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Submission + - Prehistoric Gene Reawakens to Battle HIV ( 3

Linuss writes: About 95% of the human genome has once been designated as "junk" DNA. While much of this sequence may be an evolutionary artifact that serves no present-day purpose, some junk DNA may function in ways that are not currently understood. The conservation of some junk DNA over many millions of years of evolution may imply an essential function that has been "turned off." Now scientists say there's a junk gene that fights HIV. And they've discovered how to turn it back on.

What these scientists have done could give us the first bulletproof HIV vaccine. They have re-awakened the human genome's latent potential to make us all into HIV-resistant creatures; they published their ground-breaking research in PLoS Biology.
A group of scientists led by Nitya Venkataraman and Alexander Colewhether wanted to try a new approach to fighting HIV — one that worked with the body's own immune system. They knew Old World monkeys had a built-in immunity to HIV: a protein called retrocyclin, which can prevent HIV from entering cell walls and starting an infection. So they began poring over the human genome, looking to see if humans had a latent gene that could manufacture retrocyclin too. It turned out that we did, but a "nonsense mutation" in the gene had turned it off at some point in our evolutionary history.
Nonsense mutations are caused when random DNA code shows up in the middle of a gene, preventing it from beginning the process of manufacturing proteins in the cell. Venkataraman and her team decided to investigate this gene further, doing a series of tests to see if the retrocyclin it produced would keep HIV out of human cells. It did.
At last, they knew that if they could just figure out a way to reawaken the "junk" gene that creates retrocyclin in humans, they might be able to stop HIV infections. The researchers just needed to figure out a way to remove that nonsense mutation and get the target gene to start manufacturing retrocyclin again.
Here's where things really get interesting. The team found a way to use a compound called aminoglycosides, which itself can cause errors when RNA transcribes information from DNA to make proteins. But this time, the aminoglycoside error would work in their favor: It would cause that RNA to ignore the nonsense mutation in the junk gene, and therefore start making retrocyclin again. In preliminary tests, their scheme worked. The human cells made retrocyclin, fended off HIV, and effectively became AIDS-resistant. And it was done entirely using the latent potential in the so-called junk DNA of the human genome.
After more research is done, the researchers believe this might become a viable way to make humans immune to HIV infection.
What's especially intriguing, beyond the amazing idea of an AIDS vaccine, is that aminoglycosides have the potential to unlock the uses for other pieces of junk DNA. In Darwin's Radio, certain portions of these "non-sense" sequences, remnants of prehistoric retroviruses, have been activated by aminoglycosides.
In the novel, humans start rapidly evolving after their junk DNA re-awakens in response to stress. Could we induce instant mutations, or gain other new immunities by using aminoglycosides on our junk DNA?


Submission + - Hacking Air Traffic Control Systems (

neapolitan writes: In other news from Defcon, a presenter demonstrated how easy it is to hack ATC and interfere with flight operations. Fortunately, it seems to be a great deal of hype — most of the "hackery" involves doing illegal things, and fixing it would likely increase the paperwork / headache of legitimate operations. Still, these demonstrations are useful for pointing out scenarios that could happen given a malicious attacker.

Comment Amazing... (Score 0) 132

I've seen this, they are one of the most beautiful things ever to reach my eye. Was around 1998 in california after a space shuttle launch, it looked like we had Northern Lights all of a sudden, huge swathes of purple and green whisks of clouds all across the night sky, visible right during a typical beautiful california sunset. Man... good times.


Submission + - 'Battlestar Galactica' Leads to UN Charter Change (

Jim Hutto writes: "Olmos: 'Battlestar Galactica' Prompts United Nations To Change Charter.

"Battlestar Galactica" has been influential in the lives of millions of fans, but probably never like this.

Becoming the first television show ever invited to speak at the United Nations last March would be enough for some people. But not series star Edward James Olmos. Instead, he was out to change the very core of the United Nations itself. And he succeeded.

"The United Nations changed their charter three weeks ago after 'Battlestar' went and spoke at the UN," Olmos told G4's "Attack of the Show." "They changed the entire understanding of their charter that was written in 1947 so that they would never use the word 'race' as a cultural determinate again. There is only one race, and that is the human race."

The news of the charter change has not been made public until that announcement, Olmos said. A search for press releases over the past seven months on the United Nations Web site produced no results for "race" and "charter," and there are no other reports that such a change has been made.

"Nobody knows that the charter has been changed," Olmos said. "It's one of the hardest things that happened to me, and it would've never happened but if it weren't for 'Battlestar.' Did they invite 'The Sopranos?' Did they invite 'The West Wing?'

"'Battlestar and its writers decided to take on what was happening now. The reconciliation between the Cylon and the human being. How did that happen? How could it happen? If the Palestinian and the Jew could only see 'Battlestar,' they would understand how to reconcile."

Olmos did not explain how he was allowed to be the first to break the news, and why it seems that nothing about the charter change was made available through the United Nations. In fact, the charter that is still published on the UN's official site still uses the word "race" as part of its cultural determinant, so it's unclear why such changes have not been reflected in official documents.

The charter was not signed in 1947, but rather on June 26, 1945, and was put into full force in October of that year. Among its purposes listed for the United Nations in Article I, it continues to state that "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction to race, sex, language, or religion."

The power to amend or modify the charter is listed in Chapter XVIII has to take place after approval by a two-thirds vote of the members of the General Assembly as well as by a vote of nine members of the Security Council. Any alterations would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the members, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.

It is not clear if such a move was made, and if so, how such a massive undertaking was not previously reported in the media.

An attempt late Monday to reach the United Nations by e-mail is pending return, as is a message to G4 asking if they had verified the statement made by Olmos during the interview."


Submission + - Robotic firefighting team debuts (

Linuss writes: "A team of fire-fighting robots has been unveiled by defence contractor QinetiQ at a demonstration in London.

The display showcased a quartet of robots aimed at tackling the particular risk of fires involving cylinders of the industrial gas acetylene.

The robots range from a nimble, stair-climbing reconnaissance unit to a diesel-powered robot with a large claw.

The two-year project is funded by Network Rail, the Highways Agency and Transport for London.

Organised in conjunction with the London Fire Brigade, the project has been on trial since last year, with the team of robots — and their operators — on call for incidents that happen in London and the Southeast.

So far in 2009, the robots have been involved in 10 incidents."

Comment Re:Oh they'll crash all right (Score 0) 1316

This is not a fail of the students, but a fail of the schools.

This is a fail of our society. Schools shouldn't have to teach their students common knowledge. I'm not even in college yet and many of the things I'm reading about in this thread come as completely obvious and natural to me (i do have quite a bit of experience in corporate environments for my age, however), and i find it ridiculous that people need to be TAUGHT this. If you sit in front of tv all day and believe the shit that is stuffed down your throat, you deserve to be let the fuck down when you graduate.

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