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Showing posts from October, 2014

When Rocket Science Fails [Coffee-byte]

Even with all the developments in space technology and successful missions being sent to Mars, there is always a chance for something to go wrong. The Antares Rocket that supposed to carry supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station, exploded six seconds after take off from the Wallops Flight Faclity in Virginia. 
Although no one was injured, the loss of cargo and devastation at the launchpad would run into millions of dollars for NASA. The real estimate of loss will only be known after a complete analysis is done. The rocket, ferrying cargo to the ISS, was developed and operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has already delivered cargo twice to the ISS. NASA has confirmed that there was no critical cargo on the flight and supplies on the ISS will not be affected by the failure of the mission. 
But irrespective of the losses, the failure of the rocket launch teaches us one important thing about space research, that there is a lot more to learn!

Transplanting a dead heart is now possible! [Coffee-byte]

In a ground breaking discovery in organ transplantation, doctors in Australia have been successful in transplanting a heart that had stopped beating for about 20 minutes. Usually, hearts are received from donors who have been declared brain dead but whose hearts are still beating. In this case, the heart had stopped beating but was then revived and then transplanted into a patient suffering from congenital heart failure. This transplantation was conducted at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney with the help of an innovative new device called OCS Heart.
The biggest constraint for heart transplants is that beating hearts can be kept on ice for only up to 4 hours within which they need to be transported and transplanted. This constraint majorly reduces the radius within which a heart can be transplanted to a needy donor. In addition to this, there is also a risk that cold conditions used during transportation may alter the activity of the heart which can be detected only after the heart …

Under the MRI

The MRI or the magnetic resonance imaging technique is probably one of the best modern day scientific inventions. this non invasive procedure has allowed us to peer into the human body and enhanced our understanding of ourselves. 
After my recent post on Sex under the MRI and the fascinating images the machine produced, I got to fishing outs some other fun stuff captured by this incredible machine.  Here's what I found! 

Fruits and Vegs
Captured by Andy Ellison, these images are a result of mere curiosity and fascination of how fruits, vegetables and flowers look under the MRI. I stumbled upon these images at, and the internet hound that I am, I sniffed my way to Andy's homepage, and I was absolutely blown away. Here are a few images of what I saw but I highly recommend you go and check them out for yourself. (Dont forget to check out his older posts.)

Answers- Banana, Maize/Corn,Garlic, Brussels Sprout, Cucumber, Tomato , Sunflower, Banana Flower, Onion, Grapes.


Space weather today! Chances of a solar storm?

Mars Mission, Rosetta, International Space Station and the myriad number of man made satellites orbiting the planet, have already made it obvious that the human race has reached an age where it is looking further beyond its home, the Earth. And now, with companies like Virgin Galactic closer to offering sub orbital space trips to one and all (who can afford it), it has become paramount that we look at the weather outside our Earth before embarking on a journey beyond our clouds. But what is space weather like ? 
We do know that outer space is a cold cold space and lacks any air. Astronauts head out for space walks in protective suits and a sufficient supply of oxygen, just the way we all saw in the movie Gravity. But it is not just the temperature and lack of air that we need to worry about, it is solar and magnetic activity in outer space that can impact us. 
What is Space weather
Space weather studies the impact of solar radiation and other high energy particles from outer space on t…

Tackling Ebola, once and for all.

Transmission Electron Micrograph of the Ebola Virus. Hemorrhagic Fever, RNA Virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The epidemic of Ebola virus that began in December of 2013 has already claimed lives of over 2000 people, mostly in the West African region, where the outbreak occurred. The recent death of a Liberian citizen who travelled to the United States, probably after contracting an infection in his home country has raised further fears of how quickly the virus is being transmitted and is able to increase its reach. 
To make matters worse, there is no drug that is 100% effective against the virus and the few drugs that have been given limited clearances such as Zmapp and Brincidofovir are either out of stock or not available in enough numbers to contain the spread. The only means of containing the infection right now are preventing its further spread by following stringent protocols of containment and screening travellers who are flying out of affected countries and quarantining them on a…

RotM: Interview with Prof. Kenro Kusumi

We, continue our Researcher of the Month initiative, with an interview with Professor Kenro Kusumi, who studies development, regeneration and diseases of the spine in his lab at the School of Life Sciences at the Arizona State University. Prof. Kusumi's expertise lies in developmental biology, embryology, evolution and genomics and recently published a paper in PLOS ONE on his findings from tail regeneration seen in green anole lizards which will pave way to finding regenerative treatment methods for diseases such as arthritis, scoliosis etc. 
CTS: For the benefit of our readers, could you please summarize your recent findings.
KK: In order to examine the genes that are differentially expressed within the regenerating lizard tail, we used RNA-Seq to assess all the genes expressed at 25 days of regeneration. This is a stage that marks maximal growth of the lizard tail, with formation of new tissues towards the base and patterning of those tissues towards the tip. We were able to read…

Binge on sugars and yet stay fit [Coffee-byte]

Imagine a life where you could eat all the sweets, chocolates and junk food in the world and not bother about putting on weight. Well, it is not some weight loss diet or a strict exercise regime that we are promoting. This is you leading your normal life, going to work, lazying on weekends, spending time with your family and friends, but with one additional mutation inducted in your Nrf2gene
While this is far from reality for humans, at least in the near future, roundworms in Dr. Sean Curran's lab at the University of Southern California are enjoying this life style even today right now even as you read this post. This happening because the roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans) carry a mutated version of the SKN-1 gene, which makes it hyperactive. The excess activity of the gene allows the worms to eat a high sugar diet and still not gain any weight while regular worms that do not carry the mutation became obese on a similar diet. 
Crawling C. elegans hermaphrodite worm (Photo credi…

Why viruses are not in our good books?

For all their amazing abilities of being able to survive outside their host, replicate in large numbers and still not be called 'living', viruses have failed to get some positive reviews for themselves. This is likely to be because the term virus is associated with some of the most scariest diseases in human history. Influenza, AIDS, SARS and the recent spread of Ebola, all have their roots in the term 'virus'. Yet, today, we will not dwell on how bad viruses are or the havoc they can cause. This post is more about how intelligent can viruses be! 
Although most viruses are associated with harmful diseases that are caused as a result of infection, there is also a large family of viruses who have a friendly association with their hosts. Called Polydnaviruses, these viruses have long been known to exist, mutually, with their hosts, the parasitoid wasps (which rely on smaller insects such as worms for their reproduction). On gaining maturity, the parasitoid wasps lays its e…

How Goldilocks is helping us find Earth-like planets [Coffee-byte]

Illustration of Kepler Spacecraft
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)2014 has been an exciting year for space research. Apart from the India's Mars Orbiter Mission that is now orbiting the Red Planet to find out more about our neighbour, we are just a few days away from Philae's historic attempt to land on a comet and carry out investigations that will probably give us some idea about the origin of Life. While these missions are aimed to help us understand our neighbours in the solar system, however they were formed, what they are made up of, somewhere down the line, we are all looking for signs of life or at least conditions that may support life now or sometime in the future. 
It was with this very aim that the Kepler Mission was launched in March 2009 with a telescope that enables it to spot planets orbiting different stars which might be able to support life. But the Milky Way consists of an estimated 100 billion stars and probably as many planets. So, how we narrow down this number …

Sweeping carbon under the carpet!

A Grave Problem 
Global warming is a term that is unknown to a very few. Time and again, we come across various effects of the warming of our Earth and vow to do something about it. It might be to reduce usage of plastic in our daily lives, adopt more greener modes of transport or even fix a small solar cell or windmill to harness some of the renewable energy available around us.  While as individuals, we take some liberty in following the guidelines we set for ourselves, on a larger scale, we become nations that miss their emission targets. A recent report in the Washington Post gives details of how countries, developed as well as developing, are failing to keep their emissions in check to stay on course for the year 2035 which has been marked as the point of no return for climate change. 
The resolve
However, it would be unfair to say that on their path of development and growth, nations are not bothered about climate change. While countries like Germany have taken massive steps to har…