(Medical University of South Carolina) Medical University of South Carolina neuroscientists have identified a region of brain that may be a new clinical target to treat addiction. In a Translational Psychiatry article, they report locating a 'hot spot' in brain activity associated with substance use disorder that could potentially be targeted by brain stimulation therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). These findings have led to a clinical trial of TMS in patients with cocaine and alcohol use disorder.
November 20, 2018
(Nanyang Technological University) NTU Singapore scientists have developed a 'contact lens' patch with microneedles that could be a painless and efficient alternative to current methods of treating eye diseases such as glaucoma. Patients are unable to keep up with the prescribed regime of current localised treatment methods like eye drops, which are hindered by the eye's natural defences, blinking and tears. Eye injections can be painful and carry an infection risk and eye damage.
November 20, 2018
(Chalmers University of Technology) When the tension rises, unexpected things can happen -- not least when it comes to gold atoms. Researchers from, among others, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have now managed, for the first time, to make the surface of a gold object melt at room temperature.
November 20, 2018
This color-coded image of the Jezero Crater delta combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / JHU-APL) One week before the next Mars mission is due to land, NASA has chosen the landing site for its next next Mars mission. Jezero Crater will be where NASA’s will land on Feb. 18, 2021, the space agency announced today. “It’s a Thursday,” said Allen Chen, who’s leading the entry, descent and landing team for what’s currently known as NASA’s . That touchdown is due to come seven months after the mission’s launch in mid-July 2020. Jezero Crater is thought to be the site of an ancient river delta on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Scientists say the 28-mile-wide crater’s rocks and soil may contain organic molecules and other traces of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago. “The delta is a good place for evidence of life to be deposited and then preserved for the billions of years that have elapsed since this lake was present,” Mars 2020 project scientist Ken Farley explained. That’s particularly important for because one of the rover’s tasks is to collect samples destined for return to Earth on a mission to be named later, most likely in the early 2030s. Scientists expect Mars 2020 to yield at least five different types of rock, including the kinds of clays and carbonates that are most likely to preserve chemical biosignatures. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, . Jezero Crater, whose name comes from the Serbian word for lake, won out over three other finalist sites near the Martian equator: Midway and Northeast Syrtis, plus Columbia Hills (which is where NASA’s Spirit rover roamed a decade ago). Midway and Northeast Syrtis are close enough that it’s possible the Mars 2020 rover could eventually roll that way from Jezero Crater, although mission managers say it’s way too early to decide whether to do so. NASA said Jezero won out because of its mix of scientific promise and accessibility. But landing safely isn’t a slam dunk: Scientists want to make sure the rover doesn’t land in a boulder field, a sand trap or on the edge of a cliff. Farley said Jezero and other sites had been considered too risky for previous Mars missions. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies,” he said. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered Mars 2020 rover is built on the same basic design as NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars’ Gusev Crater for more than six years. Like Curiosity, Mars 2020 would be lowered to the surface from a rocket-powered “Sky Crane” platform, which NASA says is the safest way to land a 1-ton payload. Mars 2020 will take advantage of technological advances that have been made since Curiosity was designed — including higher-resolution imagers, chemical life-detection instruments and even a . It’ll also have experiments to test technologies that future astronauts will need, such as producing oxygen from Mars’ thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere, and the equipment that’s needed to extract and store samples for future missions to pick up. The Red Planet has long been a hot spot for planetary exploration, thanks to Curiosity and NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers as well as a fleet of orbiters. It’ll be heating up even further a week from today with the arrival of NASA’s . And in the 2020s, NASA’s next rover is likely to be joined by the , which is part of the European-Russian . China is planning to get in on the action with its , also due for launch during 2020’s favorable launch opportunity.
November 19, 2018
Virgin Orbit’s 70-foot-long LauncherOne rocket is hooked beneath the left wing of the modified 747 jet known as Cosmic Girl during the first captive-carry flight. (Virgin Orbit Photo) modified Boeing 747 jet, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, has made its first test flight with a LauncherOne rocket tucked under its wing. The 80-minute captive-carry flight from California’s Victorville Airport and back came Sunday after months of step-by-step preparations, and represents a major step forward in Virgin Orbit’s plan to start sending satellites to orbit next year. In a , Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said the outing was “a picture-perfect flight.” Victorville, a logistics airport that’s more than 60 miles from Los Angeles, was the nexus for Sunday’s flight because it’s between Virgin Orbit’s factory in Long Beach and its main launch site in Mojave. The first report about the flight came in the form of a video clip posted by a Twitter user with the handle Zia Aerospace, or , who was at the airport when Cosmic Girl took off. Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl first flight with rocket under wing. — Zia Aerospace (@zia_aero) “I was there just by chance dropping off a rental car … only armed with a camera phone,” Zia Aerospace . Other planespotters, including Michael Baylor, took notice of Cosmic Girl’s flight path over the Mojave Desert, . “I wonder if a rocket was under her wing?” . Confirmation of the first captive-carry flight, plus in-flight video and photos, came hours later from Virgin Orbit. Virgin Orbit’s 70-foot-long LauncherOne rocket is designed to drop from Cosmic Girl’s carrier pylon at an altitude of about 30,000 feet, and then fire up its engine to send payloads weighing as much as 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) to low Earth orbit. The same basic principle is behind other air-launched vehicles ranging from and Virgin Galactic’s to Northrop Grumman’s and . Captive-carry test flights are aimed at checking the aerodynamics of the Cosmic Girl mothership and its LauncherOne piggyback-rider before the rocket drops begin. During such flights, the rocket-powered craft remains firmly attached to its carrier plane. (And yes, SpaceShipTwo went through as well.) During Sunday’s flight, Virgin Orbit’s flight crew assessed the takeoff, landing, and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system. “The vehicles flew like a dream today,” Virgin Orbit chief pilot Kelly Latimer, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said in today’s news release. “Everyone on the flight crew and all of our colleagues on the ground were extremely happy with the data we saw from the instruments onboard the aircraft, in the pylon, and on the rocket itself. “From my perspective in the cockpit, the vehicles handled incredibly well, and perfectly matched what we’ve trained for in the simulators,” she said. Hart, a former Boeing executive who became Virgin Orbit’s CEO last year when it was , said he was “extremely proud” of Latimer and the rest of the team. “Their professionalism really shone through today, with our rocket and our plane up in the skies on a beautiful California day,” he said. Cosmic Girl is due to take on several more test flights in the weeks ahead — some with LauncherOne attached, and some without. The captive-carry flights will lead up to a test flight that involves dropping LauncherOne from its pylon without lighting up the engine. That dress rehearsal will provide valuable data about the aerodynamics of LauncherOne during its freefall through the atmosphere, and about Cosmic Girl’s performance during and after the release. Virgin Orbit’s drop test will set the stage for the first aerial lighting up of the rocket engines in the new year. Several more LauncherOnes are waiting their turn at the company’s Long Beach factory. When the air-launch system is ready for prime time, Virgin Orbit should be able to capable of launching payloads into any orbital inclination, from any locale with an airport big enough to accommodate Cosmic Girl. If the weather’s not great for launching, the plane could theoretically fly to clearer skies to execute its mission. And the advance time needed for launch could be as little as a few hours. Virgin Orbit already has customers lined up for LauncherOne, including Seattle-based and the . Those customers will no doubt be glad to see how Cosmic Girl is growing up. This is an updated version of a report first published at 5:02 p.m. PT Nov. 18.
November 19, 2018
(Princeton University) Princeton biologist Bridgett vonHoldt is best known for her work with canines, but when she compared the genes of large-beaked Cameroonian finches to those of their smaller-beaked counterparts, she found the answer to a 20-year old mystery: 300,000 base pairs, apparently inherited as a unit, always varied between them, and right in the middle of that genetic sequence was the well-known growth factor, IGF-1.
November 19, 2018