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Sun, 26 Feb 2017
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Gene drives: The scientific case for a complete & perpetual ban

One of the central issues of our day is how to safely manage the outputs of industrial innovation. Novel products incorporating nanotechnology, biotechnology, rare metals, microwaves, novel chemicals, and more, enter the market on a daily basis. Yet none of these products come with an adequate data set of scientific information. Nor do they come with a clear intellectual framework within which their risks can be placed, as disputes over the precautionary principle show. The majority of products receive no regulatory supervision at all. How will the product be disposed of? What populations and which ecosystems will be exposed in the course of its advertised uses? What will be the consequences of accidental, off-label or illegal uses? Typically, none of these kinds of questions are adequately asked by government regulatory agencies unless citizens actively prod them to do so.

In consequence of these defects, we expose our world to unique hazards with every product launch. In comparison with its tremendous importance, this is surely one of the least discussed issues of our day.

Comment: The militarized mind: Biodiversity, GMOs, & gene drives


2 + 2 = 4

That 'guilty' look your dog is giving you isn't actually guilt - they're scared

© Quorthon1/Shutterstock
Every dog owner knows the telltale look of a dog who did something it wasn't supposed to do. Maybe she pooped on the floor. Maybe she chewed through your favourite couch cushion, or the carpet on the stairs.

You know she did something she shouldn't have done and, seemingly, she does too. Since you're a human being, you see that look and ascribe a common human emotion to it: guilt.

Comment: What really prompts the dog's "guilty look"


Laptop

'Deep Dark Web': Mysterious universe where any information can be found

© Pixabay
Up to 80% of the Internet is said to be hidden in the so-called "deep web," which can be accessed using special search systems, like the Tor browser. Often, the "deep web" is associated with criminal activities, like firearms sales and drug trafficking.

The deep web is a kind of mysterious place where one can find everything that has been published on the Internet, but can't be accessed via traditional search engines. In other words, it is collection of websites that are publicly visible, but hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them.

Sun

The Solar Minimum, Earthquakes and Mini Ice Age - and What to Expect: Interview with John Casey, Author of UPHEAVAL and Dark Winter (VIDEO)


Comment: John Casey's research confirms much of what we think is occurring too. The following interview covers quite a lot of ground including the practical implications of expected major earth changes.


John Casey Author of UPHEAVAL & ADAPT 2030 Discuss Catastrophic Earthquakes Striking USA and Mini Ice Age Preparation. During every grand solar minimum the USA is rocked by 7.0-8.2+ earthquakes as well massive eruptions and seismic events across the globe. Our conversation covers how to prepare for these events and what to expect in terms of infrastructure damage, how to keep your family and businesses safe, investment opportunities, global crop losses and intensification of the grand solar minimum with a timeline to intensification.


Monkey Wrench

Avian biobank: Scientists say genetically modified 'surrogate hens' could lay eggs of rare chicken breeds

© Norrie Russell Roslin Institute
Some of the genetically modified chickens bred by scientists at the Roslin Institute.
Radical plan to maintain diversity of gene pool proposes use of genetically modified chickens as surrogate mothers

The Rumpless Game is squawky and, as its name suggests, lacks a tail, while the Burmese Bantam, has fantastically flared leg feathers and a head like a feather duster. But the true value of rare chicken breeds, according to a team of scientists working to save them from obsolescence, is not their decorative crests and plumage, but the diversity they bring to the chicken gene pool.

In a radical plan to preserve rare varieties such as the Nankin, Scots Dumpy and Sicilian Buttercup, scientists at the the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute have bred genetically modified chickens designed to act as surrogates that would be capable of laying eggs from any rare breed.

Speaking to journalists at the AAAS conference in Boston, Mike McGrew, who is leading the project, said: "These chickens are a first step in saving and protecting rare poultry breeds from loss."

Beaker

Modern-day alchemy: Harvard researchers claim to have turned hydrogen into metal

At the beginning of the last two centuries, if somebody had predicted it possible to turn hydrogen into a metal, the scientific community would most likely have responded that it would involve pseudo-scientific methods.

Alchemy, which is the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular, with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir, would have fit into the process of turning hydrogen into a metal. Although modern day chemistry developed from alchemy, it is considered a pseudo-science because of its seemingly magical process of transformation.

Robert Boyle produced hydrogen gas in 1671 while he was experimenting with iron and acids, but it wasn't until 1766 that Henry Cavendish recognized it as a distinct element, according to Jefferson Lab. The element was named hydrogen by the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier.

Magnify

Biologists find cave with weird life that may be 50,000 years old

© Penny Boston via AP
This image provided by Penny Boston shows a red wall in a cave with butterfly crystal. In a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell, scientists have discovered life trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old. The bizarre and ancient microbes were found dormant in caves in Naica, Mexico, and were able to exist by living on minerals such as iron and manganese, said Penny Boston, head of NASA's Astrobiology Institute.
In a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell, scientists have discovered life trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old.

The bizarre and ancient microbes were found dormant in caves in Naica, Mexico, and were able to exist by living on minerals such as iron and manganese, said Penelope Boston, head of NASA's Astrobiology Institute. .

"It's super life," said Boston, who presented the discovery Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston.

Microscope 1

Swedish & Russian scientists slow down mice aging with synthetic antioxidant

© Adam Gault / Getty Images
A new experiment conducted by a joint team of Russian and Swedish scientists has produced groundbreaking results in slowing down the ageing process of mice, raising hopes of the potential creation of an "anti-age" drug.

A group of scientist from Moscow State University in cooperation with their Swedish colleagues managed to dramatically slow down the aging process of genetically-modified mice, according to an article published in the Aging journal.

The research focused on the role of intracellular powerstations — mitochondria - and the role of these organelles in the aging of mammals. The scientists tried to slow down the process with help of SkQ1 - a synthetic antioxidant, protecting from the reactive oxygen - the main "byproduct" of damaged mitochondria, which severely damages cells.

Galaxy

Dwarf planet Ceres could harbor life, NASA mission finds

© NASA / Reuters
The dwarf planet Ceres.
NASA's Dawn mission to the dwarf planet Ceres has discovered evidence of organic material on the mysterious icy world which could be signs of microbial life.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt and lies between Earth's closest planetary neighbor, Mars, and gas giant Jupiter. The organic material was detected on the dwarf planet's northern hemisphere in and around a crater known as Ernunet.

Such organic compounds are, according to NASA, "necessary, though not sufficient, components," of life on Earth.

Telescope

Particles from outer space wreak low-grade havoc on personal electronics

© Bharat Bhuva, Vanderbilt University
Estimated failure rates from single event upsets at the transistor, integrated circuit and device level for the last three semiconductor architectures.
You may not realize it but alien subatomic particles raining down from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on your smartphones, computers and other personal electronic devices.

When your computer crashes and you get the dreaded blue screen or your smartphone freezes and you have to go through the time-consuming process of a reset, most likely you blame the manufacturer: Microsoft or Apple or Samsung. In many instances, however, these operational failures may be caused by the impact of electrically charged particles generated by cosmic rays that originate outside the solar system.

"This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public," said Bharat Bhuva, professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University, in a presentation on Friday, Feb. 17 at a session titled "Cloudy with a Chance of Solar Flares: Quantifying the Risk of Space Weather" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

When cosmic rays traveling at fractions of the speed of light strike the Earth's atmosphere they create cascades of secondary particles including energetic neutrons, muons, pions and alpha particles. Millions of these particles strike your body each second. Despite their numbers, this subatomic torrent is imperceptible and has no known harmful effects on living organisms. However, a fraction of these particles carry enough energy to interfere with the operation of microelectronic circuitry. When they interact with integrated circuits, they may alter individual bits of data stored in memory. This is called a single-event upset or SEU.

Since it is difficult to know when and where these particles will strike and they do not do any physical damage, the malfunctions they cause are very difficult to characterize. As a result, determining the prevalence of SEUs is not easy or straightforward. "When you have a single bit flip, it could have any number of causes. It could be a software bug or a hardware flaw, for example. The only way you can determine that it is a single-event upset is by eliminating all the other possible causes," Bhuva explained.