Tag: Harvard (page 1 of 3)

CRISPR-Cas9 modifies your DNA, under legal fire ~ Video




Excerpt from slashgear.com

A revolutionary method of editing the human genome has this week become the subject of a patent war. Back in April of 2014, patents were awarded by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to the Broad Institutes’ Dr. Feng Zhang, MIT, and Harvard to develop the technology behind "CRISPR-Cas9". 
This April, the UC Board of Regents’ legal team spoke with the USPTO about reconsidering their action, suggesting they award the patent to the inventor of the original method, UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna. One way or another, this radical DNA modifier must be made. 

We need X-Men, after all.


The following video will explain what this genome-editing piece of technological breakthrough is all about. CRISPR-Cas9 is what it's called, and getting in to your body to make changes on a DNA level is what it's going for.

CRISPR-Cas9 works as a tiny scissors.

Utilizing the natural bacterial-level protective system used by your body to fight infections, CRISPR-Cas9 replicates the sequences of target DNA strands and latches on.

It's the connector that CRISPR-Cas9 makes real, and really programmable.

Your body provides the Cas9.* The Cas9 is the nuclease enzyme that cuts DNA strands.

*Correction - BACTERIA have Cas9, not our human selves. As helpful commenter "John" put so eloquently, "So far it has only been found in bacterial cells, and that's one of the things that makes it so amazing--a relatively simple molecular system that replicates many of the functions of our elaborate adaptive immune response, all in a single prokaryotic cell!"

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 10.11.42 AM
ABOVE: Image comes via Nature; Addgene, By Jonathan Corum, via NYT.

When a DNA sequence is cut, it may attempt to re-form. In doing so, it can create mutations.

But that's a discussion for another day.

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Genetically altered twin monkeys have been made using the CRISPR-Cas9 method. As you'll see in DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.027 in Cell Symposia "Generation of Gene-Modified Cynomolgus Monkey via Cas9/RNA-Mediated Gene Targeting in One-Cell Embryos", these monkeys are living large on gene-altered action.

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Today what's important is that two groups are fighting for the patents involved in CRISPR-Cas9.

A paper published online June 28 2012 by Science authored by Martin Jinek, Krzysztof Chylinski, Ines Fonfara, Michael Hauer, Jennifer A. Doudna, and Emmanuelle Charpentier describes the method: "A Programmable Dual-RNA–Guided DNA Endonuclease in Adaptive Bacterial Immunity."

You can find this paper under code DOI: 10.1126/science.1225829.

Dr. Zhang suggests he demonstrated the CRISPR genome editing method before the 2012 paper was published by Dr. Doudna and Dr. Charpentier and crew. Dr. Doudna and Dr. Charpentier and crew suggest say Dr. Zhang's notebook (used as proof for patents) does not prove genome editing before the 2012 paper was published.

Can't we all just get along? Think of the monkeys!

Click to zoom

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7 Reasons You Need More Magnesium

Margie King, GuestMagnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body.  But few people fully appreciate this miraculous mineral. The human genome project reveals that 3,751 human proteins have binding sites for magnesium.[i]  And so far we know this one essential mineral activates over 350 biochemical processes in the body to keep things flowing.Here are just seven good reasons to get more magnesium today. 1. Prevent Migraines. According to University of Vermo [...]

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The Class-Domination Theory of Power

by G. William DomhoffNOTE: WhoRulesAmerica.net is largely based on my book,Who Rules America?, first published in 1967 and now in its7th edition. This on-line document is presented as a summary of some of the main ideas in that book.Who has predominant power in the United States? The short answer, from 1776 to the present, is: Those who have the money -- or more specifically, who own income-producing land and businesses -- have the power. George Washington was one of the biggest landowner [...]

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Water may have been abundant a short billion years after Big Bang





Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

The formation of water vapor after the Big Bang was constrained by the lack of oxygen; it and other elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were created only later on, in the death throes of the first generation of massive stars. Oxygen created by the demises of early stars was swept out in to space by the explosions of supernovae and stellar winds, eventually joining with hydrogen to form water.

This process created islands of gas replete with heavy elements, such as oxygen; these regions were more bereft of oxygen than gaseous regions in the modern Milky Way galaxy. However, a new study by Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has determined that, in certain islands, water vapor might have been as plentiful as it is today, only a billion years after the Big Bang.

According to a CfA statement, the researchers looked at whether water could form in the primordial molecular clouds, which were deficient in oxygen. Their analysis indicated that large quantities of water could form at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Water molecules would have been shattered by ultraviolet light emitted by stars; however, after hundreds of millions of years, an equilibrium between water creation and destruction would be reached.

“We looked at the chemistry within young molecular clouds containing a thousand times less oxygen than our Sun. To our surprise, we found we can get as much water vapor as we see in our own galaxy,” said astrophysicist Avi Loeb of CfA.

The new study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and is accessible online.


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Lab for genetic modification of human embryos just $2,000 away – report


Reuters / Christian Charisius



Reuters

With the right expertise in molecular biology, one could start a basic laboratory to modify human embryos using a genome-editing computer technique all for a couple thousand dollars, according to a new report.

Genetic modification has received heightened scrutiny recently following last week’s announcement that Chinese researchers had, for the first time, successfully edited human embryos’ genomes. 
The team at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, used CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats), a technique that relies on “cellular machinery” used by bacteria in defense against viruses. 

This machinery is copied and altered to create specific gene-editing complexes, which include the wonder enzyme Cas9. The enzyme works its way into the DNA and can be used to alter the molecule from the inside. The combination is attached to an RNA guide that takes the gene-editing complex to its target, telling Cas9 where to operate. 

Use of the CRISPR technique is not necessarily relegated to the likes of cash-flush university research operations, according to a report by Business Insider. 


Geneticist George Church, who runs a top CRISPR research program at the Harvard Medical School, said the technique could be employed with expert knowledge and about half of the money needed to pay for an average annual federal healthcare plan in 2014 -- not to mention access to human embryos. 

"You could conceivably set up a CRISPR lab for $2,000,” he said, according to Business Insider. 

Other top researchers have echoed this sentiment. 

"Any scientist with molecular biology skills and knowledge of how to work with [embryos] is going to be able to do this,” Jennifer Doudna, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, recently told MIT Tech Review, which reported that Doudna co-discovered how to edit genetic code using CRISPR in 2012. 

Last week, the Sun Yat-Sen University research team said it attempted to cure a gene defect that causes beta-thalassemia (a genetic blood disorder that could lead to severe anemia, poor growth, skeletal abnormalities and even death) by editing the germ line. For that purpose they used a gene-editing technique based on injecting non-viable embryos with a complex, which consists of a protective DNA element obtained from bacteria and a specific protein. 

"I suspect this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine," wrote science journalist Carl Zimmer for National Geographic.


Response to the new research has been mixed. Some experts say the gene editing could help defeat genetic diseases even before birth. Others expressed concern. 

“At present, the potential safety and efficacy issues arising from the use of this technology must be thoroughly investigated and understood before any attempts at human engineering are sanctioned, if ever, for clinical testing,” a group of scientists, including some who had worked to develop CRISPR, warned in Science magazine. 

Meanwhile, the director of the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) said the agency would not fund such editing of human embryo genes. 

“Research using genomic editing technologies can and are being funded by NIH,” Francis Collins said Wednesday. “However, NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes ... has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed.”

Although the discovery of CRISPR sequences dates back to 1987 – when it was first used to cure bacteria of viruses – its successes in higher animals and humans were only achieved in 2012-13, when scientists achieved a revolution by combining the resulting treatment system with Cas9 for the first time. 


On April 17, the MIT’s Broad Institute announced that has been awarded the first-ever patent for working with the Crisp-Cas9 system. 

The institute’s director, Eric Lander, sees the combination as “an extraordinary, powerful tool. The ability to edit a genome makes it possible to discover the biological mechanisms underlying human biology.”

The system’s advantage over other methods is in that it can also target several genes at the same time, working its way through tens of thousands of so-called 'guide' RNA sequences that lead them to the weapon to its DNA targets. 

Meanwhile, last month in the UK, a healthy baby was born from an embryo screened for genetic diseases, using karyomapping, a breakthrough testing method that allows doctors to identify about 60 debilitating hereditary disorders.

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For the first time, scientists find complex organic molecules in an infant star system



Artist impression of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in the outer reaches of the disk in the region where comets are believed to form. This is another indication that complex organic chemistry, and potentially the conditions necessary for life, is universal. (B. Saxton/NRAO/AUI/NSF)



Excerpt from washingtonpost.com

We're not special. Or our complex organic molecules aren't, anyway. And that's good news in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.

In a new study published Wednesday in Nature, astronomers found the first signs of the complex, carbon-based molecules that make life possible on Earth in a protoplanetary disk; the region where cosmic building blocks gather to create planets in a brand-new star system. The cyanides found there are essential to life as we know it: without them, there would be no proteins.

"We know when our own solar system was very young, it was rich in water and complex organics. We know that from observing comets," explained study author Karin Öberg, an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard. Comets have kept the molecules of our solar system's early days locked up tight ever since, which is why scientists are so eager to study them for clues about Earth's formation. These comets show us that certain organic molecules were common in our solar system's pre-planetary days.

But this is the first time we've seen evidence of such molecules ready to seed another star system with planets that could support life.
"We're finding that we're not that special," Öberg said. "Other young solar systems in the making are also rich in the same volatiles, and in similar proportions."

And in this case, she said, being not-special is a great thing: If other solar systems formed just the way ours did, we can hope that they formed some kind of life, too.

Öberg and her colleagues found the molecules using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a radio telescope with some pretty sweet resolution. They spotted the complex organics as much as 15 billion kilometers from the star itself, which they believe is right smack dab in the middle of the system's comet-forming region. That means the organics could get locked away in comets, just as the ones in our solar system were, and go out to seed future planets with them (as some believe was the case with Earth).

"It was kind of a chance discovery, because we weren't targeting this specific molecule," Öberg said. So she and her team need to go back and look more systematically. She also hopes they'll be able to find more systems to look at. The star they've observed -- MWC 480, located some 455 light-years away in the Taurus star-forming region -- is twice the mass of the sun, so they also hope to find some that are more similar to our host star.

 "We of course want to know whether this is a really common thing or if we just lucked out on this one," Öberg said.

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Study: 70% of People on Antidepressants Don’t Have Depression

Mike Barrett, Natural SocietyIf sales for antidepressants such as Zoloft, Lexapro, or Prozac tell us anything, it’s that depression is sweeping the nation. But a new study questions the validity of most of these sales. The study has found that the majority of individuals on antidepressants – a whopping 69% – do not even meet the criteria for clinical depression. These individuals are likely just experiencing normal sadness and hardships that most of u [...]

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Why Luke Skywalker’s binary sunset may be real after all






Excerpt from csmonitor.com

Researchers have found Jupiter-scale gas giants orbiting binary stars and estimate that Earth-like planets orbiting binary stars could be as numerous as rocky planets orbiting single-star systems.


For all the sci-fi charm of watching a pair of suns sink below a distant horizon on a planet in a galaxy far, far away, conventional wisdom has held that binary-star systems can't host Earth-scale rocky planets.

As the two stars orbit each other like square-dance partners swinging arm in arm, regular variations in their gravitational tug would disrupt planet formation at the relatively close distances where rocky planets tend to appear.

Not so fast, say two astrophysicists. They argue that only are Tatooine-like planets likely to be out there. They could be as numerous as rocky planets orbiting single-star systems – which is to say, there could be large number of them.

Building rocky planets in a binary system not only is possible, it's "not even that hard," says Scott Kenyon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who along with University of Utah astrophysicist Benjamin Bromley performed the calculations.
Researchers have found Jupiter-scale gas giants orbiting binary stars and have estimated that such gas giants are likely to be as common in binary systems as they are in systems with a single star.
"If that's true, then Earth-like planets around binaries are just as common as Earth-like planets around single stars," Dr. Kenyon says. "If they're not common, that tells you something about how they form or how they interact with the star over billions of years."

The modeling study grew out of work the two researchers were undertaking to figure out how the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon manage to share space with four smaller moons that orbit the two larger objects. 

Pluto and Charon form a binary system that early in its history saw the two objects graze each other to generate a ring of dust that would become the additional moons.

The gravity the surrounding dust felt as Pluto and Charon swung about their shared center of mass would vary with clock-like precision.

Conventional wisdom held that this variable tug would trigger collisions at speeds too fast to allow the dust and larger chunks to merge into ever larger objects.

Kenyon and Dr. Bromley found that, in fact, the velocities would be smaller than people thought – no greater than the speeds would be around a single central object, where velocities are slow enough to allow the debris to bump gently and merge to build ever-larger objects.

They recognized that binary stars hosting planets are essentially scaled-up versions of the Pluto-Charon system. So they applied their calculations to a hypothetical binary star system with a circumstellar disk of dust and debris.

"The modest jostling in these orbits is the same modest jostling you'd get around a single star," Kenyon says, allowing rocky inner planets to form.

As for the Jupiter- or Neptune-scale planets found around binary stars, they would have formed farther out and migrated in over time, the researchers say, since there is too little material within the inner reaches of a circumstellar disk to build giant planets.

The duo's calculations imply that as more planets are discovered orbiting binary stars, a rising number of Tatooines will be among them. 

Tatooine "was science fiction," Kenyon says. But "it's not so far from science reality."

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Scientists Take Key Step to Resurrecting Extinct Woolly Mammoth; First Mammoth Could be Born in 2018

Excerpt from en.yibada.comScientists from Harvard University announced their success in splicing DNA from the extinct woolly mammoth into living cells of an Asian elephant, making it possible to "de-extinct" the animal that died-off 4,000 years ago....

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Chances of Exoplanet Life ‘Impossible’? Or ‘100 percent’?


Kepler’s Exoplanets: A map of the locations of exoplanets, of various masses, in the Kepler field of view. 1,235 candidates are plotted (NASA/Wendy Stenzel)


 news.discovery.com 

Just in case you haven’t heard, our galaxy appears to be teeming with small worlds, many of which are Earth-sized candidate exoplanets and dozens appear to be orbiting their parent stars in their “habitable zones.”

Before Wednesday’s Kepler announcement, we knew of just over 500 exoplanets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Now the space telescope has added another 1,235 candidates to the tally — what a difference 24 hours makes.

Although this is very exciting, the key thing to remember is that we are talking about exoplanet candidates, which means Kepler has detected 1,235 exoplanet signals, but more work needs to be done (i.e. more observing time) to refine their orbits, masses and, critically, to find out whether they actually exist.

But, statistically speaking, a pattern is forming. Kepler has opened our eyes to the fact our galaxy is brimming with small worlds — some candidates approaching Mars-sized dimensions!

Earth-Brand™ Life

Before Kepler, plenty of Jupiter-sized worlds could be seen, but with its precision eye for spotting the tiniest of fluctuations of star brightness (as a small exoplanet passes between Kepler and the star), the space telescope has found that smaller exoplanets outnumber the larger gas giants.

Needless to say, all this talk of “Earth-sized” worlds (and the much-hyped “Earth-like” misnomer) has added fuel to the extraterrestrial life question: If there’s a preponderance of small exoplanets — some of which orbit within the “sweet-spot” of the habitable zones of their parent stars — could life as we know it (or Earth-Brand™ Life as I like to call it) also be thriving there?
Before I answer that question, let’s turn back the clock to Sept. 29, 2010, when, in the wake of the discovery of the exoplanet Gliese 581 g, Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News: “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on [Gliese 581 g] are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it.”

Impossible? Or 100 Percent?

As it turns out, Gliese 581 g may not actually exist — an excellent example of the progress of science scrutinizing a candidate exoplanet in complex data sets as my Discovery News colleague Nicole Gugliucci discusses in “Gliese 581g and the Nature of Science” — but why was Vogt so certain that there was life on Gliese 581 g? Was he “wrong” to air this opinion?

Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Howard Smith, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, made the headlines earlier this year when he announced, rather pessimistically, that aliens will unlikely exist on the extrasolar planets we are currently detecting.
“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it,” Smith told the UK’s Telegraph.

Smith made comparisons between our own solar system with the interesting HD 10180 system, located 127 light-years away. HD 10180 was famous for a short time as being the biggest star system beyond our own, containing five exoplanets (it has since been trumped by Kepler-11, a star system containing six exoplanets as showcased in Wednesday’s Kepler announcement).

One of HD 10180′s worlds is thought to be around 1.4 Earth-masses, making it the smallest detected exoplanet before yesterday. Alas, as Smith notes, that is where the similarities end; the “Earth-sized” world orbiting HD 10180 is too close to its star, meaning it is a roasted exoplanet where any atmosphere is blasted into space by the star’s powerful radiation and stellar winds.
The Harvard scientist even dismissed the future Kepler announcement, pointing out that upcoming reports of habitable exoplanets would be few and far between. “Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life,” he said.

Both Right and Wrong

So what can we learn about the disparity between Vogt and Smith’s opinions about the potential for life on exoplanets, regardless of how “Earth-like” they may seem?

Critically, both points of view concern Earth-Brand™ Life (i.e. us and the life we know and understand). As we have no experience of any other kind of life (although the recent eruption of interest over arsenic-based life is hotly debated), it is only Earth-like life we can realistically discuss.

We could do a Stephen Hawking and say that all kinds of life is possible anywhere in the cosmos, but this is pure speculation. Science only has life on Earth to work with, so (practically speaking) it’s pointless to say a strange kind of alien lifeform could live on an exoplanet where the surface is molten rock and constantly bathed in extreme stellar radiation.

If we take Hawking’s word for it, Vogt was completely justified for being so certain about life existing on Gliese 581 g. What’s more, there’s no way we could prove he’s wrong!

But if you set the very tight limits on where we could find Earth-like life, we are suddenly left with very few exoplanet candidates that fit the bill. Also, just because an Earth-sized planet might be found in the habitable zone of its star, doesn’t mean it’s actually habitable. There are many more factors to consider. So, in this case, Smith’s pessimism is well placed.

Regardless, exoplanet science is in its infancy and the uncertainty with the “is there life?” question is a symptom of being on the “raggedy edge of science,” as Nicole would say. We simply do not know what it takes to make a world habitable for any kind of life (apart from Earth), but it is all too tempting to speculate as to whether a race of extraterrestrials, living on one of Kepler’s worlds, is pondering these same questions.

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A ‘bionic leaf’ that turns sunlight into fuel


Excerpt from cnbc.com

By Robert Ferris



The invention could pave the way for numerous innovations—by converting solar power into biofuels, it may help solve the vexing difficulty of storing unused solar energy, which is one of the most common criticisms of solar power as a viable energy source.
The process could also help make plastics and other chemicals and substances useful to industry and research.


The current experiment builds on previous research led by Harvard engineer Daniel Nocera, who in 2011 demonstrated an "artificial leaf" device that uses solar power to generate usable energy. 

Nocera's original invention was a wafer-like electrode suspended in water. When a current runs through the electrode from a power source such as a solar panel, for example, it causes the water to break down into its two components: hydrogen and oxygen. 

Nocera's device garnered a lot of attention for opening up the possibility of using sunlight to create hydrogen fuel—once considered a possible alternative to gasoline. 

But hydrogen has not taken off as a fuel source, even as other alternative energy sources survive and grow amid historically low oil prices. Hydrogen is expensive to transport, and the costs of adopting and distributing hydrogen are high. A gas station owner could more easily switch a pump from gasoline to biofuel, for example.


Now, Nocera and a team of Harvard researchers figured out how to use the bionic leaf to make a burnable biofuel, according to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS. The biologists on the team genetically modified a strain of bacteria that consumes hydrogen and produces isopropanol—the active ingredient in rubbing alcohol. In doing so, they successfully mimicked the natural process of photosynthesis—the way plants use energy from the sun to survive and grow.

This makes two things possible that have always been serious challenges for alternative energy space—solar energy can be converted into a storable form of energy, and the hydrogen can generate a more easily used fuel.


To be sure, the bionic leaf developments are highly unlikely to replace fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas any time soon—especially as the prices of both are currently so low. But it could be a good supplemental source. 

"One idea Dan [Nocera] and I share, which might seem a little wacky, is personalized energy" that doesn't rely on the power grid, biochemist Pamela Silver, who participated in the study, told CNBC in a telephone interview. 


Typically, people's energy needs are met by central energy production facilities—they get their electricity from the power grid, which is fed by coal- or gas-burning power plants, or solar farms, for example. Silver said locally produced energy could be feasible in developing countries that lack stable energy infrastructure, or could even appeal to people who choose to live off the grid.

"Instead of having to buy and store fuel, you can have your bucket of bacteria in your backyard," Silver said. 

Besides, the experiment was an attempt at proof-of-concept—the scientists wanted to demonstrate what could be done, Silver said. Now that they have mastered this process, further possibilities can be explored.  

"No insult to chemists, but biology is the best chemist there is, so we don't even know what we can make," said Silver. "We can make drugs, materials—we are just at the tip of the iceberg." 

The team hopes to develop many different kinds of bacteria that can produce all sorts of substances. That would mean, potentially at least, setting up the bionic leaf device and then plugging in whatever kind of bacteria might be needed at the moment.

For now, they want to increase the efficiency of the device, which is already much more efficient at photosynthesizing than plants are. Then they will focus on developing other kinds of bacteria to plug into the device.

"The uber goal, which is probably 20 years out," Silver said, "is converting the commodity industry away from petroleum."

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Eight New Goldilocks Planets that May Host Alien Life Found



Eight New Goldilocks Planets that May Host Alien Life Found


Excerpt from utahpeoplespost.com
By Frank Smith

Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) recently reported that they identified eight new exoplanets orbiting their host stars in the so-called “Goldilocks” zone. Researchers also said that many of these objects have an increased chance to be Earth-like, rocky planets with a high potential of hosting alien life.
The “Goldilocks zone,” or the habitable zone, is a patch of space around a Sun-like star that allow planets orbiting within it hold liquid water on their surface if they also have the necessary atmospheric pressure for it. Most Goldilocks planets are Earth-sized so scientists hope that one of them may host life, even microbial forms of life.
The new discovery of the exoplanets doubles the number of known planets located in the habitable zone of their host stars. Scientists explain that the habitable zone implies that the planets within it receive as much solar as our planet does. Too much radiation and heat would boil the water on their surface and even blow away their atmosphere. Too little radiation would lead to a small icy world.
The authors of the discovery also reported that two of the newly found planets are the most akin to Earth than any other known exoplanets to this date. The two planets were named Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b after the space telescope that had discovered them.
Kepler-438b is located 470 light-years from our planet, while Kepler-442b stands in the constellation Lyra at a 1,120 light-year-long distance away from Earth. Kepler-442b is also the most remote exoplanet of the eight.
The two planets have also an extremely short orbit because they are very close to their host stars. On Kepler-438b, which has a diameter only 12 percent than the Earth’s, a year lasts only 35 days, while on Kepler-442b, which is nearly one third larger than our planet, a year passes every 112 days.
Scientists estimate that Kepler-438b has a 70 percent increased chance of having a rocky core, while Kepler-442b has only a 60 percent chance.

However, the two planets being in the habitable zone of their host stars is not a certain fact. For instance, astronomers estimate that Kepler-438b has only a 70 percent chance of being located in the Goldilocks zone, while Kepler-442b has a 97 percent chance of being a Goldilocks planet.
We don’t know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable. All we can say is that they’re promising candidates,”
David Kipping of the CfA and co-author of the discovery said.

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Banned TED Talk: The Science Delusion ~ Is science way off about the nature of our reality?



The following statement has been posted by Tedstaff at blog.ted.com: "After due diligence, including a survey of published scientific research and recommendations from our Science Board and our community, we have decided that Graham Hancock’s and Rupert Sheldrake’s talks from TEDxWhitechapel should be removed from distribution on the TEDx YouTube channel... All talks on the TEDxTalks channel represent the opinion of the speaker, not of TED or TEDx, but we feel a responsibility not to provide a platform for talks which appear to have crossed the line into pseudoscience.

Response to the TED Scientific Board’s Statement
Rupert Sheldrake
March 18, 2013

I would like to respond to TED’s claims that my TEDx talk “crossed the line into pseudoscience”, contains ”serious factual errors” and makes “many misleading statements.”
This discussion is taking place because the militant atheist bloggers Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers denounced me, and attacked TED for giving my talk a platform. I was invited to give my talk as part of a TEDx event in Whitechapel, London, called “Challenging Existing Paradigms.” That’s where the problem lies: my talk explicitly challenges the materialist belief system. It summarized some of the main themes of my recent book Science Set Free (in the UK called The Science Delusion). Unfortunately, the TED administrators have publically aligned themselves with the old paradigm of materialism, which has dominated science since the late nineteenth century.
TED say they removed my talk from their website on the advice of their Scientific Board, who also condemned Graham Hancock’s talk. Hancock and I are now facing anonymous accusations made by a body on whose authority TED relies, on whose advice they act, and behind whom they shelter, but whose names they have not revealed.
TED’s anonymous Scientific Board made three specific accusations:
Accusation 1:“he suggests that scientists reject the notion that animals have consciousness, despite the fact that it’s generally accepted that animals have some form of consciousness, and there’s much research and literature exploring the idea.”
I characterized the materialist dogma as follows: “Matter is unconscious: the whole universe is made up of unconscious matter. There’s no consciousness in stars in galaxies, in planets, in animals, in plants and there ought not to be any in us either, if this theory’s true. So a lot of the philosophy of mind over the last 100 years has been trying to prove that we are not really conscious at all.” Certainly some biologists, including myself, accept that animals are conscious. In August, 2012, a group of scientists came out with an endorsement of animal consciousness in “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness”. As Discovery News reported, “While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it’s the open acknowledgement that’s the big news here.” (http://news.discovery.com/human/genetics/animals-consciousness-mammals-birds-octopus-120824.htm)
But materialist philosophers and scientists are still in the majority, and they argue that consciousness does nothing – it is either an illusion or an ”epiphenomenon” of brain activity. It might as well not exist in animals – or even in humans. That is why in the philosophy of mind, the very existence of consciousness is often called “the hard problem”.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness
Accusation 2:“He also argues that scientists have ignored variations in the measurements of natural constants, using as his primary example the dogmatic assumption that a constant must be constant and uses the speed of light as example.… Physicist Sean Carroll wrote a careful rebuttal of this point.”
TED’s Scientific Board refers to a Scientific American article that makes my point very clearly: “Physicists routinely assume that quantities such as the speed of light are constant.”
In my talk I said that the published values of the speed of light dropped by about 20 km/sec between 1928 and 1945. Carroll’s “careful rebuttal” consisted of a table copied from Wikipedia showing the speed of light at different dates, with a gap between 1926 and 1950, omitting the very period I referred to. His other reference (http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/lightandcolor/speedoflight.html) does indeed give two values for the speed of light in this period, in 1928 and 1932-35, and sure enough, they were 20 and 24km/sec lower than the previous value, and 14 and 18 km/sec lower than the value from 1947 onwards.
1926: 299,798
1928: 299,778
1932-5: 299,774
1947: 299,792

In my talk I suggest how a re-examination of existing data could resolve whether large continuing variations in the Universal Gravitational Constant, G, are merely errors, as usually assumed, or whether they show correlations between different labs that might have important scientific implications hitherto ignored. Jerry Coyne and TED’s Scientific Board regard this as an exercise in pseudoscience. I think their attitude reveals a remarkable lack of curiosity.
Accusation 3:“Sheldrake claims to have “evidence” of morphic resonance in crystal formation and rat behavior. The research has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, despite attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work.”
I said, “There is in fact good evidence that new compounds get easier to crystallize all around the world.” For example, turanose, a kind of sugar, was considered to be a liquid for decades, until it first crystallized in the 1920s. Thereafter it formed crystals everyehere. (Woodard and McCrone Journal of Applied Crystallography (1975). 8, 342). The American chemist C. P. Saylor, remarked it was as though “the seeds of crystallization, as dust, were carried upon the winds from end to end of the earth” (quoted by Woodard and McCrone).
The research on rat behavior I referred to was carried out at Harvard and the Universities of Melbourne and Edinburgh and was published in peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Biology. For a fuller account and detailed references see Chapter 11 of my book Morphic Resonance (in the US) / A New Science of Life (in the UK). The relevant passage is online here: http://sciencesetfree.tumblr.com/
The TED Scientific Board refers to ”attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work” on morphic resonance. I would be happy to work with these eager scientists if the Scientific Board can reveal who they are.
This is a good opportunity to correct an oversimplification in my talk. In relation to the dogma that mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works, I said, “that’s why governments only fund mechanistic medicine and ignore complementary and alternative therapies.” This is true of most governments, but the US is a notable exception. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine receives about $130 million a year, about 0.4% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total annual budget of $31 billion.
Obviously I could not spell out all the details of my arguments in an 18-minute talk, but TED’s claims that it contains “serious factual errors,” “many misleading statements” and that it crosses the line into “pseudoscience” are defamatory and false.

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