Saturday, March 14, 2009

Back to my emails...

Just taking a break in my preparations for Finals Week, as I can't afford to neglect my email any longer. As usual, there's some pretty cool things as far as news@nature goes. So here I shall display the ones I have found most interesting, in the order in which I have viewed them.

Obama overturns stem-cell ban

President's executive order will allow US human embryonic stem-cell research to thrive at last.

Scientists and research advocates worldwide are celebrating the removal of rules limiting research on human embryonic stem cells in the United States, which they say have restricted the field's progress for seven and a half years.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, is now working out policies that will allow researchers to apply for grant money from the agency to study some of the hundreds of cell lines created since 9 August 2001, when President George W.

One of the many reasons I like this Obama guy. I wonder how many thousands of unwanted embryos have been destroyed in vain when they would have otherwise been donated to researchers?
` I hope that U.S. scientists can catch up to other countries that have been studying embryonic stem cells all this time....

What else we got?

Evidence for ancient horse ranch uncovered

Traces of earliest known milking of horses in Kazakhstan.

Humans rode and milked horses as early as 3500 BC, say an international group of researchers. The findings come from ancient settlements in Kazakhstan, where horse jawbones showed signs of bridling and ceramic cooking vessels contained traces of horse milk.

Though humans have evidently had a long history with horses, dogs have been domesticated some 13,000 years B.C. or longer, as betrayed by their remains having been put in human burial sites.

Oh no, looks like some rainforests might actually compound carbon emissions!

Climate change crisis for rainforests

Drought could turn carbon sinks into sources.

The tropical forests of South America, Africa and Asia take up and release huge amounts of carbon each year. On the whole, they are a significant 'sink' for atmospheric carbon dioxide, but their future role in sequestering the greenhouse gas is uncertain.

Apparently, when vegetation dies, it releases carbon. Droughts can cause enough of the forest plants to die off, emitting more carbon than the rest of the forest can absorb! Oh bother....

And now, scientists may have to rethink what makes atoms do what they do....

Atomic nucleus takes two shapes

The squashed heart of a sulphur isotope fluctuates between different states.

Contrary to some expectations in the world of nuclear physics, researchers have found that a radioactive nucleus of sulphur oscillates between two different shapes, sometimes appearing like a sphere and other times like an American football. The result, reported this month by researchers in France, is causing nuclear physicists to rethink prevailing theories about what makes some nuclei stable and others prone to splitting apart.

I would assume that understanding this distinction may allow greater control over how one can manipulate atoms. You know, like for a new kind of nuclear power or some kind of other technology which may or may not feature 'splosions.

And here we have yet another use for genetic decoding...

Genetic test predicts eye colour

Forensic tool could help catch criminals.

Cheryl Jones

Police might soon be able to tell the eye colour of criminals from DNA recovered from crime scenes, thanks to a new genetic study.

A team of scientists led by Manfred Kayser, of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, has developed a method that predicts eye colour with unprecedented accuracy.

And here's another thing where our genetic past has come back to haunt us. Genes do that a lot, contrary to what you might think, though usually it seems the gene simply becomes inactive for a while before a new mutation activates it again.
` This, however, is different....

The resurrection of a disease-linked gene

An unusual tale of a gene lost, then found, during human evolution.

A glimpse into the evolutionary history of a gene linked to Crohn's disease has revealed a bizarre example of just how dynamic genomes can be.

The gene, called Immunity-related GTPase M (IRGM), seems to have been destroyed in the ancestor of Old and New World monkeys millions of years ago, only to be brought back to life again in the common ancestor of humans and great apes when a retrovirus lurking in the genome inserted itself into the gene.

Interesting. So, from what I know, a retrovirus is a carrier of genetic information, which replicates itself by inserting its RNA into a host cell and reverse-transcripts it into DNA, and it winds up becoming part of the cell's DNA.
` If it's a germ cell, it gets passed on into the next generation. I wish I remembered exactly how it works, though I don't have time for any more research.
` Apparently, this disease mutation somehow got into a retrovirus which carried it all over the place until it wound up settling down in the ancestors of humans and our closest ape relatives.

Bear in mind that my memory would be partly refreshed if I were able to access the rest of the article.
` *Sigh*. It's sad how much one can forget over... a decade. Anyway.... here's something I can understand better.

Microbicide protects monkeys from HIV-like virus

Gel may fight virus by suppressing counterproductive immune responses.

A microbicide made from glycerol monolaurate — an ingredient in some foods and cosmetics — can protect female monkeys from contracting an HIV-like virus, researchers have found. The compound may act by suppressing an unfortunate immune response that helps the virus rather than fights it.

I believe I've brought this one up before, haven't I? Indeed, it was this particular immune response that caused the virus to thrive rather than be injured!

Cutting calories may improve memory

Elderly people benefit from caloric restriction.

Cutting calories by 30% for three months has boosted memory and reduced insulin concentrations in a group of healthy elderly people.

Previous research on the possible benefits of calorie restriction has yielded mixed results.

I'm growing impatient to know whether or not any benefits from lower energy intake will be found....

Friends dis-united?

Models of behaviour are often simplistic but can guard against false assumptions.

"Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?" psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum asked in a book of that title in 1997. Her answer – that black kids need to stick together to develop a positive racial identity in the face of negative stereotypes – predictably divided opinion.

Uh-oh! I hope Dr. Nociceptor doesn't get any ideas....

Old plutonium found in dump

Weapons-grade material discovered at Hanford nuclear site.

The clean-up of a decommissioned US nuclear weapons plant has unearthed one of the oldest known samples of man-made plutonium.

Workers found roughly half a gram of weapons-grade plutonium-239 (Pu-239) in an abandoned safe at the Hanford Site in rural Washington state.

Oh yeah, quantum teleportation. It's very difficult to control, but it is possible to get tiny individual particles to jump from one place to another.
` I have no recollection of how this is done, though I do remember that it only works on single particles, and inconsistently at that. In other words, transporting objects this way does not seem feasible.

Atom takes a quantum leap

Ytterbium ion is the first element to be teleported over a distance.

Researchers have teleported a single ion of the element ytterbium over a metre in distance, shattering previous records. Photons have gone further but teleportation of matter has only occurred between ions in the same trap over a few micrometers.

Darn, I wish I could read the rest!

Same here:

Brain imaging measures more than we think

Anticipatory brain mechanism may be complicating MRI studies.

Popular brain-imaging techniques may be painting a misleading picture of brain activity, according to a new study.

Scientists using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) make the assumption that blood flow into a particular brain region is directly linked to the amount of activity in the cells of that region.

Or... or... what else?

Hey, this is cool;

Cheating bacteria could treat infections

Freeloaders could help their hosts by undermining microbe cooperation.

Infections could be treated by adding more bacteria, say researchers who have shown that cooperation between microbes is undermined outside the bounds of the Petri dish by a few 'cheats'.

Similar to colonies of social creatures such as ants, bacteria can rely on a simple solution to the difficulties of surviving in harsh environments — cooperation.

Mua ha ha! It appears they are working to turn hostile bacteria on themselves!

$630-million for push to eradicate polio

Gates Foundation leads donors promising cash for vaccination and research.

The global drive to eliminate the last pockets of polio infection is to receive a boost of more than half-a-billion dollars from international donors. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International and the governments of the UK and Germany this week pledged $630 million over five years for a massive final push to eradicate the crippling disease.

Dinosaur fossils suggest speedy extinction

Arctic find challenges the idea that the massive reptiles declined slowly.

Fossils uncovered recently in the Arctic support the idea that dinosaurs died off rapidly — perhaps as the result of a massive meteor hitting Earth. The finding contravenes the idea that dinosaurs were already declining by this time.

I've heard of a nanoscale needle that serves as a radio - now this:

Tiny springboards detect viruses in fluids

Wobbly cantilevers 'feel' pathogens lock onto their targets.

Viruses can now be detected directly in fluids, thanks to microscopic diving boards that vibrate when the pathogenic particles stick to cellular proteins. The findings could eventually lead to better blood tests and more sensitive ways of measuring whether new drugs are binding to their targets.

Does that not blow your mind?

And here's something even more amazing:

Scientists weave invisibility cloak

Metamaterial sheet shields objects from prying microwaves.

Scientists in the US have made a sheet that can be draped over an object to render it 'invisible' — albeit to microwave radiation rather than visible light.

The new cloak works for a range of microwave frequencies.

Last but not least... something which has nothing to do with science but is worth mentioning at least. This came from Sometimes Saintly Nick... behold... Babeh Kitteh and Babeh Deer!

The cuteness will paralyze your will! Resistance is futile!


Winters said...

Ahh. I was indeed paralysed by the cuteness of the friendship between Bambi and the kitty, juxtaposed with the music of Satchmo.

Good luck with the finals, Miss Quine. :)

S E E Quine said...

One final aced, one final to go!

G-Man said...

Cuteness abounds.....EVERYWHERE!!
Congrats on the Ace....G

Daisy said... the deer and the kitty vid. You sure get a wide range of interesting emails!!

S E E Quine said...

Thanks, G-man! I can't believe I didn't suck!

Daisy, you have no idea....