Flaring Up - Surfing with a Flare

4:40:55 PM, Sunday, September 04, 2011
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Researchers Discover Gene Defect That Predisposes People To Leukemia

2:25:29 PM, Sunday, September 04, 2011

"A new genetic defect that predisposes people to acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplasia has been discovered. The mutations were found in the GATA2 gene. Among its several regulatory roles, the gene acts as a master control during the transition of primitive blood-forming cells into white blood cells.

The researchers started by studying four unrelated families who, over generations, have had several relatives with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Their disease onset occurred from the teens to the early 40s. The course was rapid.

The findings will be reported Sept. 4 in Nature Genetics. The results come from an international collaboration of scientists and the participation of families from Australia, Canada, and the United States.

In collaboration with Dr. Hamish Scott and Dr. Richard J. D'Andrea at the Centre for Cancer Biology, University of Australia, Adelaide, the U.S. portion of the study was conducted by Dr. Marshall Horwitz, University of Washington (UW) professor of pathology. Horwitz practices genetic medicine at UW Medical Center and the UW Center for Human Development and Disability, both in Seattle.

The genetic mutation was first discovered in a patient from central Washington. The research participant had been successfully treated for leukemia in 1992 through a bone marrow transplant at UW Medical Center. At that time, Horwitz decided to seek a possible genetic reason after learning his patient had several family members with myelodysplastic syndrome, myeloid leukemia, and intractable mycobacteria infections..."

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Scientists Produce First Stem Cells From Endangered Species

2:14:08 PM, Sunday, September 04, 2011

"Starting with normal skin cells, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have produced the first stem cells from endangered species. Such cells could eventually make it possible to improve reproduction and genetic diversity for some species, possibly saving them from extinction, or to bolster the health of endangered animals in captivity.

A description of the accomplishment appeared in an advance online edition of the journal Nature Methods on September 4, 2011.

Genesis

About five years ago, Oliver Ryder, PhD, the director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, contacted Jeanne Loring, PhD, professor of developmental neurobiology at Scripps Research, to discuss the possibility of collecting stem cells from endangered species. Ryder's team had already established the Frozen Zoo, a bank of skin cells and other materials from more than 800 species and wondered if the thousands of samples they had amassed might be used as starting points.

Just as is hoped with humans, Ryder thought stem cells from endangered species might enable lifesaving medical therapies or offer the potential to preserve or expand genetic diversity by offering new reproduction possibilities.

At the time, although researchers were working with stem cells from embryos, scientists had not yet developed techniques for reliably inducing normal adult cells to become stem cells. But the technology arrived soon after, and scientists now accomplish this feat, called induced pluripotency, by inserting genes in normal cells that spark the transformation..."

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Hubble Movies Reveal Solar-System-Sized Traffic Jams: Giant Jets Spewing from Newborn Stars Revealed in Telescope's Images

10:19:54 PM, Saturday, September 03, 2011

"When it comes to big-budget action movies, Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan prefers Hubble to Hollywood.

Using Hubble Space Telescope images collected over 14 years, Hartigan has created time-lapse movies that offer astronomers their first glimpse of the dynamic behavior of stellar jets, huge torrents of gas and particles that spew from the poles of newborn stars.

An analysis of the movies that was published in The Astrophysical Journal is forcing astronomers to rethink some of the processes that occur during the latter stages of star birth. And in an effort to learn even more, Hartigan and colleagues are using powerful lasers to recreate a small-scale version of the solar-system-sized jets in a lab in upstate New York.

"The Hubble's given us spectacular images," said Hartigan, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. "In the nebulae where stars are born, for instance, we can see beautiful filaments and detailed structure. We know these images are frozen snapshots in time, but we would need to watch for hundreds of thousands of years to see how things actually play out."

Hartigan said stellar jets are different because they move very quickly. Stellar jets blast out into space from the poles of newly formed stars at about 600,000 miles an hour. Astronomers first noticed them about 50 years ago, and they believe the sun probably had stellar jets when it formed about 4.5 billion years ago..."

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Recycling Billboards into Modern Residential Buildings

1:25:57 AM, Saturday, September 03, 2011

"As more and more advertising goes online and transportation conservation becomes an increasing economic and ecological concern, what is the future fate of the infamous billboard? One proposal by Front Architects suggests turning these into lofted homes – small houses to be sure, but located in some potentially fascinating places.

Some of these unusually thin homes could be built in place from scratch, others could be transported to new locations or even left where they are in the urban environment.

Alas, the above image is only a computer-generated overlay in a real situation. Still, what would it be like to live in somewhere so public yet also removed from the street level? Somewhere surrounded by four walls and lifted up from the ground but at the same time exposed on all sides? Somewhere so strange but central?"

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Alien Life More Likely on 'Dune' Planets, Study Suggests

1:21:27 AM, Saturday, September 03, 2011

"Desert planets like the one depicted in the science fiction classic "Dune" might be the most common type of habitable planet in the galaxy, rather than watery worlds such as Earth, a new study suggests.

And that's not the only surprising result.

The study also hints that scorching-hot Venus, where surface temperatures average 860 degrees Fahrenheit (460 degrees Celsius), might have been a habitable desert world as recently as 1 billion years ago.

Follow the water?

Nearly everywhere there is water on Earth, there is life. The search for life elsewhere in the universe has been guided by this fact, largely focusing on "aqua planets" with a lot of liquid water on their surfaces.

These worlds could be terrestrial planets largely covered with oceans, such as Earth, or theoretical "ocean planets" completely covered by a layer of water hundreds of miles deep, somewhat like thawed versions of Jupiter's icy moon Ganymede.

To be habitable, aqua planets must orbit their stars in a so-called "Goldilocks zone" where they are neither too hot nor too cold. If they are too far from the sun, they freeze. If they are too close, steam builds up in their atmospheres, trapping heat that vaporizes still more water, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect that boils all the oceans off the planet, as apparently happened on Venus.

Eventually, such planets get so hot, they force water vapor high enough into the atmosphere that it gets split into hydrogen and oxygen by ultraviolet light. The hydrogen then escapes into space, the oxygen likely reacts with the molten surface and gets incorporated into the mantle, and the planet's atmosphere loses all its water over time.

Instead of aqua planets with abundant water on their surfaces, researchers investigated what "land planets" might be like, ones with no oceans and vast dry deserts, but perhaps oases here and there. The planet Arrakis depicted in the science fiction classic "Dune" is one exceptionally well-developed example of a habitable land planet, said planetologist Kevin Zahnle at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif..."

-- DUNE!!!

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Why Does Muammar Qaddafi Own a Mansion in New Jersey?

1:13:32 AM, Saturday, September 03, 2011

"As General Muammar Qaddafi continues to evade the Libyan rebels who chased him out of Tripoli last week, there has been some tongue-in-cheek speculation about the possibility of him fleeing all the way to his five-acre estate in—wait for it—Englewood, New Jersey.

Almost thirty years ago, in 1982, the Libyan government paid a million bucks for this three-story, 10,000 square foot, 25-bedroom mansion, which they inexplicably named “Thunder Rock,” on Palisade Avenue in Englewood, a suburb in Bergen County. It’s a bizarre choice of neighborhood for a government that has made a habit of bankrolling terrorists and talking about how much they hate Israel, considering it’s right smack in the middle of a sizeable Orthodox Jewish community. In fact, Thunder Rock is directly next door to the largest yeshiva in town, and just a short walk from the home of one Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who, if in case you missed that episode of Oprah, is an outspoken leader in the American Jewish community and a former spiritual mentor to Michael Jackson.

Thunder Rock was originally purchased as a summer retreat for the Libyan ambassador to the U.S. and his or her family, but it was never really used, and in the last decade or so, the now multi-million dollar pad had mostly wallowed in obscurity, with a few notable exceptions. In 1985, it was the subject of a prolonged legal battle, which ended with the court decision that the Libyan government would not have to pay property taxes on the place.

It was a decision that rankled New Jerseyans, especially when, twenty-four years later, in 2009, Qaddafi proposed setting up his air-conditioned Bedouin tent—he always travels with one—on the mansion’s front lawn. The little camping trip would, the Englewood mayor predicted, cost residents an estimated $20,000 per day in police presence and garbage removal..."

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Oldest Fossils On Earth Discovered

12:07:55 AM, Saturday, September 03, 2011

"Earth's oldest fossils have been found in Australia by a team from the University of Western Australia and Oxford University. The microscopic fossils show convincing evidence for cells and bacteria living in an oxygen-free world over 3.4 billion years ago.

The team, led by Dr David Wacey of the University of Western Australia and including Professor Martin Brasier of Oxford University, report the finding in the journal Nature Geoscience.

'At last we have good solid evidence for life over 3.4 billion years ago. It confirms there were bacteria at this time, living without oxygen,' says Professor Brasier of the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford.

Earth was still a hot, violent place at this time, with volcanic activity dominating the early Earth. The sky was cloudy and grey, keeping the heat in despite the sun being weaker than today. The water temperature of the oceans was much higher at 40-50 degrees -- the temperature of a hot bath -- and circulating currents were very strong. Any land masses were small, or about the size of Caribbean islands, and the tidal range was huge.

Significantly, there was very little oxygen present as there were no plants or algae yet to photosynthesise and produce oxygen. The new evidence points to early life being sulfur-based, living off and metabolizing compounds containing sulfur rather than oxygen for energy and growth.

'Such bacteria are still common today. sulfur bacteria are found in smelly ditches, soil, hot springs, hydrothermal vents -- anywhere where there's little free oxygen and they can live off organic matter,' explains Professor Brasier..."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis

12:01:15 AM, Friday, September 02, 2011

-- "Cosmic dust clouds sprawl across a rich field of stars in this sweeping telescopic vista near the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. Probably less than 500 light-years away and effectively blocking light from more distant, background stars in the Milky Way, the densest part of the dust cloud is about 8 light-years long. At its tip (upper right) is a group of lovely reflection nebulae cataloged as NGC 6726, 6727, 6729, and IC 4812. A characteristic blue color is produced as light from hot stars is reflected by the cosmic dust. The smaller yellowish nebula (NGC 6729) surrounds young variable star R Coronae Australis. Magnificent globular star cluster NGC 6723 is toward the upper right corner of the view. While NGC 6723 appears to be part of the group, it actually lies nearly 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the Corona Australis dust clouds. "

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Bored UCLA Student Joins Libyan Rebels

11:15:33 PM, Thursday, September 01, 2011

"Bummed out by the end of summer vacation? Want to take the awesomest road trip evar? Not really bothered by the idea of conflict tourism or turning someone else’s struggle for freedom into your bar-stool anecdote?

Dude: you need to join the Libyan revolution!

Bradley Hope, a reporter covering Libya’s uprising, writes in Abu Dhabi newspaper The National that he recently made a curious discovery near An Nawfaliyah: Chris Jeon, a 21-year old University of California–Los Angeles math student. That’s Jeon in the picture above, very unsafely resting his rifle on the ground with the barrel pointed up while his new buddies crowd around. Spoiler: He doesn’t have any military experience.

Why’d he make the long trek from L.A. to L-iby-A? “It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels,” Jeon told Hope. “This is one of the only real revolutions..."

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Reflecting The Old World by Nelleke Pieters

10:52:14 PM, Thursday, September 01, 2011
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Pillow Fight! How Start A Random Pillow Fight With A Stranger

10:48:43 PM, Thursday, September 01, 2011

-- The first rule of Pillow Fight Club is, you do not talk about Pillow Fight Club.

You’re gonna start a pillow fight — and you’re gonna lose.

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First Lizard Genome Sequenced


10:39:12 PM, Thursday, September 01, 2011

"The green anole lizard is an agile and active creature, and so are elements of its genome. This genomic agility and other new clues have emerged from the full sequencing of the lizard’s genome and may offer insights into how the genomes of humans, mammals, and their reptilian counterparts have evolved since mammals and reptiles parted ways 320 million years ago.

Researchers in Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT who completed this sequencing project reported their findings online today in the journal Nature.

The green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) — a native of the Southeastern United States — is the first nonbird species of reptile to have its genome sequenced and assembled. Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers at the Broad have assembled and analyzed more than 20 mammalian genomes — including those of some of our closest relatives — but the genetic landscape of reptiles remains relatively unexplored.

“Sometimes you need to be at a certain distance in order to learn about how the human genome evolved,” said Jessica Alföldi, a Broad research scientists who is co-first author of the paper and a member of the Broad’s vertebrate genome biology group. “You have to look out further than you were looking previously.”

Lizards are more closely related to birds — which are also reptiles — than to any of the other organisms whose genomes have been sequenced in full. Like mammals, birds and lizards are amniotes, meaning that they are not restricted to laying eggs in water. “People have been sequencing animals from different parts of the vertebrate tree, but lizards had not been previously sampled,” said Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, scientific director of vertebrate genome biology at the Broad and senior author of the Nature paper. “This was an important branch to look at.”

Four hundred species of anole lizards have fanned out across the islands of the Caribbean, North America, Central America, and South America, making them an appealing model for studying evolution. Although much is known about their biology and behavior, genomic information may be a critical missing piece for understanding how the lizards have become so diverse..."

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Laser Advances in Nuclear Fuel Stir Terror Fear

10:33:29 PM, Thursday, September 01, 2011

"Scientists have long sought easier ways to make the costly material known as enriched uranium — the fuel of nuclear reactors and bombs, now produced only in giant industrial plants.

One idea, a half-century old, has been to do it with nothing more substantial than lasers and their rays of concentrated light. This futuristic approach has always proved too expensive and difficult for anything but laboratory experimentation.

Until now.

In a little-known effort, General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton.

That might be good news for the nuclear industry. But critics fear that if the work succeeds and the secret gets out, rogue states and terrorists could make bomb fuel in much smaller plants that are difficult to detect.

Iran has already succeeded with laser enrichment in the lab, and nuclear experts worry that G.E.’s accomplishment might inspire Tehran to build a plant easily hidden from the world’s eyes.

Backers of the laser plan call those fears unwarranted and praise the technology as a windfall for a world increasingly leery of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases.

But critics want a detailed risk assessment. Recently, they petitioned Washington for a formal evaluation of whether the laser initiative could backfire and speed the global spread of nuclear arms..."

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Earliest Signs of Advanced Tools Found

8:58:29 PM, Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"One hallmark of Homo erectus, a forerunner of modern humans, was his stone tools, an advanced technology reflecting a good deal of forethought and dexterity. Up to now, however, scientists have been unable to pin a firm date on the earliest known evidence of his stone tool-making.

A new geological study, being reported Thursday in the journal Nature, showed that tools from a site near Lake Turkana in Kenya were made about 1.76 million years ago, the earliest of their ilk found so far. Previous dates were estimates ranging from 1.4 million to 1.6 million years ago.

Although no erectus fossils were found with the Turkana tools, a skull of that species was excavated last year in the same sediment level across the lake. This suggests that Homo erectus was responsible for these particular tools, which were made with what scientists refer to as Acheulean technology. The term connotes the type of oval and pear-shaped hand axes and other implements that were a specialty of early humans.

American researchers at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University, established the age of the Turkana tools by dating the surrounding mudstone with a paleomagnetic technique. When layers of silt and clay hardened into stone, this preserved the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field at the time, and an analysis of the periodic polarity reversals and other records yielded the age of the site known as Kokiselei.

“I was taken aback when I realized that the geological data indicated it was the oldest Acheulean site in the world,” said the lead author of the report, Christopher J. Lepre, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty who also teaches geology at Rutgers University..."

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