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Sat, 06 Feb 2016
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Near-Earth Object Search Gets More Money

The Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) has just been awarded an additional $4.1 million, in funds from the American space agency. The money will be used to improve the effort's ability to discover near-Earth objects that could pose a risk to our planet.

Based at the University of Arizona in Tucson (UAT), the CSS is constantly scanning the night sky in search of indications that asteroids or meteorites are heading this way. Lately, astronomers have begun warning governments that they would do well to invest in planetary defense systems.

There is currently no way of deflecting an asteroid on final approach to Earth, so the best hope we have of surviving such a potential encounter is to act with plenty of time to spare. In turn, this implies discovering the potential threat well in advance.

By awarding these new funds, NASA has taken a much-needed step in this direction. With this monetary influx, the CSS will be upgraded and capable of conducting surveys until 2015.

Last year alone, astronomers working with this survey were able to discover 586 asteroids, which is the equivalent of nearly two thirds of all near-Earth objects discovered last year around the world.

The CCS was even able to track an asteroid as it was heading towards Earth. It kept tabs on the space rock until it entered Earth's atmosphere, and then crashed somewhere in the northern parts of Sudan.


Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells

A new study shows that low doses of Bt biopesticide CryA1b as well as the glyphosate herbicide, Roundup, kill human kidney cells. The Bt biopesticide conferring insect resistance and the glyphosate tolerance trait tied to the use of glyphosate herbicides account for almost all the GM crops grown worldwide. Bt crops already constitute 39 % of globally cultivated genetically modified (GM) crops, yet this is the first study that provides evidence on the toxicity of Bt protein in human cells.

This work comes at a time when the French environment and agricultural ministers are seeking an EU-wide ban of Monsanto's MON810 Bt corn variety that is already outlawed in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Greece, and Luxembourg. The EU commission approved this crop in 2009, concluding that it "is as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health". In response to their publication the research team raised questions about the safety assessment procedure stating that their findings were a "surprising outcome and this risk was somehow overlooked" in past assessments of such crops[1].


Sweet Victory: When The Science Says The Farm Beats Pharma

© GreenMedInfo

Some of the most powerful medicines provided to us are actually in our kitchen cupboard, "pretending" to be condiments, spices or foods. Some we are too familiar with to readily recognize them for their astounding health benefits, even though we may be consuming them daily.

Honey, for instance, has too many traditional medical uses to name, with at least 60 confirmed and documented in the Western, "science-based" medical model, as well.

Did you know, for instance, that certain honeys have the ability to destroy the much-feared MRSA "super-germs" you may have been hearing about of late? Manuka honey, which comes from bees gathering the nectar from Manuka flowers in New Zealand, has been documented to suppress this form of Staphyloccous auerus, which is known to be resistant to the antibiotic methicillin (MRSA). Here are a few studies on the topic:
  • Healing of an MRSA-colonized, hydroxyurea-induced leg ulcer with honey. J Dermatolog Treat. 2001 Mar;12(1):33-6. PMID: 12171686 View Study
  • Bacteriological changes in sloughy venous leg ulcers treated with manuka honey or hydrogel: an RCT. J Wound Care. 2008 Jun;17(6):241-4, 246-7. PMID: 18666717 View Study
  • Manuka honey inhibits cell division in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2011 Nov ;66(11):2536-42. Epub 2011 Sep 7. PMID: 21903658 View Study


Mysterious Objects at the Edge of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

The human eye is crucial to astronomy. Without the ability to see, the luminous universe of stars, planets and galaxies would be closed to us, unknown forever. Nevertheless, astronomers cannot shake their fascination with the invisible.

Outside the realm of human vision is an entire electromagnetic spectrum of wonders. Each type of light--­from radio waves to gamma-rays--reveals something unique about the universe. Some wavelengths are best for studying black holes; others reveal newborn stars and planets; while others illuminate the earliest years of cosmic history.

NASA has many telescopes "working the wavelengths" up and down the electromagnetic spectrum. One of them, the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope orbiting Earth, has just crossed a new electromagnetic frontier.

"Fermi is picking up crazy-energetic photons," says Dave Thompson, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "And it's detecting so many of them we've been able to produce the first all-sky map of the very high energy universe."

"This is what the sky looks like near the very edge of the electromagnetic spectrum, between 10 billion and 100 billion electron volts."

Cloud Lightning

Lasers Can Be Used to Steer Lightning In Mid-Strike

© Owen Zammit via Flickr
Laser light can not only trigger lightning but redirect it, causing it to strike in the same place over and over, according to new research. This means lasers could serve as lightning rods. Because that would be awesome.

Laser lightning rods have been a research subject for several decades, because they could trigger lightning and guide it to a specific place. Firing a laser would create an ionized channel in the atmosphere, which could conduct the lightning to the ground. Laser lightning rods could be an alternative to lightning rockets, according to Aurlien Houard of the Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquée in Palaiseau, France, a co-author of this study. Lightning rockets can apparently trigger a lightning strike by bringing a conductive material, like some type of salts, toward the static layer of a thunderhead. But a laser would be easier to control than a rocket.


Google Gives Search a Refresh

© Associated Press
Google's Amit Singhal, shown in 2009, sees better matches for queries.
Google Inc. is giving its tried-and-true Web-search formula a makeover as it tries to fix the shortcomings of today's technology and maintain its dominant market share.

Over the next few months, Google's search engine will begin spitting out more than a list of blue Web links. It will also present more facts and direct answers to queries at the top of the search-results page.

The changes to search are among the biggest in the company's history and could affect millions of websites that rely on Google's current page-ranking results. At the same time, they could give Google more ways to serve up advertisements.


Did Life on Earth Come From Mars?

Mars would have been a better host for life to arise than Earth.

Given the same raw materials, Mars would have been a better host for life to arise than Earth, which some scientists believe was too flooded for the chemistry of life to gain a toehold.

Without at least occasional dry land, the chemistry needed to get life started doesn't work very well because the molecules to support genetics, such as RNA, are chemically unstable in many ways, particularly in water.

That raises a problem, because life, at least as we know it today, seems to require water.

"How is it possible that the chemicals that we now have supporting modern life, which is so unstable in water, could have arisen in water?" biochemist Steven Benner, head of the Foundation For Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainsville, Fla., told Discovery News.

The answer could be that life evolved in places that occasionally dried out.

"You can get RNA and its building blocks to be stable in an Earth-like environment, provided you put them into some environment that is deficient in water," Benner said, pointing to a place like Death Valley, where there is intermittent rainfall to provide organic compounds from the atmosphere as well as cycles of dryness.

"If you get building blocks for RNA, you get genetics and you're off to the races. You've got life," Benner said.

But there's a catch.


Kashmir Scientists Clone the First Ever Pashmina Goat

© The Daily Mail, UK
Valley breakthrough: This goat pictured was used to clone Noori, the cloned Pashmina kid.

Scientists in Kashmir have cloned the first Pashmina goat using advanced reproductive techniques, officials at the Shere- Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology (SKUAST) said on Thursday.

The March 9 birth of female kid Noori could spark breeding programmes across the region and mass production of the highpriced wool, lead project scientist Dr Riaz Ahmad Shah said.

Shah and six other scientists took two years to clone Noori, using the relatively new 'handmade' cloning technique involving only a microscope and a steady hand. 'We've standardised the procedure.

Now it will take us half a year to produce another,' said Dr Maajid Hassan, another veterinarian who worked on the project, which was partly funded by the World Bank.

The team has already started work on more clones among the university's herd of goats.


The Brain on Alcohol: Why Some Drinkers Blackout

© Scott David Patterson | Shuttershock
After a night of heavy partying, you might need a few clues to piece together your night. New research suggests that some people are more susceptible than others to blackouts and memory loss after tossing a few back.

The differences between the two "party types" are visible in their brains, with those prone to blackouts showing different responses in brain areas involved in memory and attention processes after ingesting just a slight amount of alcohol, compared with people who don't blackout.

"It could be that their brains are just wired differently. Or it could be underlying things going on, like differences in dopamine levels," study researcher Reagan Wetherill, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, told LiveScience. "Some people are made differently and are able to handle things such as alcohol and others just aren't."


Scientists find fossils of ancient tiny camel while probing sediment from Panama Canal

© The Canadian Press/The Associated Press/HO/Jeff Gage
In this undated photo made available by the Florida Museum of Natural History, shows the lower jaw of Aguascalietia panamaensis, a new species of ancient camel described by University of Florida researchers online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
US: Miami, Florida - Researchers say they have discovered the fossils of a small camel with a long snout that roamed the tropical rainforests of the isthmus of Panama some 20 million years ago.

The ancient camel had no hump, and one of the two species found appeared to stand only about two feet (.6 metres) tall, scientists reported in a recently published article in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

University of Florida researcher Aldo Rincon discovered the fossils during the widening of the Panama Canal to accommodate hulking new cargo ships. He and other scientists from Panama, the United States and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute also reported finding fossils of ancient marlins, turtles and horses.

"We never expected to find a camel there," said Smithsonian scientist Carlos Jaramillo, co-author of the journal article. "It's really, really a surprise."

Unlike contemporary camels, these had crocodile-like teeth.

"It was like a little dog," Jaramillo said.

Scientists believe the camels, Aguascalientia panamaensis and Aguascalientia minuta, may have used the sharp teeth as they chomped on lush foliage and fruit.