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

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The birth of new drugs-the hope is still there!

Today:

  1. FDA OKs 1st drug from genetically altered animals
  2. Protein reverses Alzheimer's brain damage
  3. Anti-HIV gel shows promise in large-scale study in women
  4. Chemical drink breathes life into damaged hearts
  5. Engineered bacterium churns out two new key antibiotics
This is one of my most positive posts. All the articles are just very promising and give me the feeling that everything is going to be all right. Enjoy!

FDA OKs 1st drug from genetically altered animals

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Fri Feb 6, 5:12 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration made history Friday as it approved the first drug made with materials from genetically engineered animals, clearing the way for a new class of medical therapies.

GTC Biotherapeutics said regulators cleared its drug ATryn, which is manufactured using milk from goats that have been scientifically altered to produce extra antithrombin, a protein that acts as a natural blood thinner.

The drug's approval may be the first step toward new kinds of medications made not from chemicals, but from living organisms altered by scientists. Similar drugs could be available in the next few years for a range of human ailments, including hemophilia.

The FDA cleared the drug to treat patients with a rare hereditary disorder that causes a deficiency of the protein, putting them at higher risk of deadly blood clots.

Patients with hereditary anithrombin deficiency are currently prescribed conventional blood thinners, like Plavix from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis. That will not change with the new approval. ATryn is only approved for use when patients are undergoing surgery or having a baby, times when the risk of dangerous clots is particularly high. Those patients would receive the drug by intravenous infusion for a limited time before and after their procedures.

To make the drug, scientists at GTC put DNA for the human antithrombin protein into single cell embryos of goats. Goat embryos with the gene were then inserted into the wombs of surrogate mothers who gave birth to baby goats that produce the protein-charged milk.

Genetically engineered animals are not clones but rather animals that have had their DNA changed to produce a desirable characteristic.

Consumer groups said the FDA's long-awaited policy will not require all genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such. And they said the government has not done enough to examine the potential impact of genetically engineered animals on the environment, particularly if some escape and begin to mate with animals in nature.

The drug received European approval in 2006. source

My comment: I'm glad this is the first news, because I think it's extremely positive. Not only because adore goats. They are so lovely and their milk is so good for humans, I'm surprised they don't get the respect they ought to have. But in any case, I think this is a good way to create a medicine, because their birth by a normal goat guarantee that they are not too far from Nature. And I'm sure the medicine will save many lives!


Protein reverses Alzheimer's brain damage

Injections of a natural growth factor into the brains of mice, rats and monkeys offers hope of preventing or reversing the earliest impacts of Alzheimer's disease on memory. The benefits arose even in animals whose brains contained the hallmark plaques that clog up the brains of patients.

By delivering brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) directly into the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, the parts of the brain where memories are formed then consolidated, the researchers successfully tackled damage exactly where Alzheimer's strikes first.

"We're administering BDNF directly to the degenerating neurons in memory systems of the cortex, and preventing their death," says Mark Tuszynski of the University of California at San Diego. The substance, which naturally supports brain cells throughout life, also amplified the numbers of connections, or synapses, between neurons.

"Our most compelling evidence was the observation that brain cell death was prevented, and that connections between neurons rose in density by about 25%," says Tuszynski. Improvements on this scale happened in all the animals, including mice with a version of human Alzheimer's disease, elderly rats and monkeys with natural degeneration, plus rats and monkeys given brain lesions similar to those seen in Alzheimer's.

To prolong the effects beyond simply injecting BDNF itself, Tuszynski injected a harmless lentivirus carrying the gene for BDNF, so that the chemical would carry on being produced by the virus. He says that pending safety studies, trials could start in two years. source

My comment: Hm, it's true that the procedure is quite invasive, but still, if you can even slow down the progress of the disease, long enough to get a proper treatment, that's not bad for a result at all. And I'm sure they will find a way to make the treatment less invasive and more leasting.

Anti-HIV gel shows promise in large-scale study in women

February 9th, 2009

An investigational vaginal gel intended to prevent HIV infection in women has demonstrated encouraging signs of success in a clinical trial conducted in Africa and the United States.

The study investigators found the microbicide gel—known as PRO 2000 (Indevus Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Lexington, Mass.)—to be safe and approximately 30 percent effective (33 percent effectiveness would have been considered statistically significant). This is the first human clinical study to suggest that a microbicide—a gel, foam or cream intended to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections when applied topically inside the vagina or rectum—may prevent male-to-female sexual transmission of HIV infection.

"Although more data are needed to conclusively determine whether PRO 2000 protects women from HIV infection, the results of this study are encouraging," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

The Phase II/IIb clinical trial, which enrolled more than 3,000 women, is NIH's first large clinical study of a microbicide.

"The study, while not conclusive, provides a glimmer of hope to millions of women at risk for HIV, especially young women in Africa," adds lead investigator Salim S. Abdool Karim, MBChB, Ph.D., from the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa, who presented the findings at CROI. "It provides the first signal that a microbicide gel may be able to protect women from HIV infection."

Currently, women make up half of all people worldwide living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, women represent nearly 60 percent of adults living with HIV, and in several southern African countries young women are at least three times more likely to be HIV-positive than young men. In most cases, women become infected with HIV through sexual intercourse with an infected male partner. An effective microbicide could provide women with an HIV prevention method they initiate. This would be particularly helpful in situations where it is difficult or impossible for women to refuse sex or negotiate condom use with their male partners.

In the final analysis, 194 women in the study became infected with HIV. Of these infections, 36 occurred in the PRO 2000 group, 54 in the BufferGel group, 51 in the placebo group and 53 in those who did not use gel. Based on these data, PRO 2000 was 30 percent effective, while BufferGel had no detectable preventive effect on HIV infection. Both PRO 2000 and BufferGel were found to be safe.

A separate clinical study sponsored by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom that is currently testing PRO 2000 (0.5 percent dose) in preventing HIV infection among women in Africa could provide further insight into the microbicide's effectiveness. That Phase III study involving nearly 9,400 women is set to conclude in August 2009. source

My comment: Hm, I kind of question the ethics of this research. Sure, those women would have gotten infected anyway, they were counceled and stuff, but somehow, I dislike the idea that those scientists just went there and watched what happens like a statistics. Don't know. Maybe they were right, you have to do the science for the living. Also I question the idea that women that cannot deny sex or make the man wear a condom, will be able to have the time to put that gel. Especially when most of them are raped. But anyway, the gel could help women on the west too.

Chemical drink breathes life into damaged hearts

After drinking a chemical dissolved in water, mice with damaged hearts turn from couch potatoes into treadmill tearaways, researchers say. The finding raises hopes that the same substance can invigorate patients weakened from heart attacks by increasing the supply of oxygen to damaged cardiac muscle.

Designed to make haemoglobin release more of its oxygen than normal, the drug, myo-inositol trispyrophosphate (ITPP) boosted exercise levels in the ailing mice by 35% when given dissolved in water. When given by injection into the abdomen, exercise levels rose a massive 60%.

"ITPP doesn't deliver oxygen itself, but makes haemoglobin able to release a larger amount of oxygen to tissues," explains Jean-Marie Lehn of the University of Strasbourg in France.

Normally, he says, haemoglobin releases only 25% of its oxygen cargo during one circuit of the body. But when ITPP binds to haemoglobin, it releases 35% more than usual, boosting supplies of oxygen to tissues without people having to inhale any extra air.

Further evidence of increased oxygen supply came from blood samples taken from the mice showing a fivefold reduction within just three days of hypoxia-inducible factor, a chemical distress signal produced by oxygen-starved tissue. The results also suggested that the effects from a single dose could last almost a week, so patients wouldn't need to take ITPP every day.

As a result, Lehn hopes to begin clinical trials "as soon as possible". For athletes tempted to use the substance to enhance performance, he warns: "It could be very easily detected." source

My comment:Also a great news. Poor mice that got hyperactive, but the first application that comes to my mind is to use this like an emergency kit-like in army, in a disaster or any other situation requiring to get the most out of your body. That really could make a difference for many people. Especially for those with a heart deficiency-it would be like bringing them back to life. I hope they develop it even more.

Engineered bacterium churns out two new key antibiotics

February 18th, 2009 by Terry Devitt

(PhysOrg.com) -- In recent years, scientists have isolated two potent natural antibiotics — platensimycin and platencin — that are highly effective against bacterial infection, including those caused by the most dreaded drug-resistant microbes.

Now, those two promising agents are a key step closer to augmenting a depleted antibiotic pipeline with the discovery of a genetic pressure point that can send a bacterium that makes both antibiotics into overdrive.

In a report in the online editions of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of pharmaceutical sciences and chemistry Ben Shen shows that a South African soil microbe can be engineered by manipulating a single gene to make large amounts of both antibiotics.

The compounds are among the first discovered in the past 40 years that represent a new class of antibiotics and that exhibit a new mode of action. They work by targeting an enzyme used to make the fatty acids critical for building the cell membranes on the surface of pathogenic bacteria. The need for new antibiotics is significant and growing as pathogenic bacteria are evolving resistance to currently available antibiotics, with some infections becoming almost impossible to treat.

The new Wisconsin discovery is notable because it provides a blueprint for the manufacture of large amounts of antibiotic, a key step in the commercial development of any drug. The team showed that a liter of the engineered bacterium Streptomyces platensis can churn out as much as 300 milligrams of antibiotic, more than 100 times the amount produced by wild strains of the bacterium.

"That's a lot of material," says Shen. "We didn't even optimize production."

The conversion of ordinary Streptomyces platensis into a lean, mean antibiotic-producing machine required the manipulation of only a single regulatory gene, according to the new study. By deleting the gene from the bacterium that produces the compounds, the Wisconsin team was able to find strains of the bacterium that overproduced the antibiotics. source

My comment: Also very very nice. Though, we must make no illusions, the bacteria will find a way to outrun even those antibiotics, but now, at least we'll have a chance to compete with their immense ability to evolve. Cool.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Genetic successes, 03, 2009

Today:

  1. Scientists explore new window on the origins of life
  2. Human evolution kicks into high gear
  3. Gene therapy shows promise as weapon against HIV
  4. Gene caps may turn viruses cancerous
A great one! I urge you to read articles 2 and 4, both are extremely interesting. The second suggest that mankind is not only still evolving, but evolving faster and faster. With some more interesting implications. And the last article is about an exciting new way to monitor cancer development. The other articles are also quite intriguing.

Scientists explore new window on the origins of life

February 12th, 2009

All living cells on the planet go through the process of division in order to survive and thrive. Cell division, or binary fission, allows one cell to split down the middle to become two cells.

In the work published in Nature, Newcastle University scientists have found that under some conditions, including treatment with antibiotics, common bacteria switch to a whole new way of increasing in number that may have been used by the first cells to evolve on the planet.

Bacteria have been around for more than two billion years and now occupy every corner of the environment. The secret of their success seems to be their tough outer skin or cell wall. This protective barrier can also be a weakness and is the target for many of our best antibiotics, including penicillin.

The Newcastle University scientists have found out how to induce a bacterium to live without a wall. These fragile cells called L-forms, have a wobbly shape with only a thin surface membrane holding them together. What has surprised scientists is that the bacteria seem to be pre-prepared to make this switch to life without a wall.

Now that L-forms can be studied more closely the Newcastle University team led by Professor Jeff Errington has found the drug-resistant bacteria are multiplying in a way which has never been seen before. Instead of dividing in two, the L-form bacterium pulsates and then ‘squirts out babies’, sometimes as many as five new bacteria each time. This was completely unexpected.

“What we have uncovered seems to be a primitive mode of growth probably used by the very earliest cells on the planet,” says Professor Errington, Director of the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences at Newcastle University. source

My comment: Why this is cool? Well because this is as said a completely new way of multiplying and which shows something important-that even if we manage to target the cell "walls" and destroy them, then the bacteria actually multiply even faster. That could be a very unpleasant side-effect from a good antibiotic and should be carefully considered. In any case, this is good research.

Human evolution kicks into high gear

By Kathleen McAuliffe, Feb. 10, 2009

For decades the consensus view — among the public as well as the world’s preeminent biologists—has been that human evolution is over since Homo sapiens emerged 50,000 years ago.

So to suggest that humans have undergone an evolutionary makeover from Stone Age times to the present is nothing short of blasphemous. Yet a team of researchers has done just that.

They find an abundance of recent adaptive mutations etched in the human genome; even more shocking, these mutations seem to be piling up faster and ever faster, like an avalanche. Over the past 10,000 years, their data show, human evolution has occurred a hundred times more quickly than in any other period in our species’ history.

The new genetic adaptations, some 2,000 in total, are not limited to the well-recognized differences among ethnic groups in superficial traits such as skin and eye color. The mutations relate to the brain, the digestive system, life span, immunity to pathogens, sperm production and bones — in short, virtually every aspect of our functioning.

Many of these DNA variants are unique to their continent of origin, with provocative implications. “It is likely that human races are evolving away from each other,” says University of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending.

Harpending theorizes that the attitudes and customs that distinguish today’s humans from those of the past may be more than just cultural, as historians have widely assumed. “We aren’t the same as people even a thousand or two thousand years ago,” he says. “Almost every trait you look at is under strong genetic influence.”

Not surprisingly, the new findings have raised hackles. Some scientists are alarmed by claims of ethnic differences in temperament and intelligence, fearing that they will inflame racial sensitivities. Other researchers point to limitations in the data. Yet even skeptics now admit that some human traits, at least, are evolving rapidly, challenging yesterday’s hallowed beliefs.

Hawks points out: In Europeans, the cheekbones slant backward, the eye sockets are shaped like aviator glasses, and the nose bridge is high. Asians have cheekbones facing more forward, very round orbits, and a very low nose bridge. Australians have thicker skulls and the biggest teeth, on average, of any population today.

“It beats me how leading biologists could look at the fossil record and conclude that human evolution came to a standstill 50,000 years ago,” Hawks says.

Thanks to stunning advances in sequencing and deciphering DNA in recent years, scientists had begun uncovering, one by one, genes that boost evolutionary fitness. These variants, which emerged after the Stone Age, seemed to help populations better combat infectious organisms, survive frigid temperatures, or otherwise adapt to local conditions. And they were popping up with surprising frequency.

“We realized, gee, there’s a lot more people on the planet in recent times,” Hawks recalls. “In a large population you don’t have to wait so long for the rare mutation that boosts brain function or does something else desirable.”

The logic behind the notion was undeniably simple, but at first glance it seemed counterintuitive. The genomes of any two individuals on the planet are more than 99.5 percent the same. Put another way, less than 0.5 percent of our DNA varies across the globe. That is often taken to mean that we have not evolved much recently, Cochran says, “but keep in mind that the human and chimp genomes differ by only about 1 to 2 percent—and nobody would call that a minor difference. ” source

My comment: Awesome! And I very much hope this wont cause a burst of racism, since it's not the point of the research. The point is that we're changing, and we're accumulating changes by our experiences and when we breed, we pass those changes. Obviously people in similar environment, like those in one country, one tribe, one family, will have more similar changes. I don't see that racism, but like identity. We are who we are, we shouldn't hide this in desperate anti-racism, the very idea of racism should have disappeared by now, because we know so much more about each other. No other races is more or less important than your own, but that couldn't and shouldn't mean that we're all the same. We are not. We are different and that's nothing to be ashamed from. Quite the opposite-exactly our difference is our best chance of survival and progress. I'm so happy by this research!

Gene therapy shows promise as weapon against HIV

February 17th, 2009 By Enrique Rivero

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new UCLA AIDS Institute study has found that gene therapy can be developed as a safe and active technique to combat HIV.

Though modest, the results do show some promise that gene therapy can be developed as a potentially effective treatment for HIV, said lead investigator Dr. Ronald Mitsuyasu, professor at UCLA.

This was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled gene-transfer clinical trial and involved 74 HIV-positive adults.

The patients received their own blood stem cells, either untreated or modified to carry a molecule called OZ1, which prevents viral replication by targeting a key HIV gene. OZ1 was safe, causing no adverse effects over the course of the 100-week trial.

At the primary end-point, the difference in viral load between the OZ1 and placebo group at weeks seven and eight, after they had stopped HAART treatment, was not statistically significant. But other viral parameters did demonstrate better HIV suppression and improvement in the counts of CD4+ lymphocytes — the cell population that is depleted by HIV.

The technique still needs to be developed further and perfected, because the persistence of the treated stem cells is too short, Mitsuyasu said. source
My comment: Although it surely sounds promising, I think this article is little premature. The treatment showed only little progress in the counts of the lymphocytes, that's only the beginning. Anyway, it's great to see the many applications of stem cells in absolutely non-invasive procedures.

Gene caps may turn viruses cancerous

CANCER-CAUSING viruses undergo genetic changes as their host cells become malignant. The finding could allow doctors to predict when people infected with a virus will develop cancer, and possibly points to new treatments.

It is already known that cells turning cancerous accumulate chemical "caps", called methyl groups, on crucial tumour-suppressor genes. These caps silence the genes, often speeding up the onset of cancer.

To investigate, Manel Esteller and his colleagues totted up the methylations on the entire genome of various types of cancer-causing virus. These included strains 16 and 18 of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, and hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver tumours. They also looked for methylations in Epstein-Barr virus, which is associated with some types of lymphoma.

For each virus, the team obtained three sets of samples: from people who were carriers but had no cancer symptoms, from those who had precancerous lesions, and from people with full-blown cancer.

In all four viruses, the degree of methylation correlated with disease progression. One gene found in HPV-16, for example, was not methylated in any of 10 asymptomatic carriers, but was in 21 of 60 people with precancerous lesions, and 16 of 17 with cervical cancer (Genome Research, DOI: 10.1101/gr.083550.108).

When you start to get methylation on viral genes, you start to get cancer developing

He suggests that doctors could start monitoring the methylation status of these viruses in order to predict when the infection is progressing towards cancer.

Siavash Kurdistani, a cancer biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, commends the work but points out that it doesn't show whether viral methylation triggers cancer or is merely a by-product of the methlyation that occurs in already cancerous cells.

If methylation plays a causative role, demethylating agents - already part of the chemotherapy regime for some other cancers - could be used against virally induced tumours as well, says Esteller. source

My comment: Obviously a very exciting research. It actually gives a way to measure the progress of the tumor and take action when it's needed, not before that. If you remember, there was a reasearch claiming that big part of the tumors disappear from themselves before getting malignant and spreading over. If we could monitor the methilation, maybe we could have a good way to find out when to start treatment-before it's too late, but also, before it's too early!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Slavs vs. Thracians-are they telling us all?

A long awaited post, that I will continue with time.

What's so special about Slavs and Thracians or spelled in the correct way the Traki.? Well, on first place, they both are important part of Bulgarian history. But what's more important, 1/3 of European population are Slavs. It's clearly important to know more/all about them. As for the Traki-they crafted the MOST beautiful and professional gold treasuries of their time. If you see those marvelous little golden leafs and stunning decorations, you will know what I'm talking about. They were amazing! What's even more interesting about them is that so little is know about their history. The only information we have is thanks to Greek sources. And obviously, they had the respect of the Greeks. You can see some of their golden stuff here.

What provoked me was the great inconsistency I found in wikipedia about that two groups. The popular story is that the Traki inhabited the Balkans until the Slavians/Slavs came at some point and melted the local population. The tricky part is that according to recent genetical studies, Bulgarians are 15% Slavs and 49% Tracians (Traki)! (The actual numbers come from this site and are:Bulgaria: 49%Thraker, 11%macedonian, 15%slavs,15%hellenen,5% pheonician). It looks like we're less Slavs than Greeks are! And that's a hell of a difference. That's why, I started digging. People often don't understand why I'm obsessed with ancient history. Well, the answer is very very simple-I think that are genes encode our Past into our blood and by re-living the past, we implement the lessons our ancestors learnt to the fullest. In simple words, if we don't know who we were, we're not making the maximum of our current life. So, back to the Past.

The Slavs in brief:

The Slavic Peoples are an ethnic and linguistic branch of Indo-European peoples, living mainly in eastern Europe. From the early 6th century they spread from their original homeland (most commonly thought to be in Eastern Europe) to inhabit most of eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Over half of Europe is, territorially and demographically speaking, inhabited by Slavic-speaking communities.

According to a 2007 genetic study based on Y-chromosome male haplogroups, Slavic men cluster into two main groups; one encompasses all Western-Slavic, Eastern-Slavic, and two Southern-Slavic male populations (western Croats, Slovenes), whilst the other group encompasses all remaining Southern Slavic men (including Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs) .

  1. Two genetically distant groups of Slavic populations were revealed: One encompassing all Western-Slavic, Eastern-Slavic, and two Southern-Slavic populations (north-western Croats, Slovenes), and one encompassing all remaining Southern Slavs. According to the authors most Slavic populations have similar Y chromosome pools - R1a, and this similarity can be traced to an origin in middle Dnieper basin of Ukraine.
  2. However, some southern Slavic populations such as Serbs, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, Macedonians, and Bulgarians are clearly separated from the tight DNA cluster of the rest of Slavic populations. According to the authors this phenomenon is explained by "...contribution to the Y chromosomes of peoples who settled in the Balkan region before the Slavic expansion to the genetic heritage of Southern Slavs..."
Origin:The Slavs emerged from obscurity when the westward movement of Germans in the 5th and 6th centuries AD (thought to be in conjunction with movement of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, and later Avars and Bulgars) started the great migration of the Slavs.

Around the 6th century, Slavs appeared on Byzantine borders in great numbers. The Byzantine records note that after they marched through grass wouldn't regrow under their footprints.

The First Bulgarian Empire, ruled by a core of Bulgars, was founded on the Balkans in AD 681. After their subsequent Slavicisation, it was instrumental in the spread of Slavic literacy and Christianity to the rest of the Slavic world.

Throughout their history, Slavs came into contact with non-Slavic groups. After their subsequent spread, they began assimilating non-Slavic peoples. For example, in the Balkans, there were Paleo-Balkan peoples, such as Thracians, Illyrians and Greeks. Having lost their indigenous language due to persistent Hellenisation and the Roman conquest, what remained of the Thracians and Illyrians were completely absorbed into the Slavic tribes. Later invaders such as Bulgars and even Cumans mingled with the Slavs also, particularly in eastern parts (ie Bulgaria). source

So, imagine my surprise when I read the iGENEA website and their research results according to which Bulgarians are not Slavs but Thracians! After all my posts about the great Bulgars to find out that Bulgarians are actually Thracians (Traki)! Well, to tell the truth this was absolutely shocking for me and I couldn't sleep that night. To briefly remind you the history, Bulgars came from somewhere in Asia, most probably they were Turks or Iranian tribes (favored by me), had very sophisticated rulers culture (very good in building cities, for example), they were great warriors and believed in Tangra or in English "The sky". Very nice people. Nice as they are, there is absolutely no trace from their genes in our blood. And that was very odd, because they came and conquered the land, along with the presumably Slavic tribes on it, declared a new country, named it, ruled it, fought with Byzantine Empire and all this, being so few in numbers, that they cannot be found in our blood! This is so illogical, it is simply outrageous.

So it dawned me, the only reason to have such a percentage of Thracian genes in our blood is that the Slavs never melted Thracians, quite the opposite, the Thracians outnumbered the Slavs/which doesn't sounds so weird, since Greek sources called Thracians the most numerous people after the Hindus/. The second important fact that seems to elude people is that Bulgars NEVER fought the local population on the Balkans. They came, they settled and then, they started fighting with Byzantium. Isn't this odd? They come to a new place and the local population just welcomes them?! Well, not if they were actually a part of that population. And the only way that to happen is if they were either Slavs or Thracians! It is interesting to note that Southern Slavs have very distinct halogroups than other Slavs. Are those the markers of Bulgars-if they are, why they are common throughout the Balkans-a region that wasn't entirely dominated by Bulgarian Empires and anyway, that would tell us, Bulgars was actually quite many-something, I'm not ready to admit. The second possibility is that Bulgars were Thracians (Thraki). That possibility is very probable, since Bulgars come from the region of Iran and Afghanistan and a copy of one of the symbols of the Thracians (Traki)-the Rider of Madara was found in Afghanistan. Now this is obviously odd! Also, there are many similarities between the religions of the Thracians /Thraki/ and the Bulgars. Check the info on Thracians I copied from wikipedia:

"The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes who spoke the Thracian language - a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family. Those peoples inhabited the Eastern, Central and Southern part of the Balkan peninsula, as well as the adjacent parts of Central-Eastern Europe.

The origins of the Thracians remain obscure, in absence of written historical records. Proto-Thracian tombs can be found dating back to 3000 BC, when what can be termed as 'proto-Thracian' culture began to form.

The first historical record about the Thracians is found in the Iliad, where they appear as allies of the Trojans, hailing from Thrace.

By the 5th century BC, the Thracian presence was pervasive enough to have made Herodotus (book 5) call them the second-most numerous people in the part of the world known by him (after the Indians), and potentially the most powerful, if not for their disunity.

In the 6th century, some Thraco-Roman and Thraco-Hellenic descendants of Thracian tribes south of the Danube river made contacts with the invading Slavs and were later Slavicised. Thus they became one of the main ethnic elements in the consolidation of the Bulgarian nation in 8-9th century.

The Iliad records that the Thracians from around the Hellespont and also the Thracian Cicones fought on the side of the Trojans. Many mythical figures, such as the god Dionysus, princess Europa and the hero Orpheus were borrowed by the Greeks from their Thracian neighbours.

Josephus claims the founder of the Thracians was the biblical character Tiras, son of Japheth:

"Thiras also called those whom he ruled over Thirasians; but the Greeks changed the name into Thracians." - AotJ I:6 /?is this a reference that Thracians had something to do with the city of Tyre?/

The Thracian warriors were described as "Large, powerfully built men, mostly red- or lighthaired and bearded, with grey or blue eyes. They had delicate white skin and tendency to put on flesh. The women were often red haired just like the man, tattoos were quite common, and mostly for women.

Thracians like the modern Bulgarians belonged mainly to the Atlanto-mediteranean anthropological type.

Orpheus was a figure describes as a chief among poets and musicians, king of the Thracian tribe of Cicones. source
Now, because I realise this post became quite long, I will leave the religion for another post. I would like to point out few things.

First, the Traki/Thracians were many. If even the Greek admit it, they really were. How this relates to the number of Slavs. Obviously, genetically the two groups are not similar, but then, how come this numerous people of fierce warriors could be melted by the meek Slavs. There certainly is something odd here. Also, notice the similarities in the names-like Traki/Iraqi. Of course, I'm not claiming a relationship, just a similarity. Third, Bulgarian obviously have pheonician genes, could we claim a connection between the ancient city of Tyre (notorious with its marine-fare) and the Thirasians /Trakians/ who Greek sometimes call Talasocrates-masters of the sea? This is a very curious connection. But it leaves one very interesting option open-some people suggested to me that Thracians/Trakians passed to Asia trough modern Istanbul to evade climate changes, what if the Traki went to Asia and after centuries they returned back to Bulgaria from the North?! Isn't this fun! What's even more, nobody knows where the Traki comes from, what if they or/as well as the Bulgars come from Tyre/current Lebanon/. Because we all know about the famous sea maps of Marinos of Tyre. Isn't it interesting? Also, the main question remains-how come the Thracians could be the masters of sea, if there are no remaining evidences of their sea capabilities?!

Bottom line for now, Thracians are a mystery. They tell us that Bulgarians are Slavs, but genetically, we are not. Spiritually we are not. If you think about it, the very Slavic alphabet comes from Thrakia and the land of the Traki, how could we know who influenced who, if it's already obvious the the Thracians outnumbered the Slavs. I think now you can see my point. Our history was so heavily manipulated, it's hard to differ what is reasonable and what not. And why, I ask, nobody ever talks about the Thracians, their language, their culture. Who were the Traki, that's what I want to know. A last note- the Bulgars according to Wikipedia were referred as "the people with mixed blood". This name evokes few associations. First-the Biblical one-we know the story how the Nephilims started breeding with ordinary people and the Gods got very angry and destroyed humans. Second-we know that Bulgars loved to mix themselves, to the point that from red-haired and bearded people, they became slightly mongoloid. Third, we know the Thraki / Thracians were crazy about noble blood, could it be that they found the Bulgars for mixed-blood. But then, they accepted the Bulgars as brothers, so it doesn't look very logical to consider them somewhat unclean.

It's a weird world. Anyway, I'm finishing for now and I hope my 5 readers will try to understand why I bothered to write all that. Thracians are important for our global history. People keep on looking for both the Atlants and the Nephilims. I continue to think that the last two were enemies, but it's somewhat hard to figure to which one the Thracians belonged. Of course, I'd love to say that they were Atlants (or some their obscure kins ) and most of the evidences point in that direction, but still, the Truth remains to be unveiled. And national feeling aside, I think this is important. Thracians culture was very deep and resembled in its profoundness the Indian ones. Their spirituality and rituals were not on society level, but on soul level. Their gold crafting was stunning. And their some evidences, that I will discuss when I form my opinion, that Thracians influenced Egyptian culture. And that would really mean global importance, because as much as archaeologist like to pretend they know everything, they don't know it all. In fact, they manipulated evidences to make it look like everything fit the context, but as I obviously show, often discoveries doesn't fit the box neither the context. There is more to the mankind to discover and precisely that is why, I dig history and not physics in my free time. I hope you appreciate it, but in any case, the Truth is above all and it will eventually come out. With or without me, you or whoever else.

P.S. I'm not sure but I think I already made some links between Orphic religion and Pythagoreanism. I'll have to check, but until then, wikipedia is very useful source of information. What's even more interesting is that Orphic traditions are very VERY similar to early Christianity. But on that, later.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoreanism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphic

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Physics makes archaeology older and older-watch out!

Today:

  1. Leggong had early humans 1.8m years ago
  2. Site older than Mohenjodaro found in Pak
  3. Underwater stones puzzle archeologists
  4. 'Peking Man' older than thought; somehow adapted to cold
And check out the video on this site. The skull of the lady is absolutely stunning-I'm not sure, but I have the feeling that it's somewhat Neanderthal one. And this, combined with the Neanderthal teeth found in Malta is a very good base for my theory that you will soon learn. But for now, check those exiting news and enjoy them. The trend-our ancient past becomes more and more ancient and archaeology get more and more out of its context. And especially the mystical underwater mastodon.

Leggong had early humans 1.8m years ago

By PRISCILLA DIELENBERG, January 29, 2009

Evidence of human existence dating back 1.83 million years was uncovered at Bukit Bunuh in Lenggong, Perak recently.

Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia director Assoc Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin said hand-axes which were unearthed showed evidence of the early existence of Homo erectus in the South-East Asia region.

He said the previous pre-historic hand-axes found in Africa dated back 1.6 million years.

“We found one of the hand-axes, made of quartzite rock, embedded in layers of suevite caused by meteorite impact.

“We sent part of the suevite to the Japan Geochronology Lab in Tokyo for fission track dating and the results showed that it dated about 1.83 million years,” he told a press conference.

He said his team did not find any human remains.

Dr Mokhtar said it was possible that the findings challenged the prevailing “Out of Africa” theory, which holds that anatomically modern man first arose from one point in Africa and spread out around the globe. source

My comment: Notice how the origin of human are getting further and further back in time. For a scale comparison, the known history of our civilisation spans back to before 10 000 years at most. Compare this with 1.83 000 000 years-that's quite much time. I can't stop thinking that we may not be the first, maybe not even the second great civilisation. And it's so exiting that the new findings are not in Africa, but in Asia. This theory was quite annoying to me. I mean seriously, what are the odds of black person becoming white.

Site older than Mohenjodaro found in Pak

An archaeological site dating back about 5,500 years and believed to be older than Mohenjodaro has been found in Pakistan's southern Sindh province. A team of 22 archaeologists found some semi-precious and precious stones and utensils made of clay, copper and other metals during an excavation at the site in Lakhian Jo Daro in Sukkur district yesterday.

Shar said the remains of a "faience" or tin-glazed pottery factory had been found at the site. It is believed to be of the era of mirror factories in Italy that date back to some 9,000 years.

A painting has also been found at the site and the discovery of more such items could establish the site as 9,000 years old, like the remains found at Mehargarh in Balochistan and Jericho in Palestine, Shar said.

Work on the second block of the site will continue for a month and more items could be found, Shar said. Local officials have asked Shar to prepare proposals for setting up a museum at the site. source

My comment: Hmm, ok, but Mohenjodaro has a remains of a city, not only some artefacts. In any case, these are wonderful news, it wasn't very fair that the only really old city to be in Turkey.

Underwater stones puzzle archeologists

Forty feet below the surface of Lake Michigan in Grand Traverse Bay, a mysterious pattern of stones can be seen rising from an otherwise sandy half-mile of lake floor.

Likely the stones are a natural feature. But the possibility they are not has piqued the interest of archeologists, native tribes and state officials since underwater archeologist Mark Holley found the site in 2007 during a survey of the lake bottom.

Though the stones could signal an ancient shoreline or a glacial formation, their striking geometric alignment raises the possibility of human involvement. The submerged site was tundra when humans of the hunter-gatherer era roamed it 6,000 to 9,000 years ago.

Adding to the intrigue, one dishwasher-size rock seems to bear an etching of a mastodon.

This spring Holley and a student from Northwestern Michigan College hope to make laser scans of the image that will yield a computer model. That will help scientists assess the site, which is otherwise off limits because of American Indian concerns that the area could be sacred.

Researchers who study early American Indians say they will need more evidence to be convinced the stones are a human artifact. They are especially wary of the idea of a mastodon petroglyph. Mastodons were facing extinction when early humans were on the scene, and the few that still existed in North America lived much farther south, evidence shows.

Evidence shows human families were present in northern Michigan thousands of years ago. They traversed a barren tundra dotted by stands of fir trees in pursuit of elk and woodland caribou, gathering nuts and berries as they passed.

To satisfy Grand Traverse Bay's American Indian community, which wants to minimize the number of visitors to the site, and to preserve his prerogative to research the spot, Holley has kept its exact location a secret.

He said he hopes a computer model of the gouges in the mastodon rock will help experts tell whether the features were a trick of chance cut by glacial forces or were the work of ancient humans. source
My comment: I like the most the mastodon explanation-it cannot be a mastodon, because it's out of the historical context. The obvious implication is that if this figure really is a mastodon, then the people who made it, lived much longer ago than they are supposed to have lived. And since we don't like things that happen at unexpected times, then we simply assume the stones are not artificial. Well, that proved to be a wrong attitude when it comes to archaeology, but any way, what bothers me is that the coordinates are kept secret. I don't want to fall into paranoia, but isn't it weird that something so important is kept in secret and nobody knows where it is? Well, I don't like it.

'Peking Man' older than thought; somehow adapted to cold

March 11th, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new dating method has found that "Peking Man" is around 200,000 years older than previously thought, suggesting he somehow adapted to the cold of a mild glacial period.

A dating method developed by a Purdue University researcher allowed a more accurate determination of the age of the Zhoukoudian, China, site of remains of Homo erectus, commonly known as "Peking Man." The site was found to be 680,000-780,000 years old. Earlier estimates put the age at 230,000-500,000 years old.

Darryl Granger, the Purdue professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who developed the dating method, co-led the study with Guanjun Shen of China's Nanjing Normal University. They analyzed four stone tools and six sediment samples from the site.

"This was the first dating of this kind to be used in an early hominid site in China," Granger said. "Many of the existing data methods rely on the availability of volcanic rock, which the Zhoukoudian site does not have. This method provides a new tool to provide insight into places where dating was previously limited."

Susan C. Antón, associate professor in the Center for the Study of Human Origins at New York University said this discovery indicates "Peking Man" was somehow behaviorally able to cope with the cold environment.

"There is evidence that Homo erectus had physically adapted to the cold, but they probably also had to be doing something in terms of behavior to handle the cold of a glacial period in northern China," she said. "There isn't good evidence of fire or any kind of skins or clothing, but evidence of such things doesn't last long and wouldn't be recorded particularly well in the archeological record. It doesn't mean they didn't have them, but we don't have a definitive answer."

Homo erectus is considered to be the ancestor species to humans and the first species that left Africa and moved into Asia. The "Peking Man" site, discovered in the late 1920s, was among the first found for Homo erectus and shaped the thoughts on the age and behavior of the species, Antón said.

Granger used aluminum-26 and beryllium-10 radioisotopic dating, which is based on radioactive decay in the mineral quartz. As cosmic rays penetrate into rocks at the Earth's surface, chemical reactions produce these isotopes of aluminum and beryllium. If the rocks are then buried, the isotopes are no longer produced and those existing begin to decay. The rate of decay can tell researchers when the rocks were deposited in a site, he said.source

My comment: That goes back to the first article-it looks like people continually dates back the origin of our earliest ancestors. Now, it's interesting that they are not commenting the finding in Malaysia and/or that they are connecting their discovery with Africa again. Anyway, I believe the world is ripe to know the Truth. And I find this new dating technique to be very very interesting, I hope they apply it not only in China, but also on other places on the world and probably for underwater archaeology, because there certainly will be a difference between stuff under the soil, under the water and in thin air.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Bulgarian National Emblem- the story of our gerbe

This publication was originally posted in Bglog.net. Then I decided that it's good enough for this blog, especially since it's on very beloved by me subject. Not so much the emblem itself, but our national history. I have said it many times, it's not about nationalism, it's about the Truth. It's about OUR past, about the experience that our ancestors had and left us in our genes. Because I firmly believe our genes do remember and that they encode actually everything we go trough. But those memories manifest only in appropriate conditions, like remembering the history, finding the morals our predecessors had and the beliefs they shared. I don't want to go poetic, so I get onto business.

Please, consider this information below to be my personal interpretation. The lion is very popular in heraldic so obviously, I'm not claiming it's a Bulgarian symbol. I'm just trying to pursue the path it had to travel to get on our emblem. Here is a link, with the lions in English emblems.

To begin, I must say I always wondered why we chose the lion. It's not an animal we have had on our territory, it's not part of our history, nor from our mythology. Then why? According to wikipedia, the lion appeared for a first time in official symbols and seals in 12-13th century(link). However, there is a lion in the horseman of Madar, who (I think) it's Thracian (or Thrakian, which is the right pronuncuation, actually-and note how Traki sounds like Iraqi) symbol. But for the Thracians or the Traki, later. Now for the lion.

Our current National Emblem (Gerbe):


It's saying "Joined we're strong" (in a free translation). One can see the 3 lions that have been interpretated in various ways. But for me, they remembered me of the story of the Sphynx in its apocrifical version- the idea that the Sphinx is a tribute to a Maya prince- Jaguar. I didn't find the correct picture, but this one is very similar:

Note the 2 jaguars in similar composition as our lions.

The jaguars were heavily worshipped in South America and some people even called themselves men-jaguars. Check out the picture of a woman copulation with a jaguar.

It's also very interesting that on sanscrit and the maya language, the words for tigger and jaguar are strikingly similar. Something that people with knowledge will trace to our Glorious Past and the ancient civilisations.

The picture in the sphinx book from Latin America was very similar to the reknown picture of Sumerian mythology from the Epos of Gilgamesh-Gilgamesh and the lions.




The epos is very famous and you can easily find a lot about it (or click on the pictures-all of them are with links). Please, note the analogy in the compositions. The basic idea is that the Hero is a master of the animals. In many of those "pictures", the hero fight them and wins. You can see also the Egyptian version:




But the Hero isn't always fighting and killing the animals. The version I prefer is that the Hero is the Master of the Animals but also their friend and protector. Something I remember from the book on Sumeria- that the first humans loved the animals and even sometimes bred with them-something that disgusted the sophisticated gods and they decided to get them in the right path by killing them. Ok, in this case the gods has some point, because otherwise our genes would be very complicated and it's not sure how functional. In any case, I recently read that in recent diggings on a Homo something site in Africa, it turned out that there are no bones from predators-it was like that specie didn't have a predators!Which is weird. Unless, the animals found them too superior to kill them.


Hittites: Master of animals (Gilgamesh) grasps the hind leg of a lion in one hand, the horn of a bull in the other and is accompanied by a stag and two other beasts, Mythological scene, The Herald Wall’s reliefs, Carchemish by Efendi.



You can see on this picture above that the Hero is in much more friendly environment. It now reminds me of the story of Orpheus- a Traki god, that greek mythology turned into a episodic hero- when Orphey played on his harp, all the animals and people got in trance, they all felt sudden peace and love.
By the way the site that the picture is linked to says that this is from "Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara", which is quite close to Bulgaria and thus Trakia and there are even more lions there. Which may or may not have connection with our story.

On the picture below, the Hero is even more in love with the animals. The linked site tell about the story of the Old Testament and how it happily stole stories from Sumeria.

Not to get carried away by other stories. Below there are even more pictures of lions.


Enough pictures.

What are the goals of this publication. Well, nothing special-I'm not making claims, except that for me, our 3 lions are connected with the Sumerian story of Gilgamesh. All the others ideas I imply are obvious and people that look will see them.

The moral-the Bulgarian emblem is actually quite good. It's beautiful. It significant. We shouldn't be ashamed by it, but to respect it. No matter it's so over-done. If it was for me, I'd leave only the lions and the inscription. But it's not up me. Anyway, our symbol is ancient and important. And its idea is that there were other times, when humans weren't enemies of the animals, but their friends and protectors. A time when lions stood beside us and honoured us.

And last but not least, here are some links that you might like (or not). They are mostly "alternative" but I liked them and found them quite reasonable. Enjoy!

Archeological perspectives

The Mayas and the aliens (it's weird that similar pictures have been seen on other places in the world)

Mayas, aztecs and toltecs

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Animals special - dolphins, ants and bipolar species

Today:

  1. Dolphins are capable sea chefs, scientists say
  2. Ants tricked into raising butterflies
  3. Researchers say animals plan for the future
  4. Ocean survey reveals hundreds of 'bipolar' species

Dolphins are capable sea chefs, scientists say

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Dolphins are the chefs of the seas, having been seen going through precise and elaborate preparations to rid cuttlefish of ink and bone to produce a soft meal of calamari, Australian scientists say.

A wild female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was observed going through the same series of complicated steps to prepare cuttlefish prey for eating in the Spencer Gulf, in South Australia state.

"It's a sign of how well their brains are developed. It's a pretty clever way to get pure calamari without all the horrible bits," Mark Norman, the curator of mollusks at Museum Victoria and a research team member, told the Canberra Times newspaper.

The research team, writing in the science journal PLoS One, said they repeatedly observed a female dolphin herding cuttlefish out of algal weed and onto a clear, sandy patch of seafloor.

The dolphin, identified using circular body scars, then pinned the cuttlefish with its snout while standing on its head, before killing it instantly with a rapid downward thrust and "loud click" audible to divers as the hard cuttlebone broke.

The dolphin then lifted the body up and beat it with her nose to drain the toxic black ink that cuttlefish squirt into the water to defend themselves when attacked.

Next the prey was taken back to the seafloor, where the dolphin scraped it along the sand to strip out the cuttlebone, making the cuttlefish soft for eating.

Norman and study co-author Tom Tregenza, from the University of Exeter, said the behavior exhibited between 2003 and 2007 was unlikely to be a rarity.

"The feeding behavior reported here is specifically adapted to a single prey type and represents impressive behavioral flexibility for a non-primate animal."

A separate 2005 study provided the first sign dolphins may be capable of group learning and using tools, with a mother seen teaching her daughters to break off sea sponges and wear them as protection while scouring the seafloor in Western Australia.

The mammals used the sponges "as a kind of glove" while searching for food, University of Zurich researcher Michael Krutzen told New Scientist magazine.

Other researchers have observed dolphins removing the spines from flathead fish prey and breaking meter-long Golden Trevally fish into smaller pieces for eating. source

My comment: Awesome, right :) I'm not in the bit surprised, I've seen my dog accommodating his food (or bowl) for best or easiest feeding. I've seen even goats having all those tricks for special types of food. And the dolphins are so much more intelligent. Even if it sounded kind of cruel the way they are snapping the bones of the thing. But then, they have to eat too. It's funny to think about dolphins as predators. They are so cute and they break bones. Nice...

Ants tricked into raising butterflies

February 5th, 2009

(AP) -- Flitting across your yard, butterflies seem friendly and harmless. But at least one type has learned to raise its young as parasites, tricking ants into feeding it and giving special treatment.

The pupae of the European butterfly Maculina rebeli exude a scent that mimics the ants and make themselves at home inside the ant nest. Once they become a caterpillar they even beg for food like ant larvae, researchers report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

It turns out that ant queens make subtle sounds that signal their special status to worker ants. The caterpillars have learned to mimic those sounds, the researchers say, earning high enough status to be rescued before others if the nest is disturbed.

In times of food shortage, nurse ants have been known to kill their own larvae and feed them to the caterpillars pretending to be queen ants, they added.

In nature, the real ant queen and the caterpillar keep to different parts of the ant colony and would not encounter one another, the report said.

But in an experiment, a butterfly pupa pretending to be an ant queen was placed in a chamber with worker ants and four real ant queens. The ant queens began to attack and bite the caterpillar, but the workers intervened, biting and stinging their own queens, which they then pulled to a far corner of the chamber while other workers attended the pupa. source

My comment:Haha, isn't that nice :) What's amazing is not that the ants are that stupid, because they are not. The thing is that the pupa learnt so well their "language" it's able to pretend to be one of them. Fun.

Researchers say animals plan for the future


CHICAGO – Monkeys perform mental math, pigeons can select the picture that doesn't belong. Humans may not be the only animals that plan for the future, say researchers reporting on the latest studies of animal mental ability.

Wasserman, a professor of experimental psychology, said that, like people, pigeons and baboons were able to tell which pictures showed similar items, like triangles or dots, and which showed different items. This is the definition of a concept, he said, "and the animals passed it with flying colors."

In the last 20 years there has been a major revolution in the understanding of animals, added Nicola S. Clayton, a professor of comparative cognition at the University of Cambridge in England.

Animals not only use tools, there is evidence that some of them save tools for future use, she said. "Planning ahead was once thought to be unique to humans," Clayton said. "We now know that's not true."

For example, she said, crows have been seen stashing food away for the next day and even finding ways to protect it from being stolen.

Speaking of crow intelligence, Alex Kacelnik, a professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Oxford in England, noted the "master tool user of the avian world," the New Caledonian crow. These birds have been shown to not just use tools, but to make their own by twisting and bending pieces of wire to fish food from places they couldn't reach otherwise.

Jessica Cantlon of Duke University noted that "number sense" seems among the shared evolution of many primates. Cantlon and Elizabeth Brannon have studied how human adults and babies, lemurs and monkeys think about numbers without using language.

After seeing the same number of objects repeatedly in different-looking groups, infants notice when the number of objects is changed, they found. So, too, do macaques.

Indeed, college students and macaques seem equally able to roughly sum up sets of objects without actually counting them.

That abiliity can be useful to the macaques in determining whether there is enough food to remain in an area or to get a sense of how large their group is compared to competing groups.

They are currently working to see if monkeys can recognize the concept of zero. source

My comment: I remember I wrote about this before, but I can't get enough on the subject. What strikes me is that owls use wire-something that isn't found in Nature and that wouldn't probably be usable if instead of wire, the owl tries wood to produce a tool. Of course, that could be just a wild guess, maybe they would find a way to use wood as well, but for me, that might means that animals are evolving with us too. Like everyone is getting smarter. And maybe that makes sense-for example a wolf, wouldn't know how to dial 911 or smell heart attack-something that dogs can be trained to do. By requiring from the animals more, or putting them in different environment, we're actually provoking their skill to manifest. Isn't this cool?!

Ocean survey reveals hundreds of 'bipolar' species

Poles apart, but intimately linked. Of the thousands of species that populate Antarctica and the Arctic, it seems hundreds are "bipolar": found spanning 11,000 kilometres between the polar regions.

See a slideshow of "bipolar" species (check it out, it's very beautiful)

The surveys, part of the international Census of Marine Life, also suggest the Antarctic acts as a cold incubator for species that populate the deep sea around the planet. As ice ages come and go, and the ice shelf advances and retreats, species are isolated, evolve, then released to the global sea floor.

The 235 species that we believe are found at both poles include a great variety of animals, says Julian Gutt of the Alfred Wegner Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany. The easiest ones to explain are the large migrating organisms, such as whales and birds. But the list also includes a large number of animals that are thought to live relatively sedentary lives.

How species that live attached to the seafloor came to span 11,000 kilometres of ocean is a bit of a mystery, say the researchers. Gutt's best guess is that their floating larval stage is the key.

DNA bar-coding experiments are underway at a facility in Canada to confirm the identity of the sampled species, but it is unlikely that all 235 pairs of species are identical or different.

Expeditions carried out under the auspices of the Census of Marine Life also revealed that the Antarctic acts as a cold incubator for the rest of the world's seafloor communities.

The Antarctic team at the Census of Marine Life now believe some of these species end up venturing into the deep ocean.

More than 30 million years ago there was not enough oxygen in the deep ocean to support life. But creatures that live there now had to come from somewhere. As some of the conditions in the deep ocean are similar to those on the continental shelf of Antarctica, it is possible that is where the ancestors of deep ocean species came from.

Genetic studies on several species of Antarctic octopus and crustacean have previously confirmed this. source

My comment: Check out the pictures, they are very pretty. I can't really comment more, but I find the variety in this ice-waters for very interesting.


Sunday, 8 March 2009

A new round of technologies of the future (mind-readin involved)

Today:

  1. Carbon-Nanotube Memory that Really Competes
  2. Holographic discs set to smash storage records
  3. Bug enzyme generates fuel from water
  4. Scientists read minds with infrared scan
And Happy Day of the Woman, all!

Carbon-Nanotube Memory that Really Competes

January 26th, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers in Finland have created a form of carbon-nanotube based information storage that is comparable in speed to a type of memory commonly used in memory cards and USB "jump" drives.

The group's memory scheme has a write-erase time of 100 nanoseconds, which is about 100,000 times faster than previously reported carbon-nanotube memory, and retains this ability over more than 10,000 write-erase cycles.

The memory scheme stores information using single-walled carbon-nanotube transistors, specifically field-effect transistors, which are among the fastest carbon-nanotube electrical components. Each transistor consists of four key parts, the gate, source, drain, and substrate.

As a substrate, Törmä and her colleagues chose a silicon wafer. The 20nm hafnium oxide separates the substrate, which was also used as the gate in this case, from the rest of the structure. Choosing hafnium dioxide as the gate "dielectric" material appears to be the key to the device's fast operation, as it can trap and release charge very quickly and efficiently.

On top of the hafnium-oxide layer, the group deposited a few drops of a carbon-nanotube solution. Using an atomic force microscope, they identified nanotubes with the proper alignment; only those nanotubes became transistors. They then created source and drain electrodes for each nanotube using the metal palladium, with the nanotube forming the transistor's conductive channel.

Finally, the researchers deposited another 20-nanometer layer of hafnium oxide on top of the nanotube transistor, to "passivate" the surface, preventing unwanted reactions.

"The fast memory operation we have demonstrated could potentially also be realized using other carbon materials, such as carbon-nanotube bundles or graphene," said Törmä.

Each transistor can store information for about 150,000 seconds, or about 42 hours. This is quite short, although Törmä and her group think they can improve it by adding an oxide layer between the gate and the nanotube.

Citation: Nano Lett., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nl8029916 source

My comment: I'm not too keen on the technical stuff neither, but this sounds very promising indeed. And it reminds me so much of the idea of Alchemy.

Holographic discs set to smash storage records

A dual-layer Blu-ray disc can store an impressive 50 gigabytes, but discs which can hold 20 times as much data have just taken a step closer, thanks to new materials that make reading and writing 3D holograms more reliable.

CDs and DVDs store data as pits on their surface that are read by a laser. A Blu-ray disc can hold over five times more data than a standard DVD because the pits are much smaller.

A pair of laser beams is used to write data into discs of light-sensitive plastic. At the points where the lasers meet, the intense light causes molecules in the disc's material to merge into chains, creating a physical pattern that locks the 0s and 1s into the disc. This pattern can be read back at a later date using another laser because the changed patches interact differently with light.

However, in the plastic normally used for holographic data storage, the structural changes caused by the laser also cause the material to shrink . The volume change isaround 0.23% , but the distortion is enough to mean that the 1s and 0s can't be burned at the highest densities.

Craig Hawker's team at the University of California in Santa Barbara has now solved that problem by replacing the polymer's small molecules with larger, branched ones. These need to make fewer bonds to create a patch of the alternate form of the material, cutting distortion to just 0.04%.

Pioneering companies developing holographic data-storage devices could benefit from the new technique by squeezing at least 1000 gigabytes of data onto a standard disc. source

My comment:Even nicer! Imagine what could you do on a 1000GB disk. Can't think of something? Well, imagine you could store your memories on it! Wouldn't that be cool? I think it would be and I'm looking forward to see such disks. Even if not for memories, movies quality and size gets bigger and bigger with time. We'll eventually need those disks, the sooner we have them the cooler things we can do with them.

Bug enzyme generates fuel from water

Light-powered, bacterial enzyme-containing nanoparticles that release hydrogen from water could lead the way to new strategies for generating the energy-rich gas.

A class of enzymes called hydrogenases are used by organisms to convert hydrogen ions to hydrogen gas during anaerobic - without oxygen - respiration. These enzymes have long interested chemists searching for alternatives to existing, expensive, platinum-catalysed hydrogen generation.

The metal-containing enzymes are all crippled in varying degrees by the presence of oxygen and are also damaged by the very hydrogen they produce. That makes them difficult and expensive to use on industrial scales.

Now Reisner and colleague Fraser Armstrong have discovered that one bacterial hydrogenase is much more resistant to both gases.

The nickel, iron and selenium-rich enzyme, first isolated by Juan Fontecilla-Camps at the University of Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France, is produced by a sulphate-reducing bacterium.

Its efficiency is relatively unaffected by the presence of hydrogen gas, and it continues to work even if the surrounding air contains 1% oxygen by volume - ordinarily even a few parts per million of oxygen would block hydrogenase activity.

The new enzyme also binds strongly to titanium dioxide nanoparticles, making it easy to produce a kind of light-powered, hydrogen-generating dust.

The dust particles are each attached both to the enzyme and to light-absorbing dye molecules that are used in some solar cells.

In the presence of an electron-donating buffer solution, the dye absorbs light and releases excited electrons, which then pass to the enzyme. Suitably energised, the hydrogenase then converts hydrogen ions from water molecules into hydrogen gas - just as they would during the bacteria's respiration.

Developing that complete system of water splitting is Reisner and Armstrong's next goal, they say.

The turnover rates for hydrogen gas cycling are comparable with platinum catalysts under certain conditions, so studying the new hydrogenase might inform the "design" of simpler catalysts that are as effective as platinum, but considerably cheaper. source

My comment: Again-nice! This could give a wonderful perspective to solar cells. And that would mean cheap renewables. Enough said, let's see how far they can go.


Scientists read minds with infrared scan

February 10th, 2009

Researchers at Canada's largest children's rehabilitation hospital have developed a technique that uses infrared light brain imaging to decode preference - with the goal of ultimately opening the world of choice to children who can't speak or move.

In a study published this month in The Journal of Neural Engineering, Bloorview scientists demonstrate the ability to decode a person's preference for one of two drinks with 80 per cent accuracy by measuring the intensity of near-infrared light absorbed in brain tissue.

"This is the first system that decodes preference naturally from spontaneous thoughts," says Sheena Luu, the University of Toronto PhD student in biomedical engineering who led the study under the supervision of Tom Chau, Canada Research Chair in pediatric rehab engineering.

Most brain-computer interfaces designed to read thoughts require training. The nine adults in Luu's study received no training. Prior to the study they rated eight drinks on a scale of one to five.

Wearing a headband fitted with fibre-optics that emit light into the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, they were shown two drinks on a computer monitor, one after the other, and asked to make a mental decision about which they liked more. "When your brain is active, the oxygen in your blood increases and depending on the concentration, it absorbs more or less light," Luu says. "In some people, their brains are more active when they don't like something, and in some people they're more active when they do like something."

After teaching the computer to recognize the unique pattern of brain activity associated with preference for each subject, the researchers accurately predicted which drink the participants liked best 80 per cent of the time.

In future, Luu envisions creating a portable, near-infrared sensor that rests on the forehead and relies on wireless technology, opening up the world of choice to children who can't speak or move.

Luu notes that the brain is too complex to ever allow decoding of a person's random thoughts. "However, if we limit the context - limit the question and available answers, as we have with predicting preference - then mind-reading becomes possible."

More information: http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1741-2552/6/1/016003

source
My comment: That is awesome! True, it won't decode all of your thoughts, but it could be the base for interaction between you and a computer. Think of it like this, there are sensors to follow your eyes and with this preference-detector you could "tell" the pc to open a folder or send something or simply answer of questions with "ok" and "cancel'. It's not straight-forward but it's again a preference. That's sooooo exciting!