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The Hubble ultra deep field photograph in 3-D (this is amazing!)

The Most Amazing Photo of the Universe, Now In 3D...

August 11, 2009

Is the gel condom the future of safe sex?

Gel condom to empower women - health - 11 August 2009 - New Scientist
A new gel could make a "vaginal condom" that would physically entrap semen and anything it contains, including sperm and viruses such as HIV. The gel is liquid as long as it is in contact with the acidity that is normal in a vagina, but will turn solid when it encounters semen, which is slightly alkaline. Any particles wider than 50 nanometres – including sperm, HIV and other viruses such as the herpes virus and the papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer – are trapped, so the gel could double up as both a protectant and a contraceptive. Patrick Kiser, whose team developed the gel at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, says that the objective is to give women in countries where HIV is rife a cheap way to protect themselves from viruses and pregnancy even if their partner is unwilling to wear a condom. "We did it to develop technologies that can enable women to protect themselves against HIV without the approval of their partner," says Kiser, whose team has only tested the gel in the lab so far.

August 10, 2009

The neurological basis for out-of-body experiences

NeuroLogica Blog -- Virtual You This is fascinating. Our brains are phenomenally weird conglomerates.
New research builds upon the growing body of research into how our brains give us a sense that we are inside our bodies. That is one of the brain’s functions that we take for granted – and do not even realize that it is a function of the brain or that it is necessary – until it is not functioning. When that happens we have an out-of-body experience (OBE). Prior to modern neuroscience, OBEs were interpreted as mystical or spiritual experiences. In many cultures they were provoked by drugs during spiritual rituals. They have also been reported during certain dream states and in near-death experiences.
*via Mike Sterling*

What if one drug defeated all viruses?

How to cure diseases before they have even evolved - health - 10 August 2009 - New Scientist
Back in the late 1990s, when Goldblatt was at DARPA, he began to wonder whether there was another strategy, one that exploits the key weakness of all viruses: their utter dependence on their hosts. By themselves, viruses are more helpless than newborn babies. They can replicate only by tricking their host cells into making more copies of them, a process that can involve hundreds of host proteins. What if, Goldblatt wondered, some host proteins are essential for viral replication but not for the survival of the host? If so, disabling these proteins should block viral replication without killing healthy cells. After moving to Functional Genetics, Goldblatt began putting his idea to the test. He and his colleagues disabled one gene at a time in human cells before exposing them to viruses such as flu. This fishing expedition worked beautifully: they identified more than 100 different human proteins that flu viruses need to replicate but which cells can survive without. Only four were previously known to be involved in viral replication.

August 07, 2009

Weird bright spot appears on Venus

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Experts puzzled by spot on Venus
The bright spot has since started to expand, being spread by winds in Venus's thick atmosphere. Scientists are unsure as to what caused the bright spot tens of kilometres up. However, a volcanic eruption is a possibility. Much of the planet is thought to have been resurfaced by volcanism. Though no firm evidence for present-day volcanism has been discovered, scientists suspect it could still be happening on Venus.

Poisoned Ukranian president grew new skin organs to protect himself from toxins

Skin growths saved poisoned Ukrainian president - health - 07 August 2009 - New Scientist
Benign skin growths that erupted on the face of Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko helped save his life after he was poisoned with dioxin five years ago. That's the verdict of doctors who have treated and monitored Yushchenko since an unknown assassin made the attempt on his life by lacing his soup with dioxin during a dinner in Kiev on 5 September 2004. It now turns out that the lumps that grew on his face and body as a result probably saved his life by isolating the dioxin away from his vital, internal organs. They also helped to detoxify the poison, known chemically as TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlrodibenzo-p-dioxin), by producing powerful enzymes called cytochrome p450s that are normally confined to the liver. . . . "A hamartoma is a new organisation of normal cells that simply organise themselves differently," says Saurat. "So skin can be regarded as a detoxifying organ," he says.