Science & Technology


Killing for DNA: A predatory device in the bacterium's environment

© Graham Knott & Melanie Blokesch/EPFL
Electron scanning microscopy image showing Vibrio cholerae bacteria attached to a chitin surface.
Cholera is caused when the bacterium Vibrio cholerae infects the small intestine. The disease is characterized by acute watery diarrhea resulting in severe dehydration. EPFL scientists have now demonstrated that V. cholerae uses a tiny spear to stab and kill neighboring bacteria - even of its own kind - and then steal their DNA. This mechanism, known as "horizontal gene transfer", allows the cholera bacterium to become more virulent by absorbing the traits of its prey. The study is published in Science.

The lab of Melanie Blokesch at EPFL has uncovered how V. cholerae uses a predatory killing device to compete with surrounding bacteria and steal their DNA. This molecular killing device a spring-loaded spear that is constantly shooting out. This weapon is called the "type VI secretion system" (T6SS) and is known to exist in many types of bacteria. When V. cholerae comes close to other bacteria, the spear punches a hole into them, leaving them to die and release their genetic material, which the predator pulls into itself.

Comment: To use the hermetic maxim, 'As above, so below' - what about our societal environment. Do we have an inter-species predator amongst us?

Yes, we do - Psychopaths in power: The Parasite on the Human Super-organism.

How much energy or information do they "absorb" from us?

Well, as Andrew Lobaczewski, author of Political Ponerology states:
The biological, psychological, moral, and economic destruction of this majority is thus a "biological" necessity. Many means serve this end, starting with concentration camps and including warfare with an obstinate, well-armed foe who will devastate and debilitate the human power thrown at him, namely the very power jeopardizing pathocrats rule. Once safely dead, the soldiers will then be decreed heroes to be revered in paeans, useful for raising a new generation faithful to the pathocracy.

Pathocracy is a disease of great social movements followed by entire societies, nations, and empires.

Germs are not aware that they will be burned alive or buried deep in the ground along with the human body whose death they are causing.
For more information on how pathology is reflected on our societal level, read:

Global Pathocracy, Authoritarian Followers and the Hope of the World
"Humanity is a Cosmic body and each individual is a cell in that body. But the humanity we see today is a disease-ridden idiot - a shambling, ragged beast covered with oozing pustules of corruption representing science, religions and government - stumbling from one self-inflicted disaster to another. There can be only one outcome and this is documented in ancient literature describing how other 'mighty' cultures have ended."

Fireball 2

Near-Earth objects - Asteroid close approaches for January 2015

There are currently 5 known NEO Asteroids discovered that will pass within approximately 10LD or less, LD stands for "Lunar Distance", in the month of January; expect that 10 or more NEOs will be discovered before month end. Be ready for some bolide, fireball, and meteor activity!

Unfortunately we will be Moonblind for ground-based detection from 02DEC until about the 11JAN and from 28JAN-12FEB2015 so expect several asteroids that will go undetected.

There are four small mountan-sized asteroids that will safely pass this month.
Comet 2

Green comet 'Lovejoy' lights up the New Year sky

Comet Lovejoy
© The Independent, UK
The comet Lovejoy is set to light up the skies and excite many a stargazer over the first week of the New Year as it reaches its closest point to Earth.

The comet, formerly known as C/2014 Q2, is named after amateur Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy and was discovered in August.

The comet has been growing more visible in recent weeks to those living in the Southern Hempishere and Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the comet will reach its nearest position to Earth on January 7, a distance of about 70.2 million kilometres away. Thus, the green-glowing comet will be visible to those in the Northern Hemisphere.

Optogenetics captures neuronal transmission in live mammalian brain

© Aurélie Pala/EPFL
This is a reconstruction of a pair of synaptically connected neurons.
Neurons, the cells of the nervous system, communicate by transmitting chemical signals to each other through junctions called synapses. This "synaptic transmission" is critical for the brain and the spinal cord to quickly process the huge amount of incoming stimuli and generate outgoing signals. However, studying synaptic transmission in living animals is very difficult, and researchers have to use artificial conditions that don't capture the real-life environment of neurons. Now, EPFL scientists have observed and measured synaptic transmission in a live animal for the first time, using a new approach that combines genetics with the physics of light. Their breakthrough work is published in Neuron.

Aurélie Pala and Carl Petersen at EPFL's Brain Mind Institute used a novel technique, "optogenetics," that has been making significant inroads in the field of neuroscience in the past ten years. This method uses light to precisely control the activity of specific neurons in living, even moving, animals in real time. Such precision is critical in being able to study the hundreds of different neuron types, and understand higher brain functions such as thought, behavior, language, memory -- or even mental disorders.

Mystery object appears near Milky Way's monster black hole

G2 gas cloud
© SO/MPE/Marc Schartmann 3
A computer simulation shows the G2 gas cloud's encounter with the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way, as well as the paths of the many other objects that orbit the black hole.
A mystery object at the center of the galaxy has astronomers scratching their heads, and a new piece of information won't be solving the case before the New Year.

In yet another twist to a saga of astronomical proportions, astronomers have identified what they say is a gas cloud that made a tight orbit around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy 13 years ago. The object could be one in a series of gas clouds, the second of which may soon become a snack for the black hole.

The newly discovered object has been dubbed G1. An object known as G2 has been in the news for more than a year, ever since astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany hypothesized that it was a gas cloud. If that is true, it should lose some of its material to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (known as Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*). This giant black hole - its name is pronounced Sagittarius A(star) - doesn't dine on material often, so the event would be a rare chance for astronomers to watch a black hole eat.
Pumpkin 2

Neuroscientists reveal the anatomy of the undead's brain, propose survival techniques

zombie brain anatomy
  • Neuroscientists from Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, and the University of California, San Diego, analysed zombie behaviour in films
  • They worked out which sections of the brain would be damaged to trigger zombie behaviours, such as a lack of coordination and thirst for blood
  • Scientists came up with a hypothetical condition, dubbed CDHD
  • Lumbering zombies, as seen in The Walking Dead are diagnosed with CDHD-1, while faster ones, as seen in World War Z would have CDHD-2
  • Damage to fusifrom gyrus explains zombies' inability to recognise faces
  • Inability to suppress inappropriate responses, such as the desire to eat people would be due to damage in the orbitofrontal cortex, they said
Their lumbering, menacing gait and insatiable hunger for flesh strikes fear into even the most seasoned horror film fan.

Now, two neuroscientists have analysed the behaviour of the walking dead to reveal the inner workings of their minds and defined a comprehensive diagnosis of 'zombiism'.

And with this knowledge they have even hatched a plan for how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Supernova in Virgo brightens

© Gregor Krannich
The bright supernova (at tick marks) in the galaxy NGC 4666 photographed on December 24, 2014. The galaxy shines at magnitude 11.8 and looks like a sliver of milky light in a telescope.
A 14th magnitude supernova discovered in the spiral galaxy NGC 4666 earlier this month has recently brightened to 11th magnitude, making it not only the second brightest supernova of the year, but an easy find in an 8-inch or larger telescope. I made a special trip into the cold this morning for a look and saw it with ease in my 10-inch (25-cm) scope at low power at magnitude 11.9.

Before the Moon taints the dawn sky, you may want to bundle up and have a look, too. The charts below will help you get there.

Asteroids: Breaking up is hard to do

asteroid Eros
This image, taken by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission in 2000, shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth. A new paper argues that the major cause of fragmentation for small asteroids, around one hundred meters in size, is not collisions with other asteroids but rapid rotation induced by radiation.
Hundreds of thousands of asteroids are known to orbit our Sun at distances ranging from near the Earth to beyond Saturn. The most widely known collection of asteroids, the "main belt," contains some of the largest and brightest asteroids and lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers think that the asteroids, like the planets, formed in the early solar system from the gradual agglomeration of smaller particles but that, in the case of asteroids, their growth was interrupted by mutual collisions that caused them to fragment rather than to coalesce into planets.

This is an hypothesis which astronomers are trying to test by gathering new data. Their work has some immediate repercussions: NASA is currently planning an "Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)" as part of America's next human spaceflight enterprise. Understanding the origins of asteroid sizes - and then identifying a good one for an astronaut to recover - are prime US goals.

Comment: This out dated hypothesis is slowly being re-evaluated in light of real cometary science.

"The fundamental difference between asteroids and comets is not their chemical composition, i.e. dirty, fluffy icy comets vs. rocky asteroids. Rather, as has long been put forward by plasma theorists, what differentiates 'comets' from 'asteroids' is their electric activity"

Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection

For some in the mainstream astronomy community the penny is finally dropping: Mars moon Phobos may be a captured asteroid and recent discoveries are changing attitudes:

"Yet new information is already pouring in. What scientists have discovered is already starting to transform our understanding of Rosetta's target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (C-G for short), and cometary science."
1. C-G looks nothing like we'd expect

2. The surface is hotter than we guessed, and surprisingly ice-free

3. Despite its dry surface, C-G expels an astronomical amount of water... but not on its dark side
Where's the ice 3 surprising comet facts we've already learned from Rosetta

"NASA is currently planning an "Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)" as part of America's next human spaceflight enterprise. Understanding the origins of asteroid sizes - and then identifying a good one for an astronaut to recover - are prime US goals."
Really! Sounds more like the prime goal is that of 'perception management' based on 'bogus science'? Forget about funding for advanced warning systems - NASA et al. are broke, and as for asteroid-deflection technologies, many are just absurd. NASA are downplaying the sharp rise in meteor fireball impacts over last 20 years which was first noticed and tracked by in 2002.

Look to the past for what is to come! Celestial Intentions: Comets and the Horns of Moses


Independent authors upset with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program

author H.M. Ward
© Joshua Bright/NYT
The author H.M. Ward says she left Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program after two months when her income dropped 75 percent.
Authors are upset with Amazon. Again.

For much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e-books.

Now self-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer's publishing platform, are unhappy.

One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books - both self-published and traditionally published - for $9.99 a month.

It may bring in readers, but the writers say they earn less. And in interviews and online forums, they have voiced their complaints.

Space success: Russia launches new Angara space rocket

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday oversaw the successful test-launch of Russia's newest heavy-class Angara rocket, a rare piece of good news in a week dominated by the economic crisis.

The president oversaw by video link the launch of the Angara-A5 from Plesetsk in northern Russia at 0557 GMT, saying the new rocket would allow the country better protection.

"Indeed, for our space industry and I suppose for the whole of Russia this is a major, very important event," Putin said from the Kremlin.

"Russia remains one of the internationally recognized leaders in space exploration."

Putin said that Russia will over the next five years conduct a series of test-launches for the Angara - which is designed for civilian and military use, including the launch of manned spacecraft.

Comment: This latest Russian space success, together with that of their BRICS allies earlier this year (India's maiden Mars mission successful and China's first mission to moon and back) is in direct contrast to their Western counterparts; who have suffered various anomalies, in a shockingly bad year for their space dominance. Symbolic perhaps?

Virgin Galactic Space Ship Two destroyed after in flight anomaly

Antares rocket explosion: A "vehicle anomaly", a deliberate destruction, or something else?

NASA rocket bound for International Space Station explodes just seconds after takeoff