Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight

Dna47_3_2 DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn't be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.

Even so, the research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The “telepathic” effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.

“Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,” said the authors Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues.

This recognition effect may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes, which is a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings may also shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which are factors in cancer, aging, and other health issues.

Pink Iguana That Darwin Missed Holds Evolutionary Surprise

For iguanas, it turns out that it's not easy being pink, either.


Biologists report that a rare type of pink iguana found on a single volcano in the Galapagos Islands is a genetically-distinct species from its green cousins — and that it's probably critically endangered.

"This form, which we recognize as a good species, is very important because it carries substantial evolutionary legacy," the authors of a new paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences wrote. "Thus far the rosada form is the only evidence of deep diversification along the Galapagos land iguana lineage."

Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos islands in 1835 but didn't make it to the northernmost volcano, Volcan Wolf, which is the lone habitat for these pink lizards. Later travelers and scholars also seem to have missed or failed to report the curiously striped creature until 1986 when some Galapagos National Park rangers spotted the animals. Still, no scientists had looked into whether they represented a distinct species until now.

What they found was surprising. Instead of being some slight variation on the Galapagos iguana theme, the pink lizards represent a distinct and early branch of the genetic tree. The genomic analysis of the species suggests that they broke from other iguanas about five million years ago, much deeper in history than most other Galapagos species, like Darwin's finches. In addition to the genetic differences, the pink iguanas also perform the characteristic mating ritual "head-bob" differently.

The iguana and other animals on Volcan Wolf are threatened by an "invasion of feral goats" that are devastating the area's natural flora.

In the interest of preserving this genetic diversity, the biologists wrote that "a conservation program aimed at evaluating the risk of extinction of this newly recognized species," should be initiated. They estimate that the iguana could already by termed "critically endangered."

Our Galaxy Is Bigger Than Once Thought

Take that, Andromeda! For decades, astronomers thought when it came to the major galaxies in Earth's cosmic neighborhood, our Milky Way was a weak sister to the larger Andromeda. Not anymore.

The Milky Way is considerably larger, bulkier and spinning faster than astronomers once thought, Andromeda's equal.

Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it's 15 percent larger in breadth. More important, it's denser, with 50 percent more mass, which is like weight. The new findings were presented Monday at the American Astronomical Society's convention in Long Beach, Calif.

That difference means a lot, said study author Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. The slight 5-foot-5, 140-pound astrophysicist said it's the cosmic equivalent of him suddenly bulking up to the size of a 6-foot-3, 210-pound NFL linebacker.

"Previously we thought Andromeda was dominant, and that we were the little sister of Andromeda," Reid said. "But now it's more like we're fraternal twins."

That's not necessarily good news. A bigger Milky Way means that it could be crashing violently into the neighboring Andromeda galaxy sooner than predicted — though still billions of years from now.

Reid and his colleagues used a large system of 10 radio telescope antennas to measure the brightest newborn stars in the galaxy at different times in Earth's orbit around the sun. They made a map of those stars, not just in the locations where they were first seen, but an additional dimension of time — something Reid said hasn't been done before.

With that, Reid was able to determine the speed at which the spiral-shaped Milky Way is spinning around its center. That speed — about 568,000 miles per hour — is faster than the 492,000 mph that scientists had been using for decades. That's about a 15 percent jump in spiral speed. The old number was based on less accurate measurements and this is based on actual observations, Reid said.

Once the speed of the galaxy's spin was determined, complex formulas that end up cubing the speed determined the mass of all the dark matter in the Milky Way. And the dark matter — the stuff we can't see — is by far the heaviest stuff in the universe. So that means the Milky Way is about one-and-a-half times the mass had astronomers previously calculated.

The paper makes sense, but isn't the final word on the size of the Milky Way, said Mark Morris, an astrophysicist at the University of California Los Angeles, who wasn't part of the study.

Being bigger means the gravity between the Milky Way and Andromeda is stronger.

So the long-forecast collision between the neighboring galaxies is likely to happen sooner and less likely to be a glancing blow, Reid said.

But don't worry. That's at least 2 to 3 billion years away, he said.

Today is the most stressful day of the year

A combination of the cold weather, economic gloom and end to Christmas festivities will leave workers battling the January blues.

It will leave people more likely to become irritated by the slightest things.

According to researchers the most common complaints are the sounds of colleagues eating noisily, which annoys nearly a quarter of people.

This is followed by sniffing, an irritant to 26 per cent and talking too loudly on the phone, which was cited by 21 per cent.

But rather than bottling up frustrations, experts are urging workers to rant and rave to relieve the tension.

Judi James, a psychologist and expert in communications and body language, said: "Releasing tension through shouting and screaming is a really beneficial way to expel the negative energies caused by stress.

"January can be one of the most stressful times of the year between sale shopping and recovering from the excesses of the party season, which can stimulate negative behaviours such as rising tension, stress levels and blood pressure.

"When this threatens to overwhelm you try a short sustained burst of shouting, or alternatively, go somewhere quiet, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to help calm you down."

The study of 2,000 adults was commissioned by the RNLI. The research from the RNLI Sound Or Silence Poll was released in the run up to SOS Day 2009 which takes place on 30th January 2009 to raise funds for the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea.

George W Bush moves to protect ocean reefs, fish and volanoes

Coral is seen off Jarvis Island: George W Bush moves to protect ocean reefs, fish and volanoes

In an attempt to protect pristine coral reefs, rare fish and underwater volcanoes, Mr Bush will mark out an area spanning 195,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean as a trio of "marine national monuments," a spokesman said.

The areas include the Mariana Trench and northern Mariana Islands, the Rose Atoll in American Samoa and a chain of remote islands in the Central Pacific.

Fishing will be barred or limited in many island areas while the 21 volcanoes and hydrothermal vents along the ocean floor beneath the Mariana Islands will also be protected.

"This is very, very big," James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Issues, said.

"In the last several years, it's on par with what we've been able to accomplish on land over the course of the last 100 years," he said, noting that the total area would "comprise the largest areas of ocean or ocean seabed set aside as marine protected areas in the world."

Collectively, the three areas will nudge out the Phoenix Island Protected Area, established in 2008 by the South Pacific nation of Kiribati as the world's largest protected area.

They also top Mr Bush's last such announcement of a marine protection area in 2006 - the 140,000 square miles (363,000 square kilometers) of Pacific Ocean near the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

"Because these areas are pristine it gives us the best opportunity to understand effects in the ocean system," said Mr Connaughton.

In some island areas, commercial fishing will be prohibited within 50 nautical miles while indigenous, recreational or research fishing will be permitted on a case-by-case basis, he said.

The move was praised by environmentalists, though details remained unclear on the degree of protection the areas will be afforded.

For scientists, the designations are "wonderful opportunities," said Roger McManus, vice president for global marine programs at the environmental group Conservation International.

"You don't get a better natural laboratory than we have in these places," he said.

A Cleaner Way to Keep the City Running

FOR centuries, grist-grinders and sailors have exploited the wind. Now, New York developers, homeowners and city leaders might be coming around.

A handful of buildings are already drawing electricity from wind turbines, which typically resemble table fans, or mounted airplane propellers.

Unlike some of the skyscraping versions that dot rural hillsides, small turbines supply power directly to homes without first sending it through a utility company’s lines.

One major sticking point in the city is that densely packed buildings tend to scatter breezes, making it tough to capture steady gusts. Although this and other kinks need to be addressed before the widespread rollout of small turbines is possible, there are signs of gains.

“We’re always excited to try new things in the area of green building,” says Les Bluestone, a partner in the Blue Sea Development Company, which is building a five-story brick apartment building in the Melrose section of the South Bronx that will be partly powered by wind.

Its 10 one-kilowatt turbines, from AeroVironment of Monrovia, Calif., will generate electricity for lights in the building’s hallways, elevators and other common areas.

But because wind speeds in the Bronx, as in other parts of New York, aren’t consistent, the turbines must be supplemented with a separate basement power plant, Mr. Bluestone said.

Residents of the 63 one- to three-bedroom rental units, meanwhile, will plug in the conventional way, through Con Edison.

The turbines, which collectively cost $100,000, could halve the annual utility bill for the common spaces, to $9,000 from $18,000, Mr. Bluestone said.

And that saving was critical to the budget for the project, which is designated as affordable housing. Indeed, units will be priced below the market, with monthly rents of $750 to $1,089, when leasing starts this month, he said.

Winds in New York City clock in, on average, at six miles an hour. On low-lying Long Island, though, they hover at around 11 miles per hour, meaning a turbine can pick up more of a building’s tab, says Michael Urban, a resident of Brookhaven.

In September, Mr. Urban installed a 1.8-kilowatt turbine from Southwest Windpower of Flagstaff, Ariz., in the yard of his four-bedroom home. It provides a third of his home’s energy, he said.

Though many towns might prohibit a 60-foot tower like the one his turbine sits on, Brookhaven has allowed it. Mr. Urban also received a green light from the 26 other residents of his subdivision, allowing him to overcome some common obstacles to turbines.

“It cost me about $15,000, and I can save about $1,200 a year,” he said. “That adds value to my real estate.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg stoked excitement among wind-power advocates in August when he announced that he supported putting turbines atop city skyscrapers.

Of the 60 proposals that were later submitted to the city under a request for renewable-energy projects, the majority were wind related, including technologies for apartment-mounted machines, said Jen Becker, a vice president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “It’s definitely something we are looking at seriously,” she said.

The state is also offering encouragement through its Energy Research and Development Authority, which will cover half the homeowner’s initial cost of turbines, though so far there have been no takers south of Dutchess County.

Nationally, too, the wind industry received a boost in October when a provision in the Troubled Assets Relief Program bailout bill created a one-time 30 percent tax credit for the installation costs for homeowners. No credit had existed since 1985.

But the new credit is capped at $4,000, which does little to defray the cost of equipment that can total $70,000, says Mike Bergey, president of Bergey WindPower, a manufacturer in Norman, Okla.

Mr. Bergey also worries that roof-mounted turbines, which can be heavy and produce steady vibrations, might perform poorly on rickety buildings.

“It’s not like it’s impossible,” he said, “but we’re just not really bullish on the New York market.”