Friday, July 9, 2010

Scientists find two proteins that can neutralize 90% of HIV strains.

From AOL News:
American scientists are touting a major stride toward a vaccine that can ward off HIV, after finding two key proteins that neutralize 91 percent of the virus' 190 strains.

The team of researchers with the National Institutes of Health's Vaccine Research Center hopes the antibody discovery can spur successful work toward a method of preventing HIV, which already afflicts an estimated 33 million people worldwide.

The discovery, published in this week's Science, is courtesy of Donor 45, an unidentified African-American man whose body produced the antibodies, called VRC01 and VRC02.

Scientists have already identified the 12 cells in his body that produced the proteins. If they can harness the mechanisms by which the antibodies were made, they might be able to create a vaccine that would spur anybody's body to make the HIV destroyers.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Update: Spanish prime minister offers protection to psychic squid.

My god... psychic squid monsters now control the Spanish government! From
The Spanish Prime Minister has jokingly offered state protection for the German octopus that has predicted a slew of correct results of World Cup matches.

The octopus, called Paul by his handlers at the Aquarium Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, predicted the outcome of all six of Germany's matches - including the 1-0 semi-final loss to Spain - by choosing to eat a morsel of food from boxes emblazoned with the flags of the German team and its rivals.

Four times he chose the Germans and they won; twice he plumped for their rivals - and they won too.

Now Spain's politicians are worried some German fans may take their "revenge" on the octopus for their team's exit.

"I am concerned for the octopus ... I am thinking of sending him a protective team," joked Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero on Radio Cadena Ser.

His Environment and Fisheries Minister, Elena Espinosa, also suggested a moratorium on going after Paul.

"On Monday, I shall be at the European Council of Ministers and I shall be asking for a [fishing] ban on Paul the octopus so the Germans do not eat him!"

Some Germany fans have posted messages on internet forums suggesting that Paul's reward for his clairvoyant powers should be a meeting with the barbecue or the paella pot. One German journalist said after the semi-final that he had "a sudden desire to eat a bit of squid".

That struck a chord with Spanish fans and even ahead of the match Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian called for the creature to be given an "immediate" free transfer to Spain to "ensure his protection".

Psychic octopus receiving death threats.

From Huffington Post:
The psychic octopus known for his amazingly accurate World Cup predictions has received death threats, the Telegraph reports. Paul, the oracle octopus whose prescient premonitions perfectly predicted the outcome of all six German World Cup games, first generated anger from Argentinian fans who believe his percipient pick doomed Argentina in the quarterfinals.

Paul's keeper in Oberhausen, Germany said "there are always people who want to eat our octopus but he is not shy and we are here to protect him as well. He will survive."

Paul's powers reached a new level on Wednesday, when his bold pick against his current home country proved correct, bringing his World Cup record to a jaw-dropping six for six.

The beautiful and brilliant octopus accurately predicted all four of Germany's victories, as well as their upset loss to Serbia and semifinals defeat at the hands of Spain.

Enormous squid sex organ detected.

Hopefully it wasn't a Japanese schoolgirl who detected it. From BBC:
The mating habits of deep-sea squid have been revealed for the first time, after the discovery of a male squid with a huge elongated and erect penis.

The male squid's sexual organ is almost as long as its whole body, including the squid's mantle, head and arms.

That shows how male deep-sea squid inseminate females; they use their huge penis to shoot out packages of sperm, injecting them into the female's body.

The discovery may also help explain how giant squid mate in the ocean depths.

Deep-water fisheries expert Dr Alexander Arkhipkin of the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department, based in Stanley, explains how he and his colleagues made the discovery, details of which are published in the Journal of Molluscan Studies.

"The mature male squid was caught during a deep-water research cruise on the Patagonian slope. We took the animal from the catch, and it was moribund with arms and tentacles still moving, and chromatophores on the skin contracting and expanding," he told the BBC.

"When the mantle of the squid was opened for maturity assessment, we witnessed an unusual event.

"The penis of the squid, which had extended only slightly over the mantle margin, suddenly started to erect, and elongated quickly to 67cm total length, almost the same length as the whole animal."

Seagull thinks he's a cat.


A confused seagull is having something of an identity crisis - apparently believing that he is a cat.

Mr Pooh was adopted by June and Steve Grimwood after he fell down their chimney as a baby.

The couple discovered the soot-covered youngster sitting in their fireplace while investigating a strange rustling.

At first they took the chick back outside, placing it on top of the roof of their home in Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex.

However, it soon became apparent that Pooh's mother had abandoned him so they decided to hand rear him themselves.

Mr Grimwood, 52, said the couple's three cats were extremely wary of the new arrival at first.

However, he added, it wasn't long before Mr Pooh was happily eating cat food out of a bowl with them.

Since then the now three-year-old gull has become firm friends with felines Mitzi, Gus and Henry.

Mr Pooh has now flown the coop, setting up home with a female on the Grimwood's roof.

However, he returns to visit his human and feline friends three times a day - at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Magnetic nanoparticles can be used to control human behavior.

From PopSci:
Researchers in Buffalo are bringing us a step closer to being controlled by machines. Or magnetized nanoparticles, at least: Heated magnetic nanoparticles targeted to cell membranes could control your behavior, according to a new paper in Nature Nanotechnology.

The researchers, led by University of Buffalo physics professor Arnd Pralle, used magnetic fields to activate neurons in a cell culture and steer the movement of nematode worms.

The findings could lead to cancer treatments that remotely manipulate cells in certain tissues, or diabetes therapies that remotely stimulate pancreatic cells to release insulin, according to the University of Buffalo.

[...] Because the cells are not harmed, the method can be used in living animals, which opens the door for specialized pharmaceuticals or therapies. It can also illuminate the signaling networks that control animal behavior, Pralle says.

Wal-Mart spending millions to fight a $7,000 fine.

From the NY Times:
Wal-Mart Stores has spent a year and more than a million dollars in legal fees battling a $7,000 fine that federal safety officials assessed after shoppers trampled a Wal-Mart employee to death at a store on Long Island on the day after Thanksgiving in 2008.

The mystery, federal officials say, is why Wal-Mart is fighting so hard against such a modest fine.

It is not as if Wal-Mart has not already taken action to address any missteps and prevent another such accident. Three weeks before the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered the fine, Wal-Mart, seeking to avoid criminal charges, reached a settlement with the Nassau County, N.Y., district attorney that called for the company to adopt new crowd management techniques in all 92 of its stores in New York State. At the time, Wal-Mart also agreed to create a $400,000 fund for customers injured in the stampede and to donate $1.5 million to various community programs in Nassau County.

More recently, the company announced improved crowd-control policies for all its United States stores to try to prevent such an accident from happening again.

But in fighting the federal fine, Wal-Mart is arguing that the government is improperly trying to define “crowd trampling” as an occupational hazard that retailers must take action to prevent.

Wal-Mart’s all-out battle against the relatively minor penalty has mystified and even angered some federal officials. In contesting the penalty, Wal-Mart has filed 20 motions and responses totaling nearly 400 pages and has spent at least $2 million on legal fees, according to OSHA’s calculations.

The dispute has become so heated — and Wal-Mart’s defense so vigorous — that officials at OSHA, an arm of the Labor Department, complain that they have had to devote huge numbers of staff time to the case, including 4,725 hours of work by employees in the legal office.

The company has made so many demands that Labor Department officials said they would not discuss the case except on condition of anonymity because they feared being subpoenaed about their discussions with a reporter.

On Wednesday, the dispute will reach a climax of sorts: Wal-Mart’s lawyers are scheduled to contest the fine before a federal appeals commission.

OSHA levied the $7,000 fine in response to the death of Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old temporary employee, who died from asphyxiation when a stampede of post-Thanksgiving shoppers at a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, N.Y., busted through the doors and trampled him just before the store’s 5 a.m. scheduled opening. The crowd, estimated at 2,000 people, had been lined up for hours near a handwritten sign that said “Blitz Line Starts Here.”

In May 2009, OSHA accused Wal-Mart of failing to provide a place of employment that was “free from recognized hazards.” Specifically, the agency said the company violated its “general duty” to employees by failing to take adequate steps to protect them from a situation that was “likely to cause death or serious physical harm” because of “crowd surge or crowd trampling.”

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, says that regulators are trying to enforce a vague standard of protection when there was no previous OSHA or retail industry guidance on how to prevent what it views as an “unforeseeable incident.”

[...] OSHA officials acknowledge that the agency is seeking to establish for the first time that an unruly crowd is an occupational hazard that can cause death or serious injury — and that employers must therefore develop plans to protect workers against such a hazard.

But federal officials say that in its settlement with Nassau County prosecutors, Wal-Mart had in effect already admitted that it had that responsibility and agreed to three years of monitoring. So OSHA officials question why the retailer is putting up such a fight.

Treasure hunter unearths Britain's largest ever hoard of Roman coins.

Ancient coins are awesome. From Daily Mail:
A treasure hunter armed with a metal detector has found 52,500 Roman coins, one of the largest finds of Roman coins in Britain.

The hoard, which is valued at £3.3million, dates from the third century AD was found buried in a field near Frome in Somerset.

The coins were in a huge jar just over a foot below the surface and were located by Dave Crisp, 63, from Devizes in Wiltshire.

Archaeologists believe the hoard, which sheds light on the economic crisis and coalition government in the 3rd century under Emperor Carausius, will rewrite the history books.

He told how his detector gave a 'funny signal', prompting him to dig down through the soil.

'I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little Radial, a little bronze Roman coin,' Mr Crisp told the BBC.

'Very, very small, about the size of my fingernail.'

He added: 'I have made many finds over the years, but this is my first major coin hoard.'

It is thought the £250,000 find - known as the Frome Haul - represents the biggest single haul ever unearthed in Britain.

The hoard is one of the largest ever found in Britain, and will reveal more about the nation's history in the third century, said Roger Bland, of the British Museum.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Study: Children ruin lives.

From Guest-Coozer La! Item!
It is the one maternal feeling no mother wants to experience, the ultimate in parenting taboos: admitting (whisper it) that life might have been better before you had children. Now new research purports to show that starting a family doesn't make parents any happier than their childless counterparts.

A book out next month will cause controversy by suggesting that parents exaggerate how much better off emotionally they are with children around. Nick Powdthavee's The Happiness Equation paints a bleaker picture of parenthood than most parents would own up to recognising.

His findings will unsettle those parents convinced their children enrich their lives. But Dr Powdthavee's views may actually chime with more mothers and fathers than a quick glance around your local park would suggest, according to the magazine Psychologies.

Far from turning their lives into one long treat, say mothers in an article for the monthly, having children left emotional scars and endless worries that turned their lives upside down. Marsha, 50, described being "locked in a daily battle" with her son, who left home at the earliest opportunity, while another, Laura, 40, said she "missed the creative output" of her former life.

Descriptions of constant struggles with children suggest that parenting has more downsides than permanent fatigue and loss of social life. "No group of parents, whether married, single, step or empty-nesters, reported significantly greater emotional wellbeing than non-parents," found Robin Simon, professor of sociology at North Carolina's Wake Forest University. "Of the three major components of adult life – employment, friendship and parenthood – raising children is the only one that doesn't promote wellbeing."

Although most parents would claim that children enhance their lives, Dr Powdthavee, a behavioural economist at the University of York, believes this is only because "there is a discrepancy between what we think makes us happy and what happiness data shows actually makes us happy". He added: "When you measure how happy parents are on a happiness index, they report either an insignificant difference in happiness or lower levels of happiness compared with non-parents."