Thursday, May 17, 2007

Who wants to listen to a protein?

Sorry, but this seems just plain stupid:

Quick lesson for those of you who don't remember your high school biology: proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids. The whole purpose of the DNA in your body is to give a code for putting these amino acids in the right order. A string of amino acids is called a protein. Proteins do all sorts of things for us, including helping chemical reactions proceed, provide structure, cell signaling, immune responses, etc. Basically, they're very important to us, and we couldn't live without these little boogers (which is why the folding at home project has such a big following)

Some apparently bored scientists with nothing better to do, decided to assign each amino acid a musical note or sequence.

"We converted the sequence of proteins into music and can get an auditory signal for every protein," said Jeffrey H. Miller, distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and a member of UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute. "Every protein will have its unique auditory signature because every protein has a unique sequence. You can hear the sequence of the protein."

"We assigned a chord to each amino acid," said Rie Takahashi, a UCLA research assistant and an award-winning, classically trained piano player. "We want to see if we can hear patterns within the music, as opposed to looking at the letters of an amino acid or protein sequence. We can listen to a protein, as opposed to just looking at it."

If, for some reason you would like to hear what a protein sounds like, go here.

Please tell me our tax dollars did not go towards this.

Good News Baldies

Science Daily — Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that hair follicles in adult mice regenerate by re-awakening genes once active only in developing embryos. These findings provide unequivocal evidence for the first time that, like other animals such as newts and salamanders, mammals have the power to regenerate. A better understanding of this process could lead to novel treatments for hair loss, other skin and hair disorders, and wounds.

"We showed that wound healing triggered an embryonic state in the skin which made it receptive to receiving instructions from wnt proteins," says senior author George Cotsarelis, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology. "The wnts are a network of proteins implicated in hair-follicle development."

Pretty cool stuff.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ozone hole is peaking

A Japanese study has found that the size of the ozone hole is nearing its largest stize and may actually disappear by 2050. Wow, that's good news.

This is an example of how the world can come together to solve a problem. In the late 80's the world basically agreed to stop using ozone depleting compounds such as the infamous CFC's (Cloroflourocarbons).

And now for some good science content on CFC's for you.

CFC's are a class of synthetic chemicals that are odorless, non toxic, non flammable, and most importantly inert (meaning they don't react easily with anything else). This made it a popular choice for things such as a propellant in aerosal cans, refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerators, and use in the manufacture of foam packaging.

Want to know how they destroy the ozone layer? Well, here ya go.

CFC's, when released into the atmosphere, slowly travel into the stratosphere. The stratosphere is the second lowest layer of the atmosphere, as you can see in this figure.

There, when hit by UV light from the Sun, the CFC's react with ozone (O3) to release free chlorine atoms and molecular oxygen (O2). Obviously this reaction destroys ozone, thus destroying the ozone layer. Just as bad, the chlorine that remains in the air can destroy even more ozone. Even worse, CFC's can stay in the air for roughly 100 years!

So, you now know why you see the label "contains no CFC's" on most aerosal cans.

Tags: Ozone, CFC's

Friday, May 19, 2006

Some cool pictures from space

Courtesy of NASA, here's a link to a website with thousands of pictures from space. Some cool ones I've seen are shown below. Enjoy.

Contrails over Geneva.

Palm Island near Dubai. It's a gigantic man-made island.

The North Pole

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Off Shore Hydrogen Generating Station

The WINDHUNTER SYSTEM concept is an offshore, floating system that uses several wind turbines for power output to produce hydrogen by electrolyzing water. This continously manned, safe and stable system will be easily maintained on-board while relocating to the best wind conditions for the wind turbines. The produced hydrogen gas may be compressed and stored as gas or liquified and placed in insulated tanks. The compressed gas or tanks of liquified gas may be transferred by helicopter or surface ships with insulated containers.

This is the sort of thing we need to be persuing in our search for better energy sources--NEARLY FREE ENERGY.

Don't Smoke!

"Scientists have detected cancer-causing chemicals associated with tobacco smoke in the urine of infants whose parents smoke.

Urine from nearly half of the infants contained detectable levels of NNAL, a chemical byproduct produced in the human body when it processes NNK, a cancer-causing chemical, or carcinogen, found only in tobacco."

How can people justify smoking around their children? Especially infants who don't have the choice to get up and walk away.

House passes bill to offer $10 million prize for Hydrogen Fuel Technology

WASHINGTON — Scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs will be able to vie for a grand prize of $10 million, and smaller prizes reaching millions of dollars, under House-passed legislation to encourage research into hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

Legislation creating the "H-Prize," modeled after the privately funded Ansari X Prize that resulted last year in the first privately developed manned rocket to reach space twice, passed the House Wednesday on a 416-6 vote. A companion bill is to be introduced in the Senate this week.

"This is an opportunity for a triple play," said bill sponsor Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., citing benefits to national security from reduced dependence on foreign oil, cleaner air from burning pollution-free hydrogen and new jobs. "If we can reinvent the car, imagine the jobs we can create."

"Perhaps the greatest role that the H-Prize may serve is in spurring the imagination of our most valuable resource, our youth," said co-sponsor Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.

The measure would award four prizes of up to $1 million every other year for technological advances in hydrogen production, storage, distribution and utilization. One prize of up to $4 million would be awarded every second year for the creation of a working hydrogen vehicle prototype.

And worth every dime. What a fabulous step. Just look at what the X Prize did.

Now we can only hope that the idiots in Washington have the brains to figure out that making hydrogen requires energy. They need to put just as much incentive into making better, more efficient alternative energy resources to fuel our rising energy concerns.

Tags: Alternative energy, H Prize, Inglis, Lipinski, Hydrogen

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Artificial Rain a Cure for Droughts?

In response to Tony's question about the Chinese creating rain:

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese weather specialists used chemicals to engineer Beijing's heaviest rainfall of the year, helping to relieve drought and rinse dust from China's capital, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

Technicians with the Beijing Weather Modification Office fired seven rocket shells containing 163 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide over the city's skies on Thursday, Xinhua said.

The reaction that occurred brought as much as four-tenths of an inch of rain, the heaviest rainfall this year, helping to "alleviate drought, add soil moisture and remove dust from the air for better air quality," Xinhua said.

Pretty cool, eh? Here's how it works.

The Chinese weather specialists shot the rocket shells high into the air. They then exploded, releasing tiny fragments of silver iodide. You might know something about silver iodide if you've ever developed your own photographs in a dark room.

To understand this you need to know how clouds form. Condensation into raindrops requires some sort of surface. Water molecules in the form of gas (water vapor) cannot just spontaneously come together to form a drop (unless the molecules are cooled below freezing). They need something to start the process. This usually comes in the form of a tiny particulate in the air, called a condensation nuclei. These are microscopic in size and are usually just dust, dirt, or pollution found in the air.

This is where the silver iodide comes in. The tiny particles provide condensation nuclei for water droplets to form around. Thus, the main purpose is to get the water vapor out of the air, and condensed into droplets. As these droplets get heavier, they fall as rain. This is the idea anyways.

It is not known if so called "seeding" a cloud actually does increase rain because no one knows how much rain that seeded cloud would have produced.

In the US, we have been using cloud seeding to increase precipitation in areas experiencing drought, reduce the size of hailstones that form in thunderstorms, and reduce the amount of fog in and around airports. Cloud seeding is even used sometimes over ski resorts to induce snow fall.

Another interesting application, based on this same idea, is to diminish the strength of hurricanes by dropping particulates into the air. However, these particulates work the opposite way. They soak up the water molecules, thus lowering the intensity of the storm. Tests have proven successful, but only lowering the severity of the storm by about 10 mph. I forget what the stuff if called, or what it's composed of, but if I find it, I will edit this post.

As for the side effects, or environmental concern, I really don't know. The only thing I can think of would be if the particulate shot into the air in some way was bad for the environment. Probably the biggest concern would be if it found its way into the water supply. As for the hurricane dampening stuff, I've heard that it's environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It falls into the ocean and dissociates, causing no problems.

Friday, May 05, 2006

New Life found in Bermuda Triangle

Deep sea life continues to produce some of the most amazing and interesting creatures on this Earth (ever seen Finding Nemo?).

During a 20-day cruise last month, researchers used trawling nets and scuba divers to explore down to 3 miles beneath the ocean surface. Previous studies of small ocean creatures focused only on the top half-mile or so.

Several of the animals — tiny zooplankton, shrimp-like things, little squid, bizarre worms and pulsing jellyfish — are featured in a new image gallery.

The fact that these incredibly fragile creatures can live 3 miles and more beneath the ocean surface simply amazes me. Do you have any idea what the pressure is that deep? The pressure increases about one atmosphere for every 10 meters of water depth. One atmosphere is considered standard sea level pressure. That means that at a depth of 5,000 meters the pressure will be approximately 500 atmospheres. We couldn't even come close to surviving that kind of pressure.

Click here to see the photo gallery.