Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
The spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 looks like a dandelion caught in a breeze in this new composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
The galaxy is zooming toward the upper left of this image, in between other galaxies in the Norma cluster located over 200 million light-years away. The road is harsh: intergalactic gas in the Norma cluster is sparse, but so hot at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit that it glows in X-rays detected by Chandra (blue).
The spiral plows through the seething intra-cluster gas so rapidly – at nearly 4.5 million miles per hour – much of its own gas is caught and torn away. Astronomers call this “ram pressure stripping.” The galaxy’s stars remain intact due to the binding force of their gravity.
Tattered threads of gas, the blue jellyfish-tendrils sported by ESO 137-001 in the image, illustrate the process. Ram pressure has strung this gas away from its home in the spiral galaxy and out over intergalactic space. Once there, these strips of gas have erupted with young, massive stars, which are pumping out light in vivid blues and ultraviolet…
From a star-forming perspective, ESO 137-001 really is spreading its seeds into space like a dandelion in the wind. The stripped gas is now forming stars. However, the galaxy, drained of its own star-forming fuel, will have trouble making stars in the future. Through studying this runaway spiral, and other galaxies like it, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding of how galaxies form stars and evolve over time.
Stunning. Boy, would I love to be out there in space, suspended, looking at this.
Virus inactive for >30,000 years – revived in a laboratory in France
An ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say…It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again.
The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed…
Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”
The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m down in the frozen ground…Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago.
These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.
The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again…Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals…
However, the researchers believe that other more deadly pathogens could be locked in Siberia’s permafrost.
The researchers say this region is under threat. Since the 1970s, the permafrost has retreated and reduced in thickness, and climate change projections suggest it will decrease further…
Prof Claverie warns that exposing the deep layers could expose new viral threats.
He said: “It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from…”
Professor Jonathan Ball said…”We freeze viruses in the laboratory to preserve them for the future. If they have a lipid envelope – like flu or HIV, for example – then they are a bit more fragile, but the viruses with an external protein shell – like foot and mouth and common cold viruses – survive better.
“But it’s the freezing-thawing that poses the problems, because as the ice forms then melts there’s a physical damaging effect. If they do survive this, then they need to find a host to infect and they need to find them pretty fast.”
I nominate J.J.Abrams to make the movie…
Yes, MI is an ingredient listed in these
“In the last two or three years, we’ve suddenly seen a big increase in people with this type of allergy,” said Dr. Matthew Zirwas, director of the contact dermatitis center at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “For some patients, their rash has been unexplained and going on for years.”
Zirwas says the chemical preservative is MI (methylisothiazolinone) and it has been around for years. MI is found in many water-based products like liquid soaps, hair products, sunscreen, cosmetics, laundry products and cleaners as well as pre-moistened personal hygiene products and baby wipes.
“Concentrations of the preservative have increased dramatically in some products in the last few years, as manufacturers stopped using other preservatives like paraben and formaldehyde,” Zirwas said.
The irritated skin can be red, raised, itchy and even blistery, appearing much like a reaction to poison ivy. The three most common areas affected by the allergic reaction include the face, from using soaps and shampoos, the fingers and hands, from handling the wipes, and the buttocks and genitals from using moistened flushable wipes.
“If someone suspects an allergy to moistened wipes, they need to stop using them for at least one month. A week or two isn’t enough time,” Zirwas said.
Zirwas is nationally-known as a kind of ‘dermatologist detective.’ He has spent nearly 10 years sleuthing out the causes of mysterious rashes that others can’t solve. Over the years, he has identified allergies to shoe glue, hot tub chemicals, nickel in food, even a chemical in escalator hand rails. Patients have traveled from as far as Alaska to have him diagnose their skin allergies.
Zirwas says it isn’t clear how many Americans might react to MI, but he says manufacturers are aware of the growing allergy problem and are working on alternatives.
The question easily comes to mind – what level of testing did manufacturers of products like moistened bum-wipes utilize if doctors are discovering allergic reactions are becoming common? Did anyone at the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the FDA happen to ask this question?
What do stopping for your morning coffee, grabbing a sandwich at noon, filling up your gas tank, and making an after-work trip to the grocery store all have in common? Although we wish that was the intro to a really bad joke, the truth is they all expose you to concerning levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical that acts like estrogen and harms everything from your brain and heart to your reproductive tract.
While canned food usually gets most of the blame when it comes to our contact with the hormone-altering chemical, more studies are finding that skin exposure to BPA is a real threat, too.
The latest research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that handling thermal paper used for movie and airline tickets and ATM, gas-pump, and store receipts reliably leads to BPA transfer into your body…
While the average person can cut down on this unnecessary BPA exposure by saying no to trivial receipts, the researchers are even more concerned about cashiers who may spend 40-plus hours a week handling chemical-coated receipts.
Heat-sensitive thermal paper is coated in colorless BPA powder because it helps bind to dye to form the letters and numbers you see on receipts. “When you touch thermal paper, you’re getting exposed to massive amounts of BPA,” explains veteran BPA researcher Frederick vom Saal…”Until recently, we didn’t know that. It’s just one example of BPA being used in a way that I never would have thought about.”
RTFA for more ways to worry about BPA. China has banned its use in a number of products. So has Canada. And a few local initiatives in the United States. The FDA is “studying”.
We need a few markets to convert to the SQUARE system used at my favorite coffee shop in Santa Fe. After sliding your credit card and doing all the magic calculations including tip – they send the receipt to your smartphone. I worry less about low level RF than BPA.
It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. What’s more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect…
“We provide a more complete picture of the impact of chocolate consumption in vascular health and show that increasing flavanol content has no added beneficial effect on vascular health,” said Diederik Esser, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from…Wageningen University, The Netherlands. “However, this increased flavanol content clearly affected taste and thereby the motivation to eat these chocolates. So the dark side of chocolate is a healthy one.”
As if I needed any special motivation to eat dark chocolate? Every day.
To make this discovery, Esser and colleagues analyzed 44 middle-aged overweight men over two periods of four weeks as they consumed 70 grams of chocolate per day. Study participants received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol content or chocolate that was regularly produced. Both chocolates had a similar cocoa mass content. Before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health. During the study, participants were advised to refrain from certain energy dense food products to prevent weight gain. Scientists also evaluated the sensory properties of the high flavanol chocolate and the regular chocolate and collected the motivation scores of the participants to eat these chocolates during the intervention.
“The effect that dark chocolate has on our bodies is encouraging not only because it allows us to indulge with less guilt, but also because it could lead the way to therapies that do the same thing as dark chocolate but with better and more consistent results,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “Until the ‘dark chocolate drug‘ is developed, however, we’ll just have to make do with what nature has given us!”
I do love researchers with a sense of humor. Given the study took place in The Netherlands I’m surprised there wasn’t a parallel and supportive study on real beer.
BioEthicists whine about “designer babies” – as more important than the lives of children facing genetic defects
The Food and Drug Administration is weighing a fertility procedure that involves combining the genetic material of three people to make a baby free of certain defects, a therapy that critics say is an ethical minefield and could lead to the creation of designer babies.
The agency has asked a panel of experts to summarize current science to determine whether the approach — which has been performed successfully in monkeys by researchers in Oregon and in people more than a decade ago — is safe enough to be used again in people.
The F.D.A. meeting, on Tuesday and Wednesday, is meant to address the scientific issues around the procedure, not the ethics. Regulators are asking scientists to discuss the risks to the mother and the potential child and how future studies should be structured, among other issues. The meeting is being closely watched. The science of such therapies has advanced significantly in recent years, and many scientists are urging federal regulators to ease requirements for study in humans…
The procedure in question involves mitochondria, the power producers in cells that convert energy into a form that cells can use. Mitochondria with defects that could be passed to a fetus are replaced with healthy mitochondria from another woman. This is done either before or after an egg is fertilized…
The practice raised questions and eventually led the F.D.A. to tell researchers that they could not perform such procedures in humans without getting special permission from the agency. Since then, studies have been confined to animals…
So, for thirteen years, research has been confined to a precursor.
Such genetic methods have been controversial in the United States, where critics and some elected officials wonder how far scientists plan to go in their efforts to engineer humans, and question whether these methods might create other problems.
“Every time we get a little closer to genetic tinkering to promote health — that’s exciting and scary,” said Dr. Alan Copperman, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York…“The most exciting part, scientifically,” he said, “is to be able to prevent or fix an error in the genetic machinery…”
Then, the TIMES lurches into predictable fears ranging from spooky anti-science to repeating truly incompetent suggestions about diet and stress for test monkeys. RTFA if you think they’re saying something Luther Burbank didn’t hear.
Dr. Celia Witten, director of the office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies at the F.D.A., gave few clues to the agency’s thinking.
“We haven’t made any decision about whether clinical trials will be allowed to proceed,” she said.
The conference was brought together in the first place to examine methodology and practical results. The kind of discussion science has been limited to since the days of our most recent King George.
No one ever had to wonder whether or not ethics questions would be evaluated in parallel. Most science simply doesn’t operate without such concerns as part of the process. Then, there are sufficient “bio-ethics” experts building anti-science consultancies, ready to turn them into cash cows at the drop of a teabagger’s silly hat. Questions will be raised whether prompted by real concern – or as PR for quasi-religious hustlers.
The arguments are the same as those advanced over stem cell research. We already lost a number of researchers to other nations during the Bush years. Bureaucrats are becoming accustomed to being second-guessed by 14th-Century moralists. They ain’t about to stick their collective necks out over something as “furrin” as genetic science. Especially since the topic scares the Ignorant Left as much as the Ignorant Right.
Let’s move on folks. Try to catch up with the last couple of decades of the 20th Century before we continue to limit 21st Century medicine – in the United states. Just maybe save the lives of a few kids.
The planet continues to experience climate change expressed in episodes ranging from temperature swings to tempestuous storms, in general – warming.
So, look at this image and guess what portion of the globe is populated by people ignorant and parochial enough to believe that what happens in their own backyard represents what’s happening to the whole world.
Thanks, Bill Nye
A recent study suggests that self-reported memory complaints might predict clinical memory impairment later in life. Erin Abner, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, asked 3,701 men aged 60 and higher a simple question: “Have you noticed any change in your memory since you last came in?”
That question led to some interesting results. “It seems that subjective memory complaint can be predictive of clinical memory impairment,” Abner said. “Other epidemiologists have seen similar results, which is encouraging, since it means we might really be on to something.”
The results are meaningful because it might help identify people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease sooner. “If the memory and thinking lapses people notice themselves could be early markers of risk for Alzheimer’s disease, we might eventually be able to intervene earlier in the aging process to postpone and/or reduce the effects of cognitive memory impairment.”
Abner, who is also a member of the faculty in the UK Department of Epidemiology, took pains to emphasize that her work shouldn’t necessarily worry everyone who’s ever forgotten where they left their keys.
“I don’t want to alarm people,” she said. “It’s important to distinguish between normal memory lapses and significant memory problems, which usually change over time and affect multiple aspects of daily life.”
If my wife saw this article – and saw me posting it here at my personal blog – she’d give me a smack. She knows I’m a world-class hypochondriac. And here I am encouraging the rest of you.
What would you do if you discovered an odd strain of bacteria that exhibited unconventional behavior? Why, name it after Frank Zappa of course!…This is exactly what a team of Italian and Austrian researchers did when they found a bacterium that had apparently transitioned from causing acne in human skin to infecting the bark of grape vines.
“This is the first time it’s been found that a microorganism can switch from a human to a plant,” study author and self-professed Zappa fan Andrea Campisano, a microbiologist at the Edmund Mach Foundation in Italy, told the Los Angeles Times.
In addition to being a tribute to the late musician, the naming of P. acnes zappae is also a hat-tip to the Italian word for “hoe,” which is “zappa.”
Campisano is such a big fan of the experimental musician – he said he even has a quote from him prominently displayed on his lab computer screen: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television … then you deserve it.”
An extraordinary jet trailing behind a runaway pulsar is seen in this composite image that contains data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple), radio data from the Australia Compact Telescope Array (green), and optical data from the 2MASS survey (red, green, and blue). The pulsar – a spinning neutron star – and its tail are found in the lower right of this image (mouse over the image for a labeled version). The tail stretches for 37 light years , making it the longest jet ever seen from an object in the Milky Way galaxy…
The pulsar, originally discovered by ESA’s INTEGRAL satellite, is called IGR J1104-6103 and is moving away from the center of the supernova remnant where it was born at a speed between 2.5 million and 5 million miles per hour. This supersonic pace makes IGR J1104-6103 one of the fastest moving pulsars ever observed.
A massive star ran out of fuel and collapsed to form the pulsar along with the supernova remnant, the debris field seen as the large purple structure in the upper left of the image. The supernova remnant (known as SNR MSH 11-61A) is elongated along the top-right to bottom left direction, roughly in line with the tail’s direction. These features and the high speed of the pulsar suggest that jets could have played an important role in the supernova explosion that formed IGR J1104-6103.
Yes, you should RTFA. Also – the latest Chandra newsletter is rocking with space goodies. Click below to move on to the next one: