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Kepler Spacecraft's data visualized: an interactive exploration of Earth-like exoplanets

Kepler Spacecraft's data visualized: an interactive exploration of Earth-like exoplanets | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

inShare Data visualization artist Jer Thorp has teamed up with Oblong Industries to create an interactive, gestural visualization of the data sent back by NASA's Kepler spacecraft. Kepler has returned quite a bit of data on its mission to find earth-like exoplanets in other parts of the Milky Way galaxy, and Thorp's open-source data visualization software and Oblong Industries' gestural control technology have come together to turn this data into a stunning 3D environment. Users can explore the exoplanets using natural gestures and — with the flick of a wrist — the data can be sorted and analyzed for patterns and trends.

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Pale blue dot or not? What the color of alien worlds can tell us

Pale blue dot or not? What the color of alien worlds can tell us | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Most people are familiar with the pale blue dot image of Earth taken by Voyager in 1990. Its blueness is significant, of course, because it is Earth’s abundant liquid water that makes it look that way. But if you looked at the light that is reflected from Earth carefully, you would see several interesting features. One, caused by vegetation, is called “red edge”. Green plants absorbs a lot of red light creating a big, sudden jump in reflectivity in the red bit of the visible light spectrum. An alien, if it could get a good look, would be able to tell than Earth had plenty of vegetation because of this red edge.

 

Hajime Kawahara at Tokyo Metropolitan University and Yuka Fujii at the University of Tokyo in Japan describe how they created 2D maps of what the light from an Earth-like planet would look like with various features on its surface. By watching a planet over time their technique is able to build up a more detailed image – a blue marble, rather than a pale blue dot. Maps like these may one day provide us with an indication of what the environment is like on a faraway exoplanet.

 

They note, however, that the characteristics of vegetation (or any organism with chlorophyll) could vary depending on their planet’s host star. The signature of chlorophyll near a hot star could have a blue, rather than red, edge to protect a plant’s leaves from overheating. Or on a planet that orbits a cool, dim star chlorophyll may appear black as it tries to absorb as much light as possible across the whole range of the visible spectrum.

 

A day where we have to use these techniques to decide which of an abundance of potential Earth 2.0s to travel to seems a long, long way away. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start daydreaming about which we will aim for first.

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Arctic Heatwave Tops 1,800-Year High, Says Study

Arctic Heatwave Tops 1,800-Year High, Says Study | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Summers on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard are now warmer than at any other time in the last 1,800 years, including during medieval times when parts of the northern hemisphere were as hot as, or hotter, than today, according to a new study in the journal Geology.

 

The naturally driven Medieval Warm Period, from about 950 to 1250, has been a favorite time for people who deny evidence that humans are heating the planet with industrial greenhouse gases. But the climate reconstruction from Svalbard casts new doubt on that era’s reach, and undercuts skeptics who argue that current warming is also natural. Since 1987, summers on Svalbard have been 2 degrees to 2.5 degrees C (3.6 to 4.5 degrees F) hotter than they were there during warmest parts of the Medieval Warm Period, the study found.

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Newly Discovered Comet May Become One Of The Brightest In History

Newly Discovered Comet May Become One Of The Brightest In History | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

If astronomers' early predictions hold true, the holidays next year may hold a glowing gift for stargazers—a superbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn.

 

Even with powerful telescopes, comet 2012 S1 (ISON) is now just a faint glow in the constellation Cancer. But the ball of ice and rocks might become visible to the naked eye for a few months in late 2013 and early 2014—perhaps outshining the moon, astronomers say.

 

The comet is already remarkably bright, given how far it is from the sun, astronomer Raminder Singh Samra said. What's more, 2012 S1 seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth.

 

So what makes a comet a showstopper? A lot depends on how much gas and dust is blasted off the central core of ice and rocks. The bigger the resulting cloud and tail, the more reflective the body may be. Because 2012 S1 appears to be fairly large—possibly approaching two miles (three kilometers) wide—and will fly very close to the sun, astronomers have calculated that the comet may shine brighter, though not bigger, than the full moon in the evening sky.

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Burn victim identified by DNA in digestive system of maggots feeding on victim's body

Burn victim identified by DNA in digestive system of maggots feeding on victim's body | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

When Mexican police found a body in the woods it was burned beyond recognition, its DNA too damaged to be used for identification. Luckily, investigators were able to extract DNA from elsewhere - the digestive systems of maggots that had been feeding on the body. This is the first time that human DNA from a maggot gut has been analysed in this way to successfully identify a victim in a legal case.

 

Police suspected that the body was that of a woman who had been abducted 10 weeks earlier because they found her high-school graduation ring near the crime scene. But when forensic investigators failed to obtain a decent DNA sample from any of the body's tissues, they turned to a team of pathologists at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León in San Nicolás, Mexico.

 

María de Lourdes Chávez-Briones, Marta Ortega-Martínez and their colleagues dissected three maggot larvae collected from the body and extracted the contents of their gastrointestinal tracts. The human DNA they isolated allowed them to determine that the body was female. They then performed a paternity test between this DNA and that of the abducted woman's father. It revealed a 99.7 per cent chance that she was his daughter

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Julieta Isoler's comment, February 25, 4:40 PM
I find that it is amazing how now in days we begin to rely on insects to help us find what we need. Like the article said it was the first time that human DNA from a maggot gut has been analysed in this way to successfully identify a victim in a legal case, so again its super cool how we can interact witht hem to find what we need.
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New Virus Related To SARS Detected In The Middle East, Killing 1 Person

New Virus Related To SARS Detected In The Middle East, Killing 1 Person | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Scientists have partially decoded the genetic sequence of a new virus, which has killed one man and hospitalized another.

 

When an unknown virus emerges, disease detectives turn to gene sequencers to identify the culprit. So when a new type of coronavirus killed a man in Saudia Arabia and hospitalized another in the U.K., investigators got cracking. Both patients showed symptoms similar SARS. But thanks to fast and accurate gene sequencing, health officials quickly realized that this isn't SARS or even a known coronavirus that causes colds. Rather it's a totally new virus that needs to be handled with caution until more is known about it. Scientists at Britain's Health Protection Agency have now partially decoded the new virus's genetic sequence. They've placed the virus on the family tree of coronaviruses and given it a temporary namel: London1_novel CoV 2012.

 

The virus appears to be most closely related to a cluster of bat viruses, and "it is genetically very different than SARS," Ralph Baric, a microbiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells Shots. But the DNA sequence isn't just a tool for hanging the virus on the right branch of the family tree. It has helped health workers rapidly respond to the disease in ways they couldn't when SARS emerged in China in 2002.

 

With the virus's code at their fingertips, health workers alerted the WHO about the potential dangers of the virus just three weeks after the second patient showed symptoms. With the SARS epidemic, it took over three months — and hundreds of infected people — before the WHO was contacted. That epidemic caused over 8,000 infections and killed nearly a thousand people.

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Mars Rover Curiosity Finds Ancient River Bed

Mars Rover Curiosity Finds Ancient River Bed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Less than two months after touching down inside a giant impact basin near the planet's equator, Curiosity has returned clear evidence of flowing water. The proof comes from analysis of pictures of a jagged slab of rock taken with a telephoto camera on the rover's mast. The rock, which resembles a jackhammered chunk of broken sidewalk, is flecked with rounded pieces of gravel -- too big to have been carried by Martian winds.

 

Instead, Curiosity scientists are quite sure the gravel was deposited by a vigorously flowing stream, one that was between ankle- and knee-deep and likely flowed for thousands or even millions of years. "We have now discovered evidence for water," said lead scientist John Grotzinger. "This makes a great starting point for us to do more sophisticated studies." Though water is a key ingredient for life, it's not the only one. "This particular kind of rock may or may not be a good place to preserve those components that we associate with a habitable environment,” Grotzinger said.

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Upcoming Space Station Cameras Will Give All Humans Live Imagery Of Their Houses From Space

Upcoming Space Station Cameras Will Give All Humans Live Imagery Of Their Houses From Space | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
With UrtheCast cameras, you'll be able to see Google Earth-level detail -- but live.

 

An ambitious effort to broadcast real-time streaming video of Earth from space is closer to reality, after a new influx of cash and some new partnerships. By spring 2013, everyone on Earth will be able to watch the planet from the most unique vantage point ever built, the International Space Station.

 

We first told you about the Canadian startup UrtheCast (pronounced Earth-cast) last year, and the first cameras were supposed to launch in 2012. But the company has been raising money and working on its two high-definition cameras, while cosmonauts are in training to move the cameras from the cargo ferry to the station’s underside. The cameras are due to be finished in the next few months, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, the company, which is based in Calgary, said it plans to go public later this fall.

 

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Will Humanity Face a Carbohydrate Shortage? Currently humanity uses around 40% of Earth's photosynthesis

Will Humanity Face a Carbohydrate Shortage? Currently humanity uses around 40% of Earth's photosynthesis | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Photosynthesis is the single most important transformation on Earth. Using the energy in sunlight, all plants—from single-celled algae to towering redwoods—knit carbon dioxide and water into food and release oxygen as a byproduct. Every year, humanity uses up roughly 40 percent of the planet’s photosynthesis for our own purposes—from feeding a growing population to biofuels. Given that growing human population, is there a limit to how much of the world’s photosynthesis we can appropriate?

 

Satellite measurements now allow precise measurements of the amount of photosynthesis taking place on the planet’s seven continents and assorted islands—or what scientists call “net primary productivity.” Such measurements are based on the amount of ground covered by plants, the density of that growth, and observations of temperature, sunlight and available water. Using these measurements, ecological modeler Steven Running of the University of Montana concludes that plants produce nearly 54 billion metric tons of carbohydrates a year—the bulk of it the complex organic chains of cellulose and lignin.

 

Running has also looked back over the past 30 years and discovered that the total amount of photosynthesis is surprisingly stable. Despite local weather that ranged from droughts to floods, plants soldier on producing roughly the same amount of food year in and year out, varying by less than 2 percent annually. This may be because the inputs of photosynthesis also vary so little—sunlight strength fluctuates only mildly, as does precipitation on a global basis. This finding suggests to Running that the plants’ “net primary productivity” might be usefully thought of as a planetary boundary, a threshold or safe limit for human impacts on natural systems.

 

Uur population is estimated to swell to 9 billion by 2050. Will the photosynthesis on this planet be able to keep up?

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Vincent D'Antonio's curator insight, June 10, 2013 6:11 AM

Utilized in cellular respiration within our mitochondria.

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New Drug 2H10 Blocking VEGF Signaling Is Able To Prevent And Reverse the Development of Diabetes Type 2

New Drug 2H10 Blocking VEGF Signaling Is Able To Prevent And Reverse the Development of Diabetes Type 2 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is rapidly increasing, with severe socioeconomic impacts. Excess lipid deposition in peripheral tissues impairs insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, and has been proposed to contribute to the pathology of type 2 diabetes. However, few treatment options exist that directly target ectopic lipid accumulation. Recently it was found that vascular endothelial growth factor B (VEGF-B) controls endothelial uptake and transport of fatty acids in heart and skeletal muscle. Decreased VEGF-B signalling in rodent models of type 2 diabetes restores insulin sensitivity and improves glucose tolerance to an almost normal level. Genetic deletion of VEGF-B in diabetic db/db mice prevented ectopic lipid deposition, increased muscle glucose uptake and maintained normoglycaemia. Pharmacological inhibition of VEGF-B signalling by antibody administration to db/db mice enhanced glucose tolerance, preserved pancreatic islet architecture, improved β-cell function and ameliorated dyslipidaemia, key elements of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. The potential use of VEGF-B neutralization in type 2 diabetes was further elucidated in rats fed a high-fat diet, in which it normalized insulin sensitivity and increased glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and heart. The results demonstrate that the vascular endothelium can function as an efficient barrier to excess muscle lipid uptake even under conditions of severe obesity and type 2 diabetes, and that this barrier can be maintained by inhibition of VEGF-B signalling. Thus, VEGF-B antagonism is a promising novel pharmacological approach for type 2 diabetes, targeting the lipid-transport properties of the endothelium to improve muscle insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal.

 

Dr Andrew Nash, Senior Vice President of Research at CSL, pointed out that insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes is caused by the presence of fat deposits in places like the heart or muscles. What the researchers also found was that VEGF-B protein is involved in the transport and formation of fat deposits in the body. They created a drug that acts by blocking VEGF signaling, called 2H10.


“We are very hopeful that the antibody-based drug that we have developed and tested together with Professor Eriksson will ultimately lead to a new treatment option for people with diabetes.”


Moreover, in order to test the efficacy OF 2H10 researchers have made several experiments on laboratory animals. In rats fed a fat rich diets the drug prevented both insulin resistance and diabetes. Researchers now wish to expand their research and test the drug on people with type 2 diabetes or at high risk of developing this disease.

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Earth is getting 50,000 tons lighter every year, even while 40,000 tons of space dust fall on!

Earth is getting 50,000 tons lighter every year, even while 40,000 tons of space dust fall on! | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Earth gains about 40,000 tons of dust every year, the remnants of the formation of the solar system, which are attracted by our gravity and become part of the matter in our planet. In addition, NASA says that Earth gains about 160 tons of matter each year because the global temperature is going up and based on thermodynamics, the global mass has to increase. Earth's core loses energy over time. It's like a giant nuclear reactor that burns fuel. Less energy means less mass. 16 tonnes of that are gone every year. Not much. So why is Earth losing so much mass then?

 

Here's the big mass loss: about 95,000 tons of hydrogen and 1,600 tons of helium escape Earth every year. They are too light for gravity to keep them around, so they get lost. They just vanish into interplanetary space. The result -- the rough estimate is -50,000 tons of matter lost every year. Which is only about 0.000000000000001% mass loss every year, so  it will take trillions of years to deplete all hydrogen from Earth (most is bound in water).

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SSMS Science's curator insight, September 17, 2013 7:29 PM

I can kind of see God's hand in this. I think He planned this gain and lost perfectly knowing it would take billions of years for humans lives to be effected.ET

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The Life on Super-Earth Explanets - Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [Video Seminar]

Lecture is given by by Dimitar Sasselov, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

 

In 1543 Copernicus showed that our planet isn't the center of the universe. Centuries later, we know that just as Earth is not the center of things, the life on it is probably not unique either. Or is it? Tonight, learn how the search for "super-Earths" - rocky planets larger than our own that orbit other stars - may provide the key to answering essential questions about the origins of life here and elsewhere. You'll also hear how we face a moment of unprecedented potential - a convergence of pioneering efforts in astronomy and biology to peer into the unknown and determine how unique Earth life truly is.

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World's First 3D Real-Time Underwater Microscope Zooms In On Tiny Marine Life In Native Environment

Most plankton organisms are too small to be seen with the naked eye. But despite their size, they are vital in marine and freshwater ecosystems, serving as food for larger animals and as oxygen producers in the ocean’s carbon cycle. Microscopy has made it possible to photograph these tiny creatures in the lab, but capturing their behavior in their natural environment has been impossible—until now. Researchers in San Diego are developing the world’s first underwater video microscope, capable of imaging these miniscule organisms in 3D. When plankton are swept into the submersible microscope’s collection chamber, multiple cameras reveal the minute life-forms floating inside. The microscope has been engineered to capture detailed 3D images of plankton moving freely in the salt water chamber. These never-before-seen views of living plankton are a missing piece of the puzzle for scientists who study life in water. Observing activity on a microscopic scale will inform the bigger picture of interactions among creatures of all sizes in oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world.

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Visualizing a Full Day of Airplane Paths over the USA

Visualizing a Full Day of Airplane Paths over the USA | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

At any given moment, there can be 30,000 manmade objects in the sky above us: Planes, helicopters, satellites, weather balloons, space debris, and other diverse technologies. They watch, they guide, they protect, they communicate, they transport, they predict, they look out into the stars. In less than 100 years, the deep blue has become a complex web of machinery.

 

Our lives are closely tied to these networks in the sky, but a disjunction has occurred between us and the aerial technologies we use every day. We rarely consider the hulking, physical machines that have now become core to our lifestyle. By not being aware of the hardware we use every day, we may also not be aware of the social, economic, cultural, and political importance of these technologies. By visualizing them, it may lead to a better understanding of the forces that are shaping our future.

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Enslaved worker ants fight back through acts of sabotage

Enslaved worker ants fight back through acts of sabotage | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It would appear that ants that are kept as slaves by more powerful species aren't as helpless as they might appear. New research from Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany shows that enslaved ants conduct their own form of civil disobedience, by neglecting and killing the offspring of their oppressors. And by doing so, the ants may be preventing their comrades outside the nest from being enslaved themselves.

 

This discovery was made by ant researcher Susanne Foitzik who started to observe this behavior back in 2009. But what she has since discovered is that this is not an isolated trick limited to one species; over the course of her studies, Foitzik has observed at least three different ant populations in which these acts of rebellion occur. It would appear, therefore, that it may be a fairly common way for enslaved ants to fight back.

 

Ants such as Temnothorax longispinosus become enslaved when workers from the slave-making ant colony, Protomognathus americanus, attack their nests. The parasitic master ants kill the adults of the subjugated population, and steal their offspring. Once back at their nest, the master ants force the new generation to feed and clean their larvae, thus compelling them to raise the offspring of their oppressors (what's called "brood parasitism").

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The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has a website full of webcams that show real-time lava lakes of volcanoes

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has a website full of webcams that show real-time lava lakes of volcanoes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
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John Hess's curator insight, March 5, 2013 6:24 AM

This would be a great for a science class

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Stanford engineers create a millimeter-sized, wirelessly powered cardiac device

Stanford engineers create a millimeter-sized, wirelessly powered cardiac device | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Stanford electrical engineers overturn existing models to demonstrate the feasibility of a millimeter-sized, wirelessly powered cardiac device. The findings could dramatically alter the scale of medical devices implanted in the human body.

 

A team of engineers at Stanford has demonstrated the feasibility of a super-small, implantable cardiac device that gets its power not from batteries, but from radio waves transmitted from outside the body. The implanted device is contained in a cube just eight-tenths of a millimeter in radius. It could fit on the head of pin. The engineers say the research is a major step toward a day when all implants are driven wirelessly. Beyond the heart, they believe such devices might include swallowable endoscopes—so-called “pillcams” that travel the digestive tract—permanent pacemakers and precision brain stimulators. The devices could potentially be used for virtually any medical applications for which device size and power matter.

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The Password Fallacy: Why Our Security System Is Broken, and How to Fix It

The Password Fallacy: Why Our Security System Is Broken, and How to Fix It | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

We're required to take downright ridiculous precautions to maintain our online security, and it's not sustainable. In fact, it never was. Our password system is broken, and it's about time we change it.

 

Studies show that we log into some 10 sites a day. Places that hold our most important data, like Gmail, Dropbox, and our bank, might ask us to jump through two tiers of password hoops in order for them to ensure our online security. Overall we're asked to hold keys to 30-40 sites in order to read the news, access our email, or book a haircut. For each of these sites, security analysts recommend using a unique string of 14-characters made up of letters, numbers, and special symbols. But remember: Computers are quick to guess dictionary words, your birth year, and numbers substituted for letters. No repeats allowed. Oh, and whatever you do, don't write anything down.

 

Who can possibly remember all those characters? It's a nutty system, so we ignore it. People have been crying, "the password is dead," for years (that one was courtesy of Bill Gates in 2004), but we're finally in a position where change is possible. . . .

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Japanese Team Claims Discovery Of Elusive Element 113, And May Get To Name It

Japanese Team Claims Discovery Of Elusive Element 113, And May Get To Name It | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Japanese researchers claim they’ve seen conclusive evidence of the long-sought element 113, a super-heavy, super-unstable element near the bottom of the periodic table. It’s not yet verified by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which regulates the table and the names of the elements — but if the IUPAC grants its blessing, the researchers could be the first team from Asia to name one of nature’s fundamental atoms.


Super-heavy elements do not occur in nature and have to be discovered in the lab, using particle accelerators, nuclear reactors, ion separators and other complex equipment. Scientists led by Kosuke Morita at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science have been hunting for 113 for nine years, and have claimed to see it a few times already — but the evidence has never been this clear, the team said today.


In an experiment in August, the team used a customized gas-filled recoil ion separator paired with a semiconductor detector that can pick out atomic reaction products. They created element 113 by speeding zinc ions through a linear accelerator until they reached 10 percent of the speed of light. The ions then smashed into a piece of bismuth. When the zinc and bismuth atoms fused, they produced an atom with 113 protons. This atom decayed, incredibly rapidly, into a series of daughter products, each an alpha particle (two protons and two neutrons) lighter than the parent atom. The daughter nuclides are the clear offspring of element 113, and only element 113, whose presence can thus be determined.

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Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, Stanford study find

Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, Stanford study find | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

You’re in the supermarket eyeing a basket of sweet, juicy plums. You reach for the conventionally grown stone fruit, then decide to spring the extra $1/pound for its organic cousin. You figure you’ve just made the healthier decision by choosing the organic product — but new findings from Stanford University cast some doubt on your thinking.

 

For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

 

After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running a multitude of analyses.

 

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Deep-sea anglerfish filmed for the first time in its native environment over 7,800 feet down

This video shows never-before seen footage of a deep-sea angler fish, Chaunacops coloratus. The video is based on recent work by scientists at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The video seen here was recorded by MBARI's ROV Doc Ricketts at depths of 7,800 - 10,800 feet below the ocean's surface.

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Scientists make old muscles young again in attempt to combat aging

Scientists make old muscles young again in attempt to combat aging | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at King’s College London, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified for the first time a key factor responsible for declining muscle repair during ageing, and discovered how to halt the process in mice with a common drug.
Although an early study, the finding provides clues as to how muscles lose mass with age, which can result in weakness that affects mobility and may cause falls.


Published today in the journal Nature, and funded by the Biotechnology, and Biological Sciences Research Council, Harvard Stem Cell Institute and National Institutes of Health (US), the study looked at stem cells found inside muscle - which are responsible for repairing injury - to find out why the ability of muscles to regenerate declines with age. A dormant reservoir of stem cells is present inside every muscle, ready to be activated by exercise and injury to repair any damage. When needed, these cells divide into hundreds of new muscle fibres that repair the muscle. At the end of the repairing process some of these cells also replenish the pool of dormant stem cells so that the muscle retains the ability to repair itself again and again.

 

The researchers carried out a study on old mice and found the number of dormant stem cells present in the pool reduces with age, which could explain the decline in the muscle’s ability to repair and regenerate as it gets older. When these old muscles were screened the team found high levels of FGF2, a protein that has the ability to stimulate cells to divide. While encouraging stem cells to divide and repair muscle is a normal and crucial process, they found that FGF2 could also awaken the dormant pool of stem cells even when they were not needed. The continued activation of dormant stem cells meant the pool was depleted over time, so when the muscle really needed stem cells to repair itself the muscle was unable to respond properly.


Following this finding, the researchers attempted to inhibit FGF2 in old muscles to prevent the stem cell pool from being kick-started into action unnecessarily. By administering a common FGF2 inhibitor drug they were able to inhibit the decline in the number of muscle stem cells in the mice.

 

However, preventing or reversing muscle waste during old age in humans is still a way off, but this study has for the first time revealed a process which could be responsible for age-related muscle wasting, which is an extremely important finding.

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Flying Math: Bees Solve Traveling Salesman Problem

Flying Math: Bees Solve Traveling Salesman Problem | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Bumblebees foraging in flowers for nectar are like salesmen traveling between towns: Both seek the optimal route to minimize their travel costs. Mathematicians call this the “traveling salesman problem,” in which scientists try to calculate the shortest possible route given a theoretical arrangement of cities.

 

The study, the first to track the movements of bumblebees in the field, also suggests that bumblebees aren’t using cognitive maps — mental recreations of their environments — as some scientists have suggested, but rather are learning and remembering the distances and directions that need to be flown to find their way from nest to field to home again.

 

A team of researchers from Queen Mary, University of London outfitted seven bumblebees with tiny radar transponders, which they stuck on the bees’ backs with double-sided tape. They trained the bees to forage nectar from five blue artificial flowers (see video). Each artificial flower had a yellow landing platform and a single drop of sucrose, just enough to fill one-fifth of a bumblebee’s tank capacity, to ensure that the bees would visit all five flowers on each foraging bout.

 

At first, the bees visited the flower nearest to their nest, and then the next closest flower. They kept track — that is, they remembered — the total distance traveled on each foraging trip. They tried new routes to increase their efficiency, and if a route was shorter, they kept it. If not, they abandoned it. As their experience increased, they rarely altered the sequence of flowers they visited.

 

After trying about “20 of the 120 possible routes, the bees were able to select the most efficient path to visit the flowers,” Lihoreau says. “They did not need to compute all the possibilities.” A naïve bee traveled almost 2,000 meters on its first foraging bout among the pentagonal array; by her final trip, she’d reduced that distance to a mere 458 meters.

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For fish, fear smells like sugar

For fish, fear smells like sugar | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

When one fish gets injured, the rest of the school takes off in fear, tipped off by a mysterious substance known as "Schreckstoff" (meaning "scary stuff" in German). Now, researchers have figured out what that scary stuff is really made of. Sugar!


Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Panspermia - could alien life forms have landed on Earth and evolved into life as we know it?

Panspermia - could alien life forms have landed on Earth and evolved into life as we know it? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

We know a lot about the history of life on Earth, but how it began is still one of our greatest scientific mysteries. One hypothesis is that life actually originated on another planet, and many scientists today take the idea quite seriously. Though it sounds like the plot from recent scifi movie Prometheus, it's an old idea that even the celebrated nineteenth century physicist Lord Kelvin and Nobel winning geneticist Francis Crick have advocated. That's right — the evolution of life might have its beginnings on another planet.

 

Over 120 years ago, Kelvin shocked the British scientific community in a speech about what he called "panspermia," where he suggested that life might have come from planets smashing into each other and sending bits of life hurtling through space. He and a few colleagues had hit upon this notion after observing the massive 1880 eruption of a volcano on Krakatoa. To be more precise, they observed the aftermath of the volcano, which completely sterilized the island. No life was left at all. But then, within months, seedlings began to sprout and life took hold again.

 

Cal Tech geologist Joe Kirschvink has suggested that Mars is a likely origin for life in the solar system because it would have been habitable long before Earth was. 4 billion years ago, when Earth was still a roiling cauldron of methane and magma, Mars was a stable, cool planet covered in vast oceans. It would have been the perfect place for microbial life to take hold. But how did that life make it all the way from the seas of Mars to the seas of Earth? Most likely, meteorites crashing into Mars would send fragments of the planet's surface back into space — packed with millions of microbes. In fact, around the time that Mars might have been developing life, the solar system was undergoing what astronomers call the "late heavy bombardment," a time of countless intense meteorite strikes.

 

Purdue geologist Melosh, who has spent most of his career studying meteorite impacts, has actually done experiments where he and a team recreated what might have happened when meteorites slammed into Mars billions of years ago, sending ejecta out of the atmosphere and eventually all the way to Earth. This process is sometimes called "ballistic panspermia," or "lithopanspermia," because it depends on rocks being ejected into space. To recreate one part of this process in their experiments, Melosh and his team shot a bacteria-covered rock with an aluminum projectile moving at 5.4 km per second, and the shattered chunks flew over a kilometer. The bacteria survived the trauma of what Melosh and his team called "extremes of compressional shock, heating, and acceleration. A lot of the microbe species actually die, but a lot also survive in a dormant state. In space, their journey would take possibly millions of years. But it's as if atmospheres are almost designed for this transfer of life. The meteorite comes from Mars, full of microbes protected from radiation by the rock. It enters Earth's atmosphere, and as it comes in at high speed the outside melts because of friction and gets hot, but the inside is protected just like a spacecraft capsule. The microbes inside are protected. Then the aerodynamic forces in the lower atmosphere fracture the meteorite, exposing the interior."

 

A big question is why scientists are entertaining this idea at all? NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay offered a terrific, point-by-point explanation of why panspermia is, as he put it, "a valid scientific hypothesis" worth taking seriously:

 

1. The geological evidence for the earliest life on Earth is very early, soon after the end of the late bombardment. There is good evidence for life on Earth at 3.5 billion years ago, indirect evidence at 3.8 billion. The end of the late heavy bombardment is 3.8 billion years ago.

 

2. The genetic evidence indicates that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of life could have been roughly 3.5 billion years ago (but with large uncertainties) and that LUCA was a fairly sophisticated life form in terms of metabolic and genetic capabilities. 1 and 2 together give the impression that life appeared on Earth soon after the formation of suitable environments and it appears to have come in being remarkably developed - like Athena born fully formed from the head of Zeus.

 

3. Rocks from Mars have traveled to Earth and the internal temperatures experienced in these rocks during this trip would not have sterilized the interiors. Thus in principle life can be carried from Mars to Earth.

 

4. Mars did not suffer the large Moon-forming impact that would have been detrimental to the early development of life on Earth. 3 and 4 have lead to the suggestion that Mars would have been a better place for life to start in the early Solar System and it could have then been carried to Earth via meteorites.

 

5. Organic molecules are widespread in comets, asteroids, and the interstellar medium.

 

6. Comets could have supported subsurface liquid water environments soon after their formation due to internal heating by decay of radioactive aluminum.

 

7. As comets move past the Earth they shed dust which settles into Earth's atmosphere. 5, 6 and 7 have lead to the suggestion that life could have started in the interstellar medium or in small bodies such as comets and then been carried to the Earth by comet dust.

 

So, yes panspermia is a valid scientific hypotheses and warrants further investigation.

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