Science & Technology


Genes could influence who survives Ebola

Ebola virus
© iStockphoto/nopparit
The Ebola virus rendered into 3D.
The Ebola virus is not always deadly and genetics may play a role in the severity of the illness, according to a new study on mice.

Researchers at the University of Washington infected mice with a mouse form of the same species of the Ebola virus that is sweeping West Africa.

Seventy per cent of the mice got sick, and more than half of this group died, some due to liver inflammation and others due to internal hemorrhage.

About 19 per cent of the mice lost weight initially but then regained it in two weeks and made a full recovery.

The remaining 11 per cent showed a partial response to the virus and less than half in this group died.

The findings are reported in the journal Science this week.

Scientists say the variability in outcomes resembled what has been seen in the human epidemic sweeping West Africa this year, killing more than 4,900 people and infecting more than 13,000.

They were also able to find associations in disease outcomes and mortality rates according to specific genetic lines of mice.

Sense of disgust is '95 percent accurate' predictor of whether you're liberal or conservative

Woman disgusted by something
Scientists say they can predict "with 95 percent accuracy where you'll fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum by showing you just one picture" and then studying how your brain responds to the image. Furthermore, studies show that political orientation may be as inheritance-based as height.

According to New Scientist, increasing evidence indicates that the sense of disgust is closely aligned with a person's political orientation. People who land on the conservative end of the spectrum have a more easily aroused sense of disgust than their liberal counterparts.

A team of scientists at Virginia Tech led by researcher Read Montague found that people who are more likely to sit on the right side of the political spectrum have a higher sensitivity to disgusting pictures like bodily waste, gore or the remains of dead animals.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo destroyed after 'in-flight anomaly'

virgin galactic spaceshiptwo

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo fired its engine for the first time over the Mojave Desert in California
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has been destroyed after "an in-flight anomaly" during a rocket powered test flight over the Mojave Desert, Calif. Friday morning.

"#SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly. Additional info and statement forthcoming," the official Virgin Galactic feed tweeted at 10:13 a.m. PDT (1:13 p.m. EDT). This announcement came 6 minutes after the space tourism company announced the sub-orbital spacecraft's engines had ignited.

The anomaly appears to have occurred after the spacecraft, which is designed to carry 6 passengers and two pilots on a trip to the edge of space, was released from its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, and under powered flight.

Comment: This has been a bad week for space flight:

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

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


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

An unmanned rocket exploded shortly after takeoff Tuesday evening (28th of October) on Virginia's eastern shore. It was carrying a capsule loaded with experiments and much needed equipment. There were no injuries, but because of "classified crypto equipment" onboard, NASA made sure to secure the area.

Although there is much to say about the symbology of the event (starting with it being US's another flop and Russia saving the day, or the fact that Antares was being partly developed in Ukraine), there are plenty of other no less curious details.

Cassini observes a sunny day on Titan's seas

titan lakes
Near-infrared view from Cassini of Titan's north polar seas.
During a recent flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, NASA's Cassini mission captured some breathtaking infrared views of the small world, photographing sunlight glinting off its hydrocarbon seas.

Cassini has spotted sun glint before on Titan's surface, but this is the first set of observations (stitched together as a mosaic) where the boundaries of the seas and the sunlight glint are visible in the same view.

As Titan's surface is so cold, water cannot exist in a liquid state. Instead, the world cycles liquid methane (a substance that has a lower freezing point than water) from Titan's "great lakes", into the atmosphere as vapor, which condenses as clouds, raining methane back down onto the hydrocarbon surface. Much like Earth's water cycle, Titan's methane cycle creates rivers, deltas, valleys and large masses of liquid methane as observed here.

The sea glinting in sunlight is Kraken Mare, Titan's largest body of liquid. Surrounding Kraken Mare is a 'bathtub ring' - an old coastline that suggests the sea was at a higher level than it is now.

This observation was captured by Cassini's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on Aug. 21.

Comment: The colorized mosaic from the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, which maps infrared colors onto the visible-color spectrum, reveals differences in the composition of material around the lakes. The data suggest parts of Titan's lakes and seas may have evaporated and left behind the Titan equivalent of Earth's salt flats. The evaporated material is thought to be organic chemicals originally from Titan's haze particles that once dissolved in liquid methane. They appear orange in this image against the greenish backdrop of Titan's typical bedrock of water ice.

The bright area suggests that the surface here is unique from the rest of Titan, which might explain why almost all of the lakes are found in this region. Titan's lakes have very distinctive shapes -- rounded cookie-cutter silhouettes and steep sides -- and a variety of formation mechanisms have been proposed. The explanations range from the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption to karst terrain, where liquids dissolve soluble bedrock. Karst terrains on Earth can create spectacular topography such as the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. -JPL

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been exploring the Saturn system since 2004. A full Saturn year is 30 years, and Cassini has been able to observe nearly a third of a Saturn year. In that time, Saturn and its moons have seen the seasons change from northern winter to northern summer.


Hubble sees the eerie ghosts of long-dead galaxies

© NASA, et al.
See that blue glow? That's the ghostly remains of once-dazzling galaxies that have since been blended in a Cosmic grinder. It may sound like a gruesome Hallowe'en space slasher movie, but this is actually a stunning portrait of galactic evolution as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Abell 2744, or "Pandora's Cluster," consists of 500 galaxies over 4 billion light-years away from Earth. The stunning array of galaxies of all shapes and sizes are a sight to behold. But in this case, scientists studying this Hubble observation aren't admiring the beautiful elegance of the spiral galaxies or arcs of light bent by gravitational lensing, they're focused on the long-lost stars cast adrift in intergalactic space, released like tiny sparkles after an immense galactic smashup that occurred billions of years ago.

The blue glow has been detected by Hubble's sensitive optics and represent cosmic forensic evidence of the galactic violence - it is caused by countless billions of stars that are no longer gravitationally bound to their galaxies, forever drifting alone.

Universe may face a darker future: Is dark matter swallowing up dark energy?

New research offers a novel insight into the nature of dark matter and dark energy and what the future of our Universe might be.

© Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Cosmologists use galaxies observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to study the nature of dark energy.
Researchers in Portsmouth and Rome have found hints that dark matter, the cosmic scaffolding on which our Universe is built, is being slowly erased, swallowed up by dark energy.

The findings appear in the journal Physical Review Letters, published by the American Physical Society. In the journal cosmologists at the Universities of Portsmouth and Rome, argue that the latest astronomical data favours a dark energy that grows as it interacts with dark matter, and this appears to be slowing the growth of structure in the cosmos.

Professor David Wands, Director of Portsmouth's Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, is one of the research team.

Oceans arrived early to Earth; Primitive meteorites were a likely source of water, study finds

Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet's surface and are home to the world's greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life on the planet, the answers to two key questions have eluded us: where did Earth's water come from and when?

early solar system
© Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
In this illustration of the early solar system, the dashed white line represents the snow line -- the transition from the hotter inner solar system, where water ice is not stable (brown) to the outer Solar system, where water ice is stable (blue). Two possible ways that the inner solar system received water are: water molecules sticking to dust grains inside the "snow line" (as shown in the inset) and carbonaceous chondrite material flung into the inner solar system by the effect of gravity from protoJupiter. With either scenario, water must accrete to the inner planets within the first ca. 10 million years of solar system formation.
While some hypothesize that water came late to Earth, well after the planet had formed, findings from a new study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) significantly move back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.

"The answer to one of the basic questions is that our oceans were always here. We didn't get them from a late process, as was previously thought," said Adam Sarafian, the lead author of the paper published Oct. 31, 2014, in the journal Science and a MIT/WHOI Joint Program student in the Geology and Geophysics Department.

One school of thought was that planets originally formed dry, due to the high-energy, high-impact process of planet formation, and that the water came later from sources such as comets or "wet" asteroids, which are largely composed of ices and gases.

Many Interacting Worlds theory: Scientists propose existence and interaction of parallel worlds

Howard Wiseman
© Griffith University
Professor Howard Wiseman, Director of Griffith University's Centre for Quantum Dynamics.
Griffith University academics are challenging the foundations of quantum science with a radical new theory based on the existence of, and interactions between, parallel universes.

In a paper published in the prestigious journal Physical Review X, Professor Howard Wiseman and Dr Michael Hall from Griffith's Centre for Quantum Dynamics, and Dr Dirk-Andre Deckert from the University of California, take interacting parallel worlds out of the realm of science fiction and into that of hard science.

The team proposes that parallel universes really exist, and that they interact. That is, rather than evolving independently, nearby worlds influence one another by a subtle force of repulsion. They show that such an interaction could explain everything that is bizarre about quantum mechanics

Quantum theory is needed to explain how the universe works at the microscopic scale, and is believed to apply to all matter. But it is notoriously difficult to fathom, exhibiting weird phenomena which seem to violate the laws of cause and effect.

As the eminent American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman once noted: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics."

However, the "Many-Interacting Worlds" approach developed at Griffith University provides a new and daring perspective on this baffling field.

"The idea of parallel universes in quantum mechanics has been around since 1957," says Professor Wiseman.

"In the well-known "Many-Worlds Interpretation", each universe branches into a bunch of new universes every time a quantum measurement is made. All possibilities are therefore realised - in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed Earth. In others, Australia was colonised by the Portuguese.

"But critics question the reality of these other universes, since they do not influence our universe at all. On this score, our "Many Interacting Worlds" approach is completely different, as its name implies."

Good luck with that $15 minimum wage

Have you interacted with retail store clerks?

Over the next ten years robots will replace many of them.

Good luck doubling the minimum wage while this is happening.
Autonomous Retail Service Robot
© The Burning Platform