Friday, 31 July 2009

Monkeys live longer after eating lighter: study

A 20-year study on rhe­sus mon­keys sug­gests that slashing ca­lorie in­take slows the ag­ing pro­cess and leads to long­er life spans, pos­sibly in hu­mans al­so, re­search­ers say.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies with yeast, worms, flies, and ro­dents have sug­gested that this kind of “ca­lor­ic re­stric­tion” – a re­duc­tion of about 30 per­cent, and very dif­fer­ent from mal­nu­tri­tion – can lead to such health ben­e­fits in some mam­mals. But giv­en the many par­al­lels be­tween rhe­sus mon­keys and hu­mans, this study sug­gests that these ben­e­fits might oc­cur in hu­mans as well, ac­cord­ing to the sci­en­tists.

Calorie-restric­ted mon­key "Can­to." (Cour­tesy Sci­ence)

Ricki Col­man at the Wis­con­sin Na­tional Pri­mate Re­search Cen­ter and col­leagues be­gan the study in 1989 by as­sign­ing adult rhe­sus mon­keys, each be­tween age sev­en and 14, to ei­ther a ca­lor­ic re­stric­tion group or a con­trol group.

Once the mon­keys were as­signed, the re­search­ers be­gan re­duc­ing the di­ets of mon­keys in the ca­lor­ic re­stric­tion group by 10 per­cent every three months un­til they reached the de­sired 30 per­cent cut­back.

At the end of the stu­dy, 37 per­cent of the con­trol group had died of age-re­lat­ed causes while only 13 per­cent of the ca­lor­ic-re­stric­tion group had, they found. This find­ing means that the con­trol mon­keys ex­pe­ri­enced a death rate from age-re­lat­ed con­di­tions such as di­a­be­tes, can­cer, car­di­o­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, and brain at­ro­phy three times that of the ca­lor­ic re­stric­tion group.

Any mon­key that died during the study un­der­went a com­plete nec­rop­sy by a board-certified path­ol­o­gist, so that age-re­lat­ed deaths could be dis­tin­guished from oth­er un­re­lat­ed con­di­tions, the re­search­ers not­ed.

The find­ings are to ap­pear in the July 10 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Sci­ence.

A study in the No­vem­ber 2007 is­sue of the jour­nal An­nals of the New York Acad­e­my of Sci­ences reached si­m­i­lar con­clu­sions about the ben­e­fits of ca­lor­ic re­stric­tion by com­par­ing Amer­i­cans with some Jap­a­nese popula­t­ions with tra­di­tion­ally spare di­ets.

Please visit World Science for more information

Bloodhound diary: speed record

RAF fighter pilot Andy Green intends to get behind the wheel of a car that is capable of reaching 1,000mph (1,609km/h). Powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, the Bloodhound car will mount an assault on the land speed record.

Wing Cmdr Green is writing a diary for the BBC News Website about his experiences working on the Bloodhound project and the team's efforts to inspire national interest in science and engineering.

He says the latter presents "a huge task", but is worth the effort. He adds: "If we want to live in a high technology low-carbon world in the near future, then someone is going to have to build it for us, and that someone needs to be inspired now".

for more information on the Bloohound including Wing Cmdr Green's diary and video interview visit the BBC news site.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

News Release - heic0909: Hubble captures rare Jupiter collision

Click for larger image.

24-Jul-2009: The checkout and calibration of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been interrupted to aim the recently refurbished observatory at a new expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. The spot, caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid, is changing from day to day in the planet’s cloud tops.

For the past several days the world's largest telescopes have been trained on Jupiter. Not to miss the potentially new science in the unfolding drama 580 million kilometres away, Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, allocated discretionary time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

The Hubble picture, taken on 23 July, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the feature and is Hubble's first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. Observations were taken with Hubble's new camera, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the hard work of the astronauts and the entire Hubble team", said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Fortunately, the best is yet to come!"

"Hubble's truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the 2009 impact site", said Hammel. "By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris. My sincerest congratulations and thanks to the team who created Wide Field Camera 3 and to the astronauts who installed it!"

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on Sunday, July 19, the spot was created when a small object plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time in history such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago.

"This is strikingly similar to the comet Shoemaker Levy 9 that impacted Jupiter in July 1994", said team member Keith Noll of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

"Since we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble", added Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. She explained that the details seen in the Hubble view show a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere. The spot is presently about twice the length of the whole of Europe.

Simon-Miller estimated that the diameter of the object that slammed into Jupiter was at least twice the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Tunguska River Valley in Siberia in June 1908.

The WFC3, installed by astronauts on the Space Shuttle in May, is not yet fully calibrated. So while it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera's full power cannot yet be realised for most observations. The WFC3 can still return meaningful science images that will complement the Jupiter pictures being taken with ground-based telescopes.


Museums and TV have dinosaurs' posture all wrong, claim scientists

Photograph: Getty

The popular depiction of sauropod dinosaurs such as Camarasaurus, above, as lumbering creatures with outstretched necks may be wrong. 

The staid and scholarly world of palaeontology was thrown into rare turmoil yesterday following the latest salvo in an argument that dates back to Jurassic times.

The row erupted after a team of British fossil experts published a fresh analysis of animal bones in an arcane academic journal. In their paper they challenge a view of dinosaurs that is so familiar it has almost become the accepted truth.

The controversy goes to the heart of our perception of the largest of the dinosaurs, the sauropods, which became widespread 150m years ago in the late Jurassic. According to the researchers, the beasts did not stick their necks out in front of them as so often depicted, but held their heads high on majestic, curving, swan-like necks.

The claim overturns the popular impression of the lumbering creatures given by museum exhibits and TV series like the BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs. The sauropods include many of the most well known prehistoric beasts, such as diplodocus and apatosaurus, the dinosaur formerly known as brontosaurus. Some sauropods were more than 40m long and weighed over 100 tonnes.

"Unless sauropods carried their heads and necks differently from every living vertebrate, we have to assume that the base of their neck was curved strongly upwards," said Mike Taylor, a palaeontologist at Portsmouth University in the UK, who led the study. "In some sauropods this would have meant a graceful, swan-like S-curve to the neck, and a look quite different from the recreations we are used to seeing today."

In their study, Taylor and his team examined the natural neck posture of a wide range of land vertebrates, such as cats, rabbits, turtles and crocodiles. They found that almost all of them hold their necks in an upright, S-shaped curve, even though analysis of the bones alone would suggest the neck should stick out horizontally. His report appears in the journal Acta Paleontologica Polonica.

"The burden of proof is very much on people who want to argue for a different posture," he said. "They are arguing that sauropods are doing it differently to everything else that's alive today."

Dave Martill, another palaeontologist at Portsmouth, said it was easy for fossil hunters and museum staff to get the posture of dinosaurs wrong. But he added: "In this case it is shocking, because our perception of these animals is ingrained, then someone comes along 50 years later and says it doesn't look like this at all."

The comments triggered an immediate response from the Natural History Museum in London, where dinosaur experts were keen to point out that it is almost impossible to be sure how the beasts carried themselves in their natural environment.

"The criticisms that various museums have their dinosaurs in the wrong positions are just nonsense," said Paul Barrett, one of the museum's dinosaur researchers. "I suspect no museum has a sauropod mounted in a position it couldn't achieve. Their necks may have been vertical from time to time, but they were still able to come down low to drink."

There is more to the debate than academic pride. If sauropods walked with their necks upright, it would change palaeontologists' understanding of their behaviour. Their ability to spot predators and potential mates would be dramatically different. It would also change experts' view of their ecological role as the animals would be able to feed on food that was out of reach of many other dinosaurs.

The idea that sauropods held their necks upright is not new. Until the 1950s, most dinosaur experts considered this to be their natural posture. That view changed when scientists suggested that an upright neck would raise the animals' blood pressure catastrophically.

In a study published only last month, the Australian palaeontologist Roger Seymour calculated that if a saurpod held its head upright, it would use half of its energy pumping blood to its brain, requiring a two-tonne heart that would hardly fit inside its ribcage.

But Taylor said the estimates of blood pressure were based on extrapolations from smaller animals, which he doesn't believe are valid for larger creatures.

"It might be that the sauropods found a similar way around the problem as giraffes, but we have no way of knowing. We just can't tell with the sauropods, because they're all dead," said Barrett.

Source: Guardian science

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bang Goes The Theory Free Science Roadshow

Bang Goes The Theory is BBC One's exciting new series that looks at how science shapes the world around us. From climbing a building using a vacuum cleaner to trying to enter the space race, Bang Goes the Theory discovers and challenges the astonishing scientific principles that shape our world.

This summer BBC Learning is giving everyone the opportunity to get involved with the thrills and spills of the programme with an exciting. Bang Goes The Theory roadshow currently touring the UK with live science shows, interactive exhibits and your chance to meet the Bang Goes the Theory presenters. For more information go to where you'll also find experiments that you can try out yourself and more information on the programme.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Brendan Walker shows us how we can be thrilled

Science: [so what? so everything] case study Brendan Walker shows us the science behind thrills and puts some Bankers through their paces on a bucking bronco.

The bankers are hooked up to a telemetry system which includes a heart-rate monitor, accelerometer and video camera. Physiological data and facial expressions are captured and beamed live into the control station where a member of the public is controlling the ride, making it more or less intense.

Brendan uses this data to helop develop the rides of the future. Foe more information on Brendan visit Science: [so what? so everything].

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

DART trial finds HIV therapy could be given safely without routine laboratory tests to save more lives in Africa

The largest clinical trial of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for people with HIV infection ever run in Africa has found that regular laboratory tests offer little additional clinical benefit to populations when compared to careful clinical monitoring.

The results suggest that many more people with HIV in Africa could be treated for the same amount of money as is currently spent if lab tests are not routinely used to monitor the effects of ART.

The evidence from the Development of Anti-Retroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) clinical trial will be of value to low income or resource poor countries that are prioritising ART access over investment in expensive laboratory facilities.

The DART trial aimed to find out whether the lab-based strategies used to deliver ART to people with HIV infection in resource rich countries were essential in Africa, where around 4 million people still need ART urgently and resources are limited...

Please visit MRC for more information.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Meet your virtual twin

Personalised simulations used to test treatments could soon be integrated into an entire virtual human:

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Careers in Science – Guardian Forum live discussion: July 16, 12-3pm

The Science: [So what? So everything] campaign is encouraging people to find out more about the variety of exciting job opportunities available in science.

To tie in with the campaign, a panel of science professionals will be taking part in a live Q&A on The Guardian Careers forum from 12-3pm on Thursday July 16th. The panel will be available to answer questions and offer advice ranging across the job opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and maths and give help for entering this vast and assorted field. Even if you don’t have any science qualifications, log on to find out more about what opportunities may be available to you.

For a list of who will be available to answer questions and to take part in the forum, please click here.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Science communicator position

“Science: So What? is a Department of Business Innovation and Skills campaign to encourage wider public engagement in science at all levels - from casual interest to education and employment opportunities - as well as promoting greater understanding of why science is important to the UK.

As part of refreshing the campaign we are now looking for a science communicator to find, create and edit online content and manage dialogue across the web and social media.

We’re looking for people that have a track record as a science writer, the ability to write for diverse audiences (including young people) and excellent working knowledge of online science content, social media etiquette, and the principles of good science communication.

We imagine this to be a part-time role in the first instance, but we are open-minded as to how the role will develop and would hope that you would want to be a part of that ongoing development.

If you would like more information please contact us with your name and contact details and a brief paragraph describing your experience at email address: sciencesowhatcommunicator at googlemail dot com .”