Science News - Monday, March 31st

Ed Rybicki, a virologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, answers:
Tracing the origins of viruses is difficult because they don't leave fossils and because of the tricks they use to make copies of themselves within the cells they've invaded. Some viruses even have the ability to stitch their own genes into those of the cells they infect, which means studying their ancestry requires untangling it from the history of their hosts and other organisms. What makes the process even more complicated is that viruses don't just infect humans; they can infect basically any organism—from bacteria to horses; seaweed to people.

New Genomics Software Infers Ancestry With High Accuracy
Some people may know where their ancestors lived 10 or 20 generations ago, but the rest of us can learn our distant biological heritage only from our DNA. New genomics analysis software developed by computer scientists at Stanford appears far more adept than prior methods at unraveling the ancestry of individuals. A new paper describes the HAPAA system, which takes its name from "hapa," the Hawaiian word for someone of mixed ancestry.

Reason For Almost Two Billion Year Delay In Animal Evolution On Earth Discovered
Scientists from around the world have reconstructed changes in Earth's ancient ocean chemistry during a broad sweep of geological time, from about 2.5 to 0.5 billion years ago. They have discovered that a deficiency of oxygen and the heavy metal molybdenum in the ancient deep ocean may have delayed the evolution of animal life on Earth for nearly 2 billion years.

Garments that can measure a wearer's body temperature or trace their heart activity are just entering the market, but the European project BIOTEX weaves new functions into smart textiles. Miniaturised biosensors in a textile patch can now analyse body fluids, even a tiny drop of sweat, and provide a much better assessment of someone's health.


Earth Conservation - What are we doing to avoid the warm future?

It is well known that our planet is going towards a warmer future, literally. As poetic as it may sound, raising our planet's temperature in one degree celsius can bring serious and devastating effects, let's not even think in raising 2 or 3 degrees.
ANY action that we as people can take to help reduce our detrimental effect over this planet will be greatly appreciated by ourselves, but most importantly by our children and grand children.
For these and other reasons, world organizations such as the UN are working constantly in many fronts. One of them is to raise consciousness over the effect of Carbon dioxide over our atmosphere. Visit the website designed for the celebration of the World Environmental Day 2008 - June 5, 2008:


As part of the Science Class, the students in the lower, middle and upper levels at San Jorge have to participate in lab activities.The lab is a place to learn, and if this happens while you entertain it's even better. Believe it, take a look at the Wiki page in the Media section to see the students from Lower 5th during their first lab practice on Friday, March 14th.


Science News - March 22nd, 2008

Skulls Of Modern Humans And Ancient Neanderthals Evolved Differently Because Of Chance, Not Natural Selection
New research led by UC Davis anthropologist Tim Weaver adds to the evidence that chance, rather than natural selection, best explains why the skulls of modern humans and ancient Neanderthals evolved differently. The findings may alter how anthropologists think about human evolution.

Deadly Genetic Disease Prevented Before Birth In Zebrafish
By injecting a customized "genetic patch" into early stage fish embryos, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were able to correct a genetic mutation so the embryos developed normally.

The research could lead to the prevention of up to one-fifth of birth defects in humans caused by genetic mutations, according to the authors.

Researchers Unmask Proteins In Telomerase, A Substance That Enables Cancer
One of the more intriguing workhorses of the cell, a protein conglomerate called telomerase, has in its short history been implicated in some critical areas of medicine including cancer, aging and keeping stem cells healthy. With such a resume, telomerase has been the subject of avid interest by basic scientists and pharmaceutical companies alike, so you'd think at the very least people would know what it is.

Upright Walking Began 6 Million Years Ago, Thigh Bone Comparison Suggests
A shape comparison of the most complete fossil femur (thigh bone) of one of the earliest known pre-humans, or hominins, with the femora of living apes, modern humans and other fossils, indicates the earliest form of bipedalism occurred at least six million years ago and persisted for at least four million years. William Jungers, Ph.D., of Stony Brook University, and Brian Richmond, Ph.D., of George Washington University, say their finding indicates that the fossil belongs to very early human ancestors, and that upright walking is one of the first human characteristics to appear in our lineage, right after the split between human and chimpanzee lineages. Their findings are published in the March 21 issue of the journal Science.

Rethinking Early Evolution: Earth's Earliest Animal Ecosystem Was Complex And Included Sexual Reproduction
Two paleontologists studying ancient fossils they excavated in the South Australian outback argue that Earth's ecosystem has been complex for hundreds of millions of years -- at least since around 565 million years ago, which is included in a period in Earth's history called the Neoproterozoic era.

Until now, the dominant paradigm in the field of paleobiology has been that the earliest multicellular animals were simple, and that strategies organisms use today to survive, reproduce and grow in numbers have arisen over time due to several factors. These factors include evolutionary and ecological pressures that both predators and competition for food and other resources have imposed on the ecosystem.
But in describing the ecology and reproductive strategies of Funisia dorothea, a tubular organism preserved as a fossil, the researchers found that the organism had multiple means of growing and propagating -- similar to strategies used by most invertebrate organisms for propagation today.


Science News - March 18th, 2008

Glaciers Are Melting Faster Than Expected, UN Reports
The world's glaciers are continuing to melt away with the latest official figures showing record losses, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

Crop Scientists Discover Gene That Controls Fruit Shape
ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2008) — Crop scientists have cloned a gene that controls the shape of tomatoes, a discovery that could help unravel the mystery behind the huge morphological differences among edible fruits and vegetables, as well as provide new insight into mechanisms of plant development.

First 'Rule' Of Evolution Suggests That Life Is Destined To Become More Complex
Researchers have found evidence which suggests that evolution drives animals to become increasingly more complex.


Science News - March 17th, 2008

Blood Discovery: New Hemoglobin Type Found
Scientists at the University of Bonn have discovered a new rare type of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin transports oxygen in the red blood corpuscles. When bound to oxygen it changes colour. The new haemoglobin type appears optically to be transporting little oxygen. Measurements of the blood oxygen level therefore present a similar picture to patients suffering from an inherited cardiac defect. After examining two patients, the scientists now understand that the new type of haemoglobin distorts the level of oxygen measured.


Science News - March 13th, 2008

Spitzer Finds Organics And Water Where New Planets May Grow
Researchers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered large amounts of simple organic gases and water vapor in a possible planet-forming region around an infant star, along with evidence that these molecules were created there. They've also found water in the same zone around two other young stars.

Life's Building Blocks From Space? Meteorites A Rich Source For Primordial Soup
The organic soup that spawned life on Earth may have gotten generous helpings from outer space, according to a new study. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution have discovered concentrations of amino acids in two meteorites that are more than ten times higher than levels previously measured in other similar meteorites. This result suggests that the early solar system was far richer in the organic building blocks of life than scientists had thought, and that fallout from space may have spiked Earth's primordial broth.

Startling Discovery About Photosynthesis: Many Marine Microorganism Skip Carbon Dioxide And Oxygen Step
A startling discovery by scientists at the Carnegie Institution puts a new twist on photosynthesis, arguably the most important biological process on Earth. Photosynthesis by plants, algae, and some bacteria supports nearly all living things by producing food from sunlight, and in the process these organisms release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.


Science News - March 11th, 2008

Mystery Behind The Strongest Creature In The World
The strongest creature in the world, the Hercules Beetle, has a colour-changing trick that scientists have long sought to understand. New research details an investigation into the structure of the specie's peculiar protective shell which could aid design of 'intelligent materials'.

Water Filtration System in a Straw
LifeStraw makes previously contaminated water drinkable by removing bacteria and viruses.

Sometimes, it's the simplest technologies that have the greatest potential impact on people's lives. Take the Vestergaard Frandsen Group's mobile personal filtration system, otherwise known as LifeStraw. It is a powder-blue plastic tube—much thicker than an ordinary straw—containing filters that make water teeming with typhoid-, cholera- and diarrhea-causing microorganisms drinkable.

Grass Makes Better Ethanol than Corn Does
Midwestern farms prove switchgrass could be the right crop for producing ethanol to replace gasoline. Farmers in Nebraska and the Dakotas brought the U.S. closer to becoming a biofuel economy, planting huge tracts of land for the first time with switchgrass—a native North American perennial grass (Panicum virgatum) that often grows on the borders of cropland naturally—and proving that it can deliver more than five times more energy than it takes to grow it.

Science News - March 11th, 2008

Major Advance In Biofuel Technology: Trash Today, Ethanol Tomorrow
University of Maryland research that started with bacteria from the Chesapeake Bay has led to a process that may be able to convert large volumes of all kinds of plant products, from leftover brewer's mash to paper trash, into ethanol and other biofuel alternatives to gasoline.
See video of bacteria changing newspaper into biofuel: http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/video/zymetis.cfm

Science News - March 10th, 2008

Transfer RNA is an ancient molecule, central to every task a cell performs and thus essential to all life. A new study from the University of Illinois indicates that it is also a great historian, preserving some of the earliest and most profound events of the evolutionary past in its structure.

New Stem Cell Technique Improves Genetic Alteration
UC Irvine researchers have discovered a dramatically improved method for genetically manipulating human embryonic stem cells, making it easier for scientists to study and potentially treat thousands of disorders ranging from Huntington’s disease to muscular dystrophy and diabetes.


Six-legged Octopus?

English marine experts have laid their hands on an octopus that's missing two of its own: a six-limbed creature that they have dubbed 'hexapus.'

Ordinarily, octopodes have eight arms and legs. And should they lose one or more in an accident, they can grow the limbs back.
Which is what makes 'Henry' -- as staffers at Blackpool Sea Life Centre in northwest England have dubbed their find -- so unique.
His missing limbs stem from a birth defect.
"If you look closer between the legs, there's webbing that attaches each of the arms together," John Filmer of the Sea Life Centre told CNN Tuesday. "You'd assume if he'd lost one of his legs in an accident, there would be space for an arm to grow back.
"But there's no space for two extra legs to grow back. That's just how he is."

Octopuses are renowned for having three hearts, blue blood and the ability to alter their skin complexion in the blink of an eye.

Academic Year 2008

Welcome back students!!!
From this blog, we give you the best welcome back to classes for all the students at St. George's College from Miraflores, Lima - PERU.
This will be a new year for the Science department, with changes, improvements, and lots of novelties. Come back to this page as often as you want, it will be updated constantly for all the students that are curious and eager to read and learn about science.
Remember, this blog is linked with our Science Class Wikispace page:


Back to School

As I said before, the amount of work involved in getting the school ready is astounding, and today was a good example.
As teachers we must prepare, mentalize, and get ready for all the work that will come with students for the rest of the year. We do that very enthusiastically, hoping the students feel the same way. We are sure of that.
Tomorrow will mark the start of a new year, the 2008 Academic Year in Saint George's College.
Welcome back students!!!!


Science News - March 4th, 2008

Sex differences extend into the Brain
What was once speculation is now being confirmed by scientists: the brains of women and men are different in more ways than one.
Discoveries by scientists over the past 10 years have elucidated biological sex differences in brain structure, chemistry and function. “These variations occur throughout the brain, in regions involved in language, memory, emotion, vision, hearing and navigation,” explains Larry Cahill, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine.

Promising New Material For Capturing Carbon Dioxide From Smokestacks
Scientists and engineers in Georgia and Pennsylvania are reporting development of a new, low-cost material for capturing carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal-fired electric power plants and other industrial sources before the notorious greenhouse gas enters the atmosphere.

HIV Breakthrough: Protein That Fights Immunodeficiency Identified
A Canada-U.S. research team has solved a major genetic mystery: How a protein in some people's DNA guards them against killer immune diseases such as HIV. In an advance online edition of Nature Medicine, the scientists explain how the protein, FOX03a, shields against viral attacks and how the discovery will help in the development of a HIV vaccine.

Avalanches On Mars Photographed By NASA Spacecraft
A NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars has taken the first ever image of active avalanches near the Red Planet's north pole. The image shows tan clouds billowing away from the foot of a towering slope, where ice and dust have just cascaded down. More information on: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/main/index.html

We can see in the image a root growing vertically and a root hair cell emerging horizontally.

How Roots Find A Route Around Obstacles In The Soil
Scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich have discovered how roots find their way past obstacles to grow through soil. The discovery, described in the forthcoming edition of Science, also explains how germinating seedlings penetrate the soil without pushing themselves out as they burrow.

Enormous Jurassic Sea Predator, Pliosaur, Discovered In Norway
Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway has announced the discovery of one of the largest dinosaur-era marine reptiles ever found – an enormous sea predator known as a pliosaur estimated to be almost 15 meters (50 feet) feet long.

Liquid Water Found Flowing On Mars? Not Yet
Liquid water has not been found on the Martian surface within the last decade after all, according to new research. The finding casts doubt on the 2006 report that the bright spots in some Martian gullies indicate that liquid water flowed down those gullies sometime since 1999.

Key To Life Before Its Origin On Earth May Have Been Discovered
An important discovery has been made with respect to the mystery of "handedness" in biomolecules. Researchers led by Sandra Pizzarello, a research professor at Arizona State University, found that some of the possible abiotic precursors to the origin of life on Earth have been shown to carry "handedness" in a larger number than previously thought.
Key Molecular Basis Of Cystic Fibrosis Identified Through Computer Simulations
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified a key molecular mechanism that may account for the development of cystic fibrosis, which about 1 in 3000 children are born with in the US every year. The findings add new knowledge to understanding the development of this disease and may also point the way to new corrective treatments.


Almost Back to School

It is Sunday, staring tomorrow and continuing the whole week, all schools in Peru will start their regular activities for the Academic year of 2008.
I have been able to witness from the backstage the impresswive amount of preparation, dedication, hard-work and excitement that going back to school means from the school's perspective.
All school personnel and teachers, prepare for a while before going back to the classrooms. Each year n new challenge brings us the questions: What's new for this year?, How will I present all the information there is available?, Ho much can all of us improve and learn from new experiences?
All of these questions are just an anticipation of the new year in the classroom.
I can say with lots and lots of confidence, that the academic year of 2008 will open up new possibilities and roads to teaching, practice and acquire more than information, but an experience of learning from students and from teachers.
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