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Posts tagged "news"

Traces of One of Universe’s First Stars Detected

An ancient star in the halo surrounding the Milky Way galaxy appears to contain traces of material released by the death of one of the universe’s first stars, a new study reports.

The chemical signature of the ancient star suggests that it incorporated material blasted into space by a supernova explosion that marked the death of a huge star in the early universe — one that may have been 200 times more massive than the sun.

"The impact of very-massive stars and their explosions on subsequent star formation and galaxy formation should be significant," lead author Wako Aoki, of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, told Space.com by email.

(via afro-dominicano)

laboratoryequipment:

Citizen Scientists Save Lives

Citizen scientists are saving the lives of people living in the shadow of deadly volcanoes according to new research from the Univ. of East Anglia.

A report, published today in the Journal of Applied Volcanology, reveals the success of a volunteer group set up to safeguard communities around the “Throat of Fire” Tungurahua volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. More than 600 million people live close to active volcanoes worldwide. The research shows that living safely in these dangerous areas can depend on effective communication and collaboration between volcanologists, risk managers and vulnerable communities.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/citizen-scientists-save-lives

afro-dominicano:

Chilean Devil Rays Found to Be Among the Deepest-Diving Animals in the Ocean

Divers exploring warm waters around the world often encounter Chilean devil rays, gentle marine creatures that can grow up to ten feet long. The rays bask just below the surface, gliding through sunlight-dappled water, oftentimes in groups. Little is known about the striking creatures, however, and marine biologists have always presumed that they live only near the warm, bright surface.

Scientists have just discovered that the rays harbor an impressive secret, however: they regularly undertake epic dives more than a mile deep.

These remarkable dives came as a surprise to researchers who reported the finding today in Nature Communications. In retrospect, they note, the rays’ physiology did hint at this ability.

Chilean devil rays possess a special organ called the retia mirabilia, which is also found in deep-diving species such as great white sharks. In those animals, the veined structure fills with warm blood that exchanges heat between vessel walls. This helps to keep the marine creatures’ brain warm when they descend to freezing depths. But Chilean devil rays, researchers assumed, spent all of their time at the surface. Why would they need such a structure?

To solve the puzzle, an international team of marine biologists attached satellite tags to 15 Chilean devil rays captured off the northwest coast of Africa, near the Azores archipelago. The team monitored the rays’ movements for nine months and found that the animals were tremendously active. They sometimes traversed up to 30 miles of ocean per day, with each covering a distance of up to 2,300 miles over the nine-month period.

Even more impressive, however, was the rays’ diving abilities. They regularly dove below 1,000 feet, with a maximum-recorded depth of 6,062 feet. This means that Chilean devil rays undertake some of the deepest dives ever recorded for marine animals, the team reports.

The journeys into the deep seem to be no sweat for the animals. One individual, for example, dove nearly 4,600 feet six days in a row, and overall, the rays spent more than five percent of their time in deep water.

The deep dives explain the presence of the previously enigmatic retia mirabilia, the team writes. At the depths recorded by the trackers, rays would encounter temperatures as chilly as 37˚F, so the extra flush of warm blood provided by that organ likely makes those dives possible. Additionally, the researchers found that the rays spend more time basking near the water’s warm surface both one hour before and one hour after a deep dive, implying that the animals are preparing for and recovering from encounters with the cold.

The rays aren’t undertaking these dives just for fun, of course. Based on the animals’ movement patterns—oftentimes a quick bee-line descent followed by a slower step-wise ascent—the researchers think they are probably foraging on fish or squid that live well below the surface.

The unexpected findings, the authors write, demonstrate “how little we know” about Chilean devil rays and the role they play in ocean ecosystems. Given that these animals were recently listed as endangered (largely due to a growing demand for their gills by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine), “this ignorance has significant conservation implications,” the team continues. As with any species, the more we know about them, the better equipped we will be for protecting them—and for knowing what we stand to lose should they disappear.

Ancient Asteroid Destroyer Finally Found, And It’s a New Kind of Meteorite

For 50 years, scientists have wondered what annihilated the ancestor of L-chondrites, the roof-smashing, head-bonking meteorites that frequently pummel Earth.

Image: Credit:

Now, a new kind of meteorite discovered in a southern Sweden limestone quarry may finally solve the mystery, scientists report. The strange new rock may be the missing “other half” from one of the biggest interstellar collisions in a billion years.

"Something we didn’t really know about before was flying around and crashed into the L-chondrites," said study co-author Gary Huss of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The space rock is a 470-million-year-old fossil meteorite first spotted three years ago by workers at Sweden’s Thorsberg quarry, where stonecutters have an expert eye for extraterrestrial objects. Quarriers have plucked 101 fossil meteorites from the pit’s ancient pink limestone in the last two decades.

Mysterious find

Geochemically, the meteorite falls into a class called the primitive achondrites, and most resembles a rare group of achondrites called the winonaites. But small differences in certain elements in its chromite grains set the mysterious object apart from the winonaites, and its texture and exposure age distinguish the new meteorite from the other 49,000 or so meteorites found so far on Earth.

"It’s a very, very strange and unusual find," Schmitz told Live Science’s Our Amazing Planet.

The new meteorite was recently reported online in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and the study will appear in the journal’s Aug. 15 print edition.

(via afro-dominicano)

afro-dominicano:

Private Team Prepares to Fire 36-Year-Old NASA Probe’s Engine


  A 36-year-old spacecraft controlled by a private team nearly performed an engine firing Wednesday (June 25) to increase its spin, but the maneuver was called off due to concerns that the probe did not receive all commands.
  
  NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 probe, controlled by a group that calls itself the “ISEE-3 Reboot Project,” is expected to be redirected to a more advantageous orbit for Earth communications next week. But first, the team needs to increase the spacecraft’s roll very slightly.
  
  An earlier attempt to increase the roll rate was called off last Friday (June 20) after the team could not confirm the spacecraft received some test commands from Earth. This time around, the group inched closer to making the roll, but decided to stop when the very last command did not get confirmed.

afro-dominicano:

Private Team Prepares to Fire 36-Year-Old NASA Probe’s Engine

A 36-year-old spacecraft controlled by a private team nearly performed an engine firing Wednesday (June 25) to increase its spin, but the maneuver was called off due to concerns that the probe did not receive all commands.

NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 probe, controlled by a group that calls itself the “ISEE-3 Reboot Project,” is expected to be redirected to a more advantageous orbit for Earth communications next week. But first, the team needs to increase the spacecraft’s roll very slightly.

An earlier attempt to increase the roll rate was called off last Friday (June 20) after the team could not confirm the spacecraft received some test commands from Earth. This time around, the group inched closer to making the roll, but decided to stop when the very last command did not get confirmed.

afro-dominicano:

NY Legalizes Medical Marijuana: How Vaping Pot Is Different from Smoking

New York state is set to legalize medical marijuana today, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo expected to sign a bill passed by the state’s legislature last week. But the proposed law is unique, and smoking a joint even for medical reasons will remain illegal.

Under the law, doctors can prescribe marijuana compounds for people who have just a handful of life-threatening and serious conditions, such as cancer and epilepsy. The new law also bars smoking the marijuana flower, and instead limits people to either taking pills, consuming the plant’s oils or extracts, or “vaporizing” the drug.

Experts say that vaporizing cannabis is probably healthier and less irritating to the lungs than smoking it, but this misty consumption method may also be more potent than smoking. And researchers know far less about the long-term effects of “vaping” the compounds in marijuana extracts or oils, compared with the effects of inhaling compounds directly from the plant, experts say.

"We don’t have the same safety data for extracts as we do for the flower," the part of the plant most often burned when smoking marijuana, said Mitch Earleywine, a psychologist at the University at Albany in New York, who studies marijuana use.

Vaping vs. smoking

It’s not exactly news that smoking marijuana can harm the lungs. Burning marijuana produces hundreds of cancer-causing compounds.

"Aside from all the carcinogens in it, you’re going to get soot in your lungs" from smoking marijuana, said Dr. John Malouff, a researcher at the University of New England in Australia, who has conducted research on the perceived benefits of vaporizing marijuana. "Because it’s not filtered in any way," he said of smoking, "it’s really harsh to everything it touches."

Vaporizers come in many forms, from the bulky plug-in tubes to the slim, battery-operated e-cigarette pens. Some heat marijuana flowers until a fine-mist vapor forms that contains cannabinoids, the compounds thought to be responsible for marijuana’s calming and mind-altering effects. Most vape pens, however are used to heat the oils and extracts of marijuana, which are colloquially called “dabs.”

Healthier lungs?

The law’s restriction of marijuana consumption to vaping is sensible from a health perspective, Malouff said.

"If you’re going to approve marijuana for medical use, why would you have people smoke? There’s no medicine that people smoke," Malouff said.

Several studies suggest that vaporizing is better for health than smoked marijuana.

Malouff has found that chronic marijuana users cite reduced lung irritation, as well as improved taste and the absence of a lingering marijuana smell on their clothes and bodies, as key reasons for vaping rather than smoking the plant.

A 2004 study in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics found that vaporized marijuana contained little other than cannabinoids, and a 2007 study found users inhaled fewer toxic compounds and carbon monoxide when vaping compared with smoking marijuana.

And in 2010, Earleywine and his colleague Nicholas Van Dam found that marijuana users who complain of respiratory irritation reported a stark improvement in their symptoms just a month after switching to vaporized forms of marijuana. Those symptoms include asthma, shortness of breath and coughing up phlegm. The researchers also measured objective improvement in the participants’ lung function.

More unknowns

But although vaporizing may sidestep respiratory problems, its physiological effects could be slightly different than those of smoked marijuana. That’s especially true for vaporized extracts, which contain little other than cannabinoids such as THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

In Malouff’s study, many users reported that vaporized marijuana felt more potent.

By not allowing the smoking of marijuana, lawmakers may have aimed to avoid undercutting the state’s anti-smoking campaigns or to allow police to distinguish legal medical marijuana consumers from illegal pot growers, Earleywine said. But the law could have unintended consequences, as much less is known about the physiology of vaporizing dabs, he said.

In a forthcoming study in the journal Addictive Behaviors, Earleywine and his University at Albany colleague Mallory Loflin have found that compared to marijuana smokers, dab users may more rapidly develop tolerance to the active compounds, and may also have a greater risk of marijuana withdrawal.

afro-dominicano:

These Students Want to Send a Time Capsule to Mars

A student-led project aims to send a time capsule to Mars for future explorers to discover, its organizers announced today (June 23).

Time Capsule to Mars (TC2M), a project of the nonprofit organization Explore Mars, plans to land three small satellites, known as CubeSats, on the surface of the Red Planet within the next five years. The satellites will contain images, videos and other forms of expression from people around the globe, according to the project’s organizers.

If successful, the $25-million mission would be the first privately funded mission to Mars, the first student-led mission to another planet, the first trial of a new propulsion system and the first interplanetary CubeSat, the team said here today in a press briefing.

"We’ve got a lot of firsts, and it’s very exciting," said Emily Briere, a senior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the mission’s founder and director.

Briere told reporters that "millions of people from around the world [will be able to] send in their photo, their picture of their dog, their handwritten poem, and feel that they themselves are going to Mars and making an impact."

Higgs Boson Confirms Reigning Physics Model Yet Again

For a subatomic particle that remained hidden for nearly 50 years, the Higgs boson is turning out to be remarkably well behaved.

Yet more evidence from the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland, confirms that the Higgs boson particle, thought to explain why other particles have mass, acts just as predicted by the Standard Model, the dominant physics theory that describes the menagerie of subatomic particles that make up the universe.

"This is exactly what we have expected from the Standard Model," said Markus Klute, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the researchers involved in the Higgs search.

The new results show that the Higgs boson decays into subatomic particles that carry matter called fermions — in particular, it decays into a heavier brother particle of the electron called a tau lepton, Klute said. This decay has been predicted by the Standard Model. Even so, the findings are a bit of a disappointment for physicists who were hoping for hints of completely new physics.

3D Printed Liver

A new method of 3D printing an anatomically accurate replica of the human liver is now helping to guide surgeons during tricky procedures, researchers report.

Image credit: Cleveland Clinic

The 3D-printed models of the human liver are made of transparent material that is threaded with colored arteries and veins.

These livers could help surgeons prevent complications when performing liver transplants, or removing cancerous tumors, researchers said.

afro-dominicano:

Hidden Ocean Locked Up Deep in Earth’s Mantle

Deep within the Earth’s rocky mantle lies oceans’ worth of water locked up in a type of mineral called ringwoodite, new research shows.

Image: Earth’s surface oceans are quite apparent, even from satellite images of our blue marble, but now scientists have found oceans’ worth of water are hidden deep in Earth’s mantle, locked up in a mineral called ringwoodite. Credit: NASA/NOAA

The results of the study will help scientists understand Earth’s water cycle, and how plate tectonics moves water between the surface of the planet and interior reservoirs, researchers say.

The Earth’s mantle is the hot, rocky layer between the planet’s core and crust. Scientists have long suspected that the mantle’s so-called transition zone, which sits between the upper and lower mantle layers 255 to 410 miles (410 to 660 kilometers) below Earth’s surface, could contain water trapped in rare minerals. However, direct evidence for this water has been lacking, until now.

To see if the transition zone really is a deep reservoir for water, researchers conducted experiments on water-rich ringwoodite, analyzed seismic waves travelling through the mantle beneath the United States, and studied numerical models. They discovered that downward-flowing mantle material is melting as it crosses the boundary between the transition zone and the lower mantle layer.

"If we are seeing this melting, then there has to be this water in the transition zone," said Brandon Schmandt, a seismologist at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the new study published today (June 12) in the journal Science. “The transition zone can hold a lot of water, and could potentially have the same amount of H2O [water] as all the world’s oceans.” (Melting is a way of getting rid of water, which is unstable under conditions in Earth’s lower mantle, the researchers said.)

Full article

laboratoryequipment:

Museum Displays Cell Based, 3-D Printed Replica of van Gogh’s Ear

A German museum is displaying a copy of Vincent van Gogh’s ear that was grown using genetic material provided by one of the 19th century Dutch artist’s living relatives.

The Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe says artist Diemut Strebe made the replica using living cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. Using a 3-D printer, the cells were shaped to resemble the ear that Vincent van Gogh is said to have cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/museum-displays-cell-based-3-d-printed-replica-van-goghs-ear

(via afro-dominicano)

kenobi-wan-obi:

We’ll Find Alien Life in This Lifetime, Scientists Tell Congress

Humans have long wondered whether we are alone in the universe. According to scientists working with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, the question may be answered in the near future.

Image 1: SETI uses the Arecibo’s 305-meter telescope — the largest in the world — to scan the sky for signals from alien civilizations all year round. Credit: Arecibo Observatory/NSF

Image 2: Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of its star, is just one of the many potentially habitable planets in a galaxy teeming with satellites. Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

"It’s unproven whether there is any life beyond Earth," Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, said at a House Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing Wednesday (May 21). “I think that situation is going to change within everyone’s lifetime in this room.”

Scientists search for life beyond Earth using three different methods, Shostak said.

The first method involves the search for microbial extraterrestrials or their remains. Investigations include robotic missions to Mars, such as Curiosity and Opportunity, which are currently searching for signs that the Red Planet could once have hosted potentially habitable environments.

Local habitable worlds?

But Mars isn’t the only target in the solar system. In fact, Shostak said there are "at least half a dozen other worlds" in Earth’s neighborhood that have the potential to be habitable. Icy moons such as Jupiter’s Europa and Ganymede hide subsurface oceans, while Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, contains lakes of liquid methane, all of which could make the moons appealing homes for life.

A second technique involves examining the atmospheres of planets in orbit around other stars for traces of oxygen or methane or other gases that could be produced by biological processes. As an observed planet passes between Earth and its sun, a thick enough atmosphere has the potential to be detected.

Shostak said both of these methods could yield results in the next two decades.

The third plan involves searching not just for life, but also for intelligent life — a project that SETI pioneers. By scouring the universe for signals in a variety of spectrums, SETI hopes to find intentional or accidental broadcasts from extraterrestrial civilizations.

Determining the success rate of such a program is difficult, but Shostak said that the best estimates suggest that a reasonable chance of success would come after examining a few million star systems. So far, SETI has examined less than 1 percent of those star systems. However, Shostak expects that number to increase as technology advances.

"Given predicted advances in technology, looking at a few million star systems can be done in the next 20 years," he said.

"Teeming with … life"

NASA’s Kepler telescope has revealed that planets are abundant in the galaxy. Each of the 4 billion stars in our galaxy has an average of 1.6 planets in orbit around it, with one out of five of those planets are likely to be “Earth cousins.” That means there are tens of billions of potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way alone.

"If this is the only planet on which not only life, but intelligent life, has arisen, that would be very unusual," Shostak said.

On Earth, life arose in the first billion years of the planet’s 4.5-billion-year history. Its rapid origination suggests that it could arise quickly elsewhere as well, which could result in a profusion of life on planets across the galaxy.

"I suspect that the universe is teeming with microbial life," Dan Werthimer, director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, told the committee.

How much of that life might be intelligent is another question altogether.

On one hand, although life arose early in Earth’s existence, complex — and then intelligent — life took much longer to develop.

"This place has been carpeted with life, and almost all that time, it required a microscope to see it," Shostak said.

However, Werthimer noted that intelligent life evolved in several species on Earth. He suggested that some planets evolve selective pressures that guide evolution toward different characteristics. On one planet, it may be most beneficial for life to be fast, while on others, it might need to be strong to survive.

"I think there are going to be some planets in the universe where it’s advantageous to be smart," Werthimer said.

Hunting for intelligence

Werthimer outlined several of the programs SETI utilizes in its search for intelligent life. The most well known of these is its use of the largest telescope in the world, the 1,000-foot (305 meters) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Although most astronomers would feel lucky to obtain a day of observations with the instrument, scientists at SETI have figured out how to “piggyback” their research onto other observations, allowing for virtually continuous observation of the universe.

It requires a significant amount of computing power to churn through the resulting data in search of signals. In 1999, SETI@home was released to allow members of the public to put their computer to work when it might otherwise be idle. Today, 8.4 million users in 226 countries have the program running as a screensaver.

"Together, the volunteers have created the most powerful supercomputer on the planet," Werthimer said.

When asked about potential safety issues with downloading the program, Werthimer said, "In my opinion, SETI@home is one of the safest things you can install on the computer." He pointed to the millions of users who have put it through its paces over the last 15 years. On top of that, the program is open source, which means that anyone can examine it for viruses or potential problems in the code.

In the next few months, SETI will launch its Panchromatic SETI program, using six telescopes to scour the skies for signals in a variety of wavelengths, including radio, optical and infrared.

"This will be an extremely comprehensive search," Werthimer said.

Another program seeks to eavesdrop on potential communications between two bodies in an alien solar system. Just as NASA sends signals to the Curiosity rover on Mars, or would need to communicate with a future outpost on another body in the solar system, alien civilizations may be in the process of exploring or colonizing their own neighborhood. By using information from Kepler, SETI scientists can observe when two planets line up in another system and attempt to eavesdrop on potential signals.

By relying on a multitude of technologies in the search for advanced alien civilizations, SETI hopes to increase its odds of finding intelligent life beyond the solar system. Programs continue to evolve alongside technology, as SETI attempts to put a new one in play each year.

"I think the best strategy is a multiple-[pronged] strategy," Werthimer said. "We should be looking for all kinds of different signals and not put all of our eggs in one basket."

Shostak agreed, and noted that dated technology, such as radio signals, may not necessarily be obsolete.

"One shouldn’t discount a technology just because it’s been around awhile," he said. "We use the wheel every day."

If scientists were to discover a signal that might potentially stem from an alien civilization, the news would spread fairly rapidly. SETI might ask observers at another observatory to verify the data before officially announcing it, but such news would never stay under wraps for long.

"The public has the idea that the government has a secret plan for what we would do if we picked up a signal," Shostak said.

But he said he’s received no calls or clandestine visits for the false alarms SETI has already observed.

In fact, Shostak said the news will spread before it can be fully verified.

"There will be false alarms," he said.

But what about the funding? Read the full story at LiveScience

(via afro-dominicano)

laboratoryequipment:

In May, You Won’t Have to Stay up Late to See Planets

This month’s sky will feature great views of Saturn and Mars all night long and a possible new meteor shower.

Mars dims and shrinks in diameter quite a bit this month, but it’s easy to spot high in the Southern sky. Saturn reaches opposition on May 10, rising at sunset and setting just before sunrise. This month the north side of the ring plane is tilted 21.7 degrees, providing a beautiful view of the planet’s north pole. Even through modest telescopes, you can see some detail on the pole.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/videos/2014/05/may-you-won%E2%80%99t-have-stay-late-see-planets

kenobi-wan-obi:

The Changing Colors of the Universe

We know we live in an expanding universe but it’s also changing colour and has been doing so for billions of years.

Take a look at a Hubble image (above) of the distant universe and you will see hundreds of galaxies that come in a variety of shapes and colours. So what are we seeing?

Stretching light

In our expanding universe, galaxies are rushing away from us at vast speeds. Nearby galaxies, only millions of light years from Earth, are speeding away at hundreds of kilometres every second. More distant galaxies, billions of light years away, are rushing away at speeds in excess of 100,000 kilometres every second.

A natural consequence of this rapid expansion is the stretching of light via the Doppler Effect.

This stretching of light is similar to the stretching of sound waves here on Earth. The pitch of the sound from a motorcycle is lowered as it moves away from you. Just as sound waves are stretched (lower pitch) as a motorcycle races away, the light waves are stretched (redder light) as a distant galaxy races away.

(via afro-dominicano)

laboratoryequipment:

Mom’s Diet Impacts Child’s DNAA mother’s diet before conception can permanently affect how her child’s genes function, according to a study published in Nature Communications. The first such evidence of the effect in humans opens up the possibility that a mother’s diet before pregnancy could permanently affect many aspects of her children’s lifelong health.Researchers from the MRC International Nutrition Group, based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and MRC Unit, The Gambia, utilized a unique, “experiment of nature,” in rural Gambia, where the population’s dependence on own grown foods and a markedly seasonal climate impose a large difference in people’s dietary patterns between rainy and dry seasons.Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/moms-diet-impacts-childs-dna

laboratoryequipment:

Mom’s Diet Impacts Child’s DNA

A mother’s diet before conception can permanently affect how her child’s genes function, according to a study published in Nature Communications. The first such evidence of the effect in humans opens up the possibility that a mother’s diet before pregnancy could permanently affect many aspects of her children’s lifelong health.

Researchers from the MRC International Nutrition Group, based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and MRC Unit, The Gambia, utilized a unique, “experiment of nature,” in rural Gambia, where the population’s dependence on own grown foods and a markedly seasonal climate impose a large difference in people’s dietary patterns between rainy and dry seasons.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/moms-diet-impacts-childs-dna