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Saturn

Really now! NASA promises 'definitive evidence' of alien life by 2025

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© NASA/JPL-Caltech
Simulated View from Europa's Surface (Artist's Concept)
We are on the cusp of discovering alien civilizations, NASA's top scientists have said. They predict we're one generation away from finding something in our Milky Way neighborhood, which is bustling with environments conducive to life.

Making their comments at a panel discussion Tuesday, the space scientists predict that the first discoveries will come within a decade. Chief scientist Ellen Stofan believes we'll have "definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years," as "in most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it. And so I think we're definitely on the road."

"I think we're one generation away in our solar system, where it's on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star," former astronaut John Grunsfeld said at the session.

NASA has made huge strides in both spotting distant worlds and analyzing their chemical composition. Stofan said: "We know where to look." Indeed, the Kepler mission has found no shortage of rocks that could support life, while icy moons in our own galaxy have long been suspected to hold incredible secrets beneath their own crust - among them Jupiter's enigmatic moons - especially Europa, where a gargantuan body of water rages beneath the thin surface and water vapors are literally sprayed 200 km upward, giving clues to life-supporting minerals beneath. This while Ganymede is thought to have more water than all of Earth's oceans combined.

Comment: While the ideals of space exploration and discovery are noble and should be well lauded and supported, one can't help but wonder how much willful ignorance or misdirection exists with NASA's announcement. After all, with the mounds and mounds of research that already exists, how difficult is it to accept that not only is there alien life in the universe other than our own, but that the E.T.s have been visiting Earth for quite a long time now.


Magic Wand

Tesla was right: Scientists wirelessly transmit electricity through the air

Scientists in Japan have successfully transmitted electric energy wirelessly through the air, proving that Nikola Tesla was onto something big.

For years debates have raged about whether or not power could be transferred through the air, and while there have been many reports of this being achieved on a small scale, there has never been a major mainstream study into the phenomenon, until now.

Scientists with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency used microwaves to deliver electricity to a specific target 55 meters away.

"This was the first time anyone has managed to send a high output of nearly two kilowatts of electric power via microwaves to a small target, using a delicate directivity control device," a spokesman for the agency told AFP on Thursday.

Info

50 years of DNA research turned upside down as scientists discover second programming language within genetic code

Scientists have discovered a second code hiding within DNA. This second code contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease.

A research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, made the discovery. The findings are reported in the Dec. 13 issue of Science.

Read the research paper. Also see commentary in Science, "The Hidden Codes that Shape Protein Evolution."

The work is part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project, also known as ENCODE. The National Human Genome Research Institute funded the multi-year, international effort. ENCODE aims to discover where and how the directions for biological functions are stored in the human genome.

Comment: As the study's authors allude to, this discovery pulls the rug from under 'genetic determinism'. This means that every time a doctor has said "Sorry, but it's in your genes," he or she has only had half the answer. We may be 'hardwired' towards certain proclivities, but we also appear to have a wide range of choice as to the expression of those proclivities.

If the programming of one code is regulated by the programming of second code, and if "DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device," then we're naturally left wondering to what extent the information - in the form of learning, diet (food, after all, is a form of 'ingesting information'), and environmental impressions - that a person consciously, or even passively, takes in during his or her lifetime, could fundamentally regulate the expression of that person's genes during his or her lifetime.

In short, we have far more latent ability to expand our free will than we realize.


Health

A longer life may lie in number of anti-inflammatory genes

© EKS/Shutterstock.com
Why do some kinds of animals live longer than others? For mammals, part of the answer may lie in the number of anti-inflammatory genes.

From mouse to man — and across 12 other mammal species examined — researchers found that those with more copies of genes called CD33rSIGLEC, which is involved in fighting inflammation, have a longer life span.

Moreover, mice that researchers bred to have fewer copies of these genes experience premature aging and early death compared with normal mice, the study found.

"Though not quite definitive, this finding is provocative," said Dr. Ajit Varki, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, who co-led the study.

"As far as we know, it's the first time life span has been correlated with simple gene copy number."

Scientists report this finding today (April 7) in the online journal eLife.

Inflammation is a healthy and necessary function of a body's immune system, and is triggered when tissues are injured by bacteria, viruses, toxins or some other kind of trauma. It happens when chemicals released by the immune system to fight infection or repair tissue cause blood vessels to leak, resulting in telltale swelling and redness.

Chronic inflammation, however, is a prolonged reaction of the immune system that is damaging and life-threatening. This might be an overreaction to food proteins such as gluten, as seen in people with celiac disease; a self-destructive attack of the body's on parts, as seen in those with rheumatoid arthritis; or long-term inflammatory activity that culminates in a host of ailments, such as circulatory disease, some cancers, and Alzheimer's disease.

In this last example, chronic inflammation is seen as a hallmark of aging. Vast classes of pharmaceutical drugs to treat chronic diseases work by fighting inflammation. The Mediterranean-style diet — high in fruits, vegetables and healthy oils — is also aimed at reducing inflammation, and is thought to increase human life expectancy.

Light Sabers

DARPA releases new KILSWITCH Android app that allows soldiers to kill people seven times faster than before

© Reuters / Marie Arago
Pentagon researchers say a new tool in the military's arsenal will enable soldiers on the ground to order laser-guided missile strikes from high in the sky about seven-times faster than before.

Officials with the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said on Monday that a recent exercise undertaken by the US Marine Corps successfully demonstrated the state-of-the-art abilities of a Persistent Close Air Support System, or PCAS, which lets troops coordinate attacks with precision from miles apart using specially-equipped Android tablets.

In a statement, DARPA said the test occurred March 27 somewhere in the southwest US as part of Operation TALON REACH and involved the use of wearable tablets among infantry and aviation teams alike in order to carry out a simulated strike.

Marines on the ground plotted out an aerial assault using portable tablets and a program called KILSWITCH — a contrived acronym of Kinetic Integrated Low-cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld — to successfully coordinate an airstrike in a fraction of the time it usually takes, DARPA said.

Lt. Gen. Jon M. Davis, the Marine Corps' deputy commandant for aviation, said he was "very pleased" with the success of the program after only a single exercise.


Comment: Here's the fruit of our 'advanced civilization', folks. Our capacity for creativity has been turned against us and used in the most debased and inhuman ways. Instead of technology being used to further the development of the human race, it is bringing us closer to total destruction. While the US lays waste to the physical infrastructure of other societies, it deadens any humanity left of it's own society through the mass acceptance of such depraved conduct.


Green Light

Cheap, fast and pure: Breakthrough method for hydrogen fuel may revolutionize car industry

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© Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader
Scientists at Virginia Tech have come up with a brand new way to create hydrogen fuel: It's cheap, fast and produces clean results, and involves plain old corn stalks, cobs and husks.

It's long been known that the use of hydrogen has a tremendous potential both, for increasing energy efficiency and for greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But as the Virginia team write in their study, published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "producing it in a distributed, carbon-neutral, low-cost manner requires new technologies."

"Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels," Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, explained in a statement. "Hydrogen is one of the most important biofuels of the future."

Comment: Exciting news! Only drawback will be the cost in agriculture to grow so much corn.


Battery

New battery prototype is cheaper, faster, safer and charges in 1 minute

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© Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University
Stanford scientists have invented a flexible, high-performance aluminum battery that charges in about 1 minute.
A new battery developed at Stanford may well revolutionize personal technology. It charges in a minute, lasts thousands of cycles and is much safer than current commercial models. Right now it lacks capacity, but its creators say it's a work in progress.

"We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames," said Hongjie Dai, a chemistry professor at Stanford.

Attention

Larger, more destructive earthquakes possible given new link between two California faults

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© Estelle Chaussard/UC Berkeley
The red line indicates the newly discovered link between the southern end of the Hayward Fault and the Calaveras Fault, once thought to be independent systems.
Two California fault lines — the Calaveras Fault and the Hayward Fault — are actually connected, new research shows, meaning an earthquake resulting from the pair could be much more destructive than originally thought, with a potential for a magnitude 7 quake or greater.

Seismologists from the University of California Berkeley used two decades of satellite data to look at "ground deformation" and "fault creep," a news release explained. Creep describes the constant, slow movement of a fault line as opposed to a fault line that's still between quakes, like San Andreas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. "The Hayward Fault is actively moving, year-by-year," the USGS noted.

However, as Estelle Chaussard, lead researcher from UC Berkeley, explained to weather.com, though the ground is continuously moving, this movement is not producing any earthquakes. Until, that is, there's a rupture.

Comment: The potential for California to have its predicted 'big one' just got a little a bigger!


Cassiopaea

Single supernova caused nearly 2000-year-old explosion

© NASA
A study of 3C 397, a supernova remnant shown here in X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple) and Suzaku (blue), indicates the blast arose from a single white dwarf that accumulated matter from a normal companion star.
New analysis of data from the Japanese Suzaku X-ray satellite has revealed that the well-known supernova remnant named 3C 397 was the result of an explosion involving just one star, not the merging of a pair of white dwarfs, NASA officials revealed on Thursday.

Hiroya Yamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and his colleagues from the US and Japan reviewed observations conducted over five years ago.

"Mounting evidence indicates both of these mechanisms produce what we call type Ia supernovae," Yamaguchi, lead author of a paper published last month in The Astrophysical Journal, said in a statement. "To understand how these stars explode, we need to study the debris in detail with sensitive instruments like those on Suzaku."

Magnify

Medical ethicist outs scientific community for widespread 'plagiarism, fraud, and predatory publishing'

© Minh Uong/The New York Times
The scientific community is facing a 'pollution problem' in academic publishing, one that poses a serious threat to the "trustworthiness, utility, and value of science and medicine," according to one of the country's leading medical ethicists.

Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, director of the Division of Medical Ethics in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, shares these and other observations in a commentary publishing April 3 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"The pollution of science and medicine by plagiarism, fraud, and predatory publishing is corroding the reliability of research," writes Dr. Caplan. "Yet neither the leadership nor those who rely on the truth of science and medicine are sounding the alarm loudly or moving to fix the problem with appropriate energy."

Comment: Science is beyond corrupt; it's rarely even science at all. Check out:
  • Report: How corporations undermine science with fake bloggers and bribes
  • Corrupt science: Cancer research of 10 years useless, fradulent studies, says Mayo Clinic
  • Incompetent research or corrupt science?