James Webb Telescope Completes Mirror-Coating Milestone

12:48:06 AM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating Inc. in Moorestown, N.J.

The telescope's mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared light from the mirrors into the observatory's science instruments. The coating allows the Webb telescope's "infrared eyes" to observe extremely faint objects in infrared light. Webb's mission is to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

"Finishing all mirror coatings on schedule is another major success story for the Webb telescope mirrors," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These coatings easily meet their specifications, ensuring even more scientific discovery potential for the Webb telescope."

The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 mirror segments working together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. The mirror segments are made of beryllium, which was selected for its stiffness, light weight and stability at cryogenic temperatures. Bare beryllium is not very reflective of near-infrared light, so each mirror is coated with about 0.12 ounce of gold.

The last full size (4.9-foot /1.5-meter) hexagonal beryllium primary mirror segment that will fly aboard the observatory recently was coated, completing this stage of mirror production.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Mirror manufacturing began eight years ago with blanks made out of beryllium, an extremely hard metal that holds its shape in the extreme cold of space where the telescope will orbit. Mirror coating began in June 2010. Several of the smaller mirrors in the telescope, the tertiary mirror and the fine steering mirror, were coated in 2010. The secondary mirror was finished earlier this year..."

-- NJ FTW! =)

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Peace of Mind: Near-Death Experiences Now Found to Have Scientific Explanations

12:41:21 AM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Near-death experiences are often thought of as mystical phenomena, but research is now revealing scientific explanations for virtually all of their common features. The details of what happens in near-death experiences are now known widely—a sense of being dead, a feeling that one's "soul" has left the body, a voyage toward a bright light, and a departure to another reality where love and bliss are all-encompassing.

Approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population says they have had a near-death experience, according to a Gallup poll. Near-death experiences are reported across cultures, with written records of them dating back to ancient Greece. Not all of these experiences actually coincide with brushes with death—one study of 58 patients who recounted near-death experiences found 30 were not actually in danger of dying, although most of them thought they were.

Recently, a host of studies has revealed potential underpinnings for all the elements of such experiences. "Many of the phenomena associated with near-death experiences can be biologically explained," says neuroscientist Dean Mobbs, at the University of Cambridge's Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Mobbs and Caroline Watt at the University of Edinburgh detailed this research online August 17 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

For instance, the feeling of being dead is not limited to near-death experiences—patients with Cotard or "walking corpse" syndrome hold the delusional belief that they are deceased. This disorder has occurred following trauma, such as during advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis, and has been linked with brain regions such as the parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex—"the parietal cortex is typically involved in attentional processes, and the prefrontal cortex is involved in delusions observed in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia," Mobbs explains. Although the mechanism behind the syndrome remains unknown, one possible explanation is that patients are trying to make sense of the strange experiences they are having.

Out-of-body experiences are also now known to be common during interrupted sleep patterns that immediately precede sleeping or waking. For instance, sleep paralysis, or the experience of feeling paralyzed while still aware of the outside world, is reported in up to 40 percent of all people and is linked with vivid dreamlike hallucinations that can result in the sensation of floating above one's body. A 2005 study found that out-of-body experiences can be artificially triggered by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction in the brain, suggesting that confusion regarding sensory information can radically alter how one experiences one's body.

A variety of explanations might also account for reports by those dying of meeting the deceased. Parkinson's disease patients, for example, have reported visions of ghosts, even monsters. The explanation? Parkinson's involves abnormal functioning of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can evoke hallucinations. And when it comes to the common experience of reliving moments from one's life, one culprit might be the locus coeruleus, a midbrain region that releases noradrenaline, a stress hormone one would expect to be released in high levels during trauma. The locus coeruleus is highly connected with brain regions that mediate emotion and memory, such as the amygdala and hypothalamus..."

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Eel Removed From Man's Bladder After Entering Penis During Beauty Spa

7:08:04 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Zhang Nan was bathing with live eels to cleanse his skin when one rogue serpent took a liking to his manhood.

The eel treatment in question is a similar concept to the popular London spas that offer fish pedicures.

Thinking that the eels would make him look ten years younger, Nan dived into the water and let them feast upon layers of dead skin.

But after laying in the spa bath, Nan felt a sharp pain and realised a small eel was working its way up his urethra and into his bladder.

'I climbed into the bath and I could feel the eels nibbling my body. But then suddenly I felt a severe pain and realised a small eel had gone into the end of my penis,' the 56-year-old from Honghu, Hubei province said.

'I tried to hold it and take it out, but the eel was too slippery to be held and it disappeared up my penis.'

(OK, that's enough cringing now... it's horrible, though, we know...)

Rushing himself to hospital, the man underwent a three-hour operation to remove the six-inch eel which was dead by the time doctors found it.

Surgeon Jin Wang said that, because of the eel's slippery nature, it was able to make a smooth entry into the genitals of Nan.

'The diameter of the urethra in a man's penis is just a little narrower, but because eels are quite slippery, its body worked as a lubricant and so it got into the penis smoothly,' he said..."

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Breaching The Blood-Brain Barrier: Researchers May Have Solved 100-Year-Old Puzzle

7:00:33 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Cornell University researchers may have solved a 100-year puzzle: How to safely open and close the blood-brain barrier so that therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and cancers of the central nervous system might effectively be delivered. (Journal of Neuroscience, Sept. 14, 2011.)

The researchers found that adenosine, a molecule produced by the body, can modulate the entry of large molecules into the brain. For the first time, the researchers discovered that when adenosine receptors are activated on cells that comprise the blood-brain barrier, a gateway into the blood-brain barrier can be established.

Although the study was done on mice, the researchers have also found adenosine receptors on these same cells in humans. They also discovered that an existing FDA-approved drug called Lexiscan, an adenosine-based drug used in heart imaging in very ill patients, can also briefly open the gateway across the blood-brain barrier.

The blood-brain barrier is composed of the specialized cells that make up the brain's blood vessels. It selectively prevents substances from entering the blood and brain, only allowing such essential molecules as amino acids, oxygen, glucose and water through. The barrier is so restrictive that researchers couldn't find a way to deliver drugs to the brain – until now.

"The biggest hurdle for every neurological disease is that we are unable to treat these diseases because we cannot deliver drugs into the brain," said Margaret Bynoe, associate professor of immunology at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine and senior author of a paper appearing Sept. 14 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Aaron Carman, a former postdoctoral associate in Bynoe's lab, is the paper's lead author. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"Big pharmaceutical companies have been trying for 100 years to find out how to traverse the blood-brain barrier and still keep patients alive," said Bynoe, who with colleagues have patented the findings and have started a company, Adenios Inc., which will be involved in drug testing and preclinical trials..."

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Pediatricians Fact-Check Bachmann's Bashing of HPV Vaccine

6:57:36 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Now the nation's pediatricians have waded deep and early into the race for the presidency. In a unusual instance of political fact-checking of a candidate's statements by physicians themselves, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a tough prescription for Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann: Get your facts straight on the HPV vaccine.

In case you missed it, she sparred with Texas Gov. Rick Perry Monday night over his executive order that would have mandated vaccination of state schoolgirls against human papillomavirus, a cause of cervical cancer.

"To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat-out wrong," Bachmann said. "Little girls who have a potentially dangerous reaction to this drug don't get a mulligan," she said. "You don't get a do-over."

Perry defended the decision but conceded that the legal mechanism to reach the goal should have been different.

But on the Today show Tuesday morning, Bachmann went further, telling Matt Lauer, that a mother had approached her after the debate to recount the problems her daughter had after being vaccinated against HPV:

She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn't know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions.

When Lauer pressed Bachmann on whether she would keep pushing on the issue, she answered that it has traction "with a lot of people and we'll see what people say."

Not with kids' doctors it doesn't. In an apparent first for the national pediatricians' group during a political campaign, the AAP called Bachmann out, though it stopped short of doing so by name..."

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Really? The Claim: Fingers Wrinkle Because of Water Absorption

4:53:01 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Anyone who has ever been out in the rain too long or soaked for hours in a tub knows the prunelike effect it can have on your hands and feet. Conventional wisdom suggests it is nothing more than the skin absorbing water.

But a number of questions have puzzled scientists. Why do “wet wrinkles” appear only on the hands and feet? And why are the most prominent wrinkles at the ends of the digits? Surgeons already know that cutting nerves in a finger prevents the wrinkling, suggesting the process is controlled by the nervous system.

Now a paper in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution offers more evidence that wet wrinkles serve a purpose. Much like the tread on a tire, they improve traction.

In the study, an evolutionary neurobiologist and his co-authors examined 28 fingers wrinkled by water. They found that they all had the same pattern of unconnected channels diverging away from one another as they got more distant from the fingertips.

The wrinkles allow water to drain away as fingertips are pressed to wet surfaces, creating more contact and a better grip. Next is a plan to study whether pruney fingers are in fact better at gripping, and whether mammals in wet habitats are more likely to get them. Wet wrinkles have been confirmed only in humans and macaques.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Wet wrinkling may serve a purpose: better grip and traction."

-- Evolution FTW! Follow link for details and sources.

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Orca - Sad Movies

4:16:37 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011
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Mississippi 'Personhood' Law Could Ban Abortions And Birth Control

1:47:52 AM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Mississippi voters will be allowed to decide on a ballot measure that defines "personhood" from the moment of fertilization, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week. The measure could potentially outlaw abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research across the state.

Measure 26, which will bypass the legislature and go straight to a popular ballot vote, redefines the term "person" as it appears throughout Mississippi's Bill of Rights to include "all human beings from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the proposal earlier this year, not based on its content or constitutionality, but because Mississippi state law says a ballot initiative cannot be used to change the Bill of Rights.

The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit in a 7-2 ruling, saying that it had no power to review any ballot initiative before the actual vote takes place.

"We didn't lose on the merits of the case, but what's disappointing is that it means the measure does go on the ballot that could later be held unconstitutional," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney on the case.

Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi, whose primary mission is to get Measure 26 passed, told HuffPost that he believes the ballot initiative is legal and valid because it does not alter the state constitution, but simply defines a particular word in it that should have been defined by the Supreme Court in the 38 years since Roe v. Wade.

"The court made the right decision," he said. "In the Roe decision, [Justice Henry] Blackmun said, 'We're not gonna answer the question of whether the fetus is a person,' and so in the 38 years since, we have had a tragic number of abortions. We think that God has already told us when life begins, and science has confirmed it, and the court has just not dealt with it, so we're hoping the people of Mississippi make the right decision."

Abortion-rights advocates say they worry that the language of the initiative is so broad and vague that its effects could go far beyond outlawing abortion. The measure could be interpreted to outlaw the birth control pill, for instance, because the pill can sometimes prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. They also say the measure could outlaw in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and emergency contraception for rape victims, as well as discourage doctors from performing a lifesaving miscarriage treatment when a woman is suffering from potentially-fatal pregnancy complications.

Kolbi-Molinas said the measure could have unintended consequences that reach beyond reproductive health rights altogether..."

-- Sooo if this were to pass, would a pregnant woman be allowed to vote twice? Once for herself and once for the fetus?

And shouldn't she then be entitled to receive two lots of social security? One for herself and one for the fetus?

And airlines will be able to charge pregnant women two airfares - one for the mother and one for the fetus?

Problem Mississippi?

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How To See The Closest Supernova In A Generation!

9:48:54 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011

"After your death you will be what you were before your birth." -Arthur Schopenhauer

If only every star's death could be as glorious as a supernova, rocketing anywhere from thousands to millions of Earth-masses out of a star and into interstellar space. When we get one in our galaxy, like we do every few hundred years, the view from Earth can be spectacular.

The Crab Nebula, above, sprung from a supernova nearly a thousand years ago, in 1054. And while that supernova, and a handful of others since, have been visible from Earth with nothing more than the naked eye, we haven't had that pleasure since 1604. The remnant of that supernova, of course, is still visible today, although it looks no more impressive in visible light than the very end of a fireworks display.

While every astronomer would love to have the chance to see a supernova in our own galaxy, these aren't the sorts of things we can control. Instead, we have to be content to see what the Universe gives us to look at. We came close a generation ago, in 1987, when a supernova went off in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy just 160,000 light years away. Under ideally dark skies, the supernova was just barely visible to the unaided eye in the Southern Hemisphere.

For a generation since then, we haven't had a supernova occur anywhere near as close as that one. Which is too bad, because our telescope technology and coverage, today, is the greatest it's ever been.

But last month, on August 24th, the closest supernova since SN1987a went off in our neighbor galaxy -- the Pinwheel Galaxy -- just 21 million light years away..."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: Star Factory Messier 17

9:42:11 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011

-- "Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, the star factory known as Messier 17 lies some 5,500 light-years away in the nebula-rich constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this degree wide field of view spans almost 100 light-years, courtesy of the European Southern Observatory's new VLT Survey Telescope and OmegaCAM. The sharp, false color image includes both optical and infrared data, following faint details of the region's gas and dust clouds against a backdrop of central Milky Way stars. Stellar winds and energetic light from hot, massive stars formed from M17's stock of cosmic gas and dust have slowly carved away at the remaining interstellar material producing the cavernous appearance and undulating shapes. M17 is also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula. "

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Woman Dies After Injecting Face With Hot Beef Fat

9:38:57 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011

"An Illinois woman who injected hot beef fat into her face died Thursday of a bacterial infection soon after she administered the homemade cosmetic surgery. Oddly, doctors say the questionable injections had nothing to do with her death, which was deemed natural by Illinois’ Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Janet Hardt, 63 of Homewood, Ill., boiled beef, extracted the fat and injected it into her face before she went to the hospital complaining that her face felt as if it was burning, according to ABC News’ Chicago affiliate WLS-TV.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Hardt had infections and scarring in her mouth and on her lips, but an autopsy declared her death was a result of peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdomen’s inner wall.

This bizarre story does not come without lessons, experts say.

“There are a lot people out there doing self-injections for wrinkles, but I don’t know of any medical associations that would recommend this,” said Dr. Phillip Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “It’s not worth taking a chance with your face to try to save money when it could ultimately cost you a lot more money.”

Hardt reportedly injected her face with the beef fat several times, and she also underwent several legitimate plastic surgery procedures. Because she injected herself multiple times with the animal product, Haeck said she was at risk of developing an allergic reaction.

“One of the injections could cause the skin to erode or ulcerate,” said Haeck. “We know that injections of animal proteins do not cause systemwide failure, but it tends to cause local reactions. A lot of people who have allergic reactions to animal proteins will say that their face is burning like this woman did. That’s probably what was going on here.”"

-- 'Cause legit plastic surgery is for suckers!

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Christina Perri - Arms

9:34:52 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011
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Newly Discovered Planet: Hot, Muggy And (Maybe) Liveable

9:30:33 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011

"European astronomers said Monday that they had found what might be the best candidate for a Goldilocks planet yet: a lump of something about 3.6 times as massive as the Earth, circling its star at the right distance for liquid water to exist on its surface — and thus, perhaps, to host life, as we narrowly imagine it.

The planet, known as HD 85512b, is about 36 light years from here, in the constellation Vela. It orbits its star at about a quarter of the distance that Earth circles the Sun, taking 58 days to make a year. That distance would put it in the star’s so-called habitable zone, if the planet is rocky and has some semblance of an atmosphere — “if everything goes right and you have clouds to shelter you,” as Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, summarized it.

Astronomers cautioned, however, that it would take years and observations from telescopes not yet built before those assumptions could be tested and a search for signs of life could be undertaken.

Neither humans nor their robot helpers are likely to be dispatched toward Vela anytime soon. But the finding did vault HD 85512b to the top of a list of the handful of Goldilocks candidates.

The Vela planet was part of a haul of more than 50 new exoplanets — as planets around other stars are called — discussed in a news conference on Monday hosted by the European Southern Observatory. They are the newest fruits of an eight-year observing program by astronomers based at the University of Geneva and led by Stephane Udry and Michel Mayor, working from a telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. About 16 of them are so-called super-Earths, with masses less than 10 times the Earth, further encouraging astronomers that they are on the verge of finding planets like ours. A pair of papers — one with Dr. Mayor as lead author and the other with Francesco Pepe, also of Geneva, as lead author — have been submitted to Astronomy and Astrophysics, describing the planets.

The Geneva astronomers used a sensitive spectrograph known as Harps (an acronym for High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) to detect wobble in the stars’ motions as planets swung around them. The wobble technique, however, only reveals the masses of exoplanets. Without further information like the size — which NASA’s Kepler satellite, also in the exoplanet business, measures by seeing the shadows of planets as they cross in front of their stars — or the composition, the astronomers cannot say for sure whether the Vela planet is made of rock, steam, iron, diamonds or something else. Nor can they tell what, if any, atmosphere it has. Kepler will be of no help because its gaze is fixed on a different swath of sky.

The star that the Vela planet circles is known as HD 85512, or Gliese 370, after Wilhelm Gliese, a German astronomer. The star is orange, about two-thirds as massive and about an eighth as luminous as our Sun..."

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World Trade Center Tribute In Lights 2011

7:31:58 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011

-- Love this memorial for the World Trade Center towers. I know it's not new, but I had no idea that you could go to the top of that garage and see it right at the base of the lights!

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No Truce Expected In Global Patent Wars

7:15:32 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011

"Patent reform legislation passed by the US Congress may represent the most sweeping changes to the law in decades but the bill is not expected to end the courtroom wrangling between technology giants.

"My feeling is that it won't change the dynamics much of the ongoing patent wars," said Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "The problem is with patents in general, in that there's way too much patenting and people patent any old thing including how to toast bread."

Ed Black, president and chief executive of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), said the bill, the America Invents Act, "doesn't effectively address the real serious problems of our patent system.

"The bill tinkers in various ways -- some things are good, some things are bad -- but it's not a gamechanger," Black said, agreeing with Kay that the main problem is "too many patents issued that are simply not high-quality patents."

Black noted that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced recently that it has issued its eight millionth patent.

"Most people think of patents as being like Edison and the light bulb," he said. "Tell me we've had eight million game-changing ideas."

The Senate passed the America Invents Act on Thursday by an 89-9 vote. It cleared the House of Representatives earlier this year by a similarly lopsided 304-117 margin.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, a key author of the legislation, said the bill will "ensure that inventors large and small maintain the competitive edge that has put America at the pinnacle of global innovation."

The legislation notably shifts the granting of US patents from a "first to invent" system, which left considerable leeway for interpretation, to a "first to file" basis and seeks to reduce a backlog of 750,000 applications..."

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