Breast Cancer & Mayan Calender | SciByte 69

Breast Cancer & Mayan Calender | SciByte 69

We take a look at strange quasars, fighting breast cancer, peek-a-boo, Mayan Calendar, updates on stories, spacecraft and Curiosity and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Crazy Quasar

  • What are Quasars?
  • Quasars (short for quasi-stellar object) are the brilliant cores of galaxies where infalling material fuels a supermassive black hole
  • The black hole is so engorged that some of the energy escapes as powerful blasts of radiation from the surrounding disk of accreting material
  • They are thought to be roughly 10–10,000 times the Schwarzschild radius of the black hole
  • The quasar can appear as a jet-like feature and if the beam shines in Earth’s direction and it can appear as a quasar that can outshine its surrounding galaxy a hundred or a thousand times.
  • They are among the most luminous, powerful, and energetic objects known in the universe emitting up to a thousand times the energy output of the Milky Way.
  • More than 200,000 quasars are known and only a handful of these very distant ultra-luminous quasars were found by the SDSS in about one quarter of the whole sky
  • The low down
  • Quasars have been the best and most easily observed beacons for astronomers to probe the distant Universe
  • Now, one of the most distant and brightest quasar is providing a bit of a surprise
  • Astronomers studying a distant galaxy, dubbed J1148+5251 and which contains a bright quasar, are seeing only the quasar and not the host galaxy itself
  • Significance
  • It has been thought that the quasar has been feeding on a handful of stars every year in order to bulk up to its size of three billion solar masses over just a few hundred million years.
  • However, we can not see the galaxy where all the stars would be
  • Near infrared views with the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 are only providing hints of what might be taking place
  • It is believed that the galaxy is so enshrouded with dust that none of the starlight can be seen and only the bright, glaring quasar shines through
  • Observations
  • The quasar was first identified in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and the follow-up submillimeter observations showed significant dust but not how and where
  • Astronomers used Hubble to very carefully subtract light from the quasar image and look for the glow of surrounding stars.
  • Even after subtracting the quasar’s light remarkably Hubble didn’t find any of the underlying galaxy
  • Of Note
  • The early universe was dust-free until the first generation of stars started making dust through nuclear fusion most early galaxies contain hardly any dust
  • In order to make that much dust in an early galaxy it would need to make lots of short-lived massive stars earlier on that would lose their mass at the end of their lifetime
  • Because we don’t see the stars, we can rule out that the galaxy that hosts this quasar is a normal galaxy
  • This would be among the dustiest galaxies in the universe, so widely distributed that not even a single clump of stars is peeking through
  • Multimedia
  • Image An artist’s rendering of the most distant quasar | | ESO/M. Kornmesser
  • Image Chandra Scores A Double Bonus With A Distant Quasar | | NASA/CXC/A.Siemiginowska(CfA)/J.Bechtold(U.Arizona)
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Ancient Quasar Shines Brightly, But All the Galaxy’s Stars Are Missing |
  • Quasar may be embedded in unusually dusty galaxy |


Suppressing tumors and metastases in breast cancer

  • The protein that is necessary for lactation, Elf5, in mammals inhibits the critical cellular transition that is an early indicator of breast cancer and metastasis
  • The low down
  • This is the first confirmed report that this protein, called Elf5, is a tumor suppressor in breast cancer
  • These findings provide new avenues to pursue in treating and diagnosing breast cancer and possibly cancers of other organs as well
  • Promising is that this includes findings from both animal and human breast cancer models.
  • Significance
  • Under normal circumstances, Elf5 is a transcription factor that controls the genes that allow for milk production
  • Elf5 keeps normal breast cells in their current shape and restricts their movement
  • When Elf5 levels are low or absent, epithelial cells become more like stem cells, morphing into mesenchymal cells
  • Mesenchymal cells, changing their shape and appearance and migrating elsewhere in the body which is how cancer spreads
  • The protein works suppressing the epithelial-mesenchymal transition by directly repressing transcription of Snail2, a master regulator of mammary stem cells known to trigger the EMT
  • Elf5 loss is frequently detected early and is also found that little or no Elf5 in human breast cancer samples correlated with increased morbidity.
  • Experiments conducted also show that this could also be an important diagnostic tool
  • Of Note
  • Research shows that the EMT-Snail 2 pathway is a valuable one to target for early breast cancer intervention
  • One way would be designing something to recapture the repressive effect of Elf5 or a drug that could mimic Elf5 activity
  • This is just one molecule, part of a big network, scientists are now creating a detailed map of this molecule and its associated partners in order to give a better idea of what to look for\
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Lactation protein suppresses tumors and metastasis in breast cancer, scientists discover |

Peek-a-boo I don’t see you

  • The low down
  • Why do children think they can render themselves invisible if they cover their eyes, and why have nearly all young children come to this same conclusion?
  • Researchers at the University of Cambridge performed a variety of simple tests on groups of 3 and 4-year-old children to try and figure this out
  • Significance
  • They first placed children in eye masks and asked them whether they could be seen by the researchers
  • The researchers could see other adults if those adults were wearing eye masks
  • In addition nearly all the children felt that an adult would not be seen by other adults if those adults were wearing eye masks
  • Another test with a second group of children had them wearing one of two different sets of goggles
  • The first set of goggles were blacked out completely and the second set were one-way-mirrored
  • Most of the children wearing the mirrored goggles didn’t properly grasp the idea of one-way-mirrors
  • Those who did get it all thought they were hidden from view regardless of whether they were wearing blacked out goggles or the mirrored pair
  • When pressed on exactly what their invisibility meant, the children in both of the aforementioned phases of the study admitted that, their bodies were still visible when their eyes were covered
  • However their “self” that was hidden, or at least that is the implication
  • Of Note
  • The children in the study seem to draw a distinction between body and “self”
  • Self seems to be universally described as living in the eyes in some sense–unless the eyes of two people meet, they cannot actually perceive each other.
  • Another study seems to back this conclusion up
  • Researchers looked directly at the child subjects while the children averted their eyes and another group the with child looking on and researcher averting their gazes
  • In both instances, the children largely felt they were not being seen as long as the eyes didn’t meet
  • Now you know why your toddler won’t look at you when you’re delivering a scolding. The look-away is the perfect getaway
  • Multimedia
  • Peekaboo I see you. doctorlizardo via Flickr
  • Image Gallery |
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Why Do Children Think Covering Their Eyes Makes Them Invisible? |


The Milky Way in Nine Gigapixels

Mayan Calendar

  • Guatemala’s Mayan people have accused the government and tour groups of perpetuating the myth that their calendar foresees the imminent end of the world for monetary gain
  • The low down
  • The Culture Ministry is hosting a massive event in Guatemala City—which as many as 90,000 people are expected to attend and tour groups are promoting doomsday-themed getaways.
  • Maya leader Gomez urged the Tourism Institute to rethink the doomsday celebration, which he criticized as a “show” that was disrespectful to Mayan culture.
  • Oxlajuj Ajpop is holding events it considers sacred in five cities to mark the event and Gomez said the Culture Ministry would be wise to throw its support behind their real celebrations
  • Of Note
  • The Mayan calendar has 18 months of 20 days each plus a sacred month, “Wayeb,” of five days
  • B’aktun" is the largest unit in the time cycle system, and is about 400 years
  • The broader era spans 13 B’aktun, or about 5,200 years
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Maya demand an end to doomsday myth |
  • Maya calendar | Wikipedia

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Announcement on Thursday

  • The low down
  • NASA is planning to announce a discovery from its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope on Thursday (Nov. 1) that will shed light on the early universe, officials said.
  • The announcement will “discuss new measurements using gamma rays to investigate ancient starlight,”
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA to Announce Early Universe Findings Thursday |


Increasing the population on the ISS

— Updates —

Oct 17 San Francisco Bay Area Meteor

  • Last time on SciByte
  • Exoplanets & Universal Translator | SciByte 68 [October 23, 2012]
  • The low down
  • A Novato, Calif. resident read about the fireball and recalled hearing a sound on her roof that night, she and neighbors found a ding on the roof
  • On closer inspection, that crust was thought to be a product of weathering of a natural rock, not from the heat of entry
    +When a second similar find 2.5 miles from that location was found, that person cut the rock in half which confirmed the meteor classification
  • Scientists are currently analyzing both unusual and hard to identify meteorites
  • Of Note
  • If you are in Marin or Sonoma counties W or NW of the San Pablo Bay area, check the map in the Show Notes to see if you are in the flight path
  • There is a map of the projected band (light area) where meteorites of different size may have fallen
  • If you live North-North-East of Novato and you saw an airship over (or within a few miles from) your property Friday, chances are that you could be the owner of a space rock.
  • The airship was following the path of the falling meteorites as calculated from the NASA/CAMS meteor video surveillance project.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance |
  • Meteorite From California Fireball Is Meteor-wrong, Scientist Says |


  • MastCam
  • On Oct. 24, it was used to view soil material on the rover’s observation tray.
  • These observations will help assess movement of the sample on the tray in response to vibrations from sample-delivery and sample-processing activities of mechanisms on the rover’s arm.
  • CheMin
  • A sieved portion from the fourth scoop of soil it collected at the “Rocknest” patch was delivered
  • Did its very first depth profile, in which we shot the laser 600 times in a single location, in order to tunnel through the surface of the rock making a hole about 0.04 in [1 mm]
  • This can help scientists understand how the composition of the sample changes from the surface to the interior.
  • SAM [Sample Analysis at Mars]
  • Material from the fourth scoop is also being used to scrub internal surfaces of the rover’s sample-processing mechanisms in preparation for delivery of a sample from a later scoop to SAM
  • Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) / Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS)
  • Both monitoring of environmental conditions and analysis of an atmosphere sample
  • "Rocknest Analysis
  • One of the rocks in the area if called Zephyr, t is interesting because it appears to be made of 2 different types of materials.
  • A harder, more resistant material on the top about 1 in. long, capping it, and then beneath it has a lighter colored softer material that appears to erode more easily
  • When they went to analyze the material with the ChemCam they used 9 points instead of just 2, just to make sure we would hit the material of interest
  • They ended up hitting both the dark and the light material and found that there was indeed a compositional difference
  • In addition to composition, they have also been able to make a three-dimensional model of the surface of this target using images from the Remote Micro-Imager part of ChemCam
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Curiosity Rover Report (Oct. 26, 2012): Working with Curiosity’s ChemCam Laser | JPLNews
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Assessing Drop-Off to Mars Rover’s Observation Tray |
  • Working with Curiosity’s ChemCam Laser |
  • Working with Curiosity’s ChemCam Laser |


Looking back

  • Nov 2, 2000 | 12 years ago | International Space Station| An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts became the first permanent residents of the international space station, at the start of their four-month mission. After their Soyuz spacecraft linked up at 11:00am GMT, William Shepherd, Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko entered the station, turned on the lights and life support systems, and proceeded to set up a live television link with the Russian mission control to confirm that the move-in was going well. They were confined to two of the space station’s three rooms until space shuttle Endeavor arrived in early Dec. with giant solar panels that would provide all the necessary power.

NExt Week Thursday!!!

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