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Solar System / Planetary Situation Update

  Clearing of the Chimera group continues. The main problem remaining are implants of the Cabal members, connected with Tunnels of Set to Yaldabaoth plasma accretion vortex which extends throughout the Solar system, tied to plasma strangelet and t...

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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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European Union regulators filing formal charges against Google






Excerpt from cnbc.com


European Union regulators decided Tuesday that they would file charges against Google stemming from an antitrust investigation, multiple news agencies reported.

Citing a source familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Google decision will be discussed by EU commissioners on Wednesday. That source claimed to the news outlet that European antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager made the decision to file charges after consulting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

The Financial Times and The New York Times also reported Tuesday that the EU would accuse the tech giant of abusing its market position, citing sources familiar with the regulators' decision.


Google faces fines of as much as $6.6 billion if the charges are proven.

Google shares traded down about 1.6 percent on Tuesday, although most of those losses came in the morning. The stock was largely unchanged in after-hours trading. 

Reuters had reported earlier that Google was likely to learn more on Wednesday about how Vestager will treat complaints about its market dominance. 


However, industry and EU sources suggested to Reuters that Vestager (who took over as EU competition commissioner in November and has indicated she will not be rushed into concluding the five-year-old inquiry) was unlikely to announce charges against the U.S. Internet search giant. 

A European Commission spokesman declined comment on Tuesday on whether Vestager, who is due to fly to the United States on Wednesday afternoon, would make a statement after the weekly meeting of all 28 EU commissioners in the morning. 


The Wall Street Journal says Google could end up facing a fine of more than $6 billion in antitrust charges by the European Union. 
That followed a comment on Monday by another commissioner, digital economy chief Guenther Oettinger, who said Vestager would make a statement on Google in days. Another EU official said he expected an announcement on Wednesday.

Asked about such remarks, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a routine news briefing on Tuesday: "The Commission does not always express itself on ongoing competition cases.
"If there is a time for announcements it will be announced, but there is nothing on this question today." 


Google could not be reached by Reuters for comment. 

Andreas Schwab, a member of the European Parliament who has pushed for the EU executive to consider even breaking up Google, told Reuters he expected the Commission to conclude its investigation and issue a statement of objections—effectively bringing charges against Google that could result in huge fines and orders to reshape its business in Europe.
—Reuters contributed to this report.

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Astronomers find star speeding out of the galaxy





(Reuters) - Astronomers have found a star hurtling through the galaxy faster than any other, the result of being blasted away by the explosion of a massive partner star, researchers said on Thursday.
The star, known as US 708, is traveling at about 746 miles (1,200 km) per second, fast enough to actually leave the Milky Way galaxy in about 25 million years, said astronomer Stephan Geier with Germany-based European Southern Observatory, which operates three telescopes in Chile.

"At that speed you could travel from Earth to the moon in five minutes," noted University of Hawaii astronomer Eugene Magnier.
US 708 is not the first star astronomers have found that is moving fast enough to escape the galaxy, but it is the only one so far that appears to have been slingshot in a supernova explosion.

The 20 other stars discovered so far that are heading out of the galaxy likely got their impetus from coming too close to the supermassive black hole that lives at the center of the Milky Way, scientists report in an article in this week’s edition of the journal Science.

Before it was sent streaming across the galaxy, US 708 was once a cool giant star, but it was stripped of nearly all of its hydrogen by a closely orbiting partner. Scientists suspect it was this feeding that triggered the partner’s detonation.

If confirmed, these types of ejected stars may provide more insight into how supernova explosions occur. Since the explosions give off a fairly standard amount of radiation, scientists can calculate their distances by measuring how bright or dim they appear and determine how fast the universe is expanding.

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Fresh fossil studies push the dawn of man back to 2.8 million years

(Reuters) - A 2.8-million-year-old jawbone fossil with five intact teeth unearthed in an Ethiopian desert is pushing back the dawn of humankind by about half a million years.Scientists said on Wednesday the fossil represents the oldest known repres...

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Australia researchers create ‘world’s first’ 3D-printed jet engines

(Reuters) - Australian researchers unveiled the world's first 3D-printed jet engine on Thursday, a manufacturing breakthrough that could lead to cheaper, lighter and more fuel-efficient jets. Engineers at Monash University and its commercial arm are...

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US Issuing Licenses for Mineral Mining on Moon

Excerpt from space-travel.comWashington DC (Sputnik) Feb 09, 2015Bigelow Aerospace plans to test a space habitat at the International Space Station this year, and then operate free-flying orbital outposts for customers, including government agencies...

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World’s Oldest Art Identified in Half-Million-Year-Old Zigzag

A jagged line etched on a fossil mussel shell may be the oldest evidence of geometric art.Photograph by Wim Lustenhouwer, VU University Amsterdam(Reuters) - It's a simple zigzag design scratched onto the surface of a freshwater mussel shell on t...

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Rosetta mission: Philae lander bounces twice, lands on side ~ Cliff face blocking solar power


How Esa scientists believe Philae has landed on the comet – on its side
How Esa scientists believe Philae has landed on the comet – on its side. Photograph: European Space Agency/Reuters


Excerpt from
theguardian.com


Rosetta mission controllers must decide whether to risk making lander hop from shadow of cliff blocking sunlight to its solar panels.


The robotic lander that touched down on a comet on Wednesday came to rest on its side in the shadow of a cliff, according to the first data beamed home from the probe.

Pictures from cameras on board the European Space Agency’s Philae lander show the machine with one foot in the sky and lodged against a high cliff face that is blocking sunlight to its solar panels.
The precarious resting place means mission controllers are faced with some tough decisions over whether to try and nudge the spacecraft into a sunnier spot. If successful, that would allow Philae to fully recharge its batteries and do more science on the comet, but any sudden move could risk toppling the lander over, or worse, knock it off the comet completely.

The washing machine-sized lander was released by its Rosetta mother ship at 0835am GMT on Wednesday morning and touched down at a perfect spot on the comet’s surface. But when anchoring harpoons failed to fire, the probe bounced back off into space. So weak is the gravitational pull of the comet that Philae soared 1km into the sky and did not come down again until two hours later. “We made quite a leap,” said Stephan Ulamec, the Philae lander manager.

In the time it took the probe to land for the second time, the comet had rotated, bringing more treacherous terrain underneath. The spacecraft bounced a second time and finally came to a standstill on its side at what may be the rim of an enormous crater.

“We bounced twice and stopped in a place we’ve not entirely located,” said Jean-Pierre Bibring, Philae’s lead scientist. Teams of scientists are now trying to work out where the probe is. What mission controllers do know is that they are not where they hoped to be. “We are exactly below a cliff, so we are in a shadow permanently,” Bibring added.

With most of Philae in the dark, the lander will receive only a fraction of the solar energy that Esa had hoped for. The spacecraft needs six or seven hours of sunlight a day but is expected to receive just one and a half. Though it can operate for 60 hours on primary batteries, the probe must then switch to its main batteries which need to be recharged through its solar arrays. If Philae’s batteries run out it will go into a hibernation mode until they have more power.

The spacecraft was designed with landing gear that could hop the probe around, but from its awkward position on its side the option is considered too risky.

Though caught in a tight spot, the Philae lander’s systems appear to be working well. The Rosetta spacecraft picked up the lander’s signal on Thursday morning and received the first images and more instrument data from the surface of the comet.

One of Philae’s major scientific goals is to analyse the comet for organic molecules. To do that, the lander must get samples from the comet into several different instruments, named Ptolemy, Cosac and Civa. There are two ways to do this: sniffing and drilling. Sniffing involves opening the instruments to allow molecules from the surface to drift inside. The instruments are already doing this and returning data.

Panoramic view around the point of Philae's final touchdown on the surface of comet 67P, taken when Rosetta was about 18km from centre of comet. Parts of Philae's landing gear can be seen in this picture.
Panoramic view around the point of Philae’s final touchdown on the surface of comet 67P, taken when Rosetta was about 18km from centre of comet. Parts of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in this picture.Photograph: European Space Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Drilling is much riskier because it could make the lander topple over... Pushing down into the surface will push the lander off again. “We don’t want to start drilling and end the mission,” said Bibring.
But the team has decided to operate another moving instrument, named Mupus, on Thursday evening. This could cause Philae to shift, but calculations show that it would be in a direction that could improve the amount of sunlight falling on the probe. A change in angle of only a few degrees could help. A new panoramic image will be taken after the Mupus deployment to see if there has been any movement.

Meanwhile, the Rosetta orbiter team will continue to try to pinpoint Philae’s position.

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Pilot mystery at heart of Virgin Galactic spaceship crash probe


Sheriffs' deputies look at wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California November 2, 2014.  REUTERS-David McNew
Sheriffs' deputies look at wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, California November 2, 2014.



(Reuters) - The probe of Virgin Galactic’s space plane crash in California hinges on a central mystery: Why a seasoned test pilot would prematurely unlock the craft's moveable tail section, setting off a chain of events that led to destruction of the ship and his death.
The National Transportation Safety Board was expected this week to complete its initial field investigation into Friday's ill-fated test flight of SpaceShipTwo, a rocket-powered vehicle built to take paying passengers for rides into space.
The ship broke apart at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) and crashed in the Mojave Desert, 95 miles (150 km) north of Los Angeles, moments after its separation from the special jet aircraft that carries the spacecraft aloft for its high-altitude launches.
The pilot, Pete Siebold, 43, survived the crash, parachuting to the ground with a shoulder injury. The co-pilot, Mike Alsbury, 39, was killed.
NTSB officials have said it was Alsbury, flying for the ninth time aboard SpaceShipTwo, who unlocked the tail section, designed to pivot upward during atmospheric re-entry to ease descent of the craft.
Alsbury was supposed to have waited until the ship was traveling at 1.4 times the speed of sound, fast enough for aerodynamic forces to hold the tail in place until time to actually move it into descent position, sources familiar with the spacecraft's operation told Reuters.
Instead, for reasons unknown, he released the locking mechanism roughly 9 seconds into a planned 20-second firing of the space plane's rocket engine, while the ship was moving at about Mach 1, the speed of sound, the sources said.
The result was disastrous. About 4 seconds after the tail was unlocked, it began to swivel out, and the vehicle was ripped apart, scattering debris over a 5-mile (8-km) swath of desert northeast of the Mojave Air and Space Port.
A second command to deliberately move the tail upward after unlocking it was never given.
The tail's so-called “feathering” system, developed and patented by aircraft designer Burt Rutan, is designed to increase the vehicle’s surface area and slow down the ship so it can fly like a badminton shuttlecock as it safely re-enters Earth’s atmosphere from space.
SpaceShipTwo’s feather mechanism had been operated extensively in previous atmospheric test flights, including two rocket-powered runs, officials said.
The NTSB expects it will take up to a year to piece together exactly what triggered the accident and recommend changes to equipment, procedures, operations and other factors that may have caused or contributed to the crash, safety board Chairman Christopher Hart said.
Initial interviews, collection of debris from the crash site and preliminary examination of evidence were expected to be wrapped up by the end of the week.
A human-factors expert joined the investigation team on Monday to look at cockpit displays, checklist design, training and other pilot operational issues. Siebold, the surviving pilot, had not yet been interviewed due to medical concerns, Hart said on Monday.
NTSB’s preliminary accident investigation report was expected in about 10 days.
(Reporting and writing by Irene Klotz; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)

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Richard Branson: We owe it to test pilot to continue Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo

Excerpt from smh.com.auThe Tony Blair grin was gone but Richard Branson was unbowed by disaster when he appeared on American breakfast television on Monday morning. He vowed his program to hurl paying customers into the...

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First Russian woman lifts off to International Space Station

Elena Serova of Russia, a member of the International Space Station crew, gestures as she boards the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft at t...

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India’s Mars mission a step closer to success with engine test

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25), carrying the Mars orbiter, blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, about 100 km (62 miles) north of the southern Indian city of Chennai November 5, 2013. REUTERS/B...

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