Science & Technology


DNA Building Block Creation Seen In Living Cells: Could Be Key To New Cancer Treatments

Penn State scientists are the first to observe in living cells a key step in the creation of adenine and guanine, two of the four building blocks that comprise DNA. Also called purines, the two building blocks are essential for cell replication. The findings, which will be published in the 4 April 2008 issue of the journal Science, could lead to new cancer treatments that prevent cancer cells from replicating by interfering with their abilities to make purines.

DNA Building block
©Erin Sheets, Penn State
These cells, which were grown in the absence of purines, contain enzymes that are labeled with fluorescent proteins. The bright areas represent enzyme clusters.

Astronomers View Distant Galaxies Evolving One Billion Years After The Big Bang

UK astronomers have produced the most sensitive infrared map of the distant Universe ever undertaken. Combining data over a period of three years, they have produced an image containing over 100,000 galaxies over an area four times the size of the full Moon. Some of the first results from this project will be presented by Dr. Sebastien Foucaud from the University of Nottingham on 4th April at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast.

©UDS, University of Nottingham
Zooming into a small fraction of the UKIDSS UDS field, the deepest infrared image ever obtained over such a large area. The zoom shows a relatively nearby spiral galaxy. Many of the faint red objects in the background are massive galaxies at distances of over 10 billion light years

The Sculptures of the Parthenon, questions of authenticity and stewardship

Parthenon - c.pedia
The Parthenon seen from the hill of the Pnyx to the west.

Near-Earth Object Protection: NASA or Defense Department Mission?

Keep an eye on a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

The NEO Preparedness Act calls upon the NASA Administrator to establish an Office of Potentially Hazardous Near-Earth Object Preparedness. That office would "prepare the United States for readiness to avoid and to mitigate collisions with potentially hazardous near-Earth objects in collaboration with other Agencies through the identification of situation- and decision-analysis factors and selection of procedures and systems."

NYU dental professor discovers biological clock

Why do rats live faster and die younger than humans? A newly discovered biological clock provides tantalizing clues.

This clock, or biological rhythm, controls many metabolic functions and is based on the circadian rhythm, which is a roughly 24-hour cycle that is important in determining sleeping and feeding patterns, cell regeneration, and other biological processes in mammals.

The newly discovered rhythm, like the circadian rhythm, originates in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that functions as the main control center for the autonomic nervous system. But unlike the circadian rhythm, this clock varies from one organism to another, operating on shorter time intervals for small mammals, and longer ones for larger animals. For example, rats have a one-day interval, chimpanzees six, and humans eight.

Meteorites delivered the 'seeds' of Earth's left-hand life

Flash back three or four billion years - Earth is a hot, dry and lifeless place. All is still. Without warning, a meteor slams into the desert plains at over ten thousand miles per hour. With it, this violent collision may have planted the chemical seeds of life on Earth.

Scientists presented evidence today that desert heat, a little water, and meteorite impacts may have been enough to cook up one of the first prerequisites for life: The dominance of "left-handed" amino acids, the building blocks of life on this planet.

In a report at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Ronald Breslow, Ph.D., University Professor, Columbia University, and former ACS President, described how our amino acid signature came from outer space.

©Los Alamos National Laboratory
A simulated ribosome (white and purple subunits) processing an amino acid (green).
Heart - Black

Ruthlessness gene discovered

Dictatorial behaviour may be partly genetic, study suggests.

Selfish dictators may owe their behaviour partly to their genes, according to a study that claims to have found a genetic link to ruthlessness. The study might help to explain the money-grabbing tendencies of those with a Machiavellian streak - from national dictators down to 'little Hitlers' found in workplaces the world over.

Could a gene be partly responsible for the behaviour of some of the worlds most infamous dictators?

Comment: These researchers would benefit greatly from studying psychopathy and ponerology.


Swedes find Viking-era Arab coins

Swedish archaeologists have discovered a rare hoard of Viking-age silver Arab coins near Stockholm's Arlanda airport.

Arab coins
The Arab coins reveal where they were minted and the date
Pocket Knife

Pentagon Looks to Network Science to Predict Future

The University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science just announced that it's been awarded a $7.5 million grant to work in this fast emerging field of network science, which melds everything from mathematics to sociology.

Network science is increasingly the "hot" area for Pentagon research. Why? Because the Pentagon hopes that if it can understand complex networks, then it can understand terrorist networks, and even predict who will join such a network.

Comment: Non-linear thinking and networking are interesting concepts. Too bad that it is the Pentagon that is seeking to exploit them. And too bad that they just could not resist the temptation to insert yet some more propaganda and Orwellian measures for their war on terror in here:
"Network science is increasingly the "hot" area for Pentagon research. Why? Because the Pentagon hopes that if it can understand complex networks, then it can understand terrorist networks, and even predict who will join such a network."
One day they will argue that any given person is a suspect because complex mathematical models predicted that they would join some terrorist group in the future.

Evil Rays

Seismic Faults 'Talk' to Each Other Before Earthquakes

An extensive fault that tracks the Pacific coast of North America from Canada to Northern California could trigger major quakes along California's San Andreas Fault, a new study suggests.

"The faults seem to be communicating with each other," said study leader Chris Goldfinger of Oregon State University.

The evidence came from core samples of marine sediments taken along the northern California seabed.

There, seismologists found 15 turbidites, sediment deposits that are created when an earthquake triggers an underwater landslide.

The turbidites correspond to earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, including the great 1906 earthquake that destroyed large parts of San Francisco.

©Robert E. Wallace, USGS
An aerial view of the San Andreas fault slicing through the Carrizo Plain in the Temblor Range east of San Luis Obispo, Calif.