Orange Is the New Raspberry? Welcome to the Age of the $20 Quad-Core Computer


IN BRIEF
  • Orange Pi is now offering a 64-bit quad-core computer retailing for just $20, $15 less than the Raspberry Pi B.
  • The device has a standalone graphics chip, a 1 GB memory, three USB ports, an HDMI port, an IR blaster, and even ethernet support.

The good thing about technology is that it doesn’t just improve with each iteration, it often becomes less expensive as well. 3D printers, medical prosthetics, and many other devices are becoming more accessible to regular people thanks to less-shocking price tags.

Raspberry Pi started that trend with computers, and it’s only getting better. Orange Pi is now offering a 64-bit quad-core computer retailing for just $20. Orange Pi started by offering a $15 single board device that runs Raspberry Pi images, Linux, and Android. Their Orange Pi PC 2 is a bigger, badder version of this.

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Orange Pi

It has an H5 High Performance Quad-core 64-bit Cortex-A53, a standalone graphics chip, and a 1 GB memory that can be expanded with the TF card slot. There are three USB ports, an HDMI port, an IR blaster, and even ethernet support.

The rig can support Android 4.4, Ubuntu, Debian, Rasberry Pi Image, and banana pi Image. It can essentially be used for exactly the same things Raspberry Pi rigs are famous for – basically anything a builder can think of.

Gene transporter to treat haemophilia


Haemophilia A is a rare genetic condition in which the blood does not clot properly.

Local scientists are studying the use of cord-lining stem cells to transport a specific gene into the body that will then go on to produce a clotting protein known as factor VIII, which patients lack.

In animal studies led by Professor Kon Oi Lian of the National Cancer Centre Singapore, stem cells carrying factor VIII were introduced into mice with the condition. Scientists found that the animals began to producethe protein.

The mice to which the gene was introduced also bled less when their tails were clipped.

“We were able to show, at least in a small animal model, that these cord-lining epithelial cells not only secreted factor VIII, but were able to mitigate, though not cure, the haemophilic mice,” said Prof Kon.

 Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), which are not known to cause disease in humans, are now the commonly used vector for transporting the gene, but there have been some challenges.

One problem is that people infected before by the virus already produce neutralising antibodies against it, which means they would not be able to receive the gene.

“The AAV also does not insert itself into the genome, so it is possible the effect will wear off after a while,” added Prof Kon, who is also with the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Other viral vectors studied that insert themselves into the patient’s genome have had adverse side-effects.

Prof Kon noted that cord-lining stem cells could provide an alternative method. Her team started studies on dogs last year.

 Antibiotics Kill Gut Bacteria, Stop Growth of New Brain Cells.


 

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Our lives are intertwined with microbes. These creatures have developed a symbiotic relationship with the plants and animals of this Earth, evolving with us. We can’t see them, but life on our planet is dependent on this vast community of bacteria.

It hasn’t been until recently that we’ve begun to notice the powers they hold. For instance, some studies suggest the bacteria in our gut influence the health of our brains and may even determine whether we are lean or obese.

From the moment of birth, each of us enters the world with a unique set of microbes—as unique as a fingerprint—and throughout life our lifestyles may continue to influence this microbial community for better or worse.

“We know quite a lot about associations between food and health, we know a bunch of associations between food and microbes, and we know a bunch about associations between microbes and health,” microbiome researcher Rob Knight told NPR in an interview back in 2013.

But researchers are still trying to put all the pieces together.

One study looked at how antibiotics decimate a microbiome, and how this loss affects the brain.

“We found prolonged antibiotic treatment might impact brain function,”says senior author Susanne Asu Wolf of the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. “But probiotics and exercise can balance brain plasticity and should be considered as a real treatment option.”

It’s important to note the research in this study was conducted on mice. The researchers treated one group of mice with enough antibiotics to nearly clear their intestinal tracts of microbes, while another group of mice went untreated.

The researchers noted a decline in performance on memory tests among the mice teated with antibiotics, as well as a halt in the production of new brain cells. They found probiotics and exercise were the most effective treatment to reverse the side-effects relating to memory and neurogenisis after receiving an antibiotic.

In future research, the group plans to study the effects of probiotic treatments in patients with psychiatric or neurodegenerative disorders. “We could measure the outcome in mood, psychiatric symptoms, microbiome composition and immune cell function before and after probiotic treatment,” says Wolf.

Microbes play a part in our health, but understanding just how much is something we’re still trying to figure out. Researchers have only just begun to scratch the surface.

Radiation From Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Detected on Oregon Shores


Seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on Oregon shores, researchers say.

Seawater samples from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach indicate radiation from the nuclear disaster but at extremely low levels not harmful to humans or the environment.

Citing the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Statesman Journal newspaper reports the samples were taken last winter and later analyzed.

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from the crippled Japan nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

 Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler runs a crowdfunded, citizen-science seawater sampling project that has tracked the radiation plume as it makes its way across the Pacific Ocean.

Heroin Overdoses Killed More People in US Than HIV, Melanoma or Firearms in 2015.


The opioid epidemic continues to worsen in the U.S., with more people dying from heroin overdoses than firearm homicides, melanoma or HIV-related causes, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

PHOTO: Heroin needles and paraphernalia are spilled out on a bathroom floor.

In 2015 at least 13,150 people died of heroin overdose, according to the CDC Wonder database, which houses public health data.

That number was higher than the number of people killed in firearm homicides in the same year, which was 12,974, or the number of deaths attributed to HIV, which was 6,465, according to the CDC database. It was also higher than the number of people killed by the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, which the American Cancer Society estimated caused 9,940 deaths in 2015.

The staggering number of deaths related to heroin use is just a part of the toll of the opioid epidemic. In 2014, 28,000 people died from opioid overdoses — which includes heroin overdoses — and half were due to prescription drugs.

Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, said the heroin overdose numbers first highlighted by The Washington Post on Thursday, were “alarming” and showed the growing impact of opioid abuse in the U.S.

“Both heroin and illicit fentanyl are really complicating efforts to try and reduce opioid-related injuries and deaths,” Alexander told ABC News today. Fentanyl is an opioid often made and sold illicitly that can be as much as 100 times more potent than heroin.

Alexander pointed out that what makes the problem more difficult is that addicts have multiple avenues to find and take opioids from prescription drugs to illicit substances like heroin or fentanyl or even veterinary opioids like carfentanil, which was designed to sedate elephants.

“There are a lot of different sources of this products,” Alexander said. “The underlying things that fuel this is the vast number of Americans that is physically dependent or addicted to the product.”

Researchers find DNA mutation that led to change in function of gene in humans that sparked larger neocortex


Researchers find DNA mutation that led to change in function of gene in humans that sparked larger neocortex
Apical progenitors (APs) and basal progenitors (BPs) in an embryonic mouse and a fetal human neocortex.
A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute has found what they believe is the DNA mutation that led to a change in function of a gene in humans that sparked the growth of a larger neocortex. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team describes how they engineered a gene found only in humans, Denisovans and Neanderthals to look like a precursor to reveal its neuroproliferative effect.

A year ago, another team of researchers found the that most in the field believe was a major factor in allowing the human brain to grow bigger, allowing for more complex processing. In this new effort, the researchers have found what they believe was the DNA change that arose in that gene.

To pinpoint that change, the researchers engineered the unique ARHGAP11B gene to make it more similar to the ARHGAP11A gene, which researchers believe was a predecessor gene—they swapped a single nucleotide (out of 55 possibilities) for another and in so doing, found the ARHGAP11B gene lost its neuroproliferative abilities. This, the team claims, shows that it was a single mutation that allowed humans to grow bigger brains. Such a mutation, they note, was not likely due to natural selection, but was more likely a simple mistake that occurred as a brain cell was splitting. Because it conferred an advantage (the ability to grow higher than normal amounts of brain cells) the mutation was retained through subsequent generations. They also point out that such a mutation would have resulted specifically in a larger neocortex—a portion of the cortex that has been associated with hearing and sight. Prior research has also found that this region of the brain is likely the part of the that has most recently evolved.

The researchers also note that their research showed the mutation occurring just 1 million years after the human line split from chimpanzees—which was approximately 5 to 6 million years ago. Since that time, other research has shown the has experienced several growth spurts leading to advances in intelligence and the ability to reason.

Abstract
The gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and is implicated in neocortex expansion. It arose on the human evolutionary lineage by partial duplication of ARHGAP11A, which encodes a Rho guanosine triphosphatase–activating protein (RhoGAP). However, a lack of 55 nucleotides in ARHGAP11B mRNA leads to loss of RhoGAP activity by GAP domain truncation and addition of a human-specific carboxy-terminal amino acid sequence. We show that these 55 nucleotides are deleted by mRNA splicing due to a single C→G substitution that creates a novel splice donor site. We reconstructed an ancestral ARHGAP11B complementary DNA without this substitution. Ancestral ARHGAP11B exhibits RhoGAP activity but has no ability to increase basal progenitors during neocortex development. Hence, a single nucleotide substitution underlies the specific properties of ARHGAP11B that likely contributed to the evolutionary expansion of the human neocortex.

This Car Runs For 100 Years Without Refuelling – The Thorium car.


If your car was powered by thorium, you would never need to refuel it. The vehicle would burn out long before the chemical did. The thorium would last so long, in fact, it would probably outlive you.

That’s why a company called Laser Power Systems has created a concept for a thorium-powered car engine. The element is radioactive, and the team uses bits of it to build a laserbeam that heats water, produces steam, and powers an energy-producing turbine.

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Thorium is one of the most dense materials on the planet. A small sample of it packs 20 million times more energy than a similarly-sized sample of coal, making it an ideal energy source.

The thing is, Dr. Charles Stevens, the CEO of Laser Power Systems, told Mashable that thorium engines won’t be in cars anytime soon.

“Cars are not our primary interest,” Stevens said. ”The automakers don’t want to buy them.”

He said too much of the automobile industry is focused on making money off of gas engines, and it will take at least a couple decades for thorium technology to be used enough in other industries that vehicle manufacturers will begin to consider revamping the way they think about engines.

“We’re building this to power the rest of the world,” Stevens said. He believes a thorium turbine about the size of an air conditioning unit could more provide cheap power for whole restaurants, hotels, office buildings, even small towns in areas of the world without electricity. At some point, thorium could power individual homes.

Stress Could Be Destroying Your Brain — Here’s How 


Mouse

That’s one stressed mouse.

Long-term stress can have lots of effects on the body—it can cause chronic muscle tension, heart problems, and fertility issues in both men and women. Now researchers have performed a new study in mice that they believe reveals another effect of chronic stress on the brain: Inflammation, which can lead to memory loss and depression. The researchers published their study today in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, the researchers stressed out several mice by periodically putting a much more aggressive mouse into their cage. After six days of exposure, the stressed mice could no longer recall the location of a hole to escape a maze, which they remembered easily before the stressful period began. “The stressed mice didn’t recall it. The mice that weren’t stressed, they really remembered it,” said Jonathan Godbout, a neuroscience professor at Ohio State University and one of the study authors in a press release. For four weeks after the trauma, the mice continued to cower in corners, the mouse equivalent of social avoidance, a major symptom of depression.

The researchers suspected that the stress was affecting the mice’s hippocampi, a part of the brain key to memory and spatial navigation. They found cells from mice’s immune system, called macrophages, in the hippocampus, and the macrophages were preventing the growth of more brain cells.

The stress, it seemed, was causing the mice’s immune systems to attack their own brains, causing inflammation. The researchers dosed the mice a drug known to reduce inflammation to see how they would respond. Though their social avoidance and brain cell deficit persisted, the mice had fewer macrophages in their brains and their memories returned to normal, indicating to the researchers that inflammation was behind the neurological effects of chronic stress.

This isn’t the first study to point out the connection between chronic stress and memory loss, or between inflammation and depression. But it provides a new, promising link between all four. That could help doctors prescribe more immune-focused treatments for conditions like anxiety and depression, some of which are being tested now, as the New Scientist reports.

The polar vortex is coming. Here’s what that means — and how cold it could get.


Winter’s first polar vortex blast, already taking shape in the Arctic this weekend, targets the Lower 48 next week. By Tuesday, temperatures below zero will plunge south into the northern plains and Midwest. Over the course of a few days, the cold air will blast across the country to the Northeast.

The northern tier has already seen a taste of what this winter has to offer — in fact, the region is already experiencing a significant cold snap. On Thursday morning, the temperature in Billings, Mont., dropped to minus-3. It was the first time the location saw a temperature below zero in 698 days, since Jan. 9, 2015. Almost the entire state of North Dakota is under a wind chill advisory — the National Weather Service is calling for temperatures that feel like minus-35.

Next week’s cold blast will dive farther south and east.

Weather forecast models are suggesting temperatures will nose-dive in the Midwest. All of Minnesota and Wisconsin — plus the Chicagoland area — could see overnight lows plummet into negative territory: minus-15 in Minneapolis, minus-10 in Milwaukee and minus-5 in the Chicagoland area around Wednesday or Thursday.

The forecast is 20 to 35 degrees below average for this time of year.

What will likely be the coldest air since last February will barge into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast late next week. Daytime temperatures from Washington to Boston will struggle to climb above freezing. Overnight lows will surely be in the single digits and teens, if not below zero in parts of New England.

Through Thursday, 75 percent of the Lower 48 will have experienced a temperature below freezing, including Texas, the Deep South and the Pacific Northwest, based on National Weather Service forecasts.

The frigid air tied up in this polar vortex blast has its origins in Siberia and northern Canada. It will be the coldest air of the season so far for most of the United States. Future cold blasts may be more potent, but we haven’t experienced this since last February.

The polar vortex is not a new thing — it’s a weather term that was popularized in 2014, though it’s always been something meteorologists knew of and referred to among themselves.

It’s a very large, extremely cold air mass over the Arctic (the Antarctic has one, too). The concentrated area of cold air is bound by the jet stream, which is a current of fast-moving air at very high levels of the atmosphere. When the jet stream is strong and keeps the polar vortex area bottled up north, temperatures can fall to minus-100 degrees.

The vortex is always present — even in the summer. But winter is when it really comes alive — not only is Arctic air colder because of the lack of sunlight, this is also when the jet stream plunges south. When that happens, it allows the cold air to spill south, like a freezer with the door left open.

Some of the most historic cold-air outbreaks of the past 30 years have been caused by the polar vortex diving south.

People Who Are Obese Are Much Less Likely To Get Dementia With Age.


Obesity has been linked to a huge number of health conditions, such as diabetes, various types of cancer, and diseases of the heart and liver. But according to a new study, people who are obese in middle age are significantly less likely to get dementia, a loosely defined condition that includes memory loss and decreased cognitive function in older age. This large-cohort study, published this week in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, overturns previous work that indicated that obesity raised a person’s risk for dementia. But the reason why the obese may stay lucid for longer is still up for debate.

The team of British researchers looked at records of almost two million patients with an average age of 55. The data has been collected since 1992, and the researchers correlated patients’ body mass index (BMI) with diagnosis of dementia. They found that people who were underweight had a 35 percent higher risk of developing dementia than people of normal weight, and people who were very obese (with a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2) were 29 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the condition than people of normal weight.

 

Portrait of Daniel Lambert

The reason why the obese are less likely to develop dementia is still unknown, though the researchers hypothesize that the obese may be absorbing more of particular kinds of vitamins or nutrients that could stave off the condition.

The researchers were surprised by the results because their work overturns the conclusions of several previous studies, the most recent of which was published in 2008. But the study authors remind people not to think that obesity is a boon to overall health. “Even if there were to be a protective effect in dementia, you may not live long enough to benefit because you are at higher risk from other conditions,” Nawab Qizilbash, an epidemiologist and one of the study authors, told the Guardian.

 

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