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August 24, 2006, 4:51 AM CT

Manatee Traveler

Manatee Traveler
A West Indian manatee has been sighted in various waters of the northeastern United States in the last 5-6 weeks. It took in the sights along the Hudson River traveling up into Harlem, visited Cape Cod, Mass., and was most recently sighted in Warwick, Rhode Island, in Greenwich Bay.

The question everyone is asking is: Is it Chessie on summer vacation? U.S. Geological Survey manatee researchers have today been able to rule out Chessie as the current traveler through the use of the manatee photo-identification database. Yet the roving manateeĀ“s identity is still unknown.

Photographs and video were sent to USGS manatee researchers in Florida, who used the manatee photo-identification catalog to compare scar patterns on the animal with others in the database and ruled out Chessie as the current traveler. Photographs of the mystery manatee do not match any of the existing Florida manatees previously documented for the manatee identification database.

In 1994, scientists photographed Chessie during his rescue from Chesapeake Bay, Md. - and his unique markings and scars - before his release in Florida. Chessie has a distinctive long gray scar on his back, with several small white spots apparent within the scar.

"Since then, Chessie also has acquired tail mutilations, but these are not severe," said Cathy Beck, a biologist with the USGS Sirenia Project. "Reports of manatee sightings far from the usual summer range are of great interest and we appreciate receiving photographs to help us document the individual whenever possible." Beck said.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 9:17 PM CT

Supercomputers To Study Atoms Linked To Black Holes

Supercomputers To Study Atoms Linked To Black Holes
Super-hot atoms in space hold the key to an astronomical mystery, and an Ohio State University astronomer is leading an effort to study those atoms here on Earth.

Anil Pradhan, professor of astronomy, and his team have used supercomputers to perform the most precise energy calculations ever made for these atoms and their properties. As a result, astronomers -- in particular, those hunting black holes -- will have a better idea of what they are looking at when they examine faraway space matter using X-ray telescopes.

The results appear in the recent issue of the Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics. And while the paper's subject matter is highly technical, it tells a story that weaves together atomic physics, Einstein's theory of relativity, cutting-edge astronomical observations, and some of the world's fastest supercomputers.

Astronomers have spied seas of super-hot atoms in plasma form, circling the centers of very bright galaxies, called active galactic nuclei. The plasma is believed to be a telltale sign of a black hole; the black hole itself is invisible, but any material spiraling into it should be very hot, and shine brightly with X-rays.

Before anyone can prove definitively whether active galaxies contain black holes, astronomers need to measure the energy levels of the excited atoms in the plasma very precisely, and match the measurements with what they know about atomic physics.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 8:34 PM CT

Wild-type mouse embryo 9.5 days post coitum

Wild-type mouse embryo 9.5 days post coitum
Wild-type mouse embryo 9.5 days post coitum. To assess the effect of targeted cubilin knockdown on blood vessel formation, embryos were immunolabeled with anti-PECAM-1, an endothelial cell marker.

Cubilin-deficient embryos display developmental retardation and do not advance morphologically beyond the appearance of WT 8-8.5 dpc embryos.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 8:24 PM CT

Brave new world in life sciences

Brave new world in life sciences
The biosciences are converging with information technology, nanotechnology, and materials science in unforeseen ways, yielding remarkable advances that have the potential to cure--or kill. To reduce the likelihood that these discoveries will be exploited for destructive ends, the authors of the 2006 report, "Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of Life Sciences," propose a "web of protection" that bolsters the development of robust defenses without restricting the free flow of scientific information.

Writing in the September/October Bulletin, the authors argue that fixing a fractured public health system to be responsive to "both natural and deliberate biological threats" is perhaps "the most obvious and important" of the recommendations coming from the report produced by a committee of the National Research Council/Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Eileen R. Choffnes, director of the IOM's Forum on Microbial Threats; Stanley M. Lemon, forum chair and director of the Institute of Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas, Galveston; and David A. Relman, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and of medicine at Stanford University, were the study director and co-chairs, respectively, of the committee.

Also in this issue of the Bulletin: Two different assessments of U.S. vulnerability to nuclear terrorism. Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, warns that Americans are "more vulnerable to a nuclear 9/11 today than we were five years ago." William M. Arkin, online columnist for the Washington Post and author of upcoming The Alternative: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the American Future, argues that the nuclear terrorism threat has diminished, and that exaggerated fears of a nuclear 9/11 have prompted the United States to divert crucial resources toward failed policies.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 7:28 PM CT

Persicaria Amplexicaulis

Persicaria Amplexicaulis
The epithet amplexicaulis means "stem-clasping", describing (in this case) the attachment of the leaves to the stem. You can see what is meant by amplexicaulis via the secondary photograph in the Kemper Center link below or via this image of Asclepias amplexicaulis.

'Firetail' red bistort or mountain fleece is an RHS Award of Garden Merit plant. For gardening info about this plant, visit the MBG's Kemper Center for Home Gardening.

Botany resource link: The blooming of Amorphophallus titanum at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, suggested by Karen V, a BPotD commenter.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 7:07 PM CT

Genome Set To Transform The Cow

Genome Set To Transform The Cow
The ability of scientists to improve health and disease management of cattle and enhance the nutritional value of beef and dairy products has received a major boost with the release this week of the most complete sequence of the cow genome ever assembled.

Developed by an international consortium of research organisations, including CSIRO and AgResearch New Zealand, the new bovine sequence contains 2.9 billion DNA base pairs and incorporates one-third more data than earlier versions.

Differences in just one of these base pairs (known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) can affect the functioning of a gene and mean the difference between a highly productive and a poorly performing animal. Over two million of these SNPs, which are genetic signposts or markers, were identified as part of the project.

Australia's representative on the US $53 million Bovine Genome Sequencing Project, CSIRO's Dr Ross Tellam, says the new map marks the end of the sequencing phase of the project, with the focus now on analysing the available data.

"This is very valuable information," Dr Tellam says. "We could potentially achieve as much improvement in cattle breeding and production in 50 years as we have over the last 8000 years of traditional farming".

Cattle geneticists will use the bovine genome as a template to highlight genetic variation within and between cattle breeds, and between cattle and other mammal species.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 6:53 PM CT

Virus Threat To Red Squirrels

Virus Threat To Red Squirrels
New research has revealed for the first time the catastrophic effect of a deadly virus on Britain's native red squirrels.

The research shows that squirrel poxvirus is threatening to wipe out red squirrels in some of the areas in which they remain in northern England within 10 years. In areas where the virus has been detected, the rate of decline in reds is 17-25 times higher than in places where there has been no outbreak.

Until now the reds' main survival challenge was believed to be competition with grey squirrels over resources. However, this research highlights the urgency for new conservation strategies for the red squirrel, a species that has been in Britain for the last 10,000 years and is protected under the UK's Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Researchers say that in the absence of a vaccine for the disease the only effective way of stopping the spread is to target grey squirrel control at the narrow entry points and corridors to England's 16 designated red squirrel refuges by killing the small numbers of greys that may come in.

Squirrel poxvirus is passed to reds by grey squirrels, and probably arrived to Britain with some of the greys that were introduced from North America over 100 years ago. The virus does not appear to harm grey squirrels, but is fatal to reds when they become infected.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 6:48 PM CT

Space Age To Surgery Equipment

Space Age To Surgery Equipment Dr. Blake Hannaford's lab is developing robotic arms for remote telesurgery at the University of Washington.
Credit: Courtesy Photo from University of Washington
Though robots were once the stuff of Star Wars and The Jetsons, commercially available systems have made robotic surgeries common in hospitals. Located just feet away from the surgeon, the systems are minimally invasive and offer surgeons better dexterity.

Department of Defense-funded scientists want to take that capability to the next level so surgeries can commence on battlefields with the surgeon's work being done by a robot that's miles away and connected by communication links.

"There is a large community that is envisioning a robot that is deployable in an armored vehicle, much closer to combat, where an expert surgeon can remotely work on the patient very quickly after an injury is sustained," said Dr. Blake Hannaford, a professor of electrical engineering and adjunct professor in bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the University of Washington. "The kind of focus, as I understand it, is stopping arterial bleeding that's not amenable to a tourniquet. and stabilizing that so that a Soldier can be transported for regular care".

Hannaford and his team have created a surgical robot that works on a patient's abdomen. It has two arms, and a motorized carriage on the operating table lets the arms move anywhere on the table.

"It's very position-able to any part of the body," he said, adding that this may possibly allow the robot be used on arms and legs.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 6:08 PM CT

Pearl The Robot

Pearl The Robot
Pearl, the Nursebot, is a personal robotic assistant that could help more elderly adults and people with disabilities live independently. Developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, the mobile robot could be used to prompt people with failing memories to take medicine or visit a doctor, to provide remote telepresence for professional careivers or to assist with tasks that would be difficult for people with limited mobility.

Credit: Ken Andreyo, Carnegie Mellon University.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 23, 2006, 5:46 PM CT

Handheld Computers Make Light Work

Handheld Computers Make Light Work
MIT students are helping bring science education out of the textbook and into the handheld.

Under the casually watchful eye of Eric Klopfer, director of the MIT Teacher Education Program, a roomful of students recruited under the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) is writing code for three different handheld (PDA) projects. All of them aim at making science, economics and other "dry" topics vividly interesting, interactive and fun, for students, teachers and citizens at large.

"We use cheap hardware with easily downloadable software that pairs with curricula and with related activities," said Klopfer, who is an associate professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. All three projects use commercial, off-the-shelf handhelds, such as the Palm Pilot and Dell Axim, which are easy to use and more affordable for strapped school systems than laptop or desktop computers.

Ben Schmeckpeper, a 2005 MIT grad who is now working toward his master's in electrical engineering and computer science, is among the students working on the Augmented Reality project that utilizes GPS (global positioning system) capability. In addition to coding, his summer has included conducting three workshops for teachers -- two in Wisconsin and one at Harvard -- to introduce educators to the games the team has developed. The MIT group, in collaboration with colleagues at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin, demoed two games, Hip-Hop Tycoon (an economics simulation game) and Sick at South Beach, aimed at seventh- and eighth-grade environmental science students, for a group of about 15 teachers in Milwaukee, which fortuitously is also Schmeckpeper's hometown.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


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