Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7140 on: Aug 6th, 2012, 08:55am »
Heart Muscle Cell Grafts Suppress Arrhythmias After Heart Attacks in Animal Study
ScienceDaily (Aug. 5, 2012)
Researchers have made a major advance in efforts to regenerate damaged hearts. Grafts of human cardiac muscle cells, grown from embryonic stem cells, coupled electrically and contracted synchronously with host muscle following transplantation in guinea pig hearts.
The grafts also reduced the incidence of arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) in a guinea pig model of myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack).
This finding from University of Washington-led research is reported in the Aug. 5 issue of Nature.
The paper's senior author, Dr. Michael Laflamme, said, "These results provide strong evidence that human cardiac muscle cell grafts meet physiological criteria for true heart regeneration. This supports the continued development of human embryonic stem cell-based heart therapies for both mechanical and electrical repair of the heart."
During a myocardial infarction the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is interrupted by formation of a clot, causing death of the down-stream heart muscle and its eventual replacement by scar tissue. This can cause mechanical problems with filling and emptying the heart, and it can also interfere with the electrical signals that pace the heartbeat.
In this study, the guinea pigs' hearts had an injury to the left ventricle, the thick walled lower chamber in the heart that pumps oxygenated blood to the body. The injury left a scar and thinned the ventricle, which showed both reduced pump function and greater susceptibility to arrhythmias.
Injured hearts that received the human cardiac muscle cell grafts showed partial re-muscularization of the scarred left ventricle.
Consistent with previous studies, tests showed that the injured hearts with the human cardiac cell grafts had improved mechanical function.
More surprisingly, these hearts showed fewer arrhythmias than did injured hearts without such grafts.
"We showed a couple years ago that transplanting human embryonic stem cell-derived heart muscle cells improves the pumping activity of injured hearts," said Dr. Michael Laflamme, UW associate professor of pathology and a member of the UW Center for Cardiovascular Biology and the Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine.
"In this recent paper," he explained, "we show that the transplantation of these cells also reduces the incidence of arrhythmias [heart rhythm disturbances]."
Laflamme and Dr. Charles E. Murry, UW professor of pathology, bioengineering and medicine, Division of Cardiology, were the senior authors of the paper. The lead authors were Drs. Yuji Shiba and Sarah Fernandes in the UW Department of Pathology. Shiba is also from the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Shinshu University in Japan.
Because arrhythmias are a major cause of death in patients after a heart attack, Laflamme pointed out, this effect might be clinically useful if proven successful in large animal models as well.
Scientists had been worried that transplanting heart muscle cells derived from embryonic stem cells would promote arrhythmias.
"Instead, they suppress arrhythmias, at least in the guinea pig model," Laflamme and his team were pleased to discover.
While Laflamme and Murry had previously shown that transplanting these types of cell grafts improved pump function in injured hearts, Laflamme noted that it had not been previously determined if the grafts actually coupled and fired synchronously with heart's original muscle.
There was the possibility, he suggested, that they exerted their beneficial effects indirectly, perhaps by releasing signaling molecules, rather than by forming new force-generating units.
"In our study, we discovered that the heart cell grafts do, in fact, couple to the guinea pig hearts," he said.
The research team found the heart cell grafts electrically coupled in all of the normal, uninjured hearts into which they were transplanted, and in the majority of the injured hearts.
The researchers were able to observe this coupling by transplanting human heart muscle cells that were genetically modified to flash every time they fired. By correlating this optical signal from the graft cells with the electrocardiogram -- electrical signals from the recipient heart -- the researchers were able to determine whether cell grafts were electrically coupled with the animal's heart.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7141 on: Aug 7th, 2012, 09:08am »
Afghan defense minister quits, hands Karzai a security headache
By Mirwais Harooni and Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi Tue Aug 7, 2012 7:25am EDT
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak resigned on Tuesday after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament, leaving President Hamid Karzai scrambling to find a replacement for one of his top security tsars as insurgent attacks mount.
Wardak, in charge of the army and one of the country's two key security ministers, told reporters he accepted parliament's decision, which has clouded NATO plans to hand security responsibilities to Afghan forces before the end of 2014.
"I respected the parliament's decision to twice appoint me as defence minister, and now I accept the parliament decision to remove me. I resign my position," Wardak told journalists.
Karzai's increasingly unpopular government was already under a cloud, with Finance Minister Hazarat Omar Zakhilwal vulnerable as a result of accusations aired on Afghan television that he stashed more than $1 million in overseas banks.
The fractious parliament voted on Saturday to remove Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi after recent insurgent assassinations of senior officials, as well as cross-border attacks blamed on Pakistan.
While Karzai opted to keep him in place in an acting role to underpin stability, Wardak's decision to quit immediately leaves one of his most vital Cabinet posts vacant at the peak of the summer fighting months and as U.S. and French troops draw down.
It was not immediately clear how soon Karzai would be able to replace the veteran four-star general and ethnic Pashtun from eastern Wardak province, who is credited by Western diplomats with helping forge the fledgling Afghan National Army into an increasingly effective force against insurgents.
Karzai faced constraints in finding a replacement who could maintain ethnic harmony in his inner circle, while also needing to win over lawmakers whose backing he needs to deliver a corruption crackdown promised to Western donors.
"Karzai's next moves will be watched very closely by many sides, in particular in the context of his recent announcements of a long list of new ‘reform' and anti-corruption measures," said Fabrizio Foschini of the respected Afghan Analysts Network.
"Karzai will have to operate carefully. There are already grumblings about the provisional solution of keeping the two ‘impeached' officials as acting ministers, even though this may be mainly motivated by the need to avoid troubles in the security organs at a critical stage of transition," he said in a blog posting.
FINANCE MINISTER STANDS HIS GROUND
Finance Minister Zakhilwal held a near-simultaneous press conference to Wardak's, promising to send a list of his assets to the attorney general to look into claims against him.
But he declined to pass the dossier to the country's top anti-corruption watchdog, who has asked Karzai to have him stood down pending completion of an investigation.
"For me today the most important issue is the confidence of the people," said Zakhilwal.
Zakhilwal, in an interview with Tolo TV on Wednesday, denied any wrongdoing and said there was nothing untoward in the transfers, which were the result of legitimate work and business interests before entering government.
On Tuesday he accused both Tolo and Afghanistan's High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption chief, Dr. Azizullah Ludin, of conspiring against him.
"The head of the oversight department discussed information in public which was unethical, not based on fact," he said. "It's obviously based on personal differences he has had with me from time to time."
Violence in Afghanistan is at its fiercest since U.S.-led Afghan troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. Militants have extended their reach from traditional strongholds in southern and eastern areas to parts of the country once considered relatively safe.
Just hours before Wardak quit, an insurgent detonated a remote-control bomb under a mini-bus on Kabul's outskirts, killing nine civilians, while a truck bomb exploded outside a NATO base east of the city, wounding 15 people, including three U.S. soldiers.
A foreign soldier was killed in the south by an improvised bomb, while another died in the volatile east, the NATO-led coalition said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7142 on: Aug 7th, 2012, 09:11am »
UFO Hunters Search For Aliens In 2-Month Expedition Across Russia
Posted: 08/07/2012 9:35 am Updated: 08/07/2012 9:35 am
By Lee Speigel
One group of UFO believers have packed their bags, tents, photo and video cameras and are on a cross-country trek in Russia, hoping to capture photographic evidence of possible alien activity, reports todaysthv.com.
Dubbed the "Trans-Eurasian UFO-Search Expedition," the 50 participants have been watching the skies above the southern tip of Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest fresh water lake, located in southern Siberia.
This was one of the group's first UFO target areas, based on local news of UFO sightings.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7143 on: Aug 7th, 2012, 09:17am »
NCIS Targets Danger Room in Silliest Leak Investigation Ever
By Sharon Weinberger and Noah Shachtman August 7, 2012 | 4:00 am Categories: Bizarro, Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance
In its mounting campaign against leakers, the U.S. government isn’t just going after officials who revealed weighty secrets like the White House’s drone strike “kill list” or its plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear sites. Federal agents are also chasing a leaker who gave Danger Room a document asking for a futuristic laser weapon that could set insurgents’ clothes on fire from nine miles away.
It’s an odd investigation, because the energy weapon doesn’t exist; the unclassified document describing it reads almost like a spoof of the laser system out of Real Genius; and this is 2012 — nearly five years after the leak in question.
But that hasn’t stopped the Naval Criminal Investigative Service from contacting Danger Room and its attorneys several times over six months regarding an investigation into the document (.pdf), which describes a “Precision Airborne Standoff Directed Energy Weapon” and is marked ”For Official Use Only,” or FOUO.
“This investigation is currently being conducted as a counterintelligence matter to determine if a loss/compromise of classified information occurred,” e-mailed Special Agent Christopher Capps, who works for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s field office in Washington, D.C.
Capps also asked Danger Room to divulge the source who provided the imaginary weapon document.
“Where did Ms. Weinberger get the information … that she posted to the website?” he wrote. “Did anyone inform her or give her direction that the document should not be put on the web?”
“As a separate question,” Capps continued, “would Wired.com be willing to remove the document from the website?”
Danger Room, through its attorney, declined to provide the information, or to answer any questions related to the reporting of the story. The document has not been removed.
The document in question is what’s known as a “universal urgent needs statement” — a request from troops in a warzone for a new technology. In this case, the First Marine Expeditionary Force in 2006 wanted a laser for use in Iraq that could cause “instantaneous burst-combustion of insurgent clothing, [and] a rapid death through violent trauma, and more probably a morbid combination of both.”
The almost comically over-the-top document included photoshopped images of a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a laser, and pictures with gun sights over insurgents’ heads, demonstrating how the energy weapon could take out a single person.
Dramatic, yes. But the document contained almost no technical information, since the weapon it was requesting, by its own acknowledgment, didn’t actually exist. Rather, what it was proposing was a theoretical weapon based on the Advanced Tactical Laser system, a chemical laser that an Air Force review in 2008 determined was not suitable for operations.
Danger Room posted the document in 2007, as part of an ongoing series of articles about requests for equipment by troops in Iraq — requests that were often rebuffed by the Pentagon. Not all of those requests were over-the-top: One of those “urgent needs” was for bomb-resistant trucks.
When then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates found out through the media that the request wasn’t being met, he ordered tens of thousands of trucks built. Gates says that the lives of thousands of U.S. troops were saved as a result — although those figures have recently been challenged.
The NCIS’ continued interest in an unclassified document posted over five years ago comes amid a new push by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers. The effort has been Kafka-esque from the start. It started when a pair of books revealed that the White House is intimately involved in approving drone attacks and cybersabotage operations against its foes. Days after the leaks, President Obama scolded the secret-spillers — even though the books’ authors were granted officially access to the highest levels of the administration. Congress has also stepped in with its own legislation that would punish leakers of classified information. But the bill, recently passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, exempts from reprisal most senior White House and administration officials — and, of course, members of Congress, as well.
The leak investigations have also gone after lower-ranking players, like Franz Gayl, a civilian scientist working for the Marine Corps. Gayl, who first brought attention to delays in fielding bomb-resistant vehicles, wasn’t celebrated for helping keep troops alive; rather, he was stripped of his security clearance, and then suspended him from work. (Gayl won his job back in November 2011.)
In July, the Pentagon chief established a “top-down” system for reporting leaks, and requires a security officer review of unauthorized disclosures of protected information. The guidance also states that public affairs is the “sole release authority for all DoD information to news media in Washington.” That lead some to wonder whether the chase for leakers wasn’t really an excuse to keep whistleblowers from speaking out.
After all, the Obama White House had already gone after whistleblowers with a fury not seen in decades. Former National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake, for instance, was charged with espionage for telling the Baltimore Sun about overbudget, dysfunctional data mining projects at the agency. (He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.)
For those who protect whistleblowers, the new regulations are seen as new way to intimidate those would would expose official waste or wrongdoing. Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, which represents whistleblowers, said these new policies are likely to have a “chilling and freezing effect” on employees wanting to disclose malfeasance.
“The goal of these actions is to eliminate the possibility of anonymous confidential whistleblowing disclosure,” he told Danger Room. “The right to make a confidential disclosure is a cornerstone of the Whistleblowing Act.”
Part of the concern with the new leak policy, according to critics, is it lumps together disclosure of classified information, which sometimes violates the law, with disclosure of unclassified information, which under some circumstances may violate policy.
Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Gregory James wrote in an e-mail that an unauthorized disclosure “is the communication or physical transfer of classified OR controlled unclassified information to an unauthorized recipient.” James also points out that it has long been Pentagon policy to prohibit disclosure of FOUO material without prior approval.
Devine, however, sees a dangerous expansion at work. “The new policies are an exponentially broader version of the traditional first principle to silence critics and plumb any leaks that would be threatening to those abusing power,” he said.
The Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal employees from unlawful reprisals, offered a more measured response to the new restrictions. “OSC recognizes the Defense Department’s need to protect national security information,” Ann O’Hanlon, a spokeswoman for the office told Danger Room. “At the same time, we encourage all agencies to proactively advise employees of their right to disclose waste, fraud or abuse.”
The problem with the old leak policy was that it punished would-be whistleblowers for trying to shine light on government malfeasance — while exacting no penalty from senior officials leaking information meant to bolster the administration’s image. The problem with the new policy — as perhaps evidenced by the Navy’s investigation into the imaginary, insurgent-killing laser — is that it provides official justification for reprisals, even when the threat to national security teeters on the absurd.
The internet is, after all, filled with documents that are supposed to be “For Official Use Only.” Many of them, like this presentation (http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/korea/briefings/documents/2012/JPAC%20NEA%20RA%20DPRK%20DATA%20Brief.pdf) about the search for missing troops in Korea, are published on the military’s own websites. Similarly, a Navy directory of public affairs, published by WikiLeaks, is also marked FOUO; meaning, under the new guidance, releasing a document that lists the only officers actually authorized to provide the press with information is itself an act worthy of investigation.
In the case of the imaginary laser, Special Agent Capps told Danger Room that the document “was originally reported to NCIS from a government employee performing research in [Florida]. They noticed the document was posted with the markings FOUO. The employee knew, based on training, it was not a ‘good idea’ to post documents marked FOUO to the public domain.”
Capps’ argument that Danger Room remove a document is not based on its classification, since the paper in question is unclassified. “Regardless on whether the document is unclassified, DOD [Manual] 5200. Volume 1 (.pdf) states that FOUO information is information that should be withheld from the public because of foreseeable harm to an interest protected by the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act].”
The problem with that argument, however, is that the Pentagon manual does not apply to journalists. “[A]s a non-governmental entity, you are not subject to internal DoD non-disclosure regulations such as 5200,” says Steve Aftergood, who studies classification policies at the Federation of American Scientists.
Special Agent Capps, when contacted for comment on this article, did not return messages left by e-mail or phone; a spokesman for NCIS public affairs also did not respond to an e-mail and phone call.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7144 on: Aug 7th, 2012, 09:25am »
New York Times
Japan Utility Shows Recordings of Nuclear Crisis By HIROKO TABUCHI Published: August 6, 2012
TOKYO — Recordings of teleconferences between the Tokyo headquarters of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant and the plant’s managers in the early days of last year’s accident offer a firsthand account of the last-ditch — and ultimately unsuccessful — attempts to avert multiple meltdowns in the unfolding nuclear disaster.
The recordings were released Monday by the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, as part of an effort to counter suspicion among the public and local news media that it has still not offered a full account of the events that unfolded at the site in March 2011.
Strongly criticized in several investigations for its unpreparedness for and handling of the disaster, Tepco has been trying to get across its account of events and its point that the tsunami that hit its Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was so powerful that controlling its reactors became all but impossible.
The release of about 150 hours of video from the disaster’s early days appeared to partly allay those suspicions. No video exists from the accident’s first three hours, Tepco officials said, and for about the next 30 hours, there is video but no sound, glitches Tepco attributed to the chaos of its accident response. The footage was edited, the utility said, to remove references to all but its top managers and executives. Some later clips also have no sound.
The split-screen videos show Tepco executives huddled around a conference table, at times barking out orders to managers at the plant’s bustling makeshift control center — and at other times merely trying to make sense of the situation.
In one chilling scene, which appears in a digest version of the footage released to the public, the plant’s chief at the time, Masao Yoshida, calls out that he has just been jolted by what feels more like an explosion than a quake.
“Headquarters, headquarters. This is urgent, this is urgent,” Mr. Yoshida calls out on the morning of March 14, three days after the tsunami. “It’s Unit 3. I think there’s been a hydrogen explosion. There has just been an explosion.”
A voice at headquarters asks whether the explosion appears to be similar to one that had rocked the plant’s Unit 1 two days earlier. “Yes,” Mr. Yoshida replies.
Headquarters then urges plant managers to check the parameter of Unit 3’s reactor. “And people on the ground, take shelter, take shelter,” an executive calls out.
At least three hydrogen explosions are thought to have hit the plant’s reactors in the days after the accident, as they leaked huge amounts of radiation.
A scene in which the prime minister, Naoto Kan, burst into Tepco’s Tokyo headquarters — to order them not to abandon the plant, by Mr. Kan’s account — also contains no sound. Tepco officials have denied that the company ever considered pulling back from the site.
In the video, Mr. Kan, his back to the camera, can be seen heaving and gesturing wildly. But the silent clip offers no new insight into what he said.
The full 150 hours of video are being shown to journalists who are allowed to take notes on their content but not record any footage.
“The footage was not recorded to be shown publicly like this,” a Tepco spokesman said before the screenings began. “Releasing it is a big step.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7145 on: Aug 8th, 2012, 09:26am »
New York Times
August 8, 2012 Egypt Airstrikes Reported in Sinai By KAREEM FAHIM
CAIRO — Egypt was reported to have launched its first airstrikes in decades in the restive Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, deploying attack helicopters to strike at gunmen after the shootings of 16 Egyptian soldiers on Sunday.
The episode early Wednesday followed renewed violence in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday night, when, at around 11 p.m. in what appeared to be a series of coordinated assaults, gunmen fired on at least seven government checkpoints as well as a military cement factory, according to security officials. At least two people were injured in the attacks, the officials said.
News reports quoted Egyptian security officials and residents who said that attack helicopters opened fire early on Wednesday on suspects in an area known as Sheikh Zuwayed, near the Rafah border crossing. State media said the helicopter attacks killed 20 people, but there was no independent corroboration of that tally.
The shooting erupted a day after President Mohamed Morsi abruptly canceled plans on Tuesday to attend the funeral of the 16 soldiers after protesters shouting anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans chased the country’s prime minister from an earlier prayer service.
“You killed them, you dogs,” the protesters shouted at the prime minister, Hesham Qandil, state news media reported. Mr. Qandil is not a member of the Brotherhood, though some people here — especially critics of the Islamist group — say he is ideologically close to it. Pictures from the ceremony showed Mr. Qandil surrounded by security guards as protesters waving shoes pursued him.
A sign by a protester read: “This funeral is for Egyptians, not the Brotherhood and their president.”
Mr. Morsi’s absence from the funeral on Tuesday left his defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, as the most senior official in attendance, shown on television walking behind the coffins, draped with flags. Though the number of hecklers was reportedly small, Mr. Morsi’s decision to stay away was a reminder of the challenges he faces as the country’s first Islamist leader navigating Egypt’s deeply polarized politics.
The killings of the soldiers, which represented Mr. Morsi’s first real crisis, have aggravated the political clash between the Brotherhood, on one side, and its more secular rivals including Egypt’s powerful military leaders. “The same lines of division exist,” said Mustapha Kamel el-Sayyid, a political science professor at Cairo University. “People are making new arguments.”
The president’s latest vulnerability stems from his closeness with Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that governs the Gaza Strip. Mr. Morsi had promised to ease restrictions on Gaza by opening the border crossing and allowing goods, now smuggled, to pass through the border.
After the attack, some of Mr. Morsi’s critics cast his relationship with the group as a liability. Security officials have said that Palestinians played some role in the attack on the soldiers, who were killed on Sunday when 35 gunmen stormed their checkpoint, spraying the soldiers with machine gun fire. Officials said that militants based in the Sinai Peninsula carried out the attack, along with Palestinians who infiltrated the country through smuggling tunnels from the Gaza Strip.
After the attack on the checkpoint, the militants commandeered military vehicles and tried to storm the nearby Israeli border. The Egyptian military said that Palestinians firing mortars from the Gaza Strip joined in the assault.
“It is very embarrassing for Dr. Morsi,” said Mr. Sayyid. “This could be seen as the present the Palestinians gave him after he offered some measure of assistance.” Mr. Sayyid added that such criticism was unfair and ignored the security lapses by the government.
Still, some of Mr. Morsi’s detractors seized on the attack to raise questions about the president’s positions. Emad Gad, a former member of Parliament who is a critic of Mr. Morsi, said in an interview with the semiofficial Al Ahram newspaper that the president’s “statements regarding not having a border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is what made the terrorist cell dare to conduct these operations.”
Despite the accusations, the Egyptian authorities have provided no information about the identities of the attackers, though they have said that an intense manhunt is under way for them. And though attention has recently been focused on the smuggling tunnels, many analysts here said Sinai itself is a more pressing source of concern as a place where militancy has taken hold after years of neglect by the government and heavy-handed treatment by the security services.
On Tuesday evening, there were indications that the country’s political forces were trying to tamp down the statements against the Brotherhood. In a joint statement, several political parties, including the Brotherhood’s political wing, called for long-term development in Sinai, and recommended better coordination with the Palestinians.
Mr. Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, explained later that the president, who visited four injured soldiers in a military hospital, had not wanted to interfere with the public’s ability to attend the ceremony. “It was also tense,” he said. “We all realize the magnitude of the sadness, so the president preferred not to come.”
Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting from Cairo, and Alan Cowell from London.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7146 on: Aug 8th, 2012, 09:30am »
New York Daily News
Famed Roswell UFO crash involved 2 alien spacecraft, not one, as long believed: retired Air Force officer
After 65 years, officer has stepped forward claiming that the first flying saucer that landed in the desert was actually shot down by the U.S. military. The second crashed while on a recovery mission, lieutenant colonel says.
By Meena Hart Duerson / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, August 7, 2012, 10:40 AM
Almost exactly 65 years after the Air Force shot down conspiracy theories that an alien aircraft had crashed in Roswell, N.M., a retired lieutenant colonel says not only was the UFO real, but it wasn’t the only one.
“There were actually two crashes at Roswell, which most people don’t know,” Richard French told the Huffington Post.
French, who was undergoing a test for the Air Force in nearby Alamagordo, N.M., in the summer of 1947, detailed what happened when a UFO supposedly flew over Roswell.
That fabled incident, which has launched decades of speculation over the existence of aliens among us, occured in July of 1947, when the Air Force issued a press release describing the crash and recovery of a “flying disk.” Though they later retracted that statement and clarified the object was a weather balloon, skeptics have never been convinced that item wasn’t in fact a UFO.
French claims the military covered up what happened, which was actually a “shootdown.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7147 on: Aug 8th, 2012, 09:35am »
Nanoparticle Discovery Opens Door for Pharmaceuticals ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2012)
— What a University of Central Florida student thought was a failed experiment has led to a serendipitous discovery hailed by some scientists as a potential game changer for the mass production of nanoparticles.
Soroush Shabahang, a graduate student in CREOL (The College of Optics & Photonics), made the finding that could ultimately change the way pharmaceuticals are produced and delivered.
The discovery was based on using heat to break up long, thin fibers into tiny, proportionally sized seeds, which have the capability to hold multiple types of materials locked in place. The work, published in the July 18 issue of Nature, opens the door to a world of applications.
Craig Arnold, associate professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University and an expert in laser material interactions who did not work on the project, said no one else in the field has been able to accomplish this feat.
With a new non-chemical method of creating identical particles of any size in large quantities, "the possible applications are up to your imagination," Arnold said.
The most immediate prospect is the creation of particles capable of drug delivery that could, for example, combine different agents for fighting a tumor. Or it could combine a time-release component with medications that will only activate once they reach their target-infected cells.
"With this approach you can make a very sophisticated structure with no more effort than creating the simplest of structures," said Ayman Abouraddy, an assistant professor at CREOL and Shabahang's mentor and advisor. Abouraddy has spent his career, first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and now at UCF, studying the fabrication of multimaterial fibers.
The technique relies on heat to break molten fibers into spherical droplets. Imagine water dripping from a faucet. Glass fibers are perhaps best known as the cylindrical cables that transmit digital information over long distances. For year, scientists have been looking for ways to improve the purity of glass fibers to allow for faster, disruption-free transmission of light waves.
Shabahang and fellow graduate student Joshua Kaufman were working on just such a project, heating and stretching glass fiber on a homemade tapering machine. Shabahang noticed that instead of the desired result of making the center of the cable thinner, the material actually broke apart into multiple miniature spheres.
"It was kind of a failure to me," Shabahang said.
However, when Abouraddy heard what had happened he knew right away that this "mistake" was a major breakthrough.
While at MIT, Abouraddy and his mentor, Yoel Fink, a professor of materials science and current director of MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, said they were told by a theoretician that molten optical fiber should align with a process known as Rayleigh instability, which explains what causes a falling stream of fluid to break into droplets.
At the time, the MIT group was focused on producing fibers containing multiple materials. The team produced fibers by heating a scale model called a "preform" and stretching it apart much the way taffy is made. The process is known as thermal drawing.
Shabahang's experiment shows that by heating and then cooling multimaterial fibers, the theoretical became reality. Uniform particles that look like droplets are produced. Moreover, Shabahang demonstrated that once the spheres form, additional materials can be added and locked into place like LEGO building blocks, resulting in particles with sophisticated internal structures.
Especially significant is the creation of "beach ball" particles consisting of two different materials melded together in alternating fashion, similar to the stripes on a beach ball.
Kaufman, Shabahang and Abouraddy contributed to the Nature article in addition to Guangming Tao from CREOL, UCF; Esmaeil-Hooman Banaei from the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, UCF; Daosheng S. Deng, Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT; Xiangdong Liang, Department of Mathematics, MIT; Steven G. Johnson, Department of Mathematics, MIT; and Yoel Fink from MIT.
Some of the funding for the project was made available by the National Science Foundation, the Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7150 on: Aug 9th, 2012, 09:47am »
Suspected Kurd militants attack military bus in Turkey
By Seda Sezer Thu Aug 9, 2012 10:29am EDT
(Reuters) - Suspected Kurdish militants ambushed a Turkish military bus in western Turkey on Thursday in an attack which police said killed one soldier and wounded at least 11 people, adding to a recent upsurge in separatist violence.
If confirmed as a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) attack, the ambush in the Aegean province of Izmir would represent a widening of the conflict with the PKK beyond its regular field of operation in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
The violence is a headache for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as he seeks to limit the impact on Turkey of the conflict in Syria, where the PKK is exerting growing authority in some areas and receiving arms from Syrian forces, according to Ankara.
"This is unfortunately another example of the steps taken in widening terrorism," Erdogan told reporters in his first comments on the attack.
PKK rebels detonated explosives on the road before firing on the bus at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) near Foca, a small resort town on the Aegean coast where there is a naval base, Dogan news agency said. The soldiers in the bus returned fire, it said.
Police declined to comment on who could be behind the assault and there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Attacks on military vehicles are common in southeast Turkey, but are rare in the rest of the country.
Television images showed the bus with its windows blown out and glass strewn across the road, and investigators in white overalls searching the scene.
Wounded soldiers were taken to a nearby hospital, a police spokeswoman said. It was unclear if the 11 wounded people included any civilians.
The attack occurred at a time of intensified clashes between the army and the PKK, whose 28-year-old armed struggle has cost more than 40,000 lives, most of them Kurds.
ASSAD ARMING PKK?
The rebels have fought for autonomy in the southeast since 1984. Turkey, the United States and the European Union list the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Clashes are focused east of the Syrian border. Turkish officials believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is arming PKK rebels, following a sharp deterioration of ties between the two countries since the start of the Syrian uprising 17 months ago.
Erdogan has become one of Assad's most vocal critics.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu repeated the allegations about Assad arming the PKK while travelling to Myanmar overnight, according to Turkish media.
"Assad gave them weapons support. Yes - this is not a fantasy. It is true. We have taken necessary measures against this threat," Davutoglu was quoted as saying.
Turkish armed forces have clashed with PKK fighters around the remote, mountainous district of Semdinli, close to the borders with Iraq and Iran, since late July after the militants set up checkpoints in the area.
Erdogan said 115 PKK militants had been killed in the fighting there so far. Journalists and other non-residents have been barred entry to the area.
Murat Karayilan, the acting PKK leader, said last week the group was changing tactics with its battle in Semdinli, according to Firat News, a website close to the militants.
Instead of their traditional hit-and-run ambushes on Turkish security forces, PKK fighters will remain positioned in Semdinli in an attempt to form a stronghold there, he said.
(Reporting by Seda Sezer; Writing by Daren Butler and Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7151 on: Aug 9th, 2012, 09:54am »
Flame and Stuxnet Cousin Targets Lebanese Bank Customers, Carries Mysterious Payload
By Kim Zetter 08.09.12 9:00 AM
A newly uncovered espionage tool, apparently designed by the same people behind the state-sponsored Flame malware that infiltrated machines in Iran, has been found infecting systems in other countries in the Middle East, according to researchers.
The malware, which steals system information but also has a mysterious payload that could be destructive, has been found infecting at least 2,500 machines, most of them in Lebanon, according to Russia-based security firm Kaspersky Lab, which discovered the malware in June and published an extensive analysis of it on Thursday.
The spyware, dubbed Gauss after a name found in one of its main files, also has a module that targets bank accounts in order to capture login credentials. The malware targets accounts at several banks in Lebanon, including the Bank of Beirut, EBLF, BlomBank, ByblosBank, FransaBank and Credit Libanais. It also targets customers of Citibank and PayPal.
The discovery appears to add to the steadily growing arsenal of malware created by the U.S. and Israeli governments. That list includes the groundbreaking Stuxnet cyberweapon that is believed to have infiltrated and caused physical damage to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, as well as the spyware tools known as Flame and DuQu. But Gauss marks the first time that apparently nation-state-created malware has been found stealing banking credentials, something that is commonly seen in malware distributed by criminal hacking groups.
The varied functionality of Gauss suggests a toolkit used for multiple operations.
“When you look at Stuxnet and DuQu, they were obviously single-goal operations. But here I think what you see is a broader operation happening all in one,” says Roel Schouwenberg, senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
The researchers don’t know if the attackers used the bank component in Gauss simply to spy on account transactions, or to steal money from targets. But given that the malware was almost certainly created by nation-state actors, its goal is likely not to steal for economic gain, but rather for counterintelligence purposes. Its aim, for instance, might be to monitor and trace the source of funding going to individuals or groups, or to sabotage political or other efforts by draining money from their accounts.
While the banking component adds a new element to state-sponsored malware, the mysterious payload may prove to be the most interesting part of Gauss, since this part of the malware has been carefully encrypted by the attackers and so far remains uncracked by Kaspersky.
The payload appears to be highly targeted against machines that have a specific configuration — a configuration used to generate a key that unlocks the encryption. So far the researchers have been unable to determine what configuration generates the key. They’re asking for assistance from any cryptographers who might be able to help crack the code.
“We do believe that it’s crackable; it will just take us some time,” says Schouwenberg. He notes that using a strong encryption key tied to the configuration illustrates great efforts by the attackers to control their code and prevent others from getting a hold of it to create copycat versions of it, something they may have learned from mistakes made with Stuxnet.
According to Kaspersky, Gauss appears to have been created sometime in mid-2011 and was first deployed in September or October of last year, around the same time that DuQu was uncovered by researchers in Hungary. DuQu was an espionage tool discovered on machines in Iran, Sudan, and other countries around August 2011 and was designed to steal documents and other data from machines. Stuxnet and DuQu appeared to have been built on the same framework, using identical parts and using similar techniques. Flame and Stuxnet also shared a component, and now Flame and Gauss have been found to be using similar code as well.
Kaspersky discovered Gauss only this last June, while looking for variants of Flame.
Kaspersky had uncovered Flame in May after the International Telecommunciations Union asked the company to investigate claims out of Iran that malware had struck computers belonging to the oil industry there and wiped out data. Kaspersky never found malware that matched the description of the code that attacked the oil industry computers, but did find Flame, a massive and sophisticated espionage toolkit that has multiple components designed to conduct various kinds of espionage on infected systems. One module takes screenshots of e-mail and instant-messaging communications, while other modules steal documents or turn on the internal microphone on a computer to record conversations conducted via Skype or in the vicinity of an infected system.
As the researchers sifted through various samples of malware identified as Flame by their anti-virus scanner, they found samples of Gauss that, upon further inspection, used some of the same code as Flame but differed from that malware. Gauss, like Flame was programmed in C++ and shares some of the same libraries, algorithms and code base.
The authors of the malware neglected to scrub path and project data from some of the modules, so the researchers were able to glean the names of project files the attackers appear to have given their code. They found, for example, a pathway for a file named “gauss_white_1″ stored on the attackers’ machine under a directory called “flamer.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7153 on: Aug 9th, 2012, 10:03am »
Hyenas That Think Outside the Box Solve Problems Faster
ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012)
— Innovative problem solving requires trying many different solutions. That's true for humans, and now Michigan State University researchers show that it's true for hyenas, too.
The study, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, presented steel puzzle boxes with raw meat inside to wild spotted hyenas in Kenya. To get the meat, the hyenas had to slide open a bolt latch. Even though most of the animals had many opportunities to open the box, only nine out of 62 hyenas succeeded. The successful hyenas tried more solutions, including biting, flipping or pushing the box, than the ones that failed, said MSU zoology graduate student Sarah Benson-Amram.
Another requirement for success was not being afraid to approach new things. The wild hyenas had never seen a steel puzzle box before. And those hyenas that quickly contacted the box when they first saw it were more successful solving the problem than those hyenas that were slower to approach it. Although contacting unknown objects can be quite dangerous for wild animals, this research shows that risk-taking also has some benefits.
Surprisingly, one trait that did not necessarily lead to victory was persistence, said Benson-Amram.
"While those who gave up quickly were more likely to fail, some hyenas that spent more time with the puzzle box appeared to get stuck in a rut and would often try the same solutions over and over again," she said.
Like humans and other primates, hyenas have relatively large brains, said Kay Holekamp, MSU zoologist and co-author of the paper.
"A likely benefit of large brains is the ability to think flexibly about new situations and come up with solutions to novel problems," said Holekamp, co-principal investigator at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.
The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.