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Thu, 24 May 2018
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Science & Technology

Microscope 1

Stem cells could reveal how Neanderthal DNA works in modern humans

neaderthal suit
© DPA Picture Alliance Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
We could soon find out how the Neanderthal DNA many of us carry actually affects us. It turns out that stem cells, which have been hyped as a way to treat incurable diseases, can also be used to examine what Neanderthal genes do.

Since 2010 evidence has been growing that many living people carry tiny amounts of Neanderthal DNA in their cells. It's been suggested that this Neanderthal DNA has all sorts of effects, from our immune systems to skin colour. But it's hard to be sure what it's really doing.

Now Gray Camp and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany say they have found a way to study how Neanderthal DNA works in living humans in unprecedented detail.

Comment: This is presuming that Neanderthal stem cells will behave in the way scientists expect them too. Because there is still so much we don't know about DNA and, after all, it wasn't long ago many scientists were proclaiming a huge portion of it to be junk! See also:


Rogue stars seen zooming through Milky Way may have originated outside our galaxy

Fast stars
© Pluto/Alamy Stock Photo
Fast stars whipped to high speed by a black hole or supernova
At least two intergalactic interlopers are hurtling through our galaxy at more than 700 kilometres per second. These stars from outside the Milky Way are among almost 30 runaways that have been spotted in a treasure trove of data from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite mission.

The Gaia satellite has been charting the stars for years in an effort to make the largest 3D map of our galaxy. On 25 April, Gaia released its second batch of data on 1.7 billion stars. For a subset of 7 million, Gaia measured how fast they are moving away from or towards Earth.

Of these, Tommaso Marchetti and colleagues at Leiden University in the Netherlands looked for hypervelocity stars, those travelling at speeds greater than 450 kilometres per second. They found 165 candidates.

The team calculated that 28 have a greater than 50 per cent chance of escaping our galaxy's gravitational pull. "They are basically flying away forever from the Milky Way," says Marchetti.


China's first home-built aircraft carrier heads out for sea trials

China's first domestic-built aircraft carrier
China's first domestic-built aircraft carrier has been sent on its first voyage for sea trials, according to Chinese media. It's the latest development in Beijing's mission to modernize its military.

The 77,000-ton Type 001A carrier left a shipyard in the northeastern port of Dalian at 6:45am local time on Sunday, Xinhua reported. It sailed out to sea half an hour later.

The sea trials will test the reliability and stability of the vessel's power system and other equipment, according to sources cited by Xinhua. Once it is in service, it will be able to accommodate China's Shenyang J-15 fighter jets.

2 + 2 = 4

Schizophrenia affects your body, not just your brain

mind and body
© 777888/Shutterstock.com
Schizophrenia is considered a disorder of the mind, influencing the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. But our latest research shows that organs, other than the brain, also change at the onset of the disease.

Scientists have known for a long time that people with schizophrenia have much higher rates of physical illness compared with the general population, and this contributes to startlingly high rates of premature death. People with the disorder die 15 to 20 years earlier than the average person.

Comment: Also see: The sound of psychosis

Bizarro Earth

The effect of volcanoes on climate and climate on volcanoes

Kilauea volcano
© volcanoes.usgs.gov
The relationship between volcanoes and climate is a very complex one. From reading the media one gets the impression that they are some sort of climatic wild card. They are used to explain the cooling after the Pinatubo eruption, or the Little Ice Age cooling as a detriment to the solar hypothesis. But they are also used to explain the warming leading to mass extinctions in the distant past.

To be able to fulfill such a dual role, scientists take advantage of the different gas emissions from volcanoes. About 50-90 % of the gas emitted by volcanoes is water vapor. The rest is highly variable from one volcano to another, but CO2 can be 1-40 %, SO2 1-25 %, H2S 1-10 %, and HCl 1-10 %, plus a lot of other minor gases. H2S gets quickly oxidized to SO2.

Comment: See also:

2 + 2 = 4

Researchers find that conspiracy theorists are not necessarily paranoid

A new study from psychologists Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz helps to untangle the relationship between belief in conspiracy theories and paranoia.
tin foil hat
© afxhome
The researchers found that conspiracy theorists are not necessarily paranoid. While paranoid people believe that almost everybody is out to get them, conspiracist believe that a few powerful people are out to get everybody. Their findings were published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.


2 + 2 = 4

Survey says: Cocaine delivered to homes quicker than pizza

© Mohssen Assanimoghaddam / Global Look Press
A study run by the 2018 Global Drug Survey has revealed that a third of cocaine sniffers around the world say that home delivery of the drug has become so efficient that you can get it "more quickly than pizza."

The study says that just like other commodities, more and more people expect drugs to be delivered quickly to their door. According to the survey, which examined the lifestyle of 130,000 drug addicts and 15,000 cocaine users in 44 countries, 30.3 percent reported they could get cocaine in just half an hour, while only half of pizza deliveries are made within the same time frame.

Blue Planet

The Secret Life of Trees: The astonishing science of what trees feel and how they communicate

"A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it."

Trees dominate the world's oldest living organisms. Since the dawn of our species, they have been our silent companions, permeating our most enduring tales and never ceasing to inspire fantastical cosmogonies. Hermann Hesse called them "the most penetrating of preachers." A forgotten seventeenth-century English gardener wrote of how they "speak to the mind, and tell us many things, and teach us many good lessons."

But trees might be among our lushest metaphors and sense making frameworks for knowledge precisely because the richness of what they say is more than metaphorical - they speak a sophisticated silent language, communicating complex information via smell, taste, and electrical impulses. This fascinating secret world of signals is what German forester Peter Wohlleben explores in The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (public library).

Comment: A forest is much more than what you see: Trees talk to each other & recognize their offspring


Meet NASA's robot helicopter for Mars

Mars helicopter
A robot helicopter will fly the skies of Mars as part of the 2020 mission, NASA has announced, hoping to replicate the success of the Wright brothers on the red planet.

The 'marscopter' will be one of the components of the Mars survey mission scheduled to blast off in July 2020, the US space agency announced on Friday. It is supposed to fill in the important gap in observation capability between the ground rovers and orbital imaging probes.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. "We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter,' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve."


Rogue star Gilese 710 hurtling towards our solar system will arrive sooner than we thought

Gliese 623 A

Gliese 710 may be as dim as a red dwarf star, like Gliese 623 A (M2.5V) and B (M5.8Ve) at lower right.
According to new calculations, we may have a little less time to prepare for a star on course to kiss the edges of our Solar System.

Yep. Dwarf star Gliese 710, which we've known about for some time, could now arrive in 1.29 million years, instead of the previously calculated 1.36 million years.

Gliese 710 is what is classified as a rogue star - one that has gone roaming across the galaxy, free of the gravitational chains that normally hold stars in position.

At a speed of 51,499 kilometres per hour (32,000 miles per hour), it's not quite fast enough to be considered a runaway star, but it's still travelling at a hefty clip.

Comment: Whilst the flyby is apparently over a million years away, we should bear in mind that Gilese 710 is a body we know about and the predictions are based on our current models, because it is often the case that we are taken by surprise: