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Fri, 22 Feb 2019
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rDNA's role in aging discovered

© iStock
Boston, MA - A newly discovered ribosomal DNA (rDNA) clock can be used to accurately determine an individual's chronological and biological age, according to research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The ribosomal clock is a novel biomarker of aging based on the rDNA, a segment of the genome that has previously been mechanistically linked to aging. The ribosomal clock has potentially wide applications, including measuring how exposures to certain pollutants or dietary interventions accelerate or slow aging in a diversity of species, including mice and humans.

"We have hopes that the ribosomal clock will provide new insights into the impact of the environment and personal choices on long-term health," said senior author Bernardo Lemos, associate professor of environmental epigenetics. "Determining biological age is a central step to understanding fundamental aspects of aging as well as developing tools to inform personal and public health choices."

The study was published online in Genome Research on February 14, 2019.

Aging is exhibited by organisms as diverse as yeast, worms, flies, mice, and humans. Age is also the major risk factor for a plethora of diseases, including neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. There are two types of age: chronological age, or the number of years a person or animal has lived, and biological age, which accounts for various lifestyle factors that can shorten or extend lifespan, including diet, exercise, and environmental exposures. Overall, biological age has been shown to be a better predictor of all-cause mortality and disease onset than chronological age.

2 + 2 = 4

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro comes out in support of intelligent design

Ben Shapiro
A pat on the head from the scientific majority is something many laymen seem to crave. To otherwise independent-minded adults, materialism offers a source of attraction that keeps them from being willing to exercise their usual skepticism. This may have something to do with the social opprobrium that comes with being associated, per the dominant media myth, with downscale "creationists."

So I have great admiration for thinkers like Ben Shapiro, radio host and podcaster, who dare to break with the expected views that go along with being publicly acknowledged as whip-smart. The Ben Shapiro Show is impressive. The other day, February 11, he discussed and recommended Stephen Meyer's book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, a "great book." Here is a clip:

Shapiro accepts the idea of evolution, but he also appreciates that intelligent design is ultimately a way of understanding evolution, the mechanism that drives it. "People mix up creationism and intelligent design," he notes. Yes, they do. Signature in the Cell, he says, is a "deeply scientifically knowledgeable book, basically asking some serious questions about why it is that DNA seems to have been designed. There are a bunch of puzzles that people like Richard Dawkins really have not provided sufficient answers to."

Black Cat 2

Black leopard photographed in Africa for the first time in 100 years

black leopard
An ultra-rare black leopard walks through Laikipia Wilderness Camp in central Kenya in 2018

They say that black cats bring bad luck, but when Nick Pilfold heard about one lurking around central Kenya, he knew he was onto something special.

The Kenya-based biologist and his team deployed a set of camera traps throughout the bushlands of Loisaba Conservancy in early 2018. It wasn't long before he got what he was looking for: undeniable proof of a super-rare melanistic leopard.

The juvenile female was spotted traveling with a larger, normally colored leopard, presumed to be her mother. (See our exclusive picture of a rare black wildcat seen in Africa.)

The opposite of albinism, melanism is the result of a gene that causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal so that it appears black. Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades, but scientific confirmation of their existence remains quite rare.


Earth's magnetic shield booms like a drum when hit by impulses

plasma jet impact generating standing waves at magnetopause
© E. Masongsong/UCLA, M. Archer/QMUL, H. Hietala/UTU
Artist rendition of a plasma jet impact (yellow) generating standing waves at the magnetopause boundary (blue) and in the magnetosphere (green). The outer group of four THEMIS probes witnessed the flapping of the magnetopause over each satellite in succession, confirming the expected behaviour/frequency of the theorised magnetopause eigenmode wave.
The Earth's magnetic shield booms like a drum when it is hit by strong impulses, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.

As an impulse strikes the outer boundary of the shield, known as the magnetopause, ripples travel along its surface which then get reflected back when they approach the magnetic poles.

The interference of the original and reflected waves leads to a standing wave pattern, in which specific points appear to be standing still while others vibrate back and forth. A drum resonates like this when struck in exactly the same way.

This study, published in Nature Communications, describes the first time this effect has been observed after it was theoretically proposed 45 years ago.

Movements of the magnetopause are important in controlling the flow of energy within our space environment with wide-ranging effects on space weather, which is how phenomena from space can potentially damage technology like power grids, GPS and even passenger airlines.

The discovery that the boundary moves in this way sheds light on potential global consequences that previously had not been considered.

Dr. Martin Archer, space physicist at Queen Mary University of London, and lead author of the paper, said: "There had been speculation that these drum-like vibrations might not occur at all, given the lack of evidence over the 45 years since they were proposed. Another possibility was that they are just very hard to definitively detect.

Microscope 1

Researchers create a device to help understand how cells communicate to form tissues and maintain integrity under loading

model of animal cell
© CC BY-SA 4.0
As cells divide to form tissues and organs in multicell organisms, they move to where they belong, informed by a series of cues that scientists have yet to observe or fully understand.

These collective movements traditionally have been studied in the context of biochemical recognition between cell types. For example, the protein cadherin (found in, and named for, calcium dependent adhesions) is one element responsible for cells' ability to recognize one another, with various types of cadherin occurring at different sites in the organism. These cadherin receptors enable like cells to combine with each other to build specific types of tissue; for example, E-cadherin is so named because it is found in epithelial cells.

"Cadherins provide an initial signal for the 'handshake' between cells, but they are not the primary keeper of the connection," says UC Santa Barbara professor and mechanical engineer Beth Pruitt, who studies mechanobiology and is working to gain a greater understanding of how cells combine to form tissues and maintain their integrity under the normal loads they experience.

Comment: Commentary from Uncommon Descent:
While the researchers don't, of course, come right out and say this, massive communications exist within each cell, whether of a mouse, a grapevine, or a human. And we really don't know very much about it at all. Yet many presume to insist that such structures arose randomly as a result of natural selection acting on random mutation (Darwinism), which cannot possibly be true. If it were, strange things would be happening all over the place. Yet they are not.

Is it just imagination or do people increasingly write in such a way as to simply abandon the pretense without wanting to discuss it?
See also:

Blue Planet

NASA data shows world is literally greener than it was 20 years ago

China India greening
© NASA Earth Observatory
A multi-decade, high resolution study of the Earth's surface has finally yielded some good news: the planet is a much greener place than it was in the mid '90s, and the source of this greening has surprised many.

The 20-year-long data record was produced by an instrument on board two satellites orbiting the planet and capturing up to four shots of every place on Earth every day for the last 20 years.

As a result, the data set is staggering in size, but positive in message: as a species, we have 'greened' an area equivalent to that of all the Amazon rainforests, at a rate of more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year (or a roughly five percent increase compared to the early 2000s).


Ukraine's new Neptune cruise missile: Far from being the 'God of the Sea'

Neptune missile
© Twitter/Petro Poroshenko
Ukraine's Neptune missile
Ukraine's new cruise missile, the Neptune, widely promoted by Kiev, is nothing but 'a lightly-modernized variant' of the Russian-made Kh-35 anti-ship missile, writes the National Interest. But that's not the only issue with it.

First, let's take a look at the missile at question. The Neptune is a Ukrainian subsonic low-altitude anti-ship missile designed to destroy vessels with a displacement of up to 5,000 tons, as well as hit ground targets. The Neptune - developed by Ukrainian manufacturer Luch Design - can be launched from ships, coastal missile systems and combat aircraft.

Ukraine's Navy plans to use the anti-ship missile as the primary weapon of its promising Vespa missile boats. However, the construction of the actual craft to carry the missile is still at the planning stage. The Neptune was unveiled at the international Arms and Security exhibition in Kiev back in 2015, and was created based on the designs of the Soviet Kh-35 anti-ship missile. The initial tests were conducted on March 22, 2016.

According to the National Interest, an American magazine, the missile has a range of just under 300 km and is equipped with a 150-kilogram high-explosive fragmentation warhead. With a cruising speed of Mach 0.8 to Mach 0.85, the Neptune also boasts a new inertial guidance system and active radar seeking.

Kiev believes that the cruise missile can provide Ukraine with a deterrent against Russia in the Sea of Azov, the magazine writes. But how well does the Neptune meet the requirements of modern-day warfare?


New spinal cord function discovered - situating hands in 3D space

spinal cord
From ScienceDaily:
It is well known that the circuits in this part of our nervous system, which travel down the length of our spine, control seemingly simple things like the pain reflex in humans, and some motor control functions in animals.

Now, new research from Western University has shown that the spinal cord is also able to process and control more complex functions, like the positioning of your hand in external space.

"This research has shown that a least one important function is being done at the level of the spinal cord and it opens up a whole new area of investigation to say, 'what else is done at the spinal level and what else have we potentially missed in this domain?'" said the study's senior and supervising researcher Andrew Pruszynski, PhD, assistant professor at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Canada Research Chair in Sensorimotor Neuroscience. ...

"We found that these responses happen so quickly that the only place that they could be generated from is the spinal circuits themselves," said the study's lead researcher Jeff Weiler, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. "What we see is that these spinal circuits don't really care about what's happening at the individual joints, they care about where the hand is in the external world and generate a response that tries to put the hand back to where it came from."

Birthday Cake

Happy Darwin day! Meet the 1000+ scientists who challenge his theory

dissenting darwin
What do you give a great scientist for his birthday when he's already got everything? He's got absolutely all the scientists behind his theory. All the media. All the Officially Smart People, as Jay Richards calls them. Well, today is Darwin's Day, the birthday of the venerated Charles Darwin, whose theory is a fact beyond question. Right? The journal Nature assures its readers, "Scientists can treat evolution by natural selection as, in effect, an established fact." Or as philosopher Michael Ruse wonderfully put it, "Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT!"

Cause for Skepticism

The insistence on this point encourages a certain skepticism, though. As others have commented, evolution is supposed to be as certain as gravity, yet nobody goes around saying, "Gravity is a fact, fact, FACT!" and nobody says gravity is as certain as evolution.

Against this backdrop, Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture noted last week that the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism has topped 1,000+ names. Today, over at the Dissent from Darwinism website, we've added a birthday present for Charles Darwin, a video introduction to some of the signers. Check it out!

As I've also pointed out, while that number surely represents a scientific minority, it also no doubt vastly understates the number of Darwin-doubting PhD scientists. When it comes to evolution, persecution is an all too well known fact of academic life. Endorsing Darwinian evolution is the safe careerist move, while questioning it can easily mean the end of your career. So for every signer of the Dissent list, there is some multiplier's worth of private skeptics in science, acting self-protectively. That is beyond reasonable doubt. The multiplier could 2, or 10, or 100. Who knows?


Researchers find evidence for a new fundamental constant of the sun

The corona of the sun
© Dr. Richard Morton, Northumbria University, Newcastle
The corona of the sun – its utmost atmosphere.
New research undertaken at Northumbria University, Newcastle shows that the Sun's magnetic waves behave differently than currently believed.

Their findings have been reported in the latest edition of the prominent journal, Nature Astronomy.

After examining data gathered over a 10-year period, the team from Northumbria's Department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering found that magnetic waves in the Sun's corona - its outermost layer of atmosphere - react to sound waves escaping from the inside of the Sun.