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Medicine

If We Can't Kill Cancer, Can We Control It? 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the thus-began-the-era-of-the-slave-tumors dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from The New Yorker: In April, [Dr. Eytan Stein] presented his findings to a packed auditorium at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in San Diego. It was the first public airing of the results of AG-221; patients with progressive [acute myelogenous leukemia] had never improved so quickly and definitively. ... The breakthrough is notable in part for the unconventional manner in which the drug attacks its target. There are many kinds of cancer, but treatments have typically combated them in one way only: by attempting to destroy the cancerous cells. Surgery aims to remove the entire growth from the body; chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the cancer cells; radiation generates toxic molecules that break up the cancer cells' DNA and proteins, causing their demise. A more recent approach, immunotherapy, co-opts the body's immune system into attacking and eradicating the tumor. The Agios drug, instead of killing the leukemic cells — immature blood cells gone haywire — coaxes them into maturing into functioning blood cells. Cancerous cells traditionally have been viewed as a lost cause, fit only for destruction. The emerging research on A.M.L. suggests that at least some cancer cells might be redeemable: they still carry their original programming and can be pressed back onto a pathway to health.
Science

Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk 885

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-a-way-to-cheat-death dept.
New submitter anlashok writes: Atheism and science face a real challenge: To frame an account of science, or nature, that leaves room for meaning. According to this article, atheists have pinned their flag to Mr. Spock's mast. But they need Captain Kirk. Quoting: "I'm pro-science, but I'm against what I'll call "Spock-ism," after the character from the TV show Star Trek. I reject the idea that science is logical, purely rational, that it is detached and value-free, and that it is, for all these reasons, morally superior. Spock-ism gives us a false picture of science. It gives us a false picture of humankind's situation. We are not disinterested knowers. The natural world is not a puzzle. ... The big challenge for atheism is not God; it is that of providing an alternative to Spock-ism. We need an account of our place in the world that leaves room for value."
Medicine

US Scientists Predict Long Battle Against Ebola 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-call-in-dustin-hoffman-and-rene-russo dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Despite recent advances in medicine to treat Ebola, epidemiologists are not hopeful that the outbreak in west Africa will be contained any time soon. Revised models for the disease's spread expect the outbreak to last 12 to 18 months longer, likely infecting hundreds of thousands of people. "While previous outbreaks have been largely confined to rural areas, the current epidemic, the largest ever, has reached densely populated, impoverished cities — including Monrovia, the capital of Liberia — gravely complicating efforts to control the spread of the disease. ... What worries public health officials most is that the epidemic has begun to grow exponentially in Liberia. In the most recent week reported, Liberia had nearly 400 new cases, almost double the number reported the week before. Another grave concern, the W.H.O. said, is 'evidence of substantial underreporting of cases and deaths.' The organization reported on Friday that the number of Ebola cases as of Sept. 7 was 4,366, including 2,218 deaths." Scientists are urging greater public health efforts to slow the exponential trajectory of the disease and bring it back under control.
The Military

DARPA Funds Harvard's Soft Exoskeletal Suit 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-matters-is-on-the-outside dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The military and private contractors have been toying with exoskeletal combat suits for a while, but Harvard's Wyss Institute has a new take on the concept. Rather than using a hard metal frame and the massively overpowered mechanical servos necessary to move it, the Soft Exosuit is a lightweight mesh of webbing combined with a series of strain sensors and basic microprocessors. "The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons when a person walks, and provides small but carefully timed assistance at the leg joints without restricting the wearer's movement." The suit continually monitors its wearer's body position, movement, and muscular strain, providing small amounts of targeted support. The team has now received $2.9 million in funding from DARPA to refine the suit's design. They say they'll be working on medical applications for the suit as well as military ones.
Biotech

Medical Milestone: Scientists Reset Human Stem Cells 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-power-cycle-them dept.
SternisheFan sends news that researchers from the University of Cambridge have made a breakthrough in the production of human pluripotent stem cells. The goal when developing this kind of stem cell is to have them as early in the cell's lifecycle as possible, so that they're more like true embryonic stem cells and can fulfill whatever role is needed. But all of them made so far are advanced slightly down their developmental pathway. The new work, published in the journal Cell (abstract), has found a way to "reset" the cells by introducing two genes that induce a developmental "ground state."
Mars

Curiosity Rover Arrives At Long-Term Destination 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-kicking-back-and-relaxing dept.
When NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, the mission team had a particular destination in mind: Mount Sharp. Just over two years and about nine kilometers of driving later, Curiosity has arrived at Mount Sharp. It will now begin its ascent of the mountain (PDF), first analyzing basal rocks with a "paintbrush" texture, then moving further to observe hematite-bearing rocks further up the slope. It will then proceed into an area laden with clay-bearing rocks, and finally to the upper reaches of the foothills, which contain rocks with magnesium sulfate in them. The team has selected routes and driving modes that they hope will slow the steadily accumulating damage to the rover's wheels.
Space

Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway) 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-of-the-few-things-congress-actively-tries-to-do-these-days dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Earlier this week, the House Science Committee examined the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, a bill that would ensure that "any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources."

The problem is, that idea doesn't really mesh at all with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a document that suggests space is a shared resource: "Unlike some other global commons, no agreement has been reached at to whether title to extracted space resources passes to the extracting entity," Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space law expert at the University of Mississippi said (PDF). "There is no legal clarity regarding the ownership status of the extracted resources. It is foreseeable that the entity's actions will be challenged at law and in politics."
Science

CERN Tests First Artificial Retina Capable of Looking For High Energy Particles 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the robot-eyes-are-taking-our-jobs dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Pattern recognition is one of the few areas where humans regularly outperform even the most powerful computers. Our extraordinary ability is a result of the way our bodies process visual information. But surprisingly, our brains only do part of the work. The most basic pattern recognition—edge detection, line detection and the detection of certain shapes—is performed by the complex circuitry of neurons in the retina. Now particle physicists are copying this trick to hunt for new particles. A team at CERN has built and tested an artificial retina capable of identifying particle tracks in the debris from particle collisions. The retina can do this at the same rate the LHC smashes particles together: about 800 million collisions per second. In other words, it can sift through the data in real time. The team says the retina outperforms any other particle-detecting device by a factor of 400v.
Power

Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the solid-sponges-are-so-2013 dept.
New submitter gaelfx writes: Researchers at Glasglow University have an interesting method for separating the hydrogen out of water: Liquid Sponges. Most methods of extracting the hydrogen involve some form electrolysis, but these generally require some pretty expensive materials. The researchers claim that they can accomplish this using less electricity, cheaper materials and 30 times faster to boot. With both Honda and Toyota promising hydrogen fuel cell cars in Japan within the next few years (other manufacturers must be considering it as well, if not as publicly), does this spell a new future for transportation technology?
Science

Scientists Capture the Sound Made By a Single Atom 100

Posted by timothy
from the golf-clap-defined dept.
Jason Koebler writes Researchers at Columbia University and Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology say that they have, for the first time, "captured" the sound a single atom makes when it is excited—a single "phonon," as it were. So, why do this? For one, the team wanted to simply see if it could capture the softest sound ever made, which is certainly a noble goal. But, secondly, the researchers wanted to explore the quantum nature of sound. Photons have always been used in quantum experiments, but they're pretty hard to manipulate because they're so fast. Phonons move 10^5 slower and thus could make quantum communication easier.
Earth

Ozone Layer Recovering But Remains Threatened 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-better dept.
First time accepted submitter i kan reed writes in with some good news from the ozone report of the United Nations. The Earth’s protective ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of the century, the United Nations today reported, urging unified action to tackle climate change and curb continued fluctuations to the composition of the atmosphere. That is according to the assessment of 300 scientists in the summary document of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a news release. “This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”
Science

Researchers Working On Crystallizing Light 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the tripping-on-the-light-fantastic dept.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers at Princeton University have begun crystallizing light as part of an effort to answer fundamental questions about the physics of matter. The researchers are not shining light through crystal – they are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons, the basic element of light, so that they become fixed in place. "It's something that we have never seen before," said Andrew Houck, one of the researchers. "This is a new behavior for light."
Science

Journal Published Flawed Stem Cell Papers Despite Serious Misgivings About Work 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the peer-reviewish dept.
sciencehabit writes: As two discredited, and now retracted, stem cell papers have produced an almost unimaginable fallout — a national hero accused of scientific fraud, the revamping of one of Japan's major research institutes, and the suicide of a respected cell biologist — researchers have privately and publicly asked how Nature could have published work that, in retrospect, seems so obviously flawed. Another piece of the puzzle has now come to light. The Science news team received a copy of email correspondence between a Nature editor and Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the papers, which indicates the work initially received as rocky a reception there as at two other journals, Cell and Science, that had rejected the work previously. The email, dated 4 April 2013, includes detailed separate criticisms of the two papers and suggestions for new data to support the authors' claims of a simple and novel way to make stem cells that could form the myriad cell types within a body. The Nature editor rejected the papers, but left open a window, writing, "Should further experimental data allow you to address these criticisms, we would be happy to look at a revised manuscript." The two papers were published 10 months later.
Medicine

Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated' 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-grab-a-tall-glass-of-salt-and-enjoy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, you were probably told to moderate or avoid the use salt in your food. Well, a new study (abstract found that salt is not associated with systolic blood pressure after controlling for other factors. The study found that BMI, age, and alcohol consumption all strongly influenced blood pressure, and concluded that maintaining a healthy body weight was the best way to counteract it. The publication of this research follows a CDC report from Tuesday decrying the amount of salt in children's diets — a report that lists high blood pressure as one of its main concerns. The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.
Science

Massive Study Searching For Genes Behind Intelligence Finds Little 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the genetically-enhanced-superhumans-will-still-love-reality-tv dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's been taken for granted that science would, one day, figure out what parts of our DNA make us smart (or not). But a huge new study done by a group of almost 60 researchers using genome data on over 100,000 people has come up empty-handed. The scientists first looked for differences in the genome that correlated with academic achievement. After narrowing it down to 69 individual sites, they gave cognitive tests to separate group of 24,000 people and looked for evidence of difference at those same locations (abstract). Most of the sites weren't significantly different from chance — the (already weak) genetic influence of genes on height has an effect 20 times greater. On top of that, the three gene locations that did seem to have a stronger correlation weren't involved in development of the nervous system.

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