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Scientific breakthrough? Experts find way to reverse aging

It’s understood that degenerative diseases like Alzheimers and cancer can make a person’s “golden years” look pretty bleak. However, there’s some hope on the horizon thanks to some new research from England. A research team at the University of Exeter has found a way to possibly stave off these diseases by making older cells act and look like younger ones.

Older cells have a tendency to stop dividing (or splicing) as people age, which can lead to a host of degenerative diseases. The body cleanses itself of these cells most the time, but they can begin to pile up as an older immune system starts to break down.

“We had seen from human populations and old cells that the splicing factors get downregulated as we age, so you can’t adapt as well to challenges in your internal and external environment,” study leader and University of Exeter Professor of Molecular Genetics Lorna Harries told Fox News. “What we didn’t know was whether these changes were a cause of aging or just an effect.”

The researchers found some inspiration from resveratrol, a chemical found naturally in dark chocolate, blueberries and red wine. Harries had seen some reports that suggested the chemical was capable of switching back on a few of the 170 different splicing factors, and wondered if resveratrol could moderate the levels of the rest of them as well.

But experts say don’t start downing red wine just yet.

“We really aren’t trying to tell people that chocolate or red wine makes you look younger or live longer,” Harries said. “This is how a lot of the media have painted it!”

Though resveratrol’s regenerative effects have been documented before, Harries and her team found that creating a compound that could mimic resveratol’s regenerative mechanism was more effective than resveratrol itself.

“In actual fact, we didn’t just use resveratrol, as this compound has lots of other effects,” she explained. “In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Brighton, we made a series of other chemicals that resembled resveratrol but were not identical and had different properties, which allowed us to isolate the effects on splicing factor levels from the other effects of resveratrol.”

The team experimented with the new compound, testing its effects on living human cells in a lab. To their surprise, the cells began rejuvenating.

DNA BREAKTHROUGH: SCIENTISTS REPAIR GENES IN HUMAN EMBRYOS TO PREVENT INHERITED DISEASES

“I had anticipated that we might see some changes in splicing factor levels, but we really didn’t anticipate to see such marked changes in the levels of old cells in the cell population,” Harries added. “That was something of a surprise.”

The team now believes that rather than each degenerative disease of aging having a unique cause, a lot of them actually share common causes and that the changes in splicing factor expression could be just one of these. By addressing these causes, theoretically you could attack a number of diseases at once– including common ailments in the elderly like cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and diabetes.

So when can we see this technology at work? Unfortunately, Harries predicts it’s at least 20 to 30 years away.

“We need to pinpoint exactly how the splicing factors are causing the cells to rejuvenate, and identify the key points where we could intervene to stop them declining as we age, or to restore them once the damage is done,” she said. “We’re now addressing why the splicing factors get switched off as we age, what the downstream consequences of this are for the regulation of our genes and the behavior of our cells, and also to identify new ways by which we might be able to intervene in these processes.”

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Archaeologists find tunnel that may emulate underworld

What would make the discovery of a secret passageway under Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon even more intriguing? A theory that the tunnel was used to emulate the underworld, to start.

CT scans performed by archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History in June indicate that a tunnel about 30 feet underground spans from the pre-Aztec pyramid to the middle of its outer central square, reports Live Science.

They say it’s possible the tunnel was used for ritualistic purposes, such as ceremonies marking the different agricultural cycles. “The function of the tunnel may have been to reproduce the underworld, a world where life, animals, and plants originated,” says archaeologist Verónica Ortega, per the International Business Times. Construction began on the Pyramid of the Moon in 100 BC; it was initially a small platform that grew in stages over roughly 500 years to a height of 150 feet. The pyramid is believed to have been the site of human sacrifices and other grisly rituals, indicated by its tombs holding human and animal remains. Researchers believe the tunnel below it may contain artifacts that reveal more about the ancient civilization, but further investigation is needed to confirm the tunnel’s existence before it can be explored. A passageway below the Temple of the Sun, Teotihuacan’s largest pyramid, was discovered in the ’70s but had been looted several centuries prior. An interesting side note from the AP: In contrast to other ancient Mexican sites, no remains believed to belong to Teotihuacan’s rulers have ever been uncovered. (Meanwhile, a 3,000-year-old prosthetic toe was found in Egypt).

This article originally appeared on Newser: Archaeologists Find Tunnel That May Emulate Underworld

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Spy satellites, drones, help experts discover lost city in Iraq founded after Alexander the Great

Archaeologists have harnessed spy satellite imagery and drones to help identify the site of an ancient lost city in Northern Iraq.

Experts at the Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme have been working at the Qalatga Darband site, which is 6.2 miles southeast of Rania in Iraqi Kurdistan. Backed by U.K. government funding, the project involves archaeologists from the British Museum and their Iraqi counterparts.

Qalatga Darband was first spotted when archaeologists analyzed U.S. spy satellite imagery from the 1960s that was declassified in the 1990s. Experts at the British Museum used the data to map a large number of carved limestone blocks at the site, indicating substantial remains. A drone survey highlighted other buildings that may be buried at the site.

The site, which overlooks the Lower Zab river at the western edge of the Zagros Mountains, is part of a historic route from ancient Mesopotamia to Iran. Alexander the Great passed through the area in 331 B.C. when his army was pursuing Persian King Darius III after defeating him at the battle of Gaugamela. The site was also at the eastern edge of the Assyrian Empire in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., according to the British Museum.

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Statue of a nude male discovered at Qalatga Darband  (© Trustees of British Museum)

Excavations at Qalatga Darband have given archaeologists a fascinating glimpse into the life of the ancient city. Initial analysis suggests that the city was founded by the Seleucids, who inherited the empire of Alexander the Great. Hellenist, or Greek, influences, were still strong in the region during the Seleucid era. The site is thought to have survived the subsequent overthrow of the Seleucid Empire, when Qalatga Darband came under Parthian rule.

“A systematic collection of surface ceramics has been carried out, analysis of which has for the first time established that the site can be dated to the first and second centuries BC,” explained the British Museum, in a press release. Excavations revealed a large fortified structure at the north end of the site, stone presses that may have been used for wine production, and Greco-Roman architecture, such as the use of terracotta roof tiles.

When archaeologists investigated a huge stone mound at the southern end of the site, they found the remains of a large building, which given the presence of smashed statuary, may have been a temple for worshipping Greco-Roman deities. The smashed statues include a seated female figure that may be the Greek goddess Persephone and a half life-sized nude male figure that may be Adonis.

A nearby site, Usu Aska, has revealed a fort tentatively dated to time of the ancient Assyrians. A grave cut into the Assyrian remains contained a coin dating to the time Parthian King Orodes II, around 57 to 38 B.C. “The discovery of a fort dating to the time of the Assyrian period will generate information on a corner of the empire which is virtually unknown, while the discovery of a city established in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great is already yielding evidence for the fundamental changes wrought by the advent of Hellenism,” explained the British Museum.

The Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme was set up in 2015 in response to the devastation wrought by the Islamic State.

During its reign of terror, ISIS launched a series of wanton attacks on sites of historic and religious importance across a swathe of Iraq and Syria. Last year, for example, ISIS released a video that showed militants using sledgehammers and drills to destroy artifacts in Iraq’s Mosul Museum.

In 2015, ISIS took control of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and subsequently demolished some of its best-known monuments, such as the Temple of Ba’al. The jihadists, who beheaded the city’s former antiquities chief, also used Palmyra’s ancient amphitheater for public executions.

Last year, a Christian saint’s bones were reportedly unearthed amid the rubble of an ancient Syrian monastery destroyed by ISIS.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Crusader-era hand grenade surprises archaeologists

3.	A hand grenade that is hundreds of years old which was found in the sea. (Photographic credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority)

3. A hand grenade that is hundreds of years old which was found in the sea. (Photographic credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority)

A centuries-old hand grenade that may date back to the time of the crusaders is among a host of treasures retrieved from the sea in Israel.

The metal artifacts, some of which are more than 3,500 years old, were found over a period of years by the late Marcel Mazliah, a worker at the Hadera power plant in northern Israel.

Mazliah’s family recently presented the treasures to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Experts, who were surprised by the haul, think that the objects probably fell overboard from a medieval metal merchant’s ship.

The hand grenade was a common weapon in Israel during the Crusader era, which began in the 11th century and lasted until the 13th century, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Grenades were also used 12th and 13th century Ayyubid period and the Mamluk era, which ran from the 13thto the 16th century, experts say.

Haaretz reports that early grenades were often used to disperse burning flammable liquid. However, some experts believe that so-called ancient grenades were actually used to contain perfume.

The oldest items found in the sea by Mazliah are a toggle pin and the head of a knife from the Middle Bronze, which date back more than 3,500 years. Ayala Lester, a curator at the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained that other items, such as two mortars, two pestles and candlestick fragments, date to the 11th-century Fatimid period. “The items were apparently manufactured in Syria and were brought to Israel,” she said, in a statement. “The finds are evidence of the metal trade that was conducted during this period.”

Experts in Israel regularly unearth fascinating sites and artifacts. Archaeologists in Western Galilee, for example, recently uncovered a 1,600-year-old ceramics workshop and a kiln. Another dig at an ancient synagogue in northern Israel revealed stunning mosaics depicting Noah’s Ark and the parting of the Red Sea.

However, the recent discovery of a 3,000-year-old graveyard in Ashkelon, hailed as a key find from the Philistine era, has sparked historical debate among archaeologists.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers.

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Human remains unearthed in biblical city, 3,200 years after it was destroyed by ancient Egyptians

Archaeologists in Israel discovered the ancient bodies in the biblical city of Gezer, more than 3,000 years after its destruction by ancient Egyptians.

The 33-acre Tel Gezer archaeological site is located in the foothills of the Judean Mountains in central Israel and continues to fascinate experts. The ancient city of Gezer is mentioned in the biblical account of King Solomon’s fortifications, as well as in several ancient Egyptian and Assyrian texts.

Excavations this summer revealed the remains of three people in a building destroyed by an ancient Egyptian army. “This past season we uncovered a building dating to the end of the 13th century BC that was violently destroyed,” explained Prof. Steven Ortiz, Professor at the Tandy Institute for Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an email to Fox News.

The destruction is associated with the “Merneptah campaign,” when the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah attacked Gezer, according to Ortiz, who co-directed the excavation with Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority. At the time of the attack, Gezer was part of the ancient Canaanite civilization.

The Israeli website Haaretz reports that the remains of two adults and a child, the latter wearing earrings, were discovered in a building in the south of the ancient city.

One adult and the child were found under a 3.3-foot layer of ash and burnt bricks in a room of the building, according to Haaretz. The adult, who was so badly burnt that the sex could not be determined, was lying on its back with its arms above its head.

Other artifacts found in the room include a table, storage jars, a grinding stone and a large earthenware jar.

The skeletal remains of the second adult were found beneath rubble in another room within the complex, Haaretz reports. Other items in that room included a 13th century B.C. amulet and cylinder seals.

The finds, Ortiz says, show the importance of the ancient city of Gezer and provide evidence of Egyptian military campaigns at the end of the late Bronze Age. The city was strategically located at a crucial crossroads guarding the pass from the coast up to Jerusalem.

The Tandy Institute for Archaeology has made 10 excavations at the site, starting in 2006, and  uncovered a King Solomon-Era palace last year.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Elon Musk wants Giant SpaceX spaceship to fly people to Mars by 2024

SpaceX aims to launch its first cargo mission to Mars in 2022 and send people toward the Red Planet just two years after that.

Those are just two of the highlights of the company’s current Mars-colonization plan, which SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled early Friday morning EDT (Sept. 29) at the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.

Musk’s talk — which took place Friday afternoon local Adelaide time — served to update the architecture the billionaire entrepreneur revealed at last year’s IAC, in Guadalajara, Mexico. That previous presentation introduced a huge, reusable rocket-spaceship combo called the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), which Musk envisioned helping to establish a million-person city on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years. [The BFR: SpaceX’s Mars-Colonization Architecture in Images]

 As Musk described it last year, the roughly 40-foot-wide (12 meters) ITS booster would feature 42 Raptor engines. It would launch the spaceship to Earth orbit, then come back down to its pad for a pinpoint landing — and another flight in quick succession. The spaceship, meanwhile, would be fueled in orbit by a tanker (which would also be launched by an ITS booster).
The ITS spaceships would linger in orbit until the time was right to depart for Mars, when they would do so en masse. (Such windows come along once every 26 months.) Each ship would be capable of carrying about 100 people to the Red Planet; after landing there and offloading their cargo and passengers, the ships would top up their tanks on the Martian surface with locally produced propellant (methane and oxygen) and then launch back to Earth.

The new plan retains this same basic idea, but with some important tweaks. For example, the rocket has been scaled back a bit; it will now be about 30 feet (9 wide) and sport “just” 31 Raptor engines. (For comparison, the first stage of SpaceX’s in-service Falcon 9 rockethas nine Merlin engines.) And the name “ITS” seems to be out: During Friday’s talk, Musk repeatedly referred to the system by the “code name” BFR, which is short for Big F***ing Rocket.

But the most important change has to do with the system’s affordability, Musk said Friday.

“In last year’s presentation, we were really searching for what the right way — how do we pay for this thing?” he said. “We went through various ideas — do a Kickstarter, collecting underpants. These didn’t pan out. But now we think we’ve got a way to do it.”

The answer, he explained, lies in downsizing the system a bit and using it for everything that SpaceX does, from satellite launches to International Space Station resupply flights to crewed Mars missions. In other words, the company plans to put its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets — the latter of which hasn’t even flown yet — and its Dragon capsule out to pasture relatively soon.

“If we can do that, then all the resources that are used for Falcon 9, Heavy and Dragon can be applied to this system. That’s really fundamental,” Musk said. “We believe that we can do this with the revenue we receive for launching satellites and for servicing the space station.”

SpaceX will, however, “build ahead” and keep a stock of Falcon 9s and Dragons around for a while, in case customers wish to use those vehicles during the early days of BFR operation, Musk added.

Missions to Mars

As currently envisioned, the BFR system (the ship stacked atop the rocket) will stand 348 feet (106 m) tall — about 50 feet (15 m) shorter than the ITS concept vehicle.

The BFR booster will be capable of lofting 150 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), making it more powerful than NASA’s famous Saturn V moon rocket, which could launch 135 tons to LEO, Musk said.

By itself, the BFR spaceship will stand 157.5 feet (48 meters) tall. It will feature 40 passenger cabins, each of which can theoretically fit five or six people but will more likely accommodate two to three, Musk said. So each ship will probably carry about 100 passengers on a typical Mars trip.

The ships sport six Raptor engines, which should allow them to get to Mars after a deep-space journey of three to six months. The vehicles will land via supersonic retropropulsion, slowing their descent through the Martian atmosphere using thrusters, as Falcon 9 first stages do when they come back to Earth during orbital launches.

SpaceX is currently riding a streak of 12 straight successful Falcon 9 landings, and that rocket’s first stage touches down using just a single engine. The BFR spaceship will be able to land with the aid of either of its two central engines, Musk said. [In Photos: SpaceX Launches X-37B Space Plane, Lands Falcon 9 Rocket]

“If you can get to a very high reliability with even a single engine, and then you can land with either of two engines, I think we can get to a landing reliability that is on par with the safest commercial airliners,” he said. “So you can essentially count on the landing.”

The BFR system will also be airliner-like in its reusability; each booster and spaceship will fly again and again and again, helping make Mars colonization economically feasible, Musk said.

“It’s really crazy that we build these sophisticated rockets and then crash them every time we fly. This is mad,” Musk said. “I can’t emphasize [enough] how profound this is, and how important reusability is.”

SpaceX is now beginning “serious development” of the BFR system, he added. The company aims to launch at least two uncrewed ships to Mars in 2022, primarily to confirm the existence of necessary resources and set up infrastructure for future missions — power, mining and life support systems, for example.

If all goes according to plan, two cargo ships and two crew ships will depart for the Red Planet in 2024 to set up the propellant-production plant and begin building a base in earnest. This city will keep growing and growing, as more and more BFR ships come in with settlers and supplies.

The long-term goal is “terraforming Mars and making it really a nice place to be,” Musk said. [Red Planet or Bust: 5 Crewed Mars Mission Ideas]

The moon and Earth, too

The BFR is not a Mars-specific system; the spaceship will be able to land anywhere in the solar system, Musk said. He envisions such ships helping to set up an outpost on the moon in the relatively near future. (BFR ships could even fly all the way from Earth orbit to the lunar surface and back without having to refuel, Musk said.)

“It’s 2017; we should have a lunar base by now,” he said. “What the hell is going on?”

SpaceX also plans to put the BFR to work closer to home; the rocket-spaceship system can be used to launch satellites, resupply the International Space Station and clean up space junk, Musk said. The BFR could even end up taking passengers from place to place here on Earth.

“Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour,” Musk said.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+ . Follow us @Spacedotcom ,Facebook or Google+ . Originally published on Space.com.

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50% of Millennials would give up their right to vote to get student loans erased

By   Personal Finance FOXBusinessOpens a New Window.

Statement for a Student Loan on a desktop. Loan is PAST DUE with a red rubber stamp. Props include reading glasses, coffee cup and pen. Horizontal photograph. PAST DUE is bright red against the white form. Shot from a high angle looking down. … (Kirby Hamilton)

As the staggering national student loan debt tally sits at an all-time high of $1.33 trillion, according to the Department of Education, many Millennials say they would go to extreme lengths to wipe their slate clean.

Other extremes include a willingness to ditch ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft (44%) and giving up travel outside of the country for five years (42%) to have student loans forgiven.

Yet, only 27% said they would be willing to move in with their parents for five years or give up texting at 13%. Of the 500 Millennials surveyed, only 8.2% of them chose to keep paying off their debt and not give up anything.

The survey comes just as The Associated Press reports that tens of thousands of former students have been left in limbo as the Trump administration has delayed action on requests for loan forgiveness, according to court documents. The report says The Education Department is sitting on more than 65,000 unapproved claims as it rewrites Obama-era rules that sought to better protect students.

During his campaign, Trump proposed student loan forgiveness after 15 years of repayment. However since taking office, Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ initial education budget have sought to eliminate current loan forgiveness programs.

More on this…

In July, FOX Business reported on a similar survey from MoneyTips.com that found that nearly 42% of Americans think President Trump’s administration should forgive all federal student debt in order to help stimulate the economy.

Michael Dubrow, co-founder of MoneyTips, told FOX Business that while the survey didn’t specifically focus on Millennials (ages 18-29) a majority of them were “especially passionate” about it, nearly twice as much as those 50 and older.

“Even if older people are still paying off their loans, younger people paid more and borrowed more for higher education,” Dubrow said in an interview in July.

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