Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
A scientist who faked research data for experimental anti-cancer drugs has been jailed for three months for falsifying test results…Steven Eaton, from Cambridgeshire, has become the first person in the UK to be jailed under scientific safety laws.
Eaton, 47, was working at the Edinburgh branch of US pharmaceutical firm Aptuit in 2009 when he came up with the scam…If it had been successful, cancer patients who took the drug could have been harmed, the court was told…Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how Eaton had manipulated the results of an experiment so it was deemed successful when it had actually failed.
When bosses at his firm scrutinised his work, they noticed that it was fraudulent.
They stopped work on the project that Eaton was involved in, and reported him to watchdogs at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency…Investigators there discovered that Eaton had been selectively reporting research data since 2003…
The story emerged after Eaton was convicted last month under legislation called the 1999 Good Laboratory Practice Regulations…Sentence had been deferred so that the court could obtain reports about Eaton’s character.
Sheriff Michael O’Grady said: “I feel that my sentencing powers in this are wholly inadequate. You failed to test the drugs properly – you could have caused cancer patients unquestionable harm…
Almost bemusing to see the long arm of the law come down on an individual crook in the pharmaceuticals industry. The cardinal rule of commerce in drugs and potions designed to extend life, ease and enable the ill is that nothing supersedes profitability.
Certainly, long term balance sheet considerations played a role in this case – as well as the potential for killing off customers. Providing an opportunity for politicians and bureaucrats to pat themselves on the back is always a hit, as well.
Yes, I’m glad to see a corrupt, phony scientist get jail time for his crime. Mail me a penny postcard when there is comparable effort focused on corporate theft from the body politic.
The flight testing campaign of the X-48C Blended Wing Body (BWB, aka Hybrid Wing Body) research aircraft kicked off on August 7, 2012, at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Eight months later the campaign has come to a close with the 30th and final flight carried out on April 12. NASA plans to use the data gathered over the campaign to aid in the design of future “green” airliners that are quieter and more fuel-efficient than conventional aircraft, while Boeing is touting the design’s potential military applications.
Unlike flying wing designs such the Stealth Bomber that lack a definitive fuselage, BWB designs have separate wing structures that are smoothly blended into a flattened and airfoil-shaped body. The purpose of the recently-completed flight testing campaign was to establish base data relating to the lift, stall and spin characteristics of the BWB design that promises increased fuel economy and range due to the entire aircraft contributing to lift generation…
In an effort to reduce the X-48B’s noise profile and study its low speed stability its wingtip winglets were moved inboard on either side of the engines – effectively turning them into twin tails – its fuselage was extended at the rear by about two feet (0.6 m), and its three 50-pound thrust jet engines were replaced with two 89-pound thrust engines. The result was the X-48C, which boasts the same 21-foot (6.4 m) wingspan and approximate 500 lb (227 kg) weight as the X-48B that made 92 flights between 2007 and 2010.
In the evolution from X-48B to X-48C, the aircraft’s flight control system software was also modified to account for the different handling qualities of the two models. The team says this enabled a stronger and safer prototype flight control system that is suitable for future full-scale commercial blended wing aircraft…
“We have accomplished our goals of establishing a ground-to-flight database, and proving the low speed controllability of the concept throughout the flight envelope,” said Fay Collier, manager of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project. “Very quiet and efficient, the hybrid wing body has shown promise for meeting all of NASA’s environmental goals for future aircraft designs.”
We probably won’t see anything looking like this in passenger/cargo/civilian aircraft for a couple of decades. And Boeing admits their first probable customers will be Uncle Sugar’s Air Force.
Which means you and I get to pay for them instead of some airline. Still – it is an interesting looking critter and hopefully produced research which will aid all aircraft construction.
Two new experiments, one involving people and the other animals, suggest that regular exercise can substantially improve memory, although different types of exercise seem to affect the brain quite differently. The news may offer consolation for the growing numbers of us who are entering age groups most at risk for cognitive decline…
For the human study, published in The Journal of Aging Research, scientists at the University of British Columbia recruited dozens of women ages 70 to 80 who had been found to have mild cognitive impairment…
Earlier, the same group of researchers had found that after weight training, older women with mild cognitive impairment improved their associative memory, or the ability to recall things in context — a stranger’s name and how you were introduced, for instance.
Now the scientists wanted to look at more essential types of memory, and at endurance exercise as well. So they randomly assigned their volunteers to six months of supervised exercise. Some of the women lifted weights twice a week. Others briskly walked. And some, as a control measure, skipped endurance exercise and instead stretched and toned…
And in this study, after six months, the women in the toning group scored worse on the memory tests than they had at the start of the study. Their cognitive impairment had grown…But the women who had exercised, either by walking or weight training, performed better on almost all of the cognitive tests after six months than they had before.
There were, however, differences…While both exercise groups improved almost equally on tests of spatial memory, the women who had walked showed greater gains in verbal memory than the women who had lifted weights…
The spleen’s job is to filter our blood. When people are critically ill or have received traumatic injuries, however, the spleen alone is sometimes not able to remove enough of the pathogens on its own – potentially-fatal sepsis is the result. In order to help avert such an outcome in those situations, scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University are developing a device known as the spleen-on-a-chip.
The patient’s blood is circulated through the device. The process begins with magnetic nanobeads being mixed with the blood. Those beads are coated with a genetically engineered version of a human blood opsonin protein, that bonds with pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and toxins.
The blood/nanobead mixture proceeds to flow through a series of microchannels, in which magnets are used to pull the beads back out. The beads bring the pathogens with them, leaving all the regular components of the now-cleansed blood (such as the cells and proteins) to be returned to the patient…
The Wyss Institute (which also brought us the gut-on-a-chip) recently received a US$9.25 million contract from DARPA, to further develop the spleen-on-a-chip. DARPA has reason to be interested in the technology, as it could be used to treat soldiers injured on the battlefield.
Testing on large animals is now being planned, with human trials down the road.
Having been one of those humans taking part in previous biological tests – following upon large animal tests – I’d be willing to volunteer for something as useful as this procedure. The bucks to pay for trials may be coming from the military – who have a unique priority pushing for treatment like this – but end use can save beaucoup lives throughout the world, especially non-military.
Generations of Eastern European housewives doing battle against bedbugs spread bean leaves around the floor of an infested room at night. In the morning, the leaves would be covered with bedbugs that had somehow been trapped there. The leaves, and the pests, were collected and burned — by the pound, in extreme infestations.
Now a group of American scientists is studying this bedbug-leaf interaction, with an eye to replicating nature’s Roach Motel.
A study published Wednesday in The Journal of the Royal Society Interface details the scientists’ quest, including their discovery of how the bugs get hooked on the leaves, how the scientists have tried to recreate these hooks synthetically and how their artificial hooks have proved to be less successful than the biological ones.
At first glance, the whole notion seems far-fetched, said Catherine Loudon, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in bedbug locomotion.
“If someone had suggested to me that impaling insects with little tiny hooks would be a valid form of pest control, I wouldn’t have given it credence,” she said in an interview. “You can think of lots of reasons why it wouldn’t work. That’s why it’s so amazing…”
This folk remedy from the Balkans was never entirely forgotten. A German entomologist wrote about it in 1927, a scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture mentioned it in a paper in 1943, and it can be found in Web searches about bedbugs and bean plants.
But the commercial availability of pesticides like DDT in the 1940s temporarily halted the legions of biting bugs. As their pesticide-resistant descendants began to multiply from Manhattan to Moscow, though, changing everything from leases to liability laws, the hunt for a solution was on…
…As Dr. Loudon said, “It would be our greatest hope that ultimately this could develop into something that could help with this horrible problem.”
Quick, someone go find the dude who invented Velcro!
Bruno Debattista holds up the piece of shale with the fossilised footprints
An Oxford schoolboy has discovered what appears to be an extremely rare fossil of footprints from more than 300 million years ago.
Ten-year-old Bruno Debattista, who attends Windmill Primary School in Oxford, brought a piece of shale rock containing what he thought might be a fossilised imprint to the after-school club at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History.
Oxford University Natural History Museum experts were astonished to find that it appeared to contain the trackways left by a horseshoe crab crawling up the muddy slopes of an ancient shore around 320 million years ago.
Chris Jarvis, education officer at the Museum and organiser of the Natural History After-School Club, said: ‘Footprints of this age are incredibly rare and extremely hard to spot, so we were amazed when Bruno produced them at our After-School Club.
‘Still more impressive is the fact that Bruno had a hunch they might be some kind of footprints, even though the specimen had some of our world expert geologists arguing about it over their microscopes!”
Bruno’s fossil has been confirmed by the Museum as likely showing footprints of a pair of mating horseshoe crabs laid down during the Carboniferous period, some 308-327 million years ago. At this time, the sea was slowly being sealed off as Earth’s landmasses crunched together to form Pangaea. Bruno and his family have decided to donate the fossil specimen to the Museum’s collection.
Bravo. A kid with a bright future.
Barbara Block, Stanford University – using SV2, Plans for SV3
Last December, Liquid Robotics made headlines when one of its Wave Glider aquatic robots completed a “swim” from San Francisco to Australia. It marked the longest distance ever traveled by an autonomous vehicle of any type. The research/surveillance robot was part of a fleet of four that took part in the demo project. One of the others successfully reached Australia later, while the other pair are still on their way to their alternate destination of Japan.
Besides making the much-publicized PacX trans-Pacific crossing, the company’s “base” model of the Wave Glider (the new version of which is now known as the SV2) has been used by a variety of clients in a number of different projects, since its launch in 2009. “We’ve built over 200,” Liquid Robotics CEO Bill Vass told us. “About a third or so are on missions at any one time. A lot more customers are moving to running 20 at a time instead of one at a time…”
Monday, the company announced its SV3 – the new-and-improved version of the existing Wave Glider robot. Like the SV2, the SV3 consists of two main parts that are tethered together.
On the surface is a floating surfboard-like “boat,” that contains the sensors which allow the robot to measure oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, wave characteristics, weather conditions, water fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen. Also on board are a GPS unit, a heading sensor, transmitters/receivers and other electronics – all of which are powered by built-in solar cells. Below the surface is a winged platform that catches the underwater motion of the waves, allowing it to paddle itself forward, along with the tethered boat…
More intriguingly, however, the SV3 additionally features a thrust-vectoring electric motor. Its propeller folds out of the way when not in use, but can be lowered and activated (either autonomously or by satellite remote control) when the robot needs an extra push – such a push might be helpful if it encounters doldrums or cross currents, or if a sudden change in its route is required. The motor is powered by a battery that is in turn charged by the solar cells, as with the other electric components.
Solving the problems of autonomous function and durability are the hard bit. Hardware, that is. One of the smartest things they’ve done in the software is designing in a system that can diagnosis a problem that may hinder mission completion – whereupon the Wave Glider changes course and heads for the nearest repair facility. Phoning home about the problem, of course.
Back in late 2009 Boston Dynamics revealed it was working on a humanoid robot that would test protective clothing for the military. Having already amazed the world three years earlier with the lifelike balancing capabilities of its quadruped BigDog, this would be the company’s first bipedal robot. It was an ambitious project, but it appears the work has paid off. The robot’s eerily realistic body movements are made all the more convincing now that its mechanical nature is hidden by a chemical protection suit.
In order to test the durability of hazmat suits, the robot would have to perform rigorous tests like running, jumping, crouching, and crawling. When the project was first announced it was almost too ambitious to be believed, but the company has been making steady progress over the years. In 2011 it published a video of an incomplete PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) performing realistic motions that seem to leapfrog high tech robots developed over the course of decades in Japan.
Although tethered by a power cable, PETMAN’s balance is more dynamic and natural than other bipeds, and it outdoes other humanoid robots with its skin. The robot not only has sensors embedded in its skin that will detect leaks in the suit, but it also artificially perspires in order to maintain a micro-climate inside the clothing. The idea is to precisely replicate the real conditions inside a suit that might affect its eventual wearer.
Boston Dynamics says that PETMAN has been delivered to a testing facility where it is undergoing validation experiments. Soon the robot will be installed inside of an exposure chamber where it will be tested against the likes of sarin and mustard gas.
A useful DARPA-esque project. And BD is to be congratulated on the quality and detail of their work.
Five fish stow away on tsunami-tossed boat
Most outrageous fish tales begin with an arching arm gesture and “a fish this big” — but this one starts with “fish that traveled this far.”
Just over two years after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, researchers made a startling discovery in a 20-foot-long Japanese fishing vessel that washed ashore last month near Long Beach, Washington: five tropical fish, alive and well.
They are called striped beakfish, and they are native to warmer waters near Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula.
The five stowaways, roughly the size of your palm, lived in a cozy spot at the back of the boat.
A 20- to 30-gallon containment hold in the boat’s stern lost its cover, and that part of the boat was submerged as the vessel drifted in the ocean, said Allen Pleus, a scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That “created like a cave they could go in and out of,” Pleus said…
When researchers first explored the boat, they saw just one of the fish in the holding tank. They collected it in a bucket and took it to Long Beach City Hall.
Someone at City Hall called the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon, to come and get it. Fish and Wildlife personnel found three more in the tank’s murky water. Finally the boat was towed to a state yard, where the fifth fish came swimming up to Pleus.
The other fishies along with anemones, scallops, crabs that also survived the journey will be dissected and examined in detail at Oregon States University.