Saturday, 11 February 2012

Skin Cancer Drug Rapidly Reverses Alzheimer's Symptoms in Mice

A skin cancer drug may rapidly reverse pathological, cognitive and memory deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research published on Thursday.

Source: MedicalDaily
Bexarotene, a drug that is currently used to combat T cell lymphoma, appeared to reverse plaque buildup and improve memory in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease by reducing levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that cause mental deficits in Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers said the findings were particularly promising because the drug worked with “unprecedented speed” by reducing soluble amyloid by 25 percent and its buildup in the brain by 50 percent in three days.

The study also found that in older mice with more established amyloid plaques, just seven days of treatment reduced the number of plaques by half.

Apolipoprotein E - or ApoE is a protein that enhances the breakdown of peptide beta-amyloid clusters that build-up in Alzheimer’s brains, but different people possess different versions of the protein. People with ApoE4 genetic variant are between 10 to 30 times more likely of developing Alzheimer’s by 75 years of age, compared with other not carrying the E4 alleles.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio investigated ways to boost levels of ApoE, the primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, to reduce levels of beta-amyloid.

Investigators said that after treatment, the mice made significant improvements in nest building, maze performance and remembering electrical shocks.

"This is an unprecedented finding. Previously, the best existing treatment for Alzheimer's disease in mice required several months to reduce plaque in the brain," Researcher Paige Cramer said in a statement.

Experts said that the results were promising, but noted that in the past successful drugs in mice often failed to work in people.

Previously scientists were also excited when an Alzheimer vaccine seemed to kill nerve destroying amyloid protein deposits in animal brains, but failed to show the same effect in human patients.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration have already approved bexarotene for cancer treatment, and scientists said because the skin cancer drug had been approved a decade ago, this would speed up the prospects for human clinical trials of the drug as an Alzheimer’s treatment.

"While it is still too early to make predictions, if these findings can be replicated in additional preclinical studies, and then later in human clinical trials, we may have a powerful new weapon in the battle to halt this disease," noted American Health Assistance Foundation Vice President for Scientific Affairs Guy Eakin.

Targretin, the skin cancer drug chemically as bexarotene, is currently sold by Tokyo-based Eisai Co., and Eisai and New York-based Pfizer Inc. sell Aricept which is the most widely prescribed Alzheimer’s disease drug before cheaper generic copies of the medicine were made available in the U.S. in 2010.

Around 5.1 Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that in 2050, the number of patients affected with the mental disease will double, and scientists have not been able to pinpoint the cause of the condition and there is no cure.

This month has been an especially hopeful month for people and family affected by Alzheimer and dementia diseases. Earlier this week, the Obama administration said that it would increase funding for Alzheimer’s research by $50million to $500 million this year to study the cause of the disease as well as test drugs that may halt its progression. Last week, Alzheimer’s researchers also mapped out how Alzheimer’s disease spreads in the brain and found that abnormal “tau” proteins jump from neuron to neuron.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Mind control could be future of warfare

Wars of the future might be decided through manipulation of people's minds, concludes a report this week from the UK's Royal Society. It warns that the potential military applications of neuroscience breakthroughs need to be regulated more closely.

Source: New Scientist
"New imaging technology will allow new targets in the brain to be identified, and while some will be vital for medicine, others might be used to incapacitate people," says Rod Flower of Queen Mary, University of London, who chairs the panel that wrote the report.

The report describes how such technology is allowing organisations like theUS Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to test ways of improving soldiers' mental alertness and capabilities. It may also allow soldiers to operate weaponry remotely through mind-machine interfaces, the report says.

Other research could be used to design gases and electronics that temporarily disable enemy forces. This potentially violates human rights, through interference with thought processes, and opens up the threat of indiscriminate killing. The panel highlights the time that Russian security forces ended a hostage siege in a Moscow theatre in 2002 by filling the venue with fentanyl, an anaesthetic gas. Along with the perpetrators, 125 hostages died.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is vague about whether such incapacitants are legal. Ambiguities like this must be ironed out, say the panellists.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Who was Benjamin Franklin?

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers on the United States and an inventor credited with creating the lightning rod, glass harmonica, urinary catheter, bifocal glasses and Franklin stove. Even though Benjamin Franklin never patented any of his own inventions, he was an advocate for inventor's rights and was responsible for seeing to it that a passage was inserted into the U. S. Constitution guaranteeing limited terms for patents and copyrights.

Source: TheFederalistsPapers
Benjamin Franklin was the first to document electrical properties as positive and negative. After Franklin's famous experiment of flying a kite during a lightening storm, he documented that lightening is in fact electricity.

Franklin was insulated from the charge or else he would have been electrocuted as were other scientists who followed with similar experiments. This "go fly a kite" incident lead to Benjamin Franklin's theories of grounding the electrical charge which lead to the invention of the lightning rod.

Because of Benjamin Franklin's work with the lightning rod, he received the Copley Medal from the Royal Society on London in 1753. Franklin also conducted other experiments in meteorology including noting that storms do not always follow the prevailing winds and that evaporation helps in the cooling process.

When Ben Franklin was 15-years-old he began writing for the first newspaper in Boston, the New England Currant, started by his brother. Ben Franklin used a pen name since he knew his brother would never publish his younger brother's letters. Franklin's most famous printing endeavors would come later with his publication of "Poor Richard's Almanac" in 1733. Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 and died on April 17, 1790.

Who was Michael Faraday?

Michael Faraday, an English chemist and physicist was one of the greatest scientists who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His concepts on electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and laws of electrolysis are yet to be disproved.

Source: scienceworld.wolfram
Research in chemistry led him to discover benzene and develop the earliest form of a Bunsen burner. Faraday is reputed to be the first and foremost Fullerian Professor of Chemistry appointed at the Royal Institute of Great Britain.

Faraday was born in a very poor family on 22nd September 1791 in Newington Butts which is now forms a part of the London Borough of Southwark. He had three other siblings and hence was deprived of basic necessity on account of his family's poor status.

So he had to take efforts to educate himself. He worked as an apprentice to a bookseller for seven years and during this period he read many books that helped him to develop a thirst for science. At the age of twenty, Faraday started attending lectures given by notable people like Humphry Davy and John Tatum.

He worked as Davy's secretary and later on was appointed as Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution in 1813. Faraday's trips with Davy helped him learn about many European scientists and develop sound scientific ideas.

Faraday began his research in chemistry under Humphry Davy. During this time Faraday carried out many experiments and made new discoveries in the field of chemical science. His works include identifying new chlorides of carbon, liquefying gases and the invention of the first Bunsen burner (before it was given this name).

He also discovered the compound benzene and found out the chemical structure of chlorine clathrate hydrate, a substance found out by Davy in 1810. Faraday's laws of electrolysis are widely accepted even today. His extensive research in chemistry also led to the introduction of a new field called nanoscience.

Faraday was well known for his research activities in magnetism and electricity. Faraday worked with several other scientists and discovered several concepts related to electromagnetism. After the death of his mentor, Humphry Davy, he began extensive research that led him to discover electromagnetic induction. His greatest discovery was a phenomenon known as mutual inductance.

By this he showed that an electric field can be produced from an active magnetic field. Using this same principle, Faraday built the dynamo, an earlier form of the present day generator (or electric motor). As he was nearing his end, he proposed various concepts on electromagnetic flux density (not the flux capacitor, however).

Faraday also introduced what is now known as Diamagnetism and the Faraday cage, which are concerned with the properties of electricity. James Clerk Maxwell adopted the theories of Faraday and translated them into a set of equations that formed the basis of all electromagnetic theory.

Apart from scientific research activities, he also undertook numerous complex projects for several private concerns and also for the British government. He also involved himself in several projects related to the construction of light houses and protecting the bottom of ships from getting corroded. Faraday also made efforts to conserve the environment and spread education.

Faraday was honored with a Doctorate in Civil Law by the University of Oxford in 1832. He was appointed as a foreign member to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1838. Faraday passed away on 25th August 1857 in his residence at Hampton court. Even after his death he is still remembered as one of the best scientists to have contributed to the fields of physics and chemistry.

Rumor has it …

Rumor has it that Faraday also invented the first crude stun gun that he used on occasion at night in the taverns he frequented. When someone was in his particular barstool he would zap them from behind to get them to move. Also when his tab at the tavern became too high, he would zap the bartender unconscious, zero out the tab and buy a round of beer on the house. Since most drunkards didn't know what electricity was at that time, Faraday and his stun gun was perceived akin to a wizard with his magic wand, at least in the beer-drinking community.

Who was Albert Einstein?

Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. Six weeks later the family moved to Munich, where he later on began his schooling at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Later, they moved to Italy and Albert continued his education at Aarau, Switzerland and in 1896 he entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. In 1901, the year he gained his diploma, he acquired Swiss citizenship and, as he was unable to find a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. In 1905 he obtained his doctor's degree.

Source: bhm
During his stay at the Patent Office, and in his spare time, he produced much of his remarkable work and in 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent in Berne. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in the following year to fill a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of Berlin. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton*. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired from his post in 1945.

After World War II, Einstein was a leading figure in the World Government Movement, he was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel, which he declined, and he collaborated with Dr. Chaim Weizmann in establishing the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Einstein always appeared to have a clear view of the problems of physics and the determination to solve them. He had a strategy of his own and was able to visualize the main stages on the way to his goal. He regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance.

At the start of his scientific work, Einstein realized the inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics and his special theory of relativity stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. He dealt with classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory: this led to an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules. He investigated the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density and his observations laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.

In his early days in Berlin, Einstein postulated that the correct interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory of gravitation and in 1916 he published his paper on the general theory of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the theory of radiation and statistical mechanics.

In the 1920's, Einstein embarked on the construction of unified field theories, although he continued to work on the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory, and he persevered with this work in America. He contributed to statistical mechanics by his development of the quantum theory of a monatomic gas and he has also accomplished valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and relativistic cosmology.

After his retirement he continued to work towards the unification of the basic concepts of physics, taking the opposite approach, geometrisation, to the majority of physicists.

Einstein's researches are, of course, well chronicled and his more important works includeSpecial Theory of Relativity (1905), Relativity (English translations, 1920 and 1950), General Theory of Relativity (1916), Investigations on Theory of Brownian Movement (1926), and The Evolution of Physics (1938). Among his non-scientific works, About Zionism (1930), Why War?(1933), My Philosophy (1934), and Out of My Later Years (1950) are perhaps the most important.

Albert Einstein received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy from many European and American universities. During the 1920's he lectured in Europe, America and the Far East and he was awarded Fellowships or Memberships of all the leading scientific academies throughout the world. He gained numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1925, and the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1935.

Einstein's gifts inevitably resulted in his dwelling much in intellectual solitude and, for relaxation, music played an important part in his life. He married Mileva Maric in 1903 and they had a daughter and two sons; their marriage was dissolved in 1919 and in the same year he married his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, who died in 1936. He died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey.

What are Photons?

Under the photon theory of light, a photon is a discrete bundle (or quantum) of electromagnetic (or light) energy. Photons are always in motion and, in a vacuum, have a constant speed of light to all observers, at the vacuum speed of light (more commonly just called the speed of light) of c = 2.998 x 108 m/s.

According to the photon theory of light, photons . . .
  • Move at a constant velocity, c = 2.9979 x 108 m/s (i.e. "the speed of light"), in free space
  • Have zero mass and rest energy.
  • Carry energy and momentum, which are also related to the frequency nu and wavelength lambda of the electromagnetic wave by E = h nu and p = h /lambda.
  • Can be destroyed/created when radiation is absorbed/emitted.
  • Can have particle-like interactions (i.e. collisions) with electrons and other particles, such as in the Compton effect.
The term photon was coined by Gilbert Lewis in 1926, though the concept of light in the form of discrete particles had been around for centuries and had been formalized in Newton's construction of the science of optics.

In the 1800s, however, the wave properties of light (by which I mean electromagnetic radiation in general) became glaringly obvious and scientists had essentially thrown the particle theory of light out the window. It wasn't until Albert Einstein explained thephotoelectric effect and realized that light energy had to be quantized that the particle theory returned.

Four telescope link-up creates world's largest mirror

Astronomers have created the world's largest virtual optical telescope linking four telescopes in Chile, so that they operate as a single device. The telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal observatory form a virtual mirror of 130 metres in diameter. A previous attempt to link the telescopes last March failed. Thursday's link-up was the system's scientific verification - the final step before scientific work starts.

Source: BBC News
Linking all four units of the VLT will give scientists a much more detailed look at the universe than previous experiments using just two or three telescopes to create a virtual mirror. The process that links separate telescopes together is known as interferometry. In this mode, the VLT becomes the biggest ground-based optical telescope on earth. Besides creating a gigantic virtual mirror, interferometry also greatly improves the telescope's spatial resolution and zooming capabilities.

The VLT is one of several telescopes in the Atacama Desert, set up by the European Southern Observatory (Eso). Eso is an international research organisation headquartered in Munich, Germany, and sponsored by 15 member countries.Vital milestone

Even prior to the start of the operation, as the domes of the four VLT units opened on a desert mountaintop in Chile, excitement filled the Paranal observatory's tiny control room.
The combination of four units of the Very Large Telescopes creates a virtual 130m-mirror

It was going to be a special night, said one of the astronomers. The head of instrumentation at Paranal, Frederic Gonte, called the event a "milestone in our quest for uncovering secrets of the universe".

"It's an extremely important step because now we know that we're ready to do real science," he said.

"From now on we'll be able to observe things we were not able to observe before."

To link the VLT units, the team of international astronomers and engineers used an instrument called Pionier, which replaces a multitude of mirrors with a single optical microchip.

Although the first attempt to combine the four telescopes happened in March 2011, it did not really work, said Jean-Philippe Berger, a French astronomer involved in the project.

But this time, it was already pretty clear that all the instruments were working correctly, he added.

"Last time, the atmospheric conditions and vibrations in the system were so bad that the data was just worthless, we stopped after half an hour knowing that it wouldn't improve," he said.

"So this attempt is a real first one to carry out observations for several hours straight to test the system in different conditions."

From now on, the system will be offered to the astronomical community, he added - any astronomer working at Paranal or visiting it will be able to use it.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Quantum entanglement

Quantum entanglement occurs when particles such as photons, electrons, molecules as large as "buckyballs", and even small diamonds interact physically and then become separated; the type of interaction is such that each resulting member of a pair is properly described by the same quantum mechanical description (state), which is indefinite in terms of important factors such as position, momentum, spin, polarization, etc.

Source: Discovery
According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, their shared state is indefinite until measured. Quantum entanglement is a form of quantum superposition. When a measurement is made and it causes one member of such a pair to take on a definite value (e.g., clockwise spin), the other member of this entangled pair will at any subsequent time be found to have taken the appropriately correlated value (e.g., counterclockwise spin). Thus, there is a correlation between the results of measurements performed on entangled pairs, and this correlation is observed even though the entangled pair may have been separated by arbitrarily large distances.

This behavior is consistent with quantum mechanical theory and has been demonstrated experimentally, and it is accepted by the physics community. However there is some debate about a possible underlying mechanism that enables this correlation to occur even when the separation distance is large. The difference in opinion derives from espousal of various interpretations of quantum mechanics.

Research into quantum entanglement was initiated by a paper of Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen in 1935; the EPR paradox, and several papers by Erwin Schrödinger shortly thereafter.Although these first studies focused on the counterintuitive properties of entanglement, with the aim of criticizing quantum mechanics, eventually entanglement was verified experimentally, and recognized as a valid, fundamental feature of quantum mechanics; the focus of the research has now changed to its utilization as a resource for communication and computation.

Quantum systems can become entangled through various types of interactions (see section on methods below). If entangled, one object cannot be fully described without considering the other(s). They remain in a quantum superposition and share a single quantum state until a measurement is made.

An example of entanglement occurs when subatomic particles decay into other particles. These decay events obey the various conservation laws, and as a result, pairs of particles can be generated so that they are in some specific quantum states. For instance, a pair of these particles may be generated having a two-state spin: one must be spin up and the other must be spin down. This type of entangled pair, where the particles always have opposite spin, is known as the spin anti-correlated case, and if the probabilities for measuring each spin are equal, the pair is said to be in the singlet state.

If each of two hypothetical experimenters, Alice and Bob, has one of the particles that form an entangled pair, and Alice measures the spin of her particle, the measurement will be entirely unpredictable, with a 50% probability of the spin being up or down. But if Bob subsequently measures the spin of his particle, the measurement will be entirely predictable―always opposite to Alice's, hence perfectly anti-correlated.

So far in this example experiment, the correlation seen with aligned measurements (i.e., up and down only) can be simulated classically. To make an analogous experiment, a coin might be sliced along the circumference into two half-coins, in such a way that each half-coin is either "heads" or "tails", and each half-coin put in a separate envelope and distributed respectively to Alice and to Bob, randomly. If Alice then "measures" her half-coin, by opening her envelope, for her the measurement will be unpredictable, with a 50% probability of her half-coin being "heads" or "tails", and Bob's "measurement" of his half-coin will always be opposite, hence perfectly anti-correlated.

However, with quantum entanglement, if Alice and Bob measure the spin of their particles in directions other than just up or down, with the directions chosen to form a Bell's inequality, they can now observe a correlation that is fundamentally stronger than anything that is achievable in classical physics. Here, the classical simulation of the experiment breaks down because there are no "directions" other than heads or tails to be measured in the coins.

One might imagine that using a die instead of a coin could solve the problem, but the fundamental issue about measuring spin in different directions is that these measurements cannot have definite values at the same time―they are incompatible. In classical physics this does not make sense, since any number of properties can be measured simultaneously with arbitrary accuracy. Bell's theorem implies, and it has been proven mathematically, that compatible measurements cannot show Bell-like correlations, and thus entanglement is a fundamentally non-classical phenomenon.

Experimental results have demonstrated that effects due to entanglement travel at least thousands of times faster than the speed of light. In another experiment, the measurements of the entangled particles were made in moving, relativistic reference frames in which each respective measurement occurred before the other, and the measurement results remained correlated.

NASA Probe Discovers 'Alien' Matter From Beyond Our Solar System

For the very first time, a NASA spacecraft has detected matter from outside our solar system — material that came from elsewhere in the galaxy, researchers announced today (Jan. 31).

Source: NASA
This so-called interstellar material was spotted by NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), a spacecraft that is studying the edge of the solar system from its orbit about 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) above Earth.

"This alien interstellar material is really the stuff that stars and planets and people are made of — it's really important to be measuring it," David McComas, IBEX principal investigator and assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a news briefing today from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

An international team of scientists presented new findings from IBEX, which included the first detection of alien particles of hydrogen, oxygen and neon, in addition to the confirmation of previously detected helium. [Images from NASA's IBEX Mission]

These atoms are remnants of older stars that have ended their lives in violent explosions, called supernovas, which dispersed the elements throughout the galaxy. As interstellar wind blows these charged and neutral particles through the Milky Way, the IBEX probe is able to create a census of the elements that are present.

Heavy elements in space

According to the new study, the researchers found 74 oxygen atoms for every 20 neon atoms in theinterstellar wind. For comparison, there are 111 oxygen atoms for every 20 neon atoms in our solar system, meaning there are more oxygen atoms in any part of the solar system than in nearby interstellar space, the scientists said in a statement.

"These are important elements to know quantitatively because they are the building blocks of stars, planets, people," McComas said. "We discovered this puzzle: matter outside our solar system doesn't look like material inside our solar system. It seems to be deficient in oxygen compared to neon."

The presence of less oxygen within interstellar material could indicate that the sun formed in a region with less oxygen compared to its current location, the researchers said.

Or, it could be a sign that oxygen is "locked up" in other galactic materials, such as cosmic grains of dust or ice.

"That leaves us with a puzzle for now: could it be that some of that oxygen, which is so crucial for life on Earth, is locked up in the cosmic dust?" asked Eberhard Möbius, a professor at the University of New Hampshire and a visiting professor at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. "Or, does it tell us how different our neighborhood is compared to the sun's birthplace?"