Big Dipper Changing

The Universe is Alive

Image credit: NASA/ESA, The Hubble Key Project Team and The High-Z Supernova Search Team.

Image credit: NASA/ESA, The Hubble Key Project Team and The High-Z Supernova Search Team.
This image obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 4526 and its supernova 1994D (lower left).

“Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When you look out into the Universe, what is it that you typically think of? Do you think of reliable, fixed stars and constellations? The vast expanse of the Milky Way, with its memorable dust lanes and amorphous shapes?

Image credit: Wally Pacholka of http://www.astropics.com/.

Image credit: Wally Pacholka of http://www.astropics.com/.The unchanging nature of the points of light in the sky?Image credit: Roth Ritter (Dark Atmospheres), of the double cluster in Perseus.
Image credit: Roth Ritter (Dark Atmospheres), of the double cluster in Perseus.Maybe you think deeper and farther than that. Maybe you think about the distant galaxies and clusters, and the deepest deep-sky objects we know of. How the light took millions or even billions of years to reach us, and yet how every time we look at them, we see them exactly the same way.Image credit: Misti Mountain Observatory.
Image credit: Misti Mountain Observatory.I couldn’t fault you for thinking like this; from mankind’s point of view, the Universe — for all intents and purposes — doesn’t change at all as we view it from one night to the next.But does that really mean the Universe isn’t changing?Let me flip this around on you: how much does anything here on Earth — you, your surroundings, even an entire, vibrant city — change in half-a-millisecond?

Image credit: DC User Forum, of a short-exposure shot with a Sony A900 DSLR.

Image credit: DC User Forum, of a short-exposure shot with a Sony A900 DSLR.Not a whole lot, that’s for certain. You only change with the passage of time, and half-a-millisecond is just 0.00000000002% of a typical human lifetime. It’s too short of a timespan to notice any but the most catastrophic changes, and even then you have to look very closely.So why should you expect the Universe to change substantially over just 0.00000000002% of its lifetime? That’s how much of the Universe’s lifetime passes between one night on Earth and the next. And yet, if you looked at the right objects, you would be able to see meaningful changes from one night to the next.Image credit: Tunc Tezel.

Image credit: Tunc Tezel.The objects within our Solar System, for example, are close enough that we can see them moving from night-to-night. Objects closer to us — like Mars, in the foreground — appear to move more substantially than more distant objects like Uranus, visible in the background.The great cause of all this motion, of course, is our largest nearby clump of matter: the Sun. Objects like planets move at tens of kilometers-per-second relative to the Sun thanks to its gravity, while Sun-grazing comets can be accelerated up to speeds in the hundreds of kilometers-per-second. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you may be able to get a good view of one now: Comet Lemmon.Image credit: Rolf Wahl Olsen from Auckland, New Zealand.

Image credit: Rolf Wahl Olsen from Auckland, New Zealand.Green because of the carbon and nitrogen interacting with sunlight, this photo does an excellent job of tracking the stars from the Earth along with the Earth’s rotation. What you probably can’t tell is that the comet — with a photo exposure time of over an hour — is blurred.If instead of tracking the stars perfectly, we tracked the comet perfectly, know what we’d see?Image credit: Peter Ward (Barden Ridge Observatory).

Image credit: Peter Ward (Barden Ridge Observatory)That comet is moving relative to the stars behind it, and our ultra-close proximity to the comet makes it abundantly clear.But what you may not realize is that these “fixed” stars are also moving at tens-to-hundreds of kilometers-per-second relative to us, and relative to one another! It’s only the vast distances between us — measured in many light-years — that make it impossible to detect these changes from night-to-night.But we can’t really detect changes in ourselves from millisecond-to-millisecond; you simply need to look on longer timescales!

Image credit: Martha Haynes of Cornell University.

Image credit: Martha Haynes of Cornell University.The stars in our night sky shift positions by many kilometers each second. From night-to-night we might not be able to tell the difference, but just as you or I look different when we go weeks without cutting our hair, we can see just how the Universe changes over long enough timescales.

There are gas clouds and stellar remnants tearing through the interstellar medium at these same speeds, including some that move at thousands of kilometers-per-second, even approaching 1% the speed of light!

Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team and CTIO.

Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team and CTIO.There are new stars being born — where nuclear fusion ignites for the first time — and stars that run out of fuel, dying in either a planetary nebula or a supernova explosion, depending on the properties of the star.Image credit: http://astrojan.ini.hu/, retrieved from Margaret Hanson, U. of Cincinnati.
Image credit: http://astrojan.ini.hu/, retrieved from Margaret Hanson, U. of Cincinnati.And on the largest scales, galaxies merge together, triggering star formation and some fabulous cosmic mashups, in processes taking upwards of hundreds-of-millions of years.Image credit: Hubble Space Telescope, NASA, STScI and ESA.
Image credit: Hubble Space Telescope, NASA, STScI and ESA.And in some of the fastest and most spectacular changes, catastrophic stellar events — like supernovae — can literally appear from nothing over the timescale of just a few nights!Image credit: Peter Nugent/Palomar Transient Factory.
Image credit: Peter Nugent/Palomar Transient Factory.When you look up at the Universe, it may appear static and unchanging, but that’s only because these objects are so far away and our human experiences are so short in comparison with the age of the Universe.But stick around for a while, and even the most mundane of objects will change for you. Fuel burns, elements fuse, gravity pulls, and physics happens. Just give it time, and you’ll see it for yourself.We may only be around for a snapshot of it, but make no mistake, it’s never the same from moment-to-moment. From the way I look at it, there isn’t any doubt about it: the Universe is alive.

Attribution: Ethan Siegel

The Laptop You can Fold-up

 Researchers print see-through  electronics onto PAPER

 

Scientists have used one of the simplest,  ordinary materials to create the latest and flattest in electronics – paper.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have taken the first step towards green, flexible electronics by  printing transparent electronics onto ‘nanopaper,’ created from wood pulp  treated with enzymes and mechanically beaten.

They developed the transistor on the surface  of the nanopaper by printing three different inks on it.

Researchers have taken the first steps toward green, flexible electronics by developing nanopaper, on which a transistor can be printed
 Researchers have taken the first  steps toward green, flexible electronics by developing nanopaper, on which a  transistor can be printed

In their paper Highly Transparent and  Flexible Nanopaper Transistor published on January 25, the researchers explained  that the transistor had ‘unique  properties, such as flexibility, cost efficiency, lightweight and renewability’ and that the field of ‘green electronics’  was becoming an emerging field of research with commercial interest.

The transistor is 84 per cent transparent and  malleable, allowing it to still perform when slightly bent. The nanopaper is It  is thin enough to be cut or folded leading the way for foldable  electronics.

Nanotubes (pictured), single atomic sheets of carbon rolled up into a tube, are printed on the nanopaper along with a dielectric ink and a semiconducting ink to create the transistor
 Nanotubes (pictured), single atomic sheets of  carbon rolled up into a tube, are printed on the nanopaper along with a  dielectric ink and a semiconducting ink to create the transistor
Researcher Liangbing Hu said the nanopaper is 'as flat as plastic'
 Researcher Liangbing Hu said the  nanopaper is ‘as flat as plastic’

Researcher Liangbing Hu, quoted by Extreme  Tech, said: ‘It’s as flat as plastic.’

The report wrote: ‘The device configuration  can be applied to many other  semiconductor materials toward flexible green  electronics.’

Printed on the nanopaper was a layer of  carbon nanotubes, a dielectric ink, a semiconducting ink and another layer of  nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are single atomic sheets of  carbon rolled up into a tube and are 10,000 times smaller than a strand of human  hair.

Their next challenge for researchers will be  to devise a way to print the nanopaper on a commercial, mass production  scale.

The breakthrough has come after researchers  at IBM revealed a new technique that could one day replace silicon in computer  chips, making them dramatically smaller and faster.

For the first time, the team revealed they  have created a carbon ‘chip’ with more than ten thousand working transistors  made of nano-sized tubes of carbon, which have been precisely placed and tested  in a single.

The researchers from the University of Maryland (pictured) say their transistor is flexible, cost effective, lightweight and renewable
 The researchers from the University of Maryland (pictured) say their transistor is flexible, cost effective,  lightweight and renewable

Attribution: Alex Ward

Have We Cured Color Blindness?

The problems faced by color blindness sufferers could be solved thanks to new glasses that can allow them to see the full spectrum for the first time, it was claimed today.

Around 8% of men and a smaller number of women suffer from ‘red-green deficiency’, a genetic abnormality that restricts them from seeing some reds and greens.

But the new lenses, which were originally intended to help medics locate veins and bruising more easily, can help sufferers beat the disability and distinguish colors they were formerly unable to.

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Oxy-Iso: The revolutionary new glasses help the colour blind see colours they previously could not

The revolutionary new glasses help the color blind see colors they previously could not

The invention by U.S. research institute 2AI Labs builds on research by cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, a specialist in evolutionary neurobiology.

He suggested in 2006 that humans developed the ability to observe subtle changes in skin color, like blushes, to detect social cues and work out the emotions of peers.

But 2AI’s labs glasses were not intended to restore this function in those deficient of it, but rather to help doctors and nurses detect ‘oxygenated blood’ in the skin.

It was hoped that the glasses could used to help medics see bruising that was not immediately visible and find veins before taking blood.

But in tests the lenses – dubbed Oxy-Iso – was shown to help the color blind distinguish parts of the spectrum they were previously unable to.

Can you see this number? The Ishihara Colour Test is the standard way to diagnose colour blindness

Can you see this number? The Ishihara Color Test is the standard way to diagnose color blindness

On his blog, Professor Changizi said: ‘Although we didn’t design our technology with color-deficients specifically in mind, we weren’t too surprised that the Oxy-Iso may help with with red-green color-deficiency.

‘As I have argued in my research and my earlier book, Vision Revolution, our human variety of color vision evolved — above and beyond that found in other mammals — in order to sense these oxygenation variations, allowing us to sense color-signals on the skin (including blushes, blanches, as well as sensing health).

‘So the Oxy-Iso filter concentrates its enhancement exactly where red-green color-blind folk are deficient.’

Daniel Bor, a researcher from the University of Sussex, said wearing the glasses enabled him to pass the commonly used test for color blindness, the Ishihara Color Test, in which patients are shown plates which feature a circle of dots.

Color blindness sufferers are not able to make out numbers shown made up of dots of a different color.

‘When I first put one of them on, I got a shiver of excitement at how vibrant and red lips, clothes and other objects around me seemed,’ Mr Bor said.

The glasses are already available. However, while they enhance perception of reds and greens, they hamper the ability to distinguish yellows and blues.

Attribution: Damien Gayle, Mail Online

No More Touchscreen Errors

A cure for sausage fingers: Clip-on tips which spell an end to smartphone typos

Do your fat fingers mean you make embarrassing spelling mistakes when you tap out a text on your phone?

If so, help is – literally – at hand, in the  form of supplementary tips for your fingers.

The new accessory, called Tech Tips, come in  different sizes to fit on to fingertips of any width and even over thick gloves – providing perfect contact with phones and tablets.

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Touching moment: Fat-fingered texters can save their blushes with a fingertip extension that makes using a touchscreen much easier

Fat-fingered texters can save their  blushes with a fingertip extension that makes using a touchscreen much  easierThe product, available in packs of  four  priced $9.99 (£6.30) from www.usetechtips.com, proved a hit at the Consumer  Electronic Show 2013 in Las Vegas.

And they’re already being snapped up  by  touchscreen phone and tablet users from around the world struggling  to get to  grips with the technology.

The creation is the brainchild of Sri Vellanki, who came up with the idea after finding it tough to use her  iPhone  with long fingernails.

 

phone gloves
If you don’t fancy the Tech Tips on the end of your  fingers, you can buy gloves that are specially made to interact with your  smartphone’s touchscreen

Ms Vellanki, originally from India but now  living in Montana, USA, said: ‘I got my first iPhone in 2011 and I was having  problems because it always had to make skin contact and my nails didn’t  work.

‘I thought I could make an electrically  conductive nail polish and easily fix the problem but it turned out to be more  complicated than that.

‘So I figured out what had to be done to make  a very small stylus that was comfortable, economical and extremely  accurate.

‘I had a working prototype based on guitar  fingerpick within a month and it took me about a year from that point to get the  first Tech Tips styluses manufactured.

‘I used a mechanical engineering firm to help  bring my prototype into a product that could be manufactured  easily.

‘I had 3D prototypes done to make sure that  Tech Tips were comfortable and made to fit different sized hands, from those of  a young child to a large man.

‘We even have large enough sizes to fit over  a glove so that you can actually text without taking your glove off. There are  six sizes from XS to XXL.

‘So far we have had loads of interest and a  fantastic response at the Consumer Electronic Show 2013 in January which is  where we launched our products.

‘Everyone from large retailers, educational  institutions and large corporations showed significant interest.

She added: ‘The nail had to look nice, I  didn’t want women to have to compromise.’

Attribution: Kate Bevan

 

Confession of a Eugenicist

“A life worth sacrificing”: Salon blogger admits abortion ends life

by:

Many pro-aborts try to flip the label of pro-life on us, calling us anti-abortion or anti-choice. They don’t want the reminder out there that abortion is ending a life. But one pro-abortion blogger at Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams, is going a different route. She readily admits that abortion ends a life… and that’s A-OK.

Her response to the question of abortion ending a life? So what?

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

… When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?

… My belief that life begins at conception is mine to cling to. And if you believe that it begins at birth, or somewhere around the second trimester, or when the kid finally goes to college, that’s a conversation we can have, one that I hope would be respectful and empathetic and fearless. We can’t have it if those of us who believe that human life exists in utero are afraid we’re somehow going to flub it for the cause. In an Op-Ed on “Why I’m Pro-Choice” in the Michigan Daily this week, Emma Maniere stated, quite perfectly, that “Some argue that abortion takes lives, but I know that abortion saves lives, too.” She understands that it saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

A life worth sacrificing. An unborn baby is indeed a life…a life which matters only if the mother finds it convenient. If the mother finds the pregnancy inconvenient, then it’s no big deal at all to end that life.

And she calls pro-lifers diabolical.

Of course, there’s something she’s getting wrong. Abortion isn’t sacrificing a life. Sacrificing a life requires willingness, for someone to stand up and say, Yes, I am willing to die for you. A mother absolutely can make a sacrifice to save the life of her unborn child – Chiara Corbella is a heart-breaking example – but an unborn child cannot be “sacrificed” for his or her mother. An unborn baby does not have a say in the decision to have an abortion; an unborn baby does not choose to die. Abortion is not a sacrifice. It’s murder. Let’s get that straight.

While Williams claims she does not want to come across as a “death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm trooper,” that’s exactly what she’s done. Some lives are worth more than others? Said every eugenicist, totalitarian dictator, and murderer who’s ever existed. That is the mindset that says it’s acceptable for parents to euthanize their disabled children, or that the elderly can be killed without their consent. By this same logic, infanticide should be completely acceptable as well. Heck, a mother should be allowed to kill her ten-year-old, too, if the mother decides that that child’s life is worth sacrificing.

It would be interesting to know who exactly gets to decide which lives are worthy to continue living, and which are not, since according to Williams, some lives are worth more than others. Are the disabled worthy of living? The elderly? The poor? Who decides? If not all humans are worthy of life, then who decides which get to live and which are sentenced to die?

I also want to point out the inherent narcissism of Williams’s argument. Not only is it acceptable to kill your unborn child merely out of inconvenience, but to Williams, it’s something worth sacrificing. How self-absorbed and narcissistic must you be to see the murder of your child as a noble, worthy sacrifice? It’s as if she thinks the baby would willingly agree to be slaughtered so Mommy doesn’t have to deal with the hassle of having a baby. That takes a seriously warped mind.

Pro-aborts will surely be cursing this article for drawing back the curtain and exposing the grisly truth about abortion. It doesn’t actually matter what people say regarding whether the unborn baby is a human life. Science has already established that it is. The question is whether or not women should have the right to take that life. And while abortion activists usually try to avoid the truth, Williams has brought it, like maggots festering underneath a rock, unflinchingly to the light for all to see.

Attribution: Marty

Double Arm Transplant

Iraq war veteran who lost all four limbs in blast proudly shows off his double arm transplant

An Iraq veteran who lost all four limbs in a roadside bombing in Iraq almost four-years ago said today he’s looking forward to driving and swimming after undergoing a double-arm transplant.

‘I just want to get the most out of these arms, and just as goals come up, knock them down and take it absolutely as far as I can,’ Brendan Marrocco said Tuesday.

The 26-year-old New Yorker spoke at a news  conference at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was joined by surgeons who  performed the arduous and complex 13-hour operation.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Brendan Marrocco of Staten Island, New York, who lost his four limbs in a 2009 roadside bomb attack in Iraq, speaks during a news conference after receiving double arm transplants, performed at John Hopkins Hospital
U.S. Army Sgt. Brendan Marrocco of Staten Island, New  York, who lost his four limbs in a 2009 roadside bomb attack in Iraq, speaks  during a news conference after receiving double arm transplants, performed at  John Hopkins Hospital

After he was wounded, Marrocco said, he felt  fine using prosthetic legs, but he hated not having arms.

‘You talk with your hands, you do everything  with your hands, basically, and when you don’t have that, you’re kind of lost  for a while,’ he said.

Marrocco said his chief desire is to drive  the black Dodge Charger that’s been sitting in his garage for three  years.

‘I used to love to drive,’ he said. ‘I’m  really looking forward to just getting back to that, and just becoming an  athlete again.’

Retired Infantryman Brendan M. Marrocco sits with his two transplanted arms resting in his lap during the news conference Retired Infantryman Brendan M. Marrocco sits with his  two transplanted arms resting in his lap during the news conference

Although he doesn’t expect to excel at  soccer, his favorite sport, Marrocco said he’d like to swim and compete in a  marathon using a hand-cycle.

Marrocco joked that military service members  sometimes regard themselves as poorly paid professional athletes.

His good humor and optimism are among the  qualities doctors cited as signs he will recover much of his arm and hand use in  two to three years.

‘He’s a young man with a tremendous amount of  hope, and he’s stubborn – stubborn in a good way,’ said Dr. Jaimie Shores, the  hospital’s clinical director of hand transplantation. ‘I think the sky’s the  limit.’

Shores said Marrocco has already been trying  to use his hands, although he lacks feeling in the fingers, and he’s eager to do  more as the slow-growing nerves and muscles mend.

‘I suspect that he will be using his hands  for just about everything as we let him start trying to do more and more. Right  now, we’re the ones really kind of holding him back at this point,’ Shores  said.

The procedure was only the seventh  double-hand or double-arm transplant ever done in the United States.

The infantryman was injured by a roadside  bomb in 2009. He is the first soldier to survive losing all four limbs in the  Iraq War.

This graphic shows an illustration of one of Brendan Marrocco's arm transplants. A surgical team led by Johns Hopkins physicians performed the institution's first bilateral arm transplant on 18 December 2012
This graphic shows an illustration of one of Brendan  Marrocco’s arm transplants. A surgical team led by Johns Hopkins physicians  performed the institution’s first bilateral arm transplant on 18 December  2012
Brendan Marrocco
Brendan Marrocco lost his four limbs in a 2009 roadside  bomb attack in Iraq. With him are Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Department  of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Director W.P. Andrew Lee (right) and Johns  Hopkins Medicine’s Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation Program Scientific  Director Gerald Brandacher (left)

 

Retired
Retired Infantryman Brendan M. Marrocco wheels himself  into a news conference followed by surgeons, (from left, W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D.,  Jamie Shores M.D., Patrick L. Basile M.D. and Gerald Brandacher M.D.) on  Tuesday, January 29th 2013 at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore

Marrocco also received bone marrow from the  same donor to minimize the medicine needed to prevent rejection.

He said he didn’t know much about the donor  but ‘I’m humbled by their gift.’

The 13-hour operation on December 18th was  led by Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, plastic surgery chief at Hopkins.-

Marrocco was being released from the hospital  Tuesday but will receive intensive therapy for two years at Hopkins and then at  Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

After a major surgery, human nerves  regenerate at a rate of an inch per month, Lee said.

‘The progress will be slow, but the outcome  will be rewarding,’ he added.

The infantryman also received bone marrow  from the same dead donor who supplied his new arms. That novel approach is aimed  at helping his body accept the new limbs with minimal medication to prevent  rejection.

The military sponsors operations like these  to help wounded troops. About 300 have lost arms or hands in Iraq or  Afghanistan.

W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D. talks about the bilateral arm transplant on Infantryman Brendan M. Marocco during the news conference today
W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D. talks about the bilateral arm transplant on Infantryman Brendan M. Marocco during the news conference  today

 

Surgeons at John Hopkins Medical centre in performing double arm transplant on Brendan M. Marrocco attach one of the transplanted limbs (center circle)
Surgeons at John Hopkins Medical centre in performing  double arm transplant on Brendan M. Marrocco attach one of the transplanted  limbs (center circle)

 

Experimental: The surgical team led by Johns Hopkins physicians performed the institutions first bilateral arm transplant, together with an innovative treatment to prevent rejection of the new limbs
 The surgical team led by Johns Hopkins  physicians performed the institutions first bilateral arm transplant, together  with an innovative treatment to prevent rejection of the new limbs

Unlike a life-saving heart or liver  transplant, limb transplants are aimed at improving quality of life, not  extending it. Quality of life is a key concern for people missing arms and hands — prosthetics for those limbs are not as advanced as those for feet and  legs.

‘He was the first quad amputee to survive,’  and there have been four others since then, Alex Marrocco said.

The Marroccos want to thank the donor’s  family for ‘making a selfless decision … making a difference in Brendan’s  life,’ the father said.

Brendan Marrocco has been in public many  times. During a July 4 visit last year to the Sept. 11 Memorial with other  disabled soldiers, he said he had no regrets about his military  service.

‘I wouldn’t change it in any way. … I feel  great. I’m still the same person,’ he said.

Lee led three of those earlier operations  when he worked at the University of Pittsburgh, including the only above-elbow  transplant that had been done at the time, in 2010.

Marrocco’s ‘was the most complicated one’ so  far, Lee said in an interview Monday. It will take more than a year to know how  fully Marrocco will be able to use the new arms.

‘The maximum speed is an inch a month for  nerve regeneration,’ he explained. ‘We’re easily looking at a couple years’  until the full extent of recovery is known.

While at Pittsburgh, Lee pioneered the  immune-suppression approach used for Marrocco. The surgeon led hand-transplant  operations on five patients, giving them marrow from their donors in addition to  the new limbs.

Intense Concentration: This photograph from December 18th shows the surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital during their 13-hour operation on Brendan Marrocco
 This photograph from December  18th shows the surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital during their 13-hour  operation on Brendan Marrocco

All five recipients have done well, and four  have been able to take just one anti-rejection drug instead of combination  treatments most transplant patients receive.

Minimizing anti-rejection drugs is important  because they have side effects and raise the risk of cancer over the long term.  Those risks have limited the willingness of surgeons and patients to do more  hand, arm and even face transplants.

Lee has received funding for his work from  AFIRM, the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a cooperative  research network of top hospitals and universities around the country that the  government formed about five years ago.

With government money, he and several other  plastic surgeons around the country are preparing to do more face transplants,  possibly using the new immune-suppression approach.

The team at Johns Hopkins physicians perform the Johns Hopkins Hospital's first bilateral arm transplant on 26-year-old patient Brendan M. Marrocco
The team at Johns Hopkins physicians perform the Johns  Hopkins Hospital’s first bilateral arm transplant on 26-year-old patient Brendan  M. MarroccoBrendan Marrocco has become the first quadruple amputee injured in Iraw to have a double arm transplant
Brendan Marrocco has become the first quadruple amputee  injured in Iraw to have a double arm transplant

Brendan Marrocco pictured around 10-months after he was injured in a roadside explosion in Iraq - clearly visible is the scar running along his carotid artery

Brendan Marrocco pictured around 10-months after he was  injured in a roadside explosion in Iraq – clearly visible is the scar running  along his carotid artery
Brendan Marrocco relaxes on duty in Iraq before his devastating accident in April 2009
Brendan Marrocco relaxes on duty in Iraq before his  devastating accident in April 2009

Marrocco expects to spend three to four  months at Hopkins, then return to a military hospital to continue physical  therapy, his father said.

Before the operation, he had been fitted with  prosthetic legs and had learned to walk on his own.

He had been living with his older brother in  a specially equipped home on New York’s Staten Island that had been built with  the help of several charities.

Shortly after moving in, he said it was ‘a  relief to not have to rely on other people so much.’

The home was heavily damaged by Superstorm  Sandy last fall.

Despite being in a lot of pain for some time  after the operation, Marrocco showed a sense of humor, his father said.

He had a hoarse voice from the tube that was  in his throat during the long surgery and decided he sounded like Al Pacino. He  soon started doing movie lines.

‘He was making the nurses laugh,’ Alex  Marrocco said.

Iraq war veteran who lost all four limbs in blast proudly shows off his double arm transplant

Attribution: James Nye, Mail Online

Navigating Beetles

How a beetle can use the stars to navigate its way across the vast deserts of  Africa

It might look small and insignificant but the  dung beetle has its sights set firmly on the stars.

The beetle is the first insect proven to use  the light of the Milky Way to help steer its course.

Also known as the scarab, the tiny creatures  feed on animal droppings, which they fashion into a ball and roll away to a safe  spot where it is less likely to be stolen.

Expert navigator: New research has found that scarabs - also known as dung beetles - find their way through their desert habitat by using the stars of the Milky Way as a reference
 New research has found that scarabs –  also known as dung beetles – find their way through their desert habitat by  using the stars of the Milky Way as a reference

Although their eyes are too weak to  distinguish individual constellations, scientists found they used the  glow of  the Milky Way to navigate in a straight line, ensuring they do  not circle back  to the dung-heap and potential competitors.

‘Even on clear, moonless nights, many dung  beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths,’ said Dr Marie Dacke  from Lund University in Sweden.

‘This led us to suspect that the beetles  exploit the starry sky for orientation – a feat that had, to our knowledge,  never before been demonstrated in an insect.’

Field experiments on a South African game  reserve showed that the beetles were able to roll their dung balls along  straight paths under starlit skies, but not in overcast conditions.

The lighter band of the Milky Way's edge: While unable to pick out constellations, the scarabs could detect the light arcing over their heads
The lighter band of the Milky Way’s edge: While unable  to pick out constellations, the scarabs could detect the light arcing over their  heads

For the tests, the beetles were fitted with  tiny cardboard caps to alter their field of vision.

They were placed in a circular arena  surrounded by a meter-high black cloth, making it impossible for them to see  landmarks.

With no moon, it took much less time for the  beetles to roll a dung ball from the center of the arena to the edge when they  were able to see the sky.

When they could not look up, the time taken  increased from 40 seconds to 124 as they wandered aimlessly around.

The experiment was repeated in a Johannesburg  planetarium, with similar results.

The beetles performed equally well under a  full sky of stars, and when only the glow of the Milky Way was  visible.

Most stars would be too dim for the beetles’ tiny compound eyes to see, said the researchers. While unable to pick out  constellations, the scarabs  could detect the light of the Milky Way arcing over  their heads.

‘This finding represents the first convincing  demonstration for the use of  the starry sky for orientation in insects and  provides the first  documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the  animal kingdom,’  the researchers wrote in the journal Current  Biology.

Previously only birds, seals and humans were  known to navigate by the stars.

Dung beetles also use the sun and moon as  compass cues, said the scientists.

They added: ‘Although this is the first  description of an insect using the  Milky Way for their orientation, this  ability might turn out to be  widespread in the animal kingdom.’

Attribution: Damien Gayle, Mail Online

 

Space Station Blows Up

The orbital balloon: NASA tests blow-up space-craft

 

A prototype inflatable module is to be tested  aboard the International Space Station to give astronauts an extra bedroom, NASA has announced.

The inflatable module  can be compressed into a 7ft tube for delivery,  and is being heralded as a key component of future exploration and the  development of commercial space travel and research.

It is designed by Bigelow Aerospace, based in  Las Vegas, which has been awarded a $17.8  million (£11m) test  project for the inflatable room – and hopes to develop  space hotels and even planetary bases using the technology.

This artist's impressions shows the Bigelow inflatable space station that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery to the International Space Station. NASA is expected to install the module by 2015This artist’s impressions shows the Bigelow inflatable  space station that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery to the  International Space Station. NASA is expected to install the module by 2015

 

Bigelow Aerospace president Robert Bigelow, left, and NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver with a one third scale model of the inflatable room Bigelow Aerospace president Robert Bigelow, left, and  NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver with a one third scale model of the  inflatable room

Astronauts will test the ability of  the  bladder, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM,  to withstand  heat, radiation, debris and other assaults.

Some adventurous scientists might  also try  sleeping in the spare room, which is the first piece of private property to be  blasted into space, NASA said.

Lori Garver, NASA’s deputy administrator,  said as she unveiled the contract award that the inflatable module concept is  simultaneously cutting edge technology and affordable.

‘This partnership agreement for the use of  expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that  can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important  progress in U.S. commercial space innovation,’ she said.

‘The International Space Station is a unique  laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly  increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long  periods.’

Part of NASA’s interest in the inflatable  technology is prompted by its potential for deep space missions.

If the module proves durable during two years  at the space station, it could open the door to habitats on the moon and  missions to Mars, Nasa engineer Glen Miller said.

The agency chose Bigelow for the contract  because it was the only company working on inflatable technology, said NASA  deputy administrator Lori Garver.

An artist's rendering of Bigelow Aerospace's balloon-like module attached to the International Space StationAn artist’s rendering of Bigelow Aerospace’s  balloon-like module attached to the International Space Station

 

Founder and president Robert Bigelow, who  made his fortune in the hotel industry before getting into the space business in  1999, framed the gambit as an out-of-this-world property venture.

He hopes to sell his spare-tire habitats to  scientific companies and wealthy adventurers looking for space  hotels.

NASA is expected to install the 13ft  blimp-like module in a space station port by 2015.

Mr Bigelow plans to begin selling stand-alone  space homes the next year.

The new technology provides three times as  much room as the existing aluminium models, and is also easier and less costly  to build, Mr Miller said.

Artist renderings of the module resemble a  tin-foil clown nose grafted on to the main station. It is hardly big enough to  be called a room.

Mr Miller described it as a large closet with  padded white walls and gear and gizmos strung from two central beams.

Attribution: Lewis Smith and Mark Prigg

The Cause of Gun Violence Is…

Will the CDC Find the Cause of Gun Violence?

When President Obama signed his 23 executive orders this week to reduce gun  violence, I had to laugh at several of them.  One in particular was to  issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to  research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

Really?  Is it a bacteria or virus that infects certain people?  Is  it contagious?

Do any of you remember the movie Urban Cowboy starring John  Travolta?  One of the songs used in the movie was sung by country singer  Johnny Lee and it was called, Looking for Love in All the Wrong  Places.  That’s exactly what Obama and the Democrats are doing with gun  violence, looking in all the wrong places.

The CDC is going to spend millions of taxpayer dollars looking for solutions  in all the wrong places.  Continue Reading