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Sun, 21 Apr 2019
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EVE therapy: Artificial wombs - the ex-vivo uterine environment

EVE therapy
© Medical Xpress
In 2017, a team of Australian and Japanese scientists announced a breakthrough that could someday save the lives of countless babies. They used an artificial womb to keep premature lamb fetuses alive and healthy enough for them to be later delivered without serious health complications. This month, that same team announced a leap forward in their technology, now claiming it can keep even extremely premature lambs alive.

Their artificial womb is called the ex-vivo uterine environment (EVE) therapy. On its surface, it looks like a pillowcase-sized, transparent bag. Once the fetus is inside EVE, though, it is surrounded by a protective bath of sterilized, artificial amniotic fluid, which is routinely filtered out and replaced. Infusions of vital nutrients like amino acids and medications like antibiotics are regularly provided via IV. The womb also acts as a lung, pumping out carbon dioxide and pumping in fresh air.

Comment: Ectogenesis: Artificial wombs could soon be a reality
The key to survival through ectogenesis is reproducing the conditions of the womb. As scientists become better at that, the gap between the longest time embryos can survive and the earliest time a foetus is viable will narrow. When the two timescales meet, we will have the technology for a complete external womb.

Ice Cube

Why Behe is right about polar bears: Part 1 - Setting the stage

polar bear
© Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
A polar bear eats a piece of whale meat as it walks along the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man.
Critics of intelligent design in the little world of anti-ID blogging have fastened onto an exciting meme. The idea is that biochemist Michael Behe made egregious errors about polar bears in Darwin Devolves and in his subsequent posts at Evolution News arguing with critics. Scientists including Nathan Lents, Arthur Hunt, Jerry Coyne, Joshua Swamidass, and Richard Lenski have been promoting this meme. They complain that Behe refuses to acknowledge and retract his errors. Of course, real errors should be corrected, whether by Behe or anyone else. However, a closer look shows that Behe's arguments are essentially correct, and no retractions are needed.

The story is a bit long and complex. That's good, though. Let's take the opportunity to hold an informal seminar from which it's hoped that the critics will learn and benefit. Starting today, you're invited to sit back and enjoy a five-part series on polar bear genes in light of Behe's thesis in Darwin Devolves.

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MindMatters: Matter, Information, or Mind - Which Is The Most Fundamental?

information mind matter
On today's show we discuss the research of computer engineer Bernardo Kastrup, a man who has devoted a significant amount of his professional life to developing a robust and comprehensive critique of the materialist worldview. He is the author of numerous books, including The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality, and Why Materialism is Baloney, as well as many articles. Today we'll be discussing one of his latest articles, "Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind".

For centuries the extreme success of the physical sciences have lent credibility the materialist worldview. However, the success of the scientific enterprise as a whole continues to reveal a world of startling intelligence that cannot be explained by the mere accidents of matter but seem plausible only in the light of an intelligent mind. As Kastrup writes, "This mental universe is what physics is leading us to." We'll be discussing this mental universe, the problems of materialism and more today, on MindMatters.

Running Time: 01:04:17

Download: MP3 - 58.9 MB

Bad Guys

On 'universal' Darwinism's intellectual feint

darwin mural
© Neil Theasby via Geograph
Mural portrait of Charles Darwin, Sidney Street, Sheffield
There's an outfit called the Evolution Institute that of late has been hawking what it calls "Universal Darwinism." Universal Darwinism is the belief that Darwin's theory can be applied fruitfully to many scientific disciplines, not just to biology. In this view, Darwinian explanations for complexity can shed light on quantum physics, cosmology, neuroscience, medicine and other scientific disciplines. The conventional assertion that "Darwin had the best idea ever" is just atheists' sophomoric infatuation with their own creation myth. But there's a bit more substance to the EI's "Universal Darwinism" than one normally finds in the atheists' boudoir.

In "Why Physics Needs Darwin," the Evolution Institute recently interviewed John O. Campbell, an independent scholar who has written on universal Darwinism.

Surprisingly well-developed Darwinian theories have been proposed to explain the creation and evolution of complexity not just in genetics and biology (including evolutionary psychology), but in cosmology, quantum physics, neuroscience, and practically every branch of the social sciences.


Fireball 5

Meteor outburst detected in the Southern hemisphere

Meteor Portal
Peter Jenniskens and Jack Baggaley announced today in CBET telegram 4617 that Ian Crumpton and Peter Aldous of CAMS NewZealand detected a brief outburst of 5 meteors from comet C/1907 G1 (Grigg-Mellish) on March 31 in the nine minutes between 17:36 and 17:45 UTC (see the CAMS radiant map for March 31). According to Jenniskens, this is the first instrumental evidence that this comet is a meteor shower parent, after visual observers long reported an annual shower named the delta Pavonids (IAU 120, DPA) radiating from the theoretical radiant of this comet.

The poorly observed comet could be of long period type (orbital period > 200 years), in which case the outburst is dust ejected in the previous return and future outbursts can now be predicted. If the comet is of Halley-type (orbital period 112-200 years), then the outburst could be from a number of different returns and the activity could signal the return of the comet.


New observations invalidate Hawking's theory on primordial nature of dark matter

dark matter ring astronomy
© Agence France-Presse/HO/NASA
This NASA handout image received 15 May 2007 shows dark matter ring in a galaxy center
Stephen Hawking's 1971 work looks into the so-called gravitational lensing phenomenon, which presupposes that a bunch of black holes zipping around at estimated incredible speeds would by all means bend the light of objects they pass in front of.

Although we are still in the dark about what dark matter essentially is, scientists have now ruled out one possible option, according to the research published in Nature Astronomy - that it is a bunch of minute black holes, as per a theory proposed by the ingenious Stephen Hawking back in 1971.

Comment: PhysOrg adds:
[G]ravitational lensing effects are very rare events because it requires a star in the Andromeda galaxy, a primordial black hole acting as the gravitational lens, and an observer on Earth to be exactly in line with one another. So to maximize the chances of capturing an event, the researchers used the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru Telescope, which can capture the whole image of the Andromeda galaxy in one shot. Taking into account how fast primordial black holes are expected to move in interstellar space, the team took multiple images to be able to catch the flicker of a star as it brightens for a period of a few minutes to hours due to gravitational lensing.
gravitational lensing black hole
© Niikura et al.
Data from the star which showed characteristics of being magnified by a potential gravitational lens, possibly by a primordial black hole. About 4 hours after data taking on the Subaru Telescope began, one star began to shine brighter. Less than an hour later, the star reached peak brightness before becoming dimmer.
From 190 consecutive images of the Andromeda galaxy taken over seven hours during one clear night, the team scoured the data for potential gravitational lensing events. If dark matter consists of primordial black holes of a given mass, in this case masses lighter than the moon, the researchers expected to find about 1000 events. But after careful analyses, they could only identify one case. The team's results showed primordial black holes can contribute no more than 0.1 per cent of all dark matter mass. Therefore, it is unlikely the theory is true.


Coding robots, golf & rainwater: Russian students defend 'IT Olympics' title

Russian students
© Facebook / ICPC News
Russian computer whizzes continued their mind-blowing seven-year winning streak at the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), after a team from the Moscow State University successfully defended their title.

The three-man Russian squad aced ten out of 11 problems during the finals in Porto, Portugal, beating a team from the MIT, which came second.

The triumphant students, Mikhail Ipatov, Vladislav Makeyev and Grigory Reznikov, were all defending champions as last year they also reigned supreme when the contest was held Beijing. This time they beat their opponents in a tough competition among 135 teams from all over the world.


Fossil discovery: Four-legged whale with hooves!

early whale
© A. Gennari/CellPress
Early whales could swim for days or possibly weeks at a time while retaining their ability to rove around on land.
An ancient four-legged whale with hooves has been discovered, providing new insights into how the ancestors of the Earth's largest mammals made the transition from land to sea.

The giant 42.6m-year-old fossil, discovered in marine sediments along the coast of Peru, appears to have been adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Its hoofed feet and the shape of its legs suggest it would have been capable of bearing the weight of its bulky four metre long body and walking on land. Other anatomical features, including a powerful tail and webbed feet similar to an otter suggest it was also a strong swimmer.

"Whales are this iconic example of evolution," said Travis Park, an ancient whale expert at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the latest study. "They went from small hoofed mammals to the blue whale we have today. It's so interesting to see how they conquered the oceans."

Older and smaller whale ancestors with four limbs had been discovered previously, but the latest specimen fills in a crucial gap in knowledge about how the creatures evolved and spread throughout the world's oceans.


Japanese probe launches explosives at ancient asteroid to look inside it

Surface of the Ryugu asteroid photographed by Japanese Minerva-II rover-1B in September 2018
The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 has launched an explosive device at the asteroid it is exploring, aiming to create an artificial crater and take a look inside.

The Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that Hayabusa2 "has carried out operations to separate the SCI (Small Carry-on Impactor)" in a statement on its website. The probe then moved out of the blast zone, ducking behind the other side of the same asteroid - Ryugu, or 'Dragon Palace,' located almost 300 million kilometers from Earth.

The impactor was expected to detonate 40 minutes after launch, but JAXA will not know for certain if it worked as intended until late April. For now, it has provided a picture of the detached explosive, taken with Hayabusa2's onboard camera.

Hayabusa 2
© JAXA, The University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, The University of Aizu, AIST
Small Carry-on Impactor separated from Hayabusa2

Comment: See also: Japanese rovers send back 1st video ever taken on an asteroid


Watch Chinese engineers move a 30,000-tonne bus terminal in 40 days using sliding hydraulics

Houxi Long Distance Bus Station
© Weibo
The Houxi Long Distance Bus Station in China
Engineers in a Chinese city have moved a bus terminal to a new location by pushing the entire five-storey building across the ground.

To relocate the massive 30,000-tonne structure whole, workers put hundreds of hydraulic jacks under it and laid rolling tracks for it to slide along.

The building is equivalent to four Eiffel Towers in weight and was moved in the space of 40 days to give way to bullet trains.

The Houxi Long Distance Bus Station is situated in the Jimei District of Xiamen, a port city in south-eastern China's Fujian Province.

Comment: China proves itself time and again to be at the forefront of technological innovation. These impressive infrastructure projects are, more often than not, a benefit to society; and it's notable that these are feats and values that one rarely see's in the West these days.

New Dawn Nigeria reports:
China launches world's longest electric bus (Video)

Chinese automobile maker BYD on Monday launched the world's longest pure electric bi-articulated bus K12A at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen.

The 250 passenger bus is 27 meters long- that's almost the size of a three regular bus. It is also compatible with the global Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

It has a maximum speed of 70 km/h (about 44 mph) and will run for almost 300 kilometers (186 miles) on a single full charge - that's enough for the demands of a full day's operation.

The automaker claims that the bus is also the world's first electric bus that is equipped with a distributed 4WD system - that means it can switch between 2WD and 4WD smoothly to meet the demands of different terrains, while also lowering the vehicle's overall energy consumption.

Till date, BYD has delivered more than 50,000 pure electric buses globally. This particular articulated buses were developed for Colombia's TransMilenio bus rapid transit system, along with other world BRT systems.
See also: