Hubble Captures Bubbles and Baby Stars

The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright bubbles of glowing gas. One of the largest and most spectacular has the name LHA 120-N 11, from its listing in a catalog compiled by the American astronomer and astronaut Karl Henize in 1956, and is informally known as N11. Close up, the billowing pink clouds of glowing gas make N11 resemble a puffy swirl of fairground candy floss. From further away, its distinctive overall shape led some observers to nickname it the Bean Nebula. The dramatic and colorful features visible in the nebula are the telltale signs of star formation. N11 is a well-studied region that extends over 1000 light-years. It is the second largest star-forming region within the Large Magellanic Cloud and has produced some of the most massive stars known.

It is the process of star formation that gives N11 its distinctive look. Three successive generations of stars, each of which formed further away from the center of the nebula than the last, have created shells of gas and dust. These shells were blown away from the newborn stars in the turmoil of their energetic birth and early life, creating the ring shapes so prominent in this image.

Beans are not the only terrestrial shapes to be found in this spectacular high resolution image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In the upper left is the red bloom of nebula LHA 120-N 11A. Its rose-like petals of gas and dust are illuminated from within, thanks to the radiation from the massive hot stars at its center. N11A is relatively compact and dense and is the site of the most recent burst of star development in the region.
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Researchers Develop World’s First Plastic Antibodies

UC Irvine researchers have developed the first “plastic antibodies” successfully employed in live organisms – stopping the spread of bee venom through the bloodstream of mice.

Tiny polymeric particles – just 1/50,000th the width of a human hair – were designed to match and encase melittin, a peptide in bee venom that causes cells to rupture, releasing their contents. Large quantities of melittin can lead to organ failure and death.

The polymer nanoparticles were prepared by “molecular imprinting” a technique similar to plaster casting: UCI chemistry professor Kenneth Shea and project scientist Yu Hoshino linked melittin with small molecules called monomers, solidifying the two into a network of long polymer chains. After the plastic hardened, they removed the melittin, leaving nanoparticles with minuscule melittin-shaped holes.

When injected into mice given high doses of melittin, these precisely imprinted nanoparticles enveloped the matching melittin molecules, “capturing” them before they could disperse and wreak havoc – greatly reducing deaths among the rodents.

“Never before have synthetic antibodies been shown to effectively function in the bloodstream of living animals,” Shea says. “This technique could be utilized to make plastic nanoparticles designed to fight more lethal toxins and pathogens.”

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Insulin Peptide May Point to a Solution for Type 1 Diabetes

Researchers at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have identified the precise protein fragment, or peptide, that can trigger diabetes in mice. The finding, published in the June 15, 2010, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports an emerging theory about the origins of autoimmunity, and may lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in humans.

“Our findings contradict conventional wisdom, which suggests that insulin peptides that are well presented to the immune system trigger diabetes,” said John Kappler, PhD, Professor of Immunology at National Jewish Health. “We believe, however, that the peptide we identified triggers diabetes precisely because it is so poorly presented to the immune system.”

The immune system tries to delete all T cells that might cause autoimmune disease. During development in the thymus, immature T cells are exposed to “self” protein fragments, which are part of the organism. T cells that recognize and bind to them are destroyed. This process, however, is not foolproof, and autoimmune T cells do occasionally escape.

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Astronomers Get First Images of Exoplanet Orbiting its Star

For the first time ever, astronomers have captured images of an exoplanet orbiting its star from one side of the star to the other. The orbit of the exoplanet is at about the same distance as that of Saturn to our Sun. After interpreting the data, scientists believe that this star system may have formed in the same way as our Solar Sytem.

The star, Beta Pictoris, is actually quite young, only about 12 million years old, which is relatively young in cosmic terms. Even though the star is less than three-thousandths of our Sun’s age, it is roughly 75% more massive. At 60 light-years away, Beta Pictoris is one of the best-known examples of another star, like our Sun, that is surrounded by a debris-filled disc.

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Scientists Create Artificial Black Hole

Well, they’ve done it. Researchers in China have built a mini ‘black hole’ capable of absorbing microwave frequencies, and they’ve done it without using the LHC (which many feared would cause a black hole to develop that would swallow the earth). The device they created, officially called a “omnidirectional electromagnetic absorber,” is made of a thin cylindrical layer comprising of 60 concentric rings of metamaterial.

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Atlantis Space Shuttle Has Grounded For Good

With six astronauts on board, returning from it’s 12-day mission from the International Space Station, the Atlantis has landed back on Earth successfully. This mission marks the shuttle’s thirty-second and final trip over a 25-year career (logging a cool 120 million miles in total).

For NASA, the shuttle was the fourth in the series and has spent 294 days in orbit, circled the Earth 4,648 times, carried 189 astronauts, flown to Mir Station 7 times and been to the ISS 11 times. There were 1,200 guests on-hand at Kennedy Space Center to witness the historic landing.

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New Rubber Compound May Bring an End to Flat Tires

Scientists at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution (ESPCI) in Paris have developed a new rubber compound that is capable of mending itself. The new material can be torn, ripped, cut, or punctured, and can repair itself using hydrogen bonding. This new compound would come in handy for a multitude of applications, including the need to replace tires due to punctures, etc.

The compound is actually just a manipulation of current rubber compounds. Today’s rubber can provide elasticity through covalent, ionic, and hydrogen bonding. This new development, however, uses only hydrogen bonding, which can bring itself back to original strength simply by adding a little bit of pressure at room temperature.

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Japan Wants Mind-Reading Robots by 2020

A few weeks ago, an article in Japan’s largest business newspaper cast an exciting and somewhat startling vision of the future — Japan’s goal to make mind-reading devices and robots commercially available by 2020. These robots would act as personal assistants using Artificial Intelligence that could determine whether you are hungry, tired, hot or cold, or in need of assistance.

Brain-Machine Interface devices currently exist in the U.S. and abroad and involves something called an EEG (Electroencephalography) sensor synced with a computer which can be controlled by thought. We’re talking about turning on your coffee machine just by thinking about it or changing the channel on your television, or applying the brakes on your car.

We’re years away from making these technologies commercially available, but trials are promising and the thought of mind-reading AI bots is exciting. Right now, prototypes include headbands, helmets, and actual brain implants to interpret brainwaves.

Thought Controlled Wheelchair:

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