Archive for August, 2012

Cyborg Central: Researchers Combine Electronics with Synthetic Tissue

By Sophie Bushwick | August 31, 2012 1:13 pm

An electronic scaffold for growing cyborg tissues

To craft synthetic flesh, all you need are seed cells—stem cells or cells from a specific organ—to form the basis of the material and a scaffold of biological material, which supports the cells as they grow into tissue for patching up hearts or artificial organs. But why grow boring old biological materials when you can create cyborg ones? In a new paper published in Nature Materials, researchers describe how to make synthetic tissues that integrate electronics.

Instead of growing cells on a purely biological scaffold, these researchers used nanowires to build electronic scaffolds and then coat them with biological materials like collagen, forming hybrid scaffolds that included both tissue and technology. With these scaffolds as a base, researchers successfully formed viable cyborg tissue from seed cells, including neurons, cardiac, and smooth muscle cells. The tissue remained viable for a few weeks, but the researchers still need to conduct extended studies to see how these tissues would fare as long-term implants.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology

Watch This: 12 Years of Fires Burn Across the Globe

By Sophie Bushwick | August 30, 2012 3:48 pm

Fire maps show the locations all over the world where wild and man-made fires are going on, based on data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. And when you combine fire maps from the past 12 years, you get a video where flames trace recurring patterns across the globe, from summer wildfires in Canada to agricultural burning in Africa and Southeast Asia.

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MORE ABOUT: fire, NASA, watch this, wildfire

1,700 Yosemite Visitors May Have Been Exposed to Hantavirus

By Sophie Bushwick | August 30, 2012 12:23 pm

deer mouse
Humans can contract hantavirus when they inhale particles
from the waste of an infected mouse

Between hantavirus‘ first documented appearance in 1993 and the end of 2011, the CDC counted a total of 587 cases, with 211 deaths, more than a third of those infected. So you can see why recent visitors to Yosemite National Park were dismayed and frightened when the park recently warned that 1,700 of them might have been exposed to hantavirus while staying in the tent cabins at the park’s Curry Village.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

Eat Your Words: Restricting Calories Does Not Necessarily Extend Monkeys' Lives

By Sophie Bushwick | August 30, 2012 10:27 am

rhesus monkeys

A calorie-restricted diet can extend the lives of organisms from yeast to fruit flies to rodents, as well as improving their health and preventing disease. But just because cutting calories helps animals with short lifespans doesn’t mean that humans will reap similar benefits. So the 2009 discovery that calorie-restricted diets also increase the longevity of already-longer-lived rhesus monkeys was exciting news.

But don’t pull out a calorie calculator quite yet. The latest word on the subject, from a new paper in Nature, suggests that the 2009 study might not tell the whole story: this team found that caloric restriction doesn’t actually grant rhesus monkeys longer lives.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World

Discovered: The First Binary Star System With Multiple Planets

By Sophie Bushwick | August 29, 2012 12:52 pm

Artist’s rendering of binary system Kepler-47, with outer planet Kepler-47c
in the foreground and inner planet Kepler-47b in the bottom right corner

Growing up in a binary star system can be tough. As the system’s two suns orbit each other, they exert strong gravitational pressures capable of pushing away young planets or sending them careening into one another. It wasn’t until last year that astronomers found the first evidence of a world orbiting two stars. Now new data has revealed that the binary system Kepler-47 goes one step further: it contains not one but two planets.

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Pot Dependence in Adolescence is Linked to a Long-Term Drop in IQ

By Sophie Bushwick | August 29, 2012 10:33 am


Compared to some of the drugs out there, cannabis can seem relatively harmless. It doesn’t have the ruinous effects of methamphetamines or even substances like synthetic pot. But there has long been suspicion that heavy use might have long-term effects on IQ, for instance [pdf].

Factors that tend to accompany cannabis consumption, such as the use of other drugs and alcohol and, in adolescents, a tendency to skip class, have made it difficult to decisively pin a dip in IQ to marijuana use. To clear away the noise, the authors of a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turned to the reams of data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, and they’ve found that on average, by the time they reached age 38, heavy pot users diagnosed with cannabis dependence during adolescence suffered an 8-point drop in IQ.

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Caught in Time: The Oldest Bugs Ever Preserved in Amber

By Sophie Bushwick | August 28, 2012 8:35 am

Eriphyoid mite
A 230-million-year-old mite preserved in amber

An insect trapped in amber, perfectly preserved for millions of years: the image is familiar to fans of Jurassic Park, but in fact, few insects got stuck in sticky tree resin until about 130 million years ago—long after the Jurassic period ended. That’s when trees first began to produce enough of it to ensnare flies and mites.

Or so paleontologists believed. Three newly discovered bugs in amber may force a revision of that timeline. As a new study reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these specimens are 230 million years old.

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Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, 1930-2012

By Sophie Bushwick | August 27, 2012 1:52 pm

Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon

Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who took a giant leap for mankind, died on Saturday at the age of 82. Reserved and shy, Armstrong always insisted that he wasn’t a hero despite some fairly heroic acts.

The unflappable commander of Apollo 11, he braved a mission that he thought had only 50-50 odds of landing on the Moon, and a decent chance of never returning home. And when he realized that the original lunar landing site was untenable, he took over from the computer to manually find a new site and set down—while fuel supplies ticked away. After returning to Earth, Armstrong’s natural reserve didn’t stop him from reaching out and sharing his experience, even after he retired from NASA to teach at the University of Cincinnati.

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Watch This: A Gigantic Stick Insect Pries Itself Out of a Tiny Egg

By Veronique Greenwood | August 27, 2012 1:26 pm

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.

This video is a slow burn, but it’s mesmerizing. This stick insect, painstakingly extruding itself from its egg, is an individual from one of the most endangered insect species on Earth. Given how long it takes for this one to get free, you can get a sense of how devastating it was when rodents were introduced to its home island, Lord Howe Island in Australia. A insect this preoccupied with hatching can’t outrun a hungry rat.

The Lord Howe Island stick insect, as it’s called, was declared extinct in 1960. But a 2001 mission to a jagged, barren rock of an island nearby found the place was not quite as barren as scientists had thought. After they had climbed up hundreds of feet of sheer rock face, writes Becky Crew at Running Ponies, they saw something strange: Read More


West Nile Season Off to the Worst Start Ever in the U.S.

By Sophie Bushwick | August 24, 2012 4:16 pm


Every summer since West Nile virus’s first U.S. appearance in 1999, Americans have listened to warnings about the mosquito-borne disease and its potentially deadly effects, a severe flu-like fever sometimes accompanied by an even more dangerous brain inflammation. Because the disease—and its attendant worries—recur every year, it’s easy to tune out West Nile coverage. But the Center for Disease Control has announced that this year’s outbreak is shaping up to be one of America’s worst, with the current count at 1,118 cases and 41 deaths. About half the reports come from a single state: Texas.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

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