The Gigantic Peanut In The Sky
This is an artist’s representation of the largest yellow star ever found. It is more than 1,300 times larger than the Sun and it is rapidly getting even larger. According to the study leader, Olivier Chesneau:
The two stars are so close that they touch and the whole system resembles a gigantic peanut.
The double star’s boring official name is HR 5171, but I propose we call it The Great Sky Peanut. Even though it is 12,000 light-years from earth, a keen sighted person could see it on a dark night, twinkling in the constellation Centaurus.
Image credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2
Big Rocky Planet aka super-Earth
The maximum limit for a super-Earth-size planet —an extrasolar, rocky planet— is estimated to be around 5-10 Earth masses* and 2 Earth radii, beyond which the gravity becomes significant enough to hold hydrogen in the planet’s atmosphere, leading to the formation of a gas giant.
It is difficult to establish the largest super-Earth, probably, among those known, the primacy belongs to HD 69830 b, since it is about 10 times more massive than Earth. Some other curiosity: the first super-Earth was discovered in 1992, while the first super-Earth around a main sequence star (the red dwarf Gliese 876) was discovered almost fifteen years later. It was Gliese 876 d, who has a mass approximately 7.5 times that of our planet. Thereafter —mostly thanks to the mind-blowing Kepler mission team— they began… comin’ outta the goddamn walls!
For those of you wondering about the size limit for a gas giant, it is about 15 Jupiter masses**, beyond which the pressure is enough to start the deuterium burning, a nuclear fusion reactions typical of brown dwarfs.
*Earth mass (M⊕) = 5.97219 × 10^24 kg.
**Jupiter mass (MJ or MJUP) = 1.8986×10^27 kg.
1 M⊕ = 0.00315 Jupiter masses.
There’s a famous old anecdote about Charlemagne that’s been used for ages to explain how interconnected we are among our biological pasts. It has been said that everyone of European ancestry is related to Charlemagne, the great King of the Franks, born in 742 AD. If you’re European, you’re royalty. How is that possible?
I’ll tell you another tidbit first: Not only do all Europeans share Charlemagne as an ancestor, they share everyone alive at the same time as Charlemagne as an ancestor. Everyone who had kids, anyway. Let me explain:
Everyone alive has two biological parents. They each have two parents themselves, for a total of four grandparents. For x number of generations that you travel back in time, you have 2^x direct grandparents of increasing separation. Extrapolate that back to Charlie’s time, and you’d need 1 trillion grandparents to cover all your ancestral bases. Michael from Vsauce did a video about it. Since that’s far more people than have ever been alive, we need to engage some incest to solve the problem. Not banjo-applesauce incest, just a bit of redrawing our family trees into family webs.
Somewhere, far enough back in the web of grandparents, we will find a person whose lines connect to every single person who comes after them. That zig-zagged trail of shared genetic history ends surprisingly recently (for Euros, again): A common European ancestor around 1400 AD. Go a bit farther, and we find a common Earthling ancestor around 3,000 BC. It’s neat stuff. But it’s all based in mathematical models, not real genetic data.
Until now. USC and UC Davis researchers Peter Ralph and Graham Coop have surveyed the genomes of 2,257 Europeans in order to put some real data behind those models. Because of the random shuffling of chromosome fragments that created your father’s sperm and your mother’s egg, you, your siblings and your cousins all share varying chunks of DNA. People who are more closely related share more of these chunks. Depending on how many chunks are shared between two people, we can calculate their approximate relation to each other. Using 2 million shared sequences and a lot of math, they proved the mathematical models correct. Turkish people are more related to other Turks than to someone from Portugal, but they are related enough that, not only do they share one common ancestor a few hundred years ago, but they share every ancestor if you go back a mere thousand years. The models guessed that a long time ago, but now we have the data to prove it.It’s likely that these patterns extend to other regions of Earth, although the numbers might be slightly (but not that) different.
Next time someone in your neck of the ethnic woods points out a famous relative or claims blue-blood descent, remind them that they aren’t so special. All street-sweepers are royalty, all nobles are peasants, and we are all Kings and Queens.
In the year 2020, seven of the largest mirrors on Earth — 20 tons each — will come together in a 22-story, rotating building located in the southern Atacama Desert of Chile. They will form the Giant Magellan Telescope, a feat of science, technology, engineering and math that will have ten times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.
In this video from July 2013, Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chairman GMT, and Dr. Pat McCarthy, Director GMT, explain the astounding challenge of creating this precise, powerful, and wondrous machine. Read more at Phys.org.
In the archives: more telescope-related vids.
New study changes view about the genetics of leukemia risk
A gene that helps keep blood free of cancer is controlled by tiny pieces of RNA, a finding that may lead to better ways to diagnose blood cancers and even lead to new forms of treatment, Yale School of Medicine researchers report online Oct. 10 in the journal Cell Reports.
In the past few years researchers have identified the crucial role of the gene TET2 in keeping blood cells healthy. Mutations of the gene have been found in about 20% of leukemias and indicate a poor prognosis for patients. However, the gene was thought to be irrelevant in 80% of leukemia cases.
Today in cats rule and dogs drool news:In a discovery that could make even a dog person consider crossing the aisle, scientists have found that cats may hold the key to an effective AIDS vaccine.
A professor at UF College of Veterinary Medicine said, “We have found that certain peptides of the feline AIDS virus can work exceptionally well at producing human T-cells that fight against HIV.”
The viruses that infect cats are different than the ones that infect humans, but they share similarities. Humans cannot contract FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), but due to it having similar properties to HIV, parts of FIV stimulate the human immune system effectively against HIV infections.
New strategy to treat multiple sclerosis shows promise in mice
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified a set of compounds that may be used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) in a new way. Unlike existing MS therapies that suppress the immune system, the compounds boost a population of progenitor cells that can in turn repair MS-damaged nerve fibers.
One of the newly identified compounds, a Parkinson’s disease drug called benztropine, was highly effective in treating a standard model of MS in mice, both alone and in combination with existing MS therapies.
Drug Permanently Eradicates HIV from Infected Cells
The topical anti-fungal drug Ciclopirox causes HIV-infected cells to commit suicide by jamming up the cells’ powerhouse, the mitochondria — according to a study by researchers at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. And unlike current anti-HIV drugs, Ciclopirox completely eradicates infectious HIV from cell cultures, with no rebound of virus when the drug is stopped. The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The treatment of patients with HIV has been revolutionized by the advent of combination anti-retroviral drugs. But although these drugs are highly effective at keeping HIV at bay, they must be taken for the life of the patient and never eliminate the infection completely. This is illustrated by the often rapid resurgence of virus in patients who stop taking these medications. The persistence of HIV is partially due to the ability of the virus to disable the cell’s altruistic suicide pathway, which is normally activated when a cell becomes infected or damaged.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/09/drug-permanently-eradicates-hiv-infected-cells
In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent’. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
NASA is currently working on the first practical field test toward the possibility of faster than light travel.
Traveling faster than light has always been attributed to science fiction, but that all changed when Harold White and his team at NASA started to work on and tweak the Alcubierre Drive. Special relativity may hold true, but to travel faster or at the speed of light we might not need a craft that can travel at that speed. The solution might be to place a craft within a space that is moving faster than the speed of light! Therefore the craft itself does not have to travel at the speed of light from it’s own type of propulsion system.
3-D Printed Splint Saves Baby’s Life
It’s hard to imagine something so simple could save a child’s life. But that’s exactly what this small device built on 3-D printer did. University of Michigan doctors designed and implanted the tracheal splint inside Kaiba Gionfriddo, now 20 months old.
The tiny collar was made to treat Kaiba’s tracheobronchomalacia, a condition where the airways collapse when breathing or coughing. It was created directly from a CT scan of the collapsed area using a laser-based 3-D printer. The printer created the splint using polycaprolactone, a biodegradable polyester that is slowly absorbed by the body over a few years. It was sewn around the airway to keep it open and give support so more tissue could grow.
The doctors described their groundbreaking treatment in New England Journal of Medicine letter published on May 23.
Just a reminder: we live in the future. An amazing future.