Buried Since the Jurassic Era, Ocean Microbes Are Still 'Barely Alive'

11:04:38 PM, Saturday, May 19, 2012

“(www.popsci.com, Rebecca Boyle, 05.17.2012) With no meal for 86 million years, and barely enough oxygen to sustain metabolism, can a single-celled organism really be considered alive? Yes, but only just, according to a new study. A microbial community buried under the ocean floor since the mid-Jurassic era is still hanging on. Their tenacity could pose some interesting questions for the hunt for alien life.

Plenty of microbes live beneath ocean sediments — about 90 percent of the planet’s unicellular organisms are found there, and they’ve long been subjects of study among biologists interested in extreme environments. Hans Røy and colleagues wanted to dig even deeper to examine the most barren places, where food supplies are scarce or nonexistent and where oxygen barely reaches.

Røy and colleagues from Denmark and Germany surveyed red clays buried deep in the Pacific Ocean, along the equator and into the North Pacific Gyre current system. From the research R/V Knorr, they drilled core samples 92 feet into the ocean floor, dating to the time of the dinosaurs, and tested the cores with oxygen sensors. They found that organisms live in the deepest parts of these sediments and that they’re using oxygen for respiration — only incredibly slowly. The deeper the sediments, the less food and oxygen is present, and the less oxygen is used up, too. These organisms have not had access to a fresh food supply since their burial, 70 to 86 million years ago.

It takes the microbes about 1,000 years to double their biomass, which could also mean it takes them 1,000 years to divide, Røy and his colleagues found. E. coli, by contrast, takes 17 to 30 minutes. Put another way, to be sure these things were actually living — meaning undergoing metabolic processes and growing biomass — you would have to wait 1,000 years.

Røy and colleagues believe these microbial communities are living at the absolute limit — they have the bare minimum energy required to keep their DNA intact and their proteins functioning. This is interesting for a couple reasons. First, these life forms are definitely odd, and they suggest that scientists’ knowledge of prokaryotes is incomplete at best. The way unicellular organisms live in the lab is nothing like the way they live beneath the ocean. Second, they once again prove that live persists where it would seem physically impossible — and that is an interesting finding if you’re interested in astrobiology. Even in the harshest environments on this planet, where access to any form of energy is limited at best, microbes can live. Could they live somewhere off this planet, too?

The study appears in the journal Science.”

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Carnivorous Plants Employ Bodyguard Ants

1:05:45 AM, Saturday, May 19, 2012

“(LiveScience.com – Wed, May 9, 2012) Carnivorous plants can have valuable allies in ants, benefiting from their poop and janitor, bodyguard and cutthroat services, researchers say.

The carnivorous pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata dwells in the nutrient-poor peat swamp forests of Borneo. It is not a very effective carnivore by itself — its pitcher-shaped leaves lack the slippery walls and viscous, elastic and strongly corrosive fluid that make those of its relatives such effective deathtraps.

However, N. bicalcarata does apparently have unusual support on its side — the ant Camponotus schmitzi. The carnivorous plant has swollen tendrils at the base of each pitcher that serve as homes for the insects, and a food source in the form of nectar secreted on the pitcher rims.

In return, the ants apparently provide a host of services for the pitcher plants. They clean the pitcher mouth to keep it slippery enough to help catch prey. They attack weevils that would otherwise munch on the plant. They cart off the remains of large prey from the pitchers that would otherwise rot. They lie in ambush under pitcher rims and systematically attack any of the plant's prey that attempt to escape the traps. And their droppings fertilize the plants. . .”

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Crows Found Able to Distinguish Between Human Voices

12:29:43 AM, Friday, May 18, 2012

“(Phys.org, May 16, 2012) -- Researchers at the University of Vienna have discovered that carrion crows are able to distinguish between familiar and unknown human voices. They also found, as they write in their paper published in the journalAnimal Cognition, that the birds are able to do the same with other birds outside of their species, though they react in different ways.

Suspecting that crows, which are among the smartest of all birds, are able to tell the difference between people they know and those they don’t based on voice alone, the team set up an experiment to find out. They recorded the voices of five people who care for a group of carrion crows living in the university’s aviary, speaking the word “hey.” They then recorded the voices of five other people who the birds had never heard, speaking the same word. Later, when the recordings were played back for the birds, the researchers noted that the crows responded much more clearly to the unfamiliar voices, turning to look right away, investigating its source. The team suggests this is because crows see humans as a potential threat and thus any voice they hear that they can’t identify needs to be paid special attention.

Wondering if the birds displayed similar tendencies when interacting with other animals besides humans, the team repeated the experiment using bird calls instead of human voices. Because carrion crows tend to live and interact with other birds in the crow family, the team recorded calls from jackdaws and magpies, both of which are also considered highly intelligent. This time, when they played back the recordings for the carrion crows, they got the opposite reaction. The birds responded more clearly to the calls of other birds that they’d heard many times as opposed to calls from birds they’d never heard before. In this instance, the researchers suggest that the carrion crows on occasion team up with other such birds in cooperative efforts to find food or sound the alarm when threats are identified. This confirms prior work by other groups that had found that corvids (birds in the crow family) tend to work purposely with some birds when foraging, while ignoring others. . .”

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Begins to Wrap Winter Science, Mission Celebrates Month 100

9:30:23 PM, Saturday, May 05, 2012

‘(2012/05/03 www.planetary.org) As winter began to retreat in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet, Opportunity was commanded to finish up her science assignments in April in preparation for leaving its refuge, and the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission rolled through its 100th month of exploration.

One hundred months Opportunity has been driving around Meridiani Planum, Mars. That’s 97 months beyond its three-month primary mission. Wow.

On Mars, mere survival would be a huge accomplishment, but this rover has turned its first 100 months into an adventure story with all the right stuff to warrant a banner headline of acknowledgement. From bouncing to a landing inside a crater making “the world’s first 300 million mile hole-in-one,” as Steve Squyres, principal investigator described it, and then opening her eyes to find the evidence for past water it had come looking for, Opportunity drove on to become the first robot to inspect its own jettisoned heat shield, the first to find meteorites on Mars, the first drive into a crater, the first robot to be caught by and escape the grip of a life-threatening sand dune, the first to survive the eye of a global dust storm, and so much more.

Yet, there were no bells or whistles or fanfare for this ‘100’ milestone, like there was for say The Simpsons’ 100th episode or any number of other ‘100’ achievements. No notice or press release from NASA, and no Tweet went viral.

In fact, MER’s 100-month milestone went all but unnoticed even by team members who continue to work with Opportunity every day, and whose responsibilities have only intensified because the mission has endured beyond all expectation and so many of the MER crew are now doing double-duty on other missions, including Mars Science Laboratory, which is to deliver Curiosity, the next-gen bigger, faster, stronger rover to Mars in August...’

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Hubble to Use Moon as Mirror to See Venus Transit

4:41:57 PM, Friday, May 04, 2012

“This mottled landscape showing the impact crater Tycho is among the most violent-looking places on our moon. Astronomers didn't aim NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study Tycho, however. The image was taken in preparation to observe the transit of Venus across the sun's face on June 5-6.

Hubble cannot look at the sun directly, so astronomers are planning to point the telescope at the Earth's moon, using it as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight and isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus's atmosphere. Imprinted on that small amount of light are the fingerprints of the planet's atmospheric makeup.

These observations will mimic a technique that is already being used to sample the atmospheres of giant planets outside our solar system passing in front of their stars. In the case of the Venus transit observations, astronomers already know the chemical makeup of Venus's atmosphere, and that it does not show signs of life on the planet. But the Venus transit will be used to test whether this technique will have a chance of detecting the very faint fingerprints of an Earth-like planet, even one that might be habitable for life, outside our solar system that similarly transits its own star. , Venus is an excellent proxy because it is similar in size and mass to our planet.

The astronomers will use an arsenal of Hubble instruments, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, Wide Field Camera 3, and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, to view the transit in a range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. During the transit, Hubble will snap images and perform spectroscopy, dividing the sunlight into its constituent colors, which could yield information about the makeup of Venus's atmosphere.

Hubble will observe the moon for seven hours, before, during, and after the transit so the astronomers can compare the data. Astronomers need the long observation because they are looking for extremely faint spectral signatures. Only 1/100,000th of the sunlight will filter through Venus's atmosphere and be reflected off the moon.

This image, taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, reveals lunar features as small as roughly 560 feet (170 meters) across. The large "bulls-eye" near the top of the picture is the impact crater, caused by an asteroid strike about 100 million years ago. The bright trails radiating from the crater were formed by material ejected from the impact area during the asteroid collision. Tycho is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and is circled by a rim of material rising almost 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor. The image measures 430 miles (700 kilometers) across, which is slightly larger than New Mexico.

Because the astronomers only have one shot at observing the transit, they had to carefully plan how the study would be carried out. Part of their planning included the test observations of the moon, made on Jan. 11, 2012, as shown in the release image.

Hubble will need to be locked onto the same location on the moon for more than seven hours, the transit's duration. For roughly 40 minutes of each 96-minute orbit of Hubble around the Earth, the Earth occults Hubble's view of the moon. So, during the test observations, the astronomers wanted to make sure they could point Hubble to precisely the same target area.

This is the last time this century sky watchers can view Venus passing in front of the sun. The next transit won't happen until 2117. Venus transits occur in pairs, separated by eight years. The last event was witnessed in 2004.”

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Venus to Appear in Once-In-A-Lifetime Event

9:34:41 PM, Thursday, May 03, 2012

‘ScienceDaily (May 1, 2012) — On 5 and 6 June this year, millions of people around the world will be able to see Venus pass across the face of the Sun in what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It will take Venus about six hours to complete its transit, appearing as a small black dot on the Sun's surface, in an event that will not happen again until 2117.

In this month's Physics World, Jay M Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College, Massachusetts, explores the science behind Venus's transit and gives an account of its fascinating history.

Transits of Venus occur only on the very rare occasions when Venus and Earth are in a line with the Sun. At other times Venus passes below or above the Sun because the two orbits are at a slight angle to each other. Transits occur in pairs separated by eight years, with the gap between pairs of transits alternating between 105.5 and 121.5 years -- the last transit was in 2004.

Building on the original theories of Nicolaus Copernicus from 1543, scientists were able to predict and record the transits of both Mercury and Venus in the centuries that followed…’

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13-Year-Old Finds Mistake in Metropolitan Museum of Art Map

9:27:11 PM, Thursday, May 03, 2012

‘New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is one of the world's premier destinations for artistic and historical exhibitions. But this epicenter of worldly culture is not above admitting the occasional mistake. Even when the correction comes from one curious 13-year-old boy.

The Hartford Courant reports that 13-year-old Benjamin Lerman Coady found an error in the Met's Byzantine Gallery during a recent visit. The seventh-grader is a fledgling history buff who recently studied the Byzantine Empire in school.

While checking some of the dates on the map, Coady noticed that sections featuring Spain and Africa were missing.

Before leaving the museum, Coady attempted to inform the museum that the map was inaccurate. "The front desk didn't believe me," he told the paper. "I'm only a kid."

However, Coady received an email from the museum's senior vice president for external affairs, notifying him that his request was being forwarded to the museum's medieval affairs department for further review…’

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Nano-Factory Promises Great Things for Graphene Science

9:21:45 PM, Thursday, May 03, 2012

‘(PHYS.ORG May 2, 2012) Forty times stronger than steel and conducting electricity ten times better than silicon, graphene is the wonder material that could one day replace silicon in microchips. Now the University is opening a new Graphene Centre Laboratory that will study its amazing properties and develop its potential applications.

Graphene could be used to develop faster electronic devices, for example more advanced mobile phones and super-fast computers, flexible touch screens, and medical sensor devices.

The new laboratory, officially opened by our Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell on Tuesday 1 May, forms part of the Centre for Graphene Science, which brings together expertise at the Universities of Bath and Exeter.

Professor Simon Bending from the University’s Department of Physics said: “Graphene is a remarkable material made of a single layer of carbon atoms. Combining high strength, transparency and flexibility with excellent electrical and thermal conductivity, it has many potential applications.”

The new laboratory at Bath is home to a range of state of the art equipment, including a specially adapted scanning probe microscope – nicknamed the “nano-factory” – that can build new materials and create rapid prototypes of novel devices that have never been made before…’

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UK to Make Academic Research Available Free on the Net

9:16:33 PM, Thursday, May 03, 2012

‘The UK plans to give the public access to academic research via the internet free of charge.

The government said that Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales had agreed to advise it on how to ensure the move would promote "collaboration and engagement".

The decision will have major implications for the publishing industry.Firms currently charge access to peer-reviewed papers covered in journals.

Science Minister David Willetts outlined details of the plan in an article in the Guardian newspaper ahead of a speech to the Publishers Association.

He noted that the state currently spent about £5bn a year funding university studies.

’Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the forefront of academic research,’ he said…’

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Sifting Through Dust Near Orion's Belt

7:18:28 PM, Wednesday, May 02, 2012

‘(PHYS.ORG, May 2, 2012) The surface grime that hides the beauty of an object. But this new image of Messier 78 and surroundings, which reveals the submillimetre-wavelength radiation from dust grains in space, shows that dust can be dazzling. Dust is important to astronomers as dense clouds of gas and dust are the birthplaces of new stars.

In the centre of the image is Messier 78, also known as NGC 2068. When seen in visible light, this region is a reflection nebula, meaning that we see the pale blue glow of starlight reflected from clouds of dust. The APEX observations are overlaid on the visible-light image in orange. Sensitive to longer wavelengths, they reveal the gentle glow of dense cold clumps of dust, some of which are even colder than -250ºC. In visible light, this dust is dark and obscuring, which is why telescopes such as APEX are so important for studying the dusty clouds in which stars are born…’

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The Pirate Bay Must be Blocked by UK ISPs, Court Rules

7:14:22 PM, Wednesday, May 02, 2012

“(BBC 30 April 2012) File-sharing site The Pirate Bay must be blocked by UK internet service providers, the High Court has ruled.

The Swedish website hosts links to download mostly pirated free music and video.Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must all prevent their users from accessing the site.

"Sites like The Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the UK and undermine investment in new British artists," the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said.

A sixth ISP, BT, requested "a few more weeks" to consider their position on blocking the site.

BPI's chief executive Geoff Taylor said: "The High Court has confirmed that The Pirate Bay infringes copyright on a massive scale.

"Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them…”

-- Better stock up on those torrents!!! ;)

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Esa Selects 1bn-Euro Juice Probe to Jupiter

6:52:06 PM, Wednesday, May 02, 2012

“(BBC 2 May 2012) The European Space Agency (Esa) is to mount a billion-euro mission to Jupiter and its icy moons.

The probe, called Juice, has just been approved at a meeting of member state delegations in Paris.

It would be built in time for a launch in 2022, although it would be a further eight years before it reached the Jovian system.

The mission has emerged from a five-year-long competition to find the next "large class" space venture in Europe.

Juice stands for JUpiter ICy moon Explorer. The concept proposes an instrument-packed, nearly five-tonne satellite to be sent out to the Solar System's biggest planet, to make a careful investigation of three of its biggest moons.

The spacecraft would use the gravity of Jupiter to initiate a series of close fly-bys around Callisto and Europa, and then finally to put itself in a settled orbit around Ganymede…”

-- Europe is going to Jupiter! Should we be prepared for a certain broadcast that goes likes this, - "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS - EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE." ;)

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Cat Alarm Clock: Cat Wakes Up Owner With Door Stop

12:50:07 AM, Wednesday, May 02, 2012

-- Love this!!! <3

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AWOLNATION - 3D 'Sail' HD 1080p with Lyrics

11:24:17 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

-- This should have been the official video.

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Regenerative Medicine Repairs Mice From Top to Toe

9:11:27 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"(www.nature.com, Leila Haghighat, 18 April 2012) Three separate studies in mice show normal function can be restored to hair, eye and heart cells.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the promise of regenerating damaged tissue was so far-fetched that Thomas Hunt Morgan, despairing that his work on earthworms could ever be applied to humans, abandoned the field to study heredity instead. Though he won the Nobel Prize in 1933 for his work on the role of chromosomes in inheritance, if he lived today, the advances in regenerative medicine may have tempted him to reconsider.

Three studies published this week show that introducing new cells into mice can replace diseased cells - whether hair, eye or heart - and help to restore the normal function of those cells. These proof-of-principle studies now have researchers setting their sights on clinical trials to see if the procedures could work in humans.

'You can grow cells in a Petri dish, but that's not regenerative medicine,' says Robin Ali, a geneticist at University College London, who led the eye study. 'You have to think about the biology of repair in a living system.'

Sprouting hair

In work published in Nature Communications, Japanese researchers grew different types of hair on nude mice, using stem cells from normal mice and balding humans to recreate the follicles from which hair normally emerges1. Takashi Tsuji, a regenerative-medicine specialist at Tokyo University of Science who led the study, says that the technique holds promise for treating male pattern baldness.

The team used a specialized nylon sheath to guide the hair through the skin layers, enabling it to erupt from the skin of the mice in 94% of all grafts. The hairs took between 2 and 5 weeks to emerge, and behaved as normal: they underwent normal growth cycles and established connections to the muscles and nerves underneath the skin. The hairs also lifted up from the skin in response to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter known to cause hairs to stand on end..."

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