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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well every now and then I come across cool science news/articles/images/videos/etc I like to share. I know I'm not the only one on this board who enjoys this kind of stuff so I thought I'd create a science thread where we could post related stuff instead of making a new thread for every new article/video.

And here's what I was gonna post initially:

UK, Japan scientists win Nobel for stem cell breakthroughs | Reuters

(Reuters) - Scientists from Britain and Japan shared a Nobel Prize on Monday for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells that may one day regrow tissue in damaged brains, hearts or other organs.

John Gurdon, 79, of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, Britain and Shinya Yamanaka, 50, of Kyoto University in Japan, discovered ways to create tissue that would act like embryonic cells, without the need to harvest embryos.

They share the $1.2 million Nobel Prize for Medicine, for work Gurdon began 50 years ago and Yamanaka capped with a 2006 experiment that transformed the field of "regenerative medicine" - the field of curing disease by regrowing healthy tissue.

"These groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and specialization of cells," the Nobel Assembly at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said.

All of the body's tissue starts as stem cells, before developing into skin, blood, nerves, muscle and bone. The big hope for stem cells is that they can be used to replace damaged tissue in everything from spinal cord injuries to Parkinson's disease.

Scientists once thought it was impossible to turn adult tissue back into stem cells, which meant that new stem cells could only be created by harvesting embryos - a practice that raised ethical qualms in some countries and also means that implanted cells might be rejected by the body.

In 1958, Gurdon was the first scientist to clone an animal, producing a healthy tadpole from the egg of a frog with DNA from another tadpole's intestinal cell. That showed developed cells still carry the information needed to make every cell in the body, decades before other scientists made headlines around the world by cloning the first mammal, Dolly the sheep.

More than 40 years later, Yamanaka produced mouse stem cells from adult mouse skin cells, by inserting a few genes. His breakthrough effectively showed that the development that takes place in adult tissue could be reversed, turning adult cells back into cells that behave like embryos. The new stem cells are known as "induced pluripotency stem cells", or iPS cells.

"The eventual aim is to provide replacement cells of all kinds," Gurdon's Institute explains on its website.

"We would like to be able to find a way of obtaining spare heart or brain cells from skin or blood cells. The important point is that the replacement cells need to be from the same individual, to avoid problems of rejection and hence of the need for immunosuppression."

The science is still in its early stages, and among important concerns is the fear that iPS cells could grow out of control and develop into tumors.

Nevertheless, in the six years since Yamanaka published his findings the discoveries have already produced dramatic advances in medical research, with none of the political and ethical issues raised by embryo harvesting.

"NOT A ONE-WAY STREET"

Thomas Perlmann, Nobel Committee member and professor of Molecular Development Biology at the Karolinska Institute said: "Thanks to these two scientists, we know now that development is not strictly a one-way street."

"There is lot of promise and excitement, and difficult disorders such as neurodegenerative disorders, like perhaps Alzheimer's and, more likely, Parkinson's disease, are very interesting targets."

The techniques are already being used to grow specialized cells in laboratories to study disease, the chairman of the awards committee, Urban Lendahl, told Reuters.

"You can't take out a large part of the heart or the brain or so to study this, but now you can take a cell from for example the skin of the patient, reprogram it, return it to a pluripotent state, and then grow it in a laboratory," he said.

"The second thing is for further ahead. If you can grow different cell types from a cell from a human, you might - in theory for now but in future hopefully - be able to return cells where cells have been lost."

Yamanaka's paper has already been cited more than 4,000 times in other scientists' work. He has compared research to running marathons, and ran one in just over four hours in March to raise money for his lab.

In a news conference in Japan, he thanked his team of young researchers: "My joy is very great. But I feel a grave sense of responsibility as well."

Gurdon has spoken of an unlikely career for a young man who loved science but was steered away from it at school. He still keeps a discouraging school report on his office wall.

"I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist... This is quite ridiculous," his teacher wrote. "It would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who have to teach him." The young John "will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way."
It was news to me that doctors could now return an adult cell back to a embryo-like stem-cell. Crazy stuff. Every time I read something like that I can't help but wonder where science will be in 50 years time.
 

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Well every now and then I come across cool science news/articles/images/videos/etc I like to share. I know I'm not the only one on this board who enjoys this kind of stuff so I thought I'd create a science thread where we could post related stuff instead of making a new thread for every new article/video.

And here's what I was gonna post initially:

UK, Japan scientists win Nobel for stem cell breakthroughs | Reuters

It was news to me that doctors could now return an adult cell back to a embryo-like stem-cell. Crazy stuff. Every time I read something like that I can't help but wonder where science will be in 50 years time.
It's astounding how much and how fast we are learning this kind of stuff. The decoding of the genome has produced an incredible flowering of knowledge and possibilities in biotechnology. The decoding of the proteome is the next frontier; that is being worked on, and when we crack that, we will have the knowledge to be able to genuinely understand biology -- which unlocks amazing possibilities, from actually curing cancers, to such fantastic things as immortality.

PhilB
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
30 minutes from now:

Felix Baumgartner will undertake a stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters and make a record-breaking freefall jump in the attempt to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall (an estimated 690 miles / 1,110 kilometers per hour)
Live feed is @ Red Bull Stratos - freefall from the edge of space - YouTube
 

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I wonder who will win the nobel in physics this year. The observation of a 126 Gev scalar boson at the LHC is certainly consistent with all standard model predictions except for its decay in the diphoton channel. This is happening twice as fast as it should, and if this result turns out to not be a statistical fluke, it would most likely mean we have observed an new particle, not described by the standard model. Could it be supersymmetry or something even more exotic? These are exciting times for particle physics and cosmology.

Perhaps it will go to Alan Guth if the PLANCK data confirms inflation?
 

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The generation of iPS cells from somatic cells is a signature discovery, unsurprising that they're giving the Nobel for it. Nice that their giving it to Gurdon, and only 50 years late, too.
 

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The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics: Scientific American Podcast

"The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems"

So it looks like the nobel is going to Haroche and Wineland for discovering a technique to isolate individual quantum particles without destroying their quantum effects. This is a major breakthrough and a major advance in quantum computing. This is really the first step towards making quantum computation (using individualized particles to represent bits of digital information) realistic. These techniques will also allow us to build the most accurate clocks yet developed, by using single particles interacting with others to measure the passage of time very precisely.
 

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This was from a month ago, but it was still a huge discovery in genetics:

Bits of Mystery DNA
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/s...es-crucial-to-health.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Among the many mysteries of human biology is why complex diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and psychiatric disorders are so difficult to predict and, often, to treat. An equally perplexing puzzle is why one individual gets a disease like cancer or depression, while an identical twin remains perfectly healthy.

Now scientists have discovered a vital clue to unraveling these riddles. The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

The findings, which are the fruit of an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, will have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the non-gene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs. They can also help explain how the environment can affect disease risk. In the case of identical twins, small changes in environmental exposure can slightly alter gene switches, with the result that one twin gets a disease and the other does not.

As scientists delved into the “junk” — parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins — they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed. The result of the work is an annotated road map of much of this DNA, noting what it is doing and how. It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron.

“It’s Google Maps,” said Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute, a joint research endeavor of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In contrast, the project’s predecessor, the Human Genome Project, which determined the entire sequence of human DNA, “was like getting a picture of Earth from space,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you where the roads are, it doesn’t tell you what traffic is like at what time of the day, it doesn’t tell you where the good restaurants are, or the hospitals or the cities or the rivers.”

The new result “is a stunning resource,” said Dr. Lander, who was not involved in the research that produced it but was a leader in the Human Genome Project. “My head explodes at the amount of data.”

The discoveries were published on Wednesday in six papers in the journal Nature and in 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. In addition, The Journal of Biological Chemistry is publishing six review articles, and Science is publishing yet another article.

Human DNA is “a lot more active than we expected, and there are a lot more things happening than we expected,” said Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, a lead researcher on the project.

In one of the Nature papers, researchers link the gene switches to a range of human diseases — multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease — and even to traits like height. In large studies over the past decade, scientists found that minor changes in human DNA sequences increase the risk that a person will get those diseases. But those changes were in the junk, now often referred to as the dark matter — they were not changes in genes — and their significance was not clear. The new analysis reveals that a great many of those changes alter gene switches and are highly significant.

“Most of the changes that affect disease don’t lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches,” said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, called Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.

And that, said Dr. Bradley Bernstein, an Encode researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, “is a really big deal.” He added, “I don’t think anyone predicted that would be the case.”

The discoveries also can reveal which genetic changes are important in cancer, and why. As they began determining the DNA sequences of cancer cells, researchers realized that most of the thousands of DNA changes in cancer cells were not in genes; they were in the dark matter. The challenge is to figure out which of those changes are driving the cancer’s growth.

“These papers are very significant,” said Dr. Mark A. Rubin, a prostate cancer genomics researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Rubin, who was not part of the Encode project, added, “They will definitely have an impact on our medical research on cancer.”

In prostate cancer, for example, his group found mutations in important genes that are not readily attacked by drugs. But Encode, by showing which regions of the dark matter control those genes, gives another way to attack them: target those controlling switches.

Dr. Rubin, who also used the Google Maps analogy, explained: “Now you can follow the roads and see the traffic circulation. That’s exactly the same way we will use these data in cancer research.” Encode provides a road map with traffic patterns for alternate ways to go after cancer genes, he said.

Dr. Bernstein said, “This is a resource, like the human genome, that will drive science forward.”

The system, though, is stunningly complex, with many redundancies. Just the idea of so many switches was almost incomprehensible, Dr. Bernstein said.

There also is a sort of DNA wiring system that is almost inconceivably intricate.

“It is like opening a wiring closet and seeing a hairball of wires,” said Mark Gerstein, an Encode researcher from Yale. “We tried to unravel this hairball and make it interpretable.”

There is another sort of hairball as well: the complex three-dimensional structure of DNA. Human DNA is such a long strand — about 10 feet of DNA stuffed into a microscopic nucleus of a cell — that it fits only because it is tightly wound and coiled around itself. When they looked at the three-dimensional structure — the hairball — Encode researchers discovered that small segments of dark-matter DNA are often quite close to genes they control. In the past, when they analyzed only the uncoiled length of DNA, those controlling regions appeared to be far from the genes they affect.

The project began in 2003, as researchers began to appreciate how little they knew about human DNA. In recent years, some began to find switches in the 99 percent of human DNA that is not genes, but they could not fully characterize or explain what a vast majority of it was doing.

The thought before the start of the project, said Thomas Gingeras, an Encode researcher from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was that only 5 to 10 percent of the DNA in a human being was actually being used.

The big surprise was not only that almost all of the DNA is used but also that a large proportion of it is gene switches. Before Encode, said Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, a University of Washington scientist who was part of the project, “if you had said half of the genome and probably more has instructions for turning genes on and off, I don’t think people would have believed you.”

By the time the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, embarked on Encode, major advances in DNA sequencing and computational biology had made it conceivable to try to understand the dark matter of human DNA. Even so, the analysis was daunting — the researchers generated 15 trillion bytes of raw data. Analyzing the data required the equivalent of more than 300 years of computer time.

Just organizing the researchers and coordinating the work was a huge undertaking. Dr. Gerstein, one of the project’s leaders, has produced a diagram of the authors with their connections to one another. It looks nearly as complicated as the wiring diagram for the human DNA switches. Now that part of the work is done, and the hundreds of authors have written their papers.

“There is literally a flotilla of papers,” Dr. Gerstein said. But, he added, more work has yet to be done — there are still parts of the genome that have not been figured out.

That, though, is for the next stage of Encode.
 

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The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics: Scientific American Podcast

"The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems"

So it looks like the nobel is going to Haroche and Wineland for discovering a technique to isolate individual quantum particles without destroying their quantum effects. This is a major breakthrough and a major advance in quantum computing. This is really the first step towards making quantum computation (using individualized particles to represent bits of digital information) realistic. These techniques will also allow us to build the most accurate clocks yet developed, by using single particles interacting with others to measure the passage of time very precisely.
And extra article can't hurt How The Physics Nobel Winners Imprison Subatomic Particles | Popular Science

Whether it’s secure communications through particle teleportation or superfast computational capability, quantum mechanics, that mind-boggling world of the tiniest of the tiny, is at the forefront of modern physics. But this future technology would not be achievable--none of it would even be testable--without the breakthroughs achieved by this year’s physics Nobel Prize winners.

Serge Haroche and David Wineland both developed ways to control and measure fragile, fleeting quantum states, which was thought to be impossible. Their work has enabled real-world studies, not just theoretical discussions, of the relationships between light and matter at the smallest possible scales, where the regular laws of physics break down. The very nature of quantum mechanics made their work seem impossible, yet here we are.

To understand quantum uncertainty, start with Schrödinger's cat. The fantasy feline exists inside a box in both its possible states at once: It’s both dead and alive, all things to all people in all scenarios. But as soon as you open the box, meaning as soon as you make a measurement of its state, the cat is only one or the other. Your measurement forces a choice, which equates to a change in the quantum system. This is the case for all quantum systems, which exist in all their states at once until you take a peek at them. Wineland and Haroche both devised ways of getting around this, explained Bill Phillips, Wineland’s colleague at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and himself a Nobel laureate.

Their methods are incredibly similar, yet they use different techniques: Wineland traps ions and measures them with light, or photons, while Haroche traps photons and measures them with atoms.
Wineland was the first to describe and demonstrate the cooling of trapped ions, which are electrically charged atoms inside a vacuum. He traps them by surrounding positively charged atoms in an electric field. Then he shines a laser beam onto them, which effectively pushes on them, slowing them down. (Slower means cooler.) “Having them cold is very important in controlling them; when they’re really cold, you can do interesting things with them,” Phillips said. Here are a few examples:
Incredibly precise clocks
Every clock needs a ticker to count forward in time, and the best ticker is an atom itself; even better is a single atom, all alone and uninterrupted by any other thing, even another atom. NIST specializes in building atomic clocks, and Wineland’s trap has been used to make the most accurate clocks ever. “He was able to make a clock that is so good--it is the best clock ever made--that if it operated over a long period of time, it would only gain or lose a second in 3 billion years,” Phillips said. “This is what we call ‘close enough for government work,’” he added with a laugh. This supremely accurate clock has been used to measure Einstein’s theory of relativity and the effect of gravity on the passage of time.

Two places at once

The laser light can also be used to put the ion in a state of superposition--just like Schrödinger's cat, it can be in two different states at once. Wineland’s methods put the ions into two different energy levels. It starts out at a low-energy state and a laser pulse nudges it just so, almost-but-not-quite, toward its higher energy state. In this way, it’s a halfbreed stuck between two levels, in superposition of energy states.

“Dave would probably say it was a Schrödinger kitten, or an embryonic kitten. But it’s the kind of thing that demonstrates what is so weird about quantum mechanics,” Phillips said. “It was only possible because of the advances that Dave made.”

This energy limbo can be studied, also using the laser to scatter photons in a measurable way.

For his part, Haroche uses a microwave cavity to trap photons, which are particles of light. Then he uses atoms to measure what they are doing. The photons will induce a change in the energy state of the atoms, thereby providing information about the photons. This is called quantum entanglement; whatever happens to the photons happens to the atoms, too, allowing Haroche to study their transitions over time without actually measuring them directly. If you tried to look at the photons with any kind of detector, it doesn’t work, Phillips explained.
“When you do that, the detector eats the photons. They’re gone. What Haroche did is put them in the cavity, confirm they are there, and send an atom in. It sees the light--it’s really microwaves--and the certain intensity of those microwaves. On the basis of that intensity, the atom can start to change its quantum state.”

Quantum logic

The superposition imposition is also the basis of quantum gates, which are a crucial element of quantum computers, Phillips noted. Wineland’s group was the first to demonstrate a quantum operation with two quantum bits. Someday, this might be used to create a quantum computer free from the trappings of binary code. Instead of either a one or zero, a quantum bit is both zero and one. Two qubits can be four things at once--00,01,10,11--and so on, until you reach a 300-qubit computer holding more possible states than all of the atoms in the universe.

Haroche can also build a quantum system whose initial state is unknown. This is hugely important for quantum computers and cryptography. You can start with an undetermined number of photons and make a series of measurements, intentionally afflicting change on the system and narrowing down the range of photons that you can guess might be in there. Secondary measurements, maybe by using atoms of a different speed, would provide further insight and tell you how many there are and what they’re doing. “What you did by virtue of the measurement is make it choose, choose which of those it was,” Phillips said. “You forced nature to choose, of the different possibilities that it had inherent in it, which was going to be the one.”

John Hayes, vice president of publishing for the American Institute of Physics, said Haroche and Wineland have conducted some of the most influential research in modern physics. “Quantum mechanics was once just theory and philosophy, but through this work and the ongoing research of others, we are now testing, manipulating, and building upon these scientific principles,” he said.
 

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Just happened to catch an episode of Nova - Science Now. The episode, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson focused on the challenges of travel to Mars. The thing I found most interesting was the newest designs of spacesuits which is coming from MIT and a partnership between NASA and Dainese. Pretty interesting stuff.....check out the link below.

Dainese - A Nasa partner
 

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Just happened to catch an episode of Nova - Science Now. The episode, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson focused on the challenges of travel to Mars. The thing I found most interesting was the newest designs of spacesuits which is coming from MIT and a partnership between NASA and Dainese. Pretty interesting stuff.....check out the link below.

Dainese - A Nasa partner
which is exactly why we need PBS GONE! they eat up a whole 8 million a year. waste of money with shows like Nova. (sarcasm)
 

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which is exactly why we need PBS GONE! they eat up a whole 8 million a year. waste of money with shows like Nova. (sarcasm)
This is a *science* thread, not a *misconceptions of political propaganda* thread.

PhilB
 

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More evidence of how evolution works:

Evolution of New Genes Captured

Like job-seekers searching for a new position, living things sometimes have to pick up a new skill if they are going to succeed. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, and Uppsala University, Sweden, have shown for the first time how living organisms do this.

The observation, published Oct. 19 in the journal Science, closes an important gap in the theory of natural selection.

Scientists have long wondered how living things evolve new functions from a limited set of genes. One popular explanation is that genes duplicate by accident; the duplicate undergoes mutations and picks up a new function; and, if that new function is useful, the gene spreads.

"It's an old idea and it's clear that this happens," said John Roth, a distinguished professor of microbiology at UC Davis and co-author of the paper.

The problem, Roth said, is that it has been hard to imagine how it occurs. Natural selection is relentlessly efficient in removing mutated genes: Genes that are not positively selected are quickly lost.

How then does a newly duplicated gene stick around long enough to pick up a useful new function that would be a target for positive selection?

Experiments in Roth's laboratory and elsewhere led to a model for the origin of a novel gene by a process of "innovation, amplification and divergence." This model has now been tested by Joakim Nasvall, Lei Sun and Dan Andersson at Uppsala.

In the new model, the original gene first gains a second, weak function alongside its main activity -- just as an auto mechanic, for example, might develop a side interest in computers. If conditions change such that the side activity becomes important, then selection of this side activity favors increasing the expression of the old gene. In the case of the mechanic, a slump in the auto industry or boom in the IT sector might lead her to hone her computer skills and look for an IT position.

The most common way to increase gene expression is by duplicating the gene, perhaps multiple times. Natural selection then works on all copies of the gene. Under selection, the copies accumulate mutations and recombine. Some copies develop an enhanced side function. Other copies retain their original function.

Ultimately, the cell winds up with two distinct genes, one providing each activity -- and a new genetic function is born.

Nasvall, Lei and Andersson tested this model using the bacterium Salmonella. The bacteria carried a gene involved in making the amino acid histidine that had a secondary, weak ability to contribute to the synthesis of another amino acid, tryptophan. In their study, they removed the main tryptophan-synthesis gene from the bacteria and watched what happened.

After growing the bacteria for 3,000 generations on a culture medium without tryptophan, they forced the bacteria to evolve a new mechanism for producing the amino acid. What emerged was a tryptophan-synthesizing activity provided by a duplicated copy of the original gene.

"The important improvement offered by our model is that the whole process occurs under constant selection -- there's no time off from selection during which the extra copy could be lost," Roth said.

The work was supported by the Swedish Research Council and the National Institutes of Health.
Evolution of new genes captured
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
This has got to be one of my favorite threads, thanks for starting it and posting. :)

What ever happened with this? Thorium as a "new" energy source. Apparently, china is on this like a fat kid on cake

With thorium, we could have safe nuclear power - The Globe and Mail

RC
Thorium is the shit! I posted this thread before I created the science thread: http://www.sportbikes.net/forums/open-forums/455273-thorium-energy.html

(If some mod stumbles into this thread and reads this, feel free to merge the thorium thread into this one - I should have made the science thread earlier)

It's fascinating what technologies humans are capable of discarding in the name of more efficient mass killings.
 
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