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Engineered artificial human livers for drug testing and discovery

Engineered artificial human livers for drug testing and discovery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) researchers have engineered an artificial human liver that mimics the natural tissue environment closely.

 

The development makes it possible for companies to predict the toxicity of new drugs earlier, potentially speeding up the drug development process and reducing the cost of manufacturing

 

 


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20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

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A dolphin’s forehead acts like an acoustic metamaterial

A dolphin’s forehead acts like an acoustic metamaterial | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Echolocation beam controlled with deformable tissue is the trick many dolphins use.

 

A porpoise’s forehead acts like a ‘metamaterial’ to create the directional sound beam used by the marine mammals to detect and track prey, claim researchers in the US and China. The acoustics experts and biologists also found that the animals can adjust the acoustic properties of their foreheads to control the width of the beam. They believe that the structure of the porpoise forehead could inspire the development of new materials to control sound, with applications in underwater sonar and ultrasonic imaging.

 

Porpoises use directional acoustic waves as a sonar system to hunt. When first searching for prey they use a narrow beam of sound to scan the water. But as they close in on a target they dramatically increase the width of the beam, to keep it in their field of view.

 

Scientists have struggled to understand how porpoises produce, and control, this directional echolocation beam. Porpoises produce the sounds, or 'clicks', by forcing air through a structure in their blowhole called the phonic lips. But this sound source is smaller than the wavelength of the sound it produces, which should, in theory, make the acoustic beam hard to control. And the phonic lips emit sound in all directions, not just forwards.

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Microchip enables fast, precise measurement of single-cell growth

Microchip enables fast, precise measurement of single-cell growth | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
An MIT-invented microfluidics device that uses an array of suspended microchannel resonators (SMR) to measure cell mass can precisely measure the growth of many individual cells simultaneously, with aims of producing faster drug tests.

The technique, described in a paper published in Nature Biotechnology, uses an array of suspended microchannel resonators (SMR), a type of microfluidic device that measures the mass of individual cells as they flow through tiny channels. A novel design has increased throughput of the device by nearly two orders of magnitude, while retaining precision. The paper’s senior author, MIT professor Scott Manalis, and other researchers have been developing SMRs for nearly a decade.  

 

In the new study, the researchers used the device to observe the effects of antibiotics and antimicrobial peptides on bacteria, and to pinpoint growth variations of single cells among populations, which has important clinical applications. Slower-growing bacteria, for instance, can sometimes be more resistant to antibiotics and may lead to recurrent infections. 

 

“The device provides new insights into how cells grow and respond to drugs,” says Manalis, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor in the MIT departments of Biological Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

 

The paper’s lead authors are Nathan Cermak, a recent PhD graduate from MIT’s Computational and Systems Biology Program, and Selim Olcum, a research scientist at the Koch Institute. There are 13 other co-authors on the paper, from the Koch Institute, MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratory, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Innovative Micro Technology, and CEA LETI in France.

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An interstellar asteroid has been studied for the 1st time... and it looks really odd

An interstellar asteroid has been studied for the 1st time... and it looks really odd | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In October, astronomers using a powerful telescope in Hawaii caught sight of something they'd never seen before: an asteroid from interstellar space hurtling through our solar system.

 

Now, about a month later, we have some sense of what that far-flung object looks like, and it's unlike anything we've seen in our solar system. 

 

According to a new study published in the journal Nature this week, the asteroid, named `Oumuamua, is "about 10 times as long as it is wide, with a complex, convoluted shape," Karen Meech, an astronomer with the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii, said in a statement.

 

`Oumuamua, which is the first interstellar visitor of its kind to be seen by Earthlings, appears to have come from the general direction of where the Vega star system is now. This fact should make any space nerd squeal with glee as it's the same star featured in the novel and movie Contact. Unfortunately, Vega wasn't actually in that part of the sky when the asteroid was there 300,000 years ago, according to the European Southern Observatory.

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Slaughterbots: Disturbing video depicts near-future ubiquitous lethal autonomous weapons

Slaughterbots: Disturbing video depicts near-future ubiquitous lethal autonomous weapons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In response to growing concerns about autonomous weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of AI researchers and advocacy organizations, has released a fictional video that depicts a disturbing future in which lethal autonomous weapons have become cheap and ubiquitous worldwide.

 

UC Berkeley AI researcher Stuart Russell presented the video at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva, hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots earlier this week. Russell, in an appearance at the end of the video, warns that the technology described in the film already exists* and that the window to act is closing fast.

 

Support for a ban against autonomous weapons has been mounting. On Nov. 2, more than 200 Canadian scientists and more than 100 Australian scientists in academia and industry penned open letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull urging them to support the ban. Earlier this summer, more than 130 leaders of AI companies signed a letter in support of this week’s discussions. These letters follow a 2015 open letter released by the Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 20,000 AI/robotics researchers and others, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.

 

“Many of the world’s leading AI researchers worry that if these autonomous weapons are ever developed, they could dramatically lower the threshold for armed conflict, ease and cheapen the taking of human life, empower terrorists, and create global instability,” according to an article published by the Future of Life Institute, which funded the video. “The U.S. and other nations have used drones and semi-automated systems to carry out attacks for several years now, but fully removing a human from the loop is at odds with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

 

“The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is not trying to stifle innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics and it does not wish to ban autonomous systems in the civilian or military world,” explained Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. Rather we see an urgent need to prevent automation of the critical functions for selecting targets and applying violent force without human deliberation and to ensure meaningful human control for every attack.”

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Can data storage in DNA solve our massive data storage problem in the future?

Can data storage in DNA solve our massive data storage problem in the future? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The latest in high-density ultra-durable data storage has been perfected over billions of years by nature itself.

 

Now ‘Smoke on the Water’ is making history again. This September, it was one of the first items from the Memory Of the World archive to be stored in the form of DNA and then played back with 100% accuracy. The project was a joint effort between the University of Washington, Microsoft and Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco-based DNA manufacturing company.

The demonstration was billed as a ‘proof of principle’ – which is shorthand for successful but too expensive to be practical. At least for now.

 

Many pundits predict it’s just a matter of time till DNA pips magnetic tape as the ultimate way to store data. It’s compact, efficient and resilient. After all, it has been tweaked over billions of years into the perfect repository for genetic information. It will never become obsolete, because as long as there is life on Earth, we will be interested in decoding DNA. “Nature has optimised the format,” says Twist Bioscience’s chief technology officer Bill Peck.

 

Players like Microsoft, IBM and Intel are showing signs of interest. In April, they joined other industry, academic and government experts at an invitation-only workshop (cosponsored by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA)) to discuss the practical potential for DNA to solve humanity’s looming data storage crisis.

 

It’s a big problem that’s getting bigger by the minute. According to a 2016 IBM Marketing Cloud report, 90% of the data that exists today was created in just the past two years. Every day, we generate another 2.5 quintillion (2.5 × 1018) bytes of information. It pours in from high definition video and photos, Big Data from particle physics, genomic sequencing, space probes, satellites, and remote sensing; from think tanks, covert surveillance operations, and Internet tracking algorithms. EVERY DAY, WE GENERATE ANOTHER 2.5 QUINTILLION BYTES OF INFORMATION.

 

Right now all those bits and bytes flow into gigantic server farms, onto spinning hard drives or reels of state-of-the-art magnetic tape. These physical substrates occupy a lot of space. Compare this to DNA. The entire human genome, a code of three billion DNA base pairs, or in data speak, 3,000 megabytes, fits into a package that is invisible to the naked eye – the cell’s nucleus. A gram of DNA — the size of a drop of water on your fingertip — can store at least the equivalent of 233 computer hard drives weighing more than 150 kilograms. To store the all the genetic information in a human body — 150 zettabytes — on tape or hard drives, you’d need a facility covering thousands, if not millions of square feet.

 

And then there’s durability. Of the current storage contenders, magnetic tape has the best lifespan, at about 10-20 years. Hard drives, CDs, DVDs and flash drives are less reliable, often failing within five to ten years. DNA has proven that it can survive thousands of years unscathed. In 2013, for example, the genome of an early horse relative was reconstructed from DNA from a 700,000-year-old bone fragment found in the Alaskan permafrost.


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For the first time, a robot passed a medical licensing exam

For the first time, a robot passed a medical licensing exam | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Experts generally agree that, before we might consider artificial intelligence (AI) to be truly intelligent —that is, on a level on par with human cognition— AI agents have to pass a number of tests. And while this is still a work in progress, AIs have been busy passing other kinds of tests.

 

Xiaoyi, an AI-powered robot in China, for example, has recently taken the national medical licensing examination and passed, making it the first robot to have done so. Not only did the robot pass the exam, it actually got a score of 456 points, which is 96 points above the required marks.

 

This robot, developed by leading Chinese AI company iFlytek Co., Ltd., has been designed to capture and analyze patient information. Now, they’ve proven that Xiaoyi could also have enough medical know-how to be a licensed practitioner.

 

Local newspaper China Daily notes that this is all part of the country’s push for more AI integration in a number of industries, including healthcare and consumer electronics. China is already a leading contender on the global AI stage, surpassing the United States in AI research, in an ultimate effort to become a frontrunner in AI development by 2030. The country’s determination, driven by the realization that AI is the new battleground for international development, could put the U.S. behind China in this worldwide AI race.

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Amish Mutation in PAI-1 Protects Against Diabetes and May Extend Life

Amish Mutation in PAI-1 Protects Against Diabetes and May Extend Life | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Amish men and women who carried a genetic mutation appeared to be in better cardiovascular health and had longer telomeres, a barometer of longevity.

 

The findings, published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, shed light on the processes underlying cellular aging and could lead to new therapies for chronic diseases, some experts say. The researchers are planning at least one follow-up trial that will recreate the effects of the mutation so they can study its impact on obese people with insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

 

The mutation described in the new paper affects a mysterious protein called plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, or PAI-1, that is known primarily for its role in promoting blood clotting. The mutation was first identified in 1991 in a secluded Amish farming community in Berne, Ind. An estimated 5 percent of the community carries the mutation, which causes them to produce unusually low levels of PAI-1.

 

Scientists have long suspected that PAI-1 has other functions outside of clotting that relate to aging. Dr. Douglas Vaughan, a cardiologist at Northwestern medical school, noticed, for example, that mice that had been genetically engineered to produce high levels of the protein age fairly quickly, going bald and dying of heart attacks at young ages. People who have higher levels of the protein in their bloodstreams also tend to have higher rates of diabetes and other metabolic problems and to die earlier of cardiovascular disease.

 

Dr. Vaughan took a team of 40 researchers to their town, set up testing stations in a recreation center, and spent two days doing extensive tests on 177 members of the community, many of whom arrived by horse and buggy. The researchers pored over birth and death records and took extensive genealogical histories. They drew blood, did ultrasounds of their hearts, and rigorously examined their cardiac and pulmonary function.

 

“Some of the young men we collected blood from fainted because they had never had a needle stick in their life,” said Dr. Vaughan, who is chairman of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “These people live sort of an 18th century lifestyle and generally don’t take advantage of modern medicine. But they were so gracious and courteous and cooperative.”

 

What Dr. Vaughan and his colleagues discovered was striking. Amish carriers of the mutation live on average to age 85, about 10 years longer than their peers. Among the Amish who did not have the mutation, the rate of Type 2 diabetes was 7 percent. But for carriers of the mutation, the rate was zero, despite leading the same lifestyle and consuming similar diets. Tests showed that carriers of the mutation had 28 percent lower levels of insulin, a hormone whose chronic elevation can lead to Type 2 diabetes. “Diabetes is something that develops more as we age,” Dr. Vaughan said. “This is a terrific indicator that the mutation actually protected them from a metabolic consequence of aging.”

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Blood Pressure Control by a Secreted FGFBP1 (Fibroblast Growth Factor–Binding Protein)

Blood Pressure Control by a Secreted FGFBP1 (Fibroblast Growth Factor–Binding Protein) | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In the fast-paced world of drug discovery, repurposing existing FDA-approved drugs is a logical strategy, as it not only can save time and money but can ultimately save lives since drugs can get to patients much quicker. It is incumbent upon researchers to explore all potential treatment possibilities for various compounds, even when they seem unlikely—as investigators from Georgetown University Medical Center have just discovered. The research team found that drugs designed to halt cancer growth may offer a new way to control hypertension.

 

Findings from the new study—published today in Hypertensionin an article entitled “Blood Pressure Control by a Secreted FGFBP1 (Fibroblast Growth Factor–Binding Protein)”—could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment because although a number of high blood pressure drugs are now available, they work by different mechanisms that are not suited for all patients.

 

The Georgetown team uncovered that fibroblast growth factors, or FGFs, involved in increasing blood vessel growth so that cancer can grow, also have a systemic effect on blood pressure. Moreover, results from the new study suggest that just as oncologists use FGF inhibitors to control cancer, clinicians may be able to use FGF inhibitors to regulate blood pressure and control disease associated with hypertension.

 

"It's rare that a single class of drugs can be used for such different conditions, but that is what our study strongly suggests," noted senior study investigator Anton Wellstein, M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and pharmacology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and a researcher at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Zika virus-related nerve damage is caused by the body's immune response to the virus

Zika virus-related nerve damage is caused by the body's immune response to the virus | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The immune system’s response to the Zika virus, rather than the virus itself, may be responsible for nerve-related complications of infection, according to a Yale study. This insight could lead to new ways of treating patients with Zika-related complications, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, the researchers said.

 

In mice models lacking a key antiviral response, infection with Zika virus causes paralysis and death. To understand the mechanism, a research team led by immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki examined the spread of infection in these mice.

 

The research team found that when the Zika infection spreads from the circulating blood into the brain, immune cells known as CD8 T cells flood the brain. While these T cells sharply limit the infection of nerve cells, they also trigger Zika-related paralysis, the researchers said.

 

The immune cells that are generated by infection start attacking our own neurons,” Iwasaki said. “The damage is not occurring through the virus infection, but rather the immune response to the virus.”

 

Immune-mediated nerve damage underlies Guillen-Barré syndrome, which affects some people infected with the Zika virus. The study findings suggest that suppressing the immune response might be an approach to treating the syndrome, which causes weakness, tingling, and, in rare cases, paralysis.

 

Read the full paper in Nature Microbiology.

 

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Deep in The Ocean, There's a 'Shadow Zone' Where The Water Is 2,000 Years Old

Deep in The Ocean, There's a 'Shadow Zone' Where The Water Is 2,000 Years Old | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The oldest water in the ocean didn't reach its advanced years by accident. Deep in the North Pacific, a vast stretch of submerged ocean is trapped in a kind of stasis between powerful currents and the sea floor, and for the ancient waters caught in this airless 'shadow zone', it's almost like time stands still.

 

"What we have found is that at around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) below the surface of the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a 'shadow zone' with barely any vertical movement that suspends ocean water in an area for centuries," says oceanographer Casimir de Lavergne from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

 

"Carbon-14 dating had already told us the most ancient water lied in the deep North Pacific. But until now we had struggled to understand why the very oldest waters huddle around the depth of 2 kilometers."

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Schizophrenia originates early in pregnancy, 'mini-brain' research suggests

Schizophrenia originates early in pregnancy, 'mini-brain' research suggests | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood, but new research reveals that the brain disease likely begins very early in development, toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The finding opens up a new understanding of this devastating disease and the potential for new treatment possibilities in utero.

Recent research published in Translational Psychiatry by scientists from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and other institutions show that schizophrenia actually might have fetal beginnings. 

The findings provide powerful evidence that schizophrenia begins early in fetal development, said Michal K. Stachowiak, PhD, lead author and professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at UB. "This disease has been mischaracterized for 4,000 years," he said, referring to the first time a disease believed to be schizophrenia was described in the 1550 BC Egyptian medical text, the Ebers Papyrus.
 
"After centuries of horrendous treatment, including even the jailing of patients, and after it has been characterized as everything from a disease of the spirit or moral values or caused by bad parental influence (a concept that appeared in psychiatric textbooks as recently as 1975) we finally now have evidence that schizophrenia is a disorder that results from a fundamental alteration in the formation and structure of the brain," Stachowiak said.

The research builds on previous work by Stachowiak and his colleagues showing that although hundreds of different genetic mutations may be responsible for schizophrenia in different patients, they all converge in a single faulty genomic pathway called the Integrative Nuclear FGFR 1 Signaling (INFS) pathway, which the UB researchers reported on earlier this year. But when and how dysregulation of that pathway occurred and how it affected brain development was unknown.

Via Miloš Bajčetić
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Lab mice's ancestral ‘Eve’ gets her genome sequenced

Lab mice's ancestral ‘Eve’ gets her genome sequenced | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Effort aims to help scientists understand how generations of inbreeding have altered the genetics of research rodents.

 

Adam and Eve, a pair of black mice, lived for less than two years and never left their home at the Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Bar Harbor, Maine. But since they were bred in 2005, their progeny have spread around the globe: the pair’s living descendants, which likely number in the hundreds of thousands. They are members of the most popular strain of mice used in biomedical research, which was created nearly a century ago.

 

Now, researchers at JAX are reconstructing Eve’s genome in the hopes of better understanding — and compensating for — the natural mutations that occur in lab mice over the course of generations. These genetic changes can cause unanticipated physiological effects that can confound experiments. Related substrains of lab mice can differ in their taste for alcohol or their sensitivity to insulin, for example, and researchers suspect that such differences between supposedly identical mice lines have hampered some areas of research.

 

The scientists who founded JAX created Adam and Eve’s breed, which is called C57BL/6, in 1921. To keep the mice as genetically similar as possible, researchers have repeatedly bred brothers with sisters for nearly a century — and sold the resulting offspring to customers around the world. But this strategy created a genetic bottleneck: every generation, between 10 and 30 new mutations pop up and are passed down to offspring. This ‘genetic drift’ quickly accumulates over the years, says Laura Reinholdt, a geneticist at JAX. The genomes of the C57BL/6 mice that the lab sells today have thousands of genetic differences from the mouse reference genome, which was created in 2002 from three mice from the substrain C57BL/6J. The genome is used as a template for researchers developing genetically modified mice.

 

Other suppliers have inadvertently created divergent substrains of C57BL/6 mice when they’ve bought rodents from JAX and bred them over several generations. Although most mutations go unnoticed, some occur in genes that affect a mouse's appearance or physiology. In 2016, mouse supplier Envigo in Somerset, New Jersey, found that C57BL/6 mice at 6 of its 19 breeding facilities around the world had acquired a mutation in a gene related to the immune system. The company notified the researchers that bought these mice, and asked customers to specify which location they preferred to source mice from in the future, given that the company’s stocks were no longer identical.

 
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Proton–antiproton equivalence confirmed by best-ever measurement

Proton–antiproton equivalence confirmed by best-ever measurement | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new measurement technique used by CERN's BASE collaboration has constrained the magnetic moment of the antiproton with parts-per-billion precision – a huge improvement over the roughly one-part-per-million precision achieved by the same team in January. The result means that the magnetic moment of the antiproton is now known even more precisely than the magnetic moment of the proton itself.

 

Crucial to the 350-fold improvement in precision was the simultaneous measurement of the cyclotron frequency of one antiproton and of the Larmor frequency of another antiproton. By using a "hot" particle in the cyclotron measurement, the researchers avoided the need for a time-consuming cooling step in each cycle of their experiment. This allowed the team to make measurements at a much greater rate than before, and three times faster than they managed when they measured the proton's magnetic moment in 2014.

Equal and opposite

Discrepancies between the properties of protons and antiprotons could explain the overwhelming dominance of normal matter in the universe – something that is not explained by the Standard Model of particle physics. Anybody hoping for hints of new physics beyond the Standard Model will be disappointed, however, because the result is consistent with protons and antiprotons having magnetic moments that are opposite but equal.

The researchers expect to achieve a further improvement in precision by upgrading the experiment's magnetic shielding and cooling system, and by using a more homogeneous magnetic field in the precision trap.

 

The experiment is described in Nature.

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Cold atoms in space could target gravitational waves

Cold atoms in space could target gravitational waves | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Atom interferometers could be more effective than light-based instruments in detecting gravitational waves.

 

Gravitational waves hit the headlines in February last year when the LIGO collaboration announced it had detected them directly for the first time using a pair of huge laser interferometers in the US. With a further five sightings reported since then by LIGO and its European counterpart Virgo, scientists have begun to open what they call a new window on the universe. Now, keen to open that window as wide as possible, several groups have proposed sending atomic interferometers into space to observe gravitational waves that are difficult to intercept on the ground.

 

Gravitational waves are ripples in space–time that create tiny periodic expansions and contractions of space along orthogonal axes as they propagate forward. And, like any waves, they come in a range of frequencies. LIGO, which stands for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, detects them by monitoring a change in the relative phase of two perpendicular laser beams. However, at frequencies below about 10 Hz, this signal tends to be drowned out by terrestrial sources of noise, such as seismic waves.

 

To avoid such interference and detect low-frequency waves, physicists are eager to launch interferometers into the quiet of space. The €1.5 Billion Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) would consist of three spacecraft positioned millions of kilometers apart in a triangular formation, and would detect gravitational waves by monitoring the interference between laser beams bounced back and forth off free-floating test masses inside each spacecraft. First proposed about 25 years ago, the project has suffered a series of funding problems and was only officially inserted into the European Space Agency’s science program in June this year, following the successful completion of its predecessor LISA Pathfinder. Its launch is planned for 2034.

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Researchers conduct chemical study of an old, metal-rich globular cluster

Researchers conduct chemical study of an old, metal-rich globular cluster | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers have presented a chemical study of the old, metal-rich globular cluster NGC 5927. The new research determines abundances of 22 elements in seven giant stars of the cluster. 

 

Discovered in 1826, NGC 5927 is a globular cluster near the Galactic plane, located about 7,700 light years from the Earth. It is one of most metal-rich globular clusters in the Milky Way and has an estimated age of approximately 12.25 billion years.

 

Galactic globular clusters, especially such old as NGC 5927, are important for astronomers since they are among the oldest objects in the universe. Therefore, they could serve as natural laboratories for the study of stellar evolution processes.

 

In the case of NGC 5927, it is believed that it was formed during the earliest stages of the formation of the Milky Way. Hence, researchers hope that this cluster could provide essential information about how the initial material got processed chemically.

 

A team of astronomers led by Aldo Mura-Guzman of the University of Concepción in Chile, has lately performed a chemical study of NGC 5927. They obtained high-resolution spectra using the FLAMES/UVES spectrograph at the UT2 telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, which allowed them to conduct a detailed chemical abundances analysis of this cluster.

"In this paper we present a chemical study of the GC NGC 5927 based on high-resolution spectra taken from UVES," the authors wrote in the paper.

 

The researchers determined chemical abundances 22 such as sodium, aluminum, iron, oxygen and heavy elements like yttrium and zirconium. They found that NGC 5927 hosts multiple stellar populations with oxygen-sodium anti-correlation, and moderate spread in aluminum abundances.

 

According to the paper, NGC 5927 has a mean metallicity of –0.47 dex, what is consistent with previous studies. This value is comparable with field stars and globular clusters in the Milky Way's bulge. Moreover, the scientists noted that no significant spread in other iron-peak elements is visible in the studied cluster.

 

Furthermore, the researchers confirmed a sodium-aluminum correlation but found no clear evidence for magnesium-aluminum anti-correlation in NGC 5927.

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Too much antimatter is hitting Earth and scientists aren't sure why

Too much antimatter is hitting Earth and scientists aren't sure why | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists aren't sure why so much antimatter is hitting Earth. New observations at the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory may offer an answer.

 

The Earth is constantly being hit by cosmic rays, but scientists have noticed an unusually large amount of high-energy positrons – the antimatter counterparts of electrons. Now a group of researchers from the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Poland might have an explanation. According to the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN), the excess positrons might be “the first particles recorded by humans to be derived from the interaction of dark matter.”

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Just How Little Do We Know about the Ocean Floor?

Just How Little Do We Know about the Ocean Floor? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Less than 0.05 percent of the ocean floor has been mapped to a level of detail useful for detecting items such as airplane wreckage or the spires of undersea volcanic vents

 

Unlike mapping the land, we can’t measure the landscape of the sea floor directly from satellites using radar, because sea water blocks those radio waves. But satellites can use radar to measure the height of the sea’s surface very accurately. And if there are enough measurements to subtract the effects of waves and tides, satellites can actually measure bumps and dips in the sea surface that result from the underlying landscape of the ocean floor.

 

Where there’s a large underwater mountain or ridge, for example, the tiny local increase in gravity resulting from its mass pulls sea water into a slight bump above it. If instead there is an ocean trench, the weaker local gravity produces a comparative dip in the ocean surface.

 

Reading those bumps and dips in the sea’s surface is an astounding feat of precision measurement, involving lasers to track the trajectory of the measuring satellite and inevitably a lot of maths to process the data. The new map uses data from the Cryosat-2 and Jason-1 satellites and shows features not seen in earlier maps using data from older satellites. The previous global map of the ocean floor, created using the same techniques and published in 1997, had a resolution of about 20km.

 

So we do actually have a map of 100% of the ocean floor to a resolution of around 5km. From that, we can see the main features of its hidden landscape, such as the mid-ocean ridges and ocean trenches – and, in that sense, the ocean floor is certainly not “95% unexplored”. But that global map of the ocean floor is admittedly less detailed than maps of Mars, the Moon, or Venus, because of our planet’s watery veil.

 

NASA’s Magellan spacecraft mapped 98% of the surface of Venus to a resolution of around 100 meters. The entire Martian surface has also been mapped at that resolution and just over 60% of the Red Planet has now been mapped at around 20m resolution. Meanwhile, selenographers have mapped all of the lunar surface at around 100 meter resolution and now even at seven meter resolution.

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Physicists unify quantum coherence with nonclassicality of light

Physicists unify quantum coherence with nonclassicality of light | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Physicists have demonstrated that two independently developed concepts—quantum coherence and the nonclassicality of light—both arise from the same underlying resources. The ability to explain seemingly distinct phenomena within a single framework has long been a fulfilling aspiration in physics, and here it may also have potential applications for quantum information technologies.


The physicists, Kok Chuan Tan, Tyler Volkoff, Hyukjoon Kwon, and Hyunseok Jeong, at Seoul National University, have published a paper on their work in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters. "The results unify two well-known yet independently developed notions inquantum information theory and quantum optics: the concept of quantumcoherence that was recently developed based on the framework of quantum resource theories, and the notion of nonclassicality of light that has been established since the 1960s based on the quantum theory of light," Jeong explains.

 

As Jeong stated, an important question in physics is how to draw the line between "quantum" and "classical" and how to quantify the degree of "quantum." In their new work, the physicists developed a procedure that quantifies the amount of coherence in a superposition of coherent states. This information essentially tells how "quantum" vs. how "classical" these states are, which is useful for many quantum information tasks.

 

In the process of doing this, the scientists found that the same resource that measures coherence can also be used to measure the nonclassicality of light. This finding helps to explain some previous observations, such as that both coherence and nonclassical light can be converted to quantum entanglement. As the new results show, this is because nonclassical light may be interpreted as a form of coherence.

 

"I think it is always interesting to apply new ideas to old concepts to see if we can get additional insight," Tan said. "In this case, the resource theory of coherence is a relatively new tool available to the community while nonclassical light is, comparatively speaking, a much older concept from a mature field of study. By providing a connection between the two concepts, our hope is to be able to create synergy, where the tools and insights we gain from coherence can be used to achieve greater insight into the inner workings of nonclassical light and vice versa. For instance, our work suggests that the fact that both coherence and nonclassical light can both be converted to entanglement is no mere accident."


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Fruit Fly Brains Could Help AI Perform Much Better Content Searches

Fruit Fly Brains Could Help AI Perform Much Better Content Searches | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The neural architecture of a fruit fly brain is better at some types of searches than computers today.

 

The content you see on the internet is increasingly becoming tailored to you: Music based on your favorite jams, shopping suggestions corresponding to your recent purchases, and television shows similar to your most beloved episodes. These “similarity searches” drive custom content, and they’re pretty tricky to do correctly and quickly.

 

That is, for computers at least. Fruit flies, on the other hand, seem to be pretty good at them. A new study in the journal Science takes a look at how fruit flies quickly and efficiently sort out and identify different smells. Their neural architecture is so well-designed in fact, that it could hold the key to more effective similarity searches.

 

For brains, especially human brains, this kind of recognition isn’t too difficult, according to Saket Navlakha, assistant professor in Salk’s Integrative Biology Laboratory and lead author of the new paper. Many animals perform similarity searches all the time. “For example, you might see someone and be like, ‘That guy reminds me of my uncle.’ Or you might hear a song and be like, ‘That band sounds like Nirvana.’ Or you might smell a perfume and be like, ‘That smell reminds me of an orange,’” Navlakha explains.

 

He says in each of these instances we’re comparing new stimuli to an existing database of information stored in our brains. It would be much the same with animals in the wild — seeing a red berry may trigger a similarity search to other red berries to indicate that it might be poisonous. “It’s quite a general problem faced by many species,” says Navlakha.

 

The problem of categorizing and understanding new information is a little trickier for computers — you’ve likely received an automated suggestion for a movie or product that seemed way off base. That’s because when most computers analyze data to categorize items, they pare down the information to work more efficiently. Computers assign a kind of digital shorthand, called a “hash,” to each item. From there, hashes are compared and matched with other, similar hashes, a process known as called locality-sensitive hashing. The simplified hashes make searching through thousands, if not millions, of other items faster and easier.

 

Fruit flies, however, have a mechanism in their brains that performs similarity searches in a very different way. Specifically, they expand the stimuli information, as opposed to compressing and simplifying it. When fruit flies first sense an odor, 50 neurons fire in a combination unique to that smell. But instead of simplifying that information as computer programs would, the flies’ brains then send that information to a total of 2,000 neurons. With more neurons in play, the fly’s brain is able to give each smell a more unique label, meaning that it’s easier to categorize.

 

The flies then pare this information down to the top five percent or so of neural signals, effectively sorting out only the most salient information. This creates a pattern similar to a digital hash that the fly can then use to identify scents and respond accordingly.

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As Earth's rotation slows, 2018 could see a spike in large earthquakes

As Earth's rotation slows, 2018 could see a spike in large earthquakes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Every so often, the Earth’s rotation slows by a few milliseconds per day. This is inconsequential to the average human, and causes only mild annoyance to the people whose job it is to measure Earth’s rotation with great precision.

 

That may be about to change, if the hypothesis set out by two geologists proves true. In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters earlier this year, Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana predict that, because of Earth’s slowing rotation, the world will see a significant spike in large earthquakes in 2018.

 

To make this prediction, Bilham and Bendick studied every earthquake since 1900 that recorded more than 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale. They found that approximately every 32 years, there is an uptick in these large quakes. The only factor that strongly correlates is a slight slowing of the Earth’s rotation in a five-year period before the uptick.

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Exoplanet hunters rethink search for alien life

Exoplanet hunters rethink search for alien life | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Astronomers expand ideas of how chemistry and geology could affect chances for life on other worlds.

 

Steve Desch can see the future of exoplanet research, and it’s not pretty. Imagine, he says, that astronomers use NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to scour the atmosphere of an Earth-mass world for signs of life. Then imagine that they chase hints of atmospheric oxygen for years — before realizing that those were false positives produced by geological activity instead of living things.

 

Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University in Tempe, and other planet hunters met from 13-17 November in Laramie, Wyoming, to plot better ways to scout for life beyond Earth. Many are starting to argue that habitability — having liquid water on a planet’s surface — is not the factor that should guide exoplanet exploration. Instead, the scientists say, the field should focus on the chances of detecting alien life, should it exist. “Planets can be habitable and not have life with any impact,” Desch told researchers at the meeting.

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Whales switch from right to left-handed when diving for food

Whales switch from right to left-handed when diving for food | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ambidextrous behavior by “right-handed” blue whales has surprised scientists studying the huge creatures’ feeding habits.

Like many other animals, blue whales display laterality, or “handedness” – generally a bias towards the right. But a study using video cameras attached to the backs of whales has shown how they switch laterality when feeding.

 

Over a period of six years, the team attached suction “tags” fitted with video cameras, hydrophones and motion sensors to the backs of 63 blue whales off the coast of southern California. The tags were designed to detach after several hours and float to the surface, so they could be recovered and their data downloaded.

 

Blue whales are famous for their dramatic “lunge feeding” acrobatics close to the ocean surface. As they launch themselves upwards into swarms of the tiny crustaceans, called krill, on which they feed, the whales execute 360 degree barrel rolls. And according to the video evidence, they almost always roll to the left. This is in marked contrast to the way they normally feed at greater depths, when they execute 90-degree right-handed side rolls.

 

Rolling to the left while lunge feeding allows the blue whale’s dominant right eye to target smaller patches of krill more effectively, suggests US lead researcher Ari Friedlaender, at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute. “We were completely surprised by these findings, but when considering the means by which the whales attack smaller prey patches, the behaviour really seems to be effective, efficient, and in line with the mechanisms that drive their routine foraging behaviours,” he says. It was the first known example of an animal altering handedness to adjust to the context of a performed task.

 

Journal reference: Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.023

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Researchers find the first methane-producing microbe that thrives in an oxygen-rich environment

Researchers find the first methane-producing microbe that thrives in an oxygen-rich environment | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A study of a Lake Erie wetland suggests that scientists have vastly underestimated the number of places methane-producing microbes can survive—and, as a result, today’s global climate models may be misjudging the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere.

 

In the journal Nature Communications, researchers at The Ohio State University and their colleagues describe the discovery of the first known methane-producing microbe that is active in an oxygen-rich environment.

 

Oxygen is supposed to be toxic to such microbes, called methanogens, but the newly namedCandidatus Methanothrix paradoxum thrives in it. In fact, 80 percent of the methane in the wetland under study came from oxygenated soils. The microbe’s habitat extends from the deepest parts of a wetland, which are devoid of oxygen, all the way to surface soils.

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MIT Researchers Develop Nanoparticles that Deliver the CRISPR genome-editing system

MIT Researchers Develop Nanoparticles that Deliver the CRISPR genome-editing system | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
In a new study, MIT researchers have developed nanoparticles that can deliver the CRISPR genome-editing system and specifically modify genes in mice.

The team used nanoparticles to carry the CRISPR components, eliminating the need to use viruses for delivery.

Using the new delivery technique, the researchers were able to cut out certain genes in about 80 percent of liver cells, the best success rate ever achieved with CRISPR in adult animals.

“What’s really exciting here is that we’ve shown you can make a nanoparticle that can be used to permanently and specifically edit the DNA in the liver of an adult animal,” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES).

One of the genes targeted in this study, known as Pcsk9, regulates cholesterol levels. Mutations in the human version of the gene are associated with a rare disorder called dominant familial hypercholesterolemia, and the FDA recently approved two antibody drugs that inhibit Pcsk9.

However these antibodies need to be taken regularly, and for the rest of the patient’s life, to provide therapy. The new nanoparticles permanently edit the gene following a single treatment, and the technique also offers promise for treating other liver disorders, according to the MIT team.
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Pigments on synthetic DNA circuits can harvest light energy

Pigments on synthetic DNA circuits can harvest light energy | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Novel structures made with DNA scaffolds could be used to create solar-powered materials.

 

By organizing pigments on a DNA scaffold, an MIT-led team of researchers has designed a light-harvesting material that closely mimics the structure of naturally occurring photosynthetic structures.

 

The researchers showed that their synthetic material can absorb light and efficiently transfer its energy along precisely controlled pathways. This type of structure could be incorporated into materials such as glass or textiles, enabling them to harvest or otherwise control incoming energy from sunlight, says Mark Bathe, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT.

 

“This is the first demonstration of a purely synthetic mimic of a natural light-harvesting circuit that consists of densely packed clusters of dyes that are precisely organized spatially at the nanometer scale, as found in bacterial systems,” Bathe says. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter, or 1/10,000 the thickness of a human hair.

 

Bathe is one of the senior authors of the new study, along with Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, and Hao Yan, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State University. Lead authors of the paper, which appears in the Nov. 13 issue of Nature Materials, are former MIT postdoc Etienne Boulais, Harvard graduate student Nicolas Sawaya, and MIT postdoc Rémi Veneziano. 


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