It’s Official: Water Found on the Moon!

Since man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called “unambiguous evidence” of water across the surface of the moon.

The new findings, detailed in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Science, come in the wake of further evidence of lunar polar water ice by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and just weeks before the planned lunar impact of NASA’s LCROSS satellite, which will hit one of the permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s south pole in hope of churning up evidence of water ice deposits in the debris field.

The moon remains drier than any desert on Earth, but the water is said to exist on the moon in very small quantities. One ton of the top layer of the lunar surface would hold about 32 ounces of water, researchers said. “If the water molecules are as mobile as we think they are — even a fraction of them — they provide a mechanism for getting water to those permanently shadowed craters,” said planetary geologist Carle Pieters of Brown University in Rhode Island, who led one of the three studies in Science on the lunar find, in a statement. “This opens a whole new avenue [of lunar research], but we have to understand the physics of it to utilize it.

“Finding water on the moon would be a boon to possible future lunar bases, acting as a potential source of drinking water and fuel.

via SPACE.com — It’s Official: Water Found on the Moon.

The Recent Future / September 23, 2009 / Nature, SciFi / 0 Comments

Immortality only 20 years away says scientist Ray Kurzweil

Scientist Ray Kurzweil claims humans could become immortal in as little as 20 years’ time through nanotechnology and an increased understanding of how the body works.

The 61-year-old American, who has predicted new technologies arriving before, says our understanding of genes and computer technology is accelerating at an incredible rate.He says theoretically, at the rate our understanding is increasing, nanotechnologies capable of replacing many of our vital organs could be available in 20 years time.Mr Kurzweil adds that although his claims may seem far-fetched, artificial pancreases and neural implants are already available.Mr Kurzweil calls his theory the Law of Accelerating Returns. Writing in The Sun, Mr Kurzweil said: “I and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nanotechnology will let us live for ever.”Ultimately, nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively.”Within 25 years we will be able to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or go scuba-diving for four hours without oxygen.”Heart-attack victims – who haven’t taken advantage of widely available bionic hearts – will calmly drive to the doctors for a minor operation as their blood bots keep them alive.”Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books within minutes.”If we want to go into virtual-reality mode, nanobots will shut down brain signals and take us wherever we want to go. Virtual sex will become commonplace. And in our daily lives, hologram like figures will pop in our brain to explain what is happening.”So we can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs.”

via Immortality only 20 years away says scientist – Telegraph.

The Recent Future / September 23, 2009 / Health, SciFi / 0 Comments

Revolutionary discovery means world may not run out of crude

A team of scientists based at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have made a “revolutionary” discovery about how hydrocarbon is formed, learning that animal and plant fossils are not necessary to form crude oil.

The discovery, the scientists say, means that the world will never run out of crude oil. Currently, theory states that crude oil is formed very slowly – over millions of years – from the remains of dead plants and animals. Buried under rock, over time the pressure and temperature of natural earth processes results in the creation of crude oil. But that theory is now old news, as the scientists, led by Vladimir Kutcherov, say they have proven that fossilized plants and animals are not needed to create hydrocarbons.

“Using our research we can even say where oil could be found in Sweden,”

Kutcherov told Science Daily.

via Revolutionary discovery means world may not run out of crude.

The Recent Future / September 16, 2009 / Nature, Tech / 0 Comments

Antibodies found that prevent HIV from causing severe AIDS

After nearly two decades of futile searching for a vaccine against the AIDS virus, researchers are reporting the tantalizing discovery of antibodies that can prevent the virus from multiplying in the body and producing severe disease.

They do not have a vaccine yet, but they may well have a road map toward the production of one.

A team based at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla reports today in the journal Science that they have isolated two so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies that can block the action of many strains of HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS.

Crucial to the discovery is the fact that the antibodies target a portion of HIV that researchers had not considered in their search for a vaccine. Moreover, the target is a relatively stable portion of the virus that does not participate in the extensive mutations that have made HIV able to escape from antiviral drugs and previous experimental vaccines.

“This is opening up a whole new area of science,” said Dr. Seth F. Berkley, president and chief executive of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which funded and coordinated the research.

via Antibodies found that prevent HIV from causing severe AIDS — latimes.com.

The Recent Future / September 8, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

Lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats discovered in Papua New Guinea

A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.

The discoveries are being seen as fresh evidence of the richness of the world’s rainforests and the explorers hope their finds will add weight to calls for international action to prevent the demise of similar ecosystems. They said Papua New Guinea’s rainforest is currently being destroyed at the rate of 3.5% a year.

“It was mind-blowing to be there and it is clearly time we pulled our finger out and decided these habitats are worth us saving,” said Dr George McGavin who headed the expedition.

The team of biologists included experts from Oxford University, the London Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution and are believed to be the first scientists to enter the mountainous Bosavi crater. They were joined by members of the BBC Natural History Unit which filmed the expedition for a three-part documentary which starts tomorrow night.

They found the three-kilometre wide crater populated by spectacular birds of paradise and in the absence of big cats and monkeys, which are found in the remote jungles of the Amazon and Sumatra, the main predators are giant monitor lizards while kangaroos have evolved to live in trees. New species include a camouflaged gecko, a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo grunter, named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder.

“These discoveries are really significant,” said Steve Backshall, a climber and naturalist who became so friendly with the never-before seen Bosavi silky cuscus, a marsupial that lives up trees and feeds on fruits and leaves, that it sat on his shoulder.

“The world is getting an awful lot smaller and it is getting very hard to find places that are so far off the beaten track.”

via Lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats discovered in Papua New Guinea | Environment | The Guardian.

The Recent Future / September 8, 2009 / Nature / 0 Comments

Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.

Merck was in trouble. In 2002, the pharmaceutical giant was falling behind its rivals in sales. Even worse, patents on five blockbuster drugs were about to expire, which would allow cheaper generics to flood the market. The company hadn’t introduced a truly new product in three years, and its stock price was plummeting.

n interviews with the press, Edward Scolnick, Merck’s research director, laid out his battle plan to restore the firm to preeminence. Key to his strategy was expanding the company’s reach into the antidepressant market, where Merck had lagged while competitors like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline created some of the best-selling drugs in the world. “To remain dominant in the future,” he told Forbes, “we need to dominate the central nervous system.”

His plan hinged on the success of an experimental antidepressant codenamed MK-869. Still in clinical trials, it looked like every pharma executive’s dream: a new kind of medication that exploited brain chemistry in innovative ways to promote feelings of well-being. The drug tested brilliantly early on, with minimal side effects, and Merck touted its game-changing potential at a meeting of 300 securities analysts.

Behind the scenes, however, MK-869 was starting to unravel. True, many test subjects treated with the medication felt their hopelessness and anxiety lift. But so did nearly the same number who took a placebo, a look-alike pill made of milk sugar or another inert substance given to groups of volunteers in clinical trials to gauge how much more effective the real drug is by comparison. The fact that taking a faux drug can powerfully improve some people’s health—the so-called placebo effect—has long been considered an embarrassment to the serious practice of pharmacology.

Ultimately, Merck’s foray into the antidepressant market failed. In subsequent tests, MK-869 turned out to be no more effective than a placebo. In the jargon of the industry, the trials crossed the futility boundary.

via Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why..

The Recent Future / September 7, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

Lasers Generate Underwater Sound

Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory are developing a new technology for use in underwater acoustics. The new technology uses flashes of laser light to remotely create underwater sound. The new acoustic source has the potential to expand and improve both Naval and commercial underwater acoustic applications, including undersea communications, navigation, and acoustic imaging. Dr. Ted Jones, a physicist in the Plasma Physics Division, is leading a team of researchers from the Plasma Physics, Acoustics, and Marine Geosciences Divisions in developing this acoustic source.

Efficient conversion of light into sound can be achieved by concentrating the light sufficiently to ionize a small amount of water, which then absorbs laser energy and superheats. The result is a small explosion of steam, which can generate a 220 decibel pulse of sound. Optical properties of water can be manipulated with very intense laser light to act like a focusing lens, allowing nonlinear self-focusing (NSF) to take place. In addition, the slightly different colors of the laser, which travel at different speeds in water due to group velocity dispersion (GVD), can be arranged so that the pulse also compresses in time as it travels through water, further concentrating the light. By using a combination of GVD and NSF, controlled underwater compression of optical pulses can be attained.

via NRL Press Release.

The Recent Future / September 7, 2009 / Tech / 0 Comments

Newest Breathalyser Knows if You Have Lung Cancer

Not only have you had too many drinks, you’ve also got a tumor. Researchers at the Israeli Institute of Technology have developed a device that can analyze your breath for particles that indicate you have lung cancer. The breathalyser, which works using gold nanoparticles to detect volatile organic compounds VOCs is potentially the cheapest and easiest way to screen for the deadly disease.

Researchers believe that they will be able to start clinical trials in just 2 to 3 years, meaning we may soon see breathalysers moving from the squad car to the doctor’s office.

Lung cancer kills more than 150,000 people in the US alone each year, and is one of the most difficult forms of cancer to detect early and efficiently. Current methods include complicated biopsies which have associated risks given the sensitive nature of the organ. While the Israeli device is not the first breathalyser hoping to detect lung cancer, it does have the potential to be the cheapest. Most others require complicated optical scans or mass spectrometry. The new device is also better at working in the humid and fluctuating atmosphere of your breath. Which, let’s admit, isn’t always as fresh as you hope.

While scientists have discovered 42 different VOCs that may indicate you have lung cancer, the IIT device concentrates on discovering just 4 of them. Hossam Haick, who lead the team, says that the breakthrough comes after building gold nanoparticles that stick very well to these VOCs. The nature of that stickiness is under wraps and is in the process of being patented.

With those sticky nanoparticles, Haick built a chemiresistor – a small device that changes resistance with chemical changes – that can detect VOCs at a level of just a few parts per billion. That’s a definite necessity as healthy levels 1-20 ppb and cancerous levels 10-100 ppb aren’t that far apart. Haick’s device may be sensitive enough, in fact, to determine what stage of lung cancer a patient has.

via Newest Breathalyser Knows if You Have Lung Cancer | Singularity Hub.

The Recent Future / September 3, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

Japan Plans $21 Billion Solar Space Post to Power 294,000 Homes

The concept of space-based solar power was introduced way back in 1968, but it’s only recently that the world has latched on to the idea. Japan is definitely getting in on the action with its latest spacey plan – a $21 billion solar-powered generator in the heavens to produce one gigawatt of energy, or enough to power 294,000 homes. The Japanese government announced the plan back in June, but there has been an important new development – Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and industrial design company IHI Corp. are now teaming up in the race to develop new technology within four years that can beam electricity back to Earth without the use of cables.

Solar Power Beaming Satellite Mitsubishi and IHI are joining a research group containing 14 other countries to tackle the daunting task of getting Japan’s four square kilometer solar space station up and running in the next three decades. By 2015, the Japanese government hopes to test a small satellite decked out with solar panels that beams power through space and back to Earth.

via Inhabitat » Japan Plans $21 Billion Solar Space Post to Power 294,000 Homes.

The Recent Future / September 2, 2009 / Tech / 0 Comments