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Tue, 17 Jul 2018
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The humble worm may hold the secret to longer life

© Flickr/ Lukas Schärer, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The regenerative abilities of the flatworm Macrostomum lignano serve as a model for how humans might regenerate tissues.
Research into the remarkable regenerative powers of worms and the insights they can give into battling diseases could help humans live longer and healthier lives.

Humans have long dreamed of finding the secret to eternal youth, but despite the benefits of better living conditions and modern medicine, time still takes its unrelenting toll on our bodies.

While people today live longer than ever before, age-related diseases such as dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions rob people of the chance of living healthy lives into old age.

But researchers have a secret weapon in the battle with the ageing process - the humble worm. Flatworms have the ability to regrow large parts of their bodies after losing them. Roundworms, meanwhile, may hold the secret to counteracting neurodegenerative scourges like Alzheimer's disease and conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

Scientists see these creatures as a rich source of potential clues about the ageing process and how we too might regenerate tissues.

In a project called MacModel, researchers are using the flatworm Macrostomum lignano, which is normally found living in the tidal sands of the Adriatic Sea, to investigate ageing mechanisms. Previous research observed that the animals had a remarkable ability to regenerate, and that the worms tended to live for longer after repeated amputation, suggesting that something about the regeneration process also rejuvenated them.

Professor Eugene Berezikov, principal investigator for MacModel and a stem cell researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and his team, tried to investigate further by severing the worms' heads to induce regeneration.

Their findings, however, appeared to contradict the earlier research - after multiple amputations, flatworms had decreased survival compared to intact worms. But there was another major difference with the earlier findings - both worms that underwent amputations and those that did not tended to live longer than the median 200-day lifespan seen in the previous research.

Many of Prof. Berezikov's worms were still alive after a whopping 740 days, including about 70% of the intact worms. This defies the tendency for small organisms to be shorter-lived, explains Prof. Berezikov.

'Macrostomum is very small, about 1 millimetre, so for it to live for more than two years makes it a huge outlier,' he said. Often, a creature of this size would be expected to live just a few weeks.


110 years on since the Tunguska event, we're still no more prepared for cometary impact

Tunguska 2
© shutterstock/KJN
It was nothing of this earth, but a piece of the great outside; and as such dowered with outside properties and obedient to outside laws. -The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

At 7:15 on the morning of June 30, 1908, something happened in the sky above the Stony Tunguska (Podkamennaya Tunguska) river in Siberia. Many thousand people in a radius of 900 miles observed the Tunguska event and more than 700 accounts were collected later. The reports describe a fireball in the sky, larger or similar to the size of the sun, a series of explosions "with a frightful sound", followed by shaking of the ground as "the earth seemed to get opened wide and everything would fall in the abyss. Terrible strokes were heard from somewhere, which shook the air []." The indigenous Evenks and Yakuts believed a god or shaman had sent the fireball to destroy the world. Various meteorological stations in Europe recorded both seismic and atmospheric waves. Days later strange phenomena were observed in the sky of Russia and Europe, such as glowing clouds, colorful sunsets and a strange luminescence in the night.

Russian newspapers reported a supposed meteorite impact. International newspapers speculated about a possible volcanic explosion, as similar strange luminous effects were observed also after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Unfortunately, the inaccessibility of the region and Russia's unstable political situation at the time prevented any further scientific investigations.


Little brain, big impact: Neuroscientists suggest the cerebellum could be the crowning achievement of our brain's evolution

cerebellum research

Once regarded as having only a bit-part role in mental operations, the cerebellum could actually be the crowning achievement of our brain's evolution.
Tucked away beneath the rest of the brain and only a tenth of its size, the cerebellum is typically seen as a trusty neural sidekick. Like Watson trailing behind Sherlock Holmes, it was useful enough, but not nearly as interesting. The cortex was where the good stuff happened, the stuff that makes us human.

Recently, though, it has become clear that the cerebellum is far from a bit player in the story of humankind. Neuroscientists are starting to suspect that this little cauliflower-shaped orb at the back of our head, which is packed with more neurons than all the other brain regions put together and home to a superfast wiring system, is doing the kinds of complex calculations that allow for our most Sherlock-worthy feats. In fact, it could be the crowning achievement of our brain's evolution.

This upgrade in status has been a long time coming. In the 19th century, phrenologists, who looked at the shape of the skull to determine a person's character, declared the cerebellum, with its wrinkly lobes that hang from the bottom of the brain, the root of sexual desire. The larger the cerebellum, the greater the likelihood of sexual deviance.

The evidence soon began to suggest otherwise, however. During the first world war, the British neurologist Gordon Holmes noticed that the main problems for men whose cerebellums had been damaged by gunshot wounds had nothing to do with their sex lives and everything to do with the fine control of their movements, ranging from a lack of balance to difficulties with walking, speech and eye movements. From then on, the cerebellum became known as the mastermind of our smooth and effortless motions, with no role in thinking.


Researchers discover encryption system in genetic code

digital code
© markusspiske, via Pixabay
Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark have uncovered a new form of gene regulation that appears to be a form of encryption of genetic information. That idea was not lost on them as they pursued the analogy. From "Encrypted messages in biological processes":
RNA modifications can encrypt the RNA code and are responsible for a very sophisticated control of RNA function. A Danish-German research team has shown that modified RNA bases have a great impact on the dynamics of gene expression from DNA to functional RNA. The study yields important new insight into how the basis of RNA modifications can affect the function of mature RNA molecules. [Emphasis added.]
Programmers know all about cryptology, a form of intelligent design. Encryption is necessary when you want to conceal information from people who shouldn't have access to it.


'Two-headed' ancient Egyptian mummy revealed to the public for the first time

© Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters
Antiquities workers preserve mummies discovered in Luxor, Egypt, September 9, 2017.
A bizarre mummy from ancient Egypt combining the heads of a girl and a crocodile was photographed for the first time. Before its picture was published in the media, the mummy was hidden from the public eye for more than a century.

The first ever photo of the unusual mummy was unveiled by the Turkish daily Hurriyet. Experts told the paper that the mummy was composed of the head of an unidentified ancient Egyptian princess and the head and body of a Nile crocodile.

Magic Hat

Faulty weather stations established the all-time record high temperatures for Los Angeles

With those hot weather records in Los Angeles being set, it's important to remember where measurements are taken. I've done an investigation and found that every "all time high" reported by the LA Times is from a station compromised by heat sources and heat sinks. In my opinion, the data from these stations is worthless.

It's been going on for some time, for example, back in 2010, because there's been a questionable high reading reading at USC of 113°F. This 2010 LA Times article tells why:
L.A.'s hottest day ever

How hot was it? The National Weather Service's thermometer downtown reached 113 degrees for the first time since records began being kept in 1877 - and then stopped working. The record highs follow a summer of record lows.

September 27, 2010 | By Bob Pool and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

It was so hot Monday that it broke the all-time record - and the weatherman's thermometer.

The National Weather Service's thermometer for downtown Los Angeles headed into uncharted territory at 12:15 p.m. Monday, reaching 113 degrees for the first time since records began being kept in 1877.

Shortly after that banner moment, the temperature dipped back to 111, and then climbed back to 112. Then at 1 p.m., the thermometer stopped working.The weather service office in Oxnard rushed an electronics technician 60 miles southeast to the USC campus to repair the thermometer, which is actually a highly sensitive wire connected to electronic equipment. Because of the snafu, officials said it's possible Monday's temperature actually was hotter than 113 - but they might never know.

Comment: It has been argued that global warming 'records' have been distorted by the choice of mostly urban locations for weather stations, giving the wrong impression that the whole globe is getting warm, as there are more heat sources in cities and asphalt retains heat. The above seems to confirm this argument.

Then there's this:

Global warming fraud: NOAA shows record warming where NO temperature stations exist

Still, California has been hot in the last few days:

Heat wave scorches US Midwest and East, wildfire warnings for Colorado and California

Christmas Lights

Jumping genes: Cross species transfer has driven evolution

© University of Adelaide
A graphic representation of the BovB element which shows how it has appeared in species that are wide apart on the evolutionary tree -- for example sea urchins and elephants, cows and snakes.
Far from just being the product of our parents, University of Adelaide scientists have shown that widespread transfer of genes between species has radically changed the genomes of today's mammals, and been an important driver of evolution.

In the world's largest study of so-called "jumping genes", the researchers have traced two particular jumping genes across 759 species of plants, animals and fungi. These jumping genes are actually small pieces of DNA that can copy themselves throughout a genome and are known as transposable elements.

They have found that cross-species transfers, even between plants and animals, have occurred frequently throughout evolution.

Both of the transposable elements they traced-L1 and BovB-entered mammals as foreign DNA. This is the first time anyone has shown that the L1 element, important in humans, has jumped between species.

Comment: Does this further highlight the role gene expression as a more fundamental issue than just having the genes themselves? It also seems to confirm the vital role that viruses play in the story of evolution:


New research says Earth bombarded by cosmic rays from Eta Carinae

Eta Carinae
© Pixabay Composite
For years, Earth has been bombarded by cosmic rays emanating from a mysterious source astronomers couldn't identify. Now, new research conducted with the help of NASA's NuSTAR space telescope has finally tracked down the source of these rays: Eta Carinae, a binary star system just 10,000 light-years away. In an event called the Great Eruption of 1838, the system created a stunning hourglass nebula in a tremendous burst of energy that temporarily made it the second-brightest object in the night sky.

According to Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR: "We've known for some time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energetic emission in high-energy X-rays and gamma rays. But until NuSTAR was able to pinpoint the radiation, show it comes from the binary and study its properties in detail, the origin was mysterious."

The powerful cosmic radiation is caused, in part, by two currents of stellar wind colliding as they swirl around the twin stars. These winds then create shockwaves that boost the strength of the X-rays and gamma rays also being emitted. According to Kenji Hamaguchi, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center: "We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost. Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them."


What is it with science's reluctance to acknowledge the Younger Dryas Impact?

Pleistocene mammoths
© Victor O. Leshyk
WHERE'D THEY GO? About 13,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene Epoch, bison, mammoths (illustrated) and other large mammals roamed North America. Researchers continue to argue over what caused their extinction.
Around 13,000 years ago, Earth was emerging from its last great ice age. The vast frozen sheets that had covered much of North America, Europe and Asia for thousands of years were retreating. Giant mammals - steppe bison, woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats - grazed or hunted across tundra and grasslands. A Paleo-Indian group of hunter-gatherers who eventually gave rise to the Clovis people had crossed a land bridge from Asia hundreds of years earlier and were now spread across North America, hunting mammoth with distinctive spears.

Then, at about 12,800 years ago, something strange happened. Earth was abruptly plunged back into a deep chill. Temperatures in parts of the Northern Hemisphere plunged to as much as 8 degrees Celsius colder than today. The cold snap lasted only about 1,200 years - a mere blip, in geologic time. Then, just as abruptly, Earth began to warm again. But many of the giant mammals were dying out. And the Clovis people had apparently vanished.

Geologists call this blip of frigid conditions the Younger Dryas, and its cause is a mystery. Most researchers suspect that a large pulse of freshwater from a melting ice sheet and glacial lakes flooded into the ocean, briefly interfering with Earth's heat-transporting ocean currents. However, geologists have not yet found firm evidence of how and where this happened, such as traces of the path that this ancient flood traveled to reach the sea (SN: 12/29/12, p. 11).

Comment: The book Cataclysm!: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C. by Allan and Delair contend that the evidence of a deluge is etched in stone all over the planet however is currently explained away by mainstream science as marks left by 'ice sheets' - which they go on to show probably didn't exist.

Comment: There is actually a wealth of scientific evidence that shows the cause of this sudden shift was due to a cosmically induced catastrophe. Myths all around the world also attest to a global conflagration and deluge. One of the many problems with mainstream science is its myopic view to what was a global and multifaceted event:


The brain wiggles and jiggles with every heartbeat

brain scan
© Stanford University and University of Auckland
By amplifying tiny movements, a new technique reveals how the brain wiggles as fluid moves in and out.
With every heartbeat, fluid squishes through the brain and jiggles it like a bowl full of jelly.

A new twist on magnetic resonance imaging illuminates these pulsing brain ripples, movements so subtle that they had escaped detection by current imaging technology. Abnormal brain motion could signal trouble, such as aneurysms or damage from a concussion.

In the new work, scientists honed an existing method called amplified MRI, a technique that stitches together multiple images taken at precise times of the heartbeat. Using an algorithm that exaggerates tiny movements, researchers at Stanford University, Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and the University of Auckland in New Zealand created a movie of the brain's rhythmic writhing as blood and cerebrospinal fluid pump in and drain out.