Sally Ride will get her own postage stamp next year

Today, the United States Postal Service unveiled a preview of its 2018 stamp program, which includes one honoring the late Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. The USPS didn’t say when the stamp would be available.

Ride is depicted in her blue NASA jumpsuit, with the space shuttle in the background. Her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, said the late astronaut collected stamps as a child, and would “be so honored” to appear on one.

Image: USPS

Her stamp will join others honoring STEM education, bioluminescent life, Mister Rogers, “mythological fire-eating dragons,” John Lennon, magic tricks, and more. Over the years, the USPS has depicted NASA’s achievements in the form of postage stamps — most…

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A Geoengineered Future Is Downright Scary

Climate change seems inevitable. Between the still-accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions and the voices of global warming deniers, hitting the targets laid out in the Paris Accord to slow the pace of a warming climate feels increasingly elusive.

To hit even the 2 degree Celsius cap on a global temperature increase, emissions would need to peak in 2020, or less than three years from now, and keep going down after that. We could do it, but will we?

If we can’t change our behavio

Instead of Killing Bacteria, Can We Just “Turn Off” Its Ability To Cause Infections?

Changing someone’s genetic programming is easier than you might think. While techniques for altering DNA at the molecular level are becoming more widely used, it’s also possible to simply turn genes on or off without permanently changing the underlying genetic material. That means we can affect the genetic instructions that get sent to an organism’s body by changing its environment or with drugs.

This field of “epigenetics” is already helping doctors understand how certain diseases work, why exercise can be so beneficial, and how we might be able to alter the aging process. But my colleagues and I are trying to investigate the role of epigenetics in bacteria.

We recently studied a possible way to affect bacterial epigenetics that might be able to stop infections without using antibiotic drugs. And given that many bacteria are becoming resistant to existing antibiotics, that could open up a vital new way of treating disease.

Our study looked at the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii, which is a major cause of the infections people can catch in hospitals and which kills up to 70 percent of people who are infected with it. Antibiotics no longer work on some strains of A. baumannii – and the World Health Organization recently ranked it as the greatest bacterial threat to human health.

We do already have some so-called antivirulence drugs that don’t kill bacteria but make them harmless so that the body’s immune system can clear them out without leaving any behind to become resistant to the drug. Coming up with a way to affect bacteria’s epigenetics rendering the bugs harmless could help us create new antivirulence drugs that would make a huge contribution to medicine.

To start this process this we first turned to human epigenetics. The most common way of affecting our epigenetics is to add a small molecular tag to our genetic material that turns on or off a related gene. In particular, we can add a tag known as an acetyl group to an important protein called histone.

Adding an acetyl tag to histone Adding an acetyl tag to histone (CNX OpenStax, CC BY)

Histone organizes our 2m-long DNA molecules so that they can fit neatly inside our 100 micrometer-long cells. Adding the acetyl tag is a natural mechanism used by cells to change the way histone interacts with DNA. Adding the acetyl tags normally activates certain genes, meaning they change the way the cell behaves. Failures in this histone modification process are linked to cancerscardiovascular diseases and many neurodegenerative disorders.

Bacterial cells have their own version of histone known as HU, which organizes their DNA and is involved in making all its functions work. Bacteria that are referred to as “Gram-positive”, such as the ones in our digestive system that help us break down food, can’t survive without working HU. And “Gram-negative bacteria”, which are typically the ones that make us ill such as Salmonella enterica, become much less harmful without HU.

New drugs

In our study, we found that adding an acetyl tag to HU significantly affected the way it interacted with the DNA. This means it’s highly likely that such modification makes epigenetic changes, affecting how the bacteria grow and infect other organisms. So if we can create drugs that make these changes to bacterial proteins in this way, we could have a new way of stopping infections.

This is a really important challenge in medicine right now, because bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics kill 700,000 people a year worldwide. If we don’t find new treatments, the annual death toll could rise to 10 million by 2025.

Once we verify the link between specific epigenetic changes and bacterial infection, we can begin looking for substances that alter bacteria’s epigenetics in this way to make it less harmful. There are already several molecules targeting human epigenetics in a similar way under preclinical development or in clinical trials. So a drug that “turns off” bacteria’s ability to cause infections may not be too far away.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The Conversation

Yu-Hsuan Tsai, Lecturer in Organic Chemistry, Cardiff University

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Up-Close Images of Jupiter Reveal an Impressionistic Landscape of Swirling Gases

Juno is NASA’s project focused on bringing a deeper understanding to Jupiter and the processes that might have governed our solar system’s creation. The spacecraft was launched in 2011 to explore several facets of the planet’s composition, including its atmosphere, magnetic force field, and dense cloud coverage.

This series of close-up photographs was taken by Juno within the last year, and is a dazzling diverse display of the planet’s gaseous composition. Swirling blue and brown clouds appear like impressionist paint strokes across Jupiter’s atmospheric surface, a spectacle which is constantly shifting into new optically charged formations.

You can see more images taken with Juno’s high-tech cameras on NASA’s website, and submit your own processed images from Juno’s raw image files on Mission Juno. (via Twisted Sifter)


Researchers Discover New Optical Illusion Called ‘Curvature Blindness’

Curvature Blindness Optical Illusion

Japanese researcher and psychologist Kohske Takahashi of Chukyo University has recently discovered a new, mind-boggling type of optical illusion. Published in SAGE’s open-access i-Perception journal, the new discovery was dubbed the Curvature Blindness Illusion, and describes how a wavy line can be perceived as a zigzag line. In the image above, we see pairs of wavy lines and pairs of zigzag lines against a gray background. Physically, however, all the lines are actually wavy, with an identical shape—there are no zigzags. Only on the white and black backgrounds can we see the true shape of each line.

Against the gray background, lines where each crest is dark gray and the following trough is lighter look like sine waves, composed of “gentle curves;” whereas, lines that are colored dark/light either side of each crest look like triangle waves, composed of “obtuse corners.”

Takahashi proposes that this could be because our brains default to seeing corners over curves. “We propose that the underlying mechanisms for the gentle curve perception and those of obtuse corner perception are competing with each other in an imbalanced way,” he explains,“and the percepts of corner might be dominant in the visual system.”

This newly discovered optical illusion tricks the eye into seeing lines that change from curves to zigzags, even though they are actually all wavy.

Curvature Blindness Illusion

i-Perception Journal: Website
h/t: [digg, PMC]

All images via i-Perception Journal.

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The post Researchers Discover New Optical Illusion Called ‘Curvature Blindness’ appeared first on My Modern Met.