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Journal: Time Cloak = Distant Space Exploration

Journal by gpronger

If you follow the newest press on science, you've likely heard about the theoretical possibility of "cloaking" an object, so that it would be invisible to an external observes perception of time, effectively allowing it to move instantaneously to the observer, but not to the cloaked object.

It would seem that if this would be feasible, it would be the most likely means of exploration of space. With the time to travel to outside the system likely to remain beyond human capabilities due to the travel time involved, a cloaked robotic system could cloak, travel to the distant system, return, and assuming that exploration would require uncloaking, the only elapsed time back here on Earth, would be the time spent exploring. The robotic space craft would clearly need redundant systems, and built to last (sorry Ford if that a copyright), but this approach would circumvent the problems with humans traveling the same distance and time.

An article on the whole time cloaking can be found here:


Journal: New Exoplanet Discovered "Like One of Ours"

Journal by gpronger
BBC reports on a "Nature" article regarding a newly discovered "Exoplanet" located roughly 1500 light years from Earth which is the first to be positively identified as a temperate planet. Designated "CoRoT-9b", lead researcher Dr Hans Deeg states; "It is the size of Jupiter and has an orbit similar to Mercury." Dr Deeg, works at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in the Canary Islands.

Unlike other exoplanet discoveries which have mostly been "exotic" in nature, this discovery falls within the models of planets within our own system. Dr Deeg states; "They are either extremely hot, being very close to the central star on short orbits, or they are on eccentric orbits, taking them close to and far from the central star, giving them extreme temperatures."

Dr Deeg explained that although some of the exoplanets previously discovered were thought likely to be temperate it was not possible to confirm that or to find out much information about them.
User Journal

Journal: Clean Living Bad for Proper Immune System Development

Journal by gpronger

On December 2nd, Biology News reported about, at least for pigs, an aseptic environment for the piglet, actually leads to a less healthy individual.

Researcher Denise Kelly (University of Aberdeen, UK) explains that for the study, piglets were divided equally between an outdoor environment, and indoor environment, and one where they were fed a diet high in antibiotics. The outdoor raised pigs intestinal tracts had a significantly higher population of "healthy" bacteria than their indoor raised brethren. Further, the indoor piglets gene expressed more genes for T-cell formation while the indoor raised pigs had more genes related to inflammatory immune response.

Kelly also explains that the pig is a good model for this type of research due to similarities between the organisms found in human and pig guts and their comparable size in organs."

Just recently, Laboratory Equipment has an article about Northwestern University researcher Thomas McDade has found that using long term epidemiological on Filipino's tracking them from in utero through 22 years. This study indicated that exposure to a less antiseptic environment led to adults with lower "C-Reactive Protein" (CRP) a long term health indicator of cardiovascular health. Higher levels of CRP in adults is an indicator for greater risk of heart disease. Comparing the Filipino results to US, the blood levels were roughly 5X less.

What would be interesting is to see if there is also linkage to the increased rate of asthma, which is also a type of inflammatory response gone awry.

User Journal

Journal: Giant Virus Sounds Like a Critter from Sci-Fi

Journal by gpronger

The Scientist reports of a new family of giant virus created within amoebae ( Besides being more than 200nM in size, where a typical virus runs 100 - 200nM, what I find like something out of Sci-Fi is that they incorporate useful portions of genetic code from other organisms. The virus named, Marseillevirus, contained genetic information from bacteria, eukaryotes and other viruses. Typically virus are alone in the host cell, but because amoeba consume whole other organisms, thus giving the virus access to the DNA of these other organisms.

User Journal

Journal: Follow-up On Endocrine Disruptor Article by Pickins

Journal by gpronger
As a follow-up to article on endocrine disruptors by "pickens" is a story in "Science News" on a "National Research Council" report showing potential linkage between the chemical class called phthalates and decreased size of male testes.

The "National Research Council" article reports that the EPA needs to study the impact of phthalates as demasculinizing agents on male reproductive organs. Phtlalates are ubiquitous in the environment due to their use as a plasticizer. Traditionally the EPA has studied the effects of pollutants individually rather than as a class. The impact on exposure is permanent causing developmental problems (and if you want to see what an atrophied rat testicle looks like).

There also growing concern that this class of chemicals are actually impacting the ratio of male to female births ( Reported by the Chicago Tribune), is one of the most more extreme case I've come across, the birth rate of males born on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Reservation in Canada has dropped to 42%. This article discusses endocrine disruptors as a class and not specifically phthalates.

As an analytical chemist working in the environmental industry, one of the challenges with this issue is that the concentrations we are attempting to measure are absurdly (though potentially significant) low. It is not uncommon for the studies to be needing levels of detection in the low parts per trillion range. Because we are not simply dealing with outright mortality (its fairly easy to tell when all the fish in a river are suddenly floating belly-up) and instead trying to understanding fairly subtle changes in the endocrine system of the impacted species (including homo sapiens) the issue is significantly more difficult to understand and address (slow shifts in the ratio of males-to-females).

The main article is at:

Journal: Metallic Glass Alloy Used for Bone Repair

Journal by gpronger
"Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but Glass Will Certainly Mend Them!"

The old school yard ditty may be changed to reflect developments using metallic glass which will dissolve in situ instead of the traditional stainless steel or titanium hardware which require removal by surgery once the bone has healed.

"Physics World" reports that researcher JÃrg LÃffler at ETH Zurich has created an alloy 60% magnesium, 35% zinc and 5% calcium, molded in the form of metallic glass. Through rapid cooling, the alloy forms a molecularly amorphous glass which slowly dissolves over time, supporting the injury long enough for healing, then slowly dissolving away. The break-through was in the cooling process. Typically, the alloy would form a traditional metallic alloy, but rate and potential toxic effects due to the corrosion process, required a different approach. This is where the controlled rapid cooling comes in; the formation of the material as a glass, changes it corrosion process, avoiding the issues experienced with the alloys in the metallic state. Further, by controlling the proportions of the alloys the rate the components dissolve can be controlled allowing for greater utility depending upon the extent and location of the injury.

Journal: New Form of Cholestrol Worse

Journal by gpronger
Reported in Laboratory Equipment the effects of oxycholesterol have been largely under appreciated in its effects on heart and arteries. The researcher, Zhen-Yu Chen, states that oxycholesterol deposits at a greater rate while also causing a decrease in the elasticity of arteries (a bad thing).

Oxycholestrol is formed when fat-containing foods are heated, as in frying chicken or grilling burgers or steaks. Food manufacturers produce oxycholesterol intentionally in the form of oxidized oils such as trans-fatty acids and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. When added to processed foods, those substances improve texture, taste and stability.
User Journal

Journal: Wasp Release - Another Invasionary Species???

Journal by gpronger
USDA proposes to use a Spanish wasp for weed control along Mexican-US border. Carrizo Cane, a tall reed that grows along river banks, etc has spread rapidly along the Rio Grande. The height of the reed, and the density that it grows, gives cover to illegal immigrants. The wasp lays it eggs inside the stem, causing the plant to dwarf or die.

The question to ask though, is what other agricultural plants it may go after once released?

Have we ever had a purposeful release of a foreign species that went as planned?
User Journal

Journal: The "Hobbit" aka "Flores Man" Likely Early Human Ancestor

Journal by gpronger
Homo floresiensis ("Flores Man", nicknamed Hobbit)was discovered in 2003 and represents a potential survivor of an early hominid species. It is believed to have survived to about 12,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores.

Debate has been ongoing if it represented modern man impacted by dwarfism due to living on an island, microcephaly, or other genetic diseases, or an earlier homo species that survived to near modern day on the island.

The current issue of the Scientist covers recent developments which indicate that the "Hobbit" was likely an ancestor of an early homo species, which survived to near modern times. The article considers cranial evidence that it may be a H. erectus ancestor or foot structure that it may be a H. erectus ancestor.

In both cases, though the evidence is that a very early ancestor of modern man existed on the island up to very recent times.
User Journal

Journal: NASA's STEREO Forecasts Solar Storms

Journal by gpronger
"NASA's "Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory" satellite system or STEREO will allow NASA to determine when a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) is directed towards Earth and cause a geomagnetic storm (sometimes called solar storm).

On the aesthetic-side, a CME causes Northern and Southern Lights; or it can cause disruption and damage to communication systems and orbiting satellites.The most energetic geomagnetic storm on record occurred in 1859 which had sufficient energy to cause the "State-of-the-Art" in , 1859 telegraph systems, to short out and start electrical fires. An equivalent storm today would cause massive disruption in communication and electronic based systems.

STEREO was launched in 2006 and is composed of two satellites, which lead and trail the Earth's solar orbit. The satellites take simultaneous solar measurements, and can therefore offer a true three dimensional measurement of solar activity. From this data, the direction, speed, etc., is calculated allowing the prediction of the potential impact on the Earth's magnetic field.

In the NASA article, Angelos Vourlidas, stated; "Before this unique mission, measurements and the subsequent data of a CME observed near the sun had to wait until the ejections arrived at Earth three to seven days later. Now we can see a CME from the time it leaves the solar surface until it reaches Earth, and we can reconstruct the event in 3D directly from the images." Vourlidas is a solar physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.
User Journal

Journal: Antarctic Ice Bridge Collapses as Arctic Ice Thins (NASA)

Journal by gpronger
BBC reports that an ice bridge, an integral part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, has collapsed. The article states that the collapse is seen as a further indication of the impact of global warming on the antarctic ice. The bridge will lead to a faster erosion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf itself.

At the same time as the BBC article was released, NASA reports that the arctic ice continues to thin. Quoting the article;

"Scientists who track Arctic sea ice cover from space announced today that this winter had the fifth lowest maximum ice extent on record. The six lowest maximum events since satellite monitoring began in 1979 have all occurred in the past six years (2004-2009)."

the point that I found to explain the situation the best was that the ice that survives 2 years or more has historically been between 30% to 40%. It is currently down to roughly 10%. Greg
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Journal: Mars Methane May be Geologic

Journal by gpronger
"On Earth, the predominate source of methane is considered biological in origin, and the presence on Mars has been considered a possible indication of life on Mars. Recently, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at The Woodlands, near Houston, Texas, researcher Bethany Ehlmann (a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island) proposed a geological process could be a potential source for methane. The information from the conference was covered in the most recent issue of NatureNews(Access needs a subscription).

The article reports that under a hydrothermal process the mineral olivine can undergo conversion to serpentine, with methane and hydrogen as a by-product.

Not surprisingly, there are potential problems with the theory. Though the presence of the mineral could have been a source of methane, the surface mineral is ancient, 3.8BY. Too old to be the source of the methane currently detected. It may be though, that the conversion is active subsurface, and the generated methane reaches the surface via fissures, etc."
User Journal

Journal: Fast Charging Batteries

Journal by gpronger
MIT's journal reports that their one of their materials research teams, led by Gerbrand Ceder have re-engineered the design of batteries to allow charging of lithium batteries from hours to minutes ( The research appears in the March 12th issue of Nature (Byoungwoo Kang & Gerbrand Ceder authors though you need a subscription or purchase for the full article).

The upshot of the research is that one of the obstacles to electric vehicles is simply the battery recharge time.

User Journal

Journal: Bisphenol-A Analysis in Aqueous Samples

Journal by gpronger
Analysis of Bisphenol-A by EPA Method 625

Bisphenol A, ( as one of the EPA's emerging pollutants is of interest to both the public and private sectors. Commonly utilized in plastics manufacturing, it has been identified as an endocrine disruptor impacting gender differentiation in some aquatic organisms and increasing concerns regarding human exposure as well.

To support these parties, Suburban Laboratories has developed and validated the a GCMS analytical procedure for trace level analysis of the compound in aqueous samples. The method is based upon USEPA EPA Method 625 ( The validation was performed following EPA protocols (40CFR Part 136, Appendix B).

Based upon the study the laboratory will utilize a reporting limit of 1 ug/L. The actual MDL from the study was found to be 0.32 ug/L.

For more info, feel free to drop me an email (
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Journal: DeVries' Dilemma: If you hit two keys on the typewriter, ...

Journal by gpronger
"DeVries' Dilemma: If you hit two keys on the typewriter, the one you don't want hits the paper."

Sorry, but this witticism is beyond (in years) likely most of Slashdot's audience. I happen to be one of the few that do, and still bang on this electronic keyboard as if I have something mechanical to move (though I have tremendous finger strength because of it).

Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.