Science & Technology


Martian north pole consists of layers of dust and ice

Mars' north pole, like a French parfait, comes in layers.

Scientists analyzing radar images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft have found as many as seven distinct layers of ice and dust beneath the north pole.

Roger J. Phillips, a scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said the layering was probably caused by changes in the planet's orbit over the last 4 million years.

When the planet tilts strongly on its axis, the surface ice erodes and is covered by a layer of dust, Phillips said.

This image provided by NASA is a small portion of an exposure taken in March 2008 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Some high-latitude areas on Mars and Earth exhibit similarly patterned ground where shallow fracturing has drawn polygons on the surface. This patterning may result from cycles of freezing and thawing.


Cosmic dust helps in water formation on interstellar clouds

Scientists have come up with an answer to how water comes about in the interstellar clouds that give birth to stars, planets, and life, by suggesting that tiny grains of cosmic dust in the clouds help in the process.

According to a report in New Scientist, though water forms easily when hydrogen and oxygen exist as gases, models of interstellar clouds suggest that this route is unlikely to produce the abundance of water seen in them.

Most of the water that is seen has formed icy sheaths around tiny grains of dust in the clouds, and it is believed oxygen atoms accumulate on the grains and react with hydrogen to form water.


First Evidence Of Native Dendritic Cells In Brain Surprises Scientists

In a finding that has the potential to change the way researchers think about the brain, scientists at Rockefeller University have found dendritic cells where they've never been seen before: among this organ's neurons and connective cells. The immunity-directing dendritic cell had previously been seen in the human nervous system only after brain injury or disease. But the new study shows for the first time that the brain has its own, resident population of dendritic cells that may serve as a line of defense against pathogens that sneak past the blood-brain barrier.

dendritic cells
©Rockefeller University
Immunity inside. The brain's population of immunity-directing dendritic cells (green and yellow) can be seen here in the subventricular zone -- an area of postnatal neuron development.


Simple, Low-cost Carbon Filter Removes 90 Percent Of Carbon Dioxide From Smokestack Gases

Researchers in Wyoming report development of a low-cost carbon filter that can remove 90 percent of carbon dioxide gas from the smokestacks of electric power plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels.

Coal-burning power plant
©iStockphoto/Brittany Carter Courville
Coal-burning power plant.

Maciej Radosz and colleagues at Wyoming's Soft Materials Laboratory cite the pressing need for simple, inexpensive new technologies to remove carbon dioxide from smokestack gases. Coal-burning electric power plants are major sources of the greenhouse gas, and control measures may be required in the future.


Boeing tests airborne laser gun

The Boeing Company said it has fired a high-energy chemical laser aboard a C-130H aircraft in ground tests for the first time.

The successful ground tests, "a key milestone for the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program," took place on May 13 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

"First firing of the high-energy laser aboard the ATL aircraft shows that the program continues to make good progress toward giving the warfighter an ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.


World First Discovery: Genes From Extinct Tasmanian Tiger Function In A Mouse

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), inserted it into a mouse and observed a biological function -- this is a world first for the use of the DNA of an extinct species to induce a functional response in another living organism.

©Pask AJ, Behringer RR, Renfree MB
From extinction to gene expression. Functional analysis of the thylacine non-coding DNA fragment. (a) Diagram of transgene construct. 4 copies of a 264-bp fragment containing the Thylacine Col2a1 enhancer (TcyCol2a1) region was ligated to the human b-globin minimal promoter (black box) and ligated to lacZpA. (b--e) X-gal stained 14.5 dpc TcyCol2a1-lacZpA transgenic mouse embryo showing varying levels of reporter gene expression within the developing cartilage (blue). (f) Non-transgenic littermate, negative control fetus. (g) Top panel; Magnified image of forelimb from fetus in (b) black line indicates the plane of section shown in (g) bottom panel. Bottom panel; Histological section of transgenic forelimb digit, showing lacZ-expressing chondrogenic tissue (blue) counterstained with eosin (pink).


Suffolk company invests in organic bug-buster

A Suffolk company has invested in ground-breaking Dutch technology that controls pests and bugs in food without the need for chemicals.


One-Fifth of Human Genes Have Been Patented, Study Reveals

A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities.


New Archaeological Discovery in Bulgaria's Hisar

Marble consecrated slab stone from the Rome epoch was discovered in archaeological excavations by the director of Archaeological Museum in Hisar town doctor Mitko Madjarov.

The precious found has sizes 50 to 50cm and presents the three Rome nymphs - patronesses of the mineral springs.


Monkey Wrench

Body clock 'cog' discovery may cure jet lag

The discovery of a new "cog" in the human body clock that governs sleep will enable significant advances in the treatment of jet lag and sleeping disorders, scientists claim today.

The body clock, which links the cycles of metabolism and behaviour to the cycle of day and night, can be disrupted by old age, disease, international travel and shift work.

The disruption can lead not just to problems with sleeping and eating, but also to serious illness.

However, researchers have discovered a molecule, called c-AMP, that plays an important role in keeping the body clock ticking.