Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beeswax discovered as ancient tooth filling

An ancient tooth patched with beeswax filling and was recovered from Slovenia a hundred years ago could very well be the oldest evidence of ancient dentistry.

According to a report by researchers published in the PLoS ONE journal last week, the beeswax filling is 6,500 years old and was applied on a tooth recovered from Italy. It was estimated that the person who owned it could be in his 20s. Furthermore, the extreme wear on the tooth is evident of other activities like making tools, weaving and softening leather where it was used, aside from eating.

Radiocarbon dating performed on the beeswax and a large ion accelerator, revealing it to be thousands of years old. The particular jaw has been in an international center for a hundred years and yet no one noticed something interesting in it until recently.

The beeswax is apparently applied to the left tooth of a jaw around the time of death but scientists cannot determine if it was before or after. But if the person was still alive when the beeswax was applied to his tooth, then this discovery could be the oldest evidence of therapeutic dentistry in the European region.

Experts assume that the beeswax application might be for relieving sensitivity and pain in teeth so they are now looking into dental tests to verify if this treatment will be effective.

“At the moment we do not have any idea if this is an isolated case or if similar interventions were quite spread in Neolithic Europe. In collaboration with our interdisciplinary team, we are planning to analyze other Neolithic teeth in order to understand how widespread these types of interventions were,” said archeologist Federico Bernardini.

On the other hand, it is also possible that the beeswax was placed on the tooth after death as part of burial customs at that time, and that the crack they found was due to its exposure for many years. This particular hypothesis is believed to be unlikely because of how the beeswax was placed in the crack.

Discovering proof of ancient dentistry is very rare, with oldest examples dating back from 5000 to 9000 year-old teeth found in the Middle East.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A solution for Asian carp infestation

Brought from the East to aid in managing aquatic plants in aquaculture industries, Asian carp has been unwittingly introduced to freshwater sources of the US. Today, they are seen as a big problem in the fishing industry for their big appetite and fast breeding, overshadowing other fish for space and food in lakes.

Asian carp presence has been recorded in around 18 states and are already established in the areas of Missouri and Illinois. The fish threatening to mess with the USD 7 billion sport and commercial fishing industry of the Great Lakes can grow up to 100 pounds and measure over 4 feet.

Some are saying that the easy solution for this is closing the canal systems and any other point of entry of asian carps. However, such a step will certainly cost billions, not only in construction but also in lost profit from boat traffic that uses the canal system.

Last resort options to prevent upsetting the marine biodiversity in the Great Lakes are harmful to other industries and would also worsen the road traffic, ergo an increase in carbon emissions.

The Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework of the government is set to allocate USD 51.5 billion to protect the Great Lakes from the asian carp infestation. This program apparently involves methods to kill or drive them away, from poison pellets to soundwave-shooting underwater guns.

A more permanent and beneficial solution seems to be to catch the asian carps and turn them into foodstuffs like what Schafer Fisheries in Illinois is doing. Schafer has been selling 10 million lbs of asian carp across the world, satisfying a demand for them in other parts of the world while helping their locality get rid of a major headache. Asian carps can be processed into food products like sausage, jerk, hotdogs and can also be included in fertilizers. Even if this one industry will not be enough to totally stop the proliferation of Asian carp, it can at least be a major step in finding a solution.

Asian carp is a collective term for several species of carp: grass carp, black carp, silver carp and bighead carp.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mars Curiosity rover scheduled for a stopover

Mars Curiosity rover is scheduled for a stopover to scrutinize the pyramid-shaped rock on the planet’s surface.The rock, measuring around 16 inches at the base and 10 inches high is chosen for analysis due to its unusual shape, was named “Jake” in memory of Jet Propulsion Lab engineer-mathematician Jacob Matijevic who died several days after the spacecraft’s landing on Mars.

The science team from JPL will have Curiosity stop for a couple of days for its first “contact science” by analysing and photographing the rock using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle Xray Spectrometer (APXS).

Curiosity is on a 2-year mission to probe living conditions in Mars and gain insights into its geologic history. Its goal is to reach the base of Mount Sharp in the midst of Gale Crater, around 7 miles away from its current position, by early 2013.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mini satellite from Japan will send Morse

Five small low-cost satellites are deployed today from the ISS to conduct scientific missions and test a possible type of optical communication scheme.

CubeSats, palm-sized satellites measuring 4 inches, are solar-powered cubes that will orbit the Earth for the next 100 days.

One of the satellites launched was a Japanese one tasked with sending a Morse code message that would be seen across the world.

To be the first orbiter to transmit a message across the sky using LED is what the designers of the satellite is hoping to achieve. The small cube, measuring only 10cm, is set to send a message in Morse code using bursts of intense light.

The message was only meant to be seen in Japan but according to Professor Takushi Tanaka of Fukuoka Institute of Technology, they were flooded with requests from researchers in Slovakia, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Italy and US that the satellite also communicate when it flies over their countries.

“Requests came from far more people than I expected – a man in Silicon Valley wanted to see it while another man wanted us to flash it over Central Park in New York,” said Professor Tanaka.

Tanaka said they would try their best to fulfill the requests but also cautioned observers against possible deception from random light flashes and added that seeing the Morse code message would depend on the weather.

The satellite is named Niwaka, a pun in southwestern dialect of Japan. It will flash the message “Hi this is Niwaka Japan” to observers around the world equipped with binoculars. They will, weather-permitting, be able to catch colored flashes of light from the sky — red for those in the southern hemisphere and green for those in the northern. That is because the front part of the satellite has a differently colored LED from its back part.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have launched the satellite from its Kibou (Hope) laboratory and is set to orbit Earth 16 times per day. Three of the five satellites launched is from Japan, each of them provided by Wakayama University, Tohoku University and Fukuoka Institute of Technology.

Aside from transmitting the Morse message, the satellite is also set to take pictures of Earth using its camera and high-speed data transmission capability.

The satellites were released at 400 km above the Earth last week and is now in regular orbit. Certain locations and times will be announced on the ISS website.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Protein to combat reef-destroying starfish

A group of scientists in Australia has announced this week an potentially effective way to eliminate the destructive starfish, crown of thorns, that are feasting on coral reefs in the Pacific ocean.

The crown of thorns is already prominent in the Pacific and Indian Ocean where they feed mainly on coral polyps. Outbreaks of the large and poisonous starfish are blamed for the massive destruction of corals.

The Great Barrier Reef is located in the northeastern coast of Australia and composed of thousands of reef formations. The report by Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that almost half of the coral reef is gone compared to its size 30 years ago.

Clearly, the first phase would be to remove the voracious eaters, starfish, and convince farming operations to reduce their chemical-laden runoffs that victimize coral, and in some cases even support the starfish growth.

James Cook University in Queensland announced their discovery of a bacteria culture that could help in preserving the Great Barrier Reef by killing the culprit, starfish. The protein mixture where the bacteria is cultured was discovered to be capable of destroying starfish within 24 hours.

According to researchers of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the university, the next phase will deal with determining how safe the protein is when it comes to other marine life.

“In developing a biological control you have to be very careful to target only the species you are aiming at, and be certain that it can cause no harm to other species or to the wider environment. This compound looks very promising from that standpoint — though there is a lot of tank testing still to do before we would ever consider trialing it in the sea,” said Professor Morgan Pratchett of the ARC center.

However, this discovery alone is not enough to curb the massive outbreaks of starfish being seen today.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Giant mammoth carcass in Siberian frost

Yevgeny Salinder, an 11-year old Russian boy, is the one who discovered the massive remains of the mammoth in August.

The mammoth, estimated to be at its 16 year when it died measured 2 meters and weighed 1,000 pounds, was excavated from the Siberian permafrost last month.

”It is the mammoth of the century,” said Professor Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoological Museum in St Petersburg.

According to a Russian scientist, the well-preserved mammoth could be attacked by another mammoth or an Ice Age man. It was best preserved remains of a mature mammoth but its DNA was already damaged and would be difficult to use for cloning.

The International Mammoth Committee working to recover and protect ancient remains: “We had to use both traditional instruments such as axes, picks, shovels as well as such devices as this ‘steamer’ which allowed us to thaw a thin layer of permafrost. Then we cleaned it off, and then we melted more of it. It took us a week to complete this task.”

A group of researchers from different countries have visited the site in September and they were surprised to see that the remains were not only made up of bones but in fact, complete with hair, one tusk and soft tissues.

“We can see that this animal was very well adapted to the northern environment, accumulating massive amounts of fat. This animal likely died during the summer period as we can’t see much of its undercoat, but it had already accumulated a sufficient amount of fat,” said Aleksey Tikhonov from the Russian Academy of Sciences .

Principal analysis on the creature’s remains has disproved that the big humps on mammoths depicted in cave paintings in European countries were not actually extension of their bone structure but great reserves of fat that helped them manipulate their body temperature during long winter seasons.

The mammoth, named as Zhenya after the 11-year old boy, is set to be the main exhibit in the Taimyr Regional Museum and will be transferred to the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is Environmental Fraud?

We all know that regardless of where you live, the weather is often unpredictable. A comfy 60 degree winter day in the Midwest; chilly and breezy on a late spring day in the pacific coast. To some of us, the prevalence of unusual weather is simply the work of Mother Nature. Others are more convinced that our reckless treatment of the earth has made global warming that much more of a reality.
The natural level of discomfort that results from the thought of global warming is reinforced by numerous reports claiming inevitable environmental doom. A recent article in the Nature Magazine went as far as predicting that over the next fifty years, well over one million species will cease to exist due to global warming.

Impact of the Information Technology

Coupled with the fear prompted by environmental experts and know-it-alls is a plethora of scams. Some attempt to persuade our beliefs, while others operate with the intentions of fraud. Far from being verified is one claim that global warming is a man-made predicament. Instead of drawing these conclusions from observable facts, these assumptions are based on methods of computer modeling that generate artificial, manipulable graphic-based visions of the earth. A computer can only process the information fed to it, which in this case is usually fraudulent data intended to stir up controversy.

Other types of environmental fraud target those who carry enough concern about the planet to make a difference. These scams typically find their way to you via email, online survey or fraudulent website. Often, criminals will make an attempt to persuade you into contributing to the prevention of global warming, preservation of the rain forest or other environmental issues. These frauds are experienced and rather savvy, able to produce content that makes them appear legitimate. Some of them will even steal logos and other identifying materials to masquerade themselves as reputable environmental organizations. To further complicate matters, you typically will have no way of knowing where your contribution actually went. In a worst case scenario, a scam artist uses your personal information to commit identity theft and runs up hundreds to thousands in debt.

In the End

It just may be safe to assume that environmental problems such as global warming has everything to do with politics and little to do with science. Scientists who endorse these theories command and often receive robust government grants to conduct their research. Without the prevalence of imminent threats, scientists wouldn't get funded, essentially making these environmental issues a big business. Right behind these scientist is a group of criminals determined to play on your fear and genuine concern to turn a profit.

In the end, it is at your discretion whether or not you choose to believe or financially support these highly publicized environmental issues. At the same time, you must keep in mind that many of these theories are not supported by verifiable documentation while remaining aware of the numerous scams lurking in the background.

You can do your part at preserving the environment by viewing the tips on the following website:

Flooded summer season, Atlantic Ocean blames

Northern Europe picks on the Atlantic Ocean because of its wet summer according to a new study. The rising and falling of ocean temperature or the so called cyclical deception is seen as a major extortion on the weather. The said pattern reported will last long as the Atlantic warming persists. The research was carried out at the University of Reading and is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The cycle of scheme investigated was known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. This change sees the waters warm or cool over a period of several decades. The researchers compared three periods in this cycle: a warm state from 1931-60, a cool period from 1961-90 and the most recent warm period starting in 1990 and continuing now. The paper notes that conditions in the last warm period in the Atlantic are broadly similar to those pragmatic now.

So the study compared weather conditions in Europe during the two warm Atlantic phases with those oppressed in the cool phase. One conclusion is that a warmer-than-usual Atlantic “favors a mild spring (especially April), summer and autumn, in England and across Europe.”

Another finding – of greatest relevance to the search for a cause of rainy summers – is that the warmth of the ocean also tends to make northern and central Europe abuse than usual. By contrast southern Europe, from Portugal to Turkey, makes victim of far less rain than normal.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Food fraud tackled by forensic scientists

Wine, spirits, meat and even baby food can all be faked, with fraudsters hiding their true origins. Now forensic scientists are clamping down on food fraud, which costs millions in lost revenue and can put the health and safety of the public at risk.

Imagine tucking into a fine fillet of "British" beef, only to learn it actually came from Australia. Or drinking "French" wine that actually came from California.

What if the "Italian" olive oil you pour over the accompanying salad originated in Morocco?

That might not be so bad, you may think.

But what if a bottle of vodka you'd purchased in good faith is tainted with methanol, making it lethal to drink?

Or the baby food you feed your youngest is not what the label on the jar said it is?

As global trade has increased, so has the potential for food fraud, where fraudsters lie or hide the true provenance of produce.

Alongside food safety and health fears, its raises concerns over quality control, reputational damage and lost revenue, and puts the spotlight on illegal activity.

Now some firms are taking to using scientists, a type of food "crime scene investigators", to tackle the issue.

Faking it

In a world where food is exported and imported every day, how do you prove that the origin of a product is legitimate?

A company in New Zealand has developed a scientific origin system which maps and catalogues "food fingerprints".

"What we do needs to be able to stand up in court," says Dr Helen Darling, from Oritain.

Most food supply chains use predominantly paper-based systems to trace the origin of food, such as following barcodes.

But while these show the route a product has travelled and how, and "whatever kind of details you want to capture in that system", says Dr Darling, Oritain's proof of origin "cannot be faked".

Oritain's scientific liaison officer Rebecca McLeod says it ties food and drinks back to their geographic origin, by measuring the geochemical fingerprint of say, an apple, as well as the fingerprint of the soil it grew in, and that of the surrounding atmosphere.

"We look at the concentrations of a whole suite of different metal elements - present in the soil, and get introduced by things like fertilisers, and taken up by plants, and we can trace them to animals that eat plants as well.

Antonio Pasquale  in his vineyard
Antonio Pasquale is passionate about making sure 100% of his wine is from his winery

"The likelihood of two regions having exactly same soil type and fertilisers is very very slim," she says.

The firm also can analyse some manufactured products, in "batch profiling".

"Something like infant formula or wine produced in a factory incorporates lots of different ingredients. We can characterise each batch of that product, based on the geochemical signature," explains Ms McLeod.

Once the food or drink profile has been developed, it is recorded and safely stored.

"Once we've got that in place, it's a quick process to analyse a suspect sample that is sent to us. The idea is we do all of the groundwork before there's a problem," she explains.

Each product is given a unique number which can be displayed on packaging or stickers.

Dr Helen Darling says it enables quick comparisons to root out any goods that aren't "true to label".

"Whilst our logo itself can be counterfeited, any product with our label on it or our brand on it, we would have authentic data and an authentic archive sample of that product. If we don't, we know immediately that it's a counterfeit product - that in itself is a deterrent to people."

In the Czech republic last month, distilled alcohol was tainted with methanol, causing the deaths of 19 people. The government imposed prohibition as authorities tried to trace the origin of the poisonous alcohol (believed to be vodka), with great difficulty.

Would an origin system have made it easier?

The EU does have an agricultural product quality policy, which allows foods and drinks to be assigned a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) category.

But this only applies to certified products and would not have helped in the case of counterfeit alcohol.

However, Rebecca McLeod says Oritain's scientists could look at the isotopic content of the water in alcohol products, analyse it and come up with a fingerprint for spirits such as whisky and vodka.

This technique would only work pre-emptively.

She says while it hasn't analysed any top shelf spirits yet, it has catalogued wine for clients.

One of those is Antonio Pasquale, a winemaker based in north Otago, New Zealand.

He has become increasingly frustrated that wine produced in the country is allowed to be mixed with other vineyards' - laws there state if a label says the wine is from a particular grape variety, vintage or area, then at least 85% in the bottle must be from that variety, vintage or area.

Oritain scientists working with New Zealand bee keepers
Oritain scientists have been working with bee keepers to map honey origins
"The structure of the free market pushes all food companies to standardise the product year in and year out. The lack of differences is destroying the individuality," he explains.

"I had enough of this. They (Oritain) came and sampled two blocks of 40 acres... mapped the chemical structure of my paddocks, and from then on they had freedom to come to my winery and collect samples.
"So I have solid proof that all my wine, as I say it is, comes from my paddock."

In southeast Asia provenance is becoming more important, as "there are million and millions of bottles of falsified wine sold in China," says Mr Pasquale.

"Wine was sold there produced in California but with French wine labels," he says.

China is no stranger to food scandals. But consumers are demanding higher standards of certification and proof of origin after infant formula was sold tainted with melamine in the country.

It has a bad record, in many food areas, including asparagus.

For example, in China, the US and Peru asparagus breeders can be tempted to sell poor quality seed, which can reduce yields by 20-30-%.

Dr Peter Falloon, the managing director of asparagus breeders Aspara Pacific, says his company overcomes this by having the characteristic biochemical profile of his company's seed measured.

Collecting asparagus seeds
High and low grade asparagus seeds can be spotted in the field

That way "growers in developing countries can simply send a suspect sample of 20 seeds to be analysed to see if they match the breeders' stock, and find out for sure if they are buying the real deal."

It is a low-cost option and technological advancement for rural farmers in developing country, meeting one of the key objectives this year of the United Nations' World Food Day on 16 October, which is to promote the transfer of technologies to the developing world.

Honey is another easily faked food.

"Some honeys being sold around the world have had sugars added, there have been honeys supplied with traces of antibiotics in them and some honeys have not been 'true to label' (the pollen source has been different to what has been recorded on the label)," explains Peter Cox, the general manager for New Zealand Honey Specialties.

The company is also asking scientists to profile their produce, which includes single flower honeys such as thyme honey, and honey produced in the beech forests of the south Island, or the lakes in Central Otago.

"Getting from beehive to the palette, we have a real story around authenticity. Certainly it's a rigorous scientific process," he says.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Crown Capital Eco Management

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Crown Capital Eco Management works with government bodies, international entities, private sectors and other non-governmental organizations in providing extensive information to the public, media and policymakers that are involved in addressing environmental issues and sustainable initiatives in a worldwide scale.

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Although Crown Capital Management cooperates with various organizations, we maintain our being an independent body, free from control of any particular government, state or institution and unimpaired by their own respective interests.

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