Don’t Smoke; Space Blob Mystery; Near Earth Asteroid Watch

Posted September 22nd, 2016 at 4:24 pm (UTC-5)
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It can be tough for long time smokers to refuse a cigarette (U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons)

It can be tough for long time smokers to refuse a cigarette (U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons)

Yet Another Reason Not to Smoke

The American Heart Association released a new study that uncovers yet another reason not to smoke.

The study, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, suggests that smoking can have a wide-ranging and long-term effect on our DNA.

The research shows that smoking leaves a “footprint” on the human genome, a complete set of a person’s genetic material, in a process called DNA methylation.

“These results are important because methylation, as one of the mechanisms of the regulation of gene expression, affects what genes are turned on, which has implications for the development of smoking-related diseases,” said Stephanie J. London, M.D., Dr.P.H., the study’s last author and deputy chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health in a press release.

While the research shows this DNA footprint greatly diminishes five years after a smoker quits, it doesn’t completely disappear from the genome even 30 years after quitting.

Computer simulation of a Lyman-alpha Blob - This rendering shows a snapshot from a cosmological simulation of a Lyman-alpha Blob similar to LAB-1. (J.Geach/D.Narayanan/R.Crain)

Computer simulation of a Lyman-alpha Blob – This rendering shows a snapshot from a cosmological simulation of a Lyman-alpha Blob similar to LAB-1. (J.Geach/D.Narayanan/R.Crain)

Astronomers Find Source of Space Blob’s Light

Among the most mysterious objects in the universe are Lyman-alpha blobs, or LAB.

A LAB has been described as a huge cloud of hydrogen gas in distant areas of space.

The object’s name comes from the wavelength of UV light it produces, called Lyman-alpha radiation.

Since its discovery in 2000, scientists have been stumped by what causes an LAB to shine so brightly.

Studying SSA22-Lyman-alpha blob 1 or LAB-1 , one of the largest objects found so far, a team of astronomers say they found two galaxies at the object’s core that are forming stars at a rate over 100 times that of the Milky Way.

Surrounding these two prolific galaxies is a swarm of smaller galaxies, which the team says appears to be an early phase in the formation of a massive galaxy cluster.

It’s thought all the star making activity may be producing the UV light that illuminates the surrounding cloud of hydrogen gas.

The study is set to appear in the Astrophysical Journal.

Introducing the Daily Minor Planet: Delivering the Latest Asteroid News (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Introducing the Daily Minor Planet: Delivering the Latest Asteroid News (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

New Email Service Will Deliver Updates on Passing Asteroids

Almost every day, an asteroid passes within a few million miles of Earth.

If the cosmic debris that whizzes past our planet worries you, you may want to check out a new information service from the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, along with technology giant Oracle.

Called the Daily Minor Planet, a nod to Superman’s fictional “Daily Planet” newspaper, this free subscription-based service will provide what is described as up-to-the-minute information about near Earth asteroids both big and small.

Representatives from Daily Minor Planet say on days when a piece of space rock is expected to fly by Earth, the news service will list information about the asteroid, along with the time and distance of its closest approach.

Matt Holman, director of the Minor Planet Center says he wants the Daily Minor Planet to educate readers and provide an entertaining way to present facts about near Earth Asteroids.

Châtelperronian body ornaments and bone points from the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure. (Dr. Marian Vanheren)

Châtelperronian body ornaments and bone points from the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure. (Dr. Marian Vanheren)

Evidence: Neanderthals Produced Tools and Body Ornaments

An international research team says their new analysis of 28 previously unidentifiable bone fragments gathered from an archeological site in north central France may have solved a long running dispute.

Some scientists argue that only modern humans have the cognitive ability to produce tools and artifacts, such as body ornaments, also found at the French dig site.

But the researchers claim their studies confirm that the items were actually produced by Neanderthals, a now extinct relative of modern humans.

The analysis indicates that the bone fragments are from the remains of a young and breastfed individual. Radiocarbon dating of the fragments indicates Neanderthal ancestry.

The study was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Neanderthals were a hominid species that are said to have lived in Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia from about 30,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Several recent studies suggest that some Neanderthals interbred with modern humans.

Alligators Have Not Evolved in 8 Million Years

Most animals from 8 million years ago either evolved into more modern species, or have become extinct.

Among the very few exceptions is the American alligator, which makes its home in freshwater wetlands from Texas to North Carolina.

A new study by scientists at the University of Florida suggests that these dinosaur look-alikes have remained untouched by significant evolutionary change for at least 8 million years.

The study also finds that the alligator may be up to 6 million years older than had been thought.

While it has remained unchanged for millions of years, the study suggests the American alligator evolved from ancestors that go back some 200 or more million years ago.

The researchers call the alligator a survivor, since it has endured many changes to its environment, such as wild fluctuations in the Earth’s climate and sea-level.

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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