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70 articles from SUNDAY 10.6.2012
- SUNDAY 10. JUNE, 2012
23:30 Starwatch: The Clouds of Magellan
The Milky Way slants across Britain's NE sky this evening and flows through the Summer Triangle high on our meridian before dawn. Sadly, its dim stars are washed away by the twilight that lasts throughout the night as we approach the northern hemisphere's summer solstice at 00:09 BST on the 21st.
From south of the equator, though, the corresponding winter solstice sees the Milky Way soaring overhead in the middle of the night while the star clouds around the core of our Milky Way Galaxy lie near the zenith. Also visible, and climbing higher in the SSE later in the night, are two pools of light that appear like detached portions of the Milky Way. We know these as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the LMC and the SMC, though they had been sighted long before the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set sail in 1519 on what would become the first circumnavigation of the world.
Both clouds are dwarf companion galaxies in orbit around the Galaxy, and their irregular structures contrast with the ordered spiral form of our Galaxy and our famous neighbour in Andromeda. The LMC is some 160,000 ly (light years) away and 14,000 ly across, while the SMC is 200,000 ly distant and half as wide. With the mass of perhaps 10 billion Suns, the LMC is one hundredth as massive as the Galaxy yet its gravity is enough to warp the plane of the Galaxy and draw out streams of hydrogen that connect the Galaxy to the LMC and on to the SMC.
Our image shows a portion of the LMC and includes the bright Tarantula Nebula near the top which is a region of intense star formation, like a supercharged Orion Nebula. The reddish wisps and loops of excited hydrogen gas bear witness to death of the larger stars in supernovae explosions.
Indeed, the brightest supernova since 1604 erupted just below and right of the Tarantula 25 years ago and reached mag 2.9. I recall seeing it through my humble binoculars as it stood just above the southern horizon as viewed from Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, becoming one of the very few people on US soil to spot it. Meanwhile, the giant telescopes and expensive instruments all around me could not even be pointed that low in the sky. SN 1987A, as it is called, is still being studied (from the S hemisphere) as its radiation and debris impact on the material around it.
Observations of the clouds has revealed much about stellar evolution and suggest that they hold proportionally more primordial hydrogen and helium than does our Galaxy.guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
22:24 Spain's Telefonica sells China Unicom stakeSpanish giant Telefonica said Sunday it has sold a 4.56 percent stake in one of China's top telecoms companies, China Unicom, for 1.13 billion euros (41.4 billion).
21:15 New insight into placental growth and healthy pregnancyScientists have gained a new understanding of how the growth of the placenta is regulated before birth, which has important implications for a healthy pregnancy. The research shows that the controlled release of a specific molecule, called miR-675, slows down growth of the placenta before birth.
21:15 Scientists reveal structure of bacterial chainmailScientists have uncovered the structure of the protective protein coat which surrounds many bacteria like a miniature suit of armor. The research has far ranging consequences in helping us understand how some pathogenic bacteria infect humans and animals, and could help us develop new vaccines.
21:14 Brain scans show specific neuronal response to junk food when sleep-restrictedThe sight of unhealthy food during a period of sleep restriction activated reward centers in the brain less active than with adequate sleep, a new study using fMRI scans shows. Previous research has shown restricted sleep leading to increased food consumption in healthy people and increased desires for sweet and salty food. Results from this study provides additional support for the role of inadequate sleep in appetite-modulation and obesity.
21:14 Decoding DNA finds breast tumor signatures that predict treatment responseDecoding the DNA of patients with advanced breast cancer has allowed scientists to identify distinct cancer "signatures" that could help predict which women are most likely to benefit from estrogen-lowering therapy, while sparing others from unnecessary treatment.
21:14 MRI scans show how sleep loss affects the ability to choose proper foodsfMRI scans reveal how sleep deprivation impairs higher-order regions in the human brain where food choices are made – not the deeper brain structures reacting to basic desire. This new evidence offers another explanation for the link between sleep loss and obesity. Impaired brain activity in the frontal lobe was observed but not significant differences in areas traditionally associated with basic reward reactivity. Therefore, sleep loss may be more about higher brain functions than cravings.
21:14 Undersea volcano gave off signals before eruption in 2011A team of scientists that last year created waves by correctly forecasting the 2011 eruption of Axial Seamount years in advance now says that the undersea volcano located some 250 miles off the Oregon coast gave off clear signals hours before its impending eruption.
21:13 New studies challenge established views about development of children raised by gay or lesbian parentsNew Studies Challenge Established Views about the Development of(Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents
21:13 Predicting the formation of new speciesWhy do some groups of species diversify – in just a few thousand years – to the point of forming a wide variety of new species, while others remain essentially unchanged for millions of years? This is one of the key questions for scientists investigating the emergence and decline of biodiversity. From various studies, it is known that speciation is influenced both by environmental factors (e.g. habitat diversity, climate) and by species-specific traits (e.g. coloration, behavior patterns). However, little is known about how the extrinsic and intrinsic factors interact. These interactions have now been explored in more detail.
21:13 Researchers watch tiny living machines self-assembleEnabling bioengineers to design new molecular machines for nanotechnology applications is one of the possible outcomes of a new study. The scientists have developed a new approach to visualize how proteins assemble, which may also significantly aid our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are caused by errors in assembly.
21:13 Scientists develop new tools to unveil mystery of the ‘Glycome’Scientists have developed chemical compounds that can make key modifications to common sugar molecules (“glycans”), which are found on the surface of all cells in our body. The new study presents powerful new tools for studying these molecules’ function, for example in cell signaling and immunity, and for investigating new treatments for chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cancer metastasis, and related conditions.
21:12 Four new gene loci predisposing people to the most common subtype of migraineScientists have identified four new gene loci predisposing people to the most common subtype of migraine, migraine without aura. About 2/3 of migraine sufferers belong to this group.
21:00 Is the future of drugs safe and non-addictive?
In years to come alcohol may be replaced with happier alternatives and we could all be immunised against developing harmful habits
The next 20 years hold great opportunities for drugs research. We could see the development of pharmacological substitutes, agents to block the effects of drugs and help people break addictions, and drug-based aids in psychological treatments. There will be risks, and difficult legal and ethical issues that will need to be addressed.
A topic that will almost certainly prove controversial in the next 20 years is the use of vaccines to make drugs ineffective. Already, people coming to hospital having overdosed on cocaine are given antibodies that mop up the drug in the blood. This is a short-term treatment, lasting a few hours, but in theory it should be possible to vaccinate someone against a drug, so that when a person takes it the immune system is turned on, stopping the drug from getting to the brain.
Vaccines for nicotine and cocaine are currently under clinical development to help addicted users. If this works, could or should we vaccinate people to protect them from developing an addiction in the first place, just as we do today with vaccines for polio and whooping cough? Even more controversial is the question of whether vaccines should be administered to children to immunise them against drug and alcohol use. Is it violating somebody's human rights to take away their choice to experience pleasure from a drug at some point in the future?
The therapeutic properties of psychedelics have hardly been studied over the last 40 years because of their legal status, but this kind of research is becoming more acceptable and will yield very interesting results. Drugs like psilocybin and ibogaine, psychoactive substances found in plants, are non-addictive themselves, and seem to be effective at helping people overcome addictions to other drugs such as opiates, alcohol and nicotine. Synthetics may be developed that have more predictable and less harmful effects.
We may be able to make better recreational drugs too. I have carried out research on replacing ethanol in "alcoholic" drinks with a safer alternative, such as a benzodiazepine; ideally these drinks would be impossible to get drunk on, producing a moderate buzz with no increase in effects at higher doses, and could be switched off at the end of the night with a "sober pill". It may be that by 2030 that's what we'll all be drinking in the pub. Or alcohol itself could be modified to make it safer and more pleasant. Alcohol works on a set of receptors with different functions: Alpha-1 receptors seem to control the sedative effect of alcohol, making you unsteady; Alpha-5 receptors make you lose your memory; and we think Alpha-2 or Alpha-3 receptors make you feel relaxed and happy. We might be able to make alcohol safer by combining it with chemicals that stop it affecting certain receptors. Ideally, we would develop an alcohol that targets just Alpha-2 or 3, giving us the sensation of relaxation and enjoyment without the negative effects.
By 2030, it's likely that every British child will have their DNA sequenced at birth, perhaps with the data stored on a microchip under their skin. It could help avoid many of the thousands of deaths a year that occur when people have allergic reactions to medication they are given in hospital, but could also help identify the possibility of drug dependency. We know a little about how genetic variations make people more vulnerable to the negative consequences of some drugs: a particular form of the serotonin transporter makes ecstasy users more likely to suffer depression; and variants on other genes can make you more likely to become dependent on alcohol, opiates or nicotine. Our present knowledge is only the tip of the iceberg, partly because full genetic sequencing is currently so rare.
There could be enormous benefits if millions of people share their genetic data and their experiences of illness, medication and drug taking on the internet. We'll be able to identify relationships between genes and drug effects, and inform people about their vulnerabilities in ways that will make both therapeutic and recreational drug taking much safer.
This is an edited extract from Drugs Without The Hot Air by David Nutt, published by UIT Cambridge at £12.99guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
20:24 Bali goes green with bamboo buildingsStrong, light and cheaper than steel poles, bamboo is ubiquitous across Asia as scaffolding.
20:24 Nanotechnologists develop a 'time bomb' to fight cardiovascular diseaseAtherosclerosis, resulting in a narrowing of the arteries and the development of cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Until now, no treatment could target diseased areas exclusively, in order to increase drug efficacy and reduce side effects. To help bridge this gap, a group of Swiss researchers from UNIGE, HUG and the University of Basel have developed a veritable 'time bomb,' a treatment that can recognize the diseased areas and treat only them.
20:24 New tools developed to unveil mystery of the 'glycome'Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have developed chemical compounds that can make key modifications to common sugar molecules ("glycans"), which are found on the surface of all cells in our body. The new study presents powerful new tools for studying these molecules' function, for example in cell signaling and immunity, and for investigating new treatments for chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cancer metastasis, and related conditions.
20:24 No elegant technical fixes for distracted driving(AP) When does a smartphone make you dumb? When you're driving.
20:24 Revealing bacterial chainmail structureAn international team of scientists has uncovered the structure of the protective protein coat which surrounds many bacteria like a miniature suit of armour. Their research, which is published today in Nature, has far ranging consequences in helping us understand how some pathogenic bacteria infect humans and animals, and could help us develop new vaccines.
20:24 Scientists watch proteins self-assembleEnabling bioengineers to design new molecular machines for nanotechnology applications is one of the possible outcomes of a study by University of Montreal researchers that was published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology today.
20:24 Undersea volcano gave off signals before eruption in 2011(Phys.org) -- A team of scientists that last year created waves by correctly forecasting the 2011 eruption of Axial Seamount years in advance now says that the undersea volcano located some 250 miles off the Oregon coast gave off clear signals hours before its impending eruption.
19:13 Baby Elephants Christened en Masse in Sri LankaFifteen baby elephants born in captivity on a preserve were christened on Sunday.
19:02 Undersea Volcanoes Hold Clues to Eruptions
19:02 Volcano Warned Scientists Months Ahead of Deep-Sea Eruption
18:25 Foreign languages to be taught at school from age seven