Science Scanner: Space Chiefs Commit to ISS Cooperation, ESA Prepares for Comet Landing, Media/Real Violence Study

Posted November 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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International Space Station Agency Heads (NASA)

International Space Station Agency Heads (NASA)

Space Agency Heads Reaffirm Commitment to ISS

While the media has occasionally suggested over the past few months that the current diplomatic tension between the U.S. and Russia could impact the future of the International Space Station (ISS) mission, the heads of the space agencies involved with operating the ISS from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States just reaffirmed their support for continuing ISS operations.

The quintet of space leaders met yesterday (11/4/14) in Paris, France and issued a joint statement that reiterate their commitment to the ISS mission.

In their statement, the heads of the ISS partner agencies said that they are continuing to work through each their own government’s procedures so that the space station mission could continue until at least 2020.  The U.S. has committed to extend the use of the ISS until at least 2024, while other partner nations are considering a similar extension.

 

Philae's primary landing site on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has been named Agilkia (© ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Philae’s primary landing site on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has been named Agilkia (© ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

ESA Renames Landing Site for Comet Probe

One week from today (11/12/14), if all goes according to plan, the European Space Agency (ESA) will send its Philae lander down to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, making it the first spacecraft to softly touchdown on the nucleus of a comet.

The lander, which hitched a ride to the comet aboard its mother ship, the Rosetta, will be sent to a location on the comet’s surface that was recently named Agilkia.  The landing location, formerly known as ‘Site J’, was named for Agilkia Island, which is located on the Nile River in the south of Egypt.

Agilkia was selected as the name of Philae’s landing by members of the Philae Lander Steering Committee.  The 150 names that led to the final selection came as the result of a public competition that ran from 10/16/14 to 10/22/14.

The winning name was submitted by Alexandre Brouste from France.  For his prize, the winner will be invited to ESA’s Space Operations Control Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to watch the Philae landing as it happens.

 

Teen playing video game (Margot Trudell via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Teen playing video game (Margot Trudell via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Studies: No Link Between Media Violence and Actual Violence

For years violent television programs, movies and even video games have been blamed for encouraging real-life violence.  Several studies conducted over the years have supported the violent media/societal violence link.

But two new studies conducted by researcher Christopher Ferguson from Florida’s Stetson University found no associations between the consumption of media violence with real violence.

In the first of the two studies, Ferguson researched the number of depictions of violence as well as just how graphic the violence portrayed in popular movies was between 1920 and 2005. He then compared that with the rates of homicide in those years.

He found that, in general, there was really no connection between movie and actual violence.

The second study looked at the consumption of violent videogames in relation to the incidents of youth violence from 1996 until 2011.

The results of this study indicated that there were actually declines in youth violence, despite the level of violent video game consumption.  But Ferguson said that he thought mere chance was more responsible for this drop in violence than kids who played violent video games.

Ferguson’s studies were published in the ‘Journal of Communication’.

 

University of Alabama Birmingham scientists including Anath Shalev (right), director of UAB's Comprehensive Diabetes Center, have uncovered that the drug verapamil, which is now used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraine headaches, eradicated diabetes in animal tests (UAB News)

University of Alabama Birmingham scientists including Anath Shalev (right), director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center, have uncovered that the drug verapamil, which is now used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraine headaches, eradicated diabetes in animal tests (UAB News)

Experimental Drug Cured Diabetes in Animal Tests

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are offering type 1 diabetes patients a ray of hope. In animal studies, a drug called verapamil, which is currently being used to help control blood pressure, also completely reversed diabetes.

As a result of that success the researchers will pursue human clinical trials some time in 2015.

The researchers said the upcoming human trial will allow them to test an approach that will focus on beta cells in the pancreas. These are the specialized cells that produce insulin, which is used by the body to control blood sugar.

Called “the repurposing of verapamil as a beta cell survival therapy in type 1 diabetes,” the upcoming clinical trial comes as result of more than a decade of studies.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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