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GGGGCC-repeat expansion of C9orf72 causes sticky masses to appear in Lou Gehrig (ALS) brains

GGGGCC-repeat expansion of C9orf72 causes sticky masses to appear in Lou Gehrig (ALS) brains | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Globs of protein clustered in the neurons that control muscles have long been the hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the fatal neurodegenerative disease also commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Now, a study of the most commonly found mutant gene in people with ALS reveals an unexpected origin of some of those sticky masses, a finding that may offer drug developers a new target for treatments.

 

Located on the ninth chromosome, which explains part of its unwieldy name, the C9orf72 gene has a bit of a stutter. A typical version in healthy people contains a stretch of DNA where a string of six genetic letters—GGGGCC—repeats up to 25 times. Scientists have recently found that in a sizable share of people with ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a less common neurological disease characterized by language, memory, and emotional problems, this repeat occurs many more times; some people have thousands of copies.

 

Since these C9orf72 mutations were discovered in 2011, some researchers have speculated that the repeats interrupt production of the gene's normal protein, which serves some as-yet unknown, but vital function in motor neurons or other brain cells. Others have hypothesized that the mutation spawns a large, misshapen strand of RNA that grabs on to proteins such as TDP-43, which normally help process RNA, creating protein tangles that starve the cell of the machinery it needs to function.

 

 Based on the DNA sequence of the GGGGCC-laden C9orf72 seen in ALS and FTD patients, the European team determined that if translated, the gene would produce various proteins containing strings of repeat amino acids. Dubbed dipeptide repeat (DPR) proteins, these molecules don't normally appear in humans and should be prone to clumping, the scientists concluded. Indeed, when they began to search for DPR protein clusters in actual human brain tissues, they found them in tissue from FTD and ALS patients with the C9orf72 mutation. No such lumps showed up in the brain tissue of healthy controls or ALS and FTD patients without the C9orf72 mutation, increasing the likelihood that the mutation produced them, Dieter Edbauer, a molecular biologist at Ludwig Maximilians University.


So what about TDP-43? The protein previously suspected of forming the cellular tangles is present in most of the abnormal protein deposits in the brains of people with ALS and FTD; however, people with the C9orf mutation have distinctive star and dot-shaped protein clusters lacking it. Edbauer's team found that those unusual clusters contain DPR proteins instead. An antibody to the proteins bound successfully to the stars and dots, and also to small round cores of protein within circular deposits of TDP-43, suggesting that DPR could be a catalyst for clump formation, Edbauer says.


Further verification of the results is needed, however, due to the small number of ALS and FTD patients whose brain tissue was studied, cautions Robert Bowser, a neurobiologist at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Traynor agrees, and says that there are many mysteries still to be solved: For example, researchers now need to determine which of the two proteins, DPR or TDP-43, drives the neurodegenerative process, and how they're doing it. "Do you need both? Is one protective and one detrimental?" he says. "Like all good science, this leads us to more questions."

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20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

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Margarida Sá Costa's curator insight, January 31, 9:55 AM

Lectures are in Playlists and are alphabetically sorted with thumbnail pictures. No fee, no registration required - learn at your own pace. Certificates can be arranged with presenting universities.

Casper Pieters's curator insight, March 9, 7:21 PM

Great resources for online learning just about everything.  All you need is will power and self- discipline.

Russ Roberts's curator insight, April 23, 11:37 PM

A very interesting site.  Amazing Science covers many disciplines.  Subscribe to the news letter and be " amazed." Aloha, Russ, KH6JRM. 

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Human consciousness is simply a quantum state of matter, physicists claim

Human consciousness is simply a quantum state of matter, physicists claim | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Thanks to the work of a small group neuroscientists and theoretical physicists over the last few years, we may finally have found a way of analyzing the mysterious, metaphysical realm of consciousness in a scientific manner. The latest breakthrough in this new field, published by Max Tegmark of MIT, postulates that consciousness is actually a state of matter, allowing us to scientifically tackle murky topics such as self awareness, and why we perceive the world in classical three-dimensional terms, rather than the infinite number of objective realities offered up by the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.


The latest attempts to formalize consciousness come from Giulio Tononi, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who proposed the integrated information theory (IIT) model of consciousness — and now Max Tegmark of MIT, who has attempted to generalize Tononi’s work in terms of quantum mechanics. In his research paper, “Consciousness as a State of Matter” [arXiv:1401.1219], Tegmark theorizes that consciousness can be understood as a state of matter called “perceptronium” that can be differentiated from other kinds of matter (solids, liquids, gases) using five, mathematically sound principles.


The paper, as you can imagine, is a beastly 30-page treatise, but the Physics arXiv Blog does a good job of summarizing it (if you’re comfortable with quantum mechanics, anyway). In short, though, it outlines Tononi’s ITT — that consciousness results from a system that can store and retrieve vast amounts of information efficiently — and then moves onto his own creation, perceptronium, which he describes as “the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware.” This substance can not only store and retrieve data, but it’s also indivisible and unified (this is where we start to wander into the “here be dragons” realm of souls and spirits and so forth). The rest of the paper mostly deals with describing perceptronium in terms of quantum mechanics, and trying to work out why we steadfastly perceive the world in terms of classical, independent systems — rather than one big interconnected quantum mess.

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Space Radiation Remains Major Hazard for Humans Going to Mars

Space Radiation Remains Major Hazard for Humans Going to Mars | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

During a conference in Washington D.C., enthusiasts are attempting to rouse support for a manned mission to Mars sometime in the next two decades. NASA is there, as are many key players in the spaceflight community. But there continue to be major obstacles to manned Mars missions.


A new study highlights one of the big problems with extended space travel: galactic cosmic ray radiation. According to the report, astronauts on the International Space Station would receive doses that exceed their lifetime limits after just 18 months for women and two years for men. A Mars mission crew would be spending at least this long in the harsh radiation of deep space.


Cosmic rays are a unique type of radiation in that they are difficult to shield against. And the new research points out that the cancer an astronaut could contract after too much cosmic ray radiation is bound to be very dangerous.


“The type of tumors that cosmic ray ions make are more aggressive than what we get from other radiation,” said Francis Cucinotta a radiation expert at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of the new report published Apr. 23, 2014 in PLoS One.


One way to reduce astronauts’ exposure to galactic cosmic rays could be to send them to space only during the peak of the sun’s natural 11-year solar cycle. During solar maximum, the sun’s radiation blows counteractively against the cosmic rays streaming in to our solar system, reducing an astronaut’s exposure. Of course, being in space during this time also means the sun could unleash a potentially deadly solar flare, frying astronauts in their spaceship.


What kinda of extra exposure are astronauts normally dealing with? People living in the U.S. are exposed to about 3 millisieverts of radiation from natural background sources each year (millisieverts are units of radiation exposure in the human body). A nuclear accident, like Fukushima, might raise this by about 1 millisievert. An astronaut on a round-trip, two-and-a-half-year Mars mission, by contrast, can expect to receive around a sievert of cosmic ray radiation, nearly 1,000 times more.


If 41 percent of people in the U.S. can expect to be diagnosed with cancer that means, out of 100 people, on average 41 of them will get cancer. If you exposed 100 people to the 1 sievert of cosmic ray radiation that a Mars astronaut would get, there would now be 61 total incidents of cancer, an increase of 20, according toreports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (.pdf) and United Nations Scientific Committee on Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). About half of those tumors would result in death.


Certain types of cancer, including lung, breast, and colorectal cancer, are the most likely to appear from cosmic ray radiation and tend to be more aggressive than normal. Cucinotta estimates that an astronaut’s lifespan after exposure to radiation on a Mars trip would be shortened between 15 and 24 years from the average.

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Scientists track 3-D nanoscale changes in rechargeable battery material during operation

Scientists track 3-D nanoscale changes in rechargeable battery material during operation | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have made the first 3D observations of how the structure of a lithium-ion battery anode evolves at the nanoscale in a real battery cell as it discharges and recharges.


"This work offers a direct way to look inside the electrochemical reaction of batteries at the nanoscale to better understand the mechanism of structural degradation that occurs during a battery's charge/discharge cycles," said Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang, who led the research. "These findings can be used to guide the engineering and processing of advanced electrode materials and improve theoretical simulations with accurate 3D parameters."


Chemical reactions in which lithium ions move from a negatively charged electrode to a positive one are what carry electric current from a lithium-ion battery to power devices such as laptops and cell phones. When an external current is applied-say, by plugging the device into an outlet-the reaction runs in reverse to recharge the battery.


Scientists have long known that repeated charging/discharging (lithiation and delithiation) introduces microstructural changes in the electrode material, particularly in some high-capacity silicon and tin-based anode materials. These microstructural changes reduce the battery's capacity-the energy the battery can store-and its cycle life-how many times the battery can be recharged over its lifetime. Understanding in detail how and when in the process the damage occurs could point to ways to avoid or minimize it.


Via José Gonçalves
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Mikko Hakala's curator insight, March 27, 5:24 PM

What happens in the real battery's anode material during the initial charge/discharge cycles? For the first time structural evolution could be observed by in situ at nanoscale resolution (~30 nm) in 3D. 

 

Measurements with transmission x-ray microscope at Brookhaven National Synchrotron Light Source.

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Greenland’s icecap - once thought stable - is losing stability due to melting at an accelerating pace

Greenland’s icecap - once thought stable - is losing stability due to melting at an accelerating pace | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Greenland ice sheet is the largest terrestrial ice mass in the Northern hemisphere. A recent study in Nature Climate Change by Shfaqat Khan from the Technical University of Denmark and colleagues indicates that the ice sheet could be melting faster than previously thought. This would mean Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise has been under-estimated (once again!), and oceanographers may need to think again about their projections.


The scientists used more than 30 years of surface elevation measurements of the entire ice sheet to discover that overall loss is accelerating. Previous studies had identified melting of glaciers in the island’s south-east and north-west, but the assumption had been that the ice sheet to the north-east was stable.


The report says: “It was stable, at least until about 2003. Then higher air temperatures set up the process of so-called dynamic thinning. Ice sheets melt every Arctic summer, under the impact of extended sunshine, but the slush on the glaciers tends to freeze again with the return of the cold and the dark, and since under historic conditions glaciers move at the proverbial glacial pace, the loss of ice is normally very slow.”


The new research by the Danish-led team considers changes linked to the 600 kilometer-long Zachariae ice stream in the north-east, using satellite measurements. It has retreated by some 20 kilometers in the last DECADE, whereas Sermeq Kujalleq has retreated about 35 kms in 150 years. The Zachariae stream drains around one-sixth of the Greenland ice sheet, and because warmer summers have meant significantly less sea ice in recent years, icebergs have more easily broken off and floated away, which means that the ice stream can move faster. “North-east Greenland is very cold. It used to be considered the last stable part of the Greenland ice sheet,” said one of the team, Michael Bevis of Ohio State University in the US, in an interview with the Climate News Network.


The scientists used a GPS network to calculate the loss of ice. Glacial ice presses down on the bedrock below it: when the ice melts, the bedrock rises in response to the drop in pressure, and sophisticated satellite measurements help scientists put a figure on the loss of ice. They calculate that between April 2003 and April 2012, the region was losing ice at the rate of 10 billion tons a year.

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Eli Levine's curator insight, April 24, 2:10 PM

There she, very slowly, goes.

 

Well humanity, this environment which we evolved into was fun.  Will we survive this new one we've produced through our economic and social activity?

I don't know.

 

But what I do know, is that the old normal is gone, thanks largely to the conservatives who wanted to preserve the old normal.

 

A silly brain type at best, who can't accept reality for what it actually is, and thus, leads us all into misery, pain and destruction as a result of their willful and unacknowledged unwillful ignorance.

 

Think about it.

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New optical microscopy technique unravels role of ‘oxidative stress’ in neural tissues

New optical microscopy technique unravels role of ‘oxidative stress’ in neural tissues | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) have developed a new optical microscopy technique to unravel the role of “oxidative stress” in healthy as well as injured nervous systems. The work is reported in the latest issue of Nature Medicine.


Reactive oxygen species are important intracellular signaling molecules, but their mode of action is complex. In low concentrations they regulate key aspects of cellular function and behavior, while at high concentrations they can cause “oxidative stress,” which damages organelles, membranes and DNA.


“Our new optical approach allows us to visualize the redox state of important cellular organelles, mitochondria, in real time in living tissue,” says LMU Professor Martin Kerschensteiner. Mitochondria are the cell’s power plants, which convert nutrients into usable energy.


In earlier studies, Kerschensteiner and and TUM Professor Thomas Misgeld obtained evidence that oxidative damage of mitochondria might contribute to the destruction of axons in inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis.


The new method allows them to record the oxidation states of individual mitochondria with high spatial and temporal resolution. “Redox signals have important physiological functions, but can also cause damage, for example when present in high concentrations around immune cells.”


Kerschensteiner and Misgeld used redox-sensitive variants of the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as visualization tools. “By combining these with other biosensors and vital dyes, we were able to establish an approach that permits us to simultaneously monitor redox signals together with mitochondrial calcium currents, as well as changes in the electrical potential and the proton (pH) gradient across the mitochondrial membrane,” says Thomas Misgeld.


The researchers have applied the technique to two experimental models, and have arrived at some unexpected insights. They can now study redox signal induction in response to neural damage — in this case, spinal cord injury — in the mammalian nervous system. The observations revealed that severance of an axon results in a wave of oxidation of the mitochondria, which begins at the site of damage and is propagated along the fiber. Also, an influx of calcium at the site of axonal resection was shown to be essential for the ensuing functional damage to mitochondria.

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Powdered alcohol to be sold in the US by fall 2014

Powdered alcohol to be sold in the US by fall 2014 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The federal government recently rubber-stamped the manufacture and sale of a Palcohol, which turns any liquid into your favorite adult beverage.


If you were looking forward to enjoying Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product, this fall, you may need to wait a bit longer. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted Palcohol “label approval” on April 8, but rescinded its approval April 21 after this article was published. A representative with the bureau told the Associated Press that the original approvals were issued in error. Palcohol’s parent company Lipsmark will need to resubmit its labels for approval. [This update was published April 22, 2014]


Instantly turning water into an alcoholic beverage is no longer a feat of biblical proportions. Come fall, it will be legal for Americans to purchase powdered alcohol, which can turn water into rum, vodka or a variety of cocktails.


The product, called Palcohol, is the brainchild of alcohol enthusiast Mark Phillips. He invented the potent powder because he wanted an easy, portable way to enjoy an adult beverage after a day of hiking, biking or kayaking. The federal government recently gave its stamp of approval for the sale and manufacture of the product, and it could be on the shelves of your local liquor store in the fall.

The key to making alcohol powders are simple carbohydrates called cyclodextrins, which bind together to form donut-shaped structures. They can then absorb and encapsulate fluids, like alcohol, within their molecular “donut holes,” which allows the liquid to be handled as a water-soluble powder. Cyclodextrins are also used to dissolve insoluble medications, odor-fighting sprays, and reduced-fat foods. In the case of Palcohol, each packet weighs about an ounce — enough for one shot — and can fit into a pocket. The creators plan to release six flavors of Palcohol when it debuts later this year.
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Fast way to measure DNA repair – some people's DNA gets repaired 10 times faster than others

Fast way to measure DNA repair – some people's DNA gets repaired 10 times faster than others | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Test analyzing cells’ ability to fix different kinds of broken DNA could help doctors predict cancer risk.


Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources, including environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and radiation. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to cancer and other diseases if not mended.


The effectiveness of these repair systems varies greatly from person to person; scientists believe that this variability may explain why some people get cancer while others exposed to similar DNA-damaging agents do not. A team of MIT researchers has now developed a test that can rapidly assess several of these repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.


The new test, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of April 21, can analyze four types of DNA repair capacity simultaneously, in less than 24 hours. Previous tests have been able to evaluate only one system at a time.


“All of the repair pathways work differently, and the existing technology to measure each of those pathways is very different for each one. It takes expertise, it’s time-consuming, and it’s labor-intensive,” says Zachary Nagel, an MIT postdoc and lead author of the PNAS paper. “What we wanted to do was come up with one way of measuring all DNA repair pathways at the same time so you have a single readout that’s easy to measure.”


The research team, led by professor Leona Samson, used this approach to measure DNA repair in a type of immortalized human blood cells called lymphoblastoid cells, taken from 24 healthy people. They found a huge range of variability, especially in one repair system where some people’s cells were more than 10 times more efficient than others.


“None of the cells came out looking the same. They each have their own spectrum of what they can repair well and what they don’t repair well. It’s like a fingerprint for each person,” says Samson, who is the Uncas and Helen Whitaker Professor, an American Cancer Society Professor, and a member of MIT’s departments of biological engineering and of biology, Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.


With the new test, the MIT team can measure how well cells repair the most common DNA lesions, including single-strand breaks, double-strand breaks, mismatches, and the introduction of alkyl groups caused by pollutants such as fuel exhaust and tobacco smoke.


To achieve this, the researchers created five different circular pieces of DNA, four of which carry a specific type of DNA damage, also called DNA lesions. Each of these circular DNA strands, or plasmids, also carries a gene for a different colored fluorescent protein. In some cases, the DNA lesions prevent those genes from being expressed, so when the DNA is successfully repaired, the cell begins to produce the fluorescent protein. In others, repairing the DNA lesion turns the fluorescent gene off.


By introducing these plasmids into cells and reading the fluorescent output, scientists can determine how efficiently each kind of lesion has been repaired. In theory, more than five plasmids could go into each cell, but the researchers limited each experiment to five reporter plasmids to avoid potential overlap among colors. To overcome that limitation, the researchers are also developing an alternative tactic that involves sequencing the messenger RNA produced by cells when they copy the plasmid genes, instead of measuring fluorescence.

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Microscale gravity: Gravitational energy measured with 100,000 times better precision than in previous experiments

Microscale gravity: Gravitational energy measured with 100,000 times better precision than in previous experiments | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Bouncing neutrons probe dark energy on a table-top, measuring gravity's effects at the quantum scale finds no deviations from Newton's laws.

In this week's Physical Review Letters2, a team led by physicist Hartmut Abele at the Technical University of Vienna shows that the ordinary laws of gravity are still valid even when measured over the scale of a few micrometres. The researchers measured quantized gravitational energy levels with a precision that is 100,000 times better than in previous experiments3.


That precision is sufficient to test some proposed explanations for dark energy — the unknown force that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe. Some models of dark energy put constraints on particular gravity-like forces that would subtly distort the quantum levels at these micrometre scales. “It’s really a beautiful experimental tour de force,” says Geoffrey Greene, a physicist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who was not involved in the study.


'Chameleon' dark energy is one such hypothesized force. It derives its name from the way the range over which it acts is reduced drastically for dense objects, which would account for why we fail to see it in Solar System measurements. Such a 'fifth force', existing alongside the known electromagnetic, strong, weak and gravitational forces, would tweak the neutrons' energy levels from those predicted by gravity alone, says Amol Upadhye, a theoretical physicist at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, who was not part of the research team.


The team’s results put a limit on how strong that force could be. “This limit is one hundred times better than the previous such limit,” says Upadhye. This does not eliminate chameleon theories as possible explanations for the dark energy, he adds. “There are still some seven orders of magnitude to cover … but this goes a long way towards closing that gap.”


The results also constrain the properties of a potential candidate for dark matter, the substance thought to make up 85% of matter in the Universe but which seems to be undetectable except for its gravitational pull at cosmic scales. Very light hypothetical particles called axions would cause a deviation from the ordinary law of gravity at short distances. The absence of such an effect in this latest study limits how strong these interactions could be.


"It's truly remarkable that experiments such as this are possible at all," says Upadhye. The researchers call the technique gravity resonance spectroscopy, because it mirrors other kinds of spectroscopy, which measure the energy states of electrons in the electromagnetic field of an atom. These have found a wide range of uses — from determining the composition of faraway galactic objects to atomic clocks. “This first application of the new technology is a big step," says Greene.

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John Myrick's curator insight, April 24, 9:31 AM
This is way cool!
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Wireless power transfer achieved for a 5-meter distance

Wireless power transfer achieved for a 5-meter distance | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A great improvement has been demonstrated in the distance that electric power can travel wirelessly. Researchers developed the 'Dipole Coil Resonant System' for an extended range of inductive power transfer, up to 5 meters between transmitter and receiver coils. "Our technology proved the possibility of a new remote power delivery mechanism that has never been tried at such a long distance. Although the long-range wireless power transfer is still in an early stage of commercialization and quite costly to implement, we believe that this is the right direction for electric power to be supplied in the future. Just like we see Wi-Fi zones everywhere today, we will eventually have many Wi-Power zones at such places as restaurants and streets that provide electric power wirelessly to electronic devices," they say.


Chun T. Rim, a professor of Nuclear & Quantum Engineering at KAIST, and his team showcased, on April 16, 2014 at the KAIST campus, Daejeon, Republic of Korea, a great improvement in the distance that electric power can travel wirelessly. They developed the "Dipole Coil Resonant System (DCRS)" for an extended range of inductive power transfer, up to 5 meters between transmitter and receiver coils.


Since MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) introduction of the Coupled Magnetic Resonance System (CMRS) in 2007, which used a magnetic field to transfer energy for a distance of 2.1 meters, the development of long-distance wireless power transfer has attracted much attention for further research.


However, in terms of extending the distance of wireless power, CMRS, for example, has revealed technical limitations to commercialization that are yet to be solved: a rather complicated coil structure (composed of four coils for input, transmission, reception, and load); bulky-size resonant coils; high frequency (in a range of 10 MHz) required to resonate the transmitter and receiver coils, which results in low transfer efficiency; and a high Q factor of 2,000 that makes the resonant coils very sensitive to surroundings such as temperature, humidity, and human proximity.


Professor Rim proposed a meaningful solution to these problems through DCRS, an optimally designed coil structure that has two magnetic dipole coils, a primary one to induce a magnetic field and a secondary to receive electric power. Unlike the large and thick loop-shaped air coils built in CMRS, the KAIST research team used compact ferrite core rods with windings at their centers. The high frequency AC current of the primary winding generates a magnetic field, and then the linkage magnetic flux induces the voltage at the secondary winding.


Scalable and slim with a size of 3 m in length, 10 cm in width, and 20 cm in height, DCRS is significantly smaller than CMRS. The system has a low Q factor of 100, showing 20 times stronger against the environment changes, and works well at a low frequency of 100 kHz. The team conducted several experiments and achieved promising results: for instance, under the operation of 20 kHz, the maximum output power was 1,403 W at a 3-meter distance, 471 W at 4-meter, and 209 W at 5-meter. For 100 W of electric power transfer, the overall system power efficiency was 36.9% at 3 meters, 18.7% at 4 meters, and 9.2% at 5 meters.

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SpaceX's Reusable Falcon 9 Successfully Launches and Lands

SpaceX's Reusable Falcon 9 Successfully Launches and Lands | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
American space company SpaceX successfully tested a stage of what they hope will eventually become a reusable rocket, the Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R).


Even as its Falcon 9 rocket blasted its Dragon cargo capsule towards the International Space Station last Friday, aerospace company SpaceX was preparing another feat. On Monday April 21, SpaceX launched a variant of the Falcon 9 design from its facility in Texas. The rocket in question is a prototype of the Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R).


The F9R successfully blasted off and rose to an altitude of 250 meters. The rocket briefly hovered at that altitude before safely descending back to the launch pad. The entire maneuver was captured on video by a drone aircraft.


SpaceX intends the F9R design eventually to become the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket; such reusability would substantially reduce the cost of space launches, which currently rely upon disposal rockets. Future assessments will see the F9R launched from SpaceX’s New Mexico test facility. During those evaluations, the rocket will be launched with the landing legs tucked away and to greater heights to more closely approximate conditions during an actual launch and landing.


In the meantime, SpaceX Dragon capsules will continue to ferry cargo, and eventually astronauts, to the space station. Friday’s launch was the third of 12 planned Dragon cargo runs to the station as part of SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA.

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Asteroid and Meteorite Impacts Can Preserve Biodata for Millions of Years

Asteroid and Meteorite Impacts Can Preserve Biodata for Millions of Years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In two separate studies, geologists led by Dr. Haley Sapers from the University of Western Ontario and Dr. Pete Schultz of Brown University have found floral, microbial and organic matter in glass created by ancient asteroid, comet and meteorite impacts. Such glass samples could provide a snapshot of environmental conditions at the time of those impacts and could be a good place to look for signs of ancient life on Mars.


In the first study, published in the journal Geology, Dr Schultz with colleagues found fragments of leaves and preserved organic compounds lodged inside glass created by a several ancient impacts in Argentina. “The soil of eastern Argentina, south of Buenos Aires, is rife with impact glass created by at least seven different impacts that occurred between 6,000 and 9 million years ago,” Dr Schultz explained. “One of those impacts, dated to around 3 million years ago, coincides with the disappearance of 35 animal genera.”

“We know these were major impacts because of how far the glass is distributed and how big the chunks are. These glasses are present in different layers of sediment throughout an area about the size of Texas,” he said.


Within glass associated with two of those impacts – one from 3 million years ago and one from 9 million years ago – the team found exquisitely preserved plant matter.


In the second study, published also in the journal Geology, Dr Sapers and her colleagues discovered microbes preserved in impact glass. They analyzed tubular features in hydrothermally altered impact glass from the Ries Impact Structure, Germany, that are remarkably similar to the bioalteration textures observed in volcanic glasses.


Mineral-forming processes cannot easily explain the distribution and shapes of the Ries tubular features; therefore, they suggest the tubules formed by microbes etching their way through the impact glass as they excreted organic acids.


A meteorite impact into a water-rich target such as Earth or Mars has the potential to generate a post-impact hydrothermal system.

Impact structures, especially post-impact hydrothermal systems, represent an understudied habitat with potential relevance to early life and the evolution of early life on Earth.


Understanding the biological significance of impact products such as impact glass on Earth will better inform the search for evidence of life and past life on other terrestrial planets such as Mars.

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Global Soundscapes: Help Scientists Record One Day of Sound on Earth

Global Soundscapes: Help Scientists Record One Day of Sound on Earth | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Bryan Pijanowski wants to capture the sounds of the world on a single day, and he needs your help. Beginning on Earth Day, April 22 of this year, Pijanowski hopes to enlist thousands of people in recording a few minutes of their everyday surroundings with his Soundscape Recorder smartphone app.


All those sonic snippets could create an unprecedented soundtrack to life on Earth — and as they accumulate, year after year, scientists could use them to measure patterns and changes in our sonic environments.


“I’ve been on a campaign to record as many ecosystems as possible,” said Pijanowski, a soundscape ecologist at Purdue University. “But there’s only so many places in the world I can be. I thought about how I could get more recordings into a database, and it occurred to me: We have a couple billion people on this planet with smartphones!”


Pijanowski’s work typically takes him to places like the Sonoran desert or old-growth rain forests in Borneo, where he analyzes recordings to learn more about ecosystem health and dynamics: relationships between biodiversity and forest canopy structure, or how natural communities recover from wildfire.


With the Global Soundscape project and its Soundscape Recorder app, now available for iOS and Android devices, the emphasis is on cities and towns and suburbs, and our relationships to their sonic character.


After making a recordings with the app, people are asked a short series of questions about what they heard and how they feel. The recording is then uploaded to the Global Soundscape database. “If we make this part of the Earth Day culture, something everyone goes out and does, we can begin to characterize those sounds and compare them from year to year,” said Pijanowski.

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Inside an animals mind: Crow Solves A Complicated 8 Step Puzzle

This Is Really Amazing: Dr. Alex Taylor has set up an 8-step puzzle to try and confuse one of the smartest crows he’s been studying in captivity. This bird solved the complex puzzle pretty quickly, even though he never saw the objects arranged together before. Watch the amazing experiment in this clip from the BBC’s ‘Inside the Animal Mind’.

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Eli Levine's curator insight, April 24, 8:02 PM

So YOU think you're the only one who's got "it".

 

Forget sentient life on other planets, we have plenty of it here.

 

And we're killing it off, for the sake of pieces of cloth rag that aren't essential to our survival and well being.

 

Who's the dummy now?

 

Think about it.

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MIT’s fast synthesis system could boost peptide-drug development

MIT’s fast synthesis system could boost peptide-drug development | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018, but current archaic manufacturing methods are too slow and cumbersome.


Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells, but manufacturing the peptides takes several weeks, making it difficult to obtain large quantities, and to rapidly test their effectiveness.


A team of MIT chemists and chemical engineers has designed a way to manufacture peptides in mere hours. The new system, described in a recent issue of the journal ChemBioChem, could have a major impact on peptide drug development, says Bradley Pentelute, an assistant professor of chemistry and leader of the research team.


“Peptides are ubiquitous. They’re used in therapeutics, they’re found in hydrogels, and they’re used to control drug delivery.  They’re also used as biological probes to image cancer and to study processes inside cells,” Pentelute says. “Because you can get these really fast now, you can start to do things you couldn’t do before.”


Insulin and the HIV drug Fuzeon are some of the earliest successful examples, and peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018, the researchers say.


Therapeutic peptides usually consist of a chain of 30 to 40 amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Many universities, including MIT, have facilities to manufacture these peptides, but the process usually takes two to six weeks, using machines developed about 20 years ago. These machines require about an hour to perform the chemical reactions needed to add one amino acid to a chain.


To speed up the process, the MIT team adapted the synthesis reactions so they could be done in a continuous flow system. Using this approach, each amino acid addition takes only a few minutes, and an entire peptide can be assembled in little more than an hour.


In future versions, “we think we’re going to be able to do each step in under 30 seconds,” says Pentelute, who is also an associate member of the Broad Institute. “What that means is you’re really going to be able to do anything you want in short periods of time.”


The new system has storage vessels for each of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids, connected to pumps that pull out the correct one. As the amino acids flow toward the chamber where the reaction takes place, they travel through a coil where they are preheated to 60 degrees Celsius, which helps speed up the synthesis reaction.


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Molecular Robots: Making molecules that make molecules

Molecular Robots: Making molecules that make molecules | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Nature builds proteins in complex molecular factories where information from the genetic code is used to program the linking of molecular building blocks in the correct order.1 The most extraordinary of these factories is the ribosome,2 a massive molecular machine found in all living cells that assembles amino acids from transfer RNA (tRNA) building blocks into a peptide chain with an order defined by the sequence of the messenger RNA (mRNA) strand that the molecular machine moves along.


Now Professor David Leigh’s group at the University of Manchester (www.catenane.net) have built an artificial molecular machine that builds chemical structures in a similar way.3 Their molecular machine features a functionalized nanometer-sized ring that moves along a molecular track, picking up building blocks located on the path and connecting them together in a specific order to synthesize the desired new molecule.


The mechanism of operation of the molecular machine is shown in Figure 1 (and is also shown in a video). First the ring is threaded onto a molecular strand using copper ions to direct the assembly process. Then a “reactive arm” is attached and the machine starts to operate. The ring moves up and down the strand until its path is blocked by a bulky group. The reactive arm then detaches the obstruction from the track and transfers it to another site on the machine, regenerating the active site on the arm. The ring is then free to move further along the strand until its path is obstructed by the next building block. This, in turn, is removed and passed to the elongation site on the ring, thus building up a new molecular structure. Once all the building blocks are removed from the track, the ring de-threads and the synthesis is complete.


Today the chemical products of the modern world—plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals, catalysts etc—are made by mixing together successive cocktails of reactive chemicals, in processes that are often laborious, inefficient and require many expensive steps. By contrast, in nature molecules are made by other molecules with exquisite efficiency. Biology has not evolved to do this over 2.5 billion years for no good reason and when scientists learn how to use molecular machines to perform synthesis—positioning substrates and ‘reactive arms’ and controlling the dynamics of responsive centers—it will have the potential to revolutionize the whole approach to functional molecule and materials design.


References

[1] J. M. Berg, J. L. Tymoczko, L. Stryer, Biochemistry (W. H. Freeman, New York, 6th edition, 2006).

[2] A. Yonath, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 49, 4340 (2010).

[3] B. Lewandowski, G. De Bo, J. W. Ward, M. Papmeyer, S. Kuschel, M. J. Aldegunde, P. M. E. Gramlich, D. Heckmann, S. M. Goldup, D. M. D’Souza, A. E. Fernandes and D. A. Leigh, Science 339, 189-193 (2013).


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The Human Connectome Project: Brains versus Computers [VIDEO]

The Human Connectome Project: Brains versus Computers [VIDEO] | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Recent advances in noninvasive neuroimaging have set the stage for the systematic exploration of human brain circuits in health and disease. The Human Connectome Project (HCP) is systematically characterizing brain circuitry, its variability, and its relation to behavior in a population of 1,200 healthy adults (twins and their non-twin siblings). This talk reviews the progress by the HCP consortium in acquiring, analyzing, and freely sharing these massive and highly informative datasets. The HCP obtains information about structural and functional connectivity using diffusion MRI and resting-state fMRI, respectively. Additional modalities include task-evoked fMRI and MEG, plus extensive behavioral testing and genotyping. Each of these methods is powerful, yet faces significant technical limitations that are important to characterize and be mindful of when interpreting neuroimaging data. Advanced visualization and analysis methods developed by the HCP enable characterization of brain circuits in individuals and group averages at high spatial resolution and at the level of functionally distinct brain parcels and brain networks. Comparisons across subjects are beginning to reveal aspects of brain circuitry that are heritable or are related to particular behavioral capacities. Data from the HCP is being made freely available to the neuroscience community via a user-friendly informatics platform. Altogether, the HCP is providing invaluable information about the healthy human brain and its variability.

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Blood Of World’s Oldest Woman Shows Life Limit

Blood Of World’s Oldest Woman Shows Life Limit | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers say two-thirds of her blood at the time of death came from just two stem cells - yet humans are born with 20,000.


Scientists who examined the body of one of the world's oldest women say dying stem cells may be the "limit" on our lifespans. The findings imply that most or all of the blood stem cells she started life with had already burned out and died.


Ms Andel-Schipper was born in Holland in 1890, and at one point was the oldest woman in the world. When she died in 2005 she gave her body to science, and asked for the analysis to be made public. Henne Holstege, from the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, said: "Is there a limit to the number of stem cell divisions, and does that imply that there's a limit to human life? 


"It's estimated that we're born with around 20,000 blood stem cells, and at any one time, around 1,000 are simultaneously active to replenish blood."  The researchers also found that her blood cells had worn-down telomeres - the protective tips on chromosomes that burn down like candle wicks each time a cell divides.


On average, the telomeres on her white blood cells were 17 times shorter than those on brain cells, which hardly replicate at all throughout life.

Ms Holstege added the study could raise the possibility of extending life by reinjecting stem cells saved from birth or early life.


"If I took a sample now and gave it back to myself when I'm older, I would have long telomeres again - although it might only be possible with blood, not other tissues," Holstege explained.

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Less myelin in higher regions of the cerebral cortext may allow emergence of highly complex neuronal behaviors

Less myelin in higher regions of the cerebral cortext may allow emergence of highly complex neuronal behaviors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The higher you look in the cerebral cortex, the less myelin you'll find. Myelin, the electrical insulating material in the body long known to be essential for the fast transmission of impulses along the axons of nerve cells, is not as ubiquitous as thought, according to new work led by Professor Paola Arlotta of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and the University’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, in collaboration with Professor Jeff Lichtman of Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.


“Myelin is a relatively recent invention during evolution,” says Arlotta. “It’s thought that myelin allowed the brain to communicate really fast to the far reaches of the body, and that it has endowed the brain with the capacity to compute higher-level functions.”


In fact, loss of myelin is a feature in a number of devastating diseases, including multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. But the new research shows that despite myelin’s essential roles in the brain, “some of the most evolved, most complex neurons of the nervous system have less myelin than older, more ancestral ones,” said Arlotta, co-director of the HSCI neuroscience program.


She said the higher one looks in the cerebral cortex — closer to the top of the brain, which is its most evolved part — the less myelin one finds.  Not only that, but “neurons in this part of the brain display a brand-new way of positioning myelin along their axons that has not been previously seen. They have ‘intermittent myelin’ with long axon tracts that lack myelin interspersed among myelin-rich segments.”


“Contrary to the common assumptions that neurons use a universal profile of myelin distribution on their axons, the work indicates that different neurons choose to myelinate their axons differently,” Arlotta said.


“In classic neurobiology textbooks, myelin is represented on axons as a sequence of myelinated segments separated by very short nodes that lack myelin. This distribution of myelin was tacitly assumed to be always the same, on every neuron, from the beginning to the end of the axon. This new work finds this not to be the case.”


The results of the research by Arlotta and postdoctoral fellow Giulio Srubek Tomassy, the first author on the report, are published in the latest edition of the journal Science.

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Gene Therapy Boosts Cochlear Implants and Could Restore Hearing to the Deaf

Gene Therapy Boosts Cochlear Implants and Could Restore Hearing to the Deaf | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Today researchers announced that they've been able to restore tonal hearing in guinea pigs with the new method of gene delivery.


The team implanted “bionic ears” in deaf guinea pigs, whose auditory systems are very similar to humans’. With the device, then, they delivered DNA that coded for a protein called brain-derived neruotrophic factor (BDNF), which encourages nerves to grow. The DNA was taken up by cells in the cochlea and, after two weeks, the nerves had grown significantly toward the electrodes. When the guinea pigs’ hearing was tested they found that animals that were once completely deaf had their hearing restored to almost normal levels.


It’s unclear, however, whether the treatment will work long-term: neuron production in the guinea pigs dropped off six weeks after the gene therapy. Researchers are also unsure whether tones heard after this treatment accurately reflect how they sound with normal hearing.


The technique is very close to being ready for human trials, where some of these questions should be answered. If it proves successful in clinical trials, the technique of combining gene therapy with device could also be used for other implants like retinal prosthesis and deep brain stimulation.

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Gecko-like Adhesives Now Useful for Real World Surfaces

Gecko-like Adhesives Now Useful for Real World Surfaces | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The ability to stick objects to a wide range of surfaces such as drywall, wood, metal and glass with a single adhesive has been the elusive goal of many research teams across the world, but now a team of University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors describe a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, that can adhere strongly to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily, like a gecko’s feet.


“Imagine sticking your tablet on a wall to watch your favorite movie and then moving it to a new location when you want, without the need for pesky holes in your painted wall,” says polymer science and engineering professor Al Crosby. Geckskin is a ‘gecko-like,’ reusable adhesive device that they had previously demonstrated can hold heavy loads on smooth surfaces such as glass.


Crosby and polymer science researcher Dan King, with other UMass Amherst researchers including biology professor Duncan Irschick, report in the current issue of Advanced Materials how they have expanded their design theory to allow Geckskin to adhere powerfully to a wider variety of surfaces found in most homes such as drywall, and wood.


Unlike other gecko-like materials, the UMass Amherst invention does not rely on mimicking the tiny, nanoscopic hairs found on gecko feet, but rather builds on “draping adhesion,” which derives from the gecko’s integrated anatomical skin-tendon-bone system. As King explains, “The key to making a strong adhesive connection is to conform to a surface while still maximizing stiffness.”


In Geckskin, the researchers created this ability by combining soft elastomers and ultra-stiff fabrics such as glass or carbon fiber fabrics. By “tuning” the relative stiffness of these materials, they can optimize Geckskin for a range of applications, the inventors say.


To substantiate their claims of Geckskin’s properties, the UMass Amherst team compared three versions to the abilities of a living Tokay gecko on several surfaces, as described in their journal article this month. As predicted by their theory, one Geckskin version matches and even exceeds the gecko’s performance on all tested surfaces.


Irschick points out, “The gecko’s ability to stick to a variety of surfaces is critical for its survival, but it’s equally important to be able to release and re-stick whenever it wants. Geckskin displays the same ability on different commonly used surfaces, opening up great possibilities for new technologies in the home, office or outdoors.”

Crosby notes, “It’s been a lot of fun thinking about all of the different things you ever would want to hang somewhere, and then doing it. Geckskin changes the way you think.” 

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Unravelling How Planaria Regenerate: Cut into 279 tiny pieces, each one regenerates to a full worm

Unravelling How Planaria Regenerate: Cut into 279 tiny pieces, each one regenerates to a full worm | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have begun teasing apart the genes behind regeneration.


Planarian flatworms are one of nature's little wonders. Although their 'cross-eyed' appearance is endearing, their real claim to fame comes from their regenerative ability. Split a planarian down the middle and you'll soon have two cross-eyed critters staring back at you; cut one up and each piece will regenerate an entire flatworm. How do they pull of such an incredible feat? In 2011, researchers discovered that planarian regeneration depends on the activity of stem cells ('neoblasts') distributed throughout the flatworm's body, but important questions about the process have remained unanswered. Are certain stem cells responsible for each organ? What activates the stem cells when regeneration is needed? An enterprising team of scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research has brought us closer to answering these questions by developing a new technique to study planarian regeneration and using it to discover some of they genes involved.

Regeneration isn't a uniquely planarian trait; starfish are well-known for growing back lost body parts, and even humans can regenerate to some extent (think of a wound healing). Planarians certainly excel at it, though; a flatworm can recover from being cut up into a staggering 279 tiny pieces, each of which regenerates into a new worm! Here's a fun conundrum for those inclined to such things: which worm, if any, can claim to be the 'original worm'? What if it were only two pieces instead of over 200? Would it make a difference if the two pieces were different sizes?


Using this technique, which they termed 'chemical amputation', the team induced lesions in planaria and investigated which genes were activated over the course of the regeneration process. The pharynx lacks neoblasts, but cells near the wound quickly start dividing and regenerate the amputated organ. To identify genes which were interesting, the team combined two screening approaches. First, a microarray picked out genes which were active during regeneration, providing a list of 356 candidates. Next, the team used RNAi to block the activity of each gene in amputated flatworms and checked whether the pharynx still regenerated. This narrowed the list down to twenty genes, which the team divided into different sets. Some genes affected stem cells in general, other affected feeding behaviour, and a handful directly affected the development of the pharynx. Of these, the transcription factor FoxA seemed to play the greatest role in regenerating the pharynx.

The team next looked at how regeneration went wrong in planaria with FoxA knocked down. They found that stem cells still migrated to the wound site and multiplied there, but the resulting outgrowth failed to become a pharynx. They also tried amputating the tails or heads of FoxA knock-downs, which then successfully regenerated. "Targeting FoxA completely blocked pharynx regeneration but had no effect on the regeneration of other organs," said Adler in a press release. “Currently, we think that FoxA triggers a cascade of gene expression that drives stem cells to produce all of the different cells of the pharynx, including muscle, neurons, and epithelial cells.” FoxA is known to play a role in specifying the pharynx in the sea anemone and in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, as well regulating the development of the intestine in vertebrates, so it makes sense that it's a central player in pharynx regeneration in planaria. More importantly, its identification can serve as a wedge to pry apart the details of regeneration; coupled with the other genes picked up in this study, it offers an exciting opportunity to expand our understanding of this important process.


References:

Adler C, et al. Selective amputation of the pharynx identifies a FoxA-dependent regeneration program in planariaeLife 3:e02238. (2014) doi:10.7554/eLife.02238


Rossant J. Genes for RegenerationeLife 3:e02517. (2014) doi:10.7554/eLife.02517

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Volcanoes That Act as Air-Conditioning for a Warming World

Volcanoes That Act as Air-Conditioning for a Warming World | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Many small eruptions over the past decade or so have helped restrain climate change.


On Valentine's Day, Indonesia's Mount Kelud blew its top and coated villages up to 500 kilometers away with ash. At the same time, the eruption injected a small but consequential amount of sulfur dioxide 28 kilometers up into the stratosphere. Tiny droplets of sulfuric acid then reflected away incoming sunlight, helping to cool the planet. Such “small” eruptions—along with others at places like Manam, Soufrière Hills, Jebel at Tair and Eyjafjallajökull, to name a few of the 17 between 2000 and 2012—have helped slow the pace of global warming, according to work published in Nature Geoscience.


“The uptick in early 21st-century volcanism clearly was a contributing factor to the hiatus,” says atmospheric scientist Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, lead author of the report. The volcanoes did not act alone. There was also an unusually quiescent sun, air pollution from China's coal-fired power plants and the mysterious workings of the ocean. Santer adds, “The net impact was to offset part of the human-caused greenhouse gas warming.”


In the meantime, global warming continues to gather strength, hidden behind volcanoes that may shutter their tops at any moment. Based on supersized eruptions such as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, reflective aerosols would then fall to Earth within a few years at most, leaving the planet exposed to the full heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases from human activities.


If the volcanoes do not do their part, a last resort may be required—bring our own aerosols. Advocates of one form of geoengineering want to step in, injecting sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere to augment or replace eruptions. Such deliberate tinkering with planetary-scale systems has been proposed as a fallback plan if climate change were to turn catastrophic, though at the cost of the stratospheric layer that helps to shield life from ultraviolet light. Sulfuric acid high in the sky has the unfortunate side effect of eliminating ozone. But given the inertia in reducing greenhouse gas pollution, the debate around geoengineering will undoubtedly linger longer than the aftermath of these small volcanic eruptions.

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NATURE: How to make graphene in a kitchen blender

NATURE: How to make graphene in a kitchen blender | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In Nature Materials, a team led by Coleman (and funded by the UK-based firm Thomas Swan) describe how they took a high-power (400-watt) kitchen blender and added half a litre of water, 10–25 millilitres of detergent and 20–50 grams of graphite powder (found in pencil leads). They turned the machine on for 10–30 minutes. The result, the team reports: a large number of micrometre-sized flakes of graphene, suspended in the water.


Coleman adds, hastily, that the recipe involves a delicate balance of surfactant and graphite, which he has not yet disclosed (this barrier dissuaded me from trying it out; he is preparing a detailed kitchen recipe for later publication). And in his laboratory, centrifuges, electron microscopes and spectrometers were also used to separate out the graphene and test the outcome. In fact, the kitchen-blender recipe was added late in the study as a bit of a gimmick — the main work was done first with an industrial blender (pictured).


Still, he says, the example shows just how simple his new method is for making graphene in industrial quantities. Thomas Swan has scaled the (patented) process up into a pilot plant and, says commercial director Andy Goodwin, hopes to be making a kilogram of graphene a day by the end of this year, sold as a dried powder and as a liquid dispersion from which it may be sprayed onto other materials.


“It is a significant step forward towards cheap and scalable mass production,” says Andrea Ferrari, an expert on graphene at the University of Cambridge, UK. “The material is of a quality close to the best in the literature, but with production rates apparently hundreds of times higher.”


The quality of the flakes is not as high as that of the ones the winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from Manchester University, famously isolated using Scotch Tape to peel off single sheets from graphite. Nor are they as large as the metre-scale graphene sheets that firms today grow atom by atom from a vapour. But outside of high-end electronics applications, smaller flakes suffice — the real question is how to make lots of them.


Kitchen blenders aren’t the only way to produce reasonably high-quality flakes of graphene. Ferrari still thinks that using ultrasound to rip graphite apart could give better materials in some cases. And Xinliang Feng, from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, says that his recent publication, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, reports a way to produce higher-quality, fewer-layer graphene at higher rates by electrochemical means. Coleman points out that Thomas Swan have taken the technique far beyond what is reported in the paper.


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Study confirms monkeys can do math

Study confirms monkeys can do math | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have long suspected that monkeys are capable of mental arithmetics and a new study is helping them prove it. A research team led by neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone trained three rhesus macaques to identify symbols representing the numbers zero to 25. They then taught the test subjects how to perform addition. To eliminate the possibility of rote learning, the team had the monkeys learn an entirely different set of symbols representing the numbers zero to 25. The monkeys were able to reapply their previous knowledge to the new set and continue performing basic mathematics.


The image above shows one of the monkeys preparing to choose the four and five combination on the panel. It has learned that the combined value is greater than eight and will therefore yield a larger number of liquid drops. According to the study, all three monkeys were on average capable of choosing the correct answer "well above" 50 percent of the time. This rules out the possibility of chance. What's also interesting is how the monkeys were routinely undervaluing the smaller number in a given equation. This challenges the idea that mammalian brains perceive numbers logarithmically and may help researchers better understand how human beings process numbers.



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Eli Levine's curator insight, April 22, 11:33 AM

And we think we're the only intelligent ones in the universe.

 

Forget about finding sentient life on other planets, there's plenty of it down here on Earth.

 

Arguably, these animals are somewhat smarter than at least the people who are running the show in our current incarnation of society.  These animals at least don't destroy the world in which they're living in for the sake of abstract concepts, ideologies, beliefs, preferences or any other thing that is not really needed for our sake and well being, as organisms first.

 

Diseased brains, that's who we've got running our show.

 

And it is all thanks to their brains and sense organs that they're unable to connect with life, the universe and everything for their own sakes in the context of life, the universe and everything, let alone, for all of ours'.

 

Take them out in straight jackets, from corporate executives, to ideological leaders, to shareholders, to all politicians who won't or don't adapt according to natural law and societal laws.  No harm to the insane and pathetic.  If they resist, use tasers and tranquilizer guns to stun them.  These people are dangerous to themselves and dangerous to others, no matter what position they may be holding at present.

 

All our leadership cadre must change, in practice and in content.

 

Or else, they're going to die too, along with all the rest of us.

 

Silly brains.

 

Think about it.

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Chickens living just a few hundred years ago may have looked far different from the chickens of today

Chickens living just a few hundred years ago may have looked far different from the chickens of today | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ancient DNA adds a twist to the story of how barnyard chickens came to be, finds a study to be published April 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Analyzing DNA from the bones of chickens that lived 200-2300 years ago in Europe, researchers report that just a few hundred years ago domestic chickens may have looked far different from the chickens we know today.


The results suggest that some of the traits we associate with modern domestic chickens — such as their yellowish skin — only became widespread in the last 500 years, much more recently than previously thought.


The study is part of a larger field of research that aims to understand when, where and how humans turned wild plants and animals into the crops, pets and livestock we know today.


Generally, any mutations that are widespread in domestic plants and animals but absent from their wild relatives are assumed to have played a key role in the process, spreading as people and their livestock moved across the globe. But a growing number of ancient DNA studies tell a different tale.


Chickens are descended from a wild bird called the Red Junglefowl that humans started raising roughly 4,000-5,000 years ago in South Asia. To pinpoint the genetic changes that transformed this shy, wild bird into the chickens we know today, researchers analyzed DNA from the skeletal remains of 81 chickens retrieved from a dozen archeological sites across Europe dating from 200 to 2,300 years old.


The researchers focused on two genes known to differ between domestic chickens and their wild counterparts: a gene associated with yellow skin color, called BCDO2, and a gene involved in thyroid hormone production, called TSHR.


Though the exact function of TSHR is unknown, it may be linked to the domestic chicken’s ability to lay eggs year-round – a trait that Red Junglefowl and other wild birds don’t have.


When the team compared the ancient sequences to the DNA of modern chickens, only one of the ancient chickens had the yellow skin so common in chickens today. Similarly, less than half of the ancient chickens had the version of the TSHR gene found worldwide in modern chickens.


The results suggest that these traits only became widespread within the last 500 years — thousands of years after the first barnyard chickens came to be. “Just because a plant or animal trait is common today doesn’t mean that it was bred into them from the beginning,” Larson said.

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