Ascension Earth 2012
- Jane Goodall Says SeaWorld 'Should Be Closed Down'
- Elon Musk Unveils the Tesla Powerwall
- Jesus & the Dinosaurs ~ Animated ~ Eddie Izzard ~ Hysterical!
- 'Hats Off' To HATS-6b: Discovery of 'puffy' new planet brings scientists closer to finding new life in outer space
- Lab for genetic modification of human embryos just $2,000 away – report
- Are We Close To Finding Alien Life?
- Music in Your DNA and A New Species of Human?
- The Science of Sugar Addiction & The Fifth Taste
- Why Can’t We See the Center of the Milky Way?
- What is Peak Phosphorus? Stuff They Don't Want You To Know
Posted: 01 May 2015 07:41 PM PDT
Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com
NEW YORK -- Jane Goodall wants to see SeaWorld go extinct.
The 81-year-old primatologist said whales and dolphins should never be held in captivity, and that the entertainment company known for its orca shows should be shuttered.
“They definitely should be closed down,” Goodall said in an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this month.
She’s not alone. SeaWorld’s stock price has been plummeting since July 2013, when CNN released the documentary “Blackfish." The film exposed the misery endured by SeaWorld's trained orca and the dangers posed to trainers working with stressed-out carnivorous whales.
“When they are contained in these tanks … that is acoustical hell,” said Goodall, adding that her nonprofit organization, the Jane Goodall Institute, is urging aquariums across the country to free their whales. “The sounds bounce back from the walls of the tank.”
SeaWorld aggressively refuted many of the film's claims, including allegations that its whales were unhealthy and that the company tried to cover up details surrounding the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was mauled by an orca.
After the release of "Blackfish," SeaWorld saw a rapid decline in visitors, and with that, in the price of shares. But on Monday, Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock, optimistic that the company can retool its image as consumers start forgetting about the blockbuster documentary.
"Jane Goodall is a respected scientist and advocate for the world’s primates, but we couldn’t disagree more with her on this," Becca Bides, a SeaWorld spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.
"Zoos and marine mammal parks like SeaWorld allow people to experience animals in a way that is inspiring and educational."
Asked about the allegation that SeaWorld's tanks are detrimental to whales, Bides denied the claim, arguing that they are specially crafted to keep underwater noise levels quieter than the ambient ocean.
As of last December, SeaWorld held 22 orcas in its three U.S. marine parks, five of which were caught in the wild, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Whale and Dolphin Conservation. A total of 57 orcas are held in captivity around the world, the group notes. At least 160 orcas have died in captivity since 1961, and an additional 30 pregnant whales have miscarried or had stillborn calves.
Goodall said she remains hopeful that humans are gaining a greater sense of empathy for animals and losing interest in watching them perform for entertainment.
“It’s not only that they’re really big, highly intelligent and social animals so that the capture and confinement in itself is cruel,” she said of the captive orcas, but also that “they have emotions like ours.”
She welcomed the decision by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to eliminate elephants in its shows by 2018.
“If you see what happens to those baby elephants, the way they’re trained, it’s absolutely chilling,” said Goodall, who had a pendant in the shape of Africa hanging from her necklace. “They lose all of their young elephant playfulness, and then they can be trained.”
Posted: 01 May 2015 07:40 PM PDT
Posted: 01 May 2015 07:39 PM PDT
'Hats Off' To HATS-6b: Discovery of 'puffy' new planet brings scientists closer to finding new life in outer space
Posted: 01 May 2015 07:32 PM PDT
Excerpt from abc.net.au
A "puffy" new planet orbiting a small, cool star has been discovered 500 light years away from Earth, by a team of scientists conducting research that could one day find new planets capable of hosting life.
It was discovered by an international group of scientists called the HAT South team, from the Australian National University, Princeton and the Max Planck Institute - along with an amateur astronomer in Perth known as TG Tan.
George Zhou from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said HATS-6b was about the size of Jupiter and was orbiting very close to a small, sun-like star called HATS-6.
"That means this is a really big planet... orbiting a relatively small star," he said.
"It's quite hard to form these big planets around small stars."
Mr Zhou said he believed the planet must have formed further out and migrated in.
"But our theories can't explain how this happened," he said.
Mr Zhou said HATS-6b is a "puffy" planet - meaning it is large, but not particularly dense.
"This planet is not as heavy as Jupiter, but it is as big as Jupiter. So it is quite puffed up," he said.
"We've been able to measure the mass and the radius of this planet, which gives us the density. We know that the density is less than Saturn."
To explain just how light Saturn is, Mr Zhou used a simple analogy.
"If there was a large enough pool [of water] and you dropped Saturn into it, it would float," he said.
"That's also the case with this planet, and that means that it's made of gas, probably hydrogen and helium, just like Jupiter and Saturn."
Amateur Perth astronomer made 'significant' contributionMr Zhou said HATS-6b was discovered using telescopes around the world, including one in the Siding Spring Observatory in northern NSW.
"We used these telescopes to monitor the brightness of hundreds of thousands of stars in the night sky," he said.
"When a planet passes in front of a star, from our perspective, what we see is that one of the stars will dip in the brightness that we observe, indicating that there's a planet transiting in front of it.
"This is the transit technique that we're using to discover these planets, and that's how HATS-6b was discovered."
It was that this point that Perth amateur astronomer TG Tan got involved.
"We've identified something like 1,000 planet candidates - what we think might be transiting planets," Mr Zhou said.
"It's a stretch for our resources to try to follow up these 1,000 potential planet candidates, so we enlist the help of amateur astronomers.
"TG monitored the transit of HATS-6b for us, and actually confirmed that it's really a planet around another a star.
"His contributions were significant for this discovery."
Mr Zhou said this kind of research was helping scientists understand the context of our solar system in the universe.
"Of course one of the biggest questions is whether there's life out there," he said.
"By finding planets around other stars, we're going toward that direction. We're trying to find places where potentially there might be other forms of life, which are not coming from Earth.
"Hopefully, this kind of research will lead us towards that."
He said around small stars, like the one around which HATS-6b was orbiting, it was actually comparatively easier to find planets.
"Around a small star, the transit that we see is proportional to the size of the star," he said.
"Around a small star, the same size planet would have a more easily detected dip [in light].
"So it's much easier to find an Earth-like object, for example.
"By looking for planets around small stars we're find a different way of identifying planets that might host life."
The research was published in the Astronomical Journal, in paper co-authored by Mr Zhou.
Posted: 01 May 2015 07:23 PM PDT
With the right expertise in molecular biology, one could start a basic laboratory to modify human embryos using a genome-editing computer technique all for a couple thousand dollars, according to a new report.
Genetic modification has received heightened scrutiny recently following last week’s announcement that Chinese researchers had, for the first time, successfully edited human embryos’ genomes.
The team at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, used CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats), a technique that relies on “cellular machinery” used by bacteria in defense against viruses.
This machinery is copied and altered to create specific gene-editing complexes, which include the wonder enzyme Cas9. The enzyme works its way into the DNA and can be used to alter the molecule from the inside. The combination is attached to an RNA guide that takes the gene-editing complex to its target, telling Cas9 where to operate.
Use of the CRISPR technique is not necessarily relegated to the likes of cash-flush university research operations, according to a report by Business Insider.
"You could conceivably set up a CRISPR lab for $2,000,” he said, according to Business Insider.
Other top researchers have echoed this sentiment.
"Any scientist with molecular biology skills and knowledge of how to work with [embryos] is going to be able to do this,” Jennifer Doudna, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, recently told MIT Tech Review, which reported that Doudna co-discovered how to edit genetic code using CRISPR in 2012.
Last week, the Sun Yat-Sen University research team said it attempted to cure a gene defect that causes beta-thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder that could lead to severe anemia, poor growth, skeletal abnormalities and even death) by editing the germ line. For that purpose they used a gene-editing technique based on injecting non-viable embryos with a complex, which consists of a protective DNA element obtained from bacteria and a specific protein.
"I suspect this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine,"wrote science journalist Carl Zimmer for National Geographic.
Response to the new research has been mixed. Some experts say the gene editing could help defeat genetic diseases even before birth. Others expressed concern.
“At present, the potential safety and efficacy issues arising from the use of this technology must be thoroughly investigated and understood before any attempts at human engineering are sanctioned, if ever, for clinical testing,” a group of scientists, including some who had worked to develop CRISPR, warned in Science magazine.
Meanwhile, the director of the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) said the agency would not fund such editing of human embryo genes.
“Research using genomic editing technologies can and are being funded by NIH,”Francis Collins said Wednesday. “However, NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes ... has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed.”
Although the discovery of CRISPR sequences dates back to 1987 – when it was first used to cure bacteria of viruses – its successes in higher animals and humans were only achieved in 2012-13, when scientists achieved a revolution by combining the resulting treatment system with Cas9 for the first time.
On April 17, the MIT’s Broad Institute announced that has been awarded the first-ever patent for working with the Crisp-Cas9 system.
The institute’s director, Eric Lander, sees the combination as “an extraordinary, powerful tool. The ability to edit a genome makes it possible to discover the biological mechanisms underlying human biology.”
The system’s advantage over other methods is in that it can also target several genes at the same time, working its way through tens of thousands of so-called 'guide' RNA sequences that lead them to the weapon to its DNA targets.
Meanwhile, last month in the UK, a healthy baby was born from an embryo screened for genetic diseases, using karyomapping, a breakthrough testing method that allows doctors to identify about 60 debilitating hereditary disorders.
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