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The Lounge>Science is Cool....
Fish 09:43 PM 05-21-2012
This is a repository for all cool scientific discussion and fascination. Scientific facts, theories, and overall cool scientific stuff that you'd like to share with others. Stuff that makes you smile and wonder at the amazing shit going on around us, that most people don't notice.

Post pictures, vidoes, stories, or links. Ask questions. Share science.

This is in support of the Penny 4 NASA project. If you enjoy anything you learned from this thread, consider making a donation and signing the petition.

Why should I care?:

listopencil 12:43 PM 07-01-2019
Fungal Hallucinogens Send Cicadas on Sex Binges After Their Genitals Fall Off

26 JUN 2019

In latest gruesome nature news, scientists have discovered new details on a fungus that compels its cicada hosts to mate long after their genitals have gone and their bodies have turned into what one researcher colourfully describes as 'flying salt shakers of death'. The fungus is called Massospora cicadina, and its effects read like an abstinence campaign for cicadas. But it also appears that it affects the sex-crazed cicadas by sending them on one heck of a drug trip. A team of researchers from the US has analysed the biochemistry in periodical cicada populations infected with pathogenic fungi, finding evidence of a plant-associated amphetamine and a psychoactive chemical found in magic mushrooms. Now, this really shouldn't need to be said. But we feel obligated to say it anyway. This is in no way to suggest cicada fungal pox should be considered for your next high. "These psychoactive compounds were just two of less than 1,000 compounds found in these cicadas," says West Virginia University forest pathologist Matt Kasson. "Yes, they are notable, but there are other compounds that might be harmful to humans. I wouldn't take that risk." The way the pathogenic fungal species produce the molecules could point the way to new pharmaceuticals, though, since the enzymes typically responsible for the compounds are strangely absent in this instance.

Spore-spreading horror shows like M. cicadinahave been in the research books for more than a century, with recent investigations further fleshing out the processes they use to complete their life cycle. Today we understand that a small fraction of cicadas are first infected by spores on their body and in the soil as they emerge as adults. These can then develop into full-blown Stage II infections, where the fungus blooms inside their bodies and turns them into mini crop dusters of doom. To increase chances of infecting another cicada, the fungus has a few tricks up its sleeve. One is to encourage male hosts to flap their wings in a rather feminine manner, attracting other males to stop by for a quick snuggle. With the deed done, the spore-dusted suitor departs to find other mates, spreading the disease as it goes. As if that's not enough, the fungus turns them into rampant sex-bots of destruction. Even as the cicada bodies turn mouldy and start losing parts – including bits of their abdomen and their genitals – they don't slow down.

"Infected adults maintain or accelerate normal host activity during sporulation, enabling rapid and widespread dispersal prior to host death," says Kasson. While a number of fungi have evolved clever ways to hijack their host's behaviours to help them get around, those of the order M. cicadina belongs to haven't received the same level of scrutiny. By pulling apart the diverse array of metabolites inside wild infected insects, the researchers have now added another layer of detail to the fungus's method for hostile takeover. In four cicadas infected with M. cicadina they found signs of a plant-derived alkaloid called cathinone, a compound similar to ephedrine. It's possible that the stimulant could have evolved in the fungus to keep their hosts' appetites down and give them a boost to get them through those long days of plague orgies. What's especially interesting is that this could be the first example of a cathinone to be produced inside something other than a plant. Another fungal pathogen called M. levispora was also associated with raised levels of a tryptamine called psilocybin - the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms.

This one might not come as much of a surprise. There's good reason to suspect the chemical evolved in fungi as a way to suppress insect appetites, changing their behaviour in a dissuasive fashion. Finding these mind-altering substances inside the infected insects is one thing. The mystery is how they got there, especially without hints of the usual intermediate metabolites, or even expected genes. The next step is to dig into the fungal genomes and see how they express themselves inside their hosts. "We anticipate these discoveries will foster a renewed interest in early diverging fungi and their pharmacologically important secondary metabolites, which may serve as the next frontier for novel drug discovery," says Kasson. Please don't make us remind you to leave the experimenting to the professionals.

This research was published in Fungal Ecology.

ptlyon 12:51 PM 07-01-2019
Fish 10:17 PM 07-11-2019
The energy involved is pretty mind-bottling.....

Pair of supermassive black holes discovered on a collision course

The titanic duo can help astronomers predict when the historic first detection of the background 'hum' of gravitational waves from supermassive black holes will be made and whether there truly is a 'final parsec problem'

Astronomers have spotted a distant pair of titanic black holes headed for a collision.

Each black hole's mass is more than 800 million times that of our sun. As the two gradually draw closer together in a death spiral, they will begin sending gravitational waves rippling through space-time. Those cosmic ripples will join the as-yet-undetected background noise of gravitational waves from other supermassive black holes.

Even before the destined collision, the gravitational waves emanating from the supermassive black hole pair will dwarf those previously detected from the mergers of much smaller black holes and neutron stars.

"Supermassive black hole binaries produce the loudest gravitational waves in the universe," says co-discoverer Chiara Mingarelli, an associate research scientist at the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York City. Gravitational waves from supermassive black hole pairs "are a million times louder than those detected by LIGO."

The study was led by Andy Goulding, an associate research scholar at Princeton University. Goulding, Mingarelli and collaborators from Princeton and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., report the discovery July 10 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The two supermassive black holes are especially interesting because they are around 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth. Since looking at distant objects in astronomy is like looking back in time, the pair belong to a universe 2.5 billion years younger than our own. Coincidentally, that's roughly the same amount of time the astronomers estimate the black holes will take to begin producing powerful gravitational waves.

In the present-day universe, the black holes are already emitting these gravitational waves, but even at light speed the waves won't reach us for billions of years. The duo is still useful, though. Their discovery can help scientists estimate how many nearby supermassive black holes are emitting gravitational waves that we could detect right now.

Detecting the gravitational wave background will help resolve some of the biggest unknowns in astronomy, such as how often galaxies merge and whether supermassive black hole pairs merge at all or become stuck in a near-endless waltz around each other.


Fish 10:19 PM 07-11-2019
Killing the seeds of cancer: A new finding shows potential in destroying cancer stem cells

Scientists at The University of Toledo investigating improvements to a commonly used chemotherapy drug have discovered an entirely new class of cancer-killing agents that show promise in eradicating cancer stem cells.

Their findings could prove to be a breakthrough in not only treating tumors, but ensuring cancer doesn't return years later -- giving peace of mind to patients that their illness is truly gone.

"Not all cancer cells are the same, even in the same tumor," said Dr. William Taylor, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the UToledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "There is a lot of variability and some of the cells, like cancer stem cells, are much nastier. Everyone is trying to figure out how to kill them, and this may be one way to do it."

Taylor and Dr. L.M. Viranga Tillekeratne, a professor in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry in the UToledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, reported their findings in a paper recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Cancer stem cells are an intriguing target for researchers because of their potential to re-seed tumors.

When doctors remove a tumor surgically or target it with chemotherapy drugs or radiation therapy, the cancer may appear to be gone. However, evidence suggests that a tiny subpopulation of adaptable cancer cells can remain and circulate through the body to seed new metastasis in far-off locations.

Those cancer stem cells, Taylor said, are similar to dandelions in a well-manicured lawn.

"You could chop the plant off, but it will drop a seed. You know the seeds are there, but they're hiding," he said. "You pull one weed out and another comes up right after it. Cancers can be like this as well."

The small molecule they have isolated appears to lock on to those stem cells and kill them by blocking their absorption of an amino acid called cystine.

UToledo was awarded a patent for the discovery late last year.

For Tillekeratne and Taylor, uncovering a new class of therapeutic molecules could prove to be an even larger contribution to cancer research than the project they initially envisioned.

"At present, there are no drugs that can kill cancer stem cells, but people are looking for them," Tillekeratne said. "A lot of drugs are discovered by serendipity. Sometimes in research if you get unexpected results, you welcome that because it opens up a new line of research. This also shows the beauty of collaboration. I wouldn't have been able to do this on my own, and [Taylor] wouldn't have been able to do it on his own."

Tillekeratne has received a three-year, $449,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute to continue testing the effectiveness of the newly identified therapy.

Because the molecules so selectively target cancer stem cells, it's possible they could ultimately be paired with other chemotherapy drugs to deliver a more comprehensive treatment.

However, the researchers have found their agents show stand-alone promise in treating sarcomas and a subtype of breast cancer known as claudin-low breast cancer, which represents up to 14 percent of all breast cancers and can be particularly difficult to treat.
Fish 10:25 PM 07-11-2019
Originally Posted by Fish:

Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space—the first confirmed object from another star.


'Oumuamua: Scientists Now Say the Bizzare Cigar-Shaped Object Is Sadly Not an Alien Spacecraft

In 2017, a mysterious interstellar object was viewed by astronomers 15 million miles away. By the time it was seen, the object was already hurtling out of our solar system at a staggering 110,000 mph.

Scientists gave the object a Hawaiian name - 'Oumuamua - translating roughly to "messenger from afar."

Harvard researchers famously speculated that there was a very small chance that the object was an alien spacecraft.

Now, scientists have released new research concluding that the flying object was almost certainly not alien.

Due to 'Oumuamua's trajectory, it was named the first-ever interstellar object ever to be witnessed in our solar system.

This, as well as the object's odd characteristics, led Harvard scientists to speculate that there was a chance the object was not merely a rock hurtling through space.

In an Astrophysical Journal Letters paper detailing the original findings, researchers proposed an "exotic scenario:" "‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization."

'Oumuamua was initially classified as a comet, though it doesn't emit gases as comets typically do. Its trajectory and spin speed are also not easily explained by gravity, suggesting it's not an asteroid.

Furthermore, the object's odd cigar shape — it is only 114 feet wide despite being a quarter of a mile long — doesn't match any previously observed asteroids or comets.

Despite the fact that it is the size of a skyscraper, 'Oumuamua is now too dim to be viewable by telescopes on Earth.

Unfortunately, the mysterious space object's increasing distance from our solar system, at the time of the first sighting, meant that scientists had a short window in which to take readings. This lack of concrete findings only helped to fuel speculation.

New findings
A new study, published this week in journal Nature Astronomy, analyzed the existing data about 'Oumuamua and came to the conclusion that the alien theory is incredibly unlikely.

"The alien spacecraft hypothesis is a fun idea, but our analysis suggests there is a whole host of natural phenomena that could explain it," Matthew Knight, an astronomer who co-led the study, said in a press release.

"This thing is weird and admittedly hard to explain, but that doesn't exclude other natural phenomena that could explain it," he added.

For example, 'Oumuamua could have been ejected by a gas giant planet orbiting another star. Theories suggest that Jupiter created the Oort cloud in the Milky Way, a huge shell of small objects at the outer edge of our solar system, that is also thought to have propelled interstellar objects into distant space.

Knight and his team also feel that thanks to improving data from technology such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), we will soon know more about how unusual 'Oumuamua really is.

"We may start seeing a new object every year. That's when we'll start to know whether 'Oumuamua is weird, or common," Knight said. "If we find 10 to 20 of these things and 'Oumuamua still looks unusual, we'll have to reexamine our explanations."

The research was carried out by a team at the University of Maryland Department of Astronomy.
Baby Lee 08:08 PM 07-25-2019
Yeah Destin, get some!!

@6:30 - I'm not crying, you're crying!!
GloryDayz 08:55 PM 07-25-2019
Originally Posted by Baby Lee:
Yeah Destin, get some!!

@6:30 - I'm not crying, you're crying!!
I'm not sure I'd fry somewhere for an eclipse (but I'd fly to the arctic to dive), but that's cool.
Fish 09:24 PM 08-13-2019

Fish 09:29 PM 08-13-2019
Creative necessity.....

Neil Armstrong Couldn't Afford Life Insurance, So He Used A Creative Way To Provide For His Family If He Died

After all the danger, glory, and fame it's easy to forget that at the end of the day astronauts are federal employees subject to the same General Schedule (GS) pay scale as everyone from typists to CIA agents.
Unfortunately, a federal salary wasn't enough for Apollo 11 astronauts to purchase life insurance.

When Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew of Apollo 11 piled atop that huge rocket packed full of fuel in 1969 they were under no illusions that it may have been the last thing they ever did. Unfortunately, neither was anyone who might have insured their lives, and helped provide security for the astronauts' families in case they didn't come home.

Back then astronaut captains made about $17,000 a year, NPR reports and a life insurance policy for Neil Armstrong would have run about $50,000 a year, or more than $300,000 in 2012 dollars.

What the trio did to provide for their families has become somewhat of a low-flying legend, mentioned here on the website, UK Insurance.

It happened like this:

Because some guys from the prior Apollo missions had gotten colds and mild bouts of queasiness on their trips, NASA had implemented a quarantine procedure before liftoffs.

So about a month before they were set to go to the moon, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin were locked into a Plexiglas room together and got busy providing for their families the only way they could — they signed hundreds of autographs.

In what would become a common practice, the guys signed their names on envelopes emblazoned with various space-related images. The 'covers' would, of course, become intensely valuable should the trio perish on the mission. They're now often referred to as " Apollo Insurance Covers."

And to ensure the covers would hold maximum value, the crew put stamps on them, and sent them in a package to a friend, who dumped them all in the mail so they would be postmarked July 16, 1969 — the day of the mission's success — or its failure.

Fortunately, the trip went off without a hitch and all three men went on to live long, healthy lives and all remained alive until Neil Armstrong's death a few days ago.

The covers are still around, and not too hard to find. In 2011, Collectors Weekly pegged their average value at around $5,000.
[Reply] 08:21 AM 08-14-2019

This is such a cool study about the origin of life. I don’t want to spoil the twist, but do check it out. To me, it’s an astonishingly beautiful solution to a hard paradox about how the first cells came to be.

— Ed Yong (@edyong209) August 12, 2019

Fish 08:33 AM 08-14-2019
This is a photo from the surface of Venus. Taken by Russia’s Venera 13 spacecraft. It lasted 127 minutes before succumbing to the Planet’s extremely harsh atmosphere. 737K (462°C) and 9200 kPa (92 times Earth's pressure)

Read about the interesting story of Venera 13 here:
Fish 08:37 AM 08-14-2019
Did you know?

Potato chip bags are often criticized for being most empty bags of air. But there's actually a reason for that. It's not air inside...


You know you’ve been there: You open a potato chip bag only to hear a loud pop and air release, and then you look down and the chips take up a mere fraction of the bag. This has probably left you with all kinds of questions, such as, “What air is in a potato chip bag?” “Why do bags of chips have air in them?” and “How much air is in a potato chip bag?” Now is the day you get answers.

What Air Is in a Potato Chip Bag?
Before we get into why bags of chips are filled with air, let’s talk about what is actually being used. The secret ingredient that you refer to as air is actually nitrogen gas. Regular air contains all kinds of particles, including oxygen and water vapor, both of which will cause the chips to rapidly decay. So food manufacturers displace the oxygen and water vapor with nitrogen to make the food more shelf stable. This process is often referred to as Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) and helps foods to maintain their quality.

Why Do Bags of Chips Have Air in Them?
We have briefly answered the question, “Why are potato chip bags filled with air?” but now it’s time to break it down into more detail. These are the main reasons why bags of chips have nitrogen in them:

It gives the chips a longer shelf life. Bacteria need oxygen to thrive, and if all of the oxygen is removed, it can’t grow. This means there is no chance of mold, mildew, or other substances showing up on the chips.

It keeps away moisture. In addition to oxygen, moisture is an enemy of potato chips. By filling every last ounce of space with nitrogen, water vapor will not be able to enter the bag, and the chips will stay nice and crispy until you are ready to eat them.

It keeps the chips whole. Finally, bags of chips have nitrogen in them to act as a barrier as the chips are being transported from the manufacturing facility to the store and from the store to your home. The nitrogen acts like a pillow, buffering out any impact so it keeps the chips intact.

How Much Air Is in A Potato Chip Bag?
The answer to this question can vary quite a bit. However, products are supposed to list the actual net weight of their product on the packaging, so you will know exactly how much you are getting. So instead of looking at the size of the bag, pay attention to the net weight of the chips inside.

Even though it may seem like the nitrogen in a potato chip bag is only there to deceive you, it actually serves a very important purpose: to protect the chips from being crushed or going bad. It is especially effective because it does not impact the taste or texture at all.

If you manufacturer potato chips and you want to make sure you always have enough nitrogen to keep things moving, contact us today. With our on site nitrogen gas generators, you will never run out of the nitrogen gas you need to keep your chips in tip-top shape.
Fish 08:40 AM 08-14-2019
Evolution of the ISS over time:

scho63 09:44 AM 08-14-2019
That's fucking awesome! :-)

Originally Posted by Fish:
This is a photo from the surface of Venus. Taken by Russia’s Venera 13 spacecraft. It lasted 127 minutes before succumbing to the Planet’s extremely harsh atmosphere. 737K (462°C) and 9200 kPa (92 times Earth's pressure)

Read about the interesting story of Venera 13 here:

Hydrae 02:44 PM 08-14-2019
Originally Posted by scho63:
That's ****ing awesome! :-)
Completely agreed! Quoted this post so we don't have a whole series of that awesome pic in replies.

EDIT: Hang on, this pic is from 1982 and we haven't seen it before?
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