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Artificial bone using stem cells and a new lightweight plastic could soon be used to heal shattered limbs

Artificial bone using stem cells and a new lightweight plastic could soon be used to heal shattered limbs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The use of bone stem cells combined with a degradable rigid material that inserts into broken bones and encourages real bone to re-grow has been developed at the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton.


Researchers have developed the material with a honeycomb scaffold structure that allows blood to flow through it, enabling stem cells from the patient's bone marrow to attach to the material and grow new bone. Over time, the plastic slowly degrades as the implant is replaced by newly grown bone.


Scientists developed the material by blending three types of plastics. They used a pioneering technique to blend and test hundreds of combinations of plastics, to identify a blend that was robust, lightweight, and able to support bone stem cells. Successful results have been shown in the lab and in animal testing with the focus now moving towards human clinical evaluation.

Richard Oreffo, Professor of Musculoskeletal Science at the University of Southampton, comments: "Fractures and bone loss due to trauma or disease are a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem. This collaboration between chemistry and medicine has identified unique candidate materials that support human bone stem cell growth and allow bone formation. Our collaborative strategy offers significant therapeutic implications."


Professor Mark Bradley, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry, adds: "We were able to make and look at a hundreds of candidate materials and rapidly whittle these down to one which is strong enough to replace bone and is also a suitable surface upon which to grow new bone. "We are confident that this material could soon be helping to improve the quality of life for patients with severe bone injuries, and will help maintain the health of an ageing population."

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Denise Yang's curator insight, August 6, 2014 8:50 PM

Technology is amazing!

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Australian Wind Energy Now Cheaper Than Coal And Gas

Australian Wind Energy Now Cheaper Than Coal And Gas | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels in producing electricity in Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of A$80 ($84) per megawatt hour, compared with A$143 a megawatt hour from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 from a new station powered by natural gas when the cost of carbon emissions is included, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Coal-fired power stations built in the 1970s and 1980s can still produce power at a lower cost than that of wind, the research shows.

 

Relying on fossil fuels to produce electricity is getting more expensive because of the government’s price on carbon emissions imposed last year, higher financing costs and rising natural gas prices, BNEF said. The cost of wind generation has fallen by 10 percent since 2011 on lower equipment expenses, while the cost of solar power has dropped by 29 percent.

 

“The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world’s best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head,” Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement today.

 

AGL Energy Ltd., Australia’s largest developer of renewable energy projects, said in November that it expected the A$1 billion ($1.03 billion) Macarthur wind farm in Victoria state to begin operating fully this month. AGL in October suspended the development of the first stage of its 1,000-megawatt Dalton gas- fired power station in New South Wales after reviewing the economic viability for several months.

 

Driven by hydro- and wind-power projects, renewable energy contributed 9.6 percent of Australia’s electricity production in 2011, up from 8.7 percent the prior year, according to the Clean Energy Council, an industry group.

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Rare 'Strobe Light' Star May Actually Be Twins

Rare 'Strobe Light' Star May Actually Be Twins | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An odd flashing star may actually be a pair of cosmic twins: two newly formed baby stars that circle each other closely and flash like a strobe light, scientists say.

 

Astronomers discovered the nascent star system, called LRLL 54361, with the infrared Spitzer observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, and say the rare cosmic find could offer a chance to study star formation and early evolution. It is only the third such "strobe light" object ever seen, researchers said.

 

The celestial oddity is located about 950 light-years from Earth and lets out a bright pulse of light every 25.34 days. Hubble telescope scientists said the baby star object (or protostar) is the most powerful such stellar strobe found to date. But understanding what's causing the flashing light is difficult, because the system is hidden behind opaque dust and a dense disk of material.

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A detailed tree of life maps out the evolution of placental mammals

A detailed tree of life maps out the evolution of placental mammals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

After six years of collaboration between over twenty scientists from research institutions across the country, researchers have completed the most comprehensive picture of mammalian ancestry to date. Using a combination of physical and genetic data, the researchers reconstructed the family tree of placental mammals--a group that now comprises over 5,100 species--and traced its many branches back to a common ancestor.

 

The tree's huge wealth of anatomical data allowed the researchers to reconstruct what that common ancestor probably looked like:

It was mouse-size and grey-brown, with a furry tail. It ate insects. It gave live birth to naked, squirmy babies, and its descendants diversified to fill all the ecological vacancies left by the recently-departed dinosaurs. There were a lot of vacancies, and within just a few hundred thousand years--a blink of the evolutionary eye--the mammalian lineage branched into a wide array of creatures that, in time, would become the ancestors to every placental mammal--from whales to horses to bats to humans--living today.

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Recent study shows clear evidence that moles can smell in stereo

Recent study shows clear evidence that moles can smell in stereo | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Most mammals, including humans, see in stereo and hear in stereo. But whether they can also smell in stereo is the subject of a long-standing scientific controversy.

 

Now, a new study shows definitively that the common mole (Scalopus aquaticus) – the same critter that disrupts the lawns and gardens of homeowners throughout the eastern United States, Canada and Mexico – relies on stereo sniffing to locate its prey. The paper that describes this research, “Stereo and Serial Sniffing Guide Navigation to an Odor Source in a Mammals,” was published on Feb. 5, 2013 in the journal Nature Communications.

 

“I came at this as a skeptic. I thought the moles’ nostrils were too close together to effectively detect odor gradients,” said Kenneth Catania, the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, who conducted the research.

 

What he found turned his assumptions upside down and opened new areas for potential future research. “The fact that moles use stereo odor cues to locate food suggests other mammals that rely heavily on their sense of smell, like dogs and pigs might also have this ability,” Catania said.

 

Catania’s interest in the common mole’s sense of smell dates back ten years when he was studying the remarkable sense of touch of the common moles’ cousin, the star-nosed mole, which uses a set of fleshy tentacles surrounding its nose to detect edible objects as it burrows. He decided to test the common moles’ capability to find prey for comparison purposes. “I expected the common mole, which is virtually blind and doesn’t have a very good sense of touch, to be a lot worse than the star-nosed mole. So I was quite surprised when they turned out to be very good at locating prey. At the time, I figured that they must be using their sense of smell, but I didn’t pursue the matter.”

 

When the neuroscientist began seriously studying the common moles’ sense of smell last year, he discovered that it was even more remarkable than he had expected.

 

He created a radial arena with food wells spaced around a 180-degree circle with the entrance for the mole located at the center. He then ran a number of trials with the food (pieces of earthworm) placed randomly in different wells. The chamber was temporarily sealed so he could detect each time the mole sniffed by the change in air pressure. “It was amazing. They found the food in less than five seconds and went directly to the right food well almost every time,” Catania said. “They have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell.”

 

The definitive evidence that the moles rely on stereo sniffing came from yet another test. Catania inserted small plastic tubes in both of the moles’ nostrils and crossed them, so the right nostril was sniffing air on the animal’s left and the left nostril was sniffing air on the animal’s right. When their nostrils were crossed in this fashion, the animals searched back and forth and frequently could not find the food at all.

 

As for humans, Catania remains skeptical. “In humans, this is easier to test because you can ask a blindfolded person to tell you which nostril is being stimulated by odors presented with tubes inserted in the nose.” Such studies suggest it is only when an odor is strong enough to irritate the nostril lining that humans can tell which side is most strongly stimulated.

 

 

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4.5 Billion 'Alien Earths' Calculated to Populate Our Own Milky Way

4.5 Billion 'Alien Earths' Calculated to Populate Our Own Milky Way | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Billions of Earth-like alien planets likely reside in our Milky Way galaxy, and the nearest such world may be just a stone's throw away in the cosmic scheme of things, a new study reports.

 

Astronomers have calculated that 6 percent of the galaxy's 75 billion or so red dwarfs — stars smaller and dimmer than the Earth's own sun — probably host habitable, roughly Earth-size planets. That works out to at least 4.5 billion such "alien Earths," the closest of which might be found a mere dozen light-years away, researchers said.

 

"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet," study lead author Courtney Dressing, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), said in a statement. "Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted."

 

Dressing and her team analyzed data gathered by NASA's prolific Kepler space telescope, which is staring continuously at more than 150,000 target stars. Kepler spots alien planets by flagging the tiny brightness dips caused when the planets transit, or cross the face of, their stars from the instrument's perspective.

 

Kepler has detected 2,740 exoplanet candidates since its March 2009 launch. Follow-up observations have confirmed only 105 of these possibilities to date, but mission scientists estimate that more than 90 percent will end up being the real deal.

 

In the new study, Dressing and her colleagues re-analyzed the red dwarfs in Kepler's field of view and found that nearly all are smaller and cooler than previously thought.

 

This new information bears strongly on the search for Earth-like alien planets, since roughly 75 percent of the galaxy's 100 billion or so stars are red dwarfs. 
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Gareth Harris's curator insight, February 8, 2013 11:47 AM

ET may only be a stones throw away!

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Biomimetics: Synthetic cells used to bioengineer new forms of silica

Biomimetics: Synthetic cells used to bioengineer new forms of silica | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists do not fully understand how nature uses proteins to develop new materials and minerals, but learning more about the natural processes could lead to bioengineering methods such as the biological synthesis of solid-state materials for electronics applications. Now researchers in the US have designed a synthetic biological platform to facilitate the study of these processes and genetically engineer new materials.

The scientists, led by Professor Emeritus Daniel E. Morse of the University of California, Santa Barbara, created synthetic cells containing a polystyrene micro-bead as a nucleus. They then created DNA segments containing genes from two related silicateins along with random mutations and attached a piece of this DNA to each plastic bead. They soaked each bead in a mixture of bacterial proteins required by the synthetic cells to manufacture silicateins, and surrounded the beads with oil to act as the cell membrane.


Silicateins are biomineralizing proteins found in marine sponges that synthesize silica (silicon dioxide) and titania (titanium dioxide) materials. The marine sponge Tethya aurantia, for example, produces silica spicules that make up 75 percent of its dry weight. Silica is commonly used in computer chips, while titania is used in photovoltaic solar cells.


The synthetic cells manufactured silicateins, which appeared on the nuclear bead’s surface attached to antibodies. The researchers then ruptured the artificial cells to release the silicateins, and soaked them in a solution containing the silica or titania precursors. The resulting minerals formed a coating on the beads.


The researchers then set out to direct the evolution of the synthetic cells. They first sorted the beads to identify those with DNA coding for proteins making particularly strong minerals. They sorted them by size, with those having the thickest layers of minerals being selected. They then shook the selected beads to break up the minerals, and selected only those beads that survived this process.


Thirty genes randomly selected from the DNA for either silica- or titania-forming enzymes in the selected beads were then sequenced. They found that the genes contained sequences common to the two original silicatein genes, but they also identified new genes that were completely different from the initial genes. The original genes coded for silicatein alpha, which manufactures silica in clumps of particles. The new genes coded for proteins that produced silica and titania in a dispersed nanoparticle form. One of the new proteins, silicatein X1, manufactured silica in the form of folded sheets of silica-protein fibers.

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Brain research provides clues to what makes people think and behave differently from each other

Brain research provides clues to what makes people think and behave differently from each other | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Differences in the physical connections of the brain are at the root of what make people think and behave differently from one another. Researchers reporting in the February 6 issue of the Cell Press journal Neuron shed new light on the details of this phenomenon, mapping the exact brain regions where individual differences occur. Their findings reveal that individuals' brain connectivity varies more in areas that relate to integrating information than in areas for initial perception of the world.

 

"Understanding the normal range of individual variability in the human brain will help us identify and potentially treat regions likely to form abnormal circuitry, as manifested in neuropsychiatric disorders," says senior author Dr. Hesheng Liu, of the Massachusetts General Hospital.

 

Dr. Liu and his colleagues used an imaging technique called resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine person-to-person variability of brain connectivity in 23 healthy individuals five times over the course of six months.

 

The researchers discovered that the brain regions devoted to control and attention displayed a greater difference in connectivity across individuals than the regions dedicated to our senses like touch and sight. When they looked at other published studies, the investigators found that brain regions previously shown to relate to individual differences in cognition and behavior overlap with the regions identified in this study to have high variability among individuals. The researchers were therefore able to pinpoint the areas of the brain where variable connectivity causes people to think and behave differently from one another.

 

Higher rates of variability across individuals were also displayed in regions of the brain that have undergone greater expansion during evolution. "Our findings have potential implications for understanding brain evolution and development," says Dr. Liu. "This study provides a possible linkage between the diversity of human abilities and evolutionary expansion of specific brain regions," he adds.

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Quantum Information stored in a single atom transferred onto a photon

Quantum Information stored in a single atom transferred onto a photon | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Thanks to the strange laws of quantum mechanics, quantum computers would be able to carry out certain computational tasks much faster than conventional computers.  Among the most promising technologies for the construction of a quantum computer are systems of single atoms, confined in so-called ion traps and manipulated with lasers.  In the laboratory, these systems have already been used to test key building blocks of a future quantum computer.  “Currently, we can carry out successful quantum computations with atoms,” explain Andreas Stute and Bernardo Casabone, both PhD students at the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Experimental Physics. “But we are still missing viable interfaces with which quantum information can be transferred over optical channels from one computer to another.”


What makes the construction of these interfaces especially challenging is that the laws of quantum mechanics don’t allow quantum information to be simply copied. Instead, a future quantum internet – that is, a network of quantum computers linked by optical channels – would have to transfer quantum information onto individual particles of light, known as photons.  These photons would then be transported over an optical-fiber link to a distant computing site.  Now, for the first time, quantum information has been directly transferred from an atom in an ion trap onto a single photon.  The work is reported in the current issue of Nature Photonics by a research team led by Tracy Northup and Rainer Blatt.


The University of Innsbruck physicists first trap a single calcium ion in an ion trap and position it between two highly reflective mirrors.  “We use a laser to write the desired quantum information onto the electronic states of the atom,” explains Stute. “The atom is then excited with a second laser, and as a result, it emits a photon.  At this moment, we write the atom’s quantum information onto the polarization state of the photon, thus mapping it onto the light particle.”  The photon is stored between the mirrors until it eventually flies out through one mirror, which is less reflective than the other.  “The two mirrors steer the photon in a specific direction, effectively guiding it into an optical fiber,” says Casabone.  The quantum information stored in the photon could thus be conveyed over the optical fiber to a distant quantum computer, where the same technique could be applied in reverse to write it back onto an atom.

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Nicholas John Whittred's comment, March 22, 2013 2:39 AM
If the internet is to harness the power of quantum computers data will have to be transferred via photons.
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This Is Your Brain On Movies: Neuroscientists Weigh In On The Brain Science of Cinema

This Is Your Brain On Movies: Neuroscientists Weigh In On The Brain Science of Cinema | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

"In movies, we explore landscapes far removed from our day-to-day lives. Whether experiencing the fantastical adventures of Star Wars or the dramatic throes of The English Patient, movies demand that our brains engage in a complex firing of neurons and cognitive processes. We enter into manipulated worlds where musical scores enhance feeling; where cinematography clues us into details we’d normally gloss over; where, like omniscient beings, we voyeuristically peek into others’ lives and minds; and where we can travel from Marrakech to Mars without ever having left our seat. Movies reflect reality, yet are anything but.

 

“Movies are highly complex, multidimensional stimuli,” said Uri Hasson, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Princeton University. “Some areas of the brain analyze sound bites, some analyze word context, some the sentence content, music, emotional aspect, color or motion."


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Ozone hole changes ocean flow and influences the way that waters in the southern oceans mix

Ozone hole changes ocean flow and influences the way that waters in the southern oceans mix | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The hole in the Antarctic ozone layer has caused changes in the way that waters in the southern oceans mix, an international study shows.

 

A team of scientists led by Professor Darryn Waugh ofJohns Hopkins University, has found that waters originating at the surface at sub-tropical latitudes is mixing into the deeper ocean at a much higher rate than it did 20 years ago, and the reverse is true for waters closer to Antarctica.


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X-ray device traps airborne pathogens and neutralizes them

X-ray device traps airborne pathogens and neutralizes them | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Help may be on the way for people with compromised immune systems, severe allergies, or who otherwise have to be wary of airborne nasties. A team of scientists have created something known as a soft x-ray electrostatic precipitator, or an SXC ESP for short. It filters all manner of bacteria, allergens, viruses, and ultrafine particles from the air – plus, it kills everything it catches.

 

 


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Laser Turns Liquid into Taylor-Made Scaffold to House Living Cells

Laser Turns Liquid into Taylor-Made Scaffold to House Living Cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The behavior of cells strongly depends on their environment. If they are to be researched an manipulated, it is crucial to embed them in suitable surroundings. Aleksandr Ovsianikov is developing a laser system, which allows living cells to be incorporated into intricate taylor-made structures, similar to biological tissue, in which cells are surrounded by the extracellular matrix. This technology is particularly important for artificially growing biotissue, for finding new drugs or for stem cell research.


At first, the cells are suspended in a liquid, which mainly consists of water. Cell-friendly molecules are added, which react with light in a very special way: a focused laser beam breaks up double bonds at exactly the right places. A chemical chain reaction then causes the molecules to bond and create a polymer. 

This reaction is only triggered when two laser photons are absorbed at the same time. Only within the focal point of the laser beam the density of photons is high enough for that. Material outside the focal point is not affected by the laser. “That is how we can define with unprecedented accuracy, at which points the molecules are supposed to bond and create a solid scaffold”, explains Ovsianikov.

Guiding the focus of the laser beam through the liquid, a solid structure is created, in which living cells are incorporated. The surplus molecules which are not polymerized are simply washed away afterwards. This way, a hydrogel structure can be built, similar to the extracellular matrix which surrounds our own cells in living tissue. Ideas from nature are imitated in the lab and used for technological applications. This approach, called ‘bio-mimetics’ plays an increasingly important role, especially in materials science. Aleksandr Ovsianikov is confident that in many cases, this technology will render animal testing unnecessary and yield much quicker and more significant results.


Stem cell research is a particularly interesting field of application for the new technology. “It is known that stem cells can turn into different kinds of tissue, depending on their environment”, says Aleksandr Ovsianikov. “On top of a hard surface, they tend to develop into bone cells, on a soft substrate they may turn into neurons.” In the laser-generated 3D structure the rigidity of the substrate can be tuned so that different types of tissue can be created.

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First Bionic Eye Sees Light of Day in U.S.

First Bionic Eye Sees Light of Day in U.S. | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

After years of research, the first bionic eye has seen the light of day in the United States, giving hope to the blind around the world.

 

Developed by Second Sight Medical Products, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System has helped more than 60 people recover partial sight, with some experiencing better results than others.

 

Consisting of 60 electrodes implanted in the retina and glasses fitted with a special mini camera, Argus II has already won the approval of European regulators. The US Food and Drug Administration is soon expected to follow suit, making this bionic eye the world's first to become widely available.

 

"It's the first bionic eye to go on the market in the world, the first in Europe and the first one in the U.S.," said Brian Mech, the California-based company's vice president of business development.

 

Those to benefit from Argus II are people with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disease, affecting about 100,000 people in the U.S., that results in the degeneration of the retinal photoreceptors.

 

The photoreceptor cells convert light into electrochemical impulses that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve, where they are decoded into images.

 

"The way the prosthesis works (is) it replaces the function of the photoreceptors," Mech told AFP. Thirty people aged 28 to 77 took part in the clinical trial for the product, all of whom were completely blind.

 

Mech said the outcomes varied by participant. "We had some patients who got just a little bit of benefit and others who could do amazing things like reading newspaper headlines," he said.

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Electroquímica Unam's curator insight, November 7, 2014 2:05 PM

El primer ojo biónico a partir de tecnología fotoelectroquímica.

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Small-molecule drug drives cancer cells to commit suicide

Small-molecule drug drives cancer cells to commit suicide | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Studies in mice show therapy is effective even in hard-to-treat brain tumors. Cancer researchers have pinned down a molecule that can kick-start the body’s own tumour-destroying systems, triggering cell death in cancerous but not healthy tissue in mice.


The molecule, TIC10, activates the gene for a protein called TRAIL (tumour-necrosis-factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand), which has long been a target for cancer researchers looking for drugs that would avoid the debilitating effects of conventional therapies.

 

“TRAIL is a part of our immune system: all of us with functional immune systems use this molecule to keep tumours from forming or spreading, so boosting this will not be as toxic as chemotherapy.


Experiments showed that TIC10 had potent effects against a variety of tumours, including breast, lymphatic, colon and lung cancer. It was especially effective at triggering cell suicide in glioblastoma, a kind of brain tumour that is notoriously difficult to treat. Mice with glioblastomas that were treated with TIC10 and bevacizumab — a drug used against diseases including brain tumours, and sold under the name Avastin — survived three times as long as untreated mice. However, they survived only 6% longer than mice treated with bevacizumab alone.

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New precise time measurements confirm: Asteroid impact was indeed 'final straw' for the dinosaurs

New precise time measurements confirm: Asteroid impact was indeed 'final straw' for the dinosaurs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It's been more than 30 years since UC Berkeley researchers first suggested that the extinction of the dinosaurs was probably linked to a massive comet or asteroid impact, known as Chicxulub, off the Yucatan coast. The idea was that the collision from space, which left a 110-mile-wide crater off the coast of Mexico, would have cast off debris that wrapped all the way around Earth, altering the climate and resulting in the global extinction.

 

But that story hasn't passed muster everywhere. Because different methods of estimating when the extinction and the impact occurred have yielded different answers -- some studies concluded that the asteroid hit as much as 300,000 years before dinosaurs went extinct -- some people have argued that other circumstances, including volcanic eruptions or climate change, must have had more to do with the dinosaurs' end than a whopper of an asteroid.

Now, using highly refined methods of determining the ages of rocks, another team from Berkeley has demonstrated that the extinction and the impact occurred at almost exactly the same time: just over 66 million years ago. 

 

"The impact was clearly the final straw that pushed the Earth past the tipping point," said study lead author and UC Berkeley earth scientist Paul Renne, in a statement. "We have shown that these events are synchronous to within a gnat's eyebrow."

 

To arrive at the more accurate dates, Renne and his team looked at isotopes of argon in rocks created by the Chicxulub impact, known as tektites, found in Haiti.  The scientists also used the dating technique to assign an age to altered volcanic ash deposits from the Hell Creek Formation in Montana that are known to coincide with the boundary between the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rexand Velociraptor still roamed Earth, and the Paleogene period, when they disappeared.

 

The results showed that the impact and the extinctions happened at essentially the same time, within the range of uncertainty in the measurements.  The scientists suggested that brief cold snaps in the late Cretaceous period had already put stress on "a global ecosystem that was well adapted to the long-lived preceding Cretaceous hothouse climate." The asteroid pushed the ecosystem over the edge, they said.

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NASA: Asteroid flyby next week will be closest for a space rock so large - inside geosynchronous satellite orbits

NASA: Asteroid flyby next week will be closest for a space rock so large - inside geosynchronous satellite orbits | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A close encounter of the rocky kind is set for Feb. 15, 2013, when an office-building-size asteroid will speed past Earth faster than a bullet and closer than some communications satellites.

 

It will be the nearest recorded brush with a space rock so large, NASA scientists said Thursday. 

 

The good news: There’s no chance of an impact. At its closest, asteroid 2012 DA14will pass about 17,000 miles above Earth inside geosynchronous satellite orbits.

 

The bad news: A million other potentially dangerous — and unknown — city-killing space rocks are out there, and one of them could be on a collision course with Earth. Critics say NASA and other space agencies are not doing enough to scan for these threats.

 

“It’s like Mother Nature sending a warning shot across our bow,” said Don Yeomans, who tracks asteroids for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

 

Satellite operators said they were monitoring the asteroid but expected it to safely cruise through a belt of satellites that are about 23,000 miles up.

“We’re watching the situation, but there’s not a giant concern,” said Alex Horwitz, spokesman for Intelsat, which operates about 50 communications satellites.

 

The Air Force, meanwhile, is leaving the tracking to NASA.  An astronomer in Spain discovered the asteroid a year ago. Small, dim and speedy, it was a “slippery target” as it moved across a background of stars, said Jaime Nomen of the La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain.

 

NASA-funded scientists then ran the numbers: The asteroid was about 150 feet wide. Its closest approach will occur at 2:24 p.m. Eastern time on the 15th. On the night side of the planet — mainly Asia and Australia — observers with small telescopes might see a pinpoint streaking at the rapid clip of two moon-widths per minute.

 

Further observations refined the asteroid’s path. It cruises around the sun in an orbit almost identical to Earth’s. Our year is 365 days. Its year is a day longer. Like a drunk driver weaving across lanes, asteroid 2012 DA14 crosses paths with Earth twice a year, at varying distances.

 

Despite these opportunities for disaster, scientists tracking the asteroid are confident 2012 DA14 won’t collide with us for at least the next century, which is as far as they’ve been able to project its path. Next week’s approach is the closest during that time.

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The 44 Chromosome Man And What He Reveals About Our Own Genetic Past

The 44 Chromosome Man And What He Reveals About Our Own Genetic Past | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Many people have trouble believing that chromosome number can change and stay changed in a species. Their first thought is often of Down syndrome or the other problems that usually come with missing or extra chromosomes. It can be hard to imagine how a living thing could end up with a new chromosome number without these problems.

And yet it happens all the time in creatures as varied as yeast, corn, butterflies, voles and even mice. And now it has been seen in people.

 In a recent report, a doctor in China has identified a man who has 44 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. Except for his different number of chromosomes, this man is perfectly normal in every measurable way.

His chromosomes are arranged in a stable way that could be passed on if he met a nice girl who had 44 chromosomes too. And this would certainly be possible in the future given his family history.

 

But why doesn't he have any problems? A loss of one let alone two chromosomes is almost always fatal because so many essential genes are lost. In this case, he has fewer chromosomes but is actually missing very few genes. Instead, he has two chromosomes stuck to two other chromosomes. More specifically, both his chromosome 14's are stuck to his chromosome 15's. So he has almost all the same genes as any other person. He just has them packaged a bit differently.

 

This is an important finding because it tells us about a key genetic event in human prehistory. All the evidence points to humans, like their relatives the chimpanzees, having 48 chromosomes a million or so years ago. Nowadays most humans have 46.

 

What happened to this 44 chromosome man shows one way that the first step in this sort of change might have happened in our past. Scientists could certainly predict something like this. But now there is proof that it can actually happen.

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SETI Study Of Habitable Exoplanets Concludes: No Signs of Extraterrestrial Intelligences (so far)

SETI Study Of Habitable Exoplanets Concludes: No Signs of Extraterrestrial Intelligences (so far) | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Jill Tarter, from the SETI Institute and of Contact fame, along with a group of buddies, reveal the results of their first directed search, carried out between February and April 2011.

 

These guys pointed the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia at 86 stars hosting exoplanets discovered by the Kepler space telescope. They chose their targets because they had exoplanets in the Goldilocks zone, had five or more exoplanets or had super Earths with relatively long orbits.

 

Tarter and co looked at signals in the 1-2 GHz range, the region used by terrestrial mobile and cordless phones. In particular, they hunted for signals that cover no more than 5Hz of the spectrum since there is no known natural mechanism for producing such narrow band signals. “Emission no more than a few Hz in spectral width is, as far as we know, an unmistakable indicator of engineering by an intelligent civilization,” they say. The big challenge with these kinds of observations is to rule out the false positives generated on Earth. Tarter and co developed a technique based on the simple idea that a signal can only be interesting if it appears in the data while the telescope is pointing at the target star but not when the telescope is pointing somewhere else. “This excluded 99.96 per cent of the candidate signals,” they say. That left 52 candidate signals which Tarter and co then studied for signs of a terrestrial origin.

 

That left 52 candidate signals which Tarter and co then studied for signs of a terrestrial origin. Their conclusions are forthright. “No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found,” they say. There are some important caveats, however. In particular, is the question of how strong a signal the Green Bank Telescope can pick up.

 

Tarter and co consider in particular the most powerful beam that humans could broadcast into space: the Arecibo Planetary Radar in Puerto Rico. They say that if such a beam were pointed towards Earth during their experiment, they would have spotted it at distances of up to 10,000 light years. Of course, the likelihood of such a happy coincidence is small.  

 

More advanced civilisations might have more power to play with and so be easier to see. In particular, civilisations that have harnessed all the energy from their star–so-called Kardashian Type II civilisations–ought to be easy to spot.

 

The results allow the team to put important limits on the likelihood of Kardashian Type II civilisations. Tarter and co say that the negative result implies that the number of these civilisations that are loud in the 1-2GHz range must less than one in a million per sun-like star.

 

That still leaves plenty of wiggle room. And the team points out that rapid improvements in the technology for sensing radio signals means that researchers ought to be able to tighten these limits significantly in the not too distant future.

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Electricity Gives Soap Bubbles Super Strength

Electricity Gives Soap Bubbles Super Strength | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Any kid can blow a soap bubble, but only a physicist would think to electrify one. Left to its own devices, a bubble will weaken and pop as the fluid sandwiched between two thin layers of soap succumbs to gravity and drains toward the floor. But when researchers trapped a bubble between two platinum electrodes (pictured) and cranked up the voltage, the fluid reversed direction and actually flowed up, against the force of gravity. The newly strong and stable bubbles could live for hours, and even visibly change colors as their walls grew fatter, the team reports in the current issue of Physical Review Letters. Because soap film is naturally only nanometers thick, this whimsical experiment could help scientists create more efficient labs-on-chips, the mazes of nanotunnels that can diagnose disease based on the movements of a miniscule drop of blood.

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Tiny nanoscale capsule effectively kills cancer cells without harming normal cells

Tiny nanoscale capsule effectively kills cancer cells without harming normal cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The development of stimuli-responsive, nano-scale therapeutics that selectively target and attack tumors is a major research focus in cancer nanotechnology. A potent therapeutic option is to directly arming the cancer cells with apoptotic-inducing proteins that are not affected by tumoral anti-apoptotic maneuvers. The avian virus-derived apoptin forms a high-molecular weight protein complex that selectively accumulates in the nucleus of cancer cell to induce apoptotic cell death. To achieve the efficient intracellular delivery of this tumor-selective protein in functional form, we synthesized degradable, sub-100 nm, core–shell protein nanocapsules containing the 2.4 MDa apoptin complexes. Recombinant apoptin is reversibly encapsulated in a positively charged, water soluble polymer shell and is released in native form in response to reducing conditions such as the cytoplasm. As characterized by confocal microscopy, the nanocapsules are efficiently internalized by mammalian cells lines, with accumulation of rhodamine-labeled apoptin in the nuclei of cancer cells only. Intracellularly released apoptin induced tumor-specific apoptosis in several cancer cell lines and inhibited tumor growth in vivo, demonstrating the potential of this polymer–protein combination as an anticancer therapeutic.

 

The process does not present the risk of genetic mutation posed by gene therapies for cancer, or the risk to healthy cells caused by chemotherapy, which does not effectively discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells, Tang said.


"This approach is potentially a new way to treat cancer," said Tang. "It is a difficult problem to deliver the protein if we don't use this vehicle. This is a unique way to treat cancer cells and leave healthy cells untouched."


The cell-destroying material, apoptin, is a protein complex derived from an anemia virus in birds. This protein cargo accumulates in the nucleus of cancer cells and signals to the cell to undergo programmed self-destruction.


The polymer shells are developed under mild physiological conditions so as not to alter the chemical structure of the proteins or cause them to clump, preserving their effectiveness on the cancer cells.


Tests done on human breast cancer cell lines in laboratory mice showed significant reduction in tumor growth.


"Delivering a large protein complex such as apoptin to the innermost compartment of tumor cells was a challenge, but the reversible polymer encapsulation strategy was very effective in protecting and escorting the cargo in its functional form," said Muxun Zhao, lead author of the research and a graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering at UCLA.

 

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How to build a bionic man

How to build a bionic man | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Rex the bionic man shows how close technology is to catching up with — and exceeding — the abilities of the human body, The Guardian reports.

Housed within a frame of state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs is a functional heart-lung system, complete with artificial blood pumping through a network of pulsating modified-polymer arteries.

He has a bionic spleen to clean the blood, and an artificial pancreas to keep his blood sugar on the level.

 

 


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3-D Cybertaxonomy: Fascinating Virtual Dissections; scientists hope to assemble a virtual repository

3-D Cybertaxonomy: Fascinating Virtual Dissections; scientists hope to assemble a virtual repository | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A glowing orange worm appears in a darkened sea – and then quickly begins to peel itself apart, revealing a labyrinth of internal organs. Just as quickly, the worms zips itself up, again appearing as a bristled ribbon suspended in an inky ocean. Scientists hope to someday build a digital library of such visualizations – perhaps one for every living organism – and marshal the resources of cyberspace to help zoologists study and identify life on Earth.

 

The worm in this digital dreamscape, a polychaete, was imaged using X-ray microtomography – a version of the classic CT scan optimized for miniature objects. Scientists at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Greece describe their newly optimized worm-imaging method Feb. 4 in ZooKeys.

 

“This work will hopefully lead to a wider recognition of the usefulness of noninvasive imaging techniques in the zoological sciences,” said Alexander Ziegler, a zoologist at Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin who was not a part of the team. “Technological progress is essential if classical zoological studies want to participate in the digital revolution” and reach a larger audience, he said.

 

Scientists hope such virtual dissections will seed the growth of a global, digitized archive of organisms. Advantages of that include reducing the risk associated with shipping precious specimens from one lab to another, said Sarah Faulwetter, a graduate student who coauthored the current study. And, she adds: “The dissection of virtual specimens is something that is simply not possible with valuable, century-old museum material.”

 

In this gallery, we’ve collected some of Faulwetter’s recently published videos and other favorites produced by her team, who are archiving the marine fauna of the Mediterranean Sea.

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50 Jaw-Dropping Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Life Science Statistics

50 Jaw-Dropping Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Life Science Statistics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The Motley Fool - 50 amazing statistics that will amuse you and entice you to dig deeper into the health-care sector.

Via Carla Gentry CSPO
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Carla Gentry CSPO's curator insight, February 6, 2013 9:40 AM

But, the pharmaceutical, biotech, and life science sectors are a booming industry rife with big investment dollars, a steady history of growth, and life-changing attributes. Too many investors keep health-care companies out of their portfolio because they're simply afraid of getting their feet wet in a sector that's proven time and again that it can deliver for shareholders in a big way.

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The Final Frontier: 3-D Printers Could Make Astronaut Meals

The Final Frontier: 3-D Printers Could Make Astronaut Meals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
One day in the future, astronauts on a long-term deep-space mission might have the ability to use 3-D printers to make delicious, nutritious meals.

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Several decades from now, an astronaut in a Mars colony might feel a bit hungry. Rather than reach for a vacuum-sealed food packet or cook up some simple greenhouse vegetables in a tiny kitchen, the astronaut would visit a microwave-sized box, punch a few settings, and receive a delicious and nutritious meal tailored to his or her exact tastes.

This is the promise of the rapidly maturing field of 3-D food printing, an offshoot of the revolution that uses machines to build bespoke items out of metal, plastic, and even living cells. Sooner than you think, 3-D printed designer meals may be coming to a rocketship, or a restaurant, near you.

 

“Right now, astronauts on the space station are eating the same seven days of food on rotations of two or three weeks,” said astronautical engineer Michelle Terfansky, who studied the potential and challenges of making 3-D printed food in space for a master’s thesis at the University of Southern California. “It gets the job done, but it’s not exactly home cooking.”


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