At a whopping 30 million metric tonnes annually, methanotrophic bacteria consume the most harmful and problematic greenhouse gas known as methane, and now researchers at Northwestern University believe it could be the key to reversing global warming.
Methanotrophic bacteria not only eat the harmful gas, but excrete fuel known as methanol, through the use of an enzyme in its cell wall known as particulate methane monooxygenase, or pMMO. Previous researchers had a difficult time studying the process due to the damage to the bacteria through the process of extracting the enzyme, but Amy Rosenzweig, senior author of the new Northwestern paper who holds appointments in both chemistry and molecular biosciences at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, explains how a new process has been developed that preserves the bacteria enough to determine more useful information about how the methanol is created.
“Methane has a very strong bond, so it’s pretty remarkable there’s an enzyme that can do this. If we don’t understand exactly how the enzyme performs this difficult chemistry, we’re not going to be able to engineer and optimize it for biotechnological applications.”
The researchers used something called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), a technique well-suited to membrane proteins due to the fact that the lipid membrane environment is undisturbed throughout the experiment. This allowed them to visualize the atomic structure of the active enzyme at high resolution for the first time.
Read more about the study at Science journal online.
Can you imagine all of that floating space junk someday becoming a threat decades after it ends up in space?
Just earlier today (Dec. 3) at around 3 a.m. EST (0800 GMT), The International Space Station dodged a decades-old rocket body from a fragment of a Pegasus rocket. According to a statement from America’s NASA program, this debris was created in 1996 from the object 39915, which was the upper stage of a Pegasus rocket that had launched two years prior to it breaking up.
NASA had been notified to delay a spacewalk and forced to schedule for later due to the concerns of the floating fragments on Tuesday (Nov. 30).
That debris came from a Russian anti-satellite test conducted on one of its own defunct satellites; fragments from the incident might threaten astronauts on the station for years to come.
All seven astronauts currently living and working on the space station faced a still more serious space junk scare just a few weeks ago. On Nov. 15, the crew was forced to shelter in the two passenger spacecraft currently docked to the space station during two close passes with orbital debris.
Exploring the link between Vitamin D and COVID-19 has been excruciatingly complex. At first you think, “If I take more vitamin D, I’ll be protected,” and then you read, “If you take too much vitamin D, you’ll die.”
It was regrettable to see CNN talk about Vitamin D being “an internet sensation” instead of focusing on the benefits of the vitamin on the immune system from a scientific perspective. So I decided to give it a fair chance and see for myself just how beneficial and detrimental the supplement would be for me against COVID-19.
It’s not a difficult concept to digest: vitamin D increases immune system function, COVID-19 decreases immune system function, so… the D you get, the happier your body is… (That’s what she said…)
Vitamin D is produced by the body through a process in the skin induced by UVB light, primarily coming from the Sun. What makes things complicated is the fact that this vitamin D production is directly dependent upon the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin, which inherently causes skin pigmentation, tends to lower the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure, which has led to some studies showing that older adults with darker skin may be more at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies’ Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended daily dose of vitamin D for anyone over age 4 is 600 IU/day in the US. For anyone over 70 years of age in the US, the dose goes up to 800 IU/day. In the UK, the recommended daily amount is 400 IU/day.
And this isn’t wrong, per say. If you had a sufficient level of vitamin D in your body, you wouldn’t need more than a few IU to assume you were slightly and safely more than “sufficient” in your daily vitamin D intake. The problem is that not everyone is the same.
So we need to test ourselves. We need to know our own vitamin D levels and immune system functionality. There are surprisingly a lot of home vitamin D tests available online and they range in price starting from around $50. While this may seem a bit expensive for just one test, as a monthly expense it may be affordable for most middle class people.
Frequent contributor to Fox News Steven Milloy retweeted a Politico story about climate change to suggest that CO2 won’t kill Earth because Venus is made of CO2 — the only trouble is humans don’t live on Venus, as far as we know.
Milloy is no stranger to ignoring accurate and verified scientific truths. A lawyer and frequent commentator for Fox News, he refers to himself as a libertarian thinker and runs a twitter account called @JunkScience through which he ironically, but not facetiously, often peddles what mosts scientists would refer to as junk science. His close financial and organizational ties to tobacco and oil companies have been the subject of criticism from a number of sources going back to the early 2000s, as Milloy has consistently disputed the scientific consensus on climate change and the health risks of second-hand smoke. Having close ties to tobacco and oil, it’s not difficult to understand why.
Among the topics Milloy has addressed are what he believes to be false claims regarding DDT, global warming, Alar, breast implants, second-hand smoke, ozone depletion, and mad cow disease. This time, however, he attempts to equate planet Earth with planet Venus, saying that CO2 won’t destroy the Earth because Venus is largely made up of CO2.
DeFazio on climate: "This is the existential threat to the future of the planet."
For comparison, the atmosphere Venus is 96.5% CO2 — and the planet is still there.
The obvious problem to scientists (and most people with a high school science education) is that humans don’t live on Venus, and couldn’t since it is so darn hot, hailing an average temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s obvious that Milloy is being paid to promote bad science in an effort to persuade Fox News watchers into believing that climate change is a hoax. The trick he uses here is to make it seem like people who believe in man-induced global warming through greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide think the Earth will cease to exist with too much CO2. That isn’t what climate change scientists and activists think at all.
On the contrary, climate change scientists and activists are concerned about human and animal life will cease to exist — the way it doesn’t exist on Venus.
The danger in having to explain this to people is that it’s easier to look at things Milloy’s way. Despite it being wrong, lazy thinkers will read what he tweets and hear what he says on Fox News without doing anymore research or thinking on the matter. When people say convincing things with authority, it usually doesn’t matter if what they’re saying is true or not.
The tech entrepreneur recently tweeted that tunnels under Los Angeles were almost completed and that free rides under the city would be offered soon.
In a series of tweets yesterday, Elon Musk made a number of bold claims. First, he said the tunnel under Los Angeles is nearly done and the public would be invited to go for free rides under the city soon. Second, he said work on a tunnel linking New York City and Washington, DC, has already begun. Third, he claimed a Hyperloop connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco would begin next year.
Easily the most famous scientist in the world, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76 peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.
The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.
The physicist died on Pi Day, March 14, the day each year when scientists and mathematicians celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Today is also famed theory of relativity scientist Albert Einstein’s birthday.
At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.
Considered by many to be the world’s greatest living scientist, Hawking was also a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician and author of numerous books including the landmark “A Brief History of Time,” which has sold more than 10 million copies.
With fellow physicist Roger Penrose, Hawking merged Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to suggest that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes. Hawking also discovered that black holes were not completely black but emit radiation and would likely eventually evaporate and disappear.
Hawking suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is usually fatal within a few years. He was diagnosed in 1963, when he was 21, and doctors initially only gave him a few years to live.
Beijing — China makes a massive move towards a smogless society with its ban of over 500 car models that have been proven to contribute to urban air pollution.
Responding to anti-pollution measures established recently, the Chinese government has halted sales of over 500 models of vehicles that don’t meet fuel-consumption standards.
The halt in production of some 553 models will begin in early January and will include models from Audi, Beijing Benz and Chevrolet, said the China Vehicle Technology Service Center in a statement to the press Thursday.
China’s anti-pollution plan has taken effect in the form of regulating output from steel production, coal usage restrictions, and a never before seen measure to eventually phase out vehicles powered by fossil fuels within the next few years. This ban is the first of its kind, according to Wang Liusheng, a Shanghai-based analyst at China Merchants Securities.
Wang said in an email to Bloomberg,
“To emphasize a cut back on energy consumption, such documents will surface frequently in the future. It’s an essential move to ensure the healthy development of the industry in the long run.”
The move sounds and looks sweeping, however Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, said that the models make up a “very small percentage” of polluting vehicles. Meanwhile, Beijing is set to record its most impressive improvements to its air quality in nine years, with an almost 20 percent drop in pollution over the past year alone.
If you are reading this and you don’t smoke, then your major risk factor for dying is probably your age. That’s because we have nearly eliminated mortality in early life, thanks to advances in science and engineering. But despite this progress, we still haven’t worked out how to eliminate the damaging effects of ageing itself.
Now a new study in mice, published in Nature, reveals that stem cells (a type of cell that can develop into many other types) in a specific area of the brain regulate ageing. The team even managed to slow down and speed up the ageing process by transplanting or deleting stem cells in the region.
The mechanisms that keep organisms healthy are relatively few in number and conserved between species, which means we can learn a lot about them by studying animals such as mice. Among the most important are senescent cells – dysfunctional cells which build up as we age and cause damage to tissue – chronic inflammation and exhaustion of stem cells. These mechanisms are thought to be connected at the cell and tissue level. As with a ring of dominoes, a fall anywhere can trigger a catastrophic collapse.
The researchers behind the new paper were studying the mouse hypothalamus, which we’ve known for some time controls ageing. This almond-sized structure at the centre of the brain links the nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems. The hypothalamus helps regulate many basic needs and behaviours including hunger, sleep, fear and aggression. In the human brain, initiation of behaviours is usually complex, but if you flee in blind panic or find yourself in a blazing rage, then your hypothalamus is temporarily in the driving seat.
The team looked at a specialised group of stem cells within the hypothalamus and monitored what happened to them as cohorts of mice aged. Mice normally live for about two years but they found that these cells began to disappear by about 11 months. By 22 months, they had vanished completely. The rate at which the stem cells was lost closely correlated with ageing changes in the animals, such as declines in learning, memory, sociability, muscle endurance and athletic performance.
But correlation doesn’t mean causation. To find out if the decline was causing these ageing changes, they deleted stem cells using a specially engineered virus that would only kill them in the presence of the drug Ganciclovir. In 15-month-old mice, receiving this drug combination destroyed 70% of their hypothalamic stem cells. They prematurely displayed signs of ageing and died roughly 200 days earlier as a result. That’s significant as mice only live for about 730 days.
The group also implanted hypothalamic stem cells from newborn mice into middle-aged animals. In this case, the animals became more social, performed better cognitively and lived about 200 days longer than they otherwise would have.
These experiments also provided clues to how the hypothalamic stem cells were being lost in the first place. The implantation only worked when the stem cells had been genetically engineered to be resistant to inflammation. It seems that, as the animals aged, chronic, low-grade inflammation in the hypothalamus increased.
This inflammation is probably caused either by the accumulation of senescent cells or surrounding neurons entering a senescent-like state. Inflammation kills the hypothalamic stem cells because they are the most sensitive to damage. This then disrupts the function of the hypothalamus with knock-on effects throughout the organism. And so the dominoes fall.
Elixir of youth?
The ultimate goal of ageing research is identifying pharmaceutical targets or lifestyle interventions that improve human health in later life. While this is a study in mice, if we can show that the same mechanisms are at play in humans we might one day be able to use a similar technique to improve health in later life. But this remains a long way in the future.
Other interventions, such as removing senescent cells, also improve health, extending life by up to 180 days in mice. A logical next step is to see if these interventions “stack”.
The study also demonstrates that hypothalamic stem cells exert major effects through secreting miRNAs, which control many aspects of how cells function. MiRNAs are short, non-coding RNAs – a molecule that is simpler than DNA but can also encode information. When miRNAs were supplied alone to mice lacking stem cells they actually showed similar improvements to those who received stem-cell treatment.
The delivery of miRNAs as drugs is still in its infancy but the study suggests potential routes to replenishing a hypothalamus denuded of stem cells: preventing their loss in the first place by controlling the inflammation. This might be achieved either through the development of drugs which kill senescent cells or the use of anti-inflammatory compounds.
The research is important because it elegantly demonstrates how different health maintenance mechanisms interact. However, one downside is that only male mice were used. It is well known that the structure of the hypothalamus differs markedly between the sexes. Drugs and mutations which extend lifespan also usually show markedly different potency between males and females.
Whether humans will ever be able to live significantly longer than the current maximum lifespan of 125 years is hard to tell. But it seems the greatest barrier to a healthy later life is no longer the rate of progress but the speed with which we can turn our growing knowledge of the biology of ageing into drugs and lifestyle advice.
If humans have enough turbines running in the ocean, we could generate enough electricity to power the entire human race, says new research from the National Academy of Sciences
In a paper titled Geophysical potential for wind energy over the open oceansauthored by two scientists at the Department of Global Ecology at Carnegie Institution for Science in Standford, California, the researchers provide strong evidence that there is quite a bit of potential for greater downward transport of kinetic energy in the overlying atmosphere. As a result, they write, “wind power generation over some ocean areas can exceed power generation on land by a factor of three or more.”
Three or more is more than just significant when it comes to searching for renewable energy to replace fossil fuels and nuclear power, both which have had disastrous effects on the environment over the past 100 years, the former contributing to global warming at an alarming rate.
While naysayers might point your attention to the fact that the cost of developing, building and deploying floating turbines is most likely going to be very high, the fact remains that MIT scientists have been working on floating turbines for at least the past 4 years, even floating turbine technology that can produce power when there is no wind.
The downside to these findings is that using all that wind energy means it could drastically alter the climate, since wind has a great effect on how plants and animals live. But considering the high cost, the researchers say the study really only provides enough evidence for those already in the wind turbine tech arena to expand, rather than replace current energy generation.
The paper makes a comparison of a theoretical floating wind farm consisting of almost 2 million square kilometers and situated in the same amount of space on land in the U.S. versus that of the Atlantic ocean, finding that covering much of the central U.S. with wind farms wouldn’t quite be enough energy to power up both the U.S. and China, some 7 terawatts annually, or seven trillion watts of power.
However, floating turbines in the North Atlantic could theoretically power those two countries and a whole lot more, considering the amount of potential energy that can be extracted over the ocean in the same amount of area.
There are all sorts of free web server apps, which are useful for hosting your own website from home without having to pay anything. Of course, you are limited to the resources your old smartphone has, but there is a surprising amount of services you can provide even without a lot of storage, such as a PHP server, a SQL database server, an FTP server, and even an ssh server. This can prove to be very powerful if done right!