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

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The wine domesticated 8000 years ago and more, 2011

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light? - What I find most curious is how they found out about the properties of polarized light and how did the find a material that can be used for that. I think we tend to underestimate the trial-error experience while it worked so well in our history.

Today:

  1. Bulgarian Archaeologists Stumble Upon 8000-Year-Old Skeleton
  2. Bulgarian Archaeologist Shows Off Perperikon Finds
  3. Fossil finger records key to Neanderthals' promiscuity
  4. Acoustic Archaeology Yielding Mind-Tripping Tricks
  5. Analysis of teeth suggests modern humans mature more slowly than Neanderthals did
  6. Study finds Neanderthals ate their veggies
  7. Acoustic Archaeology Yielding Mind-Tripping Tricks
  8. Multiple fathers prevalent in Amazonian cultures
  9. Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago

Bulgarian Archaeologists Stumble Upon 8000-Year-Old Skeleton

October 24, 2010, Sunday
Bulgarian archaeologists clearing a plot for highway construction have come across a Neolithic home and a skeleton date back to 6000 BC.
The Neolithic Age home was discovered close to the village of Krum in the Haskovo District by the team of archaeologist Boris Borisov.
Borisov said the skeleton belonged to a young disabled person, aged between 10 and 15. It was found buried with limbs close to the body as part of a funeral ritual, close to the southern wall of the home. source
My comment: Wow! And that's the second very old settlement discovered in Bulgaria. The other one is in Northern Bulgaria, near the Danube. Amazing.

Bulgarian Archaeologist Shows Off Perperikon Finds

Archaeology | October 18, 2010, Monday
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Archaeologist Shows Off Perperikon Finds
Professor Nikolay Ovcharov, known as the "Bulgarian Indiana Jones", shows the figure of an Ancient Thracian warrior, 3rd-2nd century BC, that he found at Perperikon. Photo by Bulphoto
Leading Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov has presented the latest finds of his team from the Ancient Thrace and Rome fortress of Perperikon in the Rhodope Mountain.
One of the finds is a miniature model of a stone grinder dated back to 7000 years ago. Ovcharov believes the model might have been an actual children's toy.
Another unique find is a figure of a Thracian warrior from the 3rd-2nd century BC. The Thracian warrior used to hold a spear. The figure is modeled after the Greek god Apollo, who in the Roman Age "replaced" the cult for the "Thracian Horseman", a local deity, among the Thracians.
Ovcharov also showed a surgical instrument from Roman times which was used for plucking parasites out of human bodies. He explained the instrument is the same as the one portrayed on every pharmacy with a serpent wrapped around it or held by the Ancient Greece god of medicine Asclepius.
According to the professor, the most interesting find at Perperikon from the Middle Ages period is the 13th century image of a mummer, or "kuker" in Bulgarian. The human-line image features a man with a bear head and a bear skin, which according to Ovcharov, proves that today's kukeri games around Bulgaria – in which humans dress as scary animal creatures to chase away evil ghosts – were inherited from the ancient Dionysus games among the Thracians.
Other exciting finds from the four-month summer excavations at Perperikon are a bronze buckle from the 10th century with an image of a griffin, a mythical creature with an eagle's head and a lion's body, and 14th-century Venice coins.
A very rare Bulgarian coin picturing Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander and his son Mihail from the Second Bulgarian Empire, minted in 1330-1345, was also shown to the public.
The Thracian city of Perperikon is an ancient archaeological complex located 15 km north of the city of Kardzhali. It is believed to be site of the sanctuary of god Dionysus which was widely known in the ancient world.
Human activity at Perperikon dates back to 5 000 BC, and in the Middle Ages the former ancient sanctuary became a key fortress controlling the Eastern Rhodoppe Mountains. source
My comment: I really really like the figurine. It's very sweet. :) But more seriously, the guys obviously had very good summer last year. Let's hope they'll find even more this summer. Unfortunately, time is not our ally, not with all those treasure-hunters who are robbing our legacy. But in any case, I wish the archaeologists luck. Because what they dig is the last treasure of Bulgaria. The only thing that is not yet destroyed. We have to protect it.

Some Neanderthals news:

Fossil finger records key to Neanderthals' promiscuity

November 3, 2010 
(PhysOrg.com) -- Fossil finger bones of early human ancestors suggest that Neanderthals were more promiscuous than human populations today, researchers at the universities of Liverpool and Oxford have found.
The team found that the fossil finger ratios of Neanderthals, and early members of the human species, were lower than most living humans, which suggests that they had been exposed to high levels of prenatal androgens. This indicates that early humans were likely to be more competitive and promiscuous than people today.  source


Analysis of teeth suggests modern humans mature more slowly than Neanderthals did

November 15, 2010 
A sophisticated new examination of teeth from 11 Neanderthal and early human fossils shows that modern humans are slower than our ancestors to reach full maturity. The finding suggests that our characteristically slow development and long childhood are recent and unique to our own species, and may have given early humans an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals.
Such studies add to the growing body of evidence that subtle developmental differences exist between us and our Neanderthal cousins. The recent sequencing of the has provided tantalizing genetic clues pointing to differences in cranial and skeletal development between and modern humans. source
My comment: Well that makes sense. Though it's hard to say how important is the length of human life to evolution. Sure, it gives you more time to do and learn stuff, but since the procrastination is likely a specie-wide trait, it's not certain how much more humans will learn in a lifetime compared to the Neanderthals. If Neanderthals were stronger and had more stamina, it's likely they had more power to do stuff and ultimately lived more intensive life.

Study finds Neanderthals ate their veggies

December 27, 2010
A US study on Monday found that Neanderthals, prehistoric cousins of humans, ate grains and vegetables as well as meat, cooking them over fire in the same way homo sapiens did.
The new research published in the (PNAS) challenges a prevailing theory that Neanderthals' over reliance on meat contributed to their extinction around 30,000 years ago.
Many of the particles "had undergone physical changes that matched experimentally-cooked , suggesting that controlled fire much like early modern humans," PNAS said in a statement. sourceMy comment: I think that is actually quite interesting since people imagine Neanderthals like some kind of brutes who ate raw meat and basically clubbed everything in sight. But obviously they were able to cook their food and liked the variety in their diet. Because so far, we know they ate meat, marine life, vegetables, grain, fruits, roots and so on.

Acoustic Archaeology Yielding Mind-Tripping Tricks

By Eric Niiler Tue Nov 16, 2010 08:00 AM ET 
Miriam Kolar, a researcher at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research and Acoustics, has been studying the 3,000 year-old Chavin culture in the high plains of Peru. Kolar and her colleagues have been mapping a maze of underground tunnels, drains and hallways in which echoes don't sound like echoes. "The structures could be physically disorienting and the acoustic environment is very different than the natural world," Kolar said.
Ancient drawings from the Chavin culture show a people who were fascinated with sensory experiences -- ancient hippies if you will. "There is peyote and mucus trails out of the nose indicative of people using psychoactive plant substances. They were taking drugs and having a hallucinogenic experience."
If that wasn't enough, the mazes at Chavin de Huantar also include air ducts that use sunlight to produce distorted shadows of the maze's human participants. And sound waves from giant marine shells found in the maze in 2001 may have produced a frequency that actually rattled the eyeballs of those San Pedro cactus-using ancients, Kolar said. 
The Mayan rulers at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan also figured out how to use sound for crowd control. David Lubman, an acoustic engineer who has spent the past 12 years studying the Mayan site, says a strange bird-like echo from the Kukulkan temple was actually constructed on purpose.  Lubman's analysis compared the acoustic soundprint of the quetzal bird, which was revered by Mayans, to the sound of the echo at Chichen Itza. The two sounds matched.  Other new research presented at this week's Acoustical Society of America conference in Cancun shows that Mayan rulers figured out how to build a public address system in the site's giant ball court. That allowed kings to address hundreds of warriors and subjects without screaming. source
My comment: What is most fascinating for me, is how we tend to underestimate ancient people and their curiosity and creativity. And in reality, it doesn't take so much to have fun. And the drive for fun and for power is a constant throughout human history. So I'm not surprised by the discovery, I'm surprised we discover it so late.

Multiple fathers prevalent in Amazonian cultures

November 10, 2010
In modern culture, it is not considered socially acceptable for married people to have extramarital sexual partners. However, in some Amazonian cultures, extramarital sexual affairs were common, and people believed that when a woman became pregnant, each of her sexual partners would be considered part-biological father. Now, a new University of Missouri study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that up to 70 percent of Amazonian cultures may have believed in the principle of multiple paternity.
"It was socially acceptable for children to have multiple fathers, and secondary fathers often contributed to their children's upbringing."
Walker says sexual promiscuity was normal and acceptable in many traditional South American societies. He says married couples typically lived with the wife's family, which he says increased their sexual freedom.
"In some Amazonian cultures, it was bad manners for a husband to be jealous of his wife's extramarital partners," Walker said. "It was also considered strange if you did not have multiple sexual partners. Cousins were often preferred partners, so it was especially rude to shun their advances."
Women believed that by having multiple they gained the benefit of larger gene pools for their children. He says women benefited from the system because secondary fathers gave gifts and helped support the child, which has been shown to increase child survival rates. In addition, brutal warfare was common in ancient Amazonia, and should the mother become a widow, her child would still have a father figure.
Men benefitted from the multiple paternity system because they were able to formalize alliances with other men by sharing wives. Walker hypothesizes that multiple paternity also strengthened family bonds, as brothers often shared wives in some cultures. source
My comment: I personally love that system. It's not so much about promiscuity. But think how limiting is our current social structure. Extramarital sexual encounters happen, that's a fact. People try to hide it or to stigmatize it, but if approximately 1/3 of all the people have affairs, some lasting years and yielding children, then it's kind of strange to claim this is not "normal". Obviously people do it and like it and need it. In this case what's the point of denying? The problem is that in many cases, the children of such affairs (or of the official relationship) are the victims, because they don't have complete access to one of their parents. Not to mention all the children whose step-fathers never truly connect with them. Why? What's the benefit from this? None. Then, maybe this amazonian style of family is much better. It will surely save a lot of money for psychologists and other related doctors. And of course, for lawyers.

Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago 

Jan 19, 2011, By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
In wine there is truth, in vino veritas, as the ancient Romans put it. And the truth is that people first cultivated grapes for vino about 8,000 years ago, finds a genetics study.
In the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Sean Myles of Cornell, looked at "1,000 samples of the domesticated grape, Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera, and its wild relative, V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris." Comparing the gene maps across the grapes, the team concludes that humanity has only begun to explore the genetic diversity of the humble grape.
"Archaeological evidence suggests that grape domestication took place in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas and that cultivated vinifera then spread south to the western side of the Fertile Crescent, the Jordan Valley, and Egypt by 5,000 y ago. Grape growing and winemaking then expanded westward toward Europe."
The new analysis suggests that people have been conservative in crossing varieties, after the earliest domestication of wild grapes." sourceMy comment:8000 years old! That's so much! I didn't suspect that wine is that old. But I particularly like the location of domestication. Right between Black and Caspian sea. Yes, it's one of the places where Thracians roamed. Of course, during this period they weren't called Thracians at all, so I'm exaggerating a little, but it's just amazing how well the regions fit.
More:
Archeologists Find Traces of Unknown Civilization near Kislovodsk
25.01.2011 - Kislovodsk archaeological expedition headed by Dmitry Korobov has found about two hundred ancient settlements following a uniform architectural concept on the Kabardian Ridge, in the foothills of Elbrus.
The mysterious people mysteriously disappeared. After the 9th century B.C. they left their houses in the foothills of Elbrus and went away. There is, for example, an assumption that dwellers of Arkaim - a big settlement that prospered behind Urals in the 3rd-2nd millennia BC - could have reached that land.
Archaeologists: Tombs Dating Back to 5th Millennium BC Unearthed in Syria
(25.11.2010)- Archaeological Discovery: Several dolmen tombs dating back to the 5th Millennium BC or the Stone–Copper Age (the Eneolithic Age) have been unearthed in several sites in southern Syria such as Ein Zakkar, Tsil, al-Bakkar and Jibilieh to the west of Daraa, in addition to al-Maysara, southeast Daraa, Syrian Archaeologists said.- Look at the pictures at the source page. And think about Stonehenge. Read more about findings in Syria here: "Archaeologists: Buildings Dating Back to 4th millennium BC Unearthed in Syria" .

Friday, 17 June 2011

Technology for a better future, 2011

Today:

  1. See how they grow: Monitoring single bacteria without a microscope
  2. New reactor paves the way for efficiently producing fuel from sunlight
  3. EU, US partners plan 'low-cost' space launcher
  4. Iron Age Copper Reveals Earth’s Stronger, Faster Magnetic Field
  5. Nanogenerators grow strong enough to power small conventional electronics (w/ Video)
  6. Crystal cantilever lifts objects 600 times its own weight (w/ Video)
  7. Scientists move objects across meter-scale distances using only light (w/ Video)
  8. Scientists suggest that cancer is purely man-made
  9. Skin-cell spray gun drastically cuts healing time for burns
  10. Microsponges from seaweed may save lives (w/ Video)

See how they grow: Monitoring single bacteria without a microscope

January 17, 2011 
(PhysOrg.com) -- With an invention that can be made from some of the same parts used in CD players, University of Michigan researchers have developed a way to measure the growth and drug susceptibility of individual bacterial cells without the use of a microscope.

Instead of waiting days for culture results, clinicians will be able to determine in minutes the antibiotic best able to treat the infection. This advance, along with the sensor's potential use in screening existing and newly discovered compounds for antibiotic activity, could improve patient outcome, reduce healthcare costs and reduce the spread of
The device, called an asynchronous magnetic bead rotation (AMBR) sensor, was invented in Kopelman's lab at U-M.
The AMBR sensor uses a spherical, magnetic bead that asynchronously spins in a magnetic field. Just as a pencil attached to a child's toy top creates drag that affects the way the top spins, anything attached to the bead slows its rate of rotation. In the current work, the researchers attached individual, rod-shaped Escherichia coli bacteria to individual beads and watched what happened, using the newly developed AMBR sensor.
"When one bacterium gets attached, it's hanging out there like a little hotdog, and it changes the drag tremendously, slowing down the rate of rotation by a factor of four," said Kopelman. "If the bacterium grows even a tiny bit, the drag increases even more, and we can monitor that nano-growth by observing changes in the rate of rotation."
"The method can detect growth of as little as 80 nanometers, making it far more sensitive than even a powerful optical microscope, which has a resolution limit of about 250 nanometers," said graduate student Paivo Kinnunen, one of the paper's lead authors, who is also working at Life Magnetics while completing his studies.
The U-M group demonstrated that the sensor not only can monitor the growth of a single bacterium throughout its life cycle and over multiple generations, but it can also determine when an individual bacterium stops growing, in response to treatment with an antibacterial drug, for instance.
"You can basically tell, within minutes, whether or not the antibiotic is working," said Kinnunen.
sourceMy comment: I love this smart gadget. It's so simple and yet so effective. The only problem is that I somehow doubt doctors will start using them. It's like prescription for antibiotics - in theory, they should be done after there is a lab test about they type of the bacteria. In practice - they give you some general antibiotics and only if it doesn't work, they consider sending you for tests. So, great invention, let's hope someone will actually use it.

New reactor paves the way for efficiently producing fuel from sunlight

January 19, 2011 by Kathy Svitil
Using a common metal most famously found in self-cleaning ovens, Sossina Haile hopes to change our energy future. The metal is cerium oxide—or ceria—and it is the centerpiece of a promising new technology developed by Haile and her colleagues that concentrates solar energy and uses it to efficiently convert carbon dioxide and water into fuels.
Solar has long been touted as the solution to our energy woes, but while it is plentiful and free, it can't be bottled up and transported. The process developed by Haile—a professor of materials science and chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)—and her colleagues could make that possible.The researchers designed and built a two-foot-tall prototype reactor that has a quartz window and a cavity that absorbs concentrated . The concentrator works "like the magnifying glass you used as a kid" to focus the sun's rays, says Haile.
At the heart of the reactor is a cylindrical lining of ceria. Ceria—a metal oxide that is commonly embedded in the walls of self-cleaning ovens, where it catalyzes reactions that decompose food and other stuck-on gunk—propels the solar-driven reactions. The reactor takes advantage of ceria's ability to "exhale" oxygen from its crystalline framework at very high temperatures and then "inhale" oxygen back in at lower temperatures.
"What is special about the material is that it doesn't release all of the oxygen. That helps to leave the framework of the material intact as oxygen leaves," Haile explains. "When we cool it back down, the material's thermodynamically preferred state is to pull oxygen back into the structure."
The ETH-Caltech solar reactor for producing H2 and CO from H2O and CO2 via the two-step thermochemical cycle with ceria redox reactions.
And once the ceria is oxygenated to full capacity, it can be heated back up again, and the cycle can begin anew. For all of this to work, the temperatures in the reactor have to be very high—nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
In experiments conducted last spring, Haile and her colleagues achieved the best rates for CO2 dissociation ever achieved, "by orders of magnitude," she says. The efficiency of the reactor was uncommonly high for CO2 splitting, in part, she says, "because we're using the whole solar spectrum, and not just particular wavelengths." And unlike in electrolysis, the rate is not limited by the low solubility of CO2 in water. Furthermore, Haile says, the high operating temperatures of the reactor mean that fast catalysis is possible, without the need for expensive and rare metal catalysts (cerium, in fact, is the most common of the rare earth metals—about as abundant as copper).

Currently, the system harnesses less than 1% of the solar energy it receives, with most of the energy lost as heat through the reactor's walls or by re-radiation through the quartz window. Thermodynamic modeling by lead author and former Caltech graduate student William Chueh suggests that efficiencies of 15% or higher are possible. A more realistic scenario might be to take the CO2 emissions from coal-powered electric plants and convert them to transportation fuels. " source 
My comment: Another very cool idea. I'm looking forward to see how this work out. Because if they increase the efficiency, then the CCS can be finally possible!

EU, US partners plan 'low-cost' space launcher

February 8, 2011 
European technology firm Astrium is teaming up with US company Alliant to make a "low-cost" space rocket launcher that could one day take tourists into orbit, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
It said the companies plan a 300-foot (91-metre) launcher dubbed "Liberty" to take and scientific payloads into space for about $180 million (132 million euros) a time, 40 percent cheaper than some current launches.
The newspaper said the project's backers hope to gain funding from US space agency for the project, which they say could lead eventually to commercial projects such as orbiting hotels for space tourists.
Astrium, a subsidiary of defence giant EADS, is the main maker of the Ariane commercial rocket, used to launch satellites. US firm Alliant Techsystems is a leading maker of space shuttles.
The companies hope to test the new "low-cost commercial launcher" as soon as 2013, the report said. source
My comment: Well, 2013 is not that far. Though I find this idea kind of odd now that private space companies finally gained some momentum. Is this catching the wave or an effort to keep the monopoly that they are losing?

Iron Age Copper Reveals Earth’s Stronger, Faster Magnetic Field


 SAN FRANCISCO — Slag left over from Iron Age copper smelting shows the Earth’s magnetic field was stronger and more variable than scientists ever imagined.
“This is a very challenging result,” said geomagnetist Luis Silva of the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the new work. “It’s completely outside of anything we thought could be happening in the core.”
The Earth’s magnetic field comes from the movement of molten iron in the core. The field’s strength and structure are constantly changing. But paleomagnetists (scientists who study the history of the Earth’s magnetic field) thought the changes were usually small and slow, fluctuating by about 16 percent over the course of a century.
But a new study of ancient copper mines in southern Israel found that the strength of the magnetic field could double and then fall back down in less than 20 years.
To measure the strength of the magnetic field, Shaar and colleagues turned to piles of waste metal left near an ancient Egyptian copper mine.When melted iron cools rapidly, it freezes with a signature of the Earth’s magnetic field at that instant. Paleomagnetists have traditionally studied the glass-like rocks thrown from volcanoes to build a picture of how the magnetic field has changed over time. Their measurements, plus theoretical models, showed that the magnetic field’s strength peaked around 3,000 years ago in the middle Egypt’s Iron Age.
 sourceMy comment: Interesting, huh? So this puts in new perspective the idea of "The day after tomorrow" and other similar productions. Because if the field can double its power for 20 years, then what happens if it decreases its strength in similar period?


Nanogenerators grow strong enough to power small conventional electronics (w/ Video)

November 8, 2010 
Blinking numbers on a liquid-crystal display (LCD) often indicate that a device's clock needs resetting. But in the laboratory of Zhong Lin Wang at Georgia Tech, the blinking number on a small LCD signals the success of a five-year effort to power conventional electronic devices with nanoscale generators that harvest mechanical energy from the environment using an array of tiny nanowires.
In this case, the comes from compressing a nanogenerator between two fingers, but it could also come from a heartbeat, the pounding of a hiker's shoe on a trail, the rustling of a shirt, or the of a heavy machine. While these nanogenerators will never produce large amounts of for conventional purposes, they could be used to power nanoscale and microscale devices – and even to recharge pacemakers or iPods.
Wang's nanogenerators rely on the piezoelectric effect seen in crystalline materials such as , in which an electric charge potential is created when structures made from the material are flexed or compressed.
Wang says the nanogenerators are now close to producing enough current for a self-powered system that might monitor the environment for a toxic gas, for instance, then broadcast a warning. The system would include capacitors able to store up the small charges until enough power was available to send out a burst of data. source
My comment: I wonder when we'll see improved energy consumption of laptops using the waste heat. Because it's cool to power sensors, think of all the opportunities for espionage. However I would prefer better energy efficiency of appliances.

Crystal cantilever lifts objects 600 times its own weight (w/ Video)

October 1, 2010 By Lisa Zyga
(PhysOrg.com) -- For a long time, scientists have been trying to transform the collective movements of tiny molecules into useful mechanical work. With this goal in mind, a team of researchers from Japan has developed a crystal cantilever that exhibits reversible bending upon alternate irradiation with ultraviolet (UV) and visible light. They've demonstrated that the crystal cantilever can lift metal balls that weigh up to 600 times more than the cantilever itself. In this process, the crystal's photogenerated molecular-scale shape change generates a very large amount of stress - more than 100 times larger than the stress produced by biological muscles - to induce the macroscale movement.
When irradiated with visible light (440-nm wavelength), the crystal returns to its original straight shape and the blue color disappears. The scientists could repeat the photostimulated bending cycle more than 250 times without observing any damage to the crystal.
The scientists also demonstrated that the crystals could be used to lift heavy metal balls. source
My comment: Check out the cool videos on the site! Just think of all the opportunities that such tool offer. It's amazing! And I really applaud that direction of thought, because it's so different from everything we're used to.

Scientists move objects across meter-scale distances using only light (w/ Video)

September 30, 2010 By Lisa Zyga
PhysOrg.com) -- For more than 40 years, scientists have been using the radiation pressure of light to move and manipulate small objects in space. But until now, the movements have always been restricted to very small scales, typically across distances of a few hundred micrometers, and mostly in liquids. In a new study, scientists have demonstrated a technique that achieves giant optical manipulation in air using a new kind of optical trap that can move 100-micrometer-sized objects across meter-scale distances with an accuracy of about 10 micrometers.
As the scientists explain, moving objects with light can be done using the photophoresis effect in air and other gases. When a particle is heated nonuniformly by light, the surrounding gas molecules bounce off the particle's surface with different velocities, creating a force on the particle that pushes it in the direction from the higher illumination to the lower illumination.
As the researchers demonstrated, the technique could enable the light-absorbing particles to be manipulated with a high degree of accuracy, even at large distances. The researchers could move particles to a target located 0.5 meters away with an accuracy of 10 micrometers, which they demonstrated using particles with diameters between 60 micrometers and 100 micrometers. source
My comment: Can you imagine what is accuracy of 10 micrometers for a distance on the scale of meters? That's quite an accomplishment!

Scientists suggest that cancer is purely man-made

October 14, 2010 
(PhysOrg.com) -- Cancer is a modern, man-made disease caused by environmental factors such as pollution and diet, a study by University of Manchester scientists has strongly suggested.
The study of remains and literature from ancient Egypt and and earlier periods – carried out at Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology and published in Nature Reviews Cancer – includes the first histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy.
Finding only one case of the disease in the investigation of hundreds of Egyptian mummies, with few references to cancer in literary evidence, proves that cancer was extremely rare in antiquity. The disease rate has risen massively since the Industrial Revolution, in particular childhood cancer – proving that the rise is not simply due to people living longer.
Professor Rosalie David, at the Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “In industrialised societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to and changes to our and lifestyle.”
 Various malignancies have been reported in non-human primates but do not include many of the cancers most commonly identified in modern adult humans.It has been suggested that the short life span of individuals in antiquity precluded the development of cancer. Although this statistical construct is true, individuals in and Greece did live long enough to develop such diseases as atherosclerosis, Paget's disease of bone, and osteoporosis, and, in modern populations, bone tumours primarily affect the young.
Another explanation for the lack of tumours in ancient remains is that tumours might not be well preserved. Dr. Zimmerman has performed experimental studies indicating that mummification preserves the features of malignancy and that tumours should actually be better preserved than normal tissues. In spite of this finding, hundreds of mummies from all areas of the world have been examined and there are still only two publications showing microscopic confirmation of cancer.
As the team moved through the ages, it was not until the 17th century that they found descriptions of operations for breast and other cancers and the first reports in scientific literature of distinctive tumours have only occurred in the past 200 years, such as scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps in 1775, nasal cancer in snuff users in 1761 and Hodgkin’s disease in 1832.
 sourceMy comment: I find this article for most troublesome. Because, as we see it today, some cancers come from viral infections, while other come from DNA damage that accumulate in our bodies trough the life. So it's amazing to find out that there are so little evidences of cancer in the Ancient times. I would guess that could mean that people with cancer rarely left offspring to carry the bad genes, but that's kind of far-fetched considering how Ancient people bred. So then, the conclusions of the authors must be true! We are killing ourselves out of mere stupidity! How sad it this?! Maybe such researches could mean something to law-makers who help so much the dirtiest industries. But I doubt it. Because there are so many known carcinogens in our environment and it's amazing how lawmakers close their eyes and pretend they don't know.

Skin-cell spray gun drastically cuts healing time for burns

February 8, 2011 by Lin Edwards
(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists in the US have developed a new technique that sprays a burn patient's own cells on the burn to help regenerate the skin and drastically reduce recovery time. The gun has been under development since 2008 and has now been used to successfully treat more than a dozen patients.
In a process taking only an hour and a half in total, a biopsy is taken from the patient’s undamaged skin and then healthy stem cells are isolated from the biopsy and an aqueous solution containing the cells is sprayed on the burn.
The sprayed wound is then covered with a newly-developed dressing with tubes enmeshed within it and extending from each end. One set of tubes functions as an artery, while the second set functions as a vein. The tubes are connected to an “artificial vascular system” and provide electrolytes, antibiotics, amino acids and glucose to the wound. The dressing keeps the wound clean and sterile, and provides nutrition for the skin stem cells to encourage them to regenerate new skin.
After treatment the wound heals in just days, when it would have taken weeks to heal using traditional treatments. Dr Gerlach said patients had been treated at the Berlin Burn Center and they had regrown over a burned ear or an entire face in only a few days. source
My comment: And that is also so damn cool! Too bad they don't mention the cost of the treatment. And the qualification needed by the doctors to be able to do that procedure. Because one ear and one face are good work, but what's better is to have 90% of all burns around the world healed like that. Just think how much pain and infections and ultimately lives could be saved with this skin gun.

Microsponges from seaweed may save lives (w/ Video)

February 9, 2011 
(PhysOrg.com) -- Microsponges derived from seaweed may help diagnose heart disease, cancers, HIV and other diseases quickly and at far lower cost than current clinical methods. The microsponges are an essential component of Rice University's Programmable Bio-Nano-Chip (PBNC) and the focus of a new paper in the journal Small
PBNCs capture biomarkers -- molecules that offer information about a person's health -- found in blood, saliva and other bodily fluids. The biomarkers are sequestered in tiny sponges set into an array of inverted pyramid-shaped funnels in the microprocessor heart of the credit card-sized PBNC.
When a fluid sample is put into the disposable device, microfluidic channels direct it to the sponges, which are infused with antibodies that detect and capture specific biomarkers. Once captured, they can be analyzed within minutes with a sophisticated microscope and computer built into a portable, toaster-sized reader.
source 
My comment: Also very nice. But it would be so much nicer if they could present a working tool and also talk about its cost. Because if you scrolled trough the news, you'll see a lot of cool new inventions. But that's what they are - inventions that might significantly improve our lives, but also which might never see real-life use.
And finally:

2-D photos spring to 3-D life - Check out this video how with only 12 or so pictures of an object, you can create its 3d view. Cool, huh?