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

Friday, 27 November 2009

Technology promises a bright future, 2009

First, a great site about jellies found underneath vthe Arctic sea. They are stunningly beautiful.
And an interesting if somewhat creepy news that I won't comment.
Robot attacked Swedish factory worker (and almost killed him)
Today:

  1. Evolving Robots Learn To Lie To Each Other
  2. A cordless future for electricity?
  3. Evolution machine speeds up search for better bugs
  4. The Key to the Battery-Powered House
  5. Gene therapy improves vision

Evolving Robots Learn To Lie To Each Other

By Stuart Fox Posted 08.18.2009 at 5:59 pm
In an experiment run at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, Switzerland*, robots that were designed to cooperate in searching out a beneficial resource and avoiding a poisonous one learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the resource.

The experiment involved 1,000 robots divided into 10 different groups. Each robot had a sensor, a blue light, and its own 264-bit binary code "genome" that governed how it reacted to different stimuli. The first generation robots were programmed to turn the light on when they found the good resource, helping the other robots in the group find it.

The robots got higher marks for finding and sitting on the good resource, and negative points for hanging around the poisoned resource. The 200 highest-scoring genomes were then randomly "mated" and mutated to produce a new generation of programming. Within nine generations, the robots became excellent at finding the positive resource, and communicating with each other to direct other robots to the good resource.

However, there was a catch. A limited amount of access to the good resource meant that not every robot could benefit when it was found, and overcrowding could drive away the robot that originally found it.

After 500 generations, 60 percent of the robots had evolved to keep their light off when they found the good resource, hogging it all for themselves. Even more telling, a third of the robots evolved to actually look for the liars by developing an aversion to the light; the exact opposite of their original programming! source

My comment: That is amazing study for me! Absolutely amazing, since it kind of proves the evolutionary meaning of lies! I personally have a problem with lying, because for me, if it's easier to tell the truth, then you simply should tell it. But note how quickly the little guys found a way to not only deceive, but also to detect deceiving. It's hard to say what's the moral here - obviously, lies serve a purpose in specific set of conditions, but after all, it was the programmers who set the conditions for the robots. And they acted withing this set of reactions! While on Earth, resources are not so often completely limited and what's more - if something is inaccessible, we can in most cases find a way to get it with a fair exchange. So let's not get overexcited about lies being part of our life. They are not. But still, I somewhat admire people who can lie easily. I don't like them, but I admire their talent.

A cordless future for electricity?

September 2, 2009
By John D. Sutter

(CNN) -- WiTricity's version of wireless electricity -- which converts power into a magnetic field and sends it sailing through the air at a particular frequency -- still needs to be refined a bit, he said, but should be commercially available soon.

Giler, whose company is a spinoff of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research group, says wireless electricity has the potential to cut the need for power cords and throw-away batteries.

It also will make electric cars more attractive to consumers, he said, because they will be able to power up their vehicles simply by driving into a garage that's fitted with a wireless power mat.

Treffers said there may be health risks associated with the magnetic fields created in the MIT process. Giler said the technology would produce magnetic fields that are "about the same density as the earth's magnetic field."

Ideas about wireless electricity have been floating around the world of technology for more than a century. Nikola Tesla started toying with the ability to send electricity through the air in the 1890s.

For example, in 2003, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, company called Powercast used radio waves to light a low-power LED bulb that was 1.5 miles from its power source, said Harry Ostaffe, spokesman for the company.

But radio waves can't transfer the larger amounts of electricity needed to power laptops or mobile phones, he said.

Another type of wireless electricity technology can send large amounts of power over very small distances, often not more than a few centimeters.

Treffers said consumers soon should be able to buy one power pad that would charge all of their electronic devices. It might look like a placemat, and cell phones, remote controls and appliances would charge automatically when they're placed on the pad. source
My comment: Lol, the idea of charging pads so reminds me of Stargate Universe. Ancients, we're coming for you! Eh, if only. Anyway, I find all the ideas quite exciting. Of course, the one with the magnetic field sounds great, but I also have some doubts about the health impact. But just imagine not having to plug your laptop, or your speakers, or your heating devices. That would bring the whole idea of indoors wiring to another level. And life will become so much easier. Or what about batteries of medical stuff like pacemakers? This is simply amazing idea. I love it and can't wait for it. Because once we've figured that out, it would be so much easier to gather all the electricity you can from the environment. That's absolutely cool!

Evolution machine speeds up search for better bugs

The new approach, which is called multiplex automated genome engineering or MAGE, can create hundreds or thousands of mutations in a few days at a cost of a few thousand dollars.

To demonstrate MAGE, the researchers engineered Escherichia coli that churn out five times as much of a chemical called lycopene than their forbearers. Lycopene is an antioxidant abundant in tomatoes that is related to compounds used to fight cancer and malaria.

But instead of trying to directly create double-mutants, Wang and Farren's approach produced hundreds, even thousands of mutations simultaneously, resulting in billions of different strains. Because lycopene colours cells red, the researchers simply selected the brightest bacteria.

MAGE relies on the tendency of cells to incorporate little bits of laboratory made DNA into their dividing chromosomes. Researchers can customise those bits so they modify specific genes and even parts of genes.

This lets scientists exert as much or as little control over the mutations as they see fit.

The team is planning to adapt the technique to yeast soon, and plant and animal cells should also prove amenable to MAGE, they say. source

My comment: Nice, nice, nice. And powerful. The power of statistic! If you think how smart this is, you'll get just as enthusiastic. We're not talking here about the applications - they can be good or bad. But just think of this as a tool. It's great, and it's great because it's using the nature to the max.

The Key to the Battery-Powered House

Without a way to store their power, no number of solar panels will free a home from the electrical grid. Researchers at Utah-based Ceramatec have developed a new battery that can be scaled up to store 20 kilowatt-hours—enough to power an average home for most of a day.

The new battery runs on sodium-sulfur—a composition that typically operates at greater than 600 F. Ceramatec’s new battery runs at less than 200 F. The secret is a thin ceramic membrane that is sandwiched between the sodium and sulfur. Only positive sodium ions can pass through, leaving electrons to create a useful electrical current. Ceramatec says that batteries will be ready for market testing in 2011, and will sell for about $2000. source
My comment: Also great, right?! But it's kind of expensive for now, maybe if they drop one of the zeros. Because let's be realistic, a house would need at least 2 if not even 3 such batteries, to be sure that the energy produces on sunny days will be stored until it's needed. Ok, make it 5, that makes 10 000$ for batteries? It's too much for me, I don't know about you. But I'm optimistic that once it's commercially available the price will fall. It should, it normally does. So let's see. And by the way, in winter days, a room in our house uses ~50kw/a day (at current state of insulation, I know). So we'll need at least 100kw storage for day.

Gene therapy improves vision

November 23, 2009 By Brian Schleter

Now for the first time, the most promising magic bullet yet——has been shown to safely improve vision in children and adults with rare retinal diseases that cause blindness.

Penn husband-and-wife research team Albert M. Maguire and Jean Bennett have been examining inherited retinal degenerations together for nearly 20 years. Their study sought to improve vision in five children and seven adults with Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA), which affects fewer than 2,000 people in the United States. The results even surprised them.

“Children who were treated with gene therapy are now able to walk and play just like any normally sighted child,” says Maguire, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Penn and a physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “They can also carry out classroom activities without visual aids.”

In all, 12 patients received the gene therapy via a surgical procedure performed by Maguire starting in October 2007 at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. For each subject, Maguire injected the therapeutic genes into the eye with poorer function. Starting two weeks after the injections, all 12 subjects reported improved vision in dimly lit environments.

“This result is an exciting one for the entire field of gene therapy,” says Katherine A. High, the director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics, the facility that sponsored the clinical trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “These findings may expedite development of gene therapy for more common retinal diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration.”

Another result that surprised the team was that the vision of the first patients treated nearly two years ago continues to improve.

The study findings were published in The Lancet and instantly were reported by mainstream media around the globe.

source

My comment: What a wonderful news, right? I felt like crying when I read how vision continued to improve over the years. Just imagine if this could be applied to every organ in our body when it starts aging. You go to a procedure and it rejuvenates. That's certainly a dream came true!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The past continues to speak to us, November, 2009

Today:

  1. Gulf exploration yields evidence of raw materials used by early Americans
  2. Stone tools, rare animal bones discovered -- clues to Caribbean's earliest inhabitants
  3. Early human hunters had fewer meat-sharing rituals
  4. Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone
  5. Neanderthals wouldn't have eaten their sprouts either
  6. Archaeologists find cache of tablets in 2,700-year old Turkish temple
A little personal message before everything. From now on, I'll publish here on weekly basis. It's too much work and because of the many links (at least officially) Google freezes my account for 2d time and this blog for probably 3d. I'm not giving up to Google, not me, as you know, but right now I'm way to busy to deal with them too. So, this time, it is official.
I'm also limiting my comments to only important articles. So far I haven't seen any interest from my readers toward a discussion of what I say and since this was the point of my comments, I'll just skip them. The articles, however, are too interesting for me to skip, so this is my weblog. I hope you'll still enjoy it.

As for this post, I have highlited the interesting for me parts. The articles are extremely short and offer some interesting insights on human past. Enjoy!

Gulf exploration yields evidence of raw materials used by early Americans

In one of the more dramatic moments of an underwater archaeological survey co-led by Mercyhurst College archaeologist James Adovasio along Florida's Gulf Coast this summer, Andy Hemmings stood on an inundated river's edge where man hasn't set foot in more than 13,000 years.

Donning full scuba gear, Hemmings stood in 130 feet of water on a peninsula at the intersection of two ancient rivers nearly 100 miles offshore from Tampa. The last time humans could have stood in that spot, mammoth and mastodon roamed the terrain.

"The successful tracking of the St. Marks-Aucilla River and the Suwannee River, between 50 and 150 kilometers respectively, represents what we believe to be the most extensive delineation of submerged prehistoric river systems ever done anywhere in the world," Adovasio said.

Another pivotal find is the identification of chert at three dive sites along the river systems; chert is a superior quality fine-grained stone used by prehistoric peoples to make tools.

"There is no doubt," Adovasio said, "that we have found the haystacks and are one step closer to uncovering the archaeological needles;" in effect, narrowing the search for evidence of early Americans in the now submerged Inner Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast. source

Stone tools, rare animal bones discovered -- clues to Caribbean's earliest inhabitants

A prehistoric water-filled cave in the Dominican Republic has become a "treasure trove" with the announcement by Indiana University archaeologists of the discovery of stone tools, a small primate skull in remarkable condition, and the claws, jawbone and other bones of several species of sloths.

Beeker and researchers Jessica Keller and Harley McDonald found the tools and bones in fresh water 28- to 34-feet deep in a cave called Padre Nuestro. Nearby, and also underwater in the same cave, were found more recent Taino artifacts. The Taino were the first Native American peoples to encounter Europeans. Geoffrey Conrad, director of the Mathers Museum of World Culture at IU Bloomington and professor of anthropology, said the tools are estimated to be 4,000 to 6,500 years old. The bones might range in age from 4,000 and 10,000 years old. While sloth bones are not uncommon, he knows of only a handful of other primate skulls found in the Caribbean.

"I know of no place that has sloths, primates and humanly made stone tools together in a nice, tight association around the same time," said Conrad, also associate vice provost for research at IU Bloomington. source

Early human hunters had fewer meat-sharing rituals

A University of Arizona anthropologist has discovered that humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later stone-age hunters at the site, but that the earlier humans shared meat differently.

The Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively, then carried the highest quality body parts of their prey to the cave, where they cut the meat with stone blade cutting tools and cooked it with fire.

Stiner analyzed the pattern of cut marks on bones of deer, aurochs, horse and other big game left at Qesem Cave by hunters of 400,000 to 200,000 years ago. Her novel approach was to analyze the cut marks to understand meat-sharing behaviors between the earlier and later cooperative hunting societies.

And the patterns revealed a striking difference in meat-sharing behaviors: The earlier hunters were less efficient, less organized and less specialized when it came to carving flesh from their prey.

Random cut marks, and higher numbers of cut marks, made by the earlier hunters show they attached little social ritual or formal rules to sharing meat, Stiner said. By contrast, by later times, by the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, "It's quite clear that meat distribution flowed through the hands of certain butchers," Stiner said. "The tool marks made on bones by the more recent hunters are very regular, very efficient and show much less variation in the postures of the individuals cutting meat from any one bone."

"What might surprise most archaeologists is that I'm seeing a big difference between Lower and Middle Paleolithic social behaviors, not between Middle and Upper Paleolithic social behaviors.

"Neanderthals lived in the Middle Paleolithic, and they were a lot more like us in their more formal redistributions of meat than were the earlier hominids." source

Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone

(PhysOrg.com) -- Evidence that early modern humans living on the coast of the far southern tip of Africa 72,000 years ago employed pyrotechnology - the controlled use of fire - to increase the quality and efficiency of their stone tool manufacturing process, is being reported in the Aug. 14 issue of the journal Science. An international team of researchers, including three from the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, deduce that "this technology required a novel association between fire, its heat, and a structural change in stone with consequent flaking benefits." Further, their findings ignite the notion of complex cognition in these early engineers.

"We show that early modern humans at 72,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa, were using carefully controlled hearths in a complex process to heat stone and change its properties, the process known as heat treatment," explains Brown.

This creates a long-chain technological process that the researchers explain requires a complex cognition, and probably language, to learn and teach.

"This expression of cognitive complexity in technology by these early modern humans on the south coast of South Africa provides further evidence that this locality may have been the origin location for the lineage that leads to all modern humans, which appeared between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in Africa," explains Marean."

Prior to our work, heat treatment was widely regarded as first occurring in Europe at about 25,000 years ago," Marean says. "We push this back at least 45,000 years, and, perhaps, 139,000 years, and place it on the southern tip of Africa at Pinnacle Point." source

My comment: I guess I need not say this is extremely interesting. We know have an earlier date for the discovery of fire and its uses and also for complex cognition. Now what I want to see is similar findings on Neanderthal sites. Definitely on my Xmas wish-list.

Neanderthals wouldn't have eaten their sprouts either

August 12th, 2009 by Denholm Barnetson
Spanish researchers have found that a gene in modern humans that makes some people dislike a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, was also present in Neanderthals hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The scientists made the discovery after recovering and sequencing a fragment of the TAS2R38 gene taken from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found at a site in El Sidron, in northern Spain, they said in a report released Wednesday by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

"This indicates that variation in bitter taste perception predates the divergence of the lineages leading to Neanderthals and modern humans," they said.

Substances similar to PTC give a bitter taste to green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage as well as some fruits.

But they are also present in some poisonous plants, so having a distaste for it makes evolutionary sense.

What intrigued the researchers most is that Neanderthals also possessed a recessive variant of the TAS2R38 gene which made some of them unable to taste PTC -- an inability they share with around one third of modern humans.

"These (bitter) compounds can be toxic if ingested in large quantities and it is therefore difficult to understand the evolutionary existence of individuals who cannot detect them."

The report's lead author, Carles Lalueza Fox of the University of Barcelona, speculated that such people may be "able to detect some other compound not yet identified."

This would have given them some genetic advantage and explain the reason for the continuation of the variant gene.

Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common from which they diverged about 300,000 years ago.

source

My comment: Another proof how much we're like Neanderthals! I wonder what happened with the complete sequencing and its comparison with current humans. It's certainly interesting to know how much different we are from them in numbers.

Archaeologists find cache of tablets in 2,700-year old Turkish temple

August 10th, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- Excavations led by a University of Toronto archaeologist at the site of a recently discovered temple in southeastern Turkey have uncovered a cache of cuneiform tablets dating back to the Iron Age period between 1200 and 600 BCE. Found in the temple's cella, or 'holy of holies', the tablets are part of a possible archive that may provide insights into Assyrian imperial aspirations.

"The assemblage appears to represent a Neo-Assyrian renovation of an older Neo-Hittite temple complex, providing a rare glimpse into the religious dimension of Assyrian imperial ideology," says Timothy Harrison. The cella also contained gold, bronze and iron implements, libation vessels and ornately decorated ritual objects.

Partially uncovered in 2008 at Tell Tayinat, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Palastin, the structure of the building where the tablets were found preserves the classic plan of a Neo-Hittite temple. It formed part of a sacred precinct that once included monumental stelae carved in Luwian (an extinct Anatolian language once spoken in Turkey) hieroglyphic script, but which were found by the expedition smashed into tiny shard-like fragments.

"Tayinat was destroyed by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 738 BCE, and then transformed into an Assyrian provincial capital, equipped with its own governor and imperial administration," says Harrison. " The destruction of the Luwian monuments and conversion of the sacred precinct into an Assyrian religious complex may represent the physical manifestation of this historic event."

The temple was later burned in an intense fire and found filled with heavily charred brick and wood which, ironically, contributed to the preservation of the finds recovered from its inner chambers. source

My comment: I wonder why I never heard of this lewian language. Definitely something I need to dig more.


Saturday, 7 November 2009

Miracles or technology?, 11,2009

First, two links for you. Two very interesting articles, that I think will bring hope to many people.
British girl's heart heals itself after transplant

British doctors designed a radical solution to save a girl with major heart problems in 1995: they implanted a donor heart directly onto her own failing heart.

After 10 years with two blood pumping organs, Hannah Clark's faulty one did what many experts had thought impossible: it healed itself enough so that doctors could remove the donated heart.

Hand transplant patient hopes to feel wife's touch
The nation's first double hand transplant patient can wriggle his new fingers a little bit now and grab a tennis ball, but what he really wants to do is be able to feel his wife's hands when he holds them.
The Second Coming of Gene Therapy
Unbelievable article about a gene therapy that WORKED! What a wonderful news! (and here, genetic treatment of eyes)

Today:
  1. Tumors Feel the Deadly Sting of Nanobees
  2. Multiple sclerosis successfully reversed in animals
  3. New silver nanoparticle skin gel for healing burns
  4. Tick saliva could hold cancer cure: Brazilian scientists
  5. A Squirt of Stem Cell Gel Heals Brain Injuries

Tumors Feel the Deadly Sting of Nanobees

August 28th, 2009

When bees sting, they pump into their victims a peptide toxin called melittin that destroys cell membranes. Now, by encapsulating this extremely potent molecule within a nanoparticle, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a potential new type of anticancer therapy with the potential to target a wide range of tumors.

Samuel Wickline, M.D., principal investigator of the Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, and his colleagues developed their so-called nanobees to deliver toxic peptides such as melittin specifically to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells from the otherwise nonselective havoc these molecules cause.

Melittin was of special interest to the investigators because the mechanism by which it kills cells is not likely to trigger the drug resistance that often develops with conventional anticancer therapies.

The scientists tested nanobees in two sets of mice with malignant tumors. One set of mice was implanted with human cells, the other with melanoma tumors. After four to five injections of the melittin-carrying over several days, growth of the breast tumors slowed by nearly 25%, and the size of the melanoma tumors decreased by 88% compared with untreated tumors.

The researchers note that the nanobees accumulated in these solid tumors because the nanoparticles are small enough to escape the leaky blood vessels that surround tumors. The researchers also developed a nanobee that actively targets tumors.

The core of the nanobee is composed of perfluorocarbon, an inert compound used in artificial blood. source

My comment:Wow, that's a great. I just hope they really can target cancer cells so well, because otherwise, with such a dangerous substance it could become ugly. And I didn't get what happens with the carriers after they deliver the substance and also what happens with them if they don't deliver it-how long are they supposed to stay in the body and how you take them out. And what's the effect of them while they're in.They are small, but still, they exist.

Multiple sclerosis successfully reversed in animals

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) completely reverses the devastating autoimmune disorder in mice, and might work exactly the same way in humans, say researchers at the Jewish General Hospital Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and McGill University in Montreal.

MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune response attacks the , leading to progressive physical and cognitive disability.

The new treatment, appropriately named GIFT15, puts MS into remission by suppressing the immune response. This means it might also be effective against other like Crohn's disease, lupus and arthritis, the researchers said, and could theoretically also control immune responses in patients. Moreover, unlike earlier immune-supppressing therapies which rely on chemical pharamaceuticals, this approach is a personalized form of cellular therapy which utilizes the body's own cells to suppress immunity in a much more targeted way.

This effect, explained Galipeau, converts B-cells -- a common form of white blood cell normally involved in immune response -- into powerful immune-suppressive cells.

"And when we gave them back intravenously to mice ill with , the disease went away."

MS must be caught in its earliest stages, Galipeau cautioned, and clinical studies are needed to test the treatment's efficacy and safety in humans. No significant side-effects showed up in the mice, he said, and the treatment was fully effective with a single dose.

source

My comment: That news also sounds great. I just wonder if the immune-suppressant effect will leave the body vulnerable to infections-because that's not very nice thing to happen to you. Unfortunately, the article doesn't comment this, but since MS is one of the really disturbing disease I think this new treatment will give hope to many many people. (ok, according to some of the comments at physorg, this therapy will leave some immunity since it leave the T-cells intact)

New silver nanoparticle skin gel for healing burns

Scientists in India are reporting successful laboratory tests of a new and potentially safer alternative to silver-based gels applied to the skin of burn patients to treat infections. With names like silver sulfadiazine and silver nitrate, these germ-fighters save lives and speed healing. The researchers describe gel composed of silver nanoparticles — each 1/50,000th the width of a human hair — that appears more effective than these traditional gels.

Kishore Paknikar and colleagues note that antimicrobial silver compounds have been used for decades on burn patients, whose damaged skin is highly vulnerable to bacterial infections. However, topical silver agents now in use can loose effectiveness in the body, cause , and damage cells. Drug-resistant bacteria can make these treatments less effective.

The scientists demonstrated that their gel killed a broad range of harmful bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one of the most common causes of burn infections, as well as several drug-resistant microbes. The gel, which contains 30 times less silver than silver sulfadiazine, did not have any apparent toxic effects when applied to the healthy of test animals.

source
My comment: I don't really get what is the difference compared to colloidal silver gel except for the nanoparticles, but if they say it's veeery promising, I guess it is. But I'm always suspicious towards stuff containing nano-particles. It might sound very good, but the effects have to be studied very carefully. I don't want silver in my brain.

Tick saliva could hold cancer cure: Brazilian scientists


SAO PAULO (AFP) – It may be one of nature's repulsive little blood-sucking parasites, but the humble tick could yield a future cure for cancers of the skin, liver and pancreas, Brazilian researchers have discovered.

They have identified a protein in the saliva of a common South American tick, Amblyomma cajennense, that apparently reduces and can even eradicate cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

Ana Marisa Chudzinski-Tavassi said she stumbled on the properties of the protein, called Factor X active, while testing the anti-coagulant properties of the tick's saliva -- the way it stops blood thickening and clotting so the tick can keep gorging itself on its host.

The protein shares some characteristics with a common anti-coagulant called TFPI (Tissue Factor Pathway Inhibitor), specifically a Kunitz-type inhibitor which also has been shown to interfere with cell growth.

A theory that the protein might have an effect on cancerous cells led to laboratory tests on cell cultures -- which exceeded all expectations.

"To our surprise it didn't kill normal cells, which were also tested," Chudzinski-Tavassi said. "But it did kill the tumorous cells that were being analyzed."

The results have been more than promising.

"If I treat every day for 14 days an animal's tumor, a small tumor, this tumor doesn't develop -- it even regresses. The tumor mass shrinks. If I treat for 42 days, you totally eliminate the tumor," the scientist said.

Producing a medicine from the find, though, will require years of clinical tests and a significant financial investment -- neither of which Brazil is geared to provide.

source

My comment: I'd like to remind you that recently, there were many articles on scorpion poison, having similar effect on tumors. So maybe this article isn't that surprising, but still, it's very interesting. The most interesting thing however is how after discovering so many substances that kill cancers and how we have those cool nano-stuff that could deliver the substance on the right place and still there isn't even ONE ready treatment to help people that have cancer! That is horrible and verrry suspicious. After all, this type of treatments require say 42 days, what's to compare with months and months of expensive chemotherapy!

A Squirt of Stem Cell Gel Heals Brain Injuries

By Sandeep Ravindran Posted 09.04.2009 at 10:59 am

Scientists have developed a gel that helps brains recover from traumatic injuries. It has the potential to treat head injuries suffered in combat, car accidents, falls, or gunshot wounds. Developed by Dr. Ning Zhang at Clemson University in South Carolina, the gel is injected in liquid form at the site of injury and stimulates the growth of stem cells there.

Brain injuries are particularly hard to repair, since injured tissues swell up and can cause additional damage to the cells.

Dr. Zhang's gel, however, can be loaded with different chemicals to stimulate various biological processes at the site of injury. In previous research done on rats, she was able to use the gel to help re-establish full blood supply at the site of brain injury. This could help create a better environment for donor cells.

In a follow-up study, Dr. Zhang loaded the gel with immature stem cells, as well as the chemicals they needed to develop into full-fledged adult brain cells. When rats with severe brain injuries were treated with this mixture for eight weeks, they showed signs of significant recovery. The new gel could treat patients at varying stages following injury, and is expected to be ready for testing in humans in about three years. source

My comment: What I really, really cannot understand is why the gel needs 3 years before it can be ready for human testing. Anyway, as a person with fresh head trauma, I think this discovery is absolutely cool. When I think of how little we're able to do to help the brain, it's very sad. The next good thing to consider is how to make the brain surgeries less invasive for the head. Like do it with something micro! But if I must be honest, my doctors so far seem to have done a great job, I just hope that both my brain and my skull (and my hair if possible) will recover completely.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The mysterious past, October, 2009

Today:

  1. The mysterious glaciers that grew when Asia heated up
  2. Tiny ancient shells point to earliest fashion trend
  3. California's Channel Islands hold evidence of Clovis-age comets
  4. Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war
  5. A prehistoric ‘runway’ used by flying reptiles
  6. Europe’s oldest stone hand axes emerge in Spain
A very excitng post - especially articles 1, 3 and 5! Enjoy!

The mysterious glaciers that grew when Asia heated up

August 27th, 2009

Long ago a group of Himalayan glaciers grew by several kilometers even while Central Asia's climate warmed up to six degrees Celsius. BYU professor Summer Rupper's analysis attributes much of the glacial growth to increased cloudiness and wind. Rupper is lending her glacier expertise to a project that will forecast the Indus River system's water supply for the coming decades.

That's why a collection of glaciers in the Southeast Himalayas stymies those who know what they did 9,000 years ago. While most other Central Asian glaciers retreated under hotter summer temperatures, this group of glaciers advanced from one to six kilometers.

As Central Asia's summer climate warmed as much as 6 degrees Celsius, shifting weather patterns brought more clouds to the Southeast Himalayas. The additional shade created a pocket of cooler temperatures.

Temperatures also dropped when higher winds spurred more evaporation in this typically humid area.

The findings come from a framework Rupper developed as an alternative to the notion that glaciers form and melt in direct proportion to temperature. Her method is based on the balance of energy between a glacier and a wide range of climate factors, including wind, humidity, precipitation, evaporation and cloudiness. source

My comment: Ok, this article is here without any connection to global warming (though it offers some interesting insights). But if the glaciers gathered mass during the warm periods then imagine what happened when they finally melted! It's absolutely possible that the floods described in the Vedas really took place. This is so exciting!

Tiny ancient shells point to earliest fashion trend

August 27th, 2009 Shell beads newly unearthed from four sites in Morocco confirm early humans were consistently wearing and potentially trading symbolic jewellery as early as 80,000 years ago. These beads add significantly to similar finds dating back as far as 110,000 in Algeria, Morocco, Israel and South Africa, confirming these as the oldest form of personal ornaments.

A team of researchers recovered 25 marine shell beads dating back to around 70,000 to 85,000 years ago from sites in Morocco. The shells have man-made holes through the centre and some show signs of and prolonged wear, suggesting they were worn as jewellery.

Across all the locations shells were found from a similar time period from the Nassarius genus. That these shells were used similarly across so many sites suggests this was a cultural phenomenon, a shared tradition passed along through cultures over thousands of years. Several of the locations where shells have been found are so far inland that the shells must have been intentionally brought there.

"Either people went to sea and collected them, or more likely marine shell beads helped create and maintain exchange networks between coastal and inland peoples. This shows well-structured human culture that attributed meaning to these things," said Francesco d'Errico, lead author.

For scientists, beadworks are not simply decoration, they also represents a specific technology that conveys information through a shared coded language.

Curiously, shell beads disappear from the archaeological record in Africa and the Near East 70,000 years ago, along with other cultural innovations such as engravings on ochre slabs, and refined bone tools and projectile points. They reappear in different forms up to 30,000 years later, with personal ornaments simultaneously re-emerging in Africa and the Near East, and for the first time in Europe and Asia. This may reflect an entirely new and independent phase of population growth with previously unseen innovations allowing a more efficient exploitation of a wider variety of environments.

The temporary disappearance of cultural innovations could well be linked to population decreases during a long period of harsher climate conditions 60,000 to 73,000 years ago. source

My comment:That temporal disappearance is extremely interesting. I don't buy it that it's linked to climate conditions-at that stage of society every change is harsh. It simply doesn't make sense. We have this ornaments in the cradle of humanity and then they disappear until humans have spread everywhere? Mmm, that's not very logical. There is no reason why this ornaments won't follow the path of humans. And if they are missing, there must be very good reason for this. Like-we're looking at the wrong path?

California's Channel Islands hold evidence of Clovis-age comets

A 17-member team has found what may be the smoking gun of a much-debated proposal that a cosmic impact about 12,900 years ago ripped through North America and drove multiple species into extinction.

In a paper University of Oregon archaeologist Douglas J. Kennett and colleagues from nine institutions and three private research companies report the presence of shock-synthesized hexagonal diamonds in 12,900-year-old sediments on the Northern Channel Islands off the southern California coast.

These tiny diamonds and diamond clusters were buried deeply below four meters of sediment. They date to the end of Clovis -- a Paleoindian culture long thought to be North America's first human inhabitants. The nano-sized diamonds were pulled from Arlington Canyon on the island of Santa Rosa that had once been joined with three other Northern Channel Islands in a landmass known as Santarosae.

The diamonds were found in association with soot, which forms in extremely hot fires, and they suggest associated regional wildfires, based on nearby environmental records.

Such soot and diamonds are rare in the geological record. They were found in sediment dating to massive impacts 65 million years ago in a layer widely known as the K-T Boundary. The thin layer of iridium-and-quartz-rich sediment dates to the transition of the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, which mark the end of the Mesozoic Era and the beginning of the Cenozoic Era.

"The type of diamond we have found -- Lonsdaleite -- is a shock-synthesized mineral defined by its hexagonal crystalline structure. It forms under very high temperatures and pressures consistent with a cosmic impact," Kennett said. "These diamonds have only been found thus far in meteorites and impact craters on Earth and appear to be the strongest indicator yet of a significant cosmic impact [during Clovis]."

The age of this event also matches the extinction of the pygmy mammoth on the Northern Channel Islands, as well as numerous other North American mammals, including the horse, which Europeans later reintroduced. In all, an estimated 35 mammal and 19 bird genera became extinct near the end of the Pleistocene with some of them occurring very close in time to the proposed cosmic impact, first reported in October 2007 in PNAS.

In the Jan. 2, 2009, issue of the journal Science, a team led by Kennett reported the discovery of billions of nanometer-sized diamonds concentrated in sediments -- weighing from about 10 to 2,700 parts per billion -- in six North American locations.

"There was a major event 12,900 years ago," he said. "It is hard to explain this assemblage of materials without a cosmic impact event and associated extensive wildfires. This hypothesis fits with the abrupt cooling of the atmosphere as shown in the record of ocean drilling of the Santa Barbara Channel. The cooling resulted when dust from the high-pressure, high-temperature, multiple impacts was lofted into the atmosphere, causing a dramatic drop in solar radiation." source

My comment: Wow, that's what I call good science. It's absolutely fascinating how they had a theory, found evidences and confirmed the theory. Obviously North America was nuked ~13 000 years ago. That is extremely interesting, especially since there is no crater to be connected with the event. Which means that maybe the big rock (or whatever it was) went into the ocean or maybe near the continent. I can think of at least one VERY big (or should I say DEEP) crater near the land- the hole that is between Cuba and USA. It's just a wild guess, of course, but remember where they looked for Atlantis. Interesting, huh?

Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war

Just a few decades ago, many scholars believed that prior to civilisation, humans were "noble savages" living in harmony with each other and with nature. Not any more. The discovery that male chimpanzees from one troop sometimes beat to death those from another has encouraged popular perceptions that warfare is part of our biological heritage.

However, anthropologist Robert Sussman believes the popular focus on violence and warfare is disproportionate. "Statistically, it is more common for humans to be cooperative and to attempt to get along than it is for them to be uncooperative and aggressive towards one another," he says. And he is not alone in this view. A growing number of experts are now arguing that the urge to wage war is not innate, and that humanity is already moving in a direction that could make war a thing of the past.

Anthropologist Douglas Fry of Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, agrees. In his book, Beyond War, he identified 74 "non-warring cultures" that contradict the idea that war is universal. His list includes nomadic hunter-gatherers such as the !Kung of Africa, Australian Aborigines and Inuit. These examples are crucial, Fry says, because our ancestors are thought to have lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers from the emergence of the Homo lineage around 2 million years ago until the appearance of permanent settlements and agriculture less than 20,000 years ago. That time span constitutes more than 99 per cent of the evolutionary history of Homo.

Fry does not deny that lethal violence probably occurred among our nomadic hunter-gatherers' forebears, but he asserts that hunter-gatherers in the modern era show little or no genuine warfare - organised fighting between rival groups. Instead, he says, most violence consists of individual aggression, often between two men fighting over a woman. These fights might occasionally precipitate feuds between groups of friends and relatives of the antagonists, but such rivalry is costly and so rarely lasts long. Humans "have a substantial capacity for dealing with conflicts non-violently", he says. One group might simply "vote with its feet" and walk away from the other. Alternatively, a third party might mediate a resolution.

Brian Ferguson of Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, also believes that there is nothing in the fossil or archaeological record supporting the claim that our ancestors have been waging war against each other for hundreds of thousands, let alone millions, of years. The first clear-cut evidence of violence against groups as opposed to individuals appears about 14,000 years ago, he says.

War emerged when humans shifted from a nomadic existence to a settled one and was commonly tied to agriculture, Ferguson says. All of a sudden, people had far more to lose, and to fight over, than their hunter-gatherer forebears.

So rather than being a product of our genes, it looks as if warfare emerged in response to a changing lifestyle.

Indeed, perhaps the best and most surprising news to emerge from research on warfare is that humanity as a whole is much less violent than it used to be .

War is not in our DNA. And if warfare is not innate then, surely, neither is it inevitable. source

My comment: Ok, the last article is not exactly history related, but I thought it extremely interesting since it offers a new idea of war as a way to live. And it puts a very interesting number for the beginning of wars-14 000 years ago. It looks like a lot of stuff has happened exactly at this time. And if you think about it, it's not like tribes before didn't have precious supplies that you could steal by killing them. Then why they didn't do it all the time? It's very interesting question.

A prehistoric ‘runway’ used by flying reptiles

By Charles Q. Choi
updated 9:04 p.m. ET Aug. 18, 2009

A prehistoric runway for flying pterosaurs has been discovered for the first time.

Scientists uncovered the first known landing tracks of one of these extinct flying reptiles at a site dubbed "Pterosaur Beach," in the fine-grained limestone deposits of an ancient lagoon in southwestern France dating back 140 million years to the Late Jurassic.

The footprints suggest the pterosaur — a "pterodactyloid" with a wingspan roughly 3 feet (1 meter) wide — flapped to stall its flight during landing, and then planted both of its 2-inch-long (5-centimeter-long) feet simultaneously at a high angle.
The reptile next dragged its toes briefly, took a short "stutter step" — perhaps a hop with both feet — and landed, settling its hands. It finally adjusted its posture and ambled off normally on all fours.

"If tracks from pterosaurs are going to get preserved, it's likely to be in the softest muds or finest sands, and it's unlikely even then, so to get traces of a pterosaur landing like this is very exciting," Hone noted. He added that the case the researchers make for the way the pterosaurs landed "is very strong and convincing."

The fact this pterosaur had the capability to stall during flight implies sophisticated flapping control of the wings, Padian said.

"There are hundreds of trackways in this big quarry," Padian said. source

My comment: I also agree that this is extremely exciting! I mean, these are almost like airports. It's interesting that they all used the same place, maybe there was something interesting for them in that region, but anyway, I find this so interesting. And my interest in dinosaurs grows and grows...

Europe’s oldest stone hand axes emerge in Spain

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Europe’s Stone Age has taken an edgy turn. A new analysis finds that human ancestors living in what is now Spain fashioned double-edged stone cutting tools as early as 900,000 years ago, almost twice as long ago as previous estimates for this technological achievement in Europe.

If confirmed, the new dates support the idea that the manufacture and use of teardrop-shaped stone implements, known as hand axes, spread rapidly from Africa into Europe and Asia beginning roughly 1 million years ago.

Other European hand ax sites date to no more than 500,000 years ago. In contrast, hand axes date to roughly 1.7 million years ago in eastern Africa. And age estimates of 1.2 million years and 800,000 years for hand axes from two Israeli sites indicate that this tool-making style spread out of Africa long before the origin of Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago. Excavations in southern China have also yielded 800,000-year-old hand axes. Fossils from ancient human ancestors have not been found with the Israeli and Chinese artifacts. source

My comment: That is also veeery interesting. Note, if it wasn't Homo sapiens that spread the axes, then who did it? And why there are no fossils from humans (or whatever) into that places...It really looks very odd.