The Science Thread

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  • its the most important human endeavor

  • I dont have to believe in what I cant understand


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Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
just a dumping ground for scientific articles and discussion

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/tech...ly-exist-scientists-say/ar-AAu227S?li=BBnb7Kz

The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say

The universe as we know it should not exist, scientists working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have said.

After performing the most precise experiments on antiprotons that have ever been carried out, researchers have discovered a symmetry in nature that they say just shouldn’t be possible.

One of the big questions about the universe is how the first matter formed after the Big Bang. Because particles and antiparticles annihilate one another when they come into contact, if there were exactly equal measures of both, the universe wouldn’t exist—at least not in the form we see it today. As such, there must be an imbalance between particles and antiparticles, even if it is only by the tiniest fraction.

But this is not the case. All experiments designed to find this asymmetry have come up blank. This is also true of the latest, which were recently carried out at CERN by an international team of researchers. The findings from the BASE (Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment) are published in the journal Nature.

"All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist," first author Christian Smorra, from Japan’s RIKEN institute, said in a statement.

In the study, researchers used antiprotons that had been isolated in 2015. The antiprotons were measured using the interaction of two traps that use electrical and magnetic fields to capture them. The team was able to measure the magnetic force of the antiproton to a level that is 350 times more precise than ever before.

If there was an imbalance between protons and antiprotons, this level of precision would be the best bet for finding it. "At its core, the question is whether the antiproton has the same magnetism as a proton," said Stefan Ulmer, spokesperson of the BASE group. "This is the riddle we need to solve."

"The measurement of antiprotons was extremely difficult and we had been working on it for 10 years. The final breakthrough came with the revolutionary idea of performing the measurement with two particles."

After finding no asymmetry between particles and antiparticles, the researchers will now work to develop even higher-precision measurements of protons and antiprotons to improve on the latest findings. "An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is. What is the source of the symmetry break?" Smorra said.


https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/tech...ints-at-unknown-physics/ar-AAu3Wcl?li=BBnb7Kz

Dark Matter In Galaxy Clusters Hints At Unknown Physics

As if dark matter wasn’t already mysterious and elusive enough, a theoretical variant takes it to a whole new level — exotic dark matter. It is thought to exist at the cores of galaxy clusters and phenomena that can be ascribed to it hint at the existence of fundamental physics that we still don’t know about.

Galaxy clusters are exactly what the name suggests — massive clusters that contain thousands of galaxies and hot gas — and are the largest cosmic structures in the universe. According to present-day models of dark matter, the centers of these clusters are extremely dense and they all have one huge galaxy that never moves away from the cluster’s core.

All galaxy clusters also contain one brightest cluster galaxy, which is brighter than all the other galaxies in the cluster. The BCG (generally an elliptical galaxy; they are among the most massive galaxies in the universe) is thought to have formed as a result of merger between a number of smaller galaxies within the cluster.

According to the dark matter theory derived from the Standard Model (this dark matter is called “cold dark matter”), the large density of dark matter at a galaxy cluster’s core tightly binds the BCG to the center. But in a paper published online Thursday, researchers used observations of 10 galaxy clusters, along with simulations, that show the BCG continues to wobble long after the rest of the cluster has relaxed following the merging of galaxy clusters.

The team of researchers that carried out the simulations was led by David Harvey from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.

“We found that that the BCGs ‘slosh’ around at the bottom of the halos. This indicates that, instead of a dense region in the center of the galaxy cluster, there is a much shallower central density — a striking signal of exotic forms of dark matter right at the heart of galaxy clusters,” Harvey said in a statement Thursday.

The researchers plan to observe a larger number of galaxy clusters in the future to “determine if BCG wobbling originates in new fundamental physics or a novel astrophysical phenomenon.”

The massive size of galaxy clusters helps astronomers observe them. The gravity generated by their bulk makes them act as gravitational lenses, which bend light that passes through them, allowing scientists to create a map of dark matter within them. This, in turn, allows for figuring out where the cluster center is and also observing the BCG wobble around it.

Dark matter, which has never been directly observed but only indirectly inferred, accounts for 85 percent of all the mass in the observable universe, and for 27 percent of all matter and energy. Dark energy, on the other hand, constitutes an overwhelming 68 percent of the universe, while the regular matter and energy we interact with, given our physical senses and current technology, accounts for less than 5 percent of totality of the universe.

The paper, titled “A detection of wobbling Brightest Cluster Galaxies within massive galaxy clusters," appeared in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. A copy is available on the preprint server arXiv.
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/27/us/mystery-object-solar-system-trnd/index.html

This mystery object may be our first visitor from another solar system

Astronomers around the world are trying to track down a small, fast-moving object that is zipping through our solar system.
Is a comet? An asteroid? NASA's not sure. The space agency doesn't even know where it came from, but it's not behaving like the local space rocks and that means it may not be from our solar system.
If that's confirmed, NASA says "it would be the first interstellar object to be observed and confirmed by astronomers."



"We have been waiting for this day for decades," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said in a NASA news release. "It's long been theorized that such objects exist -- asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system -- but this is the first such detection. So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it."
NASA says astronomers are pointing telescopes on the ground and in space at the object to get that data.
For now, the object is being called A/2017 U1. Experts think it's less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and it's racing through space at 15.8 miles (25.5 kilometers) per second.
It was discovered October 19 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii.
Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, was the first to identify the object and immediately realized there was something different about it.
"Its motion could not be explained using either a normal solar system asteroid or comet orbit," he said. "This object came from outside our solar system."
Whatever "it" is, the object isn't a threat to Earth.
NASA say that on October 14, it safely passed our home world at a distance of about 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) -- that's about 60 times the distance to the moon.
Where's it going? Scientists think the object is heading toward the constellation Pegasus and is on its way out of our solar system.
"This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen," said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. "It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back."
"It" may eventually get a better name than A/2017 U1, but since the object is the first of its kind, the International Astronomical Union will have to come up with new rules for naming the object.
 
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Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/tech...ramid-using-cosmic-rays/ar-AAulYAm?li=BBnb7Kz

An Unknown 'Void' Found in the Great Pyramid Using Cosmic Rays

On the Giza Plateau in Egypt rise three large pyramids—the tallest and oldest of which is the Pyramid of Khufu. It is also known as simply the Great Pyramid of Giza. You know what it looks like. It’s one of the seven great wonders of the world.

Yet, for all its fame and antiquity, so many questions remain. How was it built? Why is there nothing in the pyramid, except a broken sarcophagus missing its lid? Could there be anything else hidden inside this massive structure? In the absence of information, there is of course ferocious speculation. And now, an intriguing new piece of information: the discovery, announced today, of a large, previously unknown “void” in the Great Pyramid.

This discovery comes by way of cosmic rays. When these high-energy rays hit atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, they send subatomic particles called muons shooting toward the ground. The muons can be slowed down by large masses—like the rocks that make up the Great Pyramid. And if muons pass through a cavity inside a large mass, that cavity will show up on muon detectors, too. Three groups of particle physicists using three different techniques patiently tracked muon patterns over several months—gathering evidence that a large cavity lurked in the middle of the pyramid.




1/4 SLIDES © Provided by Atlantic Media Company

It is an incredible—and incredibly expensive—technical feat. ScanPyramids is a project of Cairo University and the Heritage Innovation Preservation (HIP) Institute, the latter of which is funded by a number of private technology and media companies.
As for what it all means, Egyptologists are being very cautious. “The significance of it is still an open question. Even the shape of the void is not quite clear yet,” says Peter Der Manuelian , an Egyptologist at Harvard University, who was not involved with the study.

In fact, the study’s authors exhorted journalists, please, please do not call it a secret chamber. “We know it is a void, but we don’t want to use the word ‘chamber,’” says Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the HIP Institute and an author on the paper. Their caution maybe sharpened by the reaction to a press release last October extolling their preliminary results, which media reports quickly turned into speculation about “secret chambers.”

The new void is above the Grand Gallery—a passage with 28-foot vaulted ceilings leading to the King’s Chamber. The ScanPyramids group first saw hints of a void when they placed nuclear-emulsion film in the Queen’s Chamber, the room below the King’s Chamber. Nuclear-emulsion film records muons, not unlike how ordinary photographic film records photons. The team could see the Grand Gallery and the King’s Chamber in their muon pattern, but they also saw an anomaly. Two other teams of physicists—using instruments that detect muons passing through plastic arrays or argon—then verified this anomaly.

Using muons to study pyramids isn’t an entirely new idea. In the 1960s, future physics Nobel Prize winner Luis Alvarez took his early muon detector to the Pyramid of Khafre. He did not find any secret chambers or even unexpected anomalies. But the idea has lived on, and scientists have used muography to study volcanoes and man-made structures.

The ScanPyramids paper published in the scientific journal Nature is heavy on particle physics and deliberately light on archaeology. Hany Helal, an engineer at Cairo University and a member of the ScanPyramids team, says he is organizing a seminar in Egypt later this year, where archaeologists can come and debate the significance of the void for the pyramid’s construction.

Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass, two members of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities’ scientific committee, to whom ScanPyramids presented it results earlier this year, both told me they suspected the void to be a “construction gap.” All of the chambers and major passageways of the pyramid are aligned along one vertical plane. In order to build the chambers and fill in the rest of the pyramid simultaneously, workers may have worked along what is essentially a trench that allowed them continual access to the King’s Chamber and Grand Gallery. A construction gap could be a remnant of the trench. So it is not surprising, they say, that a void from the construction gap might appear in the space above the Grand Gallery.

In contacting Egyptologists for this story, I could sense a weariness and wariness in their responses. Weariness because claims about hidden chambers in pyramids surface all the time.

The thing to understand, says Lehner, is “the pyramid is more Swiss cheese than cheddar.” That’s only a slight exaggeration, he adds. The inside of the Great Pyramid is filled with stones of irregular sizes, so there are numerous small gaps. In this case, he agrees the void appears to be large enough as to be deliberate, like a construction gap. But many people before have found evidence of a small cavity in the pyramid and gone on to speculate wildly about secret chambers. Lehner said he found ScanPyramids’ characterization of a different anomaly on the pyramid’s north face as a “corridor” to be premature.

The wariness, on the other hand, seems to stem from the project’s origins. Tayoubi, the president and cofounder of the HIP Institute, is also a VP at Dassault Systèmes, a French 3-D-design software company. In 2005, he teamed up to visualize the Great Pyramid construction site with architect Jean-Pierre Houdin, whose idea that the pyramids were built using a series of ramps is not accepted by mainstream archaeologists. (He has since also worked with Der Manuelian at Harvard to reconstruct the Giza Plateau in 3-D.) Funding for the HIP Institute comes from a number of companies, including: Dassault, Japan’s national broadcasting agency, a watch company, a VR company, and a hotel near Giza.

Hawass, who is also a former Egyptian minister of antiquities, and an outsized, outspoken, and sometimes controversial figure in Egyptology, was blunt—his bluntness perhaps the result of longstanding frustration. “Everybody who comes to the pyramid,” he says, “either they’re looking for fame or they want to make experiments with their equipment and the equipment belongs to a company, and the company can make money.”

In an interview, Tayoubi acknowledged he is no Egyptologist, and he now assiduously avoided speculation on how the pyramid was built. He did want to tout the technologies used in the study, though not by company name. “We love innovation,” he says, “This mission is about better understanding the pyramid, but above all it’s about innovation,” he says. He likened studying the pyramid to space exploration—an endeavor driven by pure wonder that may nevertheless result in practical innovations in fields like muography and robotics. In fact, the ScanPyramids project is already designing its next piece of technology, a robot to explore inside the pyramid.

New technology might one day crack some of the questions about the Great Pyramid. But so much of its appeal may just be how little we know, despite its prominence and endurance. A mystery right in front of us, daring us to solve it.
 

Neganomics

Your Trusted Web M.Deezy
Joined
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Location
Chicago
To be clear, nothing from MSN or CNN could accurately be called a “scientific article”, even if the article covers a scientific concept.
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
OK then

www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41845445

'Big void' identified in Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza

The mysteries of the pyramids have deepened with the discovery of what appears to be a giant void within the Khufu, or Cheops, monument in Egypt.

It is not known why the cavity exists or indeed if it holds anything of value because it is not obviously accessible.

Japanese and French scientists made the announcement after two years of study at the famous pyramid complex.

They have been using a technique called muography, which can sense density changes inside large rock structures.

The Great Pyramid, or Khufu's Pyramid, was constructed during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu between 2509 and 2483 BC.

At 140m (460 feet) in height, it is the largest of the Egyptian pyramids located at Giza on the outskirts of Cairo.


  • ScanPyramids has already detected a smaller void on the northern face
  • The new cavity is perhaps 30m long and several metres in height
  • All three muon technologies sense the same feature in the same place
Khufu famously contains three large interior chambers and a series of passageways, the most striking of which is the 47m-long, 8m-high Grand Gallery.

The newly identified feature is said to sit directly above this and have similar dimensions.

"We don't know whether this big void is horizontal or inclined; we don't know if this void is made by one structure or several successive structures," explained Mehdi Tayoubi from the HIP Institute, Paris.

"What we are sure about is that this big void is there; that it is impressive; and that it was not expected as far as I know by any sort of theory."

The ScanPyramids team is being very careful not to describe the cavity as a "chamber".

Khufu contains compartments that experts believe may have been incorporated by the builders to avoid collapse by relieving some of the stress of the overlying weight of stone.

The higher King's Chamber, for example, has five such spaces above it.

The renowned American archaeologist Mark Lehner sits on a panel reviewing ScanPyramids' work.

He says the muon science is sound but he is not yet convinced the discovery has significance.

"It could be a kind of space that the builders left to protect the very narrow roof of the grand gallery from the weight of the pyramid," he told the BBC's Science In Action programme.

"Right now it's just a big difference; it's an anomaly. But we need more of a focus on it especially in a day and age when we can no longer go blasting our way through the pyramid with gunpowder as [British] Egyptologist Howard Vyse did in the early 1800s."

One of the team leaders, Hany Helal from Cairo University, believes the void is too big to have a pressure-relieving purpose, but concedes the experts will debate this.

"What we are doing is trying to understand the internal structure of the pyramids and how this pyramid has been built," he told reporters.

"Famous Egyptologists, archaeologists and architects - they have some hypotheses. And what we are doing is giving them data. It is they who have to tell us whether this is expected or not."

Much of the uncertainty comes down to the rather imprecise data gained from muography.

This non-invasive technique has been developed over the past 50 years to probe the interiors of phenomena as diverse as volcanoes and glaciers. It has even been used to investigate the failed nuclear reactors at Fukushima.

Muography makes use of the shower of high-energy particles that rain down on the Earth's surface from space.

When super-fast cosmic rays collide with air molecules, they produce a range of "daughter" particles, including muons.

These also move close to the speed of light and only weakly interact with matter. So when they reach the surface, they penetrate deeply into rock.

But some of the particles will be absorbed and deflected by the atoms in the rock's minerals, and if the muon detectors are placed under a region of interest then a picture of density anomalies can be obtained.

Image copyright SCANPYRAMIDS
Image caption The muon detectors have to be placed under the region of interest
The ScanPyramids team used three different muography technologies and all three agreed on the position and scale of the void.

Sébastien Procureur, from CEA-IRFU, University of Paris-Saclay, emphasised that muography only sees large features, and that the team's scans were not just picking up a general porosity inside the pyramid.

"With muons you measure an integrated density," he explained. "So, if there are holes everywhere then the integrated density will be the same, more or less, in all directions, because everything will be averaged. But if you see some excess of muons, it means that you have a bigger void.

"You don't get that in a Swiss cheese."

The question now arises as to how the void should be investigated further.

Jean-Baptiste Mouret, from the French national institute for computer science and applied mathematics (Inria), said the team had an idea how to do it, but that the Egyptian authorities would first have to approve it.

"Our concept is to drill a very small hole to potentially explore monuments like this. We aim to have a robot that could fit in a 3cm hole. Basically, we're working on flying robots," he said.

The muography investigation at Khufu's Pyramid is reported in this week's edition of Nature magazine.
[DOUBLEPOST=1509655129,1509649739][/DOUBLEPOST][DOUBLEPOST=1509733188][/DOUBLEPOST]www.bbc.com/news/health-41847030

Scientists find key to unwanted thoughts

Have you ever wanted to stop ruminating on something and just been unable to?

Scientists could have the secret. They have identified a chemical in the brain's "memory" region that allows us to suppress unwanted thoughts.

The discovery may help explain why some people can't shift persistent intrusive thoughts - a common symptom of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia.

Researchers say controlling our thoughts is "fundamental to wellbeing".

Associated words
Prof Michael Anderson, from the University of Cambridge, who conducted the study, said: "When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases - intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and persistent worries."

Participants were asked to learn to associate a series of words with a paired, but otherwise unconnected, word - for example ordeal/roach and moss/north.

After this, they had to respond to either a red or green signal. If it was green, they were expected to recall the associated word but if it was red, they were asked to stop themselves from doing so.

Their brains were monitored using both functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which detects changes in blood flow, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which measures chemical changes in the brain.


Researchers found a particular chemical, or neurotransmitter, known as Gaba, held the key.

Gaba is the brain's main "inhibitory" neurotransmitter. That means, when it's released by one nerve cell it suppresses the activities of other cells to which it is connected.

They found people who had the highest concentrations of Gaba in their brain's hippocampus (or memory hub) were best at blocking unwanted thoughts or memories.

"What's exciting about this is that now we're getting very specific," said Prof Anderson.

"Before, we could only say 'this part of the brain acts on that part', but now we can say which neurotransmitters are likely to be important."

New approaches to treatment
The discovery might shed light on a number of conditions, from schizophrenia to PTSD, in which sufferers have a pathological inability to control thoughts - such as excessive worrying or rumination.

Prof Anderson believes the findings could offer a new approach to treating these disorders. "Most of the focus has been on improving functioning of the prefrontal cortex," he said.

"Our study suggests that if you could improve Gaba activity within the hippocampus, this may help people to stop unwanted and intrusive thoughts."
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/tech...the-top-of-their-skulls/ar-AAupM98?li=BBnbfcL

Astronauts who take long trips to space return with brains that have floated to the top of their skulls

The vast majority of us spend our entire lives pulled down by gravity. Then there are astronauts.

This small population of space travelers has given researchers a rare look at what happens to the human body when it’s able to spend significant amount of time outside the downward pull of the Earth.This week, a study on one of the largest groups of astronauts yet—a whopping 34 participants—was published (paywall) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the new study, a team of international radiologists funded by NASA looked at MRIs of the brains of astronauts before and after their trips to space. The scientists found that upon returning to Earth, many of the astronauts’ brains had become repositioned inside their skulls, floating higher than before. In addition, the space between certain brain regions appeared to have shrunk. The changes were more common in astronauts who took longer trips into space.

The team characterized astronaut trips as short (an average of less than 14 days) or long (an average of about 165 days). Radiologists who didn’t know each astronaut’s duration in space compared MRIs from before and after their trips.

Of the 34 total astronauts involved in the study, 18 took long trips to space—spending most of that time on the International Space Station—and of those, 17 returned to Earth with smaller regions between the frontal and parietal lobe. The same area of the brain also shrunk for three of the 16 astronauts who took shorter trips with the US Space Shuttle Program. The researchers also found that 12 of the ISS astronauts and six of the space-shuttle astronauts returned home with their brains sitting slightly higher in their skulls than before.

It’s not clear what, if anything, these brain changes mean for the health of space travelers. In general, it appears the human body to tolerates space travel fairly well: the time astronauts have spent in zero-gravity environments so far doesn’t seem to have had any significant or long-lasting effects.

There have really only been minor complaints. Astronauts have complained about headaches in space before, which NASA chalked up to differences in pressure inside a person’s skull in space compared to Earth’s surface. Another small study of astronauts found that a buildup of brain fluid behind the eye socket seems to flatten the eyeball, which can impair vision. It could be that, without gravity, the fluids in our bodies reposition themselves around our organs, and that in turn puts pressure on them in ways we’re not used to experiencing on Earth. That said, researchers still aren’t sure if these fluid changes are totally responsible for these symptoms—it could be other aspects of space travel, like general stress, exhaustion, motion sickness, or different diets.

The open question, though, is how a human body would stand up on longer space trips, say to Mars.
and for @Neganomics

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1705129

Effects of Spaceflight on Astronaut Brain Structure as Indicated on MRI

Background
There is limited information regarding the effects of spaceflight on the anatomical configuration of the brain and on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) spaces.

Methods
We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare images of 18 astronauts’ brains before and after missions of long duration, involving stays on the International Space Station, and of 16 astronauts’ brains before and after missions of short duration, involving participation in the Space Shuttle Program. Images were interpreted by readers who were unaware of the flight duration. We also generated paired preflight and postflight MRI cine clips derived from high-resolution, three-dimensional imaging of 12 astronauts after long-duration flights and from 6 astronauts after short-duration flights in order to assess the extent of narrowing of CSF spaces and the displacement of brain structures. We also compared preflight ventricular volumes with postflight ventricular volumes by means of an automated analysis of T1-weighted MRIs. The main prespecified analyses focused on the change in the volume of the central sulcus, the change in the volume of CSF spaces at the vertex, and vertical displacement of the brain.

Results
Narrowing of the central sulcus occurred in 17 of 18 astronauts after long-duration flights (mean flight time, 164.8 days) and in 3 of 16 astronauts after short-duration flights (mean flight time, 13.6 days) (P<0.001). Cine clips from a subgroup of astronauts showed an upward shift of the brain after all long-duration flights (12 astronauts) but not after short-duration flights (6 astronauts) and narrowing of CSF spaces at the vertex after all long-duration flights (12 astronauts) and in 1 of 6 astronauts after short-duration flights. "Neganomics may not even read this, he's too busy being knee deep" Three astronauts in the long-duration group had optic-disk edema, and all 3 had narrowing of the central sulcus. A cine clip was available for 1 of these 3 astronauts, and the cine clip showed upward shift of the brain.

Conclusions
Narrowing of the central sulcus, upward shift of the brain, and narrowing of CSF spaces at the vertex occurred frequently and predominantly in astronauts after long-duration flights. Further investigation, including repeated postflight imaging conducted after some time on Earth, is required to determine the duration and clinical significance of these changes. (Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.)
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/tech...gns-of-alien-technology/ar-BBGCXco?li=BBnb7Kz

Astronomers to check interstellar body for signs of alien technology

Astronomers are to use one of the world’s largest telescopes to check a mysterious object that is speeding through the solar system for signs of alien technology.

The Green Bank telescope in West Virginia will listen for radio signals being broadcast from a cigar-shaped body which was first spotted in the solar system in October. The body arrived from interstellar space and reached a peak speed of 196,000 mph as it swept past the sun.

Scientists on the Breakthrough Listen project, which searches for evidence of alien civilisations, said the Green Bank telescope would monitor the object, named ‘Oumuamua, from Wednesday. The first phase of observations is expected to last 10 hours and will tune in to four different radio transmission bands.

“Most likely it is of natural origin, but because it is so peculiar, we would like to check if it has any sign of artificial origin, such as radio emissions,” said Avi Loeb, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and an adviser to the Breakthrough Listen project. “If we do detect a signal that appears artificial in origin, we’ll know immediately.”

The interstellar body, the first to be seen in the solar system, was initially spotted by researchers on the Pan-Starrs telescope, which the University of Hawaii uses to scan the heavens for killer asteroids. Named after the Hawaiian word for “messenger”, the body was picked up as it swept past Earth at 85 times the distance to the moon.

While many astronomers believe the object is an interstellar asteroid, its elongated shape is unlike anything seen in the asteroid belt in our own solar system. Early observations of ‘Oumuamua show that it is about 400m long but only one tenth as wide. “It’s curious that the first object we see from outside the solar system looks like that,” said Loeb.

"> The object’s orbit
The body is now about twice as far from Earth as the sun, but from that distance the Green Bank telescope can still detect transmissions as weak as those produced by a mobile phone. Loeb said that while he did not expect Green Bank to detect an alien transmission, it was worth checking.

“The chances that we’ll hear something are very small, but if we do, we will report it immediately and then try to interpret it,” Loeb said. “It would be prudent just to check and look for signals. Even if we find an artefact that was left over and there are no signs of life on it, that would be the greatest thrill I can imagine having in my lifetime. It’s really one of the fundamental questions in science, perhaps the most fundamental: are we alone?”

The Breakthrough Listen project was launched at the Royal Society in London in 2015, when the Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking announced the effort to listen for signs of life on planets that orbit the million stars closest to Earth. The $100m project is funded by the internet billionaire Yuri Milner, and has secured time on telescopes in the US and Australia to search for alien civilisations.

Astronomers do not have good ideas about how such elongated objects could be created in asteroid belts. By studying ‘Oumuamua more closely, they hope to learn how they might form and whether there are others in the solar system that have so far gone unnoticed. “If it’s of natural origin, there should be many more of them,” Loeb said.

Previous work on the body found it to be extremely dark red, absorbing about 96% of light that falls on it. The colour is associated with carbon-based molecules on comets and asteroids.

If, as expected, the telescope fails to pick up any intelligent broadcasts from ‘Oumuamua, the observations are still expected to aid scientists in understanding the body. Other signals detected by the Green Bank telescope could shed light on whether the object is shrouded in a comet-like cloud of gas, and reveal whether it is carrying water and ice through the solar system.
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
https://www.sciencealert.com/science-how-blue-eyes-get-their-colour

This Is The Fascinating Way Blue Eyes Get Their Colour

Your eyes aren't blue (or green) because they contain pigmented cells.

As Paul Van Slembrouck writes for Medium, their colour is actually structural - and it involves some pretty interesting physics.

The coloured part of your eye is called the iris, and it's made up of two layers - the epithelium at the back and the stroma at the front.

The epithelium is only two cells thick and contains black-brown pigments - the dark specks that some people have in their eye is, in fact, the epithelium peaking through.

The stroma, in contrast, is made up of colourless collagen fibres. Sometimes the stroma contains a dark pigment called melanin, and sometimes it contains excess collagen deposits.

And, fascinatingly, it's these two factors that control your eye colour.

Brown eyes, for example, contain a high concentration of melanin in their stroma, which absorbs most of the light entering the eye regardless of collagen deposits, giving them their dark colour.

Green eyes don't have much melanin in them, but they also have no collagen deposits.

This means that while some of the light entering them is absorbed by the pigment, the particles in the stroma also scatter light as a result of something called the Tyndall effect, which creates a blue hue (it's similar to Rayleigh scattering which makes the sky look blue).

Combined with the brown melanin, this results in the eyes appearing green.

Blue eyes are potentially the most fascinating, as their colour is entirely structural.

People with blue eyes have a completely colourless stroma with no pigment at all, and it also contains no excess collagen deposits.

This means that all the light that enters it is scattered back into the atmosphere and as a result of the Tyndall effect, creates a blue hue.

Interestingly, this means that blue eyes don't actually have a set colour - it all depends on the amount of light available when you look at them.

Structural colouration also gives colour to butterflies, beef and berries.https://medium.com/@ptvan/structural-eye-color-is-amazing-24f47723bf9a

It's pretty mind-blowing stuff.

Van Slembrouck writes for Medium:

"Imagine that you could shrink yourself to a microscopic size and then climb through the mesh of fibres in the stroma. That's where structural colouration is coming from…

… and in the mesh are also strands of smooth muscle tissue that contract to dilate (expand) the pupil, pulling the inner edge of the iris toward the outer edge. When this happens, the stroma fibres slacken and may become wiggly as tension is released. This makes me wonder, does that slightly alter the colour of your eye as well?"

Check out Van Slembrouck's great story to find out how hazel and grey eyes get their colour, and also to check out his beautiful diagrams that explain structural colouring.
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
www.bbc.com/future/story/20180118-the-boy-who-stayed-awake-for-11-days

In December 1963 two boys hit upon an idea for a school science project – stay awake for as long as possible. And it shed new light on what happens inside our tired brains.

At the tail end of 1963 in America, the Beach Boys were playing on the radio, the Vietnam War had begun to draw in US involvement, high school kids were on their Christmas break and two teenagers were planning an experiment that would capture the nation’s attention.

It ended on 8 January 1964; 17-year-old Randy Gardner had managed to stay awake for 11 days and 25 minutes.

Bruce McAllister, one of the high school students who came up with the idea, says it stemmed from the simple need to come up with a science fair project. Teamed with the creativity and cockiness that goes with teenage years, Bruce and his friend Randy decided they wanted to beat the world record for staying awake – which at the time was held by a DJ in Honolulu, who'd managed 260 hours, or just under 11 days.

“[The] first version of it was [to explore] the effect of sleeplessness on paranormal ability,” McAllister explains. “We realised there was no way we could do that and so we decided on the effect of sleep deprivation on cognitive abilities, performance on the basketball court. Whatever we could come up with.”

They flipped a coin on who would stay awake and much to McAllister’s relief, he won the toss. But their naivety surfaced in how they planned to observe the effects on Randy.

“We were idiots, you know young idiots,” he says “and I stayed awake with him to monitor him… and after three night of sleeplessness myself I woke up tipped against the wall writing notes on the wall itself.”

The teenagers realised they needed a third person involved so they roped in another friend – Joe Marciano – to help out. Shortly after Marciano came on board, a sleep researcher called William Dement from Stanford University arrived.

I was probably the only person on the planet at the time who had actually done sleep research – William Dement

Dement is now an emeritus professor – but in 1964 he was just starting his research in the still new field of sleep science. He had read about the experiment in a San Diego newspaper and immediately wanted to get involved – much to the relief of Randy’s parents.

“I was probably the only person on the planet at the time who had actually done sleep research,” Dement says “[Randy’s parents] were very worried that this might be something that would really be harmful to him. Because the question was still unresolved on whether or not if you go without sleep long enough you will die.”

Our capacity to go without sleep is something that BBC Future has explored previously. Experiments on animals, such as one which kept cats awake for 15 days at which point they died, point to whether other factors such as stress or chemicals are the cause of death, rather than lack of sleep.

Indeed, McAllister insists that those experiments involved the use of chemicals, which muddied the results. “Randy had occasional Cokes but other than that, you know, no Dexedrine, Benzedrine, the du jour stimulants in those days,” he says.

Back to San Diego and by the time William Dement arrived a few days into the experiment, Randy was upbeat and didn’t seem particularly impaired. However, as the days wore on, the experiments they did on him threw up some unexpected results.

They tested his sense of taste, smell and hearing and after a while his cognitive and sensory abilities began to be affected.

McAllister recalls Randy beginning to say: “Don’t make me smell that, I can’t stand the smell.” Surprisingly though, his basketball game got better although this could be down to the amount he was playing.

“He was physically very fit,” says Dement. “So we could always get him going by playing basketball or going bowling, things like that. If he closed his eyes he would be immediately asleep.” Night time was harder as there was nothing to do and they had a terrible time keeping him awake.

As all this was happening, attention from the media began to gain momentum and for a brief time the boys’ experiment became the third most written-about story in the American national press – after the assassination of John F Kennedy and a visit by The Beatles.

Randy was taken off to a naval hospital where his brain waves were monitored

However, it was portrayed as a prank, in the same bracket as “telephone booth stuffing and goldfish swallowing”, according to McAllister. The students were very serious about it and pushed through. Eventually after 264 hours of no sleep, the world record was broken and the experiment was over.

Rather than curling up in his own bed to get some much needed rest, Randy was taken off to a naval hospital where his brain waves were monitored. McAllister describes what happened next.

“So he sleeps for 14 hours – we’re not surprised – [and] he wakes up, in fact, because he has to go to the bathroom. His first night his percentage of REM state sleep, which was at that point associated with dream-state sleep – it isn’t anymore – skyrocketed. Then the next night it dropped in percentage points until finally days later it returned to normal.

“And then he got up and went to high school… it was amazing,” Dement adds.

Randy’s results from the hospital were sent off to Arizona to be studied. McAllister says the results concluded that “his brain had been catnapping the entire time… parts of it would be asleep parts of it would be awake.”

For him it makes sense in the context of human evolution. “He wasn’t the first human being – or pre-human being – to have to stay awake for more than one night and that the human brain might evolve so that it could catnap – parts of it could catnap and restore – while parts of it were awake – made total sense. And that would explain why worse things didn’t happen,” he says.

A number of people tried to break Gardner’s record for the longest time anyone had stayed awake in the following years – but the Guinness Book of Records stopped certifying attempts, believing it could be dangerous to people's health.

Randy seemed to show no ill effects from his 11 days awake – although he later reported suffering from years of unbearable insomnia. At a press conference outside his parents’ home after the experiment had ended, the teenagers fielded questions from a huge crowd that had gathered.

The boy who hadn’t slept for 11 days somehow managed to be philosophical about his endeavour.

“It’s just mind over matter,” he said.
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
[DOUBLEPOST=1517291479,1517208181][/DOUBLEPOST]https://www.wired.com/story/35-billion-year-old-fossils-challenge-ideas-about-earths-start/

3.5 Billion-Year-Old Fossils Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start

In the arid, sun-soaked northwest corner of Australia, along the Tropic of Capricorn, the oldest face of Earth is exposed to the sky. Drive through the northern outback for a while, south of Port Hedlund on the coast, and you will come upon hills softened by time. They are part of a region called the Pilbara Craton, which formed about 3.5 billion years ago, when Earth was in its youth.

Look closer. From a seam in one of these hills, a jumble of ancient, orange-Creamsicle rock spills forth: a deposit called the Apex Chert. Within this rock, viewable only through a microscope, there are tiny tubes. Some look like petroglyphs depicting a tornado; others resemble flattened worms. They are among the most controversial rock samples ever collected on this planet, and they might represent some of the oldest forms of life ever found.

Last month, researchers lobbed another salvo in the decades-long debate about the nature of these forms. They are indeed fossil life, and they date to 3.465 billion years ago, according to John Valley, a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin. If Valley and his team are right, the fossils imply that life diversified remarkably early in the planet’s tumultuous youth.

The fossils add to a wave of discoveries that point to a new story of ancient Earth. In the past year, separate teams of researchers have dug up, pulverized and laser-blasted pieces of rock that may contain life dating to 3.7, 3.95 and maybe even 4.28 billion years ago. All of these microfossils—or the chemical evidence associated with them—are hotly debated. But they all cast doubt on the traditional tale.

As that story goes, in the half-billion years after it formed, Earth was hellish and hot. The infant world would have been rent by volcanism and bombarded by other planetary crumbs, making for an environment so horrible, and so inhospitable to life, that the geologic era is named the Hadean, for the Greek underworld. Not until a particularly violent asteroid barrage ended some 3.8 billion years ago could life have evolved.

But this story is increasingly under fire. Many geologists now think Earth may have been tepid and watery from the outset. The oldest rocks in the record suggest parts of the planet’s crust had cooled and solidified by 4.4 billion years ago. Oxygen in those ancient rocks suggest the planet had water as far back as 4.3 billion years ago. And instead of an epochal, final bombardment, meteorite strikes might have slowly tapered off as the solar system settled into its current configuration.

“Things were actually looking a lot more like the modern world, in some respects, early on. There was water, potentially some stable crust. It’s not completely out of the question that there would have been a habitable world and life of some kind,” said Elizabeth Bell, a geochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Taken together, the latest evidence from the ancient Earth and from the moon is painting a picture of a very different Hadean Earth: a stoutly solid, temperate, meteorite-clear and watery world, an Eden from the very beginning.

Ancient Clues
About 4.54 billion years ago, Earth was forming out of dust and rocks left over from the sun’s birth. Smaller solar leftovers continually pelted baby Earth, heating it up and endowing it with radioactive materials, which further warmed it from within. Oceans of magma covered Earth’s surface. Back then, Earth was not so much a rocky planet as an incandescent ball of lava.

Not long after Earth coalesced, a wayward planet whacked into it with incredible force, possibly vaporizing Earth anew and forming the moon. The meteorite strikes continued, some excavating craters 1,000 kilometers across. In the standard paradigm of the Hadean eon, these strikes culminated in an assault dubbed the Late Heavy Bombardment, also known as the lunar cataclysm, in which asteroids emigrated to the inner solar system and pounded the rocky planets. Throughout this early era, ending about 3.8 billion years ago, Earth was molten and couldn’t support a crust of solid rock, let alone life.


Lucy Reading-Ikkanda/Quanta Magazine
But starting around a decade ago, this story started to change, thanks largely to tiny crystals called zircons. The gems, which are often about the size of the period at the end of this sentence, told of a cooler, wetter and maybe livable world as far back as 4.3 billion years ago. In recent years, fossils in ancient rock bolstered the zircons’ story of calmer climes. The tornadic microfossils of the Pilbara Craton are the latest example.

Today, the oldest evidence for possible life—which many scientists doubt or outright reject—is at least 3.77 billion years old and may be a stunningly ancient 4.28 billion years old.

In March 2017, Dominic Papineau, a geochemist at University College London, and his student Matthew Dodd described tubelike fossils in an outcrop in Quebec that dates to the basement of Earth’s history. The formation, called the Nuvvuagittuq (noo-voo-wog-it-tuck) Greenstone Belt, is a fragment of Earth’s primitive ocean floor. The fossils, about half the width of a human hair and just half a millimeter long, were buried within. They are made from an iron oxide called hematite and may be fossilized cities built by microbial communities up to 4.28 billion years ago, Dodd said.

“They would have formed these gelatinous, rusty-red-colored mats on the rocks around the vents,” he said. Similar structures exist in today’s oceans, where communities of microbes and bloody-looking tube worms blossom around sunless, black-smoking chimneys.

Dodd found the tubes near graphite and with carbonate “rosettes,” tiny carbon rings that contain organic materials. The rosettes can form through varying nonbiological processes, but Dodd also found a mineral called apatite, which he said is diagnostic of biological activity. The researchers also analyzed the variants, or isotopes, of carbon within the graphite. Generally, living things like to use the more lightweight isotopes, so an abundance of carbon 12 over carbon 13 can be used to infer past biological activity. The graphite near the rosettes also suggested the presence of life. Taken together, the tubes and their surrounding chemistry suggest they are remnants of a microbial community that lived near a deep-ocean hydrothermal vent, Dodd said.

Geologists debate the exact age of the rock belt where they were found, but they agree it includes one of the oldest, if not the oldest, iron formations on Earth. This suggests the fossils are that old, too—much older than anything found previously and much older than many scientists had thought possible.

Then in September 2017, researchers in Japan published an examination of graphite flakes from a 3.95-billion-year-old sedimentary rock called the Saglek Block in Labrador, Canada. Yuji Sano and Tsuyoshi Komiya of the University of Tokyo argued their graphite’s carbon-isotope ratio indicates it, too, was made by life. But the graphite flakes were not accompanied by any feature that looked like a fossil; what’s more, the history of the surrounding rock is murky, suggesting the carbon may be younger than it appears.

Farther to the east, in southwestern Greenland, another team had also found evidence of ancient life. In August 2016, Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong in Australia and colleagues reported finding stromatolites, fossil remains of microbes, from 3.7 billion years ago.

Many geologists have been skeptical of each claim. Nutman’s fossils, for example, come from the Isua belt in southern Greenland, home to the oldest known sedimentary rocks on Earth. But the Isua belt is tough to interpret. Just as nonbiological processes can form Dodd’s carbon rosettes, basic chemistry can form plenty of layered structures without any help from life, suggesting they may not be stromatolites but lifeless pretenders.

In addition, both the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt and the Isua belt have been heated and squished over billions of years, a process that melts and recrystallizes the rocks, morphing them from their original sedimentary state.

“I don’t think any of those other studies are wrong, but I don’t think any of them are proof,” said Valley, the Wisconsin researcher. “All we can say is [Nutman’s rocks] look like stromatolites, and that’s very enticing.”

Regarding his work with the Pilbara Craton fossils, however, Valley is much less circumspect.

Signs of Life
The tornadic microfossils lay in the Pilbara Craton for 3.465 billion years before being separated from their natal rock, packed up in a box and shipped to California. Paleobiologist William Schopf of UCLA published his discovery of the strange squiggles in 1993 and identified 11 distinct microbial taxa in the samples. Critics said the forms could have been made in nonbiological processes, and geologists have argued back and forth in the years since. Last year, Schopf sent a sample to Valley, who is an expert with a super-sensitive instrument for measuring isotope ratios called a secondary ion mass spectrometer.

Valley’s team found that some of the apparent fossils had the same carbon-isotope ratio as modern photosynthetic bacteria. Three other types of fossils had the same ratios as methane-eating or methane-producing microbes. Moreover, the isotope ratios correlate to specific species that had already been identified by Schopf. The locations where these isotope ratios were measured corresponded to the shapes of the microfossils themselves, Valley said, adding they are the oldest samples that look like fossils both physically and chemically.

part 1
[DOUBLEPOST=1517291551][/DOUBLEPOST]
While they are not the oldest samples in the record—supposing you accept the provenance of the rocks described by Dodd, Komiya and Nutman—Schopf’s and Valley’s cyclonic miniatures do have an important distinction: They are diverse. The presence of so many different carbon isotope ratios suggests the rock represents a complex community of primitive organisms. The life-forms must have had time to evolve into endless iterations. This means they must have originated even earlier than 3.465 billion years ago. And that means our oldest ancestors are very, very old indeed.

Watery World
Fossils were not the first sign that early Earth might have been Edenic rather than hellish. The rocks themselves started providing that evidence as far back as 2001. That year, Valley found zircons that suggested the planet had a crust as far back as 4.4 billion years ago.

Zircons are crystalline minerals containing silicon, oxygen, zirconium and sometimes other elements. They form inside magma, and like some better-known carbon crystals, zircons are forever—they can outlast the rocks they form in and withstand eons of unspeakable pressure, erosion and deformation. As a result, they are the only rocks left over from the Hadean, making them invaluable time capsules.

Valley chipped some out of Western Australia’s Jack Hills and found oxygen isotopes that suggested the crystal formed from material that was altered by liquid water. This suggested part of Earth’s crust had cooled, solidified and harbored water at least 400 million years earlier than the earliest known sedimentary rocks. If there was liquid water, there were likely entire oceans, Valley said. Other zircons showed the same thing.

“The Hadean was not hell-like. That’s what we learned from the zircons. Sure, there were volcanoes, but they were probably surrounded by oceans. There would have been at least some dry land,” he said.

Zircons suggest there may even have been life.

In research published in 2015, Bell and her coauthors presented evidence for graphite embedded within a tiny, 4.1-billion-year-old zircon crystal from the same Jack Hills. The graphite’s blend of carbon isotopes hints at biological origins, although the finding is—once again—hotly debated.

“Are there other explanations than life? Yeah, there are,” Bell said. “But this is what I would consider the most secure evidence for some sort of fossil or biogenic structure.”


An X-ray of a 4.1-billion-year-old sample of zircon reveals dark spots made by carbon deposits.
Crystal Shi/Stanford University Department of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences
If the signals in the ancient rocks are true, they are telling us that life was everywhere, always. In almost every place scientists look, they are finding evidence of life and its chemistry, whether it is in the form of fossils themselves or the remnants of life’s long-ago stirrings. Far from fussy and delicate, life may have taken hold in the worst conditions imaginable.

“Life was managing to do interesting things at the same time Earth was dealing with the worst impacts it’s ever had,” said Bill Bottke, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Or maybe not. Maybe Earth was just fine. Maybe those impacts weren’t quite as rapid-fire as everyone thought.

Evidence for a Beating
We know Earth, and everything else, was bombarded by asteroids in the past. The moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury all bear witness to this primordial pummeling. The question is when, and for how long.

Based largely on Apollo samples toted home by moonwalking astronauts, scientists came to believe that in the Earth’s Hadean age, there were at least two distinct epochs of solar system billiards. The first was the inevitable side effect of planet making: It took some time for the planets to sweep up the biggest asteroids and for Jupiter to gather the rest into the main asteroid belt.

The second came later. It began sometime between 500 and 700 million years after the solar system was born and finally tapered off around 3.8 billion years ago. That one is called the Late Heavy Bombardment, or the lunar cataclysm.

As with most things in geochemistry, evidence for a world-rending blitz, an event on the hugest scales imaginable, is derived from the very, very small. Isotopes of potassium and argon in Apollo samples suggested bits of the moon suddenly melted some 500 million years after it formed. This was taken as evidence that it was blasted within an inch of its life.

Zircons also provide tentative physical evidence of a late-era hellscape. Some zircons do contain “shocked” minerals, evidence for extreme heat and pressure that can be indicative of something horrendous. Many are younger than 3 billion years, but Bell found one zircon suggesting rapid, extreme heating around 3.9 billion years ago—a possible signature of the Late Heavy Bombardment. “All we know is there is a group of recrystallized zircons at this time period. Given the coincidence with the Late Heavy Bombardment, it was too hard not to say that maybe this is connected,” she said. “But to really establish that, we will need to look at zircon records at other localities around the planet.”

So far, there are no other signs, said Aaron Cavosie of Curtin University in Australia.

Moon Rocks
In 2016 Patrick Boehnke, now at the University of Chicago, took another look at those original Apollo samples, which for decades have been the main evidence in favor of the Late Heavy Bombardment. He and UCLA’s Mark Harrison reanalyzed the argon isotopes and concluded that the Apollo rocks may have been walloped many times since they crystallized from the natal moon, which could make the rocks seem younger than they really are.

“Even if you solve the analytical problems,” said Boehnke, “then you still have the problem that the Apollo samples are all right next to each other.” There’s a chance that astronauts from the six Apollo missions sampled rocks from a single asteroid strike whose ejecta spread throughout the Earth-facing side of our satellite.

In addition, moon-orbiting probes like the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have found around 100 previously unknown craters, including a spike in impacts as early as 4.3 billion years ago.

“This interesting confluence of orbital data and sample data, and all different kinds of sample data—lunar impact glass, Luna samples, Apollo samples, lunar meteorites—they are all coming together and pointing to something that is not a cataclysmic spike at 3.9 billion years ago,” said Nicolle Zellner, a planetary scientist at Albion College in Michigan.

Bottke, who studies asteroids and solar system dynamics, is one of several researchers coming up with modified explanations. He now favors a slow uptick in bombardment, followed by a gradual decline. Others think there was no late bombardment, and instead the craters on the moon and other rocky bodies are remnants from the first type of billiards, the natural process of planet building.

“We have a tiny sliver of data, and we’re trying to do something with it,” he said. “You try to build a story, and sometimes you are just chasing ghosts.”

Life Takes Hold
While it plays out, scientists will be debating much bigger questions than early solar-system dynamics.

If some of the new evidence truly represents impressions of primeval life, then our ancestors may be much older than we thought. Life might have arisen the moment the planet was amenable to it—the moment it cooled enough to hold liquid water.

“I was taught when I was young that it would take billions and billions of years for life to form. But I have not been able to find any basis for those sorts of statements,” said Valley. “I think it’s quite possible that life emerged within a few million years of when conditions became habitable. From the point of view of a microbe, a million years is a really long time, yet that’s a blink of an eye in geologic time.”

“There is no reason life could not have emerged at 4.3 billion years ago,” he added. “There is no reason.”

If there was no mass sterilization at 3.9 billion years ago, or if a few massive asteroid strikes confined the destruction to a single hemisphere, then Earth’s oldest ancestors may have been here from the haziest days of the planet’s own birth. And that, in turn, makes the notion of life elsewhere in the cosmos seem less implausible. Life might be able to withstand horrendous conditions much more readily than we thought. It might not need much time at all to take hold. It might arise early and often and may pepper the universe yet. Its endless forms, from tubemaking microbes to hunkering slime, may be too small or simple to communicate the way life does on Earth—but they would be no less real and no less alive.
[DOUBLEPOST=1517376119][/DOUBLEPOST]https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/29/health/heart-disease-mutations-stem-cells.html

Scientists Discover a Bone-Deep Risk for Heart Disease


Few doctors, and even fewer patients, have heard of CHIP. But it is emerging as a major cause of heart attacks and stroke, as deadly as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

It’s been one of the vexing questions in medicine: Why is it that most people who have heart attacks or strokes have few or no conventional risk factors?

These are patients with normal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, no history of smoking or diabetes, and no family history of cardiovascular disease. Why aren’t they spared?

To some researchers, this hidden risk is the dark matter of cardiology: an invisible but omnipresent force that lands tens of thousands of patients in the hospital each year. But now scientists may have gotten a glimpse of part of it.

They have learned that a bizarre accumulation of mutated stem cells in bone marrow increases a person’s risk of dying within a decade, usually from a heart attack or stroke, by 40 or 50 percent. They named the condition with medical jargon: clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential.
CHIP has emerged as a risk for heart attack and stroke that is as powerful as high LDL or high blood pressure but it acts independently of them. And CHIP is not uncommon.

The condition becomes more likely with age. Up to 20 percent of people in their 60s have it, and perhaps 50 percent of those in their 80s.

“It is beginning to appear that there are only two types of people in the world: those that exhibit clonal hematopoiesis and those that are going to develop clonal hematopoiesis,” said Kenneth Walsh, who directs the hematovascular biology center at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The growing evidence has taken heart researchers aback. Dr. Peter Libby, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, calls CHIP the most important discovery in cardiology since statins.

“I’m turning part of my lab to work on this full time,” Dr. Libby said. “It’s really exciting.”

The mutations are acquired, not inherited — most likely by bad luck or exposure to toxins like cigarette smoke. But there is little that patients can do.

Brian Gear, a project manager at a Boston company that analyzes health care data, was given genetic testing by doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute because his mother had had a blood cancer that can be inherited.

The diagnosis was CHIP, something he had never heard of. And because it dramatically increased his risk of heart disease, it was life-changing.

“It is almost like a Ph.D. in letting go of control,” said Mr. Gear, who said he was in his mid-30s. “As much as you want to have a plan and a destiny, you also have this thing. It’s scary and it’s terrifying.”

“I don’t want to use the word time-bomb, but that’s how it feels,” he added.

CHIP was discovered independently by several groups of researchers who were not even investigating heart disease. Mostly, they were looking at the genes of patients who might develop leukemia or, in one research project, schizophrenia.

The scientists searched databases from genetic studies involving tens of thousands of people whose DNA had been obtained from their white blood cells.

To their great surprise, the teams converged on the same phenomenon. Unexpectedly large numbers of study participants had blood cells with mutations linked to leukemia — but they did not have the cancer. Instead, they had just one or two of the cluster of mutations.

“This clearly wasn’t happening by chance,” said Steven McCarroll, a geneticist at the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School. “We knew we were onto something, but what were we onto?”

The investigators quickly guessed the broad outlines.

White blood cells, the attack dogs of the immune system, arise from stem cells in the bone marrow. Every day, a few hundred such stem cells spew out blood cells that begin dividing rapidly into the 10 billion needed to replace those that have died.

Sometimes, by chance, one of those marrow stem cells acquires a mutation, and the white blood cells it produces carry the same mutation.

“Some mutations are just markers of past events without any lasting consequence,” said Dr. David Steensma, a blood cancer specialist at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But others, especially those linked to leukemia, seem to give stem cells a new ability to accumulate in the marrow. The result is a sort of survival of the fittest, or fastest growing, stem cells in the marrow.

“Some mutations may alter the growth properties of the stem cell,” said Dr. Steensma. “Some may just make the stem cell better at surviving in certain less hospitable parts of the bone marrow where other stem cells can’t thrive.”

The mutated stem cells outlast normal stem cells in the marrow, and their progeny — an increasing percentage of white blood cells — show up in the blood with mutations.

Perhaps the most extreme example of how this can play out was reported in 2014, when researchers described a 115-year-old woman. Nearly her entire supply of white blood cells was generated by mutated stem cells in her bone marrow.

At the first she had developed just two mutated stem cells. But over time their progeny came to dominate her bone marrow. She lived about as long as a human can, nonetheless, and died of a tumor.

But the big surprise came when researchers looked at the medical records of people with these white blood cell mutations. They had 54 percent increase in the odds of dying within the next decade, compared to people without CHIP And the cause: heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Benjamin Ebert, chair of medical oncology a the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was the first to see the link. He turned for help to Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, a cardiologist and genetics researcher at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute, who had genetic data from four more large studies.

They confirmed that CHIP doubled the risk of a heart attack in typical patients — and increased the risk fourfold in those who had heart attacks early in life.

But how might mutated white blood cells cause heart disease? One clue intrigued scientists.

Artery-obstructing plaque is filled with white blood cells, smoldering with inflammation and subject to rupture. Perhaps mutated white cells were causing atherosclerosis or accelerating its development.

In separate studies, Dr. Ebert and Dr. Walsh gave mice a bone-marrow transplant containing stem cells with a CHIP mutation, along with stem cells that were not mutated. Mutated blood cells began proliferating in the mice, and they developed rapidly growing plaques that were burning with inflammation.

“For decades people have worked on inflammation as a cause of atherosclerosis,” Dr. Ebert said. “But it was not clear what initiated the inflammation.”

Now there is a possible explanation — and, Dr. Ebert said, it raises the possibility that CHIP may be involved in other inflammatory diseases, like arthritis.

For now, doctors advise against testing for CHIP, since there is nothing specific to be done to reduce the increased risks of cancer or heart disease that it confers.

But, he said, if people really want to know if they have CHIP, they can get a blood test that costs a few thousand dollars. (If there is no particular reason for the test, insurance may not pay.)

Dr. Steensma said that if he had CHIP, he would make sure he did his best to control all of his heart disease risks, like cholesterol and blood pressure, and that he had a healthy diet and exercised. Drugs may be developed to help stem the inflammation in arteries, he added.

As for the cancer risk, Dr. Ross Levine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center just opened a C.H.I.P clinic in part to explore whether some patients with CHIP have a greater risk of blood cancers, and if so, what to do about it.

At the moment, CHIP is mostly found accidentally in patients who are genetically tested for other reasons — like Brian Gear. The diagnosis stunned him, but it also has brought into focus the important things in his life.

“There are things I love in life and people I love,” he said. “You try to live that life.”
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
were learning more and more about cardiovascular disease all the time

somewhere therein lies immortality
[DOUBLEPOST=1517548592,1517542779][/DOUBLEPOST]https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2018/01/cancer-vaccine-eliminates-tumors-in-mice.html

Cancer ‘vaccine’ eliminates tumors in mice
Activating T cells in tumors eliminated even distant metastases in mice, Stanford researchers found. Lymphoma patients are being recruited to test the technique in a clinical trial

Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice can eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals, including distant, untreated metastases, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”

One agent is currently already approved for use in humans; the other has been tested for human use in several unrelated clinical trials. A clinical trial was launched in January to test the effect of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Levy, who holds the Robert K. and Helen K. Summy Professorship in the School of Medicine, is the senior author of the study, which was published Jan. 31 in Science Translational Medicine. Instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD, is the lead author.

‘Amazing, bodywide effects’
Levy is a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy, in which researchers try to harness the immune system to combat cancer. Research in his laboratory led to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies approved for use as an anticancer treatment in humans.

Some immunotherapy approaches rely on stimulating the immune system throughout the body. Others target naturally occurring checkpoints that limit the anti-cancer activity of immune cells. Still others, like the CAR T-cell therapy recently approved to treat some types of leukemia and lymphomas, require a patient’s immune cells to be removed from the body and genetically engineered to attack the tumor cells. Many of these approaches have been successful, but they each have downsides — from difficult-to-handle side effects to high-cost and lengthy preparation or treatment times.

“All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,” Levy said. “Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”

Cancers often exist in a strange kind of limbo with regard to the immune system. Immune cells like T cells recognize the abnormal proteins often present on cancer cells and infiltrate to attack the tumor. However, as the tumor grows, it often devises ways to suppress the activity of the T cells.

Levy’s method works to reactivate the cancer-specific T cells by injecting microgram amounts of two agents directly into the tumor site. (A microgram is one-millionth of a gram). One, a short stretch of DNA called a CpG oligonucleotide, works with other nearby immune cells to amplify the expression of an activating receptor called OX40 on the surface of the T cells. The other, an antibody that binds to OX40, activates the T cells to lead the charge against the cancer cells. Because the two agents are injected directly into the tumor, only T cells that have infiltrated it are activated. In effect, these T cells are “prescreened” by the body to recognize only cancer-specific proteins.

Cancer-destroying rangers
Some of these tumor-specific, activated T cells then leave the original tumor to find and destroy other identical tumors throughout the body.

The approach worked startlingly well in laboratory mice with transplanted mouse lymphoma tumors in two sites on their bodies. Injecting one tumor site with the two agents caused the regression not just of the treated tumor, but also of the second, untreated tumor. In this way, 87 of 90 mice were cured of the cancer. Although the cancer recurred in three of the mice, the tumors again regressed after a second treatment. The researchers saw similar results in mice bearing breast, colon and melanoma tumors.

I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system.
Mice genetically engineered to spontaneously develop breast cancers in all 10 of their mammary pads also responded to the treatment. Treating the first tumor that arose often prevented the occurrence of future tumors and significantly increased the animals’ life span, the researchers found.

Finally, Sagiv-Barfi explored the specificity of the T cells by transplanting two types of tumors into the mice. She transplanted the same lymphoma cancer cells in two locations, and she transplanted a colon cancer cell line in a third location. Treatment of one of the lymphoma sites caused the regression of both lymphoma tumors but did not affect the growth of the colon cancer cells.

“This is a very targeted approach,” Levy said. “Only the tumor that shares the protein targets displayed by the treated site is affected. We’re attacking specific targets without having to identify exactly what proteins the T cells are recognizing.”

The current clinical trial is expected to recruit about 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma. If successful, Levy believes the treatment could be useful for many tumor types. He envisions a future in which clinicians inject the two agents into solid tumors in humans prior to surgical removal of the cancer as a way to prevent recurrence due to unidentified metastases or lingering cancer cells, or even to head off the development of future tumors that arise due to genetic mutations like BRCA1 and 2.

“I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system,” Levy said.

The work is an example of Stanford Medicine’s focus on precision health, the goal of which is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill.

The study’s other Stanford co-authors are senior research assistant and lab manager Debra Czerwinski; professor of medicine Shoshana Levy, PhD; postdoctoral scholar Israt Alam, PhD; graduate student Aaron Mayer; and professor of radiology Sanjiv Gambhir, MD, PhD.

Levy is a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute and Stanford Bio-X.

Gambhir is the founder and equity holder in CellSight Inc., which develops and translates multimodality strategies to image cell trafficking and transplantation.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant CA188005), the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Boaz and Varda Dotan Foundation and the Phil N. Allen Foundation.

Stanford’s Department of Medicine also supported the work.

just fucking wow
 

Trodden

A terrible human being
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
this is a crazy read. still trying to get my head around it all

https://aeon.co/ideas/you-thought-quantum-mechanics-was-weird-check-out-entangled-time

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time

In the summer of 1935, the physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger engaged in a rich, multifaceted and sometimes fretful correspondence about the implications of the new theory of quantum mechanics. The focus of their worry was what Schrödinger later dubbed entanglement: the inability to describe two quantum systems or particles independently, after they have interacted.

Until his death, Einstein remained convinced that entanglement showed how quantum mechanics was incomplete. Schrödinger thought that entanglement was the defining feature of the new physics, but this didn’t mean that he accepted it lightly. ‘I know of course how the hocus pocus works mathematically,’ he wrote to Einstein on 13 July 1935. ‘But I do not like such a theory.’ Schrödinger’s famous cat, suspended between life and death, first appeared in these letters, a byproduct of the struggle to articulate what bothered the pair.

The problem is that entanglement violates how the world ought to work. Information can’t travel faster than the speed of light, for one. But in a 1935 paper, Einstein and his co-authors showed how entanglement leads to what’s now called quantum nonlocality, the eerie link that appears to exist between entangled particles. If two quantum systems meet and then separate, even across a distance of thousands of lightyears, it becomes impossible to measure the features of one system (such as its position, momentum and polarity) without instantly steering the other into a corresponding state.

Up to today, most experiments have tested entanglement over spatial gaps. The assumption is that the ‘nonlocal’ part of quantum nonlocality refers to the entanglement of properties across space. But what if entanglement also occurs across time? Is there such a thing as temporal nonlocality?

The answer, as it turns out, is yes. Just when you thought quantum mechanics couldn’t get any weirder, a team of physicists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported in 2013 that they had successfully entangled photons that never coexisted. Previous experiments involving a technique called ‘entanglement swapping’ had already showed quantum correlations across time, by delaying the measurement of one of the coexisting entangled particles; but Eli Megidish and his collaborators were the first to show entanglement between photons whose lifespans did not overlap at all.

Here’s how they did it. First, they created an entangled pair of photons, ‘1-2’ (step I in the diagram below). Soon after, they measured the polarisation of photon 1 (a property describing the direction of light’s oscillation) – thus ‘killing’ it (step II). Photon 2 was sent on a wild goose chase while a new entangled pair, ‘3-4’, was created (step III). Photon 3 was then measured along with the itinerant photon 2 in such a way that the entanglement relation was ‘swapped’ from the old pairs (‘1-2’ and ‘3-4’) onto the new ‘2-3’ combo (step IV). Some time later (step V), the polarisation of the lone survivor, photon 4, is measured, and the results are compared with those of the long-dead photon 1 (back at step II).


Figure 1. Time line diagram: (I) Birth of photons 1 and 2, (II) detection of photon 1, (III) birth of photons 3 and 4, (IV) Bell projection of photons 2 and 3, (V) detection of photon 4.
The upshot? The data revealed the existence of quantum correlations between ‘temporally nonlocal’ photons 1 and 4. That is, entanglement can occur across two quantum systems that never coexisted.

What on Earth can this mean? Prima facie, it seems as troubling as saying that the polarity of starlight in the far-distant past – say, greater than twice Earth’s lifetime – nevertheless influenced the polarity of starlight falling through your amateur telescope this winter. Even more bizarrely: maybe it implies that the measurements carried out by your eye upon starlight falling through your telescope this winter somehow dictated the polarity of photons more than 9 billion years old.

Lest this scenario strike you as too outlandish, Megidish and his colleagues can’t resist speculating on possible and rather spooky interpretations of their results. Perhaps the measurement of photon 1’s polarisation at step II somehow steers the future polarisation of 4, or the measurement of photon 4’s polarisation at step V somehow rewrites the past polarisation state of photon 1. In both forward and backward directions, quantum correlations span the causal void between the death of one photon and the birth of the other.

Just a spoonful of relativity helps the spookiness go down, though. In developing his theory of special relativity, Einstein deposed the concept of simultaneity from its Newtonian pedestal. As a consequence, simultaneity went from being an absolute property to being a relative one. There is no single timekeeper for the Universe; precisely when something is occurring depends on your precise location relative to what you are observing, known as your frame of reference. So the key to avoiding strange causal behaviour (steering the future or rewriting the past) in instances of temporal separation is to accept that calling events ‘simultaneous’ carries little metaphysical weight. It is only a frame-specific property, a choice among many alternative but equally viable ones – a matter of convention, or record-keeping.

The lesson carries over directly to both spatial and temporal quantum nonlocality. Mysteries regarding entangled pairs of particles amount to disagreements about labelling, brought about by relativity. Einstein showed that no sequence of events can be metaphysically privileged – can be considered more real – than any other. Only by accepting this insight can one make headway on such quantum puzzles.

The various frames of reference in the Hebrew University experiment (the lab’s frame, photon 1’s frame, photon 4’s frame, and so on) have their own ‘historians’, so to speak. While these historians will disagree about how things went down, not one of them can claim a corner on truth. A different sequence of events unfolds within each one, according to that spatiotemporal point of view. Clearly, then, any attempt at assigning frame-specific properties generally, or tying general properties to one particular frame, will cause disputes among the historians. But here’s the thing: while there might be legitimate disagreement about which properties should be assigned to which particles and when, there shouldn’t be disagreement about the very existence of these properties, particles, and events.

These findings drive yet another wedge between our beloved classical intuitions and the empirical realities of quantum mechanics. As was true for Schrödinger and his contemporaries, scientific progress is going to involve investigating the limitations of certain metaphysical views. Schrödinger’s cat, half-alive and half-dead, was created to illustrate how the entanglement of systems leads to macroscopic phenomena that defy our usual understanding of the relations between objects and their properties: an organism such as a cat is either dead or alive. No middle ground there.

Most contemporary philosophical accounts of the relationship between objects and their properties embrace entanglement solely from the perspective of spatial nonlocality. But there’s still significant work to be done on incorporating temporal nonlocality – not only in object-property discussions, but also in debates over material composition (such as the relation between a lump of clay and the statue it forms), and part-whole relations (such as how a hand relates to a limb, or a limb to a person). For example, the ‘puzzle’ of how parts fit with an overall whole presumes clear-cut spatial boundaries among underlying components, yet spatial nonlocality cautions against this view. Temporal nonlocality further complicates this picture: how does one describe an entity whose constituent parts are not even coexistent?

Discerning the nature of entanglement might at times be an uncomfortable project. It’s not clear what substantive metaphysics might emerge from scrutiny of fascinating new research by the likes of Megidish and other physicists. In a letter to Einstein, Schrödinger notes wryly (and deploying an odd metaphor): ‘One has the feeling that it is precisely the most important statements of the new theory that can really be squeezed into these Spanish boots – but only with difficulty.’ We cannot afford to ignore spatial or temporal nonlocality in future metaphysics: whether or not the boots fit, we’ll have to wear ’em.
[DOUBLEPOST=1517853622,1517817294][/DOUBLEPOST]https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/me...ure-baldness-study-says/ar-BBIJqnv?li=BBnbfcL

McDonald’s Fries Chemical May Cure Baldness, Study Says

The "simple" method has regrown hair on mice and preliminary tests have indicated it's likely to be successful on humans.

Japanese scientists may have discovered a cure for baldness and it lies within a chemical used to make McDonald’s fries.

A stem cell research team from Yokohama National University have used a “simple” method to regrow hair on mice with dimethylpolysiloxane, the silicone added to McDonald’s fries to stop cooking oil from frothing.

Preliminary tests have indicated the ground-breaking method is likely to be just as successful when transferred to human skin cells.

According to the study, released in the Biomaterials journal last Thursday, the breakthrough came after the scientists successfully mass-produced “hair follicle germs” (HFG) which were created for the first time ever in this way.

HFG’s are the cells that drive follicle development and are known as the ‘Holy Grail’ of hair loss research. The scientists credited the use of dimethylpolysiloxane as the key to the advancement.

“The key for the mass production of HFGs was a choice of substrate materials for the culture vessel,” Professor Junji Fukuda, of Yokohama National University, said in the study. “We used oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane (PDMS) at the bottom of culture vessel, and it worked very well.”

The technique created 5,000 HFGs simultaneously. The research team then seeded the prepared HFGs from a ‘HFG’ chip, a fabricated approximately 300-microwell array, onto the mouse's body.

“These self-sorted hair follicle germs (HFGs) were shown to be capable of efficient hair-follicle and shaft generation upon injection into the backs of nude mice,” Fukuda said.

Within days, Fukuda and his colleagues reported black hairs on the areas of the mouse where the chip was transplanted—the photo below also demonstrates the findings.

© Provided by IBT Media "This simple method is very robust and promising,” Fukuda said. “We hope this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness). In fact, we have preliminary data that suggests human HFG formation using human keratinocytes and dermal papilla cells."

In 2016, the U.S. hair loss treatment manufacturing industry was worth $6 billion. This included companies that produce restorative hair equipment, such as grafts for hair restoration, as well as oral and topical treatments.
 

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