Have a Brewski & Get Healthy

If you were planning on having a beer tonight, then this will be welcome news.

Beer may contain a vitamin which can fight obesity and improve muscle strength, scientists claim.

The ‘miracle molecule’, which has been found in milk and may also be present in beer and some foods, has no side effects and could even lengthen lifespan, they say.

The snag is that the molecule, called nicotinamide riboside (NR), is extremely small, difficult to find and expensive to synthesise.

Johnan Auwerx, head of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, said experiments using mice revealed the molecule’s potential.

In an article in the specialist journal Cell Metabolism journal, Mr Auwerx called the results ‘impressive’.

“NR appears to play a role in preventing obesity,” said Mr Auwerx.

Working with Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, his team found mice on a high-fat diet that were fed NR gained significantly less weight – 60% – than mice eating the same diet without NR supplements.

And none of the NR-treated mice had indications that they were developing diabetes, unlike the untreated mice.

Mice which were fed NR supplements over a ten-week period had better endurance performance than those who were not.

They were also in better shape – and this was confirmed by observations of their muscle fibers under the microscope.

The molecule works by becoming trapped in cells where it boosts the metabolism, much like resveratrol, which is found in wine.

No side effects were discovered during the experiments.

“It really appears that cells use what they need when they need it, and the rest is set aside without being transformed into any kind of deleterious form,” said study author Carles Canto in a statement.

Mice who had been fed the molecule also performed better in endurance tests, as well as in tests measuring heat loss.

The researchers believe an increase in the molecule reflects an improvement in mitochondrial function, the part of the cell that supplies energy.

Mitochondria are thought to play a part in the aging process. It is hoped that by stimulating mitochondrial function with the NR molecule, scientists may see increases in longevity as well as other health improvements.

But the molecule is difficult to reproduce and extremely small. “At the moment, we can’t even measure its concentration in milk, so it’s impossible to know how much you would have to drink to be able to observe its effects,” Mr Auwerx added.

Research will continue with human testing at some point in the future.

Attribution: Mail Online

Did He Invent the Internet?

A scientist in the 1930s may have been decades ahead of his time when he suggested combining a telephone connection with a TV screen.

While many have difficulty remembering the world without the internet, it was nothing more than imagination in 1934, when Paul Otlet described what would become the information superhighway.

TechNewsDaily reported that during a discussion of the world wide web’s past, present and future at the World Science Festival in New York City on Saturday, Otlet’s name came up.

Otlet, a Belgian scientist and author who is already regarded as the father of information science, was on to something when he published his Treaties on Documentation.

Decades before the iPad, the Kindle, or even the computer screen, Otlet was devising a plan to combine television with the phone to send and spread information from published works.

In his Treaties on Documentation, Otlet referenced what would become the computer when he wrote: “Here the workspace is no longer cluttered with any books.

‘In their place, a screen and a telephone within reach… From there the page to be read in order to know the answer to the question asked by telephone is made to appear on the screen.”

He went on to suggest that dividing a computer screen could show multiple books at once, a possible reference to opening a few browser windows or tabs at once.

He called his vision “the televised book.”

More than 30 years later, Otlet’s writings were first put into practice.

Also appearing at the World Science Festival discussion was Vinton Cerf, who was at the forefront of the world wide web when it was a military project in the 1960s

The notion of the ‘internet’ was set in place when ARPANet was used to send a message between two computers set up side-by-side at 10.30pm on October 29, 1969 at UCLA.

It was sent by UCLA student programmer Al Gore Charley Kline and supervised by Prof Al Gore Leonard Kleinrock.

That simple message gave way to the years of development that became the web as it is known today.

Attribution: Mail Online Science

Tree Ring Mystery

It is a mystery which is may be beyond even Sherlock Holmes’s ability – a cosmic explosion which left no trace behind except deep within the bark of two cedar trees.

Fusa Miyake, of the Nagoya University in Japan, studied the growth rings of two trees dating back 1,200 years – and discovered that an explosion of epic proportions occurred between 774 and 775AD.

But there is no record of anything happening in our skies in that period – except perhaps for one tiny, obscure account by a 13th-century historian.

The problem – and this is where we need to call in Mr Holmes of Baker Street – is that there should be a record.

The problem is, if this was a supernova – a star exploding deep in space – we should either be able to spot the remains with modern telescopes, or find visual accounts in the written accounts of Chinese and European historians.

To get the technical details out of the way first: Trees capture particles from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, and one particle that gets buried within the annual growth rings is carbon-14.

Carbon-14 forms when cosmic rays, generally caused by massive solar flares, or by supernovae, interact with nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere.

In the two cedar trees, and doubtless many other tree records from the period, there was a giant increase of 1.2 per cent of carbon-14.

In comparison, the annual variation of the captured isotope is just 0.05%, making this more than a 20-fold increase.

In recorded history, at least two supernovae have exploded in the skies visible from Earth, their light travelling across light-years to hit the eyes of humans.

In 1006 and 1056, two stars went nuclear – at least, the light from their deaths arrived on Earth in those years.

Both explosions resulted in ‘stars’ that were visible in the daytime for weeks afterwards, and were recorded around the world.

Yet even such giant events, which impacted on those who saw them enough that the records survive to this day, were not powerful enough to result in much of a variation in the carbon-14 levels.

So the 774AD explosion must have been on a scale much greater.

But if a supernova had exploded of a force even just equal to the other two witnessed supernovae, we should be able to witness gas remnants – the corpse of the star – in space. But there is nothing in the skies to suggest this.

The only contemporaneous record is from a 13th-century English chronicler, called Roger of Wendover, who, according to New Scientist, is quoted as saying: “In the Year of our Lord 776, fiery and fearful signs were seen in the heavens after sunset; and serpents appeared in Sussex, as if they were sprung out of the ground, to the astonishment of all.”

This lends itself to just one other possibility, that of a solar flare. But if that were the case, it would be the largest solar flare ever recorded from our sun.

And if that had occurred, it would have seriously hurt or even entirely destroyed our ozone – and at the least leaving traces that we could identify more than 1,000 years later, let alone leading to reports from all the chroniclers of the age.

Researcher Igor Moskalenko, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, who has followed the case but was not involved in the original study, says: “I cannot imagine a single flare which would be so bright.”

Instead, he offers his own hypothesis: “It may be a series of weaker flares over the period of one to three years.”

Other tree rings have also implied something big happened in in the mid-770s, this time in the UK.

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, UK, also found the carbon-14 increase – but they have yet to publish their work.

Daniel Baker, a space physicist at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado also told New Scientist: “The work looks pretty solid – Some very energetic event occurred in about 775.”

Attribution: Mail Online, New Scientist

Not too Much Now

Experts said exercising for between 30 and 60 minutes a day is ideal and beyond that would lead to ‘diminishing returns’.

People who run marathons and cycle long distances risk long-term damage to their hearts and are at greater risk of suffering a heart attack in the two years after their race, they were warned.

A review of research on endurance exercise conducted by a team at the respected Mayo Clinic in Rochester, found such exercise as marathons, iron man distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races may cause structural changes to the heart and large arteries.

It was also revealed last week that surgeons are seeing an increase in the number of middle-aged fitness fans who are wearing out their knee joints by playing tennis and running into their 40s and 50s.

Published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings it was found that some athletes suffer temporary changes in their heart function which return to normal in the week after their race; however for others, permanent scarring occurs.

Lead author Dr James H. O’Keefe, of Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, said: “Physically active people are much healthier than their sedentary counterparts.”

“Exercise is one of the most important things you need to do on a daily basis.”

“But what this paper points out is that a lot of people do not understand that the lion’s share of health benefits accrue at a relatively modest level. Extreme exercise is not really conducive to great cardiovascular health. Beyond 30-60 minutes per day, you reach a point of diminishing returns.”

He added: “Physical exercise, though not a drug, possesses many traits of a powerful pharmacologic agent.

“A routine of daily physical activity can be highly effective for prevention and treatment of many diseases, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, heart failure, and obesity.

“However, as with any pharmacologic agent, a safe upper dose limit potentially exists,

Traumatic

beyond which the adverse effects of physical exercise, such as musculoskeletal trauma and cardiovascular stress, may outweigh its benefits.”

As well as scarring of the heart muscle, elite athletes can develop changes in their heart rhythm which can predispose them to sudden cardiac arrest and death if not treated quickly.

Endurance sports have been linked to a five-fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance which requires careful treatment and can be fatal.

More research is needed to establish the level at which exercise becomes harmful to the heart so exercise programmes can be devised to maximise the health benefits while protecting the heart, Dr O’Keefe said.

Attribution: Rebecca Smith

The Mile High Club

Vintage plane parts destined for the scrap heap have been given a new lease on life and being transformed into beds chairs and desks.

Californian company Motoart spends hours transforming wings, doors and engine cowls into stylish furniture.

Many of the parts require more than 100 hours of cutting, grinding, buffing and polishing before they are ready for purchase.

The company’s bomber seats even come with the original ejector pin and ‘remove before flight’ warning tag.

Their prices range from from $100 for a desk watch to $60,000 for a one-of-a-kind conference table, made from a wing.

Dave Hall, joint owner of Motoart, based next to Los Angeles International Airport, said:

“The mile high beds are very popular with men – and they are almost always bachelors.”

“The bed frames are made from the tail fins of a DC-9 aircraft.”

“They cost between $15,000 and $31,000 but all our prices reflect the rarity of the aeroplane model.”

“We only have 12 of the ejector seats left, so they are priced at $12,000 each.”

Motoart has produced items for A-list celebrities, royalty in the Middle East, and big business clients including Microsoft and Boeing.

Mr Hall said: “A business executive who buys one of our desks certainly has a conversation starter when someone walks into their office.”

Mr Hall 45, set up Motoart in 2001 with Donovan Fell, 64.

The business now employs 17 people and takes in around $40 million a year.

They first got the idea of transforming aircraft parts after selling a set of formerly scrap propellors as art, in the late 1990s.

Mr Hall said “Donovan had his doubts at first, but we cleaned the propellors up and sold them for $10,000 a piece – so we knew we were on to a winner.”

“The scrap parts make up ancient aircraft history. The engineering that went into them is incredible and we only enhance that.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to own a piece of history that looks this good?”

Attribution: Daily Mail

Natural Gas Gets Clubbed

From: RedState

With the shale gas boom in full swing, gas prices are at 10-year lows. We have the realistic prospect of abundant domestic supplies of a clean-burning fuel for the foreseeable future, who doesn’t like natural gas?

Ask the Sierra Club. This week, the venerable environmental organization announced its “Beyond Natural Gas” initiative, to go along with their “Beyond Coal” and “Beyond Oilcampaigns. Of course, they hate nuclear energy too.

“Fossil fuels have no part in America’s energy future – coal, oil, and natural gas are literally poisoning us. The emergence of natural gas as a significant part of our energy mix is particularly frightening because it dangerously postpones investment in clean energy at a time when we should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”
—Robin Mann, Sierra Club President

The Sierra Club has over a half-million members (down from 600,000) and an annual budget of $100 million. They are arguably the most influential environmental lobby in the country. People take them seriously, and politicians listen.

With their opposition to fossil fuels and nukes, the Sierra Club takes 91% of our current energy sources off the table (see EIA chart at the end of the post). And most of the remaining 9% they’re not too crazy about.

Youthful naiveté has an endearing quality. If their proposal were merely impractical, it would be naive. The Sierra Club is not naive. Their plan is physically and economically impossible. They have a willfully foolish, craven and destructive agenda. They are not looking for solutions. They wish an end to our industrialized civilization. They wish us to return to mud huts. There are responsible environmental organizations. It should be an embarrassment that anyone should give the Sierra Club a nickel.

The Sierra Club’s ultimate goal, not surprisingly, is to save the planet from Global Warming. To that end, they wish to curtail 90% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050thirty-eight years from now.

How will they do it? In Robin Mann’s words: “[W]e should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”

Point #1: Everyone is for energy efficiency, and it happens naturally due to economics and technical advances. But “energy efficiency” is a strategy to use existing fuels more efficiently, not replace them. That means the only technologies on the table are wind and solar. So that leads to …

Point #2: This is not “doubling down”, it’s going “all in“. All in on a sucker’s bet. That’s because wind and solar would have to grow by a factor of 50 times their contribution in 2011. Not “grow by 50%” — 50 times. Even if we suddenly developed the will to do it, there’s not enough money/resources in the known universe to make it possible. And if we did it, what about the Chinese and the rest of the world? And what would be the environmental consequences of making the conversion?


See that little pink bar, way on the right? The Sierra Club loves that. Everything else; not so much. Not at all, in fact. And it’s even worse than that chart makes it appear — this is a graph of domestic sources. In addition to the 78 quads depicted here, we import another 20. And Geothermal has limited growth potential. So that little pink bar needs to grow from a value of 2, to 100.
Or more than 100, because the population is going to grow by 2050. And since wind and solar are not primary transportation sources, we’d need to generate even more to account for efficiency losses.

This radicalism can be understood in the context of a recent reorganization:

Carl Pope, who has led the Sierra Club for much of the last two decades, is planning to leave the organization next year as it struggles to redefine its mission in a tough economy, the organization said Friday. … Mr. Pope, 66, stepped down as executive director last year after 17 years, turning the job over to Michael Brune, 40, who came to the Sierra Club from the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, younger and politically more aggressive groups. Mr. Pope has held the title of chairman since Mr. Brune arrived and will remain a consultant to the club until the end of next year.

Has the Sierra Club jumped the shark? That happened long ago. My friend, with this natural gas pronouncement, the Sierra Club gave the shark a lap dance. And had its love child.

The Wall Street Journal reminds us that not long ago, the Sierra Club and natural gas were BFFs (to the tune of $26 million from Chesapeake Energy, never a shrinking violet when it comes to advancing its own interests):

“The political irony is that not too long ago the Sierra Club and other greens portrayed natural gas as the good fossil fuel. The Sierra Club liked natural gas so much (and vice versa) that from 2007-2010 the group received $26 million in donations from Chesapeake Energy and others in the gas industry, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Some of that money was for the Beyond Coal campaign. …”

But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent [wellhead] gas prices down to $2.50 [from $8 or more per million BTU in 2008], the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club’s Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible.

McSoldiers

Shortly before construction began on the Centreville McDonald’s restaurant in early 1997, the unmarked graves of six Civil War soldiers were unearthed on the site.

The astonishing discovery led to an excavation under the direction of forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution. Skeletons and historic artifacts from the gravesites were measured, cataloged and removed.

Five years later, a local historian and member of the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters Association — which also participated in the dig — believed he’d unlocked the mystery to the soldiers’ identities. What’s more, he said as many as 10 Civil War soldiers may have actually been buried in that spot.

“They were found in what’s now the drive-through lane for a fast-food place,” said Dalton Rector, who presented his theory at the Centreville fire station to more than 150 people riveted by his every word.

Speaking at the quarterly meeting of the Historic Centreville Society, he said, “I can make a compelling case that they were [Union soldiers] from Massachusetts that died during the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, halfway between Centreville and Manassas.”

He said a member of his group, Kevin Ambrose, actually discovered one of the graves in 1995, but no one investigated further until Jan. 30, 1997 — day one of the three-day archaeological excavation.

 “Digging human remains is an experience I can’t explain,” said Rector. “My friends and I started debating, right then and there, who they were and where they were from. We thought they were from the early part of the war, so I used March 10, 1862 — the date of the Confederate evacuation of Centreville — as my research cutoff date.”

The research became so fascinating to him that it took up the last five years of his life, and his conclusions — based on forensic evidence, genealogical records and extensive historical data — do seem quite plausible.

“To me, they do,” said newly elected Historic Centreville Society president Spencer Marker. “I was fascinated with what he came up with, and I haven’t heard of anyone else working in this area with these soldiers.”

With the skeletons, also found in the graves, were metal uniform buttons, glass buttons from undergarments, pieces of fabric and even musket balls. And one soldier was still wearing his shoes. Some of the buttons from the state-militia jackets had an “I” on them, signifying “infantry,” and Massachusetts used this type of button for its officers.

The fact that the soldiers had been buried in coffins also provided a clue. “That meant they were buried by their own men,” said Rector. “Therefore, they were in control of Centreville at the time.” He also noted that the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford was fought July 18, 1861 — three days before the Battle of First Manassas, which is considered to be the first battle of the Civil War.

The Smithsonian determined the soldiers’ approximate ages and heights, and Rector took it from there — eventually identifying the men by name, military unit and company. He even learned about their childhoods and family backgrounds.

Companies G and H of the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment fought in the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, and Rector obtained a list of those soldiers’ names and ages and discovered how each man died. From 24 names, he painstakingly concluded which ones were in the Centreville graves.

At the time of this battle, he said, “The Confederates were already waiting in Fairfax County for the Union soldiers. Ten were killed in action from the 1st Massachusetts unit and three more were mortally wounded [and died later].”

Company G was the first company on the battlefield, and these soldiers arrived in their jackets. When the 17th Virginia entered, hand-to-hand combat ensued and Company H came in as reinforcements, fighting with their jackets off. These details proved important because the men in graves No. 1, 3 and 6 all had jackets, but the others did not.

After grave 1 was uncovered, the McDonald’s developer cleared away brush from the site to discover the five other graves. A week later, said Rector, a relic hunter found another cluster of buttons — probably from a seventh grave. From his research and the type of buttons, Rector identified this soldier as Ebenezer Field, 27, of Company G.

He noted, as well, that — a week before the dig — Owsley used a steel probe on the site and reportedly stated nine to 10 graves were there. Owsley later denied the remark, but Rector said a relic hunter he’s known for years swore he heard Owsley say it. Rector also determined who these men would be.

The six soldiers’ remains are in boxes in the Smithsonian, and Rector is trying to have DNA testing done to confirm their identities. “I don’t want them buried as unknowns,” he said. “I want them to have the chance to have their identities restored and them returned to their families.”

Afterward, Ron Savage, Historic Centreville Society vice president, said he was pleasantly surprised by how many people attended Rector’s talk and how well received it was. “People sat there mesmerized,” he said. “I was impressed — it was a well-done, professional presentation.”

Savage said residents were truly interested in learning what happened after the dig. “There’s a great thirst for the history in and around Centreville,” he said. “If [Rector’s] hypothesis works out, I think he should put it in a book.”

As for Marker, he hopes to have more such programs in the future, saying, “I think people who

There Be Pirates

Once known as the wickedest city in the world when it was the playground of British buccaneers and explorers in the 17th century, little now remains of Port Royal.

However, a campaign supported by the Jamaican government was launched this week to secure UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage status for the sunken city to put it firmly back on the map.

Surveys by a team of experts are under way to mark the land and sea boundaries of what is regarded as one of the most important archeological sites in British history as part of the bid to UNESCO.

A seven-mile spit of golden sand arcs around Kingston bay protecting the capital. At the far end lies the small fishing village of Port Royal (of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame), which was once a bustling city and key British outpost in the 1600s.

The port, which boasted a population of 7,000 and was comparable to Boston during the same period, was a playground for buccaneers like Henry Morgan, who docked in search of rum, women and boat repairs.

England seized Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655 under the orders of Oliver Cromwell with the aim of establishing a trading base in the Spanish New World.

Merchants and pirates flocked to the new settlement and Port Royal soon became synonymous for excess. There was one tavern for every 10 residents and boasted a thriving prostitution trade.

The city became known as “the Sodom of the New World”, with contemporary writer Charles Leslie noting in his history of Jamaica of the buccaneers: “Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked.”

However, on June 7, 1692, an earthquake and tsunami decimated the coastline, submerging two-thirds of the city and killing an estimated 2,000 people.

The port remained a key strategic British naval base, but the debauchery was washed away with the tsunami. Fort Charles, where Lord Nelson was once stationed, sank three and a half feet during the earthquake but remains standing to this day.

Despite the village being littered with remnants of British military installations, many of the historic colonial buildings are dilapidated.

The algae-covered remnants of the city are under water in an archaeological preserve closed to divers without a permit.

But in recent decades, underwater excavations have turned up artifacts including cannonballs, wine glasses, ornate pipes, pewter plates and ceramic plates dredged from the muck just offshore. The partial skeleton of a child was found in 1998.

At a press conference on Tuesday, experts said it is among the top British archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere and should be protected for future generations.

“There is outstanding potential here. Submerged towns like this just do not exist anywhere else in the Americas,” said Robert Grenier, a Canadian underwater archaeologist who has worked closely with UNESCO.

Donny Hamilton, Texas A&M University nautical archaeologist, said the consulting team has completed the fieldwork for the world heritage assessment and is working on a management plan.

Port Royal could become a sustainable attraction for tourists but first “there’s got to be something above the ground that people are going to want to come and see,” Mr Hamilton said.

Jamaican officials and businessmen have announced various strategies to renovate the ramshackle town over the years, including plans for modern cruise liners and a Disney-style theme park featuring actors dressed as pirates.

Some area businessmen have grown exasperated with the slow pace of development.

Attribution: UK Telegraph

It’s Not My Fault

Scientists say a fault-line running across Alaska could cause tsunamis of the same magnitude as the Japanese disaster of March last year.

Attention has turned to the Alaskan-Aleutian subduction zone, a region where one of the earth’s tectonic plates, carrying the Pacific Ocean, drops beneath the North American plate.

A particular section of the fault near the Semidi Islands has not ruptured since at least 1788, and measurements on this area – which lies four to five kilometers (2-1/2 to 3 miles) under water – reveal the pressure is accumulating rapidly.

If the Pacific Ocean plate slips, as happened in the geographically-similar Tohoku subduction zone off the coast of Japan, a tsunami could occur – and could wreak havoc as far away as Hawaii and California.

According to Discovery.com, scientists are now investigating the underwater fault-line in the hope of estimating the likelihood of danger to the U.S. and to the Hawaiian islands.

The last time a slip between the Alaskan plates occurred, it led to the Good Friday Earthquake, on March 27, 1964, which was the most powerful earthquake in U.S. history – a 9.2 magnitude earthquake and led to 145 deaths.

Tsunamis also occurred in this area in 1947 and 1957, while a magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred in the area last June, but as its location did not lead to a tsunami, a brief tsunami warning was recalled shortly afterwards.

Many of these deaths happened hundreds of miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake – with 90% caused by tsunamis.

The Japanese quake, which measured 9.0 magnitude, led to a 10-meter-high (33 ft) tsunami and ended up killing an estimated 18,000 people.

Attribution: Eddie Wrenn, Discovery