Science & Technology


Researchers reveal types of genes necessary for brain development

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brandeis University have successfully completed a full-genome RNAi screen in neurons, showing what types of genes are necessary for brain development. Details of the screen and its novel methodology are published July 4th in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

Recent advances in genomics, such as the sequencing of entire genomes and the discovery of RNA-interference as a means of testing the effects of gene loss, have opened up the possibility to systematically analyze the function of all known and predicted genes in an organism. Until now, this type of functional genomics approach has not been applied to the study of very complex cells, such as the brain's neurons, on a full-genome scale.


Earth consuming delayed: High-energy experiments into secrets of matter may start in fall

Proton collisions at the world's most powerful particle accelerator that some theorists say could create matter-consuming black holes should not be expected until the fall, a Russian physicist said Tuesday.

"We are not planning to begin proton collisions this summer," said Mikhail Kirsanov, a senior researcher at the Russian Institute for Nuclear Research, which is part of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project to investigate high energy particles and the beginning of the universe.

Some media sources have reported that the LHC may start "smashing atoms" as early as this week, and previous reports speculated that such collisions could create a black hole that would consume the Earth.

"We still have to cool down the accelerator and conduct some test-runs of proton beams around the accelerator ring," Kirsanov said. "No one can predict a certain date [for the start of the collisions]."


Uncovering an ancient city

Archaeologists unearth houses, artifacts along Silverbell Project

Hohokam Cortaro-Silverbell Marana
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Stephanie Ratcliffe, with Desert Archaeology, scoops dirt from of an ancient Hohokam pit house at the southeast corner of Ina and Silverbell roads. A team of archaeologists was brought in to excavate the area near the Silverbell roadway project.


Transforming history into science : Arise 'cliodynamics'

If we are to learn how to develop a healthy society, we must transform history into an analytical, predictive science, argues Peter Turchin. He has identified intriguing patterns across vastly different times and places.

©D Parkins


Ancient Hair Reveals Origins of 4000 Year Old Greenlanders

A clump of hair that lay frozen in the Greenland tundra for 4,000 years has yielded DNA from the earliest Arctic residents, and offers clues to their origins.

Researchers have long wondered who those rugged settlers were, and where they came from. Were they part of a massive migration that swept through all of North America, or were they a separate tribe that eventually gave rise to Greenland's present-day Eskimos?



Digging up the past at Scottish stone circle

Work will start next week to unearth the secrets of one of Europe's most important prehistoric sites.

The Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, the third-largest stone circle in the British Isles and thought to date back to 3000-2000BC, is regarded by archaeologists as an outstanding example of Neolithic settlement and has become a popular tourist attraction in the islands.

Ring of Brodgar
Ring of Brodgar in Orkney


Ancient tablet ignites debate on Christ's death and resurrection

There's a stir in biblical and archaeological circles because of a three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew, which suggests that the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, found near the Dead Sea in Jordan a decade back, according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era - in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.


China: Amateur sleuth solves puzzle of ancient bronzes

Yang Gancai is fascinated by China's ethnic minorities. The amateur photographer and his wife have traveled widely in China's frontier areas and settled in a minority village for six years to study its people and shoot documentaries about their way of life. During his time in the village Yang noticed that the symbolism used by the villagers, who, calling themselves the Akas, belong to a branch of the Hani ethnic group, bore a remarkable resemblance to the famous Sanxingdui bronzes, unearthed in 1986 in China's Sichuan Province.

Yang Gancai
(From L to R) In 2005, Yang Gancai's wife and Yang Gancai pose for a photo with the Akas in the village where the couple have lived for six years.


U.S. urged to prepare for asteroid strike

U.S. scientists have urged the U.S. government to take further defensive measures against near-Earth objects, The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.

The United States was not doing enough to defend the planet against the dangers posed by near-Earth objects, said a group of scientists who observed the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska asteroid event this week in Los Angeles.

"We are not prepared at this time to prevent the massive death and destruction that would occur if an object from space hit the Earth as it did in Tunguska" in Siberia, said Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who joined the scientists in the event.

Comment: A big problem is the misrepresentation of the situation; of suppression and inconsistency within scientific knowledge on the subject, as highlighted by SoTT's "Comets and Catastrophe's" series.

A common misconception is that any threat comprises a single massive impact, whereas research from the likes of Victor Clube (whose work is wholly suppressed) indicate that a more realistic threat comes from dispersed but dense clusters of numerous cometary fragments and dust, within the Taurid stream, rather than a single massive 'lump'. This could make the 'deflect the asteroid' solution wholly ineffective.

See 'The Cosmic Winter' by Victor Clube and Bill Napier for more information.


Space Probes Find Dent in Solar System

An artist's rendering of Voyager 2 in the outer limits of the heliosphere, the area of space affected by the Sun's solar wind.

Voyager 2's journey toward interstellar space has revealed surprising insights into the energy and magnetic forces at the solar system's outer edge, and confirmed the solar system's squashed shape.

Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to send data to Earth more than 30 years after they first launched. During the 1990s, Voyager 1 became the farthest manmade object in space.

Each spacecraft has now crossed the edge of the solar system, known as the termination shock, where the outbound solar wind collides with inbound energetic particles from interstellar space.