Learning About Life over 200 Million Years Ago From Samples Trapped In Amber
Posted on August 30, 2012 Comments (1)
230-Million-Year-Old Mite Found in Amber by Charles Choi
“Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years,” Grimaldi said.
Scientists have now revealed arthropods trapped in 230-million-year-old amber from northeastern Italy, which appears to hold the most abundant outcrops of Triassic amber in the world. These are the oldest amber-trapped arthropods by about 100 million years, and are the first arthropods to be found in amber from the Triassic.
These mites are unexpectedly similar to their closest relatives, modern gall mites, creatures that feed on plants and cause abnormal growths known as galls to form around them.
“You would think that by going back to the Triassic you’d find a transitional form of gall mite, but no,” Grimaldi said. “Even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there — a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws.”
These discoveries are very cool. The process of the discovery is often fairly tedious.
Antibiotics fuel obesity by creating microbe upheavals
Posted on August 28, 2012 Comments (1)
What happens when we kill them?
Farmers have been doing that experiment in animals for more than 50 years. By feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, they’ve found that they could fatten up their livestock by as much as 15 percent.
Ilseung Cho from the New York University School of Medicine has confirmed that hypothesis. By feeding antibiotics to young mice, he has shown that the drugs drastically change the microscopic communities within their guts, and increase the amount of calories they harvest from food. The result: they became fatter.
I continue to believe we are far to quick to medicate. We tremendously overuse anti-biotis and those costs are huge. They often are delays and systemic and given our current behavior we tend to ignore delayed and systemic problems.
The link between the extremely rapid rise in obesity and the overuse of anti-biotics is in need of much more study. It seems a possible contributing factor but there is much more data needed to confirm such a link. And other factors still seem dominant to me: increase in caloric intake and decrease in physical activity.
The Eagle Has Landed
Posted on August 26, 2012 Comments (5)
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren land on the moon: July 20, 1969. As Neil Armstrong took humanity’s first step onto the Moon he said:
The Science Behind Hummingbird Flight
Posted on August 24, 2012 Comments (4)
kinematics), and an upstroke muscle (the supracoracoideus) that makes the recovery stroke rapid, while contributing enough to the hovering power requirements to allow the downstroke muscle (the pectoralis) to operate within its aerobic limits.
In other words, this pseudosymmetrical wingbeat cycle is good enough, and although hummingbirds do not exhibit the elegant aerodynamic symmetry of insects, natural selection rewards ‘good enough’ as richly as it does our aesthetic ideals
Roominate: Inspiring Artists, Engineers and Visionaries
Posted on August 20, 2012 Comments (3)
Roominate is a cool new toy created by 3 engineering students aimed at giving young engineers a way to learn, experiment and create. The 3 women used kickstarter to get the funds needed to launch their product. They raised $85,000 (the goal was $25,000).
Bettina Chen: CalTech BS in Electrical Engineering, masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford.
Alice Brooks: MIT BS in Mechanical Engineering, currently at Stanford pursuing masters in Mechanical Engineering design.
Jennifer Kessler: Bachelor degree from University of Pennsylvania, currently an MBA student at Stanford.
This is yet another example of entrepreneurship shown by Standford students. The USA is hugely benefited by Stanford (along with a few other schools: MIT, Caltech, etc.). There is little a country can do that is as helpful economically as encouraging the type of entrepreneurship Standford does.
Related: Awesome Gifts for the Maker in Your Life – Footballs Providing Light to Those Without Electricity at Home – Girls Sweep Top Honors at Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology – Fix it Goo
New iPad Telepresence Robot for $2,000
Posted on August 18, 2012 Comments (2)
Double is a new telepresence robot that is on sale arrives fully functional as soon as you open the box – just insert your iPad. Touch the power switch to activate Double’s self-balancing sensors, keeping itself upright. At only 15 pounds, it’s easy to move around.
Touch to drive (using your iPad remotely). Adjust height also (to match standing or sitting colleagues). It runs for 8 hours on full charge and charges up in 2 hours.
Pre-order now at $2000 (saving $500 over list price). Delivery is expected in December 2012.
A single spot in the Sahara that provides huge amounts of nutrients to the Amazon
Posted on August 14, 2012 Comments (0)
The Bodélé depression: a single spot in the Sahara that provides most of the mineral dust to the Amazon forest
Even understanding how connected the global ecosystem is, research like this provides amazing reminders of those connections.
Related: The Amazon Rainforest Would Not Be Without Saharan Dust (podcast interview) – Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert – Nigersaurus – The Sahara Wasn’t Always a Desert – Elusive Saharan cheetah and Sandcat
Great Webcast Explaining the Digestive Systems
Posted on August 11, 2012 Comments (0)
You will learn things like why it is so important to chew your food well (increase the surface area for enzymes to get at the food). Our bodies also have adapted to provide a huge surface area for the digestive system to work; the small intestine alone has a surface area of 250 square meters (larger than the size of most apartments). Your small intestine is 4.5 to 10.5 meters long.
Domestic Cats Remain Successful Predators
Posted on August 7, 2012 Comments (1)
House cats kill more critters than thought by Elizabeth Weise
The cats brought home just under a quarter of what they killed, ate 30% and left 49% to rot where they died.
The carnage cuts across species. Lizards, snakes and frogs made up 41% of the animals killed, Loyd and fellow researcher Sonia Hernandez found. Mammals such as chipmunks and voles were 25%, insects and worms 20% and birds 12%.
Seeking a window into the hidden lives of cats, the researchers recruited 60 owners in the Athens, Ga., area. Each owner put a small video camera mounted on a break-away collar on the cat in the morning and let the cat out, then removed the camera and downloaded the footage each night.
Virus Kills Breast Cancer Cells in Laboratory
Posted on August 5, 2012 Comments (1)
Some very exciting and good news from Penn State. Researchers have found a virus that kills breast cancer cells. It is great to read about research breakthroughs like this. Of course, most of these announcements never become practical solutions, unfortunately. And if they do it is many many years later and almost always in much less exciting ways than the headlines. Still, the percentage that do make it through the process into workable solutions provide us great benefits.
Virus kills breast cancer cells in laboratory
“Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the world and is the leading cause of cancer-related death in women,” said Samina Alam, research associate in microbiology and immunology. “It is also complex to treat.”
“We can see the virus is killing the cancer cells, but how is it doing it?” Alam said. “If we can determine which viral genes are being used, we may be able to introduce those genes into a therapeutic. If we can determine which pathways the virus is triggering, we can then screen new drugs that target those pathways. Or we may simply be able to use the virus itself.”
AAV2 does not affect healthy cells. However, if AAV2 were used in humans, the potential exists that the body’s immune system would fight to remove it from the body. Therefore, by learning how AAV2 targets the death pathways, researchers potentially can find ways to treat the cancer without using the actual virus.
In ongoing studies, the Penn State researchers also have shown AAV2 can kill cells derived from prostate cancer, mesothelioma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. A fourth line of breast cancer cells — representing the most aggressive form of the disease — also was studied in a mouse breast tumor model, followed by treatment with AAV2. Preliminary results show the destruction of the tumors in the mice, and researchers will report the findings of those mouse studies soon.
The fight against cancer has many promising breakthroughs. We have made some great progress. Still the fight is extremely difficult and we have many more frustrations than successes.
New Physics Prize Gives 9 Physicists $3 million Each
Posted on August 1, 2012 Comments (0)
A new physics prize created by Russian billionaire who started a PhD in physics before switching to an MBA and getting rich (investing in Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Groupon) has announced the first 9 winners. The award includes awards worth $3 million; the Nobel prize paid $1.1 million last year.
According to Milner, the new prizes are not intended to compete with the Nobels, and differ in crucial ways. They can go to younger researchers because experimental verification of theoretical breakthroughs is not required. And, unlike a Nobel prize, which can be shared by three scientists at most, the Milner prize imposes no limit.
Alongside the main prize, Milner’s foundation will give two further awards, the first being an annual New Horizons in Physics prize for promising junior researchers, and a special ad-hoc fundamental physics prize that can be awarded at any time, forgoing the usual nomination process. Milner said the latter prize might, for example, recognise experimental results that are clearly and immediately groundbreaking.
Milner, 50, left Moscow State University in 1985 with an advanced degree in theoretical physics. He later abandoned a PhD at the Russian Academy of Sciences for an MBA at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nima Arkani-Hamed, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. For original approaches to outstanding problems in particle physics, including the proposal of large extra dimensions, new theories for the Higgs boson, novel realisations of supersymmetry, theories for dark matter, and the exploration of new mathematical structures in gauge theory scattering amplitudes.
Ashoke Sen, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad. For uncovering striking evidence of strong-weak duality in certain supersymmetric string theories and gauge theories, opening the path to the realisation that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory.
7 of the 9 winners are currently working in the USA (1 in India and 1 in France). 4 are at Princeton and 1 each at MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford.