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Lonely Planet Lost in Space: A Starless Planet Floating Alone

Lonely Planet Lost in Space: A Starless Planet Floating Alone | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A strange, free-range world is found. Just 20 years ago, astronomers imagined that planets beyond the Solar System would be more or less like the ones we know: small, rocky worlds like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars orbiting relatively close to their stars, and big, gassy ones like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, farther away. (Even then, Pluto was recognized as an oddball, though it hadn’t been demoted yet.) Then the first actual exoplanet was discovered, and it turned out to be a big, gaseous world orbiting ridiculously close to its star. Dozens of others very much like it soon turned up, and the astronomers’ preconceptions were abruptly laid to rest. But at least these so-called “hot Jupiters” actually orbited a star. Not so for a new planet just reported in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The object, known only as CFBDSIR2149, appears to be a planet from four to seven times as massive as Jupiter, floating along with a cluster of stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group — but tethered to no one star in particular.

 

That’s the only reason the planet was spotted at all, in fact. If it were orbiting a star, the parent sun’s bright glare would make even a huge planet tough to discern. It would be like trying to see a candle sitting next to a searchlight. The team of French and Canadian astronomers who made the discovery weren’t looking for planets in any case. They were looking for brown dwarfs, objects too big to be classified as planets, but too small to ignite the nuclear reactions that would qualify them as full-blown stars.

 

But when CFBDSIR2149 showed up in the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Mauna Kea, says co-discoverer Etienne Artigau, of the University of Montreal, “we saw that it was very red compared with the typical brown dwarf.” That meant it was relatively cool. It could still be a brown dwarf, but it would have to be billions of years old to have lost so much of its internal heat. If the object were very young, its temperature ruled it out as a brown dwarf at all. In general, says Artigau, “it would not be a trivial thing to distinguish an old, massive object from a young, small one.”

 

In this case, however, there was an extra clue: careful measurements with the European Southern Observatory’s New Technology Telescope showed that CFBDSIR2149 is moving across the sky in the same direction and speed as the AB Doradus group of stars. It’s possible that this is pure coincidence. The odds are 87%, however, that it is indeed part of the group. And since astronomers know the group itself is between 50 and 120 million years old, that means CFBDSIR2149 is a young planet.

 

It’s not the first free-floating planet ever found, the scientists hasten to make clear. Astronomers have found indirect hints that many more may be roaming the galaxy, and theorists have no trouble explaining how such a thing could happen. CFBDSIR2149 might have formed originally as part of a solar system and then been sling-shotted out in a close encounter with another massive planet. Or it might have formed directly from a small collapsing cloud of gas and dust.

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Nanoscale neuronal implant developed that accesses single neurons

Nanoscale neuronal implant developed that accesses single neurons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A thin, flexible electrode developed at the University of Michigan is 10 times smaller than the nearest competition and could make long-term measurements of neural activity practical at last.

This kind of technology could eventually be used to send signals to prosthetic limbs, overcoming inflammation larger electrodes cause that damages both the brain and the electrodes.

 

The main problem that neurons have with electrodes is that they make terrible neighbors. In addition to being enormous compared to the neurons, they are stiff and tend to rub nearby cells the wrong way. The resident immune cells spot the foreigner and attack, inflaming the brain tissue and blocking communication between the electrode and the cells.

 

The new electrode developed by the teams of Daryl Kipke, a professor of biomedical engineering, Joerg Lahann, a professor of chemical engineering, and Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, is unobtrusive and even friendly in comparison. It is a thread of highly conductive carbon fiber, coated in plastic to block out signals from other neurons. The conductive gel pad at the end cozies up to soft cell membranes, and that close connection means the signals from brain cells come in much clearer.

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Illacme plenipes: The leggiest animal in the world

Illacme plenipes: The leggiest animal in the world | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Illacme plenipes almost merits the name millipede, with its 750 legs – and it can squeeze silk out of the hairs on its back.

 

There's a problem with the names of things: they're often wrong. Peanuts are not nuts, catgut is generally made from sheep, shooting stars are actually rocks, and any country that calls itself a Democratic Republic is almost certainly a totalitarian dictatorship. The same is true of those notorious little scuttlers, the millipedes and centipedes.

 

Some centipedes have well over 100 legs – Gonibregmatus plurimipes has 382 – so we should really call them multicentipedes. And no known millipede has 1000 legs: it's rare for them to have more than a few hundred. One species, however, comes close. Illacme plenipes can have up to 750 legs, more than any other animal. We know little about it, but as we find out more, it seems its overabundance of lower limbs is the least of its peculiarities.

 

I. plenipes was thought to be extinct, as it had not been seen since 1928. But then it was rediscovered in 2005, by graduate student Paul Marek, now at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Marek found it lurking underground in a single ravine in San Benito County, California.

 

Animals don't evolve a multitude of legs just to amuse us: there's presumably some advantage. Marek says I. plenipes's legs may help it to burrow underground, where it spends all its time. Or they could be a sort of accident, a consequence of I. plenipes evolving another anatomical advantage: its digestive tract is spiral-shaped and thus has a high surface area, allowing it to absorb more water and nutrients from its food before excreting it. Marek says I. plenipes may have evolved a very long gut to cope with a sparse diet – with the legs as an incidental result.

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Scientific Graduate Degree For $100?

Scientific Graduate Degree For $100? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Conventional ­university teaching is way too costly, inefficient and ­ineffective to survive for long, says Sebastian Thrun.

Via António Antunes
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Brazil aims to clone 8 of their endangered animals

Brazil aims to clone 8 of their endangered animals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Conservationists in Brazil are poised to try cloning eight animals that are under pressure, including jaguars and maned wolves.

Other conservation groups have welcomed the plan, but say the priority should always be to preserve species in the wild by minimising hunting and maintaining habitats. "While cloning is a tool of last resort, it may prove valuable for some species," says Ian Harrison of the Biodiversity Assessment Unit at Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia. "Experimenting with it now, using species that are not at immediate risk of extinction, is important."

 

None of the targeted animals are critically endangered, but Brazil's agricultural research agency, Embrapa, wants a headstart. Working with the Brasilia Zoological Garden, it has collected around 420 tissue samples, mostly from carcasses. The eight species live in the Cerrado, a tropical savannah. They will be cloned and kept in captivity as a reserve in case wild populations collapse.

 

Within a month, Embrapa hopes to begin cloning the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), which is classed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. About 13,000 remain across South America.

 

As well as jaguars and maned wolves, the researchers hope to clone black lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysopygus), bush dogs (Speothos venaticus), coatis, collared anteaters (Tamandua tetradactyla), gray brocket deer (Mazama gouazoupira) and bison.

 

There are no plans to release cloned animals into the wild, says Embrapa's Carlos Frederico Martins. Being clones, they would lack the genetic variability of wild populations. Embrapa created Brazil's first cloned animal in 2001, a cow called Vitória that died last year. It has since cloned over 100 animals, mainly cows and horses.

 

Rare animals have been cloned before, including the ox-like gaur, a wild sheep called a mouflon, a wild cow called the banteng, and even an extinct mountain goat – the Pyrenean ibex – that died at birth. Since then, more versatile cloning techniques have been developed, increasing the chances of success.

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LeAnn Coppler's curator insight, May 9, 2013 11:35 AM

Conservationists in brazil want to clone eight of the endangered animals. Some of the Animals are maned wolf and lion tamarins. They want to freeze living cells before the genes disappear completely from the Earth.

 

I chose this article because I think its an awesome idea to clone animals. Especially ones that might die out otherwise. Although I'm pretty sure cloning is a very long and difficult process.

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New Google Mars Images Are Even Sharper Than Google's View Of Our Own Planet

New Google Mars Images Are Even Sharper Than Google's View Of Our Own Planet | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Google Mars is a spin-off of Google Earth that shows interactive maps of the Red Planet's surface. The feature was released in 2009 as part of the free downloadable Google Earth app, but until now, most of the satellite images were low-resolution.


The program received a major update this week, thanks to high-definition images beamed back from the Context Camera on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Now, Earth-bound folks can hone down to 20 feet per pixel on the planet's surface. That's a crisper picture than most areas of our planet covered by Google Earth, which typically have a resolution of 50 feet per pixel, Wired's Adam Mann points out.

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Brain-damaged comatose man in a vegetative state for over a decade "tells" scientists he is not in pain

Brain-damaged comatose man in a vegetative state for over a decade "tells" scientists he is not in pain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A breakthrough that could lead to improvements in the treatment of brain-damaged patients who cannot move or speak. "A crash victim thought to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade has used the power of thought to tell scientists he is not in pain."

 

Canadian Scott Routley, from London, Ontario, communicated with researchers via a brain scan, proving that he is conscious and aware. It is the first time such a severely brain-damaged patient has been able to provide clinically relevant information to doctors.

 

British neuroscientist Professor Adrian Owen, who leads the research team at the Brain and Mind Institute of Western Ontario, said: "Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is." By monitoring the activity on an fMRI scanner, the researchers can ask yes or no questions. One type of brain activity is taken as a "yes" and the other as a "no".

 

Routley suffered traumatic brain injuries when his car was in collision with a police vehicle. Until Prof Owen's intervention, he was assumed to have been in a vegetative state for more than 12 years.

Vegetative state patients are not aware of their surroundings or capable of conscious thought. Neurologist Professor Bryan Young, from University Hospital in London, Ontario, who has cared for Routley for 10 years, said the scan results overturned all previous assessments of the injured man's condition. "He had the clinical picture of a typical vegetative patient – no emotional response, no fixation or following with his eyes," said Prof Young. "He didn't have any spontaneous movements that looked meaningful and I was quite impressed and amazed that he was able to show these cognitive responses with fMRI."

 

Prof Owen has previously shown that nearly one in five vegetative patients may in fact be conscious.Another of his patients, road accident victim Steven Graham, was able to answer "yes" when asked if he knew about his two-year-old niece, Ceili. Since she was born after his car accident, this demonstrated that he was able to create and store memories. The Panorama team spent more than a year filming several vegetative and minimally conscious patients taking part in pioneering research at the Brain and Mind Institute and Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

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A trip to outer space — for just $95,000

A trip to outer space — for just $95,000 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Why settle for another ho-hum cruise around the globe or even an expedition to Mount Everest when a truly out-of-this-world travel experience is at hand? That’s what Netherlands-based Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) is promising — a suborbital journey that will qualify you as an official astronaut, all for the “bargain” price of $95,000. Of course, it’s a deal only in a relative sense — the closest competition is a similar suborbital program being offered by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic (think Virgin Atlantic airline gone outer space), but that runs $200,000.

 

 


Via Stratocumulus
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Patrik D'haeseleer's comment, November 13, 2012 2:33 PM
Suborbital does not equal "outer space". People that don't even know this essential difference probably shouldn't be reporting on space issues to begin with.
Stratocumulus's comment, November 13, 2012 5:24 PM
Tell that to Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom. In addition, V-2 missiles fired against England from Germany during WWII never reached orbit but they most certainly reached outer space.
Asti Toro's comment, November 15, 2012 3:47 PM
Adventurers highest escalation
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Astronomers find tantalizing hints of a potentially habitable exoplanet

Astronomers find tantalizing hints of a potentially habitable exoplanet | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Located 43 light-years away in the southern constellation Pictor, the orange-colored dwarf star HD 40307 has previously been found to hold three "super-Earth" exoplanets in close orbit. Now, a team of researchers poring over data from ESO's HARPS planet-hunting instrument are suggesting that there are likely at least six super-Earth exoplanets orbiting HD 40307—with one of them appearing to be tucked neatly into the star's water-friendly "Goldilocks" zone.

 

HD 40307 g is located far enough away from its star to likely not be tidally locked, according to the team's paper. This means it wouldn't have one side subject to constant heat and radiation while its other "far side" remains cold and dark, thus avoiding the intense variations in global climate, weather and winds that would come as a result. "If the signal corresponding to HD 40307 g is a genuine Doppler signal of planetary origin, this candidate planet might be capable of supporting liquid water on its surface according to the current definition of the liquid water habitable zone around a star and is not likely to suffer from tidal locking." If HD 40307 g is indeed confirmed, it may very well get onto the official short list of potentially habitable worlds outside our Solar System—although those others are quite a bit closer to the mass of our own planet.

 

While the other planetary candidates in the HD 40307 system are positioned much more closely to the star, with b, c, d, and e within or at the equivalent orbital distance of Mercury, g appears to be in the star's liquid-water habitable zone, orbiting at 0.6 AU in an approximately 200-day-long orbit. At this distance the estimated 7-Earth-mass exoplanet receives around 62% of the radiation that Earth gets from the Sun.

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The worlds fastest stop watch at CERN: Light pulses a million times shorter than previously possible

The worlds fastest stop watch at CERN: Light pulses a million times shorter than previously possible | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Light pulses a million times shorter than previously possible: Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology are proposing a new measuring method, using equipment which will soon be available at CERN.

 

Heavy ion collisions at CERN should be able to produce the shortest light pulses ever created. This was demonstrated by computer simulations at the Vienna University of Technology. The pulses are so short that they cannot even be measured by today’s technological equipment. Now, a method has been proposed to create the world’s most precise stopwatch for the world’s shortest light pulses, using a detector which is going to be installed at CERN in 2018.


Phenomena taking place on very short time scales are often investigated using ultra short laser pulses. Today, pulse durations of the order of attoseconds (billionths of a billionths of a second, 10^-18 seconds) can be created. But these records could soon be broken: “Atomic nuclei in particle colliders like the LHC at CERN or at RHIC can create light pulses which are still a million times shorter than that”, says Andreas Ipp from TU Vienna.

 

In the ALICE experiment at CERN, lead nuclei are collided almost at the speed of light. The debris of the scattered nuclei together with new particles created by the power of the impact form a quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter which is so hot that even protons and neutrons melt. Their building blocks – quarks and gluons – can move independently without being bound to each other. This quark-gluon plasma only exists for several yoctoseconds (10E-24 seconds).

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Mass extinction study provides lessons for modern world

Mass extinction study provides lessons for modern world | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Cretaceous Period of Earth history ended with a mass extinction that wiped out numerous species, most famously the dinosaurs. A new study now finds that the structure of North American ecosystems made the extinction worse than it might have been. The mountain-sized asteroid that left the now-buried Chicxulub impact crater on the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is almost certainly the ultimate cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, which occurred 65 million years ago. Nevertheless, "Our study suggests that the severity of the mass extinction in North America was greater because of the ecological structure of communities at the time.

 

 Peter Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences and Kenneth Angielczyk of the Field Museum, reconstructed terrestrial food webs for 17 Cretaceous ecological communities. Seven of these food webs existed within two million years of the Chicxulub impact and 10 came from the preceding 13 million years. The findings are based on a computer model showing how disturbances spread through the food web. Roopnarine developed the simulation to predict how many animal species would become extinct from a plant die-off, a likely consequence of the impact. "Besides shedding light on this ancient extinction, our findings imply that seemingly innocuous changes to ecosystems caused by humans might reduce the ecosystems' abilities to withstand unexpected disturbances," Roopnarine said.

 

The team's computer model describes all plausible diets for the animals under study. In one run, Tyrannosaurus might eat only Triceratops, while in another it eats only duck-billed dinosaurs, and in a third it might eat a more varied diet. This stems from the uncertainty regarding exactly what Cretaceous animals ate, but this uncertainty actually worked to the study's benefit.

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NASA: DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space

NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a "kit" of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.

 

Scientists have been extracting fragments of DNA from meteorites for decades now, but there was never really hard proof that those pieces of biological molecules were native to the extraterrestrial object rather than terrestrial contamination that occurred when the object slammed into Earth. So while the idea of DNA riding aboard extraterrestrial objects has been floated before, this is the first time we’ve been presented real evidence backing that notion. The idea isn’t that these building blocks are just passengers aboard meteorites, but that the chemistry inside asteroids and comets can actually manufacture the essential building blocks of biology. And a liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis of sample meteorites and the environments where they were found seems to confirm this. The LC and MS analysis separated and analyzed the component parts of the samples and found adenine and guanine, two of the components of the double helix that make up the code that tells our cells what to do. They also found hypoxanthine and xanthine, which don’t factor in to DNA but are used in other biological functions.

 

But more interestingly, the researchers found three nucleobase-related molecules: purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine. These last two are rarely used in biology, but they are like analogs for nucleobases--the same core molecule but structurally slightly different. That’s really important because if the meteorites were terrestrially contaminated, they wouldn’t be there (because they are not used in biology). But if the chemical processes going on inside an extraterrestrial object really are churning out prebiotic stuff, then you would expect to see all kinds of nucleobases--the ones used for biology, and others that aren’t.


Moreover, analysis of the Antarctic ice and Australian soil around where the meteorites were found showed the amounts of the two nucleobases as well as the hypoxanthine and xanthine to be drastically lower. If the contamination were terrestrial, one could expect equal amounts of the molecules (or less) to be present in the meteorite samples, certainly not more.
It’s a pretty convincing case, though one that will undergo a lot more scientific scrutiny. If comets and asteroids really are churning out the ingredients for life, it certainly changes our picture of life in the universe, and the possibility that other rocks out there might be harboring their own biological systems.

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Fungus Invades Human Brains

Fungus Invades Human Brains | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The primary culprit in the recent flare-up caused by tainted steroids, Exserohilum rostratum, is not an especially picky eater. Although the fungus prefers grasses, it will dine on many items—including human brains.

 

The nation's ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak has killed 30 and sickened 419 people so far, but the fungus responsible has never wrought such havoc before. The fungus, Exserohilum rostratum, is a plant-eating generalist equipped with a spore-launching mechanism ideal for going airborne, is not an especially picky eater and, although it prefers grasses, will dine on many items—including humans. But just how a pathogen typically associated with the great outdoors got into the three lots of injectable steroids prepared inside an admittedly filthy laboratory—and why only three lots—remains a puzzling mystery.

 

The errant fungus has been identified in lab samples from 52 of those affected and was similarly found growing in unopened vials of the steroid alleged to have caused the outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A third recalled lot is still being tested. But E. rostratum is not a household name, even among mycologists.  The fungus, which seems to prefer tropical and subtropical environments, has turned up on a wide variety of plant species, says Kurt Leonard, an emeritus professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota.

 

Most often the fungus shows up on grasses and other monocots—plants often distinguished by flower parts in threes and parallel leaf venation—such as pineapples, bananas and sugarcane, but it has also been found on non-monocots such as grapes and muskmelon. It's a fungus that is not, apparently, very picky about its food. "It's just a really common fungus in the environment that mostly lives on dead and dying plant tissue," Leonard says. There are many such others, and many of them can also occasionally infect animals or people.

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Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change - slime molds redefine intelligence

Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change - slime molds redefine intelligence | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Gardeners sometimes encounter them in their backyards—spongy yellow masses squatting in the dirt or slowly swallowing wood chips. Hikers often spot them clinging to the sides of rotting logs like spilled bowls of extra cheesy macaroni. In Mexico some people reportedly scrape their tender bodies from trees and rocks and scramble them like eggs. They are slime molds: gelatinous amoebae that have little to do with the kinds of fungal mold that ruin sourdough and pumpernickel. Biologists currently classify slime molds as protists, a taxonomic group reserved for "everything we don't really understand," says Chris Reid of the University of Sydney.

 

Something scientists have come to understand is that slime molds are much smarter than they look. One species in particular, the SpongeBob SquarePants–yellow Physarum polycephalum, can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu—and all this without a brain or nervous system. "Slime molds are redefining what you need to have to qualify as intelligent," Reid says.

 

In the wild, P. polycephalum rummages through leaf litter and oozes along logs searching for the bacteria, fungal spores and other microbes that it envelops and digests à la the amorphous alien in the 1958 horror film The Blob. Although P. polycephalum often acts like a colony of cooperative individuals foraging together, it in fact spends most of its life as a single cell containing millions of nuclei, small sacs of DNA, enzymes and proteins. This one cell is a master shape-shifter. P. polycephalum takes on different appearances depending on where and how it is growing: In the forest it might fatten itself into giant yellow globs or remain as unassuming as a smear of mustard on the underside of a leaf; in the lab, confined to a petri dish, it usually spreads itself thin across the agar, branching like coral. Biologists first brought the slime mold into the lab more than three decades ago to study the way it moves—which has a lot in common with they way muscles work on the molecular level—and to examine the way it reattaches itself when split. "In the earliest research, no one thought it could make choices or behave in seemingly intelligent ways," Reid explains. That thinking has completely changed.

 

Navigating a maze is a pretty impressive feat for a slime mold, but the protist is in fact capable of solving more complex spatial problems: Inside laboratories slime molds have effectively re-created Tokyo's railway network in miniature as well as the highways of Canada, the U.K. and Spain. When researchers placed oat flakes or other bits of food in the same positions as big cities and urban areas, slime molds first engulfed the entirety of the edible maps. Within a matter of days, however, the protists thinned themselves away, leaving behind interconnected branches of slime that linked the pieces of food in almost exactly the same way that man-made roads and rail lines connect major hubs in Tokyo, Europe and Canada. In other words, a single-celled brainless amoebae did not grow living branches between pieces of food in a random manner; rather, they behaved like a team of human engineers, growing the most efficient networks possible. Just as engineers design railways to get people from one city to another as quickly as possible, given the terrain—only laying down the building materials that are needed—the slime molds hit upon the most economical routes from one morsel to another, conserving energy. Andrew Adamatzky of the University of the West of England Bristol and other researchers were so impressed with the protists' behaviors that they have proposed using slime molds to help plan future roadway construction, either with a living protist or a computer program that adopts its decision-making process. Researchers have also simulated real-world geographic constraints like volcanoes and bodies of water by confronting the slime mold with deterrents that it must circumvent, such as bits of salt or beams of light.

 

Compared with most organisms, slime molds have been on the planet for a very long time—they first evolved at least 600 million years ago and perhaps as long as one billion years ago. At the time, no organisms had yet evolved brains or even simple nervous systems. Yet slime molds do not blindly ooze from one place to another—they carefully explore their environments, seeking the most efficient routes between resources. They do not accept whatever circumstances they find themselves in, but rather choose conditions most amenable to their survival. They remember, anticipate and decide. By doing so much with so little, slime molds represent a successful and admirable alternative to convoluted brain-based intelligence. You might say that they break the mold.

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Blue Brain Project Year Three Update

Blue Brain Project Year Three Update | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

luebrain is a ten-year documentary film-in-the-making about the twenty-first century race to reverse engineer the human brain. Such is the goal of The Blue Brain Project, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, one of the highest-profile neuroscience projects in the world today. Blue Brain’s audacious leader is Henry Markram, who publicly announced in 2009 that he seeks to reverse-engineer a human brain with digital simulations of all the physical properties of every neuron, powered by IBM supercomputers, by 2020.

 

Director Noah Hutton began shooting in 2009, focusing exclusively on Markram's Blue Brain Project-- but starting in Year 3, the scope of the film has expanded to include the work of other prominent projects and labs seeking to understand the brain through different methods, including Connectome author, Sebastian Seung, Rafael Yuste of Columbia University, and Jeff Lichtman of Harvard University.

 

The film will continue to survey the work of other projects and their leaders in years to come, with yearly shorts released ahead of a full re-edit into a documentary feature due for completion in 2020. As the Blue Brain simulation is built over the course of this decade, so too will this documentary about a historic quest in human history.

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Rogier Warnawa's curator insight, March 20, 2013 4:49 PM

The quest to reverse-engineer a human brain with digital simulations

 
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The video games you play with your mind

The video games you play with your mind | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Companies like NeuroSky Inc., and Emotiv Systems are developing consumer-grade headsets that read the brain's electrical signals to control onscreen action.

 

The gaming controller of the future won't have joysticks or buttons; it'll wrap around your head. A number of companies like San Jose-based NeuroSky are developing affordable, consumer-ready controllers that takes cues from the electrical signals in a wearer's brain to dictate onscreen action. Here, a concise guide to the new smart technology:

 

How does it work? The head-mounted controller reads the brain's electrical activity much in the same way that an electroencephalograph, or EEG, works. It then beams that information via BlueTooth to a connected smartphone. NeuroSky, Inc., which has made news with a Star Wars-based children's toy called Force Trainer that let children suspend a ping pong ball in the air using a fan and their brainwaves, sells a mind-control headset called MindWave Mobile.

 

Does it read your thoughts? Not exactly. The technology only differentiates between between two states: Relaxed or concentrating. The controller can't track "specific, purposeful actions," says Timothy Hay at The Wall Street Journal. "Some players of mind games might be underwhelmed that they don't have total control in the same way they could with a joystick."

 

What are the games like? The NeuroSky controller comes with an interactive movie called MyndPlay, an immersive experience that's like the popular line of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, says Edwin Kee at Ubergizmo, because it allows users to make choices that steer the movie's plot in different directions. Another company called Emotiv Systems, which offers a similar multi-sensor device, packages a variety of popular titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, retinkered to work with their brainwave-sensing headset.

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Videos should look like the web itself -- annotated, remixed and popped

TED Talks Videos on the web should work like the web itself: Dynamic, full of links, maps and information that can be edited and updated live, says Mozilla Foundation COO Ryan Merkley.

Via António Antunes
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Australia's Tasmanian devils to get fresh start free of facial infectious tumor on new island

Australia's Tasmanian devils to get fresh start free of facial infectious tumor on new island | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A group of Tasmanian devils will be transferred to a small Australian island to start what is hoped will be a self-sustaining population, free from the facial tumour that has devastated their species.

 

Tasmania's Environment Minister Brian Wightman said 14 of the marsupials, carefully selected from captive breeding programmes across Australia, would be released Thursday on Maria Island, a nature sanctuary off the state's east coast. He said it was a "major step forward" in the race against extinction of the devil due to an extremely contagious facial tumour that has decimated the once-rampant rat-like marsupial. Their plight is so dire authorities have started breeding a so-called "insurance population" in captivity to ensure they do not die out. "The Maria Island translocation is designed to establish a self-sustaining population of healthy wild devils in a safe haven where they are protected from interaction with the deadly facial tumour disease," Wightman said.

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Landmark Study Finds Cause of Hydra Immortality is Linked to Human Lifespan

Landmark Study Finds Cause of Hydra Immortality is Linked to Human Lifespan | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The hydra is a unique multicellular organism. What make it so special is that it is essentially immortal and shows no signs of aging either at the cellular or organism level. It preferentially reproduces asexually, rather than mating it forms buds which break off into progeny. The animal is able to do this by maintaining a continuous robust and unending supply of stem cells.


One theory as to the cause of human aging is the progressive loss of stem cells. Tissue in the body can recover from damage, be it internal or external, through the generation of fresh new cells from division of stem cells residing in niches in those tissues. However with advancing age, eventually these stem cell niches become depleted and the organism, in this case people, reach the end of life.


In the current landmark study, researchers looked to find which genes in hydra are responsible for a never ending supply of stem cells. They discovered this characteristic depends specifically on a gene called FoxO, a fork-head box O transcription factor. This gene is a master genetic switch that when active allows for the expression of many genes involved in cell cycling. When FoxO activity was reduced in hydra they shows signs of aging and cell senescence.


These findings are quite interesting because is has already been shon that a FoxO gene is involved in human aging as well. There is a specific variant of the FoxO3, a human gene that has been linked to extreme human lifespan. It is more commonly found in centenarians.

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Bed Bugs Dying After Blood Meal From People Who Had Taken Merck & Co.’s Stromectol

Bed Bugs Dying After Blood Meal From People Who Had Taken Merck & Co.’s Stromectol | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Three out of five bed bugs died after blood meals from people who had taken Stromectol, also called ivermectin, three hours earlier, according to research presented at a scientific meeting in Atlanta yesterday. The pill, along with conventional measures such as pesticides, may improve chances of eliminating the pest, said John Sheele, an emergency physician at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, who led the study.

 

Stromectol is used to treat diseases caused by worm parasites such as river blindness, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness, and elephantiasis, or lymphatic filariasis, which causes certain parts of the body to become enlarged. Sheele’s research suggests its pesticidal properties may also fight bed-beg incursions, experienced by more than 400,000 New York City residents in 2009.

 

“Ivermectin is effective against a broad range of insects -- body lice, head lice, scabies,” Sheele said in an interview. “What I’d like to be able to do is a real-world experiment where we find people who have bed bugs, treat them with the regimen and see does it get rid of their infestation.”


Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. The reddish-brown, wingless parasites are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. While they aren’t known to spread disease, bed-bug bites can cause itchy welts, excessive scratching of which can lead to skin infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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How Your Brain Experiences the Passage of Time

How Your Brain Experiences the Passage of Time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have located a specific set of neurons that indicate how time passes, confirming that the brain plays an essential role in how we experience the passage of time.


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Viruses are capable of counteracting the ability of bacteria to commit 'suicide,' new research shows

Viruses are capable of counteracting the ability of bacteria to commit 'suicide,' new research shows | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Bacteria commit altruistic suicide by producing a lethal toxin within their cells after being infected by certain viral parasites, known as bacteriophages. The new study has shown that bacteriophage mutants have evolved that can suppress the toxin. These rare mutants produce an antitoxin made of the genetic material RNA. Because the antitoxin is similar to an antitoxin normally manufactured by the bacteria, it prevents the toxin from completing its lethal function, and the virus can continue replicating without becoming a victim of the host's defensive system.

 

"This work highlights the incredibly dynamic world of adaptive co-evolution in bacteria and their viruses," said Professor Salmond, whose research was funded by the BBSRC. "The emergence of an RNA-based molecular mimicry in the virus to suppress bacterial suicide is an exciting observation."

 

The mutant bacteriophage is also able to transfer DNA encoding the defence system to a new bacterial host. In doing so, it may indirectly create populations of host cells inside which it can successfully replicate, while potentially providing the new host with better protection from competing viral predators.

 

"Multiple alternative and novel routes, through which different bacteriophages may evolve to evade abortive infection, remain to be discovered," added Salmond. "Because the bacteriophage investigated can pick up DNA from one bacterium and transfer it to a new host, this meant that escape mutants might be able to transfer the abortive infection system to other hosts – and that was confirmed. In effect, this could be viewed as an example of 'infectious altruism' – with a virus acting as a vector to transmit an antiviral defence system between bacteria."

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Blind cave fish still has circadian clock cycle but clock runs at 47 hours per cycle

Blind cave fish still has circadian clock cycle but clock runs at 47 hours per cycle | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A blind, cave-dwelling fish in Somalia knows what time it is, but its "day" is twice as long as ours. Most animals have an internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, that lasts around 24 hours and is modified by the light-dark cycle of a day.

 

The cavefish, Phreatichthys andruzzii, has evolved for nearly two million years in the isolated darkness of caves beneath the Somali desert. Professor Nick Foulkes, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, said that this particular species was chosen "because it was such an extreme example, having been isolated from a day-night cycle for so long". In the course of its evolution it has lost its eyes, colouration and scales, having no need for them in the pitch-black of an underground cave system. But it appears that the absence of day and night has caused a much more profound change in the fish's life rhythm.

 

After two million years in the dark, the cavefish have no need to react to the light, and their body clocks have permanently changed to reflect this. But these blind fish do still have a body clock, which can be reset by triggers other than light. Feeding the fish at regular times showed that both the zebrafish and the cavefish responded by resetting their circadian rhythms. Furthermore, when the cavefish were left to reset their clock according to their natural rhythm, the researchers found that their "day" is 47 hours long.

 

Professor Foulkes said that this was "possibly linked with food availability, or we could have caught them in the process of losing their clocks. If we look again at them in a few million years, they may have no trace of a circadian rhythm". The team plans to investigate whether this gradual loss of body clock is a common feature among all species of fish living in perpetual darkness.

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Claude Gronfier's curator insight, November 5, 2013 8:35 AM

Une espece de poisson vivant dans une grotte a l'obscurité possede un horloge biologique ayant une periode de 47h ! L'evolution a maintenu l'horloge biologique: surprenant! A 47h "circadian" period in a cave-dwelling fish. Surprising that evolution has kept a clock in this species.

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Humans, chimpanzees and other monkeys share DNA but not gene regulatory mechanisms

Humans, chimpanzees and other monkeys share DNA but not gene regulatory mechanisms | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Humans share over 95% of their DNA with their primate cousins. The expression or activity patterns of genes differ across species in ways that help explain each species' distinct biology and behavior. DNA factors that contribute to the differences were described on Nov. 6 at the American Society of Human Genetics 2012 meeting in a presentation by Yoav Gilad, Ph.D., associate professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago.

 

Dr. Gilad and his colleagues studied gene expression in lymphoblastoid cell lines, laboratory cultures of immortalized white blood cells, from eight humans, eight chimpanzees and eight rhesus monkeys. They found that the distinct gene expression patterns of the three species can be explained by corresponding changes in genetic and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms that determine when and how a gene's DNA code is transcribed to a messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule.

 

Dr. Gilad also determined that the epigenetics process known as histone modification also differs in the three species. The presence of histone marks during gene transcription indicates that the process is being prevented or modified. "These data allowed us to identify both conserved and species-specific enhancer and repressor regulatory elements, as well as characterize similarities and differences across species in transcription factor binding to these regulatory elements," Dr. Gilad said.

 

Among the similarities among the three species were the promoter regions of DNA that initiated transcription of a particular gene. In all three species, Dr. Gilad's lab found that transcription factor binding and histone modifications were identical in over 67% of regulatory elements in DNA segments that are regarded as promoter regions. The researchers presentation is titled, "Genome-wide comparison of genetic and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms in primates."

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Nobody Knows What Causes Namibian Fairy Circles

Nobody Knows What Causes Namibian Fairy Circles | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A study based on satellite images of African grasslands describes the circles’ life span, but the reasons for them are still unknown.

 

The circles, which range from about 6 to 30 feet in diameter, begin as bare spots on an otherwise continuous grass carpet; after a few years, taller grass starts to grow around the circle’s perimeter. This may be because the bare land “isn’t using the water, so the grass on the perimeter ends up taller,” Dr. Tschinkel said. Years of constant winds then blow soil from the circle, leaving a dish-shaped depression in the ground. Eventually, the circle is regrown with vegetation until it is no longer visible.

 

So while the reasons for the circles are still unknown, Dr. Tschinkel says his study has raised several crucial questions: “Why are they regularly distributed, rather than random or clumped; why do they appear with the grass dying suddenly; why is there taller grass at the perimeter; and why is there a difference in diameters?” Until then, he continued, “the mystery of the fairy circles, or at least what causes them, remains a mystery.”


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