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Personal space for my research projects. Applying science to social policy. Understanding evidence. Academic sources and scientists.
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How the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our view of the universe

How the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our view of the universe | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations and generated 100 terabytes of data, all while whirling around the Earth at 17,000 mph.

Without Hubble, astronomy "would be an awful lot poorer a field,” said Mike Garcia, a program scientist for Hubble at NASA headquarters in Washington. “The Hubble images capture the beauty of the heavens in a way that nothing else has done. The pictures are works of art, and nothing else has done that.”

Garcia, who has worked on NASA projects for over 30 years, has used the satellite’s images to study black holes in the Andromeda galaxy.


“Hubble found out that there's a supermassive black hole in the center of every galaxy. And that was a surprise,” Garcia said. “The black holes and the galaxies know about each other. The size of the black hole is in lockstep with the size of the galaxy."


Hubble doesn’t just stare into deep space; the telescope is just as good at observing objects closer to home. Hubble has provided scientists with images of Pluto’s four moons and photographic evidence that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been shrinking, as well as treating viewers to the fragments of a comet crashing into the gas planet.


Garcia’s favorite Hubble image captures the Andromeda galaxy’s nucleus, 2 million light-years away, which is actually pretty close. "It's a double nucleus, which is really rare. And it surrounds a supermassive black hole," Garcia said. "Only an astronomer would love it. It’s not an image the public would go wild over."


But there are plenty of images the public has gone wild over. Hubble images are embedded in our culture – seen in frames on walls, on computer screen savers and postage stamps. “An image captures people’s imaginations right away,” said John Trauger, a senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge. “Hubble has really helped the idea of communicating science.”


Trauger helped process one of Hubble’s most recognizable images, featuring a dying star throwing dust back into space. “MyCn18,” an hourglass-shaped nebula with a green eye-like center, was photographed in 1996 and made the cover of both National Geographic and the Pearl Jam album “Binaural.”


Trauger was also the principal investigator of JPL’s mission to repair Hubble after it was launched with a flaw that rendered all its instruments “unfocusable.” In 1993, Space Shuttle Endeavour installed a new camera, called Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, giving us a view into the deepest regions of space. The camera was replaced again with a third version in 2009. With Hubble, scientists can see the same amount of detail in objects 10 times farther than they would be able to get from a land-based observatory. That allows humans to view a region of space 1,000 times larger than what we can see from the ground, Trauger said.


Hubble’s quest to capture the universe in images has benefited Earthlings in other ways, too. As NASA and the military push for more advanced digital camera technologies, those improvements eventually find their way into our pocket-sized devices.


Twenty-five years after its launch and six years after its last servicing mission, Hubble is at its scientific peak of productivity. NASA expects the satellite to work well in to the 2020s. By 2037, the agency estimates atmospheric drag will start to take its toll. Then they’ll think about boosting it up or bringing it back.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Astronomers find runaway galaxies

Astronomers find runaway galaxies | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
We know of about two dozen runaway stars, and have even found one runaway star cluster escaping its galaxy forever. Now, astronomers have spotted 11 runaway galaxies that have been flung out of their homes to wander the void of intergalactic space.
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Researchers cradle silver nanoclusters inside synthetic DNA to create a programmed, tunable fluorescent array

Researchers cradle silver nanoclusters inside synthetic DNA to create a programmed, tunable fluorescent array | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
The silver used by Beth Gwinn's research group at UC Santa Barbara has value far beyond its worth as a commodity, even though it's used in very small amounts.
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Tantalizing evidence of a mass extinction - Washington Post

Tantalizing evidence of a mass extinction - Washington Post | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
It was a global disaster on par with the extinction of the dinosaurs, researchers said.
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A layered fabric 3D printer for soft interactive objects

A layered fabric 3D printer for soft interactive objects | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

A team from Disney ResearchCarnegie Mellon University and Cornell University have devised a 3-D printer that layers together laser-cut sheets of fabric to form soft, squeezable objects such as phone cases and toys. These objects can have complex geometries and incorporate circuitry that makes them interactive.


“Today’s 3-D printers can easily create custom metal, plastic, and rubber objects,” said Jim McCann, associate research scientist at Disney Research Pittsburgh. “But soft fabric objects, like plush toys, are still fabricated by hand. Layered fabric printing is one possible method to automate the production of this class of objects.”


The fabric printer is similar in principle to laminated object manufacturing, which takes sheets of paper or metal that have each been cut into a 2-D shape and then bonds them together to form a 3-D object. Fabric presents particular cutting and handling challenges, however, which the Disney team has addressed in the design of its printer.


The latest soft printing apparatus includes two fabrication surfaces: an upper cutting platform and a lower bonding platform. Fabric is fed from a roll into the device, where a vacuum holds the fabric up against the upper cutting platform while a laser cutting head moves below. The laser cuts a rectangular piece out of the fabric roll, then cuts the layer’s desired 2-D shape or shapes within that rectangle. This second set of cuts is left purposefully incomplete so that the shapes receive support from the surrounding fabric during the fabrication process.


Once the cutting is complete, the bonding platform is raised up to the fabric and the vacuum is shut off to release the fabric. The platform is lowered and a heated bonding head is deployed, heating and pressing the fabric against previous layers. The fabric is coated with a heat-sensitive adhesive, so the bonding process is similar to a person using a hand iron to apply non-stitched fabric ornamentation onto a costume or banner.


Once the process is complete, the surrounding support fabric is torn away by hand to reveal the 3-D object. The researchers demonstrated this technique by using 32 layers of 2-millimeter-thick felt to create a 2 ½-inch bunny. The process took about 2 ½ hours.


Two types of material can be used to create objects by feeding one roll of fabric into the machine from left to right, while a second roll of a different material is fed front to back. If one of the materials is conductive, the equivalent of wiring can be incorporated into the device. The researchers demonstrated the possibilities by building a fabric starfish that serves as a touch sensor, as well as a fabric smartphone case with an antenna that can harvest enough energy from the phone to light an LED.


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Machine dreams - MIT Technology Review

Machine dreams - MIT Technology Review | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

"To rescue its struggling business, Hewlett-Packard is making a long-shot bid to change the fundamentals of how computers work ..."


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Mutagenic chain reaction (MCR) greatly alters how genes are inherited

Mutagenic chain reaction (MCR) greatly alters how genes are inherited | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

Major strides in genetics from Gregor Mendel to Barbara McClintock have changed the way we see how genes are inherited. Because of this, we can calculate with reasonable confidence how genes will propagate from one generation to the next. But what if a scientist wants to bias how some alleles are transmitted, increasing their chance of being spread to the next generation? This already happens in the natural world. Transposable elements, for example, can insert and remove themselves throughout the genome. In a recent article, scientists developed an ingenious technique to create homozygous mutations that pass themselves to the next generation. This method can completely transform the genome of an entire population after several generations. Using the CRISPR-Cas9 system, Scientists from UC- San Diego created a mutagenic chain reaction (MCR) to greatly alter how genes are inherited.


To start, the researchers developed a bacterial construct that contained a Cas9 endonuclease and a gRNA that targets a gene of interest surrounded by homology arms that match sequences in the gene of interest. They inject this construct along with already made Cas9s and gRNAs to cut one allele of the gene and allow the construct to integrate using homologous recombination. The inserted construct will be transcribed, creating the Cas9 and gRNA which will then make a cut on the other chromosome. This allows for another round of homologous recombination, and the knockout of the other allele of the gene. This will interrupt the gene of interest, likely rendering it silent. Not only will insertion help create double knockouts, but when passed on to the next generation, the normally heterozygous mutations will now knockout the allele inherited from the other parent. This will create homozygous knockout progeny.


Their work show that after incorporating the cassette as an embryo, flies would emerge as homozygous knockouts. Even more incredible, the next generation showed complete knockouts. The gRNA targeted a gene in the X chromosome, that when homozygously mutated produced a lighter, yellow tinted fly. If the cassette was injected into a male fly, knocking out the gene, and this fly then mated with a wild type female, they found 100% of the female progeny were homozygous mutants, yellow, and all the males were wild type, a normal color. If the cassette was injected into a female fly, and mated to a wild type male fly, the investigators found 97% of the progeny were homozygous knockouts. In normal Mendelian crosses, one would expect 0% of the progeny to be homozygous for the knockout.


One name for such a system is a gene drive. The idea has been around since the 1960s and has picked up steam in the past years. Until recently, it had remained theoretical. However, with the major advances in genome engineering, it has now become a reality. We have seen similar work to what is presented here done in yeast at George Church's lab at Harvard. This technique has a lot of pros. It drastically decreases the amount of time it takes to make a stable mutant line. Also, there is less risk losing the mutation through mishaps with breeding (although this could be seen as a con if one fly escapes into another mutant line). Doing genetic screens too will be far easier and faster with this technique. A key use for this system is delivering transgenes into pests or disease carrying insects like mosquitos to help eradicate the spread of deadly diseases. In a similar vein, gene drives could help control invasive species. There are, however, some severe downsides to this method.


The most obvious downside to willingly releasing an organism into the wild with a gene drive are unseen results of the mutation. Nearly permanent changes introduced into a species will likely have many unknown effects on the population and environment. Furthermore, other mutations could occur through chance or off-target effects creating unforeseen mutants. Releasing these creatures into the wild in the hopes it will change the species for the better is incredibly hazardous. The risk of working with this protocol in the lab has drawbacks as well. If one is working with animals like flies or mice (although, to my knowledge, this hasn't been tested in mice), they can escape labs and potentially spread the homozygous mutations to the wild populations. There is a chance that the induced mutation would decrease the fitness of the animals, eventually weeding itself out of the population, but that isn't something we can depend on.


The authors acknowledged that there are substantial risks involved with such an experiment. They went through extensive steps to prevent the escape of animals. To George Church, however, it's the escape of the protocol that is dangerous. My thoughts are that with enough regulation, research with these methods can be done safely, but it must be taken seriously. There are several measures that would limit the broad impact of the experiments. One could target specific genes only found in a small subset of the greater population. Propagation could also be made in a way that it is easily reversible. In the work linked to above using gene drives in yeast, the authors split the locations of the Cas9 and gRNA, preventing the organism from being completely sufficient in driving changes throughout the population. The broader impacts of gene drives are enormous and we must take strides early by starting a dialogue and holding regulatory meetings to prevent any catastrophe.


Gene drives present an ethical conundrum. There is a thin line between positive results, and potentially dangerous mutations running rampant. It is imperative that measures are put in place quickly to contain all aspects of the materials and limit outside exposure. The invention and use of such a superb technique needs to be used safely and with great care.


References:


Bohannon, J. Biologists devise invasion plan for mutations. Science, 347, 1300 (2015).


Burt, A. Site-Specific selfish genes as tool for the control and genetic engineering of natural populations. Proceedings of the biological sciences B, 270, 921-928 (2003).


Esvelt, K.M., Smidler, A.L., Catteruccia, F., Church, G.M. Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations. eLife, 2014;3:e03401.


Gantz, V.M., Bier, E. The mutagenic chain reaction: A method for converting heterozygous to homozygous mutations. Science Express, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5945 (2015).



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Josep M Torra Colom's curator insight, April 21, 12:50 PM

añada su visión ...

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Bacteria bonanza found in remote Amazon village

Bacteria bonanza found in remote Amazon village | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
An isolated American Indian group in the Venezuelan Amazon hosts the most-diverse constellation of microbes ever discovered in humans, researchers reported on 17 April in Science Advances1. Surprisingly, the group's microbiome includes bacteria with genes that confer antibiotic resistance — even though its members, part of the Yanomami tribe, are not thought to have been exposed to the drugs.

“We knew that the microbes living on Yanomami would probably be more diverse, but we were surprised by the extent,” says Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a microbial ecologist at New York University and an author of the paper.
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3D simulations of colliding black holes hailed as most realistic yet

3D simulations of colliding black holes hailed as most realistic yet | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
When astronomers try to simulate colliding giant black holes, they usually rely on simplified approximations to model the swirling disks of matter that surround and fuel these gravitational monsters. Researchers now report that, for the first time, they have simulated the collision of two supermassive black holes using a full-blown treatment of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, allowing a 3D portrayal of these disks of magnetized matter.

The simulations more accurately describe the radiation that might be detected from such mergers. This includes electromagnetic radiation blasted into space and ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. Stuart Shapiro of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented movies of the simulations at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, Maryland, on 13 April. His team had described elements of the study last November, in Physical Review D1.
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Scientists find key to 'turbo-charging' immune system to kill all cancers - Telegraph.co.uk

Scientists find key to 'turbo-charging' immune system to kill all cancers - Telegraph.co.uk | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
Imperial College scientists are developing a gene therapy designed to boost immune cells

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Moore's Law: Beyond the first law of computing

Moore's Law: Beyond the first law of computing | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

"Moore's Law is approaching its 50th birthday, but will its prediction that processors will keep doubling in power hold true for much longer? ...


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Jan Vajda's curator insight, April 17, 1:28 PM

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Beyond genes: are centrioles carriers of biological information?

Beyond genes: are centrioles carriers of biological information? | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

EPFL scientists discover that certain cell structures, the centrioles, could act as information carriers throughout cell generations. The discovery raises the possibility that transmission of biological information could involve more than just genes.


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Chemists' synthesis of silicon oxides opens 'new world in a grain of sand'

Chemists' synthesis of silicon oxides opens 'new world in a grain of sand' | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
In an effort that reaches back to the 19th-century laboratories of Europe, a discovery by University of Georgia chemistry researchers establishes new research possibilities for silicon chemistry and the semiconductor industry.
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18 astronomers pick the most important photos sent back by the Hubble Space Telescope

18 astronomers pick the most important photos sent back by the Hubble Space Telescope | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
Hubble in pictures: astronomers' top picks...
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Researchers use novel polarization to increase data speeds

Researchers use novel polarization to increase data speeds | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
As the world's exponentially growing demand for digital data slows the Internet and cell phone communication, City College of New York researchers may have just figured out a new way to increase its speed.
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The rumors were true: Scientists edited the genomes of human embryos for the first time

The rumors were true: Scientists edited the genomes of human embryos for the first time | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

After weeks of rumors, the Chinese researchers quietly published their work.


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Ultra-high-resolution nondestructive 3D imaging of biological cells with picosecond ultrasound

Ultra-high-resolution nondestructive 3D imaging of biological cells with picosecond ultrasound | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

A team of researchers in Japan and Thailand reports the first known nondestructive 3-D scan of a single biological cell using a revised form of “picosecond* ultrasound.” This new technique can achieve micrometer (millionth of a meter) resolution of live single cells, imaging their interiors in slices separated by 150 nanometers (.15 micrometer), in contrast to the typical 0.5-millimeter (500 micrometers) spatial resolution of a standard medical MRI scan. The work is a proof-of-principle that could open the door to new ways of studying the physical properties of living cells by imaging them non-destructively in vivo, the researchers say.


The team accomplished the imaging by first placing a cell in solution on a titanium-coated sapphire substrate and then scanning with a point source of high-frequency sound generated by using a beam of focused ultrashort laser pulses over the titanium film. This was followed by focusing another beam of laser pulses on the same point to pick up tiny changes in optical reflectance caused by the sound traveling through the cell tissue.


“By scanning both beams together, we’re able to build up an acoustic image of the cell that represents one slice of it,” explained co-author Professor Oliver B. Wright, who teaches in the Division of Applied Physics, Faculty of Engineering at Hokkaido University. “We can view a selected slice of the cell at a given depth by changing the timing between the two beams of laser pulses.”


“The time required for 3-D imaging [with conventional acoustic microscopes] probably remains too long to be practical,” Wright said. “Building up a 3-D acoustic image, in principle, allows you to see the 3-D relative positions of cell organelles without killing the cell.


“By using an ultraviolet-pulsed laser, we could improve the lateral resolution by about a factor of three — and greatly improve the image quality. And, switching to a diamond substrate instead of sapphire would allow better heat conduction away from the probed area, which, in turn, would enable us to increase the laser power and image quality.”


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New tabletop detector 'sees' single electrons

New tabletop detector 'sees' single electrons | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

MIT physicists have developed a new tabletop particle detector that is able to identify single electrons in a radioactive gas.


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UCLA researchers deliver large particles into cells at high speed

UCLA researchers deliver large particles into cells at high speed | Research Workshop | Scoop.it

A new device developed by UCLA engineers and doctors may eventually help scientists study the development of disease, enable them to capture improved images of the inside of cells and lead to other improvements in medical and biological research.


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Dark matter may feel a "dark force" that the rest of the Universe does not

Dark matter may feel a "dark force" that the rest of the Universe does not | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
After decades of studying dark matter scientists have repeatedly found evidence of what it cannot be but very few signs of what it is. That might have just changed. A study of four colliding galaxies for the first time suggests that the dark matter in them may be interacting with itself through some unknown force other than gravity that has no effect on ordinary matter. The finding could be a significant clue as to what comprises the invisible stuff that is thought to contribute 24 percent of the universe.

“This result, if confirmed, could upend our understanding of dark matter,” says physicist Don Lincoln of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, who was not involved in the research. So-called “self-interacting dark matter” has been suggested for some time but it has generally been considered unorthodox. The simplest model of dark matter portrays it as a single particle — one that happens to interact with others of its kind and normal matter very little or not at all. Physicists favor the most basic explanations that fit the bill and add extra complications only when necessary, so this scenario tends to be the most popular. For dark matter to interact with itself requires not only dark matter particles but also a dark force to govern their interactions and dark boson particles to carry this force. This more complex picture mirrors our understanding of normal matter particles, which interact through force-carrying particles. For example, protons interact through the electromagnetic force, which is carried by particles called photons (particles of light).
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Intact Proteins Found in Fossils That Are Supposedly 8-18 Million Years Old

Intact Proteins Found in Fossils That Are Supposedly 8-18 Million Years Old | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
Recently, I ran across a very interesting study that adds to the list of surprises for those who think that some fossils are millions of years old. The authors were analyzing the fossilized shells of an extinct group of marine mollusks from the genus Ecphora. Unlike many mollusk groups, the fossilized shells of the Ecphora are colored reddish-brown. The authors decided to find out what produces this colorization, so they soaked the fossils in weak acid to remove the minerals. What remained were thin sheets of organic residue that had all the characteristics one would expect if they were made of proteins.

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YEC Geo's curator insight, April 20, 10:04 AM

Another for the list on the left there.

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Newly discovered protein ramps up immune response to cancer

Newly discovered protein ramps up immune response to cancer | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
One of the body's defenses against deadly cancer cells may have just received a much-needed boost. Researchers at Imperial College London have happened upon a previously unknown protein that ramps up the presence of all-important cytotoxic T cells, which destroy virus-infected and cancerous cells.

The scientists have named their discovery lymphocyte expansion molecule (LEM), which they unearthed while screening mice with genetic mutations. The found that a particular strain of mice was producing 10 times the normal amount of cytotoxic T cells once it had been infected with a virus. The result was an improved ability to contain the virus and a heightened resistance to cancer.

The cause for this boost in immune response, the scientists found, was the huge presence of a particular protein, their new friend LEM. Following this finding, the scientists were able to establish that LEM also regulates the levels of T cells in humans.

These findings could have important implications for the development of anti-cancer therapies. Though the immune system swiftly swings T cells into action once cancer is detected, they are also quickly overwhelmed and unable to spread widely enough to overcome the disease. If the number of T cells can be multiplied, especially if its by a factor of 10, it could bolster the immune systems chances of winning the battle.

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Could maple syrup help cut use of antibiotics? (w/ Video)

Could maple syrup help cut use of antibiotics? (w/ Video) | Research Workshop | Scoop.it
A concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, according to laboratory experiments by researchers at McGill University.

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