Bacteria Fight Obesity

Gut microbes may be another way to tackle  obesity, new research suggests.

Could a transplant of gut bacteria be the key to tackling obesity?

 

Scientists found that by altering the levels  of gastric bugs in mice, they were able to induce rapid and significant weight  loss.

The change occurred after bacteria from obese  mice that had undergone gastric bypass surgery were transplanted into ordinary  animals.

Surgery had the effect of altering the  make-up of the gut flora, introducing a different balance which promoted  slimming.

Surgery to transplant different bacteria into the gut - altering the make-up of the gut flora - promoted slimming, say researchers
Surgery to transplant different bacteria into the gut –  altering the make-up of the gut flora – promoted slimming, say researchers

When this new mix of microbes was transferred  to non-obese mice, the weight loss benefits were transferred too.

The U.S. research shows that gastric bypasses  do more than prevent food being digested. Much of their impact is due to altered  ecology in the gut.

‘It may not be that we will have a magic pill  that will work for everyone who’s slightly overweight,’ said study leader Dr  Peter Turnbaugh, from Harvard University, Boston.

‘But if we can, at a minimum, provide some  alternative to gastric bypass surgery that produces similar effects, it would be  a major advance.’

Gastric bypasses work by rearranging the gut  so that it accommodates less food.

The research showed that after surgery  different kinds of microbe began to take over. In particular, the gut became  dominated by verrucomicrobia and gammaproteobacteria. In contrast levels of the  Firmicutes family of bugs fell.

It took less than a week for the rebalancing  to occur, and the effect continued for months afterwards.

The new population of bugs appeared to drive  weight loss, and continued to do so when transferred to a non-obese group of  mice that had not undergone a gastric bypass.

An altered balance of microbes in the gut can lead to weight loss
An altered balance of microbes in the gut can lead to  weight loss

‘Simply by colonizing mice with the altered  microbial community, the mice were able to maintain a lower body fat and lose  weight – about 20 per cent as much as they would if they underwent surgery,’  said Dr Turnbaugh.

He suspected an even more dramatic result  would have been seen if the mice receiving the bugs had been fattened up  beforehand.

How particular populations of microbes induce  weight loss remains unclear.

The answer may be linked to waste products  the bugs excrete, according to the research published in the journal Science  Translational Medicine.

Along with the altered microbes, the  scientists found changes in the concentration of certain short-chain fatty  acids. Previous studies have suggested the molecules may trigger signals that  cause the body to speed up metabolism, or store fewer calories as  fat.

‘A major gap in our knowledge is the  underlying mechanism linking microbes to weight loss,’ said Dr Turnbaugh. ‘There  were certain microbes that we found at higher abundance after surgery, so we  think those are good targets for beginning to understand what is taking  place.’

Co-author Dr Lee Kaplan, from Massachusetts  General Hospital in Boston, said: ‘We need to learn a good deal more about the  mechanisms by which a microbial population changed by gastric bypass exert its  effects, and then we need to learn if we can produce these effects – either the  microbial changes or the associated metabolic changes – without  surgery.

‘The ability to achieve even some of these  effects without surgery would give us an entirely new way to treat the critical  problem of obesity, one that could help patients unable or unwilling to have

Attribution: Anna Hodgekiss, Mail Online

What Happens in an Internet Minute?

Astonishing figures that show the true scale  of our online activity have been revealed.

The new study, by chipmaker Intel, found that more than 204 million emails are sent every minute, while 47,000 apps are  downloaded and retail giant Amazon rings up around $83,000 in  sales.

Around 20 million photos and 6 million Facebook pages are viewed, while we also watch 1.3 million video clips on  YouTube.

Intel's internet minute infographic reveals exactly what we do online - with 639,800GB of data transferred
Intel’s internet minute infographic reveals exactly what  we do online – with 639,800GB of data transferred

 

ONLINE IN 60  SECONDS

More than 204 million emails are  sent

Amazon rings up about $83,000 in sales

Around 20 million photos  are viewed and  3,000 uploaded on Flickr

At least 6 million Facebook  pages are viewed  around the world 

More than 61,000 hours of music  are played  on Pandora

More than 1.3 million video clips are  watched on YouTube

 

Nearly 640,00 Gb of global IP data is  transferred in just one Internet minute, the researchers found.

‘Computing is transforming and touching more  people in a wider range of devices,’ said Intel’s Krystal Temple.

‘But while it’s hard to miss the  proliferation of portable devices, it’s what we don’t see that’s the bigger  issue.

‘What many don’t see is that the increase in  mobile devices has had a tremendous impact on the amount of data traffic  crossing the network.

‘It’s a little easier to comprehend once we  think about all that’s done on a connected device like a smartphone.

‘Listening to music, watching videos,  downloading photos, playing online games, refreshing Twitter feeds and status  updates – all of those activities generate network traffic.’

The study also looked at how the data could expand dramatically in the future.

It predicted that by 2015, the number of networked devices is expected to be double the world’s population.

It would take five years to view all the video content crossing IP networks each second by then.

One of Google's brightly coloured data centers in Douglas Country: New figures reveal exactly what happens on the internet every minute
One of Google’s brightly coloured data centers in  Douglas Country: New figures reveal exactly what happens on the internet every  minute

The chip giant also revealed it is developing new networking equipment to deal with the increase in traffic.

Codenamed ‘Crystal Forest,’ that will boost  performance and beef up network security to handle the increasing network traffic.

‘By enabling equipment manufacturers and  services providers to deliver platforms that grow along with the network, Intel is also enabling consumers to stay connected on intelligent devices every Internet minute of the day,’ Intel said.

Attribution: Daily Mail

The Eagle Has Landed…In Utah

Humans ‘exploring Mars’: Amazing pictures from mission simulation base in UTAH

 

A group of scientists clad in spacesuits  trudge across the bleak red terrain, occasionally pausing to take rock samples  or map the landscape.

After their mission is complete, they will  return to their cramped habitation module, where they live a spartan existence  with limited water, electricity, food and oxygen, a vast distance from  home.

But these amazing pictures are not from the  latest sci-fi thriller set on Mars, but were taken in the deserts of Utah, in  the Western United States.

The ‘astronauts’ are a group of volunteers  who are helping to discover ways to investigate the feasibility of a human  exploration of Mars and use the Utah desert’s Mars-like  terrain to simulate working conditions on the red planet.

Utah, the final frontier: Volunteers venture out from the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, which aims to simulate the conditions that will be endured by humans should they ever reach the red planet
 Volunteers venture out from  the Mars Desert Research Station, which aims to simulate the conditions that  will be endured by humans should they ever reach the red planet
To boldly go: Members of Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission venture out in their simulated spacesuits to collect geologic samples for study at the MDRS earlier this month
Members of Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission  venture out in their simulated spacesuits to collect geologic samples for study  at the MDRS earlier this month

The project is called the Mars Desert  Research Station (MDRS), a simulated off-world habitat that serves as a test  site for field operations in preparation for future human missions  to Mars.

All outdoor exploration is done wearing  simulated spacesuits and carrying air supply packs and crews live together in a  small communication base with carefully rationed essentials  – everything needed to survive must be produced, fixed and replaced  on-site.

The site, near the town of Hanksville, was  chosen because the terrain is similar to the surface of Mars.

It is operated by The Mars Society, a  non-profit organization that advocates space travel, during the cooler winter  months by rotating volunteer crews of six scientists (geologists, biologists,  engineers and more) running simulations  of how it would be to live on Mars and working together to develop field tactics  and study the terrain.

Alien terrain: Csilla Orgel, a geologist and volunteer from Hungary. She has a life-long love of space exploration and is a board member of the Hungarian Astronautical Society
Csilla Orgel, a geologist and volunteer  from Hungary. She has a life-long love of space exploration and is a board  member of the Hungarian Astronautical Society

 

Explorer: Hans van Ot Woud, a mapping researcher and the health and safety officer of the mission, surveys the terrain from a ledge
 Hans van  ‘t Woud, a mapping researcher and the  health and safety officer of the mission, surveys the terrain from a  ledge

 

Melissa Battler (left), a geologist and commander of the crew, climbs a rock formation to collect samples for study
Melissa Battler (left), a geologist and commander of the  crew, climbs a rock formation to collect samples for study
Alone in the cosmos: Volker Maiwald, executive officer and habitat engineer, takes pictures of the surface of 'Mars'
 Volker Maiwald, executive officer  and habitat engineer, takes pictures of the surface of ‘Mars’

 

Members of Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission collect geologic samples from a cliff face. Utah was chosen because it is believed to be geologically and visually similar to Mars
Members of Crew 125 EuroMoonMars B mission collect  geologic samples from a cliff face. Utah was chosen because it is believed to be  geologically and visually similar to Mars
The MDRS aims to investigate the feasibility of a human exploration of Mars and uses the Utah desert's Mars-like terrain to simulate working conditions there
The MDRS aims to investigate the feasibility of a human  exploration of Mars and uses the Utah desert’s Mars-like terrain to simulate  working conditions there

Each crew spends between two weeks and a  month living in a habitat unit, performing the kind of work astronauts will be  expected to carry out on Mars, such as collecting rock  samples from the surface and examining them back in the habitat, conducting life  science experiments and studying the local geology and  geomorphology.

A statement on the MDRS website says: ‘Mars is the great challenge of our  time.

‘A world with a surface area the size of the  combined continents of the Earth, the Red Planet contains all the elements  needed to support life. As such it is the Rosetta Stone for revealing whether  the phenomenon of life is something unique to the Earth, or prevalent in the  universe.

Red dusk: The weary spacefarers trudge back to the habitat after a day of collecting geologic samples
 The weary spacefarers trudge back to the  habitat after a day of collecting geologic samples
Homeward bound: Csilla Orgel makes her way back to the MDRS, where she will live in cramped conditions with five other astronauts with limited essentials
 Csilla Orgel makes her way back to the  MDRS, where she lives in cramped conditions with five other astronauts
Spartan: The six volunteers live together in a small communications base with limited amounts of electricity, food, oxygen and water
 The six volunteers live together in a small  communications base with limited amounts of electricity, food, oxygen and  water
For safety reasons, there is always one crew member in the habitat in case anything goes wrong on the 'planet's surface'
For safety reasons, there is always one crew member in  the habitat in case anything goes wrong on the ‘planet’s surface’
To be as authentic as possible, everything needed to survive must be produced, fixed and replaced on site, as it would on a real expedition to Mars
To be as authentic as possible, everything needed to  survive must be produced, fixed and replaced on site, as it would on a real  expedition to Mars

‘The exploration of Mars may also tell us  whether life as we find it on Earth is the model for life elsewhere, or whether  we are just a small part of a much vaster and more varied  tapestry.

‘Moreover, as the nearest planet with all the  required resources for technological civilisation, Mars will be the decisive  trial that will determine whether humanity can expand  from its globe of origin to enjoy the open frontiers and unlimited prospects  available to multi-planet spacefaring species.

‘Offering profound enlightenment to our  science, inspiration and purpose to our youth, and a potentially unbounded  future for our posterity, the challenge of Mars is one that  we must embrace.’

Another core component is to learn about the psychological stresses that may be endured by explorers as they deal with a lack of privacy and long periods of solitude
Another core component is to learn about the  psychological stresses that may be endured by explorers as they deal with a lack  of privacy and long periods of solitude
Cosy: The crew prepare a meal in the habitat. Food must be carefully rationed as the volunteers are not resupplied once they enter the MDRS
 The crew prepare a meal in the habitat. Food must  be carefully rationed as the volunteers are not resupplied once they enter the  MDRS

 

Matt Cross (facing front), a rover engineer, works at his computer. The project attracts space enthusiasts and scientists from all over the world
Matt Cross (facing front), a rover engineer, works at  his computer. The project attracts space enthusiasts and scientists from all  over the world

 

Work: Geologists Melissa Battler (left) and Csilla Orgel analyse geologic samples collected from outside
 Geologists Melissa Battler (left) and  Csilla Orgel analyse geologic samples collected from outside

The Utah site is one of two operated by the  Mars Society as part of its Mars Analog Research Station (MARS) project. The  other site is located in the Canadian Arctic, with two  more planned for the Australian outback and Iceland.

These locations were chosen because some  environmental conditions, geologic features or biological attributes may be  similar to those thought to be encountered on Mars.

The MDRS website adds: ‘In addition to  providing scientific insight into our neighboring world, such analog  environments offer unprecedented opportunities to carry out Mars analog field  research in a variety of key scientific and engineering disciplines that will  help prepare humans for the exploration of that planet. Such research is vitally  necessary.

Wall-E? Engineer Matt Cross works on a rover, which will be used to explore the surface of Utah, similar to the way a robot could be used by human explorers
Wall-E? Engineer Matt Cross works on a rover, which will  be used to explore the surface of Utah, similar to the way a robot could be used  by human explorers

Biology: Hans van Ot Woud checks on plants grown at the Mars Desert Research Station. Astronauts may have to grow their own food on manned missions to Mars
 Hans van  ‘t Woud checks on plants grown at the  Mars Desert Research Station. Astronauts may have to grow their own food on  manned missions to Mars

 

A vintage map of Mars hangs on the wall at the MDRS. The mission is only made possible thanks to volunteers and donors, including film director James Cameron
A vintage map of Mars hangs on the wall at the MDRS. The  mission is only made possible thanks to volunteers and donors, including film  director James Cameron

‘For example, it is one thing to walk around  a factory test area in a new spacesuit prototype and show that a wearer can pick  up a wrench – it is entirely another to subject that same suit to two months of  real field work.

‘Similarly, psychological studies of human  factors issues, including isolation and habitat architecture are also only  useful if the crew being studied is attempting to do real work.’

Mission commander Melissa Battler, who led a  crew of six at the Utah site from February 23 to March 9, said: ‘Humans, we are  explorers… there are a lot of obstacles but we can overcome those  obstacles.’

Hardy: The volunteers can spend up to a month enduring the austere conditions
The volunteers can spend up to a month enduring  the austere conditions
Starry-eyed: The site's observatory as seen from the working and living quarters
 The site’s observatory as seen from the  working and living quarters

 

Attribution: Sam Webb, Mail Online

Live to 150 Years Old?

New drug being developed using compound found in red wine ‘could help humans live until they are 150

Drugs that could combat aging and help people to live to 150-years-old may be available within five years, following landmark research.

The new drugs are synthetic versions of resveratrol which is found in red wine and is believed to have an anti-ageing effect as it boosts activity of a protein called SIRT1.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has been testing the medications on patients suffering with medical conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The work proves that a single anti-ageing enzyme in the body can be targeted, with the potential to prevent age-related diseases and extend lifespans.

As each of the 117 drugs tested work on the single enzyme through a common mechanism, it means that a whole new class of anti-aging drugs is now viable, which could ultimately prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Genetics professor David Sinclair, based at Harvard University, said: ‘Ultimately, these drugs would treat one disease, but unlike drugs of today, they would prevent 20 others.

‘In effect, they would slow ageing.’

The target enzyme, SIRT1, is switched on naturally by calorie restriction and exercise, but it can also be enhanced through activators.

The most common naturally-occurring activator is resveratrol, which is found in small quantities in red wine, but synthetic activators with much stronger activity are already being developed.

Although research surrounding resveratrol has been going on for a decade, until now the basic science had been contested.

Despite this, there have already been promising results in some trials with implications for cancer, cardiovascular disease and cardiac failure, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, fatty liver disease, cataracts, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, sleep disorders and inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, arthritis and colitis.

Professor Sinclair said: ‘In the history of pharmaceuticals, there has never been a drug that tweaks an enzyme to make it run faster.’

Positive: Scientists have been testing the medications on patients suffering with medical conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease (file picture)
 Scientists have been testing the medications on patients suffering with medical conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease (file picture)

The technology was sold to GlaxoSmithKline in 2008.

Four thousand synthetic activators, which are 100 times as potent as a single glass of red wine, have been developed – with the best three being used in human trials.

Writing in the journal Science, Professor Sinclair, who suggests the first therapeutic to be marketed will be for diabetes, said: ‘Our drugs can mimic the benefits of diet and exercise, but there is no impact on weight.’

Limited trials have been carried out in people with type 2 diabetes and the skin inflammatory disease, psoriasis.

Scientists found that there were benefits to the metabolism in the first group and a reduction in skin redness in the second.

The drugs can be administered orally, or topically.

So far, there have been no drugs developed to target ageing skin, but one major skin care range has developed a creme with resveratrol in it.

Anti-aging: Drugs to target ageing skin have not yet been developed, but one major skin care range has created a creme containing resveratrol
 Drugs to target ageing skin have not yet been developed, but one major skin care range has created a creme containing resveratrol

While any drug would be strictly prescribed for certain conditions, Professor Sinclair suggests that one day, they could be taken orally as a preventative.

They could therefore be used in the same way as statin drugs are commonly prescribed to prevent, instead of simply treating, cardiovascular disease.

In animal models, overweight mice given synthetic resveratrol were able to run twice as far as slim mice and they lived 15 per cent longer.

Professor Sinclair added: ‘Now we are looking at whether there are benefits for those who are already healthy.

‘Things there are also looking promising. We’re finding that aging isn’t the irreversible affliction that we thought it was.

‘Some of us could live to 150, but we won’t get there without more research.’

Attribution: Lucy Crossley, Daily Mail

Has the iPhone Met It’s Match?

iPhone facing its biggest threat yet with the launch of new Samsung Galaxy which could be controlled by the eyes

 

The iPhone is to face its biggest challenge for supremacy in the smartphone market this week with the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy.

In what has been described as the most eagerly awaiting technology release of the year, the Galaxy S4 will be unveiled in New York on Wednesday and rumors are the device will feature eye control.

The S4’s predecessor, the S3, already had a feature called Smart Stay that detected if users were looking at the screen.

The Samsung S4 is set to launch on Wednesday in New York with rumoured features such as wireless charging and eye-controlled scrolling
The Samsung S4 is set to launch on  Wednesday in New York with rumoured features such as wireless charging and  eye-controlled scrolling

But the S4 is expected to have revolutionary functions such as ‘eye pause’ and ‘eye scroll’, which will let users scroll around apps and websites simply by moving their eyes.

Since its launch last year, the S3 briefly outsold the iPhone 4S but after the release of the iPhone 5, Apple have regained the top spot.

However, the S4 is predicted to become the biggest seller when it hits the stores in a few weeks thanks to rumored technological improvements such as wireless charging,

It is also expected to be powered by an eight core processing chip, compared to the iPhone’s two, and to have a larger screen – 5in compared to 4.8in on the S3.

There was fierce competition between Apple's iPhone 4s, left, and Samsung's Galaxy S III, right as the battle between the two technology companies continues
 There was fierce competition between Apple’s  iPhone 4s, left, and Samsung’s Galaxy S III, right, last year as the battle  between the two technology companies continues

Other leaks suggest it will have a 13  megapixel camera, as opposed to the iPhone’s eight.

Francisco Jeronimo, from technology analysis firm IDC, said: ‘Apple is not the one leading the market. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new Samsung device sells more than the new Apple device over the next two years.’

The S4’s launch ceremony will be held at the famous Radio City music Hall and will be broadcast live in Times Square.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung have released a few teaser advertisements for the phone, which show a boy’s face being lit up by a golden glow as he opens a box containing the S4, with the catchline ‘one of the most amazing products to hit the market since TVs went  color.’

Attribution: Rebecca Evans, Daily Mail

How to Preserve a Dictator

How Do You Keep A Dead Political Leader Fresh For Public Viewing?

The death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been met with mixed feelings here in the US. But he was adored in his country, at least by those who didn’t despise him, so after his death, his vice-president, Nicolas Maduro, stated that his body would be embalmed “like Lenin and Mao Zedong,” and displayed for a week.

But how do you display a body for an entire week?Hugo Chavez

The Ugliness of Death

Decomposition begins from the second of death in human bodies. The first stage of decomposition, called the “fresh” stage, begins when the heart stops beating. Blood stops pumping to the extremities and settles due to gravity, causing the skin to become bluish-purple. After a few hours, rigor mortis kicks in. At the same time, the body begins the process of autolysis, in which pH changes in the body trigger the structural breakdown of cell walls. Those cells release digestive enzymes which completely destroy the cell. And while all that is going on, aerobic bacteria in the body are gobbling up all of the oxygen that remains inside, but since there’s no new oxygen coming in, they soon die off, leaving a perfect space for anaerobic bacteria to jump in. They start chowing down on any liquids and fats in the body and producing nasty stuff–gases, acids, that kind of thing–which turn into bloat. And that’s not even accounting for visible insects like blowflies.

The type of embalming performed at funeral homes is temporary, designed to last a mere few hours until the body can be buried. Embalming is an ancient practice, with cultures as widely varied as the Inca, the Egyptians, and the Han Dynasty Chinese all having traditional embalming methods and ceremonies.

Today, this kind of temporary preservation is usually done by arterial embalming. Blood and other fluids are drained from the body, and an embalming solution is then injected with a pump into an artery–typically the right carotid artery, in the side of the neck–while the embalmer massages the veins and extremities to circulate the fluid throughout the body. The embalming solution is mostly common solvents, with formaldehyde and methanol being typical ingredients. Other ingredients could include phenols (which serve the same purpose as formaldehyde–and also smell like scotch whisky), water, a conditioner to balance the pH of the water, and some kind of pink or red dye to maintain the color the body was when it was less…dead.

This solution denatures the proteins of surrounding cells, which has the dual purpose of killing any bacteria and also making those cells worthless as food for any bacteria that would try to settle in. It’s kind of grotesque, but you can think of this like a ceviche, in which acid denatures the proteins of delicious seafood, thus sterilizing it. (Sorry for that comparison.)

But this only preserves the body for a little while–plenty of time to perform an open-casket funeral service, but if you want to display a communist national leader for a week, you’ve got to try something else. And what if you want to do it for more than a week? Lest we forget, the body of Vladimir Lenin has been on display since his death. Which was in 1924.

Lenin's Body

Lenin’s Body: via Burrp.com

 

Long-Term Preservation

Vice-President Maduro specifically said that Chavez would be embalmed like Lenin, rather than preserved through any other method (more on those later). And luckily, we have some information on how Lenin’s body was preserved. And it’s not wildly different from short-term preservation. You need to invest in more hair and makeup, because hair falls out fairly quickly, but the big difficulty is moisture.

The alcohol, for example, is highly important to the embalming process. It’s what’s used to hold the formaldehyde in solution, since you’re trying to stay away from water–but alcohol evaporates quickly, which can lead to the body drying out. So you have to keep the humidity level fairly high, to combat that. But keeping the humidity level high invites all sorts of other critters–mold, fungus, bacteria–that thrive in damp environments. It’s a constant balance between wet and dry. Ilya Zbarsky, in a 1999 interview to the BBC, stated:

Twice a week, we would soak the face and the hands with a special solution. We could also improve some minor defects. Once a year the mausoleum was closed and the body was immersed in a bath with this solution.

This preserves Lenin’s body…adequately. His face looks very waxy and shiny; it’s clear it’s Lenin, but nobody would mistake his century-old body for a man taking a nap.

What About More Modern Techniques?

Ah, here’s where we get into some interesting stuff. In 1979, a German anatomist named Gunther von Hagens applied for a patent for a process he called “plastination.” Plastination, in brief, replaces all of the liquids and fats (these are the problematic materials, decomposition-wise) in a body with plastics. It’s a more difficult and newer technique than traditional embalming, but it has lots of advantages. Bodies preserved by plastination do not decay at all; no need for the kind of repeated upkeep Lenin’s body needs. They’re completely sterile, so you can even touch them without risk. And, perhaps best of all, you’re not fighting decomposition: plastinated bodies are perfectly preserved in the moment they were treated, including color and appearance. If you’ve seen the Bodies exhibit that tours from museum to museum, this’ll be familiar–that exhibit consists of plastinated body parts.

Plastination

Plastination: A newborn in the process of plastination. Wikimedia Commons

 

Here’s how it works. First, you inject with formaldehyde, much like you would to embalm. But the formaldehyde in this case is only used to preserve the body during the plastination process, and to lessen rigor mortis so the body can be posed as desired. Then, to draw out all the liquid–remember, liquid is the enemy here–the body is immersed in a bath of acetone, a clear, odorless compound that, when very cold, draws out water from the body and takes its place. Acetone might be a weird and highly flammable substance, but one thing it is not is a friend to mold or bacteria.

Then, you take the body and immerse it in a second bath, this time a common polymer like silicone rubber, polyester, or epoxy resin. Then you bring it to a boil–I know, this sounds like a horrifying recipe–and the acetone will evaporate from the body’s cells, at which point the polymer will move in and take its place. Then you zap the whole thing with an ultra-violet gun to dry and harden the plastic, and congratulations, you’ve got a plastinated body.

What About Freezing?

Well, basically, no. Cryopreservation is a young and controversial technique to maintain cells by keeping them at extremely low temperatures–like, several hundred degrees below zero. It works, kind of, but only for very small and simple creatures like tardigrades (AKA water bears), or for small human cells like sperm cells or embryos. It works well for that stuff; embryos have been preserved for up to 16 years and thawed successfully. But for larger human tissue, cryopreservation is just too immature and ill-understood. There are all kinds of problems: cells sometimes begin to form ice crystals or begin to dehydrate, which can cause irreparable physical damage to the cell walls. But research is definitely progressing in the field.

So, Chavez will be embalmed. Embalming is a classic! But perhaps the next controversial freedom fighter/despot will opt for plastination.

Attribution: Dan Nosowitz, RealClearScience

A Battery Breakthrough

Charge your iPhone in five SECONDS

 

Researchers have revealed a radical new type  of battery that could charge a mobile phone or even a car in seconds.

Called micro-scale graphene-based  supercapacitors, the devices can charge and discharge a hundred to a thousand  times  faster than standard batteries.

Made from a one-atom–thick layer of carbon, can be easily manufactured and readily integrated into gadgets – and could even lead to far smaller phones.

Scroll down  for video

The micro-supercapacitors the team created using a DVD burner. They can charge and discharge upto a thousand times faster than traditional batteries
The micro-supercapacitors the team created using a DVD  burner. They can charge and discharge upto a thousand times faster than  traditional batteries

 

HOW IT WORKS

For any supercapacitor to be  effective, two  separated electrodes have to be positioned so that the  available surface area  between them is maximized.

This allows the  supercapacitor to store a  greater charge.

A previous design stacked the layers  of  graphene serving as electrodes, like the slices of bread on a  sandwich.  However, this didn’t work with electronic cicruits.

In their new design, the researchers  placed  the electrodes side by side using an interdigitated pattern, akin to interwoven  fingers.

This helped to maximize the  accessible  surface area available for each of the two electrodes while  also reducing the  path over which ions in the electrolyte would need to  diffuse.

As a result, the new supercapacitors have  more charge capacity and rate capability than their stacked  counterparts.

The team say their breakthrough could least  to faster charging phones and cars, but also smaller gadgets.

‘The integration of energy-storage units with  electronic circuits is challenging and often limits the  miniaturization of the  entire system,’ said Richard Kaner, who is a professor of materials science and  engineering at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

To develop their new  micro-supercapacitor,  the researchers used a two-dimensional sheet of  carbon, known as graphene,  which only has the thickness of a single atom in the third dimension.

The team also found a way to produce the new  batteries easily – using a standard DVD burner.

‘Traditional methods for the  fabrication of  micro-supercapacitors involve labor-intensive  lithographic techniques that have  proven difficult for building  cost-effective devices, thus limiting their  commercial application,’  El-Kady said.

‘Instead, we used a consumer-grade  LightScribe DVD burner to produce graphene micro-supercapacitors over  large  areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional devices.

‘Using this technique, we have been  able to  produce more than 100 micro-supercapacitors on a single disc in  less than 30  minutes, using inexpensive materials.’

For a supercapacitor battery to be  effective, two separated electrodes have to be positioned so that the  available surface area between them is maximized.

This allows the  supercapacitor to store a  greater charge.

A previous design stacked the layers  of  graphene serving as electrodes, like the slices of bread on a  sandwich.  However, this didn’t work with electronic cicruits.

The new breakthrough could also dramatically change the design of batteries, making then far smaller, and easier to built into gadgets
The new breakthrough could also dramatically change the  design of batteries, making then far smaller, and easier to built into  gadgets

 

In their new design, the researchers  placed  the electrodes side by side using an interdigitated pattern, akin to interwoven  fingers.

This helped to maximize the  accessible  surface area available for each of the two electrodes while  also reducing the  path over which ions in the electrolyte would need to  diffuse.

As a result, the new supercapacitors have  more charge capacity and rate capability than their stacked  counterparts.

The researchers say people could even make  the technology at home.

‘The process is straightforward,  cost-effective and can be done at home,’ El-Kady said.

‘One only needs a DVD burner and graphite  oxide dispersion in water, which is  commercially available at a moderate  cost.’

The team say they are now hoping to begin  working with gadget makers.

‘We are now looking for industry partners to  help us mass-produce our graphene micro-supercapacitors,’ Kaner said

Attribution: Mail Online

High Voltage Pollen

 

Flowers use electrical fields to communicate with insects… with voltage indicating pollen levels

Seeing a large bumble bee inside a bright flower is a common sight over the warm summer months.

It has long been known that bees are attracted to the flowers by their bright colors and enticing fragrances.

However, it has now emerged that flowers are using less obvious forces to attract their pollinators.

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Energy: Scientists revealed today that flowers give out electrical signals to attract bumblebees to their pollen. This graph shows the electrical fields surrounding a flower
 Scientists revealed today that flowers give out electrical signals to attract bumble bees to their pollen. This graph shows the electrical fields surrounding a flower

Scientists revealed today that blooms give out electrical signals to attract bumble bees to their pollen – with their voltage changing to warn others when their nectar is low.

The flowers use electrical signals which work in concert with their physical attributes – enhancing their advertising power to bees.

The team, from the University of Bristol, studied almost 200 bees collecting pollen from petunias to reveal the electrical relationship for the first time.

PhD student Dominic Clark, from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: ‘Flowers are like giant advertising billboards for bees.

‘We have known for a long time that flowers use color and smell to advertise to their pollinators.

‘More recently though, it is being discovered that flowers take advantage of more and more of their pollinators’ senses to send their messages.

Connection: The electrical signals work in concert with the physical attributes of the flowers to attract the bees
The electrical signals work in concert with the physical attributes of the flowers to attract the bees

‘There is a bat-pollinated vine for example, with flowers that change shape when they’re empty of nectar so that they appear different to the bat’s echolocation radar and the bat can avoid them.

‘We believe that the electric field is a previously unappreciated source of information for insects like bees and the plants they interact with.

‘This ability might not be confined to bumblebees.’

Professor Daniel Robert, from the University of Bristol, who led the research, said differences in electrical charges allowed flowers and bees to communicate.

He added: ‘The last thing a flower wants is to attract a bee and then fail to provide nectar; a lesson in honest advertising since bees are good learners and would soon lose interest in such unrewarding flowers.

 ‘The co-evolution between flowers and bees has a long and beneficial history, so perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that we are still discovering today how remarkably sophisticated their communication is.’

The research, published in Science Express, took the team three years to complete and involved watching each bee visit a flower up to 50 times.

Attraction: This graph superimposed on a video shows the electrical signal emitted from a flower as a bee approaches and lands on the plant
This graph superimposed on a video shows the electrical signal emitted from a flower as a bee approaches and lands on the plant

 

Fascinating: As the bee gets closer to the flower, the voltage emitting from the bloom increases
 As the bee gets closer to the flower, the voltage emitting from the bloom increases

 

Signal: With the bee inside the purple plant, the voltage level reaches its highest peak
 With the bee inside the purple plant, the voltage level reaches its highest peak

Plants are usually charged negatively and emit weak electric fields. Bees acquire a positive charge as they fly through the air.

No spark is produced as a charged bee approaches a charged flower – but a small electric force builds up to potentially convey information.

The researchers placed electrodes in the steams of petunias, discovering that when a bee lands, the flower’s charge changes and remains different for several minutes.

It is believed that this could be a way to warn bees that the flower has been recently visited, meaning the nectar content is low.

Bees are also able to tell the difference between different floral electric fields – knowing when a flower’s charge has changed.

It is not yet known how bees detect the electric fields but researchers believe hairy bumblebees bristle up under the electrostatic force.

Dr Heather Whitney, a co-author of the study, said the discovery of electric detection had opened up a ‘whole new understanding’ of insect and flower communication.

She said: ‘This novel communication channel reveals how flowers can potentially inform their pollinators about the honest status of their precious nectar and pollen reserves.’

Attribution:Anthony Bond , Mail Online

Drones, Not Just Weapons of Destruction

How drones are being used to help build the  skyscrapers

 

While the use of drones by the US military  continues to provoke controversy over claims they’ve been used to killed  countless innocent victims, other more positive uses for the technology are also  being developed.

In Switzerland a firm of architects is using  drones to help develop an entirely new type of architectural structure that  could develop into the skyscrapers of the future.

The ‘Flight Assembled Architecture’ project has been developed by  architects Gramazio &  Kohlerin collaboration with Raffaello D’Andrea,  Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at the Swiss Federal Institute  of  Technology in Zurich.

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The future skyscrapers, built by drones, could stand more than 600 meters tall and house 30,000 inhabitants
The future skyscrapers, built by drones, could stand  more than 600 meters tall and house 30,000 inhabitants
drone
Architects and robotic experts are collaborating on  intelligent drones which could help build the skyscrapers of tomorrow

Their concept includes developing small robotic ‘quadrocopters’ to build complex cylindrical towers which they  believe could stand more than 600  meters  tall and house 30,000 inhabitants.

The drones would operate  semi-autonomously and be capable of communicating with one another and  independently sensing the  height of the tower to place their block accordingly,  reports Smithsonian.com.

A prototype of the structure and the drones  has been created at the FRAC Centre in Orléans, France using model drones  programmed to lift 1,500 foam blocks into a complex cylindrical tower standing  more than six meters high.

As these images by François  Lauginie show the model drones and  towers offer a potentially innovative solution for  creating high-rise buildings in urban areas where construction can be incredibly  difficult and costly.

A prototype has been created using miniature drones to lift 1,500 foam blocks into a complex cylindrical tower
A prototype has been created using miniature drones to  lift 1,500 foam blocks into a complex cylindrical tower
In order for the project to became a reality lighter building products need to be developed which drones would be capable of carrying
In order for the project to became a reality lighter  building products need to be developed which drones would be capable of  carrying

At the cutting edge of speculative building  technology, construction  drones offer a more advanced solution  than erecting scaffolding and using  cranes.

However for Gramazio & Kohler’s model to  become reality will require the  development of high-performance  lightweight materials, as current materials are  too heavy for drones to lift.

These designs help show that there is a world  of possibilities for drones beyond warfare.

In the future drones could  be programed with  different ‘skills’ or built specifically to  perform particular task such as  working in areas that aren’t fit for humans or helping in disaster relief and  other emergencies.

Attribution: David Mccormack, Mail Online

Disaster-Proof Pod

Inventor to test new escape ‘ship’ by going over Niagara falls

 

A British inventor has made a ‘tsunami survival’ capsule, and is to test it by going over Niagara Falls.

Aerospace engineer Julian Sharpe, 50, believes his disaster-proof pod will save people from tidal waves, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and super storms.

And he is so confident of the life-saving aluminium ball that he will ride it down the world-famous 167ft waterfall.

Survival: Former Boeing engineer Julian Shape has designed a pod which will keep people safe during natural disasters including tsunamis and hurricanes
Former Boeing engineer Julian Shape has designed a pod which will keep people safe during natural disasters including tsunamis and hurricanes

He said: ‘We can tell people how strong it is, but until you’ve proved that it’s saved a life they might not believe you.’

Mr Sharpe claims the sphere will protect him from the massive impact, which will be similar to being rear ended by a car at about 20 mph.

He believes the capsule will keep people safe in natural disasters, such as the tsunamis which hit Thailand and Japan.

In a tsunami the main danger is not drowning in the fast flowing water but being crushed by the debris which is swept along.

He said: ‘Since it’s a sphere, when you do run into something it’s just going to glance off.

‘In most cases, you’re probably going to be a bit lighter than those objects so those objects will just go along their way and kind of move you.’

Drop: Mr Sharpe is to prove how strong the pod is by going over Niagara Falls
 Mr Sharpe is to prove how strong the pod is by going over Niagara Falls

Mr Sharpe was born in Carmarthern, West Wales, but now lives in Seattle in the United States.

The former Boeing engineer has taken his prototypes to the Yokohama Expo in Kanagawa, Japan, and sponsors have commissioned further production.

Now Mr Sharpe and his business partners are hoping to sell different models of the capsule for between $990 and $4950.

Disaster: British search and rescue teams on the ground in Ofunato, Japan, where they were flown in to help search for survivors of the county's biggest earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011
British search and rescue teams on the ground in Ofunato, Japan, where they were flown in to help search for survivors of the county’s biggest earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011

He claims the capsule will keep up to six people safe for several hours while it is buffeted by a Tsunami’s powerful wave.

He said: ‘After the tsunami in Japan, we decided we had to develop it and get it out there for the masses.

‘There are 135 countries worldwide exposed to the tsunami wave.

‘If you can save one life, it would be worth producing it.’

Attribution: James Rush