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Rare Fossil Points to Toxic Oceans in Devonian Period Possibly Causing Global Mass Extinction

Rare Fossil Points to Toxic Oceans in Devonian Period Possibly Causing Global Mass Extinction | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A well-preserved crab-like fossil that was found by scientists from Curtin University, Australia, has provided evidence of a toxic ocean environment in the Devonian Period, potentially responsible for the mass extinction 380 million years ago.

 

A study, published in the journal Geology, shows that hydrogen sulphide dependant organisms –known as Chlorobi – and sulphate-reducing bacteria had preserved the shell and the muscles of the crab-like creature. “The research presents organic geochemistry as a new tool for paleontologists, enabling them to identify invertebrate fossils and reconstruct their environments from a molecular point of view,” explained lead author Ines Melendez, a PhD student at the Curtin University.

 

“It’s like walking in on a crime scene, when all the evidence is still intact. Not only do we know the organism was a crustacean from the abundance of cholestane it contained, but we also know it was in a toxic ocean environment, from the biomarkers associated with the sulfate–reducing bacteria and Chlorobi. By looking at the biomarkers and stable isotopes of fossils, we are able to reconstruct past environments, and can apply this technique to other ages of geological time,” Melendez said.

 

Curtin University scientists collected the unique fossil from the Gogo Formation in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. “This research suggests the Devonian Period had similar paleoenvironmental conditions to the largest extinction event in the past 600 million years, where it was proved toxic concentrations of hydrogen-sulfide in ancient oceans, rather than a meteorite, were largely responsible for wiping out mass populations,” said study co-author Prof Kliti Grice of the Curtin University.

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Totally blind mice have had their sight restored by injections of light-sensing cells into the eye

Totally blind mice have had their sight restored by injections of light-sensing cells into the eye | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The team in Oxford said their studies closely resemble the treatments that would be needed in people with degenerative eye disease. Similar results have already been achieved with night-blind mice. Experts said the field was advancing rapidly, but there were still questions about the quality of vision restored.

 

Patients with retinitis pigmentosa gradually lose light-sensing cells from the retina and can become blind. It's the first proof that you can take a completely blind mouse, put the cells in and reconstruct the entire light-sensitive layer.

 

The research team, at the University of Oxford, used mice with a complete lack of light-sensing photoreceptor cells in their retinas. The mice were unable to tell the difference between light and dark. They injected "precursor" cells which will develop into the building blocks of a retina once inside the eye. Two weeks after the injections a retina had formed.

 

Prof. Robert MacLaren said: "We have recreated the whole structure, basically it's the first proof that you can take a completely blind mouse, put the cells in and reconstruct the entire light-sensitive layer."

 

Previous studies have achieved similar results with mice that had a partially degenerated retina. Prof. MacLaren said this was like "restoring a whole computer screen rather than repairing individual pixels".

 

The mice were tested to see if they fled being in a bright area, if their pupils constricted in response to light and had their brain scanned to see if visual information was being processed by the mind.

 

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Scientists seek foolproof signal to predict earthquakes: Could magnetic waves be the trustworthy tool?

Scientists seek foolproof signal to predict earthquakes: Could magnetic waves be the trustworthy tool? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
For centuries people have tried to predict earthquakes-with no success. Magnetic signals from rocks deep inside the earth are the latest prospect.

 

The dream is to be able to forecast earthquakes like we now predict the weather. Even a few minutes' warning would be enough for people to move away from walls or ceilings that might collapse or for nuclear plants and other critical facilities to be shut down safely in advance of the temblor. And if accurate predictions could be made a few days in advance, any necessary evacuations could be planned, much as is done today for hurricanes.

 

Scientists first turned to seismology as a predictive tool, hoping to find patterns of foreshocks that might indicate that a fault is about to slip. But nobody has been able to reliably distinguish between the waves of energy that herald a great earthquake and harmless rumblings.

 

Seismologists just can't give a simple yes or no answer to the question of whether we're about to have a large earthquake, said Thomas Jordan, director of the University of Southern California's Southern California Earthquake Center at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco in December.

 

So some scientist have turned their attention to other signals, including electricity, that might be related to activity occurring below ground as a fault prepares to slip

 

One theory is that when an earthquake looms, the rock "goes through a strange change," producing intense electrical currents, says Tom Bleier, a satellite engineer with QuakeFinder, a project funded by his parent company, Stellar Solutions, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

"These currents are huge," Bleier said at the AGU meeting. "They're on the order of 100,000 amperes for a magnitude 6 earthquake and a million amperes for a magnitude 7. It's almost like lightning, underground."

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Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid may have brought carbon to Earth and inner solar system

Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid may have brought carbon to Earth and inner solar system | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn's year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge impacts not only altered Vesta's shape, but also its surface composition. Scientists under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau in Germany have shown that impacting small asteroids delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet. In the early days of our solar system, similar events may have provided the inner planets such as Earth with carbon, an essential building block for organic molecules.

 

Vesta is remarkable in many respects. With a diameter of approximately 530 kilometres, Vesta is the one of the few protoplanets in our solar system still intact today. Like other protoplanets, Vesta underwent complete melting approximately 4.5 billion years ago. However, most of the volcanic activity on Vesta is thought to have ceased within a few million years making it a time capsule from the early solar system. Dawn observations of Vesta have shown a surface with diverse brightness variations and surface composition. There is bright material on Vesta that is as white as snow and dark material on Vesta as black as coal.

 

The enigmatic dark material holds the key to understanding the impact environment around Vesta early in its evolution. Research led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Katlenburg-Lindau has shown that this dark material is not native to Vesta but was delivered by impacting asteroids. "The evidence suggests that the dark material on Vesta is rich in carbonaceous material and was brought there by collisions with smaller asteroids," explains. Vishnu Reddy from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the University of North Dakota, the lead author of the paper. In the journal Icarus, he and his colleagues now present the most comprehensive analysis of this material so far. Compositional analysis, mapping, and modelling of dark material distribution on Vesta suggest that it was delivered during the formation of giant impact basins on Vesta.

 

"First, we created a map showing the distribution of dark material on Vesta using the framing camera data and found something remarkable," explains Lucille Le Corre from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research one of the lead authors of the study. Dark material was preferentially spread around the edges of the giant impact basins in the southern hemisphere of Vesta suggesting a link to one of the two large impact basins. A closer examination showed that the dark material was most probably delivered during the formation of the older Veneneia basin when a slow impacting asteroid collided with Vesta. Dark material from this two to three billion year old basin was covered up by the impact that subsequently created the Rheasilvia basin. "We believe that the Veneneia basin was created by the first of two impacts two to three billion years ago," says Reddy. In fact, impact modelling presented in the paper reproduces the distribution of dark material from such a low velocity impact.

 

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Geophysicists fingerprint sea-level rise

Geophysicists fingerprint sea-level rise | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

By considering the unique sea-level "fingerprint" created by a melting ice sheet, a team of geophysicists in North America has developed a new method for pinpointing the sources of global sea-level rise. Their approach could provide a way to measure the impact of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets – the greatest sources of uncertainty in projections of future sea-level changes.

 

Long-term variations in sea level are caused by processes including thermal expansion of the water, changes in ocean circulation, and changes in the size of glaciers and ice sheets. Measurements from tide gauges indicate a global average sea-level rise of 1–2 mm/yr during the 20th century. However, this estimate ignores geographical variations in sea level, and provides no information about the contribution of different processes.

 

One possible way to pick apart the total sea-level change is to look for the distinct pattern, or fingerprint, of a melting ice sheet. Close to the ice sheet, for example, the sea level tends to fall. This is a result of both the local uplift of the Earth's crust after being relieved of the great weight of the ice and a reduction in the ice sheet's gravitational pull on the ocean. Moving further away from the ice sheet, however, the sea level rises progressively.

 

Melt rates of 0.3 and 0.5 mm/yr were assumed for the Greenland (GIS) and West Antarctic (WAIS) ice sheets, respectively, along with their predicted fingerprints. The researchers then applied the Kalman filter to this synthetic dataset, initializing the algorithm with melt rates of zero.

The algorithm was found to estimate the melt rates most accurately when applied to the maximum number of tide gauges, providing enough information for the ice-sheet fingerprints to be separated from the globally uniform trend. The final estimated melt rates for the GIS and WAIS were 0.21 and 0.38 mm/yr, respectively, close to the values used in the synthetic dataset. The 1σ uncertainties associated with these values indicate the magnitude of ice-sheet melting that could potentially be detected in real sea-level records.
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Small, Portable Sensors Allow Users to Monitor Exposure to Pollution on Their Smart Phones

Small, Portable Sensors Allow Users to Monitor Exposure to Pollution on Their Smart Phones | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have built a small fleet of portable pollution sensors that allow users to monitor air quality in real time on their smart phones. The sensors could be particularly useful to people suffering from chronic conditions, such as asthma, who need to avoid exposure to pollutants.

 

CitiSense is the only air-quality monitoring system capable of delivering real-time data to users’ cell phones and home computers—at any time. Data from the sensors can also be used to estimate air quality throughout the area where the devices are deployed, providing information to everyone—not just those carrying sensors.  

 

Just 100 of the sensors deployed in a fairly large area could generate a wealth of data—well beyond what a small number of EPA-mandated air-quality monitoring stations can provide. For example, San Diego County has 3.1 million residents, 4,000 square miles—and only about 10 stations.

“We want to get more data and better data, which we can provide to the public,” said William Griswold, a computer science professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and the lead investigator on the project. “We are making the invisible visible.”

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Aletta Verhey's curator insight, September 20, 2013 1:40 PM

Pollution sensors have been created in University Of California in San Diego. This small sensor allows users to monitor exposure to pollution on their phones. CitiSense is the only air quality monitoring system capable of delivering data to peoples' cell phones. The sensors detect ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. 

Mallory Wheeler's comment, September 27, 2013 1:33 PM
That phone has swag.
Trenzcape's curator insight, July 5, 2014 7:07 AM

Pollution sensors on smart phones. Smart phones getting smarter day by day...

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NASA's Kepler announces 15,847 new exoplanet-candidates - 262 of these are potentially habitable.

NASA's Kepler announces 15,847 new exoplanet-candidates - 262 of these are potentially habitable. | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
NASA Kepler released last month 18,406 planet-like detection events from its last three year mission to search for exoplanets (Kepler Q1-Q12 TCE). Further analysis is required by the NASA Kepler Team and the scientific community to extract and identify true planets, including those potentially habitable. The Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo (PHL) performed a preliminary analysis and identified 262 candidates for potentially habitable worlds in this dataset. These candidates become top priority for further analysis, additional observations, and confirmation. The Kepler Threshold Crossing Event (TCE) dataset consists of a list of stars with 18,406 transit-like features that resemble the signatures of transiting planets to a sufficient degree that they are passed on for further analysis. Many of these objects are false positives caused by stellar transits or other physical and instrumental conditions not related to planets. Those that pass additional tests are added to the Kepler Objects of Interest (KOI) list, currently at 2,320 candidates, for further validation. Finally, those verified by more astronomical observations supplement the 132 Kepler confirmed planets so far. Only the best TCE objects, those with more than three transit events, were selected for the analysis in accordance with the PHL’s Habitable Exoplanet Catalog (HEC) criteria. This reduced the sample to 15,847 objects eliminating a known instrumental bias for one-year period planets. Unfortunately, this also eliminated many interesting objects but more analysis will be required to sort out longer period planets. HEC identified and sorted with the Earth Similarity Index (ESI), a measure of Earth-likeness, 262 potentially habitable planet candidates. These include four subterrans (Mars-size), 23 terrans (Earth-size), and 235 superterrans (super Earth-size). The preliminary analysis performed by the PHL helps to sort out and rank the best candidates for further exploration in NASA Kepler’s TCE. Twenty-four of these have an ESI over 0.90 and therefore are quite Earth-like according to what is measurable. For example, the best candidate is an Earth-size planet in a 231 days orbit around the star KIC-6210395, which receives about 70% of the light that Earth receives from the Sun. More are expected with a similar period to Earth but they will be added later to HEC after further analysis. It will still be remarkable if only 50% of these turn out to be real planets. It is estimated that there are millions of Earth-like planets in our Galaxy. However, most of these are out of our observational abilities for the coming decades, and probably many centuries. Only a small fraction of these planets, the ones that transit their star, are good enough for better characterization and to confirm their potential for life. This result suggests that there are over 8,500 transiting very Earth-like planets within reach of NASA Kepler-like missions, assuming the Kepler field is representative of all the sky. This sample is enough to occupy astronomers for many years.
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Medical Modeling VSP 3D Facial Reconstruction System Cleared by FDA

Medical Modeling VSP 3D Facial Reconstruction System Cleared by FDA | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Medical Modeling Inc. of Golden, Colorado has been cleared by the FDA to sell its VSP System software for individualized surgical planning. Using proprietary ClearView and OsteoView CAD/CAM technology, it allows surgeons to print 3D implants using stereolithography additive manufacturing.

 

The package consists of VSP Reconstruction for planning work on the mandible or maxilla using vascularized grafts, and VSP Orthognathics for the jaw.

 

Medical Modeling’s VSP® System is a digital planning solution for all your maxilofacial surgical needs. We provide planning services and additive manufacturing of models, guides and templates to facilitate clinical transfer from the surgical planning environment to the operating room. Common VSP® applications include planning for maxilla/mandible reconstruction, facial trauma, distraction osteogenesis and orthognathic surgeries.

 

http://tinyurl.com/a8wfcdp

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The slower you grow, the longer you live: Growth rate influences lifespan

The slower you grow, the longer you live: Growth rate influences lifespan | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

New research from the University of Glasgow suggests that lifespan is affected by the rate at which bodies grow early in life.

 

A team from the University’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine altered the growth rate of 240 fish by exposing them to brief cold or warm spells, which put them behind or ahead their normal growth schedule.  Once the environmental temperature was returned to normal, the fish got back on track by accelerating or slowing their growth accordingly. However, the change in growth rate also affected their rate of aging. 

 

While the normal lifespan of sticklebacks is around two years, the slow-growth fish lived for more than 30 percent longer, with an average lifespan of nearly 1000 days. In contrast, the accelerated-growth fish had a lifespan that was 15% shorter than normal. 

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mdashf's curator insight, January 8, 2013 11:40 AM

they should check if this is statistically in confirmation with Einstein's Relativity which says "more enegy automatically means ime runs faster and less energy means time runs slower" hence having less energy spent per unit time allows this energy to be spent over a longer period time and hence aging slower. Slowe metabolic activites should entail longer ife span and even Einstein had said so "bilogical aging and the rate at which physical processes are governed by Relativity" b/cos they are to be governed by physical laws and Einstein's law is a physical law as well. 

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The future of medicine is now

The future of medicine is now | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Six medical innovations are poised to transform the way we fight disease, The Wall Street Journal reports.

 

• Surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a way to help children born with half a heart to essentially grow a whole one — by marshaling the body’s natural capacity to heal and develop.

 

• Oxford Nanopore Technologies has unveiled the first of a generation of tiny DNA sequencing devices that many predict will eventually be as ubiquitous as cellphones — it’s already the size of one.

 

• A test developed by Foundation Medicine Inc. enables doctors to test a tumor sample for 280 different genetic mutations suspected of driving tumor growth.

 

• MK3475, being developed by Merck & Co., is among a new category of drugs that unleash an army of immune cells to hunt down a cancer.

 

• Last month, the FDA cleared a new iPhone add-on that lets doctors take an electrocardiogram just about anywhere. Other smartphone apps help radiologists read medical images and allow patients to track moles for signs of skin cancer.

 

• Gene therapy is poised to become a viable option for a variety of often life-threatening medical conditions, especially those resulting from a single defective gene.

 

http://tinyurl.com/bxzjtqs


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Inexpensive card-sized device runs 50 blood tests in seconds

Inexpensive card-sized device runs 50 blood tests in seconds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ordinarily, when medical clinicians are conducting blood tests, it’s a somewhat elaborate affair. A full vial of blood must be drawn, individual portions of which are then loaded into large, expensive machines such as mass spectrometers. The results are usually quite accurate, but they’re not instantaneous, and require the services of trained personnel in a well-equipped lab.

 

http://tinyurl.com/c29cvuj


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Noroviruses: The Perfect Human Pathogens?

Noroviruses: The Perfect Human Pathogens? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Noroviruses are perhaps the perfect human pathogens. These viruses possess essentially all of the attributes of an ideal infectious agent: highly contagious, rapidly and prolifically shed, constantly evolving, evoking only limited immunity, and just moderately virulent, allowing most of those infected to fully recover, thereby maintaining a large susceptible pool of hosts. These characteristics have enabled noroviruses to become the leading cause of endemic diarrheal disease across all age groups, the leading cause of foodborne disease, and the cause of half of all gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. In the United States alone, noroviruses are responsible for an estimated 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis annually, including >70,000 hospitalizations and nearly 800 deaths. In developing countries, where the greatest burden of diarrheal disease occurs, noroviruses have been estimated to cause up to 200 000 deaths each year in children <5 years of age. Although recognition of this immense disease burden is relatively recent, it is unclear whether it has long been present and failed to be recognized because of lack of sensitive diagnostics or if, in fact, noroviruses represent a truly emergent public health issue. Regardless, attempts to address the overwhelming burden of norovirus disease first require an understanding of the complexity and efficiency with which these viruses spread.

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NCPbiology's curator insight, June 27, 2014 6:28 AM

Interesting extra reading.

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Long-lived bats offer clues on diseases, cancer and aging

Long-lived bats offer clues on diseases, cancer and aging | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Studying the DNA of two distant bat species, the scientists discovered how genes dealing with the bats' immune system had undergone the most rapid change. This may explain why they are relatively free of disease and live exceptionally long lives compared with other mammals of similar size, such as the rat, said Professor Lin-Fa Wang, an infectious disease expert at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore who led the multi-centre study.

 

"We are not saying bats never get sick or never get infections. What we are saying is they handle infections a lot better," Wang said. What was missing from both species of bats was a gene segment known to trigger extreme, and potentially fatal, immune reactions to infections, called the cytokine storm.

Cytokine storms end up killing not only offending viruses in the body, but the host's own cells and tissues too.

 

"Viruses rarely kill the host. The killing comes from the host's immune response. So it looks like what bats are doing is depress the inflammation (cytokine storm). If we can learn that, we can design drugs to minimize the inflammation damage and control viral infection," Wang said.

 

Compared with other mammals of similar size, bats live a long time, with lifespans of between 20 and 40 years. Rats live between 2 and 3 years, on average.

 

Interestingly, Wang and his colleagues found that the highly evolved genes that give bats their superior immune system also enable them to fly. Out of more than 5,000 types of mammals on the planet, bats are the only one capable of sustained flight and some species can fly more than 1,000 km in a single night.

 

Such intense physical exertion is known to produce toxic "free radicals" that cause tissue damage and it is these same genes that give the bat the ability to repair itself, Wang said. "What we found was the genes that evolved fastest were genes involved in repairing DNA damage. That makes sense ... because when you fly, metabolism goes up and it generates free radicals that are toxic to cells," Wang said.

 

"Because bats fly, they (would have had) to evolve and adapt ... to get genes that can repair DNA damage." Wang said we have much to learn from the bat, which has evolved to avoid disease and live exceptionally long lives. "Cancer, ageing and infectious disease, these are the three major areas of concern for people," he said.

 

"We have studied rats for 150 years to understand how to do better in these three areas. Now we have a system, the bat, that has done very well in evolution. We can learn from the bat. With modern techniques, we can design new drugs to slow down the ageing process, treat cancer, fight infections."

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Scientists explore the illusion of memory

Scientists explore the illusion of memory | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A memory might seem like a permanent, precious essence carved deep into the circuits of the brain. But it is not. Instead, scientists are discovering that a memory changes every time you think about it.

 

"Every time you recall a memory, it becomes sensitive to disruption. Often that is used to incorporate new information into it." That's the blunt assessment from one of the world's leading experts on memory, Dr. Eric Kandel from Columbia University.

 

And that means our memories are not abstract snapshots stored forever in a bulging file in our mind, but rather, they're a collection of brain cells — neurons that undergo chemical changes every time they're engaged.

So when we think about something from the past, the memory is called up like a computer file, reviewed and revised in subtle ways, and then sent back to the brain's archives, now modified slightly, updated, and changed.

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Audrey's comment, January 6, 2013 1:57 PM
This has been explored by Elizabeth Loftus. She carried out experiments which examined the reconstructive nature of memory. This is a very interesting topic and fits in with A level cognitive psychology.
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Rare Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered

Rare Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A rare Martian meteorite recently found in Morocco contains minerals with 10 times more water than previously discovered Mars meteorites, a finding that raises new questions about when and how long the Mars had conditions suitable for life.

 

The rock is believed to be similar to those studied by NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on opposite sides of Mars in 2004 to look for signs of past water. Spirit is no longer operational, but in August Opportunity was joined by the new and more sophisticated Curiosity rover, which will be searching for chemistry and environmental conditions necessary to support microbial life.

 

The meteorite, known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the second-oldest of 110 named stones originating from Mars that have been retrieved on Earth. Purchased from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011, the black, baseball-sized stone, which weighs less than 1 pound, is 2.1 billon years old, meaning it formed during what is known as the early Amazonian era in Mars' geologic history. The only older Mars meteorite found so far is the 4-billion-year-old Allan Hills 84001 Antarctica stone that was the source of speculation about microfossils in 1996.

 

Early Mars was believed to be warm and wet, but the planet lost most of its atmosphere and its surface water to become a cold, dry desert that appears today.

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What’s going on around Andromeda? Curious structure made of dwarf galaxies puzzles scientists

What’s going on around Andromeda? Curious structure made of dwarf galaxies puzzles scientists | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Thirteen dwarf galaxies are playing a cosmic-scale game of Ring Around Andromeda, forming an enormous structure astronomers have never seen before and are hard-pressed to explain with current theories of how galaxies form and evolve.

 

According to current theories, the small galaxies, which contain as many as a few tens of billions of stars each, should be randomly arranged around the Andromeda galaxy.

 

Instead, they orbit Andromeda within a plane more than 1 million light-years across and about 30,000 light-years thick. For comparison, the latest estimates of Andromeda's girth put its diameter at more than 220,000 light-years.

 

The ring, if it can be called that, represents "the largest organized structure in what we call the local group of galaxies," says Michael Rich, a research astronomer at the University of California at Los Angeles. The local group consists of more than 54 galaxies, including dwarfs, about 10 million light-years across.

 

Such rings don't appear when astrophysicists run their models of galaxy evolution, or when they model the local group's formation, he says. In addition, Andromeda and the Milky Way, the two most massive galaxies in the group, appear to be headed for a collision in about 4.5 billion years. The two galaxies are but 2.5 million light-years away and closing.

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Early universe: Magnetic fields created before the first stars

Early universe: Magnetic fields created before the first stars | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Magnets have practically become everyday objects. Earlier on, however, the universe consisted only of nonmagnetic elements and particles. Just how the magnetic forces came into existence has now been researched.

 

Before the formation of the first stars, the luminous matter consisted only of a fully ionised gas of protons, electrons, helium nuclei and lithium nuclei which were produced during the Big Bang. "All higher metals, for example, magnetic iron could, according to today's conception, only be formed in the inside of stars," says Reinhard Schlickeiser. "In early times therefore, there were no permanent magnets in the Universe." The parameters that describe the state of a gas are, however, not constant. Density and pressure, as well as electric and magnetic fields fluctuate around certain mean values. As a result of this fluctuation, at certain points in the plasma weak magnetic fields formed -- so-called random fields. How strong these fields are in a fully ionised plasma of protons and electrons, has now been calculated by Prof. Schlickeiser, specifically for the gas densities and temperatures that occurred in the plasmas of the early universe.


The result: the magnetic fields fluctuate depending on their position in the plasma, however, regardless of time -- unlike, for example, electromagnetic waves such as light waves, which fluctuate over time. Everywhere in the luminous gas of the early universe there was a magnetic field with a strength of 10^-20 Tesla, i.e. 10 sextillionth of a Tesla. By comparison, the earth's magnetic field has a strength of 30 millionths of a Tesla. In MRI scanners, field strengths of three Tesla are now usual. The magnetic field in the plasma of the early universe was thus very weak, but it covered almost 100 percent of the plasma volume.


Stellar winds or supernova explosions of the first massive stars generated shock waves that compressed the magnetic random fields in certain areas. In this way, the fields were strengthened and aligned on a wide-scale. Ultimately, the magnetic force was so strong that it in turn influenced the shock waves. "This explains the balance often observed between magnetic forces and thermal gas pressure in cosmic objects," says Prof. Schlickeiser. The calculations show that all fully ionised gases in the early universe were weakly magnetised. Magnetic fields therefore existed even before the first stars. Next, the Bochum physicist is set to examine how the weak magnetic fields affect temperature fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation.

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Multi-dimensional Brain Clock Can Measure Child’s Age With 92% Accuracy

Multi-dimensional Brain Clock Can Measure Child’s Age With 92% Accuracy | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A national team of researchers led by investigators at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have developed a multidimensional set of brain measurements that, when taken together, can accurately assess a child’s age with 92 percent accuracy.

 

“We have uncovered a ‘developmental clock’ within the brain—a biological signature of maturation that captures age differences quite well regardless of other kinds of differences that exist across individuals,” said Timothy T. Brown, PhD, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

 

This study of the anatomy of the developing human brain addresses a long-standing scientific question about individual biological variability in children.  It shows that, for certain structural measures, maturational differences in the developing human brain are much smaller than was previously thought – offering the first composite profile of different phases of brain development from ages 3 to 20 years.

 

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Editing the genome with high precision and inserting multiple genes into specific locations

Editing the genome with high precision and inserting multiple genes into specific locations | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at MIT, the Broad Institute and Rockefeller University have developed a new technique for precisely altering the genomes of living cells by adding or deleting genes. The researchers say the technology could offer an easy-to-use, less-expensive way to engineer organisms that produce biofuels; to design animal models to study human disease; and  to develop new therapies, among other potential applications.

To create their new genome-editing technique, the researchers modified a set of bacterial proteins that normally defend against viral invaders. Using this system, scientists can alter several genome sites simultaneously and can achieve much greater control over where new genes are inserted, says Feng Zhang, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and leader of the research team.  

“Anything that requires engineering of an organism to put in new genes or to modify what’s in the genome will be able to benefit from this,” says Zhang, who is a core member of the Broad Institute and MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

 

Complexes known as transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) can also cut the genome in specific locations, but these complexes can also be expensive and difficult to assemble. The new system is much more user-friendly than TALENs, Zhang says. Making use of naturally occurring bacterial protein-RNA systems that recognize and snip viral DNA, the researchers can create DNA-editing complexes that include a nuclease called Cas9 bound to short RNA sequences. These sequences are designed to target specific locations in the genome; when they encounter a match, Cas9 cuts the DNA. 

This approach can be used either to disrupt the function of a gene or to replace it with a new one. To replace the gene, the researchers must also add a DNA template for the new gene, which would be copied into the genome after the DNA is cut. 

Each of the RNA segments can target a different sequence. “That’s the beauty of this — you can easily program a nuclease to target one or more positions in the genome,” Zhang says. 

The method is also very precise — if there is a single base-pair difference between the RNA targeting sequence and the genome sequence, Cas9 is not activated. This is not the case for zinc fingers or TALEN. The new system also appears to be more efficient than TALEN, and much less expensive. 

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Quantum gas goes below absolute zero: Ultracold atoms pave way for negative-Kelvin materials

Quantum gas goes below absolute zero: Ultracold atoms pave way for negative-Kelvin materials | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It may sound less likely than hell freezing over, but physicists have created an atomic gas with a sub-absolute-zero temperature for the first time. Their technique opens the door to generating negative-Kelvin materials and new quantum devices, and it could even help to solve a cosmological mystery.

 

Lord Kelvin defined the absolute temperature scale in the mid-1800s in such a way that nothing could be colder than absolute zero. Physicists later realized that the absolute temperature of a gas is related to the average energy of its particles. Absolute zero corresponds to the theoretical state in which particles have no energy at all, and higher temperatures correspond to higher average energies.

 

However, by the 1950s, physicists working with more exotic systems began to realize that this isn't always true: Technically, you read off the temperature of a system from a graph that plots the probabilities of its particles being found with certain energies. Normally, most particles have average or near-average energies, with only a few particles zipping around at higher energies. In theory, if the situation is reversed, with more particles having higher, rather than lower, energies, the plot would flip over and the sign of the temperature would change from a positive to a negative absolute temperature, explains Ulrich Schneider, a physicist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.

 

Schneider and his colleagues reached such sub-absolute-zero temperatures with an ultracold quantum gas made up of potassium atoms. Using lasers and magnetic fields, they kept the individual atoms in a lattice arrangement. At positive temperatures, the atoms repel, making the configuration stable. The team then quickly adjusted the magnetic fields, causing the atoms to attract rather than repel each other. “This suddenly shifts the atoms from their most stable, lowest-energy state to the highest possible energy state, before they can react,” says Schneider. “It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak.”

 

At positive temperatures, such a reversal would be unstable and the atoms would collapse inwards. But the team also adjusted the trapping laser field to make it more energetically favourable for the atoms to stick in their positions. This result, described today in Science, marks the gas’s transition from just above absolute zero to a few billionths of a Kelvin below absolute zero. Wolfgang Ketterle, a physicist and Nobel laureate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who has previously demonstrated negative absolute temperatures in a magnetic system, calls the latest work an “experimental tour de force”. Exotic high-energy states that are hard to generate in the laboratory at positive temperatures become stable at negative absolute temperatures — “as though you can stand a pyramid on its head and not worry about it toppling over,” he notes — and so such techniques can allow these states to be studied in detail. “This may be a way to create new forms of matter in the laboratory,” Ketterle adds.

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Beam me up Scotty: Life-size hologram-like telepods revolutionize videoconferencing

Beam me up Scotty: Life-size hologram-like telepods revolutionize videoconferencing | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A queen's university researcher has created a star trek-like human-scale 3d videoconferencing pod that allows people in different locations to video conference as if they are standing in front of each other. "Why skype when you can talk to a life-size 3d holographic image of another person?" says professor Roel Vertegaal, director of the human media lab.

 

The technology Dr. Vertegaal and researchers at the Queen's human media lab have developed is called Telehuman and looks like something from the star trek holodeck. Two people simply stand in front of their own life-size cylindrical pods and talk to 3d hologram-like images of each other. Cameras capture and track 3d video and convert it into the life-size surround image.


Since the 3d video image is visible 360 degrees around the pod, the person can walk around it to see the other person’s side or back.

 

While the technology may seem like it comes from a galaxy far, far away, it's not as complicated as most would think. Dr. Vertegaal and his team used mostly existing hardware – including an array of microsoft kinect sensors, a 3d projector, a 1.8 metre-tall translucent acrylic cylinder and a convex mirror.

 

The research team used the same pod to create another application called bodipod, which presents an interactive 3d anatomy model of the human body. The model can be explored 360 degrees around the model through gestures and speech interactions.

 

When people approach the pod, they can wave in thin air to peel off layers of tissue.  In x-ray mode, as users get closer to the pod they can see deeper into the anatomy, revealing the model’s muscles, organs and bone structure. Voice commands such as "show brain" or "show heart" will automatically zoom into a 3d model of a brain or heart.

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Virginie Vincent's curator insight, April 4, 2013 3:15 AM

Quand le virtuel rejoint la réalité ou la réalité rejoint le virtuel ...

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C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia forms RNA G-quadruplexes

C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia forms RNA G-quadruplexes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Large expansions of a non-coding GGGGCC-repeat in the first intron of the C9orf72 gene are a common cause of both amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). G-rich sequences have a propensity for forming highly stable quadruplex structures in both RNA and DNA termed G-quadruplexes. G-quadruplexes have been shown to be involved in a range of processes including telomere stability and RNA transcription, splicing, translation and transport. Here we show using NMR and CD spectroscopy that the C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansion can form a stable G-quadruplex, which has profound implications for disease mechanism in ALS and FTD.

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New microscopy technique lets scientists see live viruses in their natural habitat

New microscopy technique lets scientists see live viruses in their natural habitat | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Scientists have developed a new technology that allows them to view live viruses in their natural habitat, as opposed to isolated frozen specimens.

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Permanently dye white hair with gold nanoparticles

Permanently dye white hair with gold nanoparticles | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Attention seniors: French scientists have developed a process that permanently dyes white hair without harmful chemicals.

 

Philippe Walter and colleagues soaked white hairs in a solution containing fluorescent gold nanoparticles.

 

The hairs turned pale yellow and then darkened to a deep brown. The color remained even after repeated washings.

 

 


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mdashf's curator insight, January 3, 2013 7:50 PM

where do you think the golden aura in my hair comes from ?

Steve Kingsley's curator insight, October 12, 2013 7:35 PM

When is this going to be commercially avaiable?

Ramanathan's curator insight, August 11, 2014 5:03 AM

Permanent hair dye with nanoparticles!

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Peel-and-Stick: Fabricating Thin Film Solar Cells on Universal Substrates

Peel-and-Stick: Fabricating Thin Film Solar Cells on Universal Substrates | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Business cards, cellphones and windows could all get a little boost from a sticky new invention. However, fabrication of thin-film solar cells (TFSCs) on substrates other than Si and glass has been challenging because these nonconventional substrates are not suitable for the current TFSC fabrication processes. Researchers have now created thin, flexible solar cells that can stick to paper, plastic, glass and many other materials, just by using double-sided tape.

 

"Now you can put them on helmets, cellphones, convex windows, portable electronic devices, curved roofs, clothing — virtually anything," Xiaolin Zheng, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University who led the development of the new solar cells, said in a statement.

 

The cells are a step toward turning more and more everyday items into either electronics or solar power-harvesting surfaces. Solar cells placed on windows could help a building absorb more solar power than roof installations alone, for example. And a combination of flexible solar panels and electronics could lead to products such as electrified "smart" clothes that control a connected smartphone. With the new peel-and-stick process, the scientists integrated hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) TFSCs on paper, plastics, cell phone and building windows while maintaining the original 7.5% efficiency. The new peel-and-stick process enables further reduction of the cost and weight for TFSCs and endows TFSCs with flexibility and attachability for broader application areas.

 

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