Sunday, January 31, 2010

Natural Cough Suppressant - Homemade Cough Suppressants, Cough Suppressing Home Remedies

I've been coughing non-stop for about a week now. It is driving me nuts. I'm going to try some of these.  I think I'll start with just lemon, honey, apple cider vinegar  and ginger. .
Natural Cough Suppressants

* Take one lemon and cut it into half. On the inner part, put some salt and black pepper powder. Suck on the lemon till you feel that the cough is ebbing away.

* Take a piece of ginger and extract its juice. Add honey and a pinch of black pepper powder to it. Take 2-3 times in a day.

* Take 1 tsp honey and add grape juice to it. Have this mixture for 4-5 days and you will see the cough going away.

* Mix equal parts of honey and lemon juice. Take a tablespoonful of the mixture, every couple of hours.

* Take a glass of warm water and add some apple cider vinegar and honey to it. Drink on a daily basis.

* Mix ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cloves, 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp water and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Take 3 tbsp of the mixture, whenever the cough strikes.

* Boil a quart of water in a saucepan and add dried Elecampane root. Simmer for 20 minutes and add honey and a splash of lemon juice. Strain and drink.

* Mix equal parts of black pepper (kali mirch), long pepper (pippali) and dry ginger (sonth). Add honey and have 2-3 times a day.

* Mix 1 tsp onion juice with 1 tsp honey. Set aside the mixture for 4-5 hours. Thereafter, consume twice daily.

* Soak almonds overnight. Peel them in the morning, grind and add butter and sugar. Take the mixture in morning and evening.

via Natural Cough Suppressant - Homemade Cough Suppressants, Cough Suppressing Home Remedies.

New 'suicide' molecule halts rheumatoid arthritis

A researcher from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has invented a novel way to halt and even reverse rheumatoid arthritis. He developed an imitation of a suicide molecule that floats undetected into overactive immune cells responsible for the disease.

Whimsically referred to as Casper the Ghost, the stealthy molecule causes the immune cells to self-destruct.

The approach, tested on mice, doesn't carry the health risks of current treatments.

"This new therapy stopped the disease cold in 75 percent of the mice," reported Harris Perlman, the lead author and an associate professor of medicine at Feinberg. "The best part was we didn't see any toxicity. This has a lot of potential for creating an entirely new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis."

The study will be published in the February issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Healthy immune cells are supposed to die after they attack an invading virus or bacteria. But in rheumatoid arthritis, the immune cells called macrophages live and go rogue. They proliferate in the blood, build up in the joints and invade cartilage and bone. Currently, there is no effective, nontoxic way to stop them.

Perlman discovered that immune cells in rheumatoid arthritis are low in a critical molecule called Bim, whose job is to order the cells to self-destruct. To correct that shortage, Perlman developed an imitation of the molecule, called BH3 mimetic. When Harris injected his drug into mice with rheumatoid arthritis, it floated ghostlike into their macrophages and bam!, the misbehaving immune cells self destructed.

In his research, Harris showed the molecule could prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis as well as trigger a remission of existing disease. After the drug was injected in animals with the disease, joint swelling was reduced and bone destruction decreased. ...

via New 'suicide' molecule halts rheumatoid arthritis.

Using magnetic toys as inspiration, researchers tease out structures of self-assembled clusters

Scientists have long studied how atoms and molecules structure themselves into intricate clusters. Unlocking the design secrets of Nature offers lessons in engineering artificial systems that could self-assemble into any desired form.

In the January 29th issue of Science, a team from Harvard led by Vinothan Manoharan and Michael Brenner, presents additional clues to how and why groups of atoms and molecules may favor less symmetrical and more complex, flexible geometric patterns.

The answer relates to a familiar concept in physics—entropy. The researchers literally first caught sight of the link by using magnetic "stick and ball" construction toys.

Manoharan, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Physics in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and Department of Physics, and his colleagues used colloidal particles, a suspended chemical mixture seen in semi-solid foods like mayonnaise, to simulate the clustering behavior of atoms and molecules.

"To allow clusters to form, we put a few tiny polystyrene spheres in microscopic cylindrical wells filled with water. The particles act as 'sticky' hard spheres and naturally cluster together just like groups of nearby interacting atoms and molecules do," says Manoharan.

The researchers expected that simple, highly symmetric shapes would arise most often. Instead, two surprising, related, and scalable phenomena arose when the number of particles used in their experiments reached six or rose above nine.

Six particles can form into a symmetrical octahedron and into a more complex tri-tetrahedron shape. In terms of chemical structure, each shape results in 12 bonds, and hence, has the same amount of potential energy.

With the potential energy being equal, Manoharan and colleagues thought that both shapes would occur in equal proportion. They found, however, that the tri-tetrahedron occurs 20 times more often than the octahedron.

"The only possible explanation was entropy," says Manoharan. "Most people are familiar with entropy as a measure of 'disorder', but the most useful definition of entropy is simply the number of different ways a bunch of particles can arrange themselves."

Natalie Arkus, a former applied mathematics graduate student who worked with Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, provided a hint to solving the puzzle, as she discovered a method to calculate all the possible structures that could be formed using geometric magnetic toys (composed of magnetic metal rods and silver ball bearings).

As there are more ways for the complicated tri-tetrahedron structure to form (something that can be directly seen by labeling the toy spheres and counting the ways they can be put together) the shape appears far more frequently than the octahedron. In general, among clusters with the same potential energy, highly symmetric structures are less likely to arise.

The researchers also found that when the number of particles reaches nine or higher, entropy plays another important role.

Because the number of possible structures with nine or more particles is vast, the team focused on what are called non-rigid, or flexible structures. Non-rigidity occurs when a cluster has half-octahedra that share at least one vertex, allowing the cluster to twist without breaking or forming another bond (something also easily seen with the toys).

"Because they can move flexibly, the non-rigid clusters have high vibrational entropy," explains Manohran. "In cases with nine or more particles, symmetric clusters do not appear as often due to rotational entropy. The ability to rotate is useful, as it allows clusters to have extra bonds."

As a general rule, the team found that for all clusters up to 8 particles and a select number of structures with up to 12, the most symmetric structures occurred the least often due to entropy.

"Our findings illustrate, in a tangible way, what the concept of entropy means," says Manohran.

Looking ahead, the researchers are interested in using their results to understand the emergence of bulk crystallization, or how particles come together in the early stages of forming a crystal.

via Using magnetic toys as inspiration, researchers tease out structures of self-assembled clusters.

Fatal familial insomnia, very rare incurable genetic disease

I just looked up fatal familial insomnia. What a wretched way to go.
Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a very rare autosomal dominant inherited prion disease of the brain. The gene mutation responsible has been found in just 50 families worldwide; if only one parent has the gene, the offspring have a 50% chance of inheriting it and developing the disease. The disease's genesis and the patient's progression into complete sleeplessness is untreatable, and ultimately fatal. ...

The age of onset is variable, ranging from 30 to 60, with an average of 50. However the disease tends to prominently occur in later years, primarily following childbirth. Death usually occurs between 7 and 36 months from onset. The presentation of the disease varies considerably from person to person, even among patients from within the same family.

The disease has four stages, taking 7 to 18 months to run its course:

  1. The patient suffers increasing insomnia, resulting in panic attacks, paranoia, and phobias. This stage lasts for about four months.

  2. Hallucinations and panic attacks become noticeable, continuing for about five months.

  3. Complete inability to sleep is followed by rapid loss of weight. This lasts for about three months.

  4. Dementia, during which the patient becomes unresponsive or mute over the course of six months. This is the final progression of the disease, and the patient will subsequently die.

... There is no cure or treatment for FFI. Gene therapy is so far unsuccessful. While it is not currently possible to reverse the underlying illness, there is some evidence that treatments that focus upon the symptoms can improve quality of life. - wikipedia


Now that we know this, until a cure is found, birth control seems a wise choice for these 30 families.  I wonder how they feel about that suggestion?

I like what Judy Patterson said, "If I'd have known it was there, I would not have had children. Cause I think that's not a gift you want to give to an unborn child."

Ugh, there's an even rarer non-genetic form. Only 8 people in the world have been diagnosed with it. I'd want the test. I think I'd want to prepare an "off" switch if I got this disease. Better to have a relatively peaceful exit.

Study Offers Evidence That Spongiform Brain Diseases Are Caused By Aberrant Protein

Scientists have determined how a normal protein can be converted into a prion, an infectious agent that causes fatal brain diseases in humans and mammals.

The finding, in mice, is expected to advance the understanding of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs, a family of neurodegenerative diseases that include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, kuru and fatal familial insomnia in humans, scrapie in sheep, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, also known as “mad cow disease.”

“This study provides the strongest evidence yet to prove the prion hypothesis,” said Jiyan Ma, associate professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “It also offers important insights into the molecular mechanism and potential therapeutic targets for these diseases.”

The study is in press in the journal Science and appears online as a Science Express report on Jan. 28, 2010.

In 1982, the concept of a prion was introduced as an improperly folded protein that is able to recruit other normal proteins to take on those same characteristics, leading to widespread damage in the brain. However, lingering doubt remained among some investigators that a protein – instead of pathogens like viruses – is actually the infectious agent for these brain diseases.

The skepticism related to unsatisfactory results of creating an infectious prion with recombinant prion protein, a protein created artificially in bacterial cells, which many consider the “holy grail” of the prion field. With this work, Ma and his colleagues were successful in using recombinant protein to generate a prion.

Using a recombinant mouse prion protein, known as PrP, the team discovered that the protein’s interaction with lipids, the main structural component of a cell membrane, leads to its change in conformation, or misfolding of the protein.

The newly formed recombinant prion made mice sick within 130 days after injection into the brain, and those brain tissues from the sick mice infected a second group of mice as well, thus proving the recombinant prion’s serial transmissibility.

“The major thing we showed in this study is that the infectious agent in these diseases is truly a misfolded protein. We folded recombinant mouse prion protein into its normal shape, then converted it into a different conformation and showed that when it infected an animal, it caused full-blown prion disease, with all of the characteristics,” Ma said. ...

Scientists have determined how a normal protein can be converted into a prion, an infectious agent that causes fatal brain diseases in humans and mammals.

The finding, in mice, is expected to advance the understanding of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs, a family of neurodegenerative diseases that include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, kuru and fatal familial insomnia in humans, scrapie in sheep, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, also known as “mad cow disease.”

“This study provides the strongest evidence yet to prove the prion hypothesis,” said Jiyan Ma, associate professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “It also offers important insights into the molecular mechanism and potential therapeutic targets for these diseases.”

The study is in press in the journal Science and appears online as a Science Express report on Jan. 28, 2010.

In 1982, the concept of a prion was introduced as an improperly folded protein that is able to recruit other normal proteins to take on those same characteristics, leading to widespread damage in the brain. However, lingering doubt remained among some investigators that a protein – instead of pathogens like viruses – is actually the infectious agent for these brain diseases.

The skepticism related to unsatisfactory results of creating an infectious prion with recombinant prion protein, a protein created artificially in bacterial cells, which many consider the “holy grail” of the prion field. With this work, Ma and his colleagues were successful in using recombinant protein to generate a prion.

Using a recombinant mouse prion protein, known as PrP, the team discovered that the protein’s interaction with lipids, the main structural component of a cell membrane, leads to its change in conformation, or misfolding of the protein.

The newly formed recombinant prion made mice sick within 130 days after injection into the brain, and those brain tissues from the sick mice infected a second group of mice as well, thus proving the recombinant prion’s serial transmissibility.

“The major thing we showed in this study is that the infectious agent in these diseases is truly a misfolded protein. We folded recombinant mouse prion protein into its normal shape, then converted it into a different conformation and showed that when it infected an animal, it caused full-blown prion disease, with all of the characteristics,” Ma said. ...

via Study Offers Evidence That Spongiform Brain Diseases Are Caused By Aberrant Protein.

Stem cell breakthrough: Bone marrow cells are the answer research in the FASEB Journal shows that bone marrow cells fuse to different types of cells, including embryonic stem cells, creating new hybrids that may evade immune rejection

Using cells from mice, scientists from Iowa and Iran have discovered a new strategy for making embryonic stem cell transplants less likely to be rejected by a recipient's immune system. This strategy, described in a new research report appearing in the February 2010 print issue of The FASEB Journal (, involves fusing bone marrow cells to embryonic stem cells. Once fused, the hybrid cells have DNA from both the donor and recipient, raising hopes that immune rejection of embryonic stem cell therapies can be avoided without drugs.

"Our study shows that transplanted bone marrow cells fuse not only with bone marrow cells of the recipient, but with non-hematopoietic cells, suggesting that if we can understand the process of cell fusion better, we may be able to target certain organ injuries with the patient's own bone marrow cells and repair the tissues," said Nicholas Zavazava, M.D., Ph.D., a University of Iowa researcher involved in the work.

Although the study holds great promise for future embryonic stem cell therapies, the results may be even more far reaching. Zavazava and colleagues used two different mouse strains, one as the donor and the other as the recipient. When bone marrow cells were engrafted into the recipient, they tested for the presence of both donor and recipient cells and found three different types of cells: donor cells, recipient cells, and fused cells that had DNA from the donor and recipient. They then discovered that these cells could fuse with many different types of cells in addition to embryonic stem cells, including those from the liver, kidney, heart, and gut. Although more work is necessary to determine the exact clinical outcomes, the discovery raises the possibility that bone marrow cells could be fused to transplant organs to reduce the likelihood of rejection. They could also be fused to failing organs to support regeneration.

"Unlike machines where the same part can be used for several different makes and models, each of us is custom built, and our immune system does the quality control," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "As a result, human replacement parts, or organs, need to closely match the tissue of the recipient. This research uses bone marrow cells to fuse with a patient tissues so that nothing transplanted is rejected by our immune systems, and brings universal graft survival closer to reality."

via Stem cell breakthrough: Bone marrow cells are the answer.

HIV researchers solve key puzzle after 20 years of trying

Researchers have made a breakthrough in HIV research that had eluded scientists for over 20 years, potentially leading to better treatments for HIV, in a study published today in the journal Nature.

The researchers, from Imperial College London and Harvard University, have grown a crystal that reveals the structure of an enzyme called integrase, which is found in retroviruses like HIV. When HIV infects someone, it uses integrase to paste a copy of its genetic information into their DNA.

Prior to the new study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and the US National Institutes of Health, many researchers had tried and failed to work out the three-dimensional structure of integrase bound to viral DNA. New antiretroviral drugs for HIV work by blocking integrase, but scientists did not understand exactly how these drugs were working or how to improve them.

Researchers can only determine the structure of this kind of molecular machinery by obtaining high quality crystals. For the new study, researchers grew a crystal using a version of integrase borrowed from a little-known retrovirus called Prototype Foamy Virus (PFV). Based on their knowledge of PFV integrase and its function, they were confident that it was very similar to its HIV counterpart.

Over the course of four years, the researchers carried out over 40,000 trials, out of which they were able to grow just seven kinds of crystals. Only one of these was of sufficient quality to allow determination of the three-dimensional structure.

Dr Peter Cherepanov, the lead author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: "It is a truly amazing story. When we started out, we knew that the project was very difficult, and that many tricks had already been tried and given up by others long ago. Therefore, we went back to square one and started by looking for a better model of HIV integrase, which could be more amenable for crystallization. Despite initially painstakingly slow progress and very many failed attempts, we did not give up and our effort was finally rewarded."

After growing the crystals in the lab, the researchers used the giant synchrotron machine at the Diamond Light Source in South Oxfordshire to collect X-ray diffraction data from these crystals, which enabled them to determine the long-sought structure. The researchers then soaked the crystals in solutions of the integrase inhibiting drugs Raltegravir (also known as Isentress) and Elvitegravir and observed for the first time how these antiretroviral drugs bind to and inactivate integrase.

The new study shows that retroviral integrase has quite a different structure to that which had been predicted based on earlier research. Availability of the integrase structure means that researchers can begin to fully understand how existing drugs that inhibit integrase are working, how they might be improved, and how to stop HIV developing resistance to them.

via HIV researchers solve key puzzle after 20 years of trying.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Can blocking a frown keep bad feelings at bay?

Your facial expression may tell the world what you are thinking or feeling. But it also affects your ability to understand written language related to emotions, according to research that was presented today to the Society for Personal and Social Psychology in Las Vegas, and will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

The new study reported on 40 people who were treated with botulinum toxin, or Botox. Tiny applications of this powerful nerve poison were used to deactivate muscles in the forehead that cause frowning.

The interactions of facial expression, thoughts and emotions has intrigued scientists for more than a century, says the study's first author, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology Ph.D. candidate David Havas.

Scientists have found that blocking the ability to move the body causes changes in cognition and emotion, but there were always questions. (One of the test treatments caused widespread, if temporary, paralysis.) In contrast, Havas was studying people after a pinpoint treatment to paralyze a single pair of "corrugator" muscles, which cause brow-wrinkling frowns.

To test how blocking a frown might affect comprehension of language related to emotions, Havas asked the patients to read written statements, before and then two weeks after the Botox treatment. The statements were angry ("The pushy telemarketer won't let you return to your dinner"); sad ("You open your email in-box on your birthday to find no new emails"); or happy ("The water park is refreshing on the hot summer day.")

Havas gauged the ability to understand these sentences according to how quickly the subject pressed a button to indicate they had finished reading it. "We periodically checked that the readers were understanding the sentences, not just pressing the button," says Havas.

The results showed no change in the time needed to understand the happy sentences. But after Botox treatment, the subjects took more time to read the angry and sad sentences. Although the time difference was small, it was significant, he adds. Moreover, the changes in reading time couldn't be attributed to changes in participants' mood.

The use of Botox to test how making facial expressions affect emotional centers in the brain was pioneered by, Andreas Hennenlotter of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

"There is a long-standing idea in psychology, called the facial feedback hypothesis," says Havas. "Essentially, it says, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you. It's an old song, but it's right. Actually, this study suggests the opposite: When you're not frowning, the world seems less angry and less sad."

The Havas study broke new ground by linking the expression of emotion to the ability to understand language, says Havas's advisor, UW-Madison professor emeritus of psychology Arthur Glenberg. "Normally, the brain would be sending signals to the periphery to frown, and the extent of the frown would be sent back to the brain. But here, that loop is disrupted, and the intensity of the emotion, and of our ability to understand it when embodied in language, is disrupted."

Practically, the study "may have profound implications for the cosmetic-surgery," says Glenberg. "Even though it's a small effect, in conversation, people respond to fast, subtle cues about each other's understanding, intention and empathy. If you are slightly slower reacting as I tell you about something made me really angry, that could signal to me that you did not pick up my message."

Such an effect could snowball, Havas says, but the outcome could also be positive: "Maybe if I am not picking up sad, angry cues in the environment, that will make me happier."

In theoretical terms, the finding supports a psychological hypothesis called "embodied cognition," says Glenberg, now a professor of psychology at Arizona State University. "The idea of embodied cognition is that all our cognitive processes, even those that have been thought of as very abstract, are actually rooted in basic bodily processes of perception, action and emotion."

With some roots in evolutionary theory, the embodied cognition hypothesis suggests that our thought processes, like our emotions, are refined through evolution to support survival and reproduction.

Embodied cognition links two seemingly separate mental functions, Glenberg says. "It's been speculated at least since Darwin that the peripheral expression of emotion is a part of the emotion. An important role of emotion is social: it communicates, 'I love' or 'I hate you,' and it makes sense that there would be this very tight connection between peripheral expression and brain mechanism."

"Language has traditionally been seen as a very high level, abstract process that is divorced from more primitive processes like action, perception and emotion," Havas says. "This study shows that far from being divorced from emotion, language understanding can be hindered when those peripheral bodily mechanism are interrupted."

via Can blocking a frown keep bad feelings at bay?.

Man Wielding Fork Attempts Gas Station Robbery

Police reported a bizarre gas station robbery in Westmoreland County Tuesday night.

According to police, Gino Conti, 31, walked into the Shell gas station on Route 30 in Hempfield Township and asked for a box of cigarettes.

When the clerk turned around, police said Conti pulled out a fork and demanded money.

Police said there was no money in the cash register, so Conti grabbed the cigarettes and left.

Police caught up with Conti a short time later. He faces several charges including robbery and simple assault.

No one was hurt when Conti pulled the fork out.

via Man Wielding Fork Attempts Gas Station Robbery - News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh.

Now THAT's a fork.

Driver fined for blowing nose in van MAN told today of his disbelief at being fined for blowing his nose while his van was stopped in London.

Michael Mancini wiped his nose with a handkerchief while stuck in traffic in October 2009.

But when the traffic cleared, he was pulled over by police who told him he had not been in control of his vehicle.

Mr Mancini, from Ayrshire in Scotland, was handed a $US97 fine and three points on his driving license.

"I was stopped in traffic and had the handbrake on and thought to myself, 'I?ve just got time to blow my nose,'" he said.

"Then police pulled me over and I was booked. I genuinely thought they were joking."

Mr Mancini refused to pay the penalty.

His solicitor wrote to prosecutors earlier in January explaining that Mr Mancini was in charge of the vehicle because his handbrake was on, therefore the offense did not occur.

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But prosecutors replied the next day warning that if the fine wasn't paid the case would be taken to court.

Mr Mancini said, "I intend on taking this all the way to court. I still don't believe it actually happened".
Driver fined for blowing nose in van |

Well he should know that blowing your nose can make you pass out and crash.

Aging of Blood Stem Cells May Be Reversible

Sem_blood_cellsOlder mice 'rejuvenated' when treated with blood factors from younger mice, researchers found

Scientists have found a way to make old stem cells in the blood act like young stem cells, a discovery that could lead to ways to slow the aging process.

Taking certain factors from the blood of young mice and putting them in old mice made old stem cells take on the characteristics of younger stem cells. In addition, the tissues of the older mice appeared much more "youthful," according to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

The change in the older stem cells is driven by signals from another type of cell nearby in the bone, the researchers explained. They added that this finding improves understanding of aging of the blood-forming system and points toward blood-based treatments for age-related health problems.

The study findings are published in the Jan. 27 issue of the journal Nature.

"What's most exciting is that the changes that occur in blood stem cells during aging are reversible, through signals carried by the blood itself. This means that the blood system offers a potential therapeutic avenue for age-related stem cell dysfunction," Amy J. Wagers, an associate professor in Harvard's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and an investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center, said in a news release from the center.

The study doesn't directly address diabetes-related mechanisms but "there's more and more evidence of an overlap in the regulatory pathways that are implicated in aging and in type 2 diabetes," Wagers said.

via Aging of Blood Stem Cells May Be Reversible - BusinessWeek.

Photo from: Scientists Create Blood From Stem Cells (2008)

Presidential approval of assassinations of U.S. citizens

 The Washington Post's Dana Priest today reports that "U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people."  T

... buried in Priest's article is her revelation that American citizens are now being placed on a secret "hit list" of people whom the President has personally authorized to be killed:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. . . .

The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, "it doesn't really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them," a senior administration official said. "They are then part of the enemy."

Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called "High Value Targets" and "High Value Individuals," whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including [New Mexico-born Islamic cleric Anwar] Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added.

Indeed, Aulaqi was clearly one of the prime targets of the late-December missile strikes in Yemen, as anonymous officials excitedly announced -- falsely, as it turns out -- that he was killed in one of those strikes.

Just think about this for a minute. Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose "a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests." They're entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations. Amazingly, the Bush administration's policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges -- based solely on the President's claim that they were Terrorists -- produced intense controversy for years. That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution. Shouldn't Obama's policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind -- not imprisoned, but killed -- produce at least as much controversy? ...

via Presidential assassinations of U.S. citizens :: :: informazione dal medio oriente :: information from middle east :: [vs-4].

'Superman' vision penetrates opaque glass

No longer an obstacle (Image: Matthieu Spohn/Getty)  It's not quite X-ray vision, but a way has been found to transmit simple images through opaque objects using ordinary light – and physicists have used the method to project an image through glass covered in thick paint.

Some things we consider opaque – "not able to be seen through", in the New Oxford Dictionary of English definition – are slightly translucent, meaning some light does in fact make it through. However, it is scattered so much as it bounces around inside the materials' lattice of atoms that physicists thought it was beyond practical use for seeing what is on the other side of the object.

A 2007 experiment that managed to focus light through eggshells and a human tooth demonstrated that might not be so. Now the first simple images have been transmitted through an opaque object and reconstructed on the far side, by physicist Sylvain Gigan and colleagues at École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in Paris, France.


By reverse engineering the scattering process, the team were able to reconstruct an image from the light that had passed through the opaque paint layer. That scattering is complex, but it's also predictable: the same light wave will always be scattered in the same way.

The way a particular object scatters light is known as its transmission matrix. "If the [layer of paint] is a maze for light, then you could think of the transmission matrix as the map for it," says Gigan.

His team worked out the transmission matrix for their painted glass slide by hitting it with a weak laser beam more than 1000 times, changing the shape of the beam each time using a spatial light modulator – the same device used to control the light emerging from a video projector. A digital camera on the other side of the glass detected the different scattering patterns produced each time. By comparing what the camera saw with what had been done to the laser beam, the team measured the paint's complete transmission matrix.

Invisible image

If a simple image was then projected onto the paint, a person simply looking at the painted glass from behind would see only an even glow. But the team used knowledge of the transmission matrix to decode the faint, noisy trace that reached the digital camera and reconstruct the image.

"Once the matrix is known, reconstructing the image is very quick," Gigan says. "We can achieve almost video-rate focusing or imaging."

However, it will be some time before the technique is used to transmit and reconstruct any truly interesting images – the test images were very simple patterns: a 256-pixel rectangular grid with a handful of its squares lit up more brightly. "The quality of the images degrades rapidly when increasing the number of pixels, because the signal-to-noise ratio degrades," says Gigan, although he says there is "room for improvement" with future study.

Allard Mosk at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, who together with his colleague Ivo Vellekoop focused light through eggshells and teeth in 2007, is impressed. "We can see that technically this work is at the beginning of a long and exciting road," he says. Although at the moment the technique is restricted to simple 256-pixel images, he thinks other groups around the world will now be inspired to send larger and more complex images through opaque objects.

via 'Superman' vision penetrates opaque glass - physics-math - 28 January 2010 - New Scientist.

Physicists Investigate Possibility of an 'Unhiggs'

Physicists Investigate Possibility of an 'Unhiggs'One of the biggest goals of the LHC is to discover the Higgs boson, the only particle in the Standard Model that has not yet been observed. In general, physicists are pretty confident that the Higgs does in fact exist, although they have spent a lot of effort searching for the particle in less powerful accelerators without success. While patiently waiting for the LHC to reach its full energy and a Higgs particle to leave a signature in a detector, some physicists are investigating alternative scenarios. One of the most recent proposals is that the Higgs is not a particle, but an unparticle called the Unhiggs.

The Unhiggs idea was first suggested in a paper published in November 2009 by physicists David Stancato and John Terning of the University of California, Davis. The Unhiggs is not all that different from the Higgs, except that it demonstrates unparticle behavior and, subsequently, does not fit in with the Standard Model. While a particle has discrete parameters, the Unhiggs’ parameters are continuous. In this sense, the Unhiggs is itself a continuum, and can be thought of as a collection of many Higgs bosons, each carrying a fraction of the Unhigg’s total value.

“In particle physics, we are used to dealing with (surprise) particles,” Adam Falkowski, a physicist at Rutgers University, told Falkowski and Manuel Pérez-Victoria of the University of Granada are also investigating the possibility of the Unhiggs. “One property of particles is a well defined mass. For an unstable particle (such as the Higgs boson in the Standard Model), we can experimentally determine the mass by measuring the momenta of its decay products and computing the so-called invariant mass. Particles show as bumps, or resonances, in the invariant mass spectrum or other kinematical distributions.

“Unparticles, on the other hand, do not have a well defined mass; in fact, an unparticle can be thought of as a superposition of an infinite number of particles with different masses. For this reason, unparticles don’t show up as resonances. Instead, they show up as subtle modifications of kinematical distributions measured by experiment, and therefore they can be difficult to spot.” ...

via Physicists Investigate Possibility of an 'Unhiggs'.

Optical refrigeration expected to enhance airborne and spaceborne applications

Under an Air Force Office of Scientific Research, multi-university grant, a team led by University of New Mexico professor, Dr. Mansoor Sheik-Bahae created the first-ever all-solid-state cryocooler that can be applied to airborne and spaceborne sensors.

This technology, which allows coolers to reach temperatures so cold that they can only be obtained by liquefying gases, may lead to advances in superconducting electronics because it would enable miniaturization for cooling purposes.

Graduate students Denis Seletskiy and Seth Melgaard designed and performed the experiments at UNM's department of Physics and Astronomy in collaboration with researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Pisa, Italy.

"Optical refrigeration or solid state optical refrigeration technology offers many advantages over currently used, bulky mechanical coolers because it is vibration free (no moving parts), compact, lightweight and agile (fast turn-on and off)," said Sheik-Bahae.

Previously, only solid-state coolers based on standard thermoelectric devices were able to reach temperatures as low as 170K, and even so, only with minimal efficiency.

"We obtained cooling down to 155K using optical refrigeration,"said Sheik-Bahae. "We expect that material research may lead to temperatures dipping below 77K (boiling point of liquid nitrogen) and in the future as low as 10K may be possible," he added.

In order to achieve their results, the scientists enhanced cooling efficiency by exploiting resonances in the absorption spectrum, growing pure crystals, using thin optical fibers, keeping their sample in thermal isolation inside a vacuum and by trapping laser light in a resonant space. ...

via Optical refrigeration expected to enhance airborne and spaceborne applications.

Byline: John Fleck Journal Staff Writer

* Keeping satellites from overheating a possible use for cold technology

When you fire a laser at something, you expect it to get hot, not cold.

In a nondescript lab building tucked in the shadow of University of New Mexico Hospital, Mansoor Sheik-Bahae is defying expectations.

UNM physics professor Sheik-Bahae is exploiting one of those loopholes that makes quantum mechanics endlessly puzzling, even to a hardened physicist.

In the lab, a narrow beam of green light bounces through a series of mirrors and a filtering system, creating the precise frequency used to make the quantum magic work.…

Laser Cools It in UNM Laboratory

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Scientists Turn Mouse Skin Cells Into Nerve Cells at Stanford University have succeeded in creating brain nerve cells directly out of skin cells taken from the tails of adult mice.

The new approach could revolutionize human stem cell therapy and science's understanding of how cells choose and maintain their specialized roles in the body, the researchers said.

The findings also seem to radically upturn established thinking about how cells become cells, and potentially avoid the controversial approach of using embryonic stem cells for cellular therapy. And the research could conceivably open new doors in the future to treating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the researchers said.

The researchers had not actually expected to succeed in the endeavor.

"We were blown away," said Dr. Marius Wernig, senior author of a paper appearing online Jan. 27 in Nature and a member of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

"We wanted to ask the question, 'Do we have to go back in development to be able to go forward or can there be a direct way,' " he said, adding, "This is the first direct conversion that is totally artificial. It doesn't occur in nature."

Paul Sanberg, a stem cell expert and distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa, said, "It [the new study] really changes the idea of how one cell can change to another cell and it may change the concept of how an organism develops."

But experts were cautious in their interpretation of the findings, especially as to what they might mean for the thorny yet expanding area of stem cell research.

"From a basic point of view it's exciting because it shows that you can go straight from one differentiated cell and transform it to a different differentiated cell. It doesn't have to go back to being pluripotent," Sanberg said. "But it's still early. It will be a while until cells are made that can be used therapeutically."

via Scientists Turn Mouse Skin Cells Into Nerve Cells - BusinessWeek.

Coincidence or Precognition?

India travel picture - Maldives, island paradise, by daniel pozoImage: Maldives, island paradise, by daniel pozo

Sometimes it seems that ripples from the future influence the present.

I once had a vivid lucid dream where I walked through a particular tree. Years later I got a job in a building very close to that tree, and my office is straight through that particular tree in the exact direction I walked in the dream.  Years after I took the job in that office, I went away on vacation to Hawaii with someone I intended to marry. When I returned, that tree was cut down. Now I walk through that tree every day on the way to lunch and back.

There is no way I or anyone else could have known, years before, where I would work, where my office would be or that this tree would be cut down due to disease.

Another strange coincidence has now attached itself to that dream, as if what I call "a quantum strange loop" is acting as a bridge between waking and sleeping, life and death.

I dedicated a blog post about my strange tree dream on Oct 21st to a friend of mine who killed herself.  When a friend told me she'd committed suicide, I did not wish to know the manner. I assumed until yesterday that she took her life with a gun, but I just found out yesterday Jan 27, 2010, that she lept to her death.

Coincidence or Precognition?

On July 25, 2009, three months before she died, I posted a song called "What Have I Done" about leaping. (Click the link for the lyrics.) I was thinking of myself when I wrote it, that love requires a leap of faith. I was expressing a fear of commitment that has kept me single my entire life. Now the song has a new meaning.  I don't think she ever heard it, but if she did, "What have I done" becomes even more self-referential.

My rational mind tells me, as my friend once seemed to do, "ignore conspiracy theories" and "don't be superstitious".  I assume my song and the method of my friend's death are just strange coincidence. Like this one.

Magical thinking--though we may fight it--is a part of each of us. If I help create the world by what I choose to see, my brain says to me, I should fill my thoughts and time with positive things, like nice vacations in the Maldives or things nice equally.

Cops subdue sword-swinging man dramatic showdown between cops and a suicidal man ended without major bloodshed despite a three-story plummet through a closed window and some frightening swordplay on the street.

The man, whose name was withheld, attacked cops with a medium-sized samurai sword, police said, repeatedly lunging at them and shouting, “Kill me!”

“This situation could have ended a lot differently had it not been for the professionalism and restraint shown by the officers on B-2,” said Boston patrolmen’s union President Thomas Nee.

Police were called to the 26-year-old’s home about 5 p.m. Cops called for backup and tried to kick down the door. As one officer walked outside, the suspect came crashing through a closed third-floor window, bounced off an awning, hit the ground and ran.

Cops chased him until he spun around, sword drawn, near Washington Park. With more than 20 cops, guns drawn, around him, he repeatedly charged, shouting “Shoot me! Kill me!” police said.

Sgt. Thomas Teahan sneaked up and tackled him. The suspect, who was treated for minor injuries, is being held at Bridgewater State Hospital.

via Cops subdue sword-swinging man -

It is nice to be reminded that, despite the unfortunate stories we hear where an officer kills someone seemingly without need, most cops are not hungry for blood even in tense situations.

Exotic cobra bites woman in Baltimore shopping center parking lot Maryland woman who was bitten by an exotic cobra over the weekend may owe her life to the quick action of snake specialists at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The woman walked into a Baltimore clinic Sunday night reporting she had been in a shopping center parking lot when she bent down to pick up what she thought was a stick.

The "stick," a two-foot monocled cobra, sank a fang into one of her fingers, said Elisa Armacost, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Fire Department.

The woman, who has not been identified by name, bagged the offending snake and took it along with her to the clinic, Armacost said. Clinic staffers called the fire department.

"They were looking for guidance on what to do with the snake," Armacost said.

Medics took the woman to Johns Hopkins University Hospital as fire department personnel began a frantic search for a source of antivenin, Armacost said.

One of the calls reached Jason Bell, assistant curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Bell rushed to the Zoo to retrieve 30 vials of South-African made antivenin. State police met him there, planning on flying the serum by helicopter to Hopkins. But heavy rains had grounded the chopper, so troopers sped the antivenom to Maryland where they delivered it to a waiting ambulance near the state border, Bell said.

Doctors used 10 vials of the antivenin, Bell said.

The woman, who told authorities that the snake did not belong to her, was reported to be in stable condition.

The snake was transferred to a zoo in Frederick County, Md.

A bite from a cobra can cause "tremendous pain" soon after the skin is punctured, Bell said. As the venom takes hold, muscle paralysis can set in and breathing can become impossible.

"She was very lucky. She was bitten on the finger and not closer to the heart. Some cobra bites can cause rapid death."

It's unclear if the woman would have died from the bite if not treated with the antivenom.

"It depends on the size of the snake," Bell said. ...

via Phila. Zoo goes to the rescue of cobra bite victim | Philadelphia Inquirer | 01/28/2010.

Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts? onset of schizophrenia is not easy to predict. Although it is associated with as many as 14 genes in the human genome, the prior presence of schizophrenia in the family is not enough to determine whether one will succumb to the mind-altering condition. The disease also has a significant environmental link.

According to Prof. Ina Weiner of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology, the developmental disorder, which usually manifests in early adulthood, can be triggered in the womb by an infection. But unlike developmental disorders such as autism, it takes many years for the symptoms of schizophrenia to develop.

"Pharmacological treatments for schizophrenia remain unsatisfactory, so clinicians and researchers like myself have started to dig in another direction," says Prof. Weiner. "The big question asked in recent years is if schizophrenia can be prevented."

Revolutionizing the treatment

In their study, recently reported in Biological Psychiatry, Prof. Weiner and her colleagues Dr. Yael Piontkewiz and Dr. Yaniv Assaf sought to discover biological cues that would help trace the progression of the disease before symptoms manifested. "If progressive brain changes occur as schizophrenia is emerging, it is possible that these changes could be prevented by early intervention," she says. "That would revolutionize the treatment of the disorder.

"We wondered if we could use neuro-imaging to track any early-onset changes in the brains of laboratory animals," Prof. Weiner says. "If so, could these changes and their accompanying schizophrenia-like symptoms be prevented if caught early enough?"  ...

Prof. Weiner and her team gave pregnant rats a viral mimic known to induce a schizophrenia-like behavioral disorder in the offspring. This method simulates maternal infection in pregnancy, a well known risk factor for schizophrenia. Prof. Weiner demonstrated that the rat offspring were normal at birth and during adolescence. But in early adulthood, the animals, like their human counterparts, began to show schizophrenia-like symptoms.

Looking at brain scans and behavior, Prof. Weiner found abnormally developing lateral ventricles and the hippocampus in those rats with "schizophrenia." Those that were at high risk for the condition could be given drugs to treat their brains, she determined. Following treatment with risperidone and clozapine, two commonly used drugs to treat schizophrenia, brain scans showed that the lateral ventricles and the hippocampus retained a healthy size.

"Clinicians have suspected that these drugs can be used to prevent the onset of schizophrenia, but this is the first demonstration that such a treatment can arrest the development of brain deterioration," says Prof. Weiner. She says that the drugs work best when delivered during the rats' "adolescent" period, several months before they reached full maturity.

Now, anti-psychotics are prescribed only when symptoms are present. Prof. Weiner believes that an effective non-invasive prediction method (looking at the developmental trajectory of specific changes in the brain), coupled with a low dose drug taken during adolescence, could stave off schizophrenia in those most at risk. ...

via American Friends of Tel Aviv University: Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?.

Better food makes high-latitude animals bigger

File:Mimicry of Siphanta acuta edit1.jpgNew research suggests that animals living at high latitudes grow better than their counterparts closer to the equator because higher-latitude vegetation is more nutritious. The study, published in the February issue of The American Naturalist, presents a novel explanation for Bergmann's Rule, the observation that animals tend to be bigger at higher latitudes.

Ever since Christian Bergmann made his observation about latitude and size in 1847, scientists have been trying to explain it. The traditional explanation is that body temperature is the driving force. Because larger animals have less surface area compared to overall body mass, they don't lose heat as readily as smaller animals. That would give big animals an advantage at high latitudes where temperatures are generally colder.

But biologist Chuan-Kai Ho from Texas A&M University wondered if there might be another explanation. Might plants at higher latitudes be more nutritious, enabling the animals that eat those plants to grow bigger?

To answer that question, Ho along with colleagues Steven Pennings from the University of Houston and Thomas Carefoot from the University of British Columbia, devised a series of lab experiments. They raised several groups of juvenile planthoppers on a diet of cordgrass, which was collected from high to low latitudes. Ho and his team then measured the body sizes of the planthopppers when they reached maturity. They found that the planthoppers that fed the high-latitude grass grew larger than those fed low latitude grass.

The researchers performed similar experiments using two other plant-eating species—grasshoppers and sea snails. "All three species grew better when fed plants from high versus low latitudes," Ho said. "These results showed part of the explanation for Bergmann's rule could be that plants from high latitudes are better food than plants from low latitudes." Although this explanation applies only to herbivores, Ho explained that predators might also grow larger as a consequence of eating larger herbivores.

"We don't think that this is the only explanation for Bergmann's rule," Ho added. "But we do think that studies of Bergmann's rule should consider ecological interactions in addition to mechanisms based on physiological responses to temperature."

It's not known why the higher-latitude plants might be more nutritious. But research in Pennings's lab at the University of Houston offers a clue. Pennings has shown that plants at low latitudes suffer more damage from herbivores than those at higher latitudes. Ho and Pennings suggest that perhaps lower nutrition and increased chemical defenses are a response to higher pressure from herbivores.

via Better food makes high-latitude animals bigger.

Paleontology news: World's least known bird rediscovered

A species of bird, which has only been observed alive on three previous occasions since it was first discovered in 1867, has been rediscovered in a remote land corridor in north-eastern Afghanistan. The discovery was made as part of an international collaboration, which included researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. During the summer of 2008, the American ornithologist Robert J Timmins was commissioned by the American aid organisation USAID to compile an inventory of bird species in the Badakshan province in north-eastern Afghanistan. He managed to record the call of a species of bird that was as yet unknown.
Unheard birdsong

The recording found its way to the Swedish ornithologist Lars Svensson, who was quick to note that the recorded birdsong did not resemble that of any known species of bird. But from Timmins' description of the species, he soon began to suspect what kind of bird was on the recording.

Ornithological sensation

Lars Svensson and Urban Olsson at the Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg, had in fact shown in a previous study that about a dozen stuffed birds in museum collections all around the world had been incorrectly classified: they were not of the common species of reed warbler the curators had assumed, but rather a far rarer species known as the Large-billed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus orinus) - observed on just three documented occasions since 1867. In their previous study Svensson, Olsson and co-workers had pinpointed North-Eastern Afghanistan as an area where the Large-billed Reed Warbler probably bred in the 1930s. When both the Swedish colleagues heard the recording of the mysterious birdsong they realised that they were on the trail of an ornithological sensation.

World's least known bird

A year later, in June 2009, the Afghan ornithologists Naqeebullah Mostafawi, Ali Madad Rajabi and Hafizullah Noori from the Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan managed to travel to the Badakshan region, despite the war and ongoing clan conflicts. They used nets to capture 15 individuals of the mysterious species of bird. They sent photographs and feather samples to Lars Svensson and Urban Olsson, who used DNA analyses to confirm that after 142 years of searching, the breeding site of perhaps the world's least known bird had been found. ...

via Paleontology news: World's least known bird rediscovered.

Huge Mayan head found in Guatemala

Archaeologists have discovered a huge Mayan sculptured head in Guatemala that suggests a little-known site in the jungle-covered Peten region may once have been a significant city.

The stucco sculpture, which is three metres wide and 3.5 metres tall, was buried for centuries at the Chilonche ruins, close to the border with Belize.

The recent discovery of the head, which dates from the early Classic period between 300 to 600 AD, means the site is much older than previously thought.

The Maya often constructed new buildings using older ones as foundations.

"It could be an imaginary being, something from the underworld, perhaps linked to a Mayan deity," Polytechnic University of Valencia professor Gaspar Munoz, part of the team of archeologists that found the head, said.

Unlike Guatemala's famous Mayan cities of Tikal and El Mirador, little excavation has been carried out at Chilonche.

Looters, looking for artefacts to sell on the black market, had dug a small tunnel passing the buried sculpture, which is similar to others decorating a solar observatory at another site, Uaxactun.

Guatemala's Peten region is home to dozens of Mayan ruins, but the largely jungle-covered area is plagued by looters, poachers and smugglers taking cocaine to Mexico.

via Huge Mayan head found in Guatemala.

I discovered a huge skull face on the side of Mt. Shasta several years ago.  I wonder if they are related.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1997-2009 Ministry of Defense UFO Reports in the UK

UFO Reports 1997-2009 in the UK, showing dates and times, location and a brief description of sighting.

via Ministry of Defence | Freedom of Information | Publication Scheme | Search Publication Scheme | UFO Reports in the UK.

Are there aliens in your nose?

microbes.jpgThis week the Royal Society in London is holding a two day meet-up for scientists to talk about the state of our search for extraterrestrial life.

At a lecture today, astrobiologist Paul Davies of Arizona State University told the crowd that he thinks aliens already walk among us. Well, maybe not walk—more like float, or wiggle, or however else bacteria may locomote.

According to the Associated Press, Davies thinks that life from elsewhere in the galaxy has made its way to Earth at several points in human history. It's possible, he says, that alien life is "right under our noses—or even in our noses."

And why not? So many science-fiction writers seem convinced that if aliens of any shape or size were to come to Earth, they'll be bad for humans and hence immediately noticable. Giant robots! Predatory stalkers!! Killer pathogens!!! Yes, Michael Crichton, I'm looking at you.

But that certainly doesn't have to be the case.

For starters, consider the odds of an intelligent race of beings existing elsewhere in the universe.

via Breaking Orbit.

First Detailed Pictures: Antarctica's "Ghost Mountains" miles beneath the surface of an ice sheet (shown in blue), the so-called ghost peaks in the middle of Antarctica are finally coming into view, researchers announced last month.

Ground-penetrating radar results from 2008 and 2009 have made possible the most detailed images yet (such as the one above) of the Gamburtsev Mountains—and it's a surprisingly serrated range, the experts say.

The radar-based images reveal a slightly exaggerated view of the jagged, roughly 8,500-foot-tall (2,600-meter-tall) peaks. The range likely formed millions of years before becoming covered in Antarctic ice, said geophysicist Robin Bell of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who led America's Gamburtsev Province Project as part of the International Polar Year (2007-08) science program.

In size and shape, Bell said, the Gamburtsevs resemble the United States' Cascade Range, home of Mount Rainier ...

via First Detailed Pictures: Antarctica's "Ghost Mountains".

Energy-harvesting rubber sheets could power pacemakers, mobile phones

Power-generating rubber films developed by Princeton University engineers could harness natural body movements such as breathing and walking to power pacemakers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The material, composed of ceramic nanoribbons embedded onto silicone rubber sheets, generates electricity when flexed and is highly efficient at converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. Shoes made of the material may one day harvest the pounding of walking and running to power mobile electrical devices. Placed against the lungs, sheets of the material could use breathing motions to power pacemakers, obviating the current need for surgical replacement of the batteries which power the devices.

A paper on the new material, titled "Piezoelectric Ribbons Printed onto Rubber for Flexible Energy Conversion," was published online Jan. 26, in Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The research was funded by the United States Intelligence Community, a cooperative of federal intelligence and national security agencies.

The Princeton team is the first to successfully combine silicone and nanoribbons of lead zirconate titanate (PZT), a ceramic material that is piezoelectric, meaning it generates an electrical voltage when pressure is applied to it. Of all piezoelectric materials, PZT is the most efficient, able to convert 80% of the mechanical energy applied to it into electrical energy.

"PZT is 100 times more efficient than quartz, another piezoelectric material," said Michael McAlpine, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, at Princeton, who led the project. "You don't generate that much power from walking or breathing, so you want to harness it as efficiently as possible."

The researchers first fabricated PZT nanoribbons – strips so narrow that 100 fit side-by-side in a space of a millimeter. In a separate process, they embedded these ribbons into clear sheets of silicone rubber, creating what they call "piezo-rubber chips." Because the silicone is biocompatible, it is already used for cosmetic implants and medical devices. "The new electricity-harvesting devices could be implanted in the body to perpetually power medical devices, and the body wouldn't reject them," McAlpine said.

In addition to generating electricity when it is flexed, the opposite is true: the material flexes when electrical current is applied to it. This opens the door to other kinds of applications, such as use for microsurgical devices, McAlpine said.

"The beauty of this is that it's scalable," said Yi Qi, a postdoctoral researcher who works with McAlpine. "As we get better at making these chips, we'll be able to make larger and larger sheets of them that will harvest more energy."

via Energy-harvesting rubber sheets could power pacemakers, mobile phones.

Could you make roads of this material?

Brain responses during anesthesia mimic those during natural deep sleep brains of people under anesthesia respond to stimuli as they do in the deepest part of sleep – lending credence to a developing theory of consciousness and suggesting a new method to assess loss of consciousness in conditions such as coma.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, led by brain researcher Fabio Ferrarelli, reported their findings in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The group gave the anesthetic midazolam, commonly used at lower doses in "conscious sedation" procedures such as colonoscopies, to volunteers.

Then they used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive technique to stimulate the brain cortical neurons from the scalp, in combination with electroencephalography (EEG), which recorded the TMS-evoked brain responses. What they found is a pattern that looks much as it does when the brain is in deep, non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep, another condition when consciousness fades.

Co-author and consciousness expert Giulio Tononi says that when the brain is unconscious it appears to lose the connectivity that underlies the coordinated, yet differentiated responses to electrical stimuli observed when the brain is awake or in REM sleep. The group's earlier studies demonstrated the differences between the sleeping and awake brain.

"Based on a theory about how consciousness is generated, we expect to see a response that is both integrated and differentiated when the brain is conscious,'' says Tononi, professor of psychiatry. "When there is a loss of consciousness, either due to sleep or anesthesia, the response is radically different. We see a stereotyped burst of activity that remains localized and fades quickly."

The team believes that the response patterns observed in the awake brain, characterized by long-lasting activations moving over time to different cortical areas, reflect the connectivity of the cortical areas activated by TMS. This could be because when we are awake, the cortex is involved in many activities which require a constant communication between different cortical areas. But in the unconscious brain, this connectivity is temporarily lost, and therefore the TMS-evoked brain responses remain localized.

Ferrarelli says the results lend weight to the idea that a breakdown of cortical connectivity is a key aspect of loss of consciousness, and are consistent with the "integrated information theory of consciousness."

Co-author Dr. Robert Pearce, chair and professor of anesthesiology at UW SMPH, said it is interesting that the cortical responses under anesthesia were so similar to changes seen during natural sleep.

"The idea that some anesthetics "hijack" the natural sleep-promoting centers was proposed recently by others,'' says Pearce. "While our present findings do not directly confirm this hypothesis, they are consistent with a set of shared mechanisms. That is, that the loss of functional connectivity between brain regions is a characteristic that sleep and anesthesia share, and that we think might be causal in the loss of consciousness in both cases." ...

via Brain responses during anesthesia mimic those during natural deep sleep.

What is IIT?
Since the early days of computers, scholars have argued that the subjective, phenomenal states that make up the life of the mind are intimately linked to the information expressed at that time by the brain. Yet they have lacked the tools to turn this hunch into a concrete and predictive theory. Enter psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Tononi has developed and refined what he calls the integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness.

An Integrated Theory
IIT is based on two axiomatic pillars.

First, conscious states are highly differentiated; they are informationally very rich. You can be conscious of an uncountable number of things: you can watch your son’s piano recital, for instance; you can see the flowers in the garden outside or the Gauguin painting on the wall. Think of all the frames from all the movies you have ever seen or that have ever been filmed or that will be filmed! Each frame, each view, is a specific conscious percept.

Second, this information is highly integrated. No matter how hard you try, you cannot force yourself to see the world in black-and-white, nor can you see only the left half of your field of view and not the right. When you’re looking at your friend’s face, you can’t fail to also notice if she is crying. Whatever information you are conscious of is wholly and completely presented to your mind; it cannot be subdivided. Underlying this unity of consciousness is a multitude of causal interactions among the relevant parts of your brain. If areas of the brain start to disconnect or become fragmented and balkanized, as occurs in deep sleep or in anesthesia, consciousness fades and might cease altogether. Consider split-brain patients, whose corpus callosum—the 200 million wires linking the two cortical hemispheres—has been cut to alleviate severe epileptic seizures. The surgery literally splits the person’s consciousness in two, with one conscious mind associated with the left hemisphere and seeing the right half of the visual field and the other mind arising from the right hemisphere and seeing the left half of the visual field. - ref

Paleontology news: Lost Roman law code discovered in London

Part of an ancient Roman law code previously thought to have been lost forever has been discovered by researchers at UCL's Department of History. Simon Corcoran and Benet Salway made the breakthrough after piecing together 17 fragments of previously incomprehensible parchment. The fragments were being studied at UCL as part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded "Projet Volterra" – a ten year study of Roman law in its full social, legal and political context. Corcoran and Salway found that the text belonged to the Codex Gregorianus, or Gregorian Code, a collection of laws by emperors from Hadrian (AD 117-138) to Diocletian (AD 284-305), which was published circa AD 300. Little was known about the codex's original form and there were, until now, no known copies in existence.

"The fragments bear the text of a Latin work in a clear calligraphic script, perhaps dating as far back as AD 400," said Dr Salway. "It uses a number of abbreviations characteristic of legal texts and the presence of writing on both sides of the fragments indicates that they belong to a page or pages from a late antique codex book - rather than a scroll or a lawyer's loose-leaf notes.

"The fragments contain a collection of responses by a series of Roman emperors to questions on legal matters submitted by members of the public," continued Dr Salway. "The responses are arranged chronologically and grouped into thematic chapters under highlighted headings, with corrections and readers' annotations between the lines. The notes show that this particular copy received intensive use."

via Paleontology news: Lost Roman law code discovered in London.

The Chimpcam Project: Chimpanzees make their own film

A chimpanzee at Edinburgh Zoo uses a special chimp-proof camera A chimpanzee holds a video camera in a protective case With the fashion for shaky cameras amongst TV crews you could be forgiven for thinking they are being operated by monkeys.

That is exactly what is happening with the BBC to show the first ever film shot by chimpanzees.

Around 11 of the animals at Edinburgh Zoo spent the last 18 months filming each other as they carry around a special 'chimpcam' device.

...Producer John Capener said he came up with the idea for the experiment after he watched a TV show a couple of years ago which thought was so bad that the chimps could make a better go of it.

He said: 'The idea stuck in my head and I wondered if chimps really could film. They're very strong and aggressive, but I thought if we could find a way for the camera to survive it would make for some interesting footage.

'We were dealing with an average group of chimps, but they worked with us very well and gave it their best. I'm pretty sure they understood the filming.'

Miss Herrelko added that the programme tested the extent to which chimps were aware of the link between seeing and filming.

She said: 'They never got bored of filming unless the monitor died.'

Four hours of footage was filmed and now Mr Capener said he is looking a further projects like this with different animals.

via The Chimpcam Project: Chimpanzees given special video camera to make their own film | Mail Online.

After 18 months of filming, I wonder if this was really the best 1 minute.

UFO sighting puzzles N.L. residents

Residents of Harbour Mille, on Newfoundland's south coast, reported seeing this object fly over their community Monday night.Residents of Harbour Mille, on Newfoundland's south coast, reported seeing this object fly over their community Monday night. (Courtesy: Darlene Stewart)

Residents in Harbour Mille, a tiny community on Newfoundland's south coast, want to know what they saw in the sky Monday night.

Darlene Stewart said she was outside taking pictures of the sunset when she saw something fly overhead.

She snapped a picture of the object in an attempt to zoom in on it to see what it was.

"Even with the camera, I couldn't make it out until I put it on the computer," she told CBC News. "I knew then it wasn't an airplane. It was something different."

Stewart's picture shows a blurry image of what appears to be some kind of missile-like object emitting either flames or heavy smoke.

Emmy Pardy also saw the object.

"It appeared to come out of the ocean," she told CBC News. "It was like it was in the middle of the bay."

An RCMP officer was in the community Tuesday to investigate the reports.

Pardy said she'd like to know what the object was.

"It's kind of scary because you don't know if something is being set off out in the bay, [or] if someone is doing experiments," she said.

The residents plan to be outdoors again Tuesday evening to see if there is a similar sight in the sky.

via CBC News - Nfld. & Labrador - UFO sighting puzzles N.L. residents.

Losing sleep, losing brain?

Chronic and severely stressful situations, like those connected to depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, have been associated with smaller volumes in "stress sensitive" brain regions, such as the cingulate region of the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory formation. A new study, published by Elsevier in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that chronic insomnia may be another condition associated with reduced cortical volume.

Using a specialized technique called voxel-based morphometry, Ellemarije Altena and Ysbrand van der Werf from the research group of Eus van Someren evaluated the brain volumes of persons with chronic insomnia who were otherwise psychiatrically healthy, and compared them to healthy persons without sleep problems. They found that insomnia patients had a smaller volume of gray matter in the left orbitofrontal cortex, which was strongly correlated with their subjective severity of insomnia.

"We show, for the first time, that insomnia patients have lower grey matter density in brain regions involved in the evaluation of the pleasantness of stimuli, as well as in regions related to the brain's 'resting state'. The more severe the sleeping problems of insomniacs, the less grey matter density they have in the region involved in pleasantness evaluation, which may also be important for the recognition of optimal comfort to fall asleep," explained Altena. She added, "Our group previously showed that insomniacs have difficulties with recognizing optimal comfort. These findings urge further investigation into the definition of subtypes of insomnia and their causal factors, for which we have now initiated the Netherlands Sleep Registry."

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented, that "insomnia is a common feature of nearly every psychiatric condition associated with reduced cortical volume; in fact, it is a common symptom of psychiatric disorders or high levels of life stress, generally. The study by Altena and colleagues suggests that there are additional risks of not treating insomnia, such as detrimental effects on the microstructure of the brain."

via Losing sleep, losing brain?.

Fat Tissue May Be a Source of Valuable Blood Stem Cells, Study Says marrow is a leading source of adult stem cells, which are increasingly used for research and therapeutic interventions, but extracting the cells is an arduous and often painful process. Now, researchers have found evidence that fat tissue, known as adipose tissue, may be a promising new source of valuable and easy-to-obtain regenerative cells called hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), according to a study prepublished online in Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology.

“It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a donor graft of adipose tissue-derived HSPCs might be able to partially replace the need for bone marrow transplantation within 10 years,” said lead study author Gou Young Koh, MD, PhD, of the Department of Biological Sciences, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daedeok Science Town, Daejeon, South Korea.

HSPCs are powerful cells that have the ability to regenerate and develop into many different kinds of cells. With advances in technologies and understanding of cell functions, HSPCs are now used to repair damaged tissue and are being studied for their potential to treat a vast array of chronic and degenerative conditions. HSPCs are found in high quantities in the bone marrow, but a certain portion known as extramedullary tissue, found outside of bone marrow, circulate between the marrow and the peripheral blood.

Previous research has found that adipose tissue contains many different types of adult stem cells. In this study, researchers hypothesized that the adipose tissue might be a valuable alternative source of HSPCs as an extramedullary tissue but questioned whether the tissue could provide a sufficient quantity of cells to be used for research and therapeutic purposes....

via Fat Tissue May Be a Source of Valuable Blood Stem Cells, Study Says.

British crocodiles 'taught to recognise their names'

British crocodiles 'taught to recognise their names' : A crocodile at the Blue Planet Aquarium in CheshireThe reptiles, Paleo and Suchus, have been taught to listen for their names being called, it was claimed.

Keepers at the centre in Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, they are even learning when to open their mouths for food.

They ssaid the type of training had worked with mammals before but hardly ever with reptiles.

"They are very intelligent and started responding to their names in just a few days," said Tom Cornwall, the aquarium's manager.

In a bid to train them, the crocodiles, which are called Cuvier's dwarf caiman, are given food as a prize if they react in the right way.

The training takes its idea from a similar scheme run at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in India.

Once fully trained, the aquarium's zoological team will set up "enrichment activities" for the pair.

Mr Cornwall, Blue Planet Aquarium's ranger and exhibits manager, added: "As well as enabling us to approach them and inspect and treat any potential health issues it will also allow us to set up tasks and foraging exercises for them to mimic the types of behaviour they would have to use in the wild."

Found throughout South America, the Cuvier's dwarf caiman usually live in freshwater habitats like rivers, including the Amazon, flooded forests and larger lakes.

via British crocodiles 'taught to recognise their names' - Telegraph.

Crocodiles are very intelligent. That's why I stopped eating them years ago.  I used to have a few crocodiles with my eggs and toast each morning, but I've turned over a new leaf.