’t know whether it should remain a stem cell or differentiate into a specialized cell.”‘
‘Chemistry pupils have flunked O-level questions from 50 years ago, deepening fears that the subject is being dumbed down.
The teenagers were unable to answer questions from the 1960s and 1970s set by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The average mark for the 1960s questions was just 16 per cent. [..]
Even bright pupils were baffled by many of the old questions, said the RSC chief executive, Richard Pike.
He added: ‘There is no doubt that the clever pupils are as sharp as they ever were, but most are being stifled by an educational system that does not encourage more detailed problem-solving and rigorous thinking.”
‘Though the moon has many seas, scientists thought it was dry.
They were wrong.
In a study published today in Nature, researchers led by Brown University geologist Alberto Saal found evidence of water molecules in pebbles retrieved by NASA’s Apollo missions.
The findings point to the existence of water deep beneath the moon’s surface, transforming scientific understanding of our nearest neighbor’s formation and, perhaps, our own. There may also be a more immediately practical application.
“Is there water there? That’s important for lunar missions. People could get the water. They could use the hydrogen for energy,” said Saal.
[..] a high-powered imaging technique known as secondary ion mass spectrometry revealed a wealth of so-called volatile compounds, among them fluorine, chlorine, sulfur, carbon dioxide — and water.’
‘Controlling blood pressure from middle-age onwards may dramatically reduce the chances of developing dementia, researchers have said.
Two studies support a link between high blood pressure and dementia risk – with one by an Imperial College London team suggesting treatment could cut this.
This study, by published in the Lancet Neurology journal, found blood pressure drugs reduce dementia by 13%.
The Alzheimer’s Society said better control could save 15,000 lives a year. [..]
The precise reasons why high blood pressure might increase the risk of dementia are not fully understood although many scientists believe that it can starve the brain of bloodflow and the oxygen it carries.’