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Millefiori: Ferrofluids mixed with water colors

Millefiori: Ferrofluids mixed with water colors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ferrofluid is a magnetic solution with a viscosity similar to motor oil. When put under a magnetic field, the iron particles in the solution start to rearrange, forming the black channels and separating the water colors from the ferrofluid. The result are these peculiar looking structures.

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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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Towards sub-petawatt Ti:Sa laser pulses powerful enough to investigate a new kind of physics

Towards sub-petawatt Ti:Sa laser pulses powerful enough to investigate a new kind of physics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In a paper that made the cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters ("Thin plate compression of a sub-petawatt Ti:Sa laser pulses"), an international team of researchers has demonstrated an innovative technique for increasing the intensity of lasers. This approach, based on the compression of light pulses, would make it possible to reach a threshold intensity for a new type of physics that has never been explored before: quantum electrodynamics phenomena.

 

Researchers Jean-Claude Kieffer of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), E. A. Khazanov of the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and in France Gérard Mourou, Professor Emeritus of the Ecole Polytechnique, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, have chosen another direction to achieve a power of around 1023 Watts (W). Rather than increasing the energy of the laser, they decrease the pulse duration to only a few femtoseconds. This would keep the system within a reasonable size and keep operating costs down.

 

To generate the shortest possible pulse, the researchers are exploiting the effects of non-linear optics. “A laser beam is sent through an extremely thin and perfectly homogeneous glass plate. The particular behaviour of the wave inside this solid medium broadens the spectrum and allows for a shorter pulse when it is recompressed at the exit of the plate,” explains Jean-Claude Kieffer, co-author of the study.

 

Installed in the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) facility at INRS, the researchers limited themselves to an energy of 3 joules for a 10-femtosecond pulse, or 300 terawatts (1012W). They plan to repeat the experiment with an energy of 13 joules over 5 femtoseconds, or an intensity of 3 petawatts (1015 W). “We would be among the first in the world to achieve this level of power with a laser that has such short pulses,” says Professor Kieffer.

 

“If we achieve very short pulses, we enter relativistic problem classes. This is an extremely interesting direction that has the potential to take the scientific community to new horizons,” says Professor Kieffer. “It was a very nice piece of work solidifying the paramount potential of this technique,” concludes Gérard Mourou".

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Unlocking PNA’s superpowers with γ-modified peptide nucleic acid (γPNA), a synthetic mimic of DNA

Unlocking PNA’s superpowers with γ-modified peptide nucleic acid (γPNA), a synthetic mimic of DNA | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a method for self-assembling nanostructures with gamma-modified peptide nucleic acid (γPNA), a synthetic mimic of DNA. The process has the potential to impact nanomanufacturing, as well as future biomedical technologies like targeted diagnostics and drug delivery. 

 

Published in Nature Communications, the work introduces a science of γPNA nanotechnology that enables self-assembly in organic solvent solutions, the harsh environments used in peptide and polymer synthesis. This holds promise for nanofabrication and nanosensing.

 

The research team, led by Rebecca Taylor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, reported that γPNA can form nanofibers in organic solvent solutions that can grow up to 11 microns in length (more than 1,000 times longer than their width). These represent the first complex, all-PNA nanostructures to be formed in organic solvents.

 

Taylor, who heads the heads the Microsystems and MechanoBiology Lab at Carnegie Mellon, wants to leverage PNA’s “superpowers.” In addition to its higher thermal stability, γPNA retains the ability to bind to other nucleic acids in organic solvent mixtures that would typically destabilize structural DNA nanotechnology. This means that they can form nanostructures in solvent environments that prevent formation of DNA-based nanostructures.  

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COVID-19 Research in Brief: December 2019 to June 2020

COVID-19 Research in Brief: December 2019 to June 2020 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

RT-PCR tests for viral detection were the first available clinical tests, though scaling up their production and availability has been a persistent challenge in many countries. Important testing advances have included the development of saliva-based protocols and loop-mediated isothermal amplification protocols for SARS-CoV-2 detection. Serological testing for SARS-CoV-2 received an early boost by the development and sharing of reagents by the Krammer lab at Mount Sinai, New York.

Drug repurposing

The rapid spread of COVID-19, which by March had led to nationwide lockdowns in Italy and Spain, spurred attempts at drug repurposing. On 22 March, the WHO launched SOLIDARITY, a global trial of four therapies: the RNA polymerase inhibitor remdesivir, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (this arm has now been stopped), the HIV protease inhibitor combination lopinavir and ritonavir (results so far are not encouraging), and lopinavir-ritonavir plus interferon beta (which has shown reduced viral shedding and alleviated symptoms in one open-label trial). At time of writing, two drugs have been shown to be effective in clinical trials, remdesivir and the corticosteroid dexamethasone. In randomized control trials, remdesivir shortened the length of hospitalisation, but did not have a significant impact on mortality; dexamethasone significantly reduced mortality in patients requiring supplemental oxygen.

Candidate vaccines

By April, human trials were underway for several vaccine candidates, including established approaches like inactivated SARS-CoV-2 preparations as well as more recent strategies such as RNA- and adenoviral-derived products. Early results on safety and immunogenicity are already available for some of these, with Moderna announcing that its RNA SARS-CoV-2 vaccine induced a specific antibody response in phase I trials, and CanSino also showing specific antibody induction by its adenovirus-based vaccine. Passive immunization is also being pursued by various means, including convalescent plasma, hyperimmune serum preparations and the development of SARS-CoV-2-specific monoclonal antibodies.

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What is pool testing and how does it work?

What is pool testing and how does it work? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
It’s an approach officials are considering for ramping up coronavirus testing.

 

Also known as batch testing, pool testing combines samples from several people and tests them for the coronavirus all at once, cutting down on the time and supplies required. The protocol was first invented to test for syphilis during World War II and has been used in the past for outbreaks of other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

 

“If everyone is negative, then you’re done,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained. If the test detected the presence of the virus, then each person would have to be tested and the results individually analyzed to determine whose sample produced the positive result.

 

“You can rapidly increase the capacity of testing,” said Benjamin Pinsky, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. “The trade-off is that there’s reduced sensitivity. It’s kind of a balance.” Samples with low viral loads are more likely to go undetected in a pool, he said.

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The Navy is Testing Beaming Solar Power in Space

The Navy is Testing Beaming Solar Power in Space | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Solar power has become a focal point of the battle to mitigate climate change.  The potential of solar power is massive – Earth receives as much solar energy in an hour as all of humanity uses in a year.  Even with that much energy hitting the Earth, it is only a tiny fraction of the sun’s overall output.  Some of that other solar energy hits other planets, but most is just lost to the void of deep space.

 

There are a number of groups that are leveraging various technologies to capture some of that lost energy.  One of the most common technologies being pursued is the idea of the power satellite.  Recently, one of those groups at America’s Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hit a milestone in the development of power satellite technology by launching their Photovoltaic RF Antenna Module (PRAM) test satellite.

 

The idea underlying power satellites is called “power beaming”.  Power beaming systems use one of three different frequencies of light to transmit significant amounts of power over a distance wirelessly.  Last year NRL had a successful demonstration of a land-based power beaming system using an infrared laser.

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Scientists produce first open source all-atom models of COVID-19 'spike' protein

Scientists produce first open source all-atom models of COVID-19 'spike' protein | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The virus SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the known cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The "spike" or S protein facilitates viral entry into host cells.

 

Now a group of researchers from Seoul National University in South Korea, University of Cambridge in UK, and Lehigh University in USA, have worked together to produce the first open-source all-atom models of a full-length S protein. The researchers say this is of particular importance because the S protein plays a central role in viral entry into cells, making it a main target for vaccine and antiviral drug development.

 

The details can be found in a paper , "Developing a Fully-glycosylated Full-length SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Model in a Viral Membrane" just published online in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

 

This video demo illustrates how to build this membrane system from their SARS-CoV-2 S protein models. The model-building program is open access and can be found from the home page of CHARMM-GUI by clicking on the COVID-19 Archive link , or by clicking the archive link in the header, then the COVID-19 Proteins link in the left sidebar.

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Ancient Antarctic Mosasaur may have laid a football-size egg

Ancient Antarctic Mosasaur may have laid a football-size egg | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The second largest egg on record may belong to a sea monster known as a mosasaur that lived during the dinosaur age.

 

A 68 million-year-old egg the size of a football — the largest soft-shelled egg on record and the second largest egg ever discovered — might belong to a mosasaur, a reptilian sea monster that lived during the age of dinosaurs in what is now Antarctica, a new study finds.

 

If true, this would be the only mosasaur egg on record, according to the study, published online yesterday (June 17) in the journal Nature

 

"There's no known egg like this," study senior researcher Julia Clarke, a professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), told Live Science. "This egg is exceptional in both its size and its structure."

 

Chilean researchers found the eggs-traordinary fossil in a seasonal stream in 2011, about 660 feet (200 meters) away from the remains of 33-foot-long (10 m) Kaikaifilu hervei, a large mosasaur unearthed on Seymour Island, Antarctica, said study co-researcher David Rubilar-Rogers, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Santiago, Chile. Despite the egg's proximity to the mosasaur, however, "the identity of the animal that laid the egg is unknown," the researchers wrote in the study.

 

"Although we weren't clear on what it was, the strangeness of its shape was enough to collect it and take it to camp," Rubilar-Rogers told Live Science in an email translated from Spanish. The fossil was so bizarre, the team called it "The Thing," after the 1982 sci-fi movie based in Antarctica, which the paleontologists bravely watched when they were stuck in their tents due to bad weather, study co-researcher Rodrigo Otero, a paleontologist at the University of Chile in Santiago, told Live Science. 


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Greater Than 99% Speed of Light – Black Hole Jet Pushing The Cosmic Speed Limit

Greater Than 99% Speed of Light – Black Hole Jet Pushing The Cosmic Speed Limit | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have seen that the famous giant black hole in Messier 87 is propelling particles at speeds greater than 99% of the speed of light.

The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration released the first image of a black hole with observations of the massive, dark object at the center of galaxy Messier 87, or M87, last April. This black hole has a mass of about 6.5 billion times that of the sun and is located about 55 million light years from Earth. The black hole has been called M87* by astronomers and has recently been given the Hawaiian name of “Powehi.”

For years, astronomers have observed radiation from a jet of high energy particles – powered by the black hole – blasting out of the center of M87. They have studied the jet in radio, optical, and X-ray light, including with Chandra. And now by using Chandra observations, researchers have seen that sections of the jet are moving at nearly the speed of light.

“This is the first time such extreme speeds by a black hole’s jet have been recorded using X-ray data,” said Ralph Kraft of the Center of Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who presented the study at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. “We needed the sharp X-ray vision of Chandra to make these measurements.” 

When matter gets close enough to a black hole, it enters into a swirling pattern called an accretion disk. Some material from the inner part of the accretion disk falls onto the black hole and some of it is redirected away from the black hole in the form of narrow beams, or jets, of material along magnetic field lines. Because this infall process is irregular, the jets are made of clumps or knots that can sometimes be identified with Chandra and other telescopes.

The researchers used Chandra observations from 2012 and 2017 to track the motion of two X-ray knots located within the jet about 900 and 2,500 light years away from the black hole. The X-ray data show motion with apparent speeds of 6.3 times the speed of light for the X-ray knot closer to the black hole and 2.4 times the speed of light for the other.

“One of the unbreakable laws of physics is that nothing can move faster than the speed of light,” said co-author Brad Snios, also of the CfA. “We haven’t broken physics, but we have found an example of an amazing phenomenon called superluminal motion.” 
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The Universe within 1 billion Light Years - The Neighbouring Superclusters

The Universe within 1 billion Light Years - The Neighbouring Superclusters | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MORE INFO

A cluster containing 1,500 galaxies is one thing, but much larger assemblages of galaxies also exist. The Virgo Cluster itself is a member of the so-called Virgo Supercluster, or Local Supercluster, which holds thousands of galaxies on a scale an order of magnitude larger yet. The Virgo Supercluster holds our Milky Way, the Local Group, the Virgo Cluster, and altogether some 100 galaxy groups and clusters. This amazingly large framework stretches some 110 million light-years across, and it is one of about 10 million superclusters that make up the entire cosmos. 

 

Despite the huge number of galaxies existing in the Virgo Supercluster, astronomers now know that most of the space in this volume is essentially empty, consisting of great voids. The diameters of these voids range from dozens to hundreds of millions of light-years. Filamentary chains of galaxies wind their way around the dark voids. On large scales, galaxies in clusters and superclusters are like soap bubbles, with galaxies coating the surfaces and voids lying in between. 

 

By the end of the 1980s, astronomers had identified the Great Wall, a sheet of galaxies measuring 500 million light-years across. More recently, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey uncovered the Sloan Great Wall, an assemblage of galaxies at least twice the size of the Great Wall, which covers a long dimension of some 1.4 billion light-years.

 

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
As astronomers discovered more and more distant galaxies, they found that some large mass seemed to be tugging on the local universe, pulling us in the direction of the southern constellations Triangulum Australe and Norma. Called the Great Attractor, this anomaly — some 200 million light-years away — puzzled astronomers. They eventually discovered that an even larger mass in that direction was pulling us. This mammoth structure, called the Shapley Supercluster, is 650 million light-years away and contains the greatest concentration of galaxies in our local part of the cosmos. 
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Squid skin is naturally anti-microbial

Squid skin is naturally anti-microbial | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This new finding makes squid skin a potentially valuable medical product, and could reduce waste from commercial fisheries.

 

Many types of squid have the ability to alter the color of skin cells called chromatophores, in order to blend in with their environment. This allows them to hide from predators, and is often triggered when the squid feels threatened. These same squids, including the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas), are commercially fished in parts of North and South America.

 

Now, researchers working in Spain and Mexico have identified the pigments in Humboldt squid chromatophores as ommochromes. Chemical analysis showed that the main violet-colored ommochrome is a compound called xanthommatin, which the researchers found to have strong anti-microbial properties. Their study showed that xanthommatin could inhibit the growth of several microorganisms that can cause disease in humans, including the fungus Candida albicans (which causes thrush and yeast infections) and bacteria like Salmonella enterica.

 

Skin from the squid is often discarded as waste from fisheries, but this new research tells us that it could be used to produce valuable medical compounds. The dumping of squid skin as waste “generates pollution problems in the coasts,” says study co-author Jesús Enrique Chan in a news release, “so research like this, in which we inform about how these wastes could be used, helps to revalue them.”  

 

Humboldt squid aren’t the only squid that produces this pigment. The tiny Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopesalso produces the anti-microbial xanthommatin pigment, as do many other species.  

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Hummingbirds can see colors that humans can't

Hummingbirds can see colors that humans can't | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Hummingbirds can see more colors than humans, and new research suggests the skills give them an advantage in foraging and communication.

 

Though tiny and delicate, hummingbirds are keen at adapting to their environment — whether building a nest with a leaf as a roof or using their expert eyes to scout out their surroundings. Hummingbirds are also able to see colors that humans can't — and that gives them an edge when it comes to foraging, mating, and avoiding predators, a new study finds.

 
 

Researchers report that broad-tailed hummingbirds can differentiate between colors outside of the human spectrum — when these hummingbirds look at objects like plants and bird plumage, they see colors that we do not. Colors outside of the classic rainbow may account for one-third of what hummingbirds survey. This finding was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

 

In the eyes of animals, including humans, cells called cones and rods take in light. While rods deal with the intensity of light — making it possible to see in low light, for instance — cones help one perceive color. Humans have three types of cones, which respectively allow us to see blue, red, and green. Thanks to that ability, the full spectrum of colors that humans see include red, orange, green, blue, indigo, and violet. But we can also see combinations of colors from widely separated parts of the spectrum — like purple, which combines red and blue.

 

Birds, meanwhile, have four types of cones, so their color-combination possibilities are multiplied, compared to humans.

In this study, researchers conducted experiments with broad-tailed hummingbirds, Selasphorus platycercus, to see whether the birds could differentiate between spectral colors and spectral colors combined with UV. The goal was to evaluate how important nonspectral colors are to these birds. The researchers used a sugar solution as a reward. For example, they tested hummingbirds to see if they could tell the difference between a green light and green light combined with UV light, based on whether they could access the reward.

 

Humans can't see UV light, but birds can. By combining spectral light with UV, researchers proved that birds can differentiate between those colors. This means that when the birds look at objects we can see as spectral light, they are likely seeing many more colors because that fourth cone gives them the ability to see many more color combinations.

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Coal-burning in ancient Siberia led to climate change 250 million years ago and most severe extinction event ever

Coal-burning in ancient Siberia led to climate change 250 million years ago and most severe extinction event ever | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A team of researchers led by Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton has provided the first ever direct evidence that extensive coal burning in Siberia is a cause of the Permo-Triassic Extinction, the Earth’s most severe extinction event.

 

A team of researchers led by Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton has provided the first ever direct evidence that extensive coal burning in Siberia is a cause of the Permo-Triassic Extinction, the Earth’s most severe extinction event. The results of their study have been recently published in the journal Geology.

 

For this study, the international team led by Elkins-Tanton focused on the volcaniclastic rocks of the Siberian Traps, a region of volcanic rock in Russia. The massive eruptive event that formed the traps is one of the largest known volcanic events in the last 500 million years. The eruptions continued for roughly 2 million years and spanned the Permian-Triassic boundary. Today, the area is covered by about 3 million square miles of basaltic rock.

 

This is ideal ground for researchers seeking an understanding of the Permo-Triassic extinction event, which affected all life on Earth approximately 252 million years ago. During this event, up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct.

 

Calculations of sea water temperature indicate that at the peak of the extinction, the Earth underwent lethally hot global warming, in which equatorial ocean temperatures exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It took millions of years for ecosystems to be re-established and for species to recover.

 

Among the possible causes of this extinction event, and one of the most long-hypothesized, is that massive burning coal led to catastrophic global warming, which in turn was devastating to life. To search for evidence to support this hypothesis, Elkins-Tanton and her team began looking at the Siberian Traps region, where it was known that the magmas and lavas from volcanic events burned a combination of vegetation and coal.

 

While samples of volcaniclastics in the region were initially difficult to find, the team eventually discovered a scientific paper describing outcrops near the Angara River. “We found towering river cliffs of nothing but volcaniclastics, lining the river for hundreds of miles. It was geologically astounding,” Elkins-Tanton said.

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Alien Civilization Could Use a Black Hole to Generate Energy - 50-Year-Old Theory Experimentally Verified

Alien Civilization Could Use a Black Hole to Generate Energy - 50-Year-Old Theory Experimentally Verified | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A 50-year-old theory that began as speculation about how an alien civilization could use a black hole to generate energy has been experimentally verified for the first time in a Glasgow research lab.

In 1969, British physicist Roger Penrose suggested that energy could be generated by lowering an object into the black hole’s ergosphere – the outer layer of the black hole’s event horizon, where an object would have to move faster than the speed of light in order to remain still.

 

Penrose predicted that the object would acquire a negative energy in this unusual area of space. By dropping the object and splitting it in two so that one half falls into the black hole while the other is recovered, the recoil action would measure a loss of negative energy – effectively, the recovered half would gain energy extracted from the black hole’s rotation.

 

The scale of the engineering challenge the process would require is so great, however, that Penrose suggested only a very advanced, perhaps earthbound experiment. He proposed that ’twisted’ light waves, hitting the surface of a rotating metal cylinder turning at just the right speed, would end up being reflected with additional energy extracted from the cylinder’s rotation thanks to a quirk of the rotational Doppler effect.

 

But Zel’dovich’s idea has remained solely in the realm of theory since 1971 because, for the experiment to work, his proposed metal cylinder would need to rotate at least a billion times a second – another insurmountable challenge for the current limits of human engineering. 

 

Now, researchers from the University of Glasgow’s School of Physics and Astronomy have finally found a way to experimentally demonstrate the effect that Penrose and Zel’dovich proposed by twisting sound instead of light – a much lower frequency source, and thus much more practical to demonstrate in the lab.

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Artist uses AI to create stunning portraits of historical figures

Artist uses AI to create stunning portraits of historical figures | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Bas Uterwijk, an Amsterdam-based artist, is using AI to create extremely lifelike photographs of historical figures and monuments such as the Statue of Liberty, artist Vincent van Gogh, George Washington and Queen Elizabeth I.

 

Using a program called Artbreeder, which is described as “deep learning software,” Uterwijk builds his photographs based on a compilation of portraits, reports the Daily Mail. The program pinpoints common facial features and photograph qualities to produce an image.

 

“I try to guide the software to a credible outcome. I think of my work more as artistic interpretations than scientifically or historically accurate,” the artist tells the outlet. On Instagram, he details the many variations that go into creating his work. So far, he’s created more than 50 of these images.

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Complexity of human tooth enamel revealed at atomic level in NIH-funded study

Complexity of human tooth enamel revealed at atomic level in NIH-funded study | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Unprecedented details of enamel structure may point to new ways to prevent or halt cavities.

 

Scientists used a combination of advanced microscopy and chemical detection techniques to uncover the structural makeup of human tooth enamel at unprecedented atomic resolution, revealing lattice patterns and unexpected irregularities. The findings could lead to a better understanding of how tooth decay develops and might be prevented. The research was supported in part by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health. The findings appear in Nature.

 

“This work provides much more detailed information about the atomic makeup of enamel than we previously knew,” said Jason Wan, Ph.D., a program officer at NIDCR. “These findings can broaden our thinking and approach to strengthening teeth against mechanical forces, as well as repairing damage due to erosion and decay.”

 

Your teeth are remarkably resilient, despite enduring the stress and strain of biting, chewing, and eating for a lifetime. Enamel — the hardest substance in the human body — is largely responsible for this endurance. Its high mineral content gives it strength. Enamel forms the outer covering of teeth and helps prevent tooth decay, or caries.

 

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases, affecting up to 90% of children and the vast majority of adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to painful abscesses, bone infection, and bone loss.

 

Tooth decay starts when excess acid in the mouth erodes the enamel covering. Scientists have long sought a more complete picture of enamel’s chemical and mechanical properties at the atomic level to better understand—and potentially prevent or reverse—enamel loss. To survey enamel at the tiniest scales, researchers use microscopy methods such as scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), which directs a beam of electrons through a material to map its atomic makeup.

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Inside the Coronavirus - What Scientists Currently Know About SARS-CoV-2 Causing the COVID-19 Disease

Inside the Coronavirus - What Scientists Currently Know About SARS-CoV-2 Causing the COVID-19 Disease | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For all the mysteries that remain about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 disease it causes, scientists have generated an incredible amount of fine-grained knowledge in a surprisingly short time. Scientific American presents detailed explanations, current as of mid-June, into how SARS-CoV-2 sneaks inside human cells, makes copies of itself and bursts out to infiltrate many more cells, widening infection. This review shows how the immune system would normally attempt to neutralize virus particles and how CoV-2 can block that effort. This review explains some of the virus' surprising abilities, such as its capacity to proofread new virus copies as they are being made to prevent mutations that could destroy them. This review also shows how drugs and vaccines might still be able to overcome the intruders. As virologists learn more, this review will be updated on the Scientific American Web site (www.scientificamerican.com).

 

Commercial and university labs are investigating well over 100 drugs to fight COVID-19, the disease the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes. Most drugs would not destroy the virus directly but would interfere with it enough to allow the body's immune system to clear the infection. Antiviral drugs generally stop a virus from attaching to a lung cell, prevent a virus from reproducing if it does invade a cell, or dampen an overreaction by the immune system, which can cause severe symptoms in infected people. Vaccines prepare the immune system to quickly and effectively fight a future infection.

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Humans and monkeys show similar thinking patterns

Humans and monkeys show similar thinking patterns | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Primates’ neural computations shed new light on the evolution of language. Humans and monkeys may not speak the same lingo, but our ways of thinking are a lot more similar than previously thought, according to new research from UC Berkeley, Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University.

 

In experiments on 100 study participants across age groups, cultures and species, researchers found that indigenous Tsimane’ people in Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest, American adults and preschoolers and macaque monkeys all show, to varying degrees, a knack for “recursion,” a cognitive process of arranging words, phrases or symbols in a way that helps convey complex commands, sentiments and ideas.

 

The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, shed new light on our understanding of the evolution of language, researchers said. “For the first time, we have strong empirical evidence about patterns of thinking that come naturally to probably all humans and, to a lesser extent, non-human primates,” said study co-author Steven Piantadosi, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of psychology.

 

Indeed, the monkeys were found to perform far better in the tests than the researchers had predicted. “Our data suggest that, with sufficient training, monkeys can learn to represent a recursive process, meaning that this ability may not be as unique to humans as is commonly thought,” said Sam Cheyette, a Ph.D. student in Piantadosi’s lab and co-author of the study.

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First Fluorescent Frog Found

First Fluorescent Frog Found | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The first fluorescent frog, a rare find among land animals reveals a new way to glow. Under normal light, the South American polka dot tree frog (Hypsiboas punctatus) sports a muted palette of greens, yellows and reds. But dim the lights and switch on ultraviolet illumination, and this little amphibian gives off a bright blue and green glow.

 

The ability to absorb light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths is called fluorescence, and is rare in terrestrial animals. Until now, it was unheard of in amphibians. Researchers also report that the polka dot tree frog uses fluorescent molecules totally unlike those found in other animals. The team published the find on March 13, 2020 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

 

Because fluorescence requires the absorption of light, it doesn’t happen in total darkness. That makes it distinct from bioluminescence, in which organisms give off their own light generated through chemical reactions. Many ocean creatures fluoresce, including coralsfish, sharks and one species of sea turtle (the hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata). On land, fluorescence was previously known in only parrots and some scorpions. It is unclear why animals have this ability, although explanations include communication, camouflage and mate attraction.

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Infographic: The History of Pandemics, by Death Toll

Infographic: The History of Pandemics, by Death Toll | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Over time, infectious diseases have been humanity's constant companion. This infographic visualizes the history of pandemics throughout times, from the Antonine Plague to COVID-19.

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Fuzzy Green 'Glacier Mice' Move In Groups And Puzzle Scientists

Fuzzy Green 'Glacier Mice' Move In Groups And Puzzle Scientists | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Moss balls seem to roll around glaciers in a coordinated way, and researchers can't explain why the whole group moves at about the same speed and in the same direction.

 

PDF paper is here

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something unexpected. "What the heck is this?" Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He's a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. "They're not attached to anything and they're just resting there on ice," he says. "They're bright green in a world of white."

 

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herdlike fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

 

"The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions," Bartholomaus says. "Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks." In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that "rolling stones can gather moss." He called them "jökla-mýs" or "glacier mice."

 

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

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NASA: Fly Through the Galactic Center in Virtual Reality

NASA: Fly Through the Galactic Center in Virtual Reality | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Combining data from Chandra and other telescopes with supercomputer simulations and virtual reality, a new visualization allows users to experience 500 years of cosmic evolution around the Milky Way's supermassive black hole called Sgr A*. Each color represents different phenomena including Wolf-Rayet stars (white), their orbits (grey), and hot gas due to the supersonic wind collisions observed by Chandra (blue and cyan). There are also regions where cooler material (red and yellow) overlaps with the hot gas (purple). The visualization covers about 3 light years, or about 18 trillion miles, around Sgr A*. For more information, visit: https://chandra.si.edu/photo/2020/gcenter/
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Where Does Space Come From? A Story of Event Horizons, Singularities and Other Exotic Spacetime Phenomena

Where Does Space Come From? A Story of Event Horizons, Singularities and Other Exotic Spacetime Phenomena | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Findings and discussion from the Wolfram Physics Project on the structure and pathologies of spacetime, general relativity, causal structure, black-hole-like event horizons, singularities, complicated cases, dimension anomalies and space tunnels.

 

Space emerges as the large-scale limit of our spatial hypergraph, while spacetime effectively emerges as the large-scale limit of the causal graph that represents causal relationships between updating events in the spatial hypergraph. An important result is that (subject to various assumptions) there is a continuum limit in which the emergent spacetime follows Einstein’s equations from general relativity.

 

And given all this, it is natural to ask what happens in our models with some of the notable phenomena from general relativity, such as black holes, event horizons and spacetime singularities. Stephen Wolfram already discussed this to some extent in his technical introduction. His purpose here is to go further, both in more completely understanding the correspondence with general relativity, and in seeing what additional or different phenomena arise in our models.

 

It should be said at the outset that even after more than 100 years the whole issue of what weird features of spacetime Einstein’s equations can imply remains a rather confusing subject, that is still very far from completely understood. But unlike with the Einstein equations, which effectively just tell one to “find a spacetime that satisfies certain constraints defined by the equations”, these new models give a direct computational way to determine the structure that is supposed to limit to spacetime.

 

In what follows, we’ll see that our models can reproduce known implications of Einstein’s equations such as black holes, event horizons and spacetime singularities. But they also suggest the possibility of other, in some ways yet more exotic, spacetime phenomena. Some of these may in fact be things that could be found in the Einstein equations; others require descriptions of spacetime more general than the mathematical structure of general relativity can provide (notably in connection with dimension and topology change).

 

There’s long been a view that at small enough length scales the Einstein equations will have to be supplemented by some lower-level description of spacetime, presumably connected to quantum mechanics. These models immediately provide a lower-level representation for spacetime in terms of the discrete structure of the spatial hypergraph and the causal graph—with familiar, continuum spacetime emerging as a large-scale limit, much like continuum fluid behavior emerges as a large-scale limit of molecular dynamics.

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Are we alone? New estimations of life in the Milky Way suggest life is incredibly rare.

Are we alone? New estimations of life in the Milky Way suggest life is incredibly rare. | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Are we alone? New estimations of life in the Milky Way suggest life in our neighborhood is incredibly rare.

 

Eight. That's the minimum number of intelligent, communicating alien civilizations two astronomers at the University of Nottingham believe could exist in the Milky Way, our home galaxy.  A new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal on Monday, provides an updated estimate of the likely number of alien civilizations that could exist in the Milky Way. The analysis, performed by astronomers Tom Westby and Christopher Conselice, starts with revising the Drake equation, a formula proposed by Frank Drake in 1962 to estimate how many worlds are likely to harbor intelligent life in our galaxy. The equation relies on a variety of factors, including how often sun-like stars form in the galaxy, how many stars are orbited by planets and how often life evolves and becomes intelligent enough for us to detect it.

 

But as it is, the Drake equation is fundamentally "unsolvable" and contains a major variable we can't know until we find intelligent life: What's the average length of time alien civilizations are detectable? "The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life," said Westby in a press release. "Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy."

 

Westby and Conselice started with the Drake equation but approached the search for so-called "Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent" civilizations in a slightly different way. They built a key assumption in to their estimate: Life on another planet will arise in a similar way to how it did on Earth. In effect, this means their revised equation takes into account the idea that a planet must exist for around 5 billion years in the habitable zone around a star before it can develop intelligent life with the capability to communicate across the universe. The duo placed three different sets of limits on these "suitable planets" harboring life with weak, moderate and strong categories with different time frames for life to arise.

 

The weakest limits allowed them to make estimates on a time frame of greater than 5 billion years, while the strongest limit only assessed worlds between 4.5 and 5.5 billion years old. When plugging the strongest limits and numbers into their complex new equation, which they dubbed the CETI Equation, the data reveals there could be a minimum of eight CETI civilizations within the Milky Way. Such an estimate is relatively close to the figure of 10 that famed astronomer Carl Sagan came up with when discussing the Drake Equation on the '80s science show Cosmos.

 

There is a catch: Those worlds are at least 7,000 light-years away -- making it almost impossible for us to contact them. The team estimated we would need to be actively searching for signals from space for around 6,300 years before we might receive messages from another civilization. "It is clear that the lifetime of a communicating civilization is the key aspect within this problem," the authors write. On the other hand, using weaker limits, Westby and Conselice suggest there could be as many as 2,900 worlds where life has found a way that means we may be able to detect them sooner.

 

The Fermi paradox also points to the problem of resource consumption and self destruction of a civilization. The origin of Fermi paradox dates back to a casual conversation about extraterrestrial life that Enrico Fermi had with E. Konopinski, E. Teller and H. York in 1950, during which Fermi asked the famous question: “where is everybody?”, since then become eponymous for the paradox. Starting from the closely related Drake equation22,23, used to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way, the debate around this topic has been particularly intense in the past (for a more comprehensive covering, see Hart24, and Freitas25). Hart’s conclusion is that there are no other advanced or ‘technological’ civilizations in our galaxy as also supported recently by26 based on a careful reexamination of Drake’s equation. In other words the terrestrial civilization should be the only one living in the Milk Way. Such conclusions are still debated, but many of Hart’s arguments are undoubtedly still valid while some of them need to be rediscussed or updated. For example, there is also the possibility that avoiding communication might actually be an ‘intelligent’ choice and a possible explanation of the paradox.

 

On several public occasions, in fact, Professor Stephen Hawking suggested human kind should be very cautious about making contact with extraterrestrial life. More precisely when questioned about planet Gliese 832c’s potential for alien life he once said: “One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this, but we should be wary of answering back”. Human history has in fact been punctuated by clashes between different civilizations and cultures which should serve as caveat. From the relatively soft replacement between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens (Kolodny27) up to the violent confrontation between native Americans and Europeans, the historical examples of clashes and extinctions of cultures and civilizations have been quite numerous. Looking at human history Hawking’s suggestion appears as a wise warning and we cannot role out the possibility that extraterrestrial societies are following similar advice coming from their best minds.

 
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Diluting old blood rejuvenates tissue, reverses aging in mice

Diluting old blood rejuvenates tissue, reverses aging in mice | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

New study suggests that plasma exchange could be the key to unlocking the body’s regenerative capacities.

 

In 2005, University of California, Berkeley, researchers made the surprising discovery that making conjoined twins out of young and old mice — such that they share blood and organs — can rejuvenate tissues and reverse the signs of aging in the old mice. The finding sparked a flurry of research into whether a youngster’s blood might contain special proteins or molecules that could serve as a “fountain of youth” for mice and humans alike.

 

But a new study by the same team shows that similar age-reversing effects can be achieved by simply diluting the blood plasma of old mice — no young blood needed.

 

In the new study, the team found that replacing half of the blood plasma of old mice with a mixture of saline and albumin — where the albumin simply replaces protein that was lost when the original blood plasma was removed — has the same or stronger rejuvenation effects on the brain, liver and muscle than pairing with young mice or young blood exchange. Performing the same procedure on young mice had no detrimental effects on their health.

 

This discovery shifts the dominant model of rejuvenation away from young blood and toward the benefits of removing age-elevated, and potentially harmful, factors in old blood. “There are two main interpretations of our original experiments: The first is that, in the mouse joining experiments, rejuvenation was due to young blood and young proteins or factors that become diminished with aging, but an equally possible alternative is that, with age, you have an elevation of certain proteins in the blood that become detrimental, and these were removed or neutralized by the young partners,” said Irina Conboy, a professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley who is the first author of the 2005 mouse-joining paper and senior author of the new study . “As our science shows, the second interpretation turns out to be correct. Young blood or factors are not needed for the rejuvenating effect; dilution of old blood is sufficient.”

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SpaceX's historic astronaut launch and NASA's space program

SpaceX's historic astronaut launch and NASA's space program | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The head of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos published a lengthy op-ed expressing mixed feelings about the recent SpaceX Demo-2 launch to the International Space Station (ISS).   Dmitry Rogozin's op-ed, which is available on the Rocosmos website and was previously published in Forbes, points toward Russia's future plans in space as the United States moves most of its crewed opportunities back to American soil.

 

Demo-2 is the first of what will likely be many American crewed commercial spaceflights. Flights by SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and, eventually, Boeing's Starliner spacecraft should largely replace the Russian Soyuz missions that NASA astronauts have relied upon since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

 

In 2014, Rogozin tweeted out a memorable remark, saying that, as Russians faced U.S. sanctions related to Russian actions in Crimea, American astronauts could use a trampoline to reach space instead of the Soyuz.  Shortly after Demo-2's May 30 launch, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk referenced this barb, saying "The trampoline is working!" Rogozin initially said on Twitter that he loved Musk's joke and looks forward to further cooperation. But the new op-ed shows that Rogozin had more to share about the way astronauts are launched to space and the framework of international space cooperation.

 

The Russians were asked to step in with Soyuz seats for astronauts, Rogozin said, because the space shuttle program was closed down "as the result of its immense costliness and unforgivable failure rate."  Each NASA space shuttle orbiter used to carry as many as eight people at a time, although seven was a more typical crew capacity. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft has a capacity of three people. 

 
The space shuttle program flew 135 missions between 1981 and 2011. Two of those missions ended in tragedy: The shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in January 1986, and Columbia broke apart during re-entry in February 2003. Each tragedy killed seven astronauts. 
 
The Soviet Union (a predecessor entity to Russia) lost four cosmonauts across two Soyuz mission failures in 1967 and 1971. While the Russians have had no spaceflight fatalities since then, there have been aborts.
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