Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Easter Island compounds, space internet and more, October,2009

NewScientist Just check out this cool robot! It's adorable!

Today:

  1. NASA Research to Help Aircraft Avoid Ocean Storms, Turbulence
  2. Researchers test new 'space Internet' system on International Space Station
  3. Augmented Reality: Science Fiction or Reality? (w/ Video)
  4. 'Invisibility cloak' could protect against earthquakes
  5. Easter Island compound extends lifespan of old mice
  6. Asteroid blast reveals holes in Earth's defences
Shorties:
  1. Gene therapy repairs injured human donor lungs for the first time
  2. Moderate exercise in mice boosts immune system, diminishes flu's severity
  3. Researchers reverse pulmonary arterial hypertension in mouse models
  4. Modified crops reveal hidden cost of resistance

Interesting article on the abuse of the army over astronomers, that I will discuss in After The Pink Goat.

NASA Research to Help Aircraft Avoid Ocean Storms, Turbulence

July 7th, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA is funding the development of a prototype system to provide aircraft with updates about severe storms and turbulence as they fly across remote ocean regions.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., in partnership with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, are developing a system that combines satellite data and computer models with cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques. The goal is to identify and predict rapidly evolving storms and other potential areas of .

"Turbulence is the leading cause of injuries in commercial aviation," said John Haynes, program manager in the Earth Science Division's Applied Sciences Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This new work to detect the likelihood of turbulence associated with oceanic storms using key space-based indicators is of crucial importance to pilots."

The system is designed to help guide pilots away from intense weather. A variety of NASA spacecraft observations are being used in the project, including data from NASA's Terra, Aqua, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, CloudSat and CALIPSO satellites.

The will identify areas of turbulence in clear regions of the atmosphere as well as within storms. It is on track for testing next year. Pilots on selected transoceanic routes will receive real-time turbulence updates and provide feedback. When the system is finalized, it will provide pilots and ground-based controllers with text-based maps and graphical displays showing regions of likely turbulence and storms.

"Pilots currently have little weather information as they fly over remote stretches of the ocean, which is where some of the worst turbulence occurs," said scientist John Williams, one of the project leads at NCAR. "Providing pilots with at least an approximate picture of developing storms could help guide them safely around areas of potentially severe turbulence."

NCAR currently provides real-time maps of turbulence at various altitudes over the continental United States. Williams and his colleagues are building on this expertise to identify turbulence over oceans.

In addition to providing aircraft and ground controllers with up-to-the-minute maps of turbulence, the NCAR team is turning to an technique, known as "random forests," to provide short-term forecasts. This enables scientists to forecast the movement and strength of the storm during the next few hours.

"Our goal is to give pilots a regularly updated picture of the likely storms ahead as they fly over the , so they can take action to minimize turbulence and keep their aircraft out of danger," explained NCAR scientist Cathy Kessinger, a project team member. source

My comment: That is wonderful news. I didn't know that there is so much turbulence over the oceans, even though it makes perfect sense. But still, I hope that this new system will come alive soon, because it is so sad to know we can prevent a plane crash and we haven't done it, because there isn't enough will or financing.

Researchers test new 'space Internet' system on International Space Station

July 6th, 2009
The University of Colorado at Boulder is working with NASA to develop a new communications technology now being tested on the International Space Station, which will extend Earth's Internet into outer space and across the solar system.

Called Disruption Tolerant Networking, or DTN, the new technology will enable NASA and other space agencies around the world to better communicate with international fleets of spacecraft that will be used to explore the moon and Mars in the future.

"Communication between spacecraft and ground stations has traditionally been over a single point-to-point link, much like a walkie-talkie," said Gifford. "Currently, space operations teams must manually schedule each link and generate appropriate commands to specify where the data is to be sent, the time it will be sent and its destination. As the number of spacecraft and links increase and the need to communicate between many space vehicles emerges, these manual operations become increasingly cumbersome and costly," he said.

"Highly automated future communications capabilities will be required for lunar habitation and surface exploration that include passing information between orbiting relay satellites, lunar and planetary habitats and astronauts on the surface," said Gifford. "But existing Internet protocols, where Internet hosts and computers are always connected, do not work well for many space-based environments, where intermittently connected operations are common."

The new data communications protocols were installed on a BioServe payload known as the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, or CGBA, on the in May to send DTN messages known as "bundles," said Gifford. As part of NASA's communication operations test that will begin June 15, bundles will be sent from the space station to its operations and control facility at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., then on to a mission control center at CU-Boulder's BioServe.

Cerf said that "while conventional Internet protocols may work well in short-delay, richly connected terrestrial environments, they quickly degrade in long-delay and highly stressed wireless data communications scenarios that are already beginning to be encountered at the edges of the Internet, which is where space tends to begin." "With the new system, delays caused by spacecraft moving behind planets or solar storms disrupting communications are not a problem because the data packets are not discarded when outages occur, but instead are stored as long as necessary until an opportunity arises that allows them to be transmitted," Hooke said.

"By improving data timeliness associated with robotic and human-tended missions, NASA is reducing risk, reducing cost, increasing crew safety, improving operational awareness and improving science return," said Gifford. "There also are intriguing applications of the DTN technology on Earth. They include the tracking of livestock and wildlife, enhancing Internet 'hot spot' connectivity in remote rural areas in Third World countries, and tactical operations support for the U.S. military."

source

My comment: That's so nice! Because if you think seriously, it's hard to relay live information trough such long distances, this new approach is much smarter, because as they formulated it - nothing is lost. Just imagine live camera from Titan for example. Wouldn't that be cool? And anyway, one must be able to tweet from Mars, right?

Augmented Reality: Science Fiction or Reality? (w/ Video)

July 7th, 2009 by John Messina
(PhysOrg.com) -- Today, computer graphics seem very real and some day researchers will pull graphics out of your television or computer display and integrate them into real-world environments.

This new technology, called augmented reality or AR, will further disguise what's real and what's computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.

Up until now AR has been used extensively in movies and been mostly confined to Hollywood. Today, it's now possible to shoot augmented reality by using only a .

The video below demonstrates basic AR in action. The AR scene involves an AR shooter shooting at zombies and using skittles as bombs to blow up zombies.

By using Nvidia's new Tegra platform, the game's maps are generated by pointing the phones camera at a 2D drawing printout lying on a table. The end result shows a realistic 3D world with buildings popping up, as players move the around the game map placed on the table.

Motion controlled devices for Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's new Natal platform are already being used to enhance gamers experience. By using the Natal platform, as the control mechanism, body movements can easily be converted into game movements. The ultimate goal would be to merge game graphics with the real world. The day will come when video games are played outdoors and project into the real world around us. source

My comment: Go to the source site to see the video. It's so cool! Another cool video and article on the subject here. I know the game looks somewhat stupid, but I'm sure with time, new and more fun commercial applications will come. It's just so exciting to see how easily we can attach our real life views to a computer game. Imagine how you can transform your room or a dark forest into your next zombi/Korean adventure. Or, imagine the applications for say the medicine - you make an MRI scan of the body of the patient and then you upload it to a computer and some software creates an augmented reality for you, giving you the opportunity to explore all the parts of the body and rehearse a surgery for example. Nice!

Easter Island compound extends lifespan of old mice

July 8th, 2009
The giant monoliths of Easter Island are worn, but they have endured for centuries. New research suggests that a compound first discovered in the soil of the South Pacific island might help us stand the test of time, too.

Wednesday, July 8, in the journal Nature, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and two collaborating centers reported that the Easter Island compound - called "rapamycin" after the island's Polynesian name, Rapa Nui - extended the expected lifespan of middle-aged mice by 28 percent to 38 percent. In human terms, this would be greater than the predicted increase in extra years of life if cancer and heart disease were both cured and prevented.

The rapamycin was given to the mice at an age equivalent to 60 years old in humans.

The studies are part of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Interventions Testing Program, which seeks compounds that might help people remain active and disease-free throughout their lives.

Discovered in the 1970s, rapamycin was first noted for its anti-fungal properties and later was used to prevent in transplant patients. It also is used in stents, which are implanted in patients during angioplasty to keep coronary arteries open. It is in clinical trials for the treatment of cancer.

The new aging experiments found that adding rapamycin to the diet of older mice increased their lifespan. The results were the same in Texas, Michigan and Maine.

"We believe this is the first convincing evidence that the aging process can be slowed and lifespan can be extended by a drug therapy starting at an advanced age," said Randy Strong, Ph.D., who directs the NIA-funded Aging Interventions Testing Center in San Antonio.

The findings have "interesting implications for our understanding of the aging process," said Z. Dave Sharp, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Biotechnology and professor and chairman of the Health Science Center's Department of Molecular Medicine.

"In addition," Dr. Sharp said, "the findings have immediate implications for preventive medicine and human health, in that rapamycin is already in clinical usage."

Aging researchers currently acknowledge only two life-extending interventions in mammals: calorie restriction and genetic manipulation. Rapamycin appears to partially shut down the same molecular pathway as restricting food intake or reducing growth factors.

It does so through a cellular protein called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), which controls many processes in cell metabolism and responses to stress.

The male and female mice were cross-bred from four different strains of mice to more closely mimic the genetic diversity and disease susceptibility of the human population.

The original goal was to begin feeding the mice at 4 months of age, but because of the delay caused by developing the new formulation, the mice were not started until they were 20 months old - the equivalent of 60 years of age in humans.
The teams decided to try the rapamycin intervention anyway.

"I did not think that it would work because the mice were too old when the treatment was started," Dr. Richardson said. "Most reports indicate that calorie restriction doesn't work when implemented in old animals. The fact that rapamycin increases lifespan in relatively old was totally unexpected." source

My comment: Any doubts that this is awesome?!

'Invisibility cloak' could protect against earthquakes

(PhysOrg.com) -- Research at the University of Liverpool has shown it is possible to develop an 'invisibility cloak' to protect buildings from earthquakes.

The seismic waves produced by earthquakes include body waves which travel through the earth and surface waves which travel across it. The new technology controls the path of surface waves which are the most damaging and responsible for much of the destruction which follows earthquakes.

The technology involves the use of concentric rings of plastic which could be fitted to the Earth's surface to divert surface waves. By controlling the stiffness and elasticity of the rings, waves travelling through the 'cloak' pass smoothly into the material and are compressed into small fluctuations in pressure and density. The path of the surface waves can be made into an arc that directs the waves outside the protective cloak. The technique could be applied to buildings by installing the rings into foundations.

Sebastien Guenneau, from the University's Department of Mathematics, who developed the technology with Stefan Enoch and Mohamed Farhat from the Fresnel Institute (CNRS) in Marseilles, France, explained: "We are able to 'tune' the cloak to the differing frequencies of incoming waves which means we can divert waves of a variety of frequencies. For each small frequency range, there is a pair of rings which does most of the work and these move about a lot - bending up and down - when they are hit by a wave at their frequency.

"The waves are then directed outside the cloak where they return to their previous size. The cloak does not reflect waves - they continue to travel behind it with the same intensity. At this stage, therefore, we can only transfer the risk from one area to another, rather than eliminate it completely."

Seismic waves also include coupled pressure and shear body waves which are less destructive than surface waves. source

My comment: Yup and the next best thing is to learn how to extract this energy for our own uses. Not only the seismic waves won't be dangerous to such extent anymore, but we'll be able to use their immense energy for own petty projects. Nice.And much better than thermal energy!

Asteroid blast reveals holes in Earth's defences

As the US government ponders a strategy to deal with threatening asteroids, a dramatic explosion over Indonesia has underscored how blind we still areMovie Camera to hurtling space rocks.

On 8 October an asteroid detonated high in the atmosphere above South Sulawesi, Indonesia, releasing about as much energy as 50,000 tons of TNT, according to a NASA estimate released on Friday. That's about three times more powerful than the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima, making it one of the largest asteroid explosions ever observed.

However, the blast caused no damage on the ground because of the high altitude, 15 to 20 kilometres above Earth's surface, says astronomer Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario (UWO), Canada.

Brown and Elizabeth Silber, also of UWO, estimated the explosion energy from infrasound waves that rippled halfway around the world and were recorded by an international network of instruments that listens for nuclear explosions.

The explosion was heard by witnesses in Indonesia. Video images of the sky following the event show a dust trail characteristic of an exploding asteroid.

The amount of energy released suggests the object was about 10 metres across, the researchers say. Such objects are thought to hit Earth about once per decade.

No telescope spotted the asteroid ahead of its impact. That is not surprising, given that only a tiny fraction of asteroids smaller than 100 metres across have been catalogued, says Tim Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yet objects as small as 20 or 30 metres across may be capable of doing damage on the ground, he says.

"If you want to find the smallest objects you have to build more, larger telescopes," says Spahr. "A survey that finds all of the 20-metre objects will cost probably multiple billions of dollars." source

My comment: Yep, we definitely need better telescopes. I wouldn't say bigger, because if they are space-born, maybe the size won't matter so much. Here, the most important part is that we need large-area telescopes, so that we can observe vast areas of the sky, because this is the biggest problems about asteroids. That the sky is so big and they are so many and some of them are small. Well, some money invested into this won't be a waste for sure. Life is more precious than them.

Shorties:

Gene therapy repairs injured human donor lungs for the first time

October 28th, 2009
For the first time, scientists in the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University Health Network have successfully used gene therapy to repair injured human donor lungs, making them potentially suitable for transplantation into patients. This technique could significantly expand the number of donor lungs by using organs that are currently discarded, and improve outcomes after transplantation. (read more)

Moderate exercise in mice boosts immune system, diminishes flu's severity

October 28th, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It appears as though exercise pain does have plenty of gain when it comes to fighting off the severe effects of the flu. A new study by five Iowa State University researchers on mice infected with the flu virus suggests that a moderate workout per day may just keep the doctor away -- or at least diminish the severity of the flu's symptoms. (read more)

Researchers reverse pulmonary arterial hypertension in mouse models

October 25th, 2009

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have identified a key protein that promotes the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension in humans and mice. This groundbreaking discovery has implications for future drug therapies that may extend the life of patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension and prevent the need for lung transplantation, currently the only cure for this debilitating disease.

In a paper to be published online in Nature Medicine on October 25, Patricia Thistlethwaite, MD, PhD, Professor of Surgery and cardiothoracic surgeon in UCSD's Department of Surgery, and colleagues describe the by which vascular associated with are switched on to proliferate by a receptor protein called Notch-3. With this finding, the researchers were able to block and reverse the pathway of disease in mice.(read more)

Modified crops reveal hidden cost of resistance

October 26th, 2009
Genetically modified squash plants that are resistant to a debilitating viral disease become more vulnerable to a fatal bacterial infection, according to biologists.
The researchers discovered that as the viral infection swept the fields containing both genetically modified and wild crops, the damage from cucumber beetles is greater on the genetically modified plants. The modified plants are therefore more susceptible to the fatal bacterial wilt disease. (read more)

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