Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Biologists Create 'Zombie Cells' In The Lab Which Outperform Living Counterparts -

Biologists Create 'Zombie Cells' In The Lab Which Outperform Living Counterparts - 

Biological researchers have created dead 'zombie' cells in the lab which outperform living cells.


A team at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico have innovated a technique whereby mammalian cells are coated with silica to form a near-perfect replicas.

The silica replicants can survive greater pressures and temperatures than flesh, and perform many functions better than the original cells did when alive.

By painting the cells with silicic acid in a petri dish, the acid embalms the organic matter in the cell down to the nanometer level.

The silica then acts as a permeable armour, according to Michael Hess at the American Office of Public Affairs.

That means the cell beneath can be used as a catalyst at far greater temperatures than normal.

Heating the silica to around 400C evaporates the protein in the cell, but leaves the silica as a three-dimensional replica of the "formerly living being", Hess said.

"The difference is that instead of modeling the face, say, of a famous criminal, the hardened silica-based cells display internal mineralized structures with intricate features ranging from nano- to millimeter-length scales."
The valuable biological material can thus be converted into a reusable fossil, which could have uses in fuel cells, decontamination and sensor technology, as well as commercial manufacturing.

Lead researcher Bryan Kaehr said in a statement that the research distinguishes between a mummy cell and a zombie cell.

"Our zombie cells bridge chemistry and biology to create forms that not only near-perfectly resemble their past selves, but can do future work," he said, terrifyingly.


Calgary's publicly funded Colon Cancer Screening Centre says patients from private clinic were allowed to jump the queue -

Calgary's publicly funded Colon Cancer Screening Centre says patients from private clinic were allowed to jump the queue - 

The head of Calgary's publicly funded Colon Cancer Screening Centre says patients from one private clinic were allowed to systematically jump the queue.
Darlene Pontifex says in 2009 and 2010, patient referrals from the Helios Wellness Centre were kept in a special file and booked much faster than others.
Pontifex told Alberta's queue-jumping inquiry that during that time period the centre's database was in disarray and Helios patients were booked because their patient information was handy.

Clerks and doctors have testified that from 2008 to 2012 Helios patients were treated within weeks, while ordinary patients had to wait three years.
Some staff have testified they warned Pontifex for years that queue-jumping was going on and involved clinic doctor Ron Bridges.
Pontifex denied being made aware of it, but conceded she doesn't always read her e-mails.


Inmates Get 'Salaries' Behind Bars - collecting millions each year -

Inmates Get 'Salaries' Behind Bars - collecting millions each year - 

They're behind bars, but you're still paying their "salaries." 
State and federal officials say inmates across the country continue to collect millions each year in fraudulent unemployment benefits -- often the result of oversight -- with the most recent case in Pennsylvania, where more than 1,000 people collected benefits while behind bars.
Pennsylvania officials said this week the fraud occurred in county prisons because they failed to implement a system of cross-checking the Social Security numbers of benefit applicants, like they did with inmates in their state and federal prisons.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett said his administration is correcting the problem. But the 1,162 inmates had already collected about $334 every week for more than four months, costing taxpayers roughly $7 million.
The state labor department said detecting the fraud is more difficult now that benefit checks -- once intercepted in inmates’ mail -- have largely been replaced with direct deposits to bank accounts. And the biweekly phone calls to renew benefits can be made by a friend or relative at home.
Overall unemployment fraud is now at 2.85 percent, according to the Labor Department. The agency doesn’t have a specific number for fraud payments but said overall improper payments cost taxpayers $4.9 billion from July 2011 through June 2012, the agency’s most recent reporting period.
The problem is hardly isolated to Pennsylvania. The states with the highest fraud rate over that period were Arizona at 9.21 percent; Mississippi at 9.05 percent; Louisiana at 8.29 percent; South Dakota at 5.95 percent; and Pennsylvania and New Mexico tied at 5.22 percent. The total amount of improper payments was roughly $890 million.


Tiny, moon-size planet discovered outside of our solar system — smallest exoplanet yet -

Tiny, moon-size planet discovered outside of our solar system — smallest exoplanet yet - 

Astronomers have found the smallest planet yet outside of our solar system. It's about the size of our moon.
The planet was detected using the U.S. space agency's Kepler telescope, launched in 2009 to hunt for Earth-like planets.
Despite the buzz, the newfound planet is too hot to support life. Scientists estimate its surface temperature is a sizzling 371 Celsius. It also lacks an atmosphere and water on the surface.
The discovery is detailed in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Scientists are still searching for a planet the size of Earth in the so-called Goldilocks zone — the not-too-hot, not-too-cold place where water could exist on the surface.

Read more -

Starbucks’ most expensive drink has 40 shots of espresso - "The Quadriginoctuple Frap" - price tag of $47.30 -

Starbucks’ most expensive drink has 40 shots of espresso - "The Quadriginoctuple Frap" - price tag of $47.30 - 

A Washington state man put a lot of planning into his cup of coffee and he may have set a record with it.

Behold, "The Quadriginoctuple Frap."

Beau Chevassus says it is the costliest cup of coffee available at Starbucks with a price tag of $47.30.

He ordered a 52-ounce venti with 40 shots of espresso, Frappuccino soy mocha drizzle, and basically everything else on the menu.

He placed the order on his birthday, so in admiration, the baristas gave it to him for free!


Why Women Talk More Than Men: Language Protein Uncovered -

Why Women Talk More Than Men: Language Protein Uncovered - 

You know all the times that men complain about women talking too much? Apparently there's a biological explanation for the reason why women are chattier than men. Scientists have discovered that women possess higher levels of a "language protein" in their brains, which could explain why females are so talkative.
Previous research has shown that women talk almost three times as much as men. In fact, an average woman notches up 20,000 words in a day, which is about 13,000 more than the average man. In addition, women generally speak more quickly and devote more brainpower to speaking. Yet before now, researchers haven't been able to biologically explain why this is the case.

Now, they can. New findings conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and published in The Journal of Neuroscience show that a certain protein may be the culprit.
In 2001, a gene called FOXP2 appeared to be essential for the production of speech. In order to test this protein, the team, led by J. Michael Bowers and Margaret McCarthy, looked at young rat pups. These animals emit cries in the ultrasonic range when separated from their mothers. The team recorded the cries over five minutes in groups of 4-day-old male and female rats that had been separated from their mothers. They found that male pups had up to twice as much of the protein FOXP2  in regions of the brain known to be involved in vocalization--perhaps an unsurprising finding since researchers noted that males made twice as many cries as females.
Next, the researchers wanted to test their findings in humans. They conducted a small study on human children aged four to five years who had died in accidents less than 24 hours previously. They then analyzed the amount of FOXP2 protein in the brains of these children. In the end, the researchers found 30 percent more FOXP2 protein in the brains of the girls.
The research shows that the protein, FOXP2, is a key molecule for communication in mammals. In fact, it could allow researchers to better understand other species that may or may not possess the protein, such as Neanderthals. With this new biological link, scientists could potentially trace back the evolutionary origin of speech.
That said, the research also gives a reason for why women tend to be better at small talk.

Read more -