Cancer Drug & New Planet | SciByte 125

Cancer Drug & New Planet | SciByte 125

We take a look at a new cancer drug, a dwarf planet, new dinosaur, spacecraft updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Possible New Cancer Drug

  • A new study has developed a new drug, ZL105, that can manipulate the body\’s natural signalling and energy systems, allowing the body to attack and shut down cancerous cells
  • Medicine Based on Precious Metals
  • Platinum-based drugs are used in nearly 50% of all chemotherapeutic regimens, they damage DNA and cannot select between cancerous and noncancerous cells
  • This new drug based on the precious metal iridium is specifically designed not to attack DNA and has a novel mechanism of action, means that it could not only dramatically slow down and halt cancer growth, but also significantly reduce the side effects
  • Treatment
  • Existing cancer treatments often become less effective after the first course, as cancer cells learn how they are being attacked, the newly developed drug is a catalyst and is active at low doses
  • The energy-producing machinery in cancer cells works to the limit as it attempts to keep up with quick proliferation and invasion, this makes cancer cells susceptible to minor changes in the cell \’power-house\’
  • This drug pushes cancer cells over the limit causing them to slow and shut down, whilst normal cells can cope with its effects
  • It can attack cancer cells in multiple ways at the same time, so the cancer is less able to adapt to the treatment, which means the new drugs could be much more effective than existing treatments
  • Effectiveness and the Future
  • Preliminary data indicate that the novel drug may be ten times more effective in treating ovarian, colon, melanoma, renal, and some breast cancers, according to data obtained by the US National Cancer Institute
  • Researchers now aim to expand the study to cancers that are inherently resistant to existing drugs and to those which have developed resistance after a first round of chemotherapy treatments.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • New drug raises potential for cancer treatment revolution |


A Possible New Dwarf Planet

  • Astronomers have discovered a probable dwarf planet that orbits the Sun far beyond Pluto
  • Discovery
  • Astronomers been hunting for distant objects with the Dark Energy Camera, a 520-megapixel camera on the 4-meter Blanco telescope in Chile
  • They captured 2012 VP113 during their first observing run, in November 2012, on the fifth image of the hundreds they would eventually snap, for months they tracked the object, until its full orbit became more apparent
  • There have been a number of similar objects similar to this that have been found in the last decade that probably belong to the inner part of the Oort cloud
  • **The New Object [2012 VP113] **
  • The newfound object\’s official name is 2012 VP113, but the discovery team calls it VP for short, or just \’Biden\’ — after US Vice-President Joe Biden
  • It is roughly 450 kilometers across, just one-fifth Pluto\’s, if Pluto were as big as a basketball, this new world a mere golf ball
  • It\’s orbit takes it from 80 to 452 AU from the sun, never approaching Neptune (30 AU) or Pluto (39.5 AU).
  • Pluto orbits the sun every 248 years, the new world requires 4340 years
  • In several years time, after observations have pinned down its orbit, the scientists will submit a name for consideration by the International Astronomical Union (IAU)
  • Origins
  • Astronomers now have to come up with ideas to explain how these objects remain tightly gravitationally bound to the Sun when they orbit so far away.
  • There are several competing ideas for how objects such as Sedna and 2012 VP113 got to where they are today
  • One leading hypothesis proposes that in the Solar System’s infancy, a nearby star gravitationally perturbed the coalescing system and dragged some fragments out towards the edge
  • Another possibility is that a massive rogue planet passed through at some point, kicking objects from the Kuiper belt outwards into the inner Oort cloud.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • New Dwarf Planet Has Most Distant Trajectory Known | Scientific American
  • ScienceShot: Small World Spotted Far Beyond Pluto | Science/AAAS
  • Discovery! Possible Dwarf Planet Found Far Beyond Pluto\’s Orbit |


New Dinosaur Found in the Dakota’s

  • Scientists unveiled the discovery, naming and description of a sharp-clawed, 500-pound, bird-like dinosaur that roamed the Dakotas with T. rex 66 million years ago
  • New Dinosaur, Anzu
  • Three partial skeletons of the dinosaur – almost making up a full skeleton – were excavated from the uppermost level of the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota
  • Like many \”new\” dinosaurs, Anzu wyliei fossils were discovered some years ago, and it took more time for researchers to study the fossils and write and publish a formal scientific description
  • The new dinosaur was 11.5 feet long, almost 5 feet tall at the hip and weighed an estimated 440 to 660 pounds
  • Its jaws were tipped with a toothless beak, and its head sported a tall, rounded crest similar to that of a cassowary (a large ground bird native to Australia and New Guinea)
  • The neck and hind legs were long and slender, also comparable to a cassowary or ostrich, the forelimbs of Anzu were tipped with large, sharp claws, and the tail was long and robust
  • The researchers believe Anzu, with large sharp claws, was an omnivore, eating vegetation, small animals and perhaps eggs while living on a wet floodplain
  • Studies of the rocks in which several of the most complete caenagnathid skeletons have been found show that these strata were laid down in humid floodplain environments
  • Two skeletons show signs of trauma, one with a broken and healed rib, the other has an arthritic toe bone that may have been caused by an avulsion fracture (where a tendon ripped a piece off the bone to which it was attached).
  • Whether these injuries were the result of combat between two individuals or an attack by a larger predator remains a mystery
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Nearly complete \’chicken from hell,\’ from mysterious dinosaur group | ScienceDaily
  • A \’chicken from hell\’ dinosaur: Large feathered dinosaur species discovered in North America |


European Space Agencies Cometary Spacecraft Rosetta

  • ESA sent a wake-up call to the 100-kg (220-lb) lander riding aboard the Rosetta spacecraft, bringing it out of its nearly 33-month-long slumber and beginning its preparation for its upcoming
  • Philae Lander
  • The lander, Philae, will touch down on the surface of a comet in November of 2014 and is received a “personal wake-up call” from Earth, 655 million kilometers away.
  • A confirmation signal from the lander was received by ESA five and a half hours after the initial signal was sent
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Philae touch down | European Space Agency, ESA European Space Agency, ESA
  • Twitter | ESA Rosetta Mission Verified account @ESA_Rosetta
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ESA Awakens Rosetta\’s Comet Lander |

Opportunity Rover Power Boost

  • Opportunity rover on Mars has gotten a 70% boost in power over the past few weeks from a partial cleaning of dust from its solar panels
  • Combined, with the seasonal effect and multiple dust-cleaning events have increased the amount of energy available each day from the rover\’s solar array by more than 70 percent compared with two months ago
  • A good portion of that comes from the fact that its springtime in Mars’ southern hemisphere where Oppy now sits, so the Sun is now shining longer and higher in the sky.
  • Several recent gusts of wind – or perhaps small dust devils – have also cleaned much of the dust off the rover’s solar panels.
  • The rover team reported that between Sols 3605 and 3606 (March 15 and March 16, 2014), there was a dust cleaning event which resulted in about a 10% improvement in power production to 574 watt-hours, another cleaning event this week has put the power output to 615 watt-hours
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Mars Exploration Rover Mission |
  • Opportunity Rover Gets Power Boost from Wind Events on Mars |


  • Arriving at New Science Location
  • The rover has reached a vantage point for its cameras to survey four different types of rock intersecting in an area called \”the Kimberley\”
  • This is the spot on the map the team has been headed for, on a little rise that gives a great view for context imaging of the outcrops at the Kimberley
  • The science team expects to take several weeks for observations, sample-drilling and onboard laboratory analysis of the area\’s rocks
  • The mission\’s investigations at the Kimberley are planned as the most extensive since Curiosity spent the first half of 2013 in an area called Yellowknife Bay
  • Researchers plan to use Curiosity\’s science instruments to learn more about habitable past conditions and environmental changes.
  • Multimedia
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Scoping Out Next Study Area – Mars Science Laboratory |


Looking back

  • April 9, 1959 : 55 years ago : First astronauts selected : NASA announced the selection of America\’s first seven astronauts for project Mercury. Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald Slayton were chosen from 110 applicants. Their training program at Langley, which ranged from a graduate-level course in introductory space science to simulator training and scuba-diving. Project Mercury, NASA\’s first high profile program, was an effort to learn if humans could survive in space. NASA required astronaut candidates to be male, not over 40 years old, not more than 5\’ 11\” height and in excellent physical condition. On 5 May 1961, Shepard became the first American in space

Looking up this week

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