BenTha'er-Horizons

Science

Dubrovnik the Ancient city

During the mid to late 1300s, the Black Death as a plague raged around the world and into Europe. Venice was one city that was a port of entry for the disease. In fact, the word quarantine is rooted in Italian.

"The word “quarantine” has Italian roots: in an effort to protect coastal cities from the Black Death ravaging 14th-Century Europe, ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days (quaranta giorni) before landing, a practice that eventually became known as quarantine – derived from ‘quarantino’, the Italian word for a 40-day period."

In addition, across the Adriatic Sea, the early city of Ragusa (later Dubrovnik) passed a law preventing ships and trade caravans from entering the city until they submitted to 30 days of isolation.

More about these quarantine medieval cities
here.
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Earlier Epidemics in History

Was our nation's capital planned to be another city other than the Washington, DC area? What may have happened to make that change? Could it have been an unforeseen epidemic?

Was the potential capitol Philadelphia which was the business and cultural center of the new nation made up of states (or former colonies). It appears that Philadelphia was hit with a significant epidemic of yellow fever in the year 1793 which devastated and changed the city. While DC was likely going to be the capitol location, Philadelphia was still being considered. No longer - after this epidemic. The tiny mosquito knocked down this big city's plans and reputation. Hard to believe this could happen and Yellow Fever was not understood as far as cause and pathogenesis until a century later at the time of the Spanish-American War. Much like how history changed in the eastern Roman world if you read Justinian's Flea about the onset of the plague.

Read more about this epidemic here.
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DNA Of The Plague

It appears scientists have found the DNA of bacterium left behind by London's great Plague in the 1660's. While it appears it is not likely to be active, hopefully they keep the bacterium under close wraps. The scientific find and historical nature make this very interesting to learn from. More of the story here.
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Crime and DNA

I didn't realize that transfer of DNA occurred at times so significantly that DNA could implicate and then allow conviction someone of a crime. It has likely happened and did almost again before this was found to be at times flawed and not infallible. Read about how DNA can implicate the innocent.
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17 Equations That Changed The World

I am not a math whiz. Bob is much better in this area than I am. I do hold my own if needed. One has to admire those who focus on math or utilize equations to better mankind. I came across this article that spells out the 17 primary equations that have changed our world over time. Some go back to B.C. times and one includes the Law of Gravity equation. Have fun with seeing the summary about each of these important steps forward.
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Other European Ancestors

Archeology has found a fourth set of ancestors based on DNA results.

"Prior to summer 2015, researchers believed that all Europeans had a shared ancestry stemming from three tribal populations: European hunter-gatherers, early European farmers, and ancient North Eurasians. According to an article published this week in the journal Nature Communications, by studying the genomes of ancient skeletons found in two caves in Western Georgia (Kotias Klde and Satsurblia), geneticists have discovered a fourth group, Caucasus hunter-gatherers, who also contributed DNA to the continent."

Read more of the details here.
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Coffin Births

So do women deliver babies after they die. Evidently they can and do. Here is some trivia information about this issue from Today I Found Out right here.

"Historical texts bear this gruesome curiosity out with clinical chill. In 1551, one of the earliest known documented cases of coffin birth was recorded: a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, swinging at the gallows, gave birth hours after her execution. In 1633, in Brussels, a woman who died in labor convulsions gave postmortem birth three days later. In 1650, a parish register noted, “April ye 20, 1650, was buried Emme, the wife of Thomas Toplace, who was found delivered of a child after she had lain two hours in the grave.” In 1677, another woman died in labor; six hours later abdominal movements were observed and still eighteen hours after that her deceased child was born. In 1861, sixty hours after a woman died in convulsions, she “gave birth” to her eight month old baby."
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Our First Genome

DNA has been found on the recovered remains of a 4500-year-old human skeleton in Ethiopia. This is the first time DNA has been able to be extracted. They wonder if they will be able to go back further at some time in even older humans, possibly a million years back in time. Read more here.

"A team of scientists reported on Thursday that it had recovered the genome from a 4,500-year-old human skeleton in Ethiopia — the first time a complete assemblage of DNA has been retrieved from an ancient human in Africa.

The DNA of the Ethiopian fossil is strikingly different from that of living Africans. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers conclude that people from the Near East spread into Africa 3,000 years ago. In later generations, their DNA ended up scattered across the continent."
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A Woman Helped Get Us to the Moon

There is always so much more we can learn about in our world. Women are not always associated with mathematical accomplishments but this was a wonderful tale of one woman who helped write software code for men to walk on the moon. Family and all. A really cool story found here.
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Aging and the Endoplasmic Reticulum

I always knew that the endoplasmic reticulum was a cool name and "undervalued" or lesser known in cellular structure. Here it is coming out from the shadows to be a factor in aging in people. More details can be found here.

"The question of why we age is one of the most fascinating questions for humankind, but nothing close to a satisfactory answer has been found to date. Scientists at the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie in Berlin have now taken one step closer to providing an answer. They have conducted a study in which, for the first time, they have shown that a certain area of the cell, the so-called endoplasmic reticulum, loses its oxidative power in advanced age. If this elixir of life is lost, many proteins can no longer mature properly. At the same time, oxidative damage accumulates in another area of the cell, the cytosol. This interplay was previously unknown and now opens up a new understanding of aging, but also of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's."
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Ebola and Ancient Athens?

Could Ebola have actually occurred in ancient Greece? Ebola is quite old and DNA has been found in a number of different species of animals. It could have been the cause of the infamous Plague of Athens that began in 430 B.C. More can be read about it here.

"The ancient nature of the disease "raises the question of whether Ebola may have spilled over from its animal reservoir to humans well before scientists first identified it in 1976," study author Powel Kazanjian, a professor of history and infectious diseases at the University of Michigan, told Live Science.

In the new paper, Kazanjian suggests that an Ebola virus may have been the culprit in the infamous Plague of Athens, a five-year epidemic that began in 430 B.C., whose cause has long been a matter of conjecture among physicians and historians. The famed historian Thucydides, who chronicled the Peloponnesian War between the rival city-states of Athens and Sparta, was not only an eyewitness to the Athenian disease, but also contracted it himself and survived.
"

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Real Jurassic Park

So will we really try to do a version of Jurassic Park some day in the near future. It appears they are looking at bringing back different extinct species through using samples of their DNA, De-extinction they call it. More can be found here.

Jurassic Park has a lot to answer for. It made the idea seem so simple. Take the DNA from a microscopic drop of dinosaur blood, preserved for 65 million years in the gut of a mosquito trapped in fossilised amber. Carry out a bit of jiggery-pokery involving chaos theory and Jeff Goldblum. Insert the dino DNA into the yolk of a crocodile’s egg and leave to incubate. Soon you’ll have a thriving menagerie of once-extinct beasts roaming the jungles of someone’s private theme park. The 1993 Hollywood blockbuster and Michael Crichton novel of the same name may not have invented the idea of “de-extinction” but they certainly put it out there as a concept. And like all good works of science fiction, it showed what goes wrong when scientists get above themselves. A rampant T-rex is, after all, the ultimate invasive species.
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The Plague

Interesting theory. Scientists now believe that the plague to hit Europe in the Middle Ages was more spread due to gerbils than due to rats moving from trade routes to on ships.

"What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe," Stenseth says. The scientists used climate records to check their theory, and they found a tentative link. When the climate in Asia was good, gerbils are thought to have thrived; but when it went bad, the population crashed. And about 15 years after each boom and bust, a plague outbreak erupted in Europe. The theory is that fleas carrying plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who then brought it to European cities. The research team's results appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More here.
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The World's First Computer Revisited

Here is an interesting story of how the world's first computer was found and put together (overall) again after it was brought back from a pile of junk or the scrap heap. More detail beyond the following can be found here.

"The ENIAC was a 27-ton, 1,800-square-foot bundle of vacuum tubes and diodes that was arguably the world’s first true computer. The hardware that Perot’s team diligently unearthed and lovingly refurbished is now accessible to the general public for the first time, back at the same Army base where it almost rotted into oblivion.

ENIAC was conceived in the thick of World War II, as a tool to help artillerymen calculate the trajectories of shells. Though construction began a year before D-Day, the computer wasn’t activated until November 1945, by which time the U.S. Army’s guns had fallen silent. But the military still found plenty of use for ENIAC as the Cold War began—the machine’s 17,468 vacuum tubes were put to work by the developers of the first hydrogen bomb, who needed a way to test the feasibility of their early designs. The scientists at Los Alamos later declared that they could never have achieved success without ENIAC’s awesome computing might: the machine could execute 5,000 instructions per second, a capability that made it a thousand times faster than the electromechanical calculators of the day. (An iPhone 6, by contrast, can zip through 25 billion instructions per second.)"
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Celsius and Fahrenheit

Growing up in the United States, you get used to using Fahrenheit for temperatures. Once you go outside the U.S., you will have to get used to Celsius for temperature and learn to convert it (if you don't have a conversion app on your Smartphone). I have had to learn to convert of to write medical information in a combination of Fahrenheit and Celsius. How did we get to this difference or where did the determination for the two different levels come from? Read on to learn about Daniel Fahrenheit and Anders Celsius.
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Ebola Story

Ebola has been ravaging west Africa,especially in three countries. It did make its way over to the United States and I think it will again very possibly. At one point in the spring of 2014, it looked like they had the disease under control and on the way out as an epidemic. It smoldered and came roaring back in the summer. Here is an interesting story about how that was allowed to happen.
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Moving Through Crowds

Brownian movement. Well, maybe, maybe not. I know as I move through crowds when I look to move around people, many of them seem to move right into my path and slow me down. I am not sure why they seem to find a way to block my movement. Maybe what I see is not what the study here found.

" In a study published last week in Physical Review Letters, physicists say they have found a principle at work in crowd motion. Rather than behaving like particles, people appear to move in a uniquely human but roughly predictable way—driven by precise but unconscious calculations that help us avoid collisions.

“People, as they move through crowds, are always extrapolating into the future and deciding how far they are from colliding,” says Brian Skinner, a condensed matter physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and one of the authors of the paper."
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Flatulence

Once and awhile a person comes across a quite off-the-wall, a bit humorous, unique piece of news. This information struck me as a bit of Monty Pythonesque satire even if true. What leaps to mind is the term from MP of “I fart in your general direction”. Certainly gaseous related humor finds a home in the Thayer family, even the female side. I remember going to Las Vegas with my mother and grandmother and listening to a Los Angeles radio station and the Tom Lykus program. He spent an hour having people call in about what were the grossest things the people had seen or experienced. One story was about a farting episode referred to the Birmingham Blunderbuss. More detail could be covered yet some delicacy must be maintained.
So a Frenchman has developed an anti-flatulence pill or at least one to make them smell like roses. His reason is explained with the following and more detail occurs in the article.

“65-year-old inventor says he came up with his range of indigestion tablets after he was "nearly suffocated" by the smell of farts”
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Thor's Hammer

I seem to live in a family with younger males who like Avenger movies. I do a bit too. With one of the main characters being Thor, his hammer comes into play with any reference. How can he be worthy and lift this hammer when many others cannot. You can read the theory here…………………and some excerpts below.

“In the Avengers: Age of Ultron clip, Tony Stark speculates that there is a biosensor in the hammer’s shaft that recognizes when Thor has grasped Mjolnir. He is correct, in a sense—though it is not Thor’s fingerprints that the hammer is reading. Most likely it is taking some complex biological and psychological profile that calculates the “worthiness” of whoever is trying to lift the hammer. This is consistent with the scene in the clip where Steve Rogers (Captain America) is able to move the hammer (albeit slightly), while Tony Stark and Jim Rhodes, using thruster-assisted Iron Man and Iron Patriot gloves, are unable to budge Mjolnir at all. But if someone the hammer’s nanotechnology has determined to be “unworthy” tries to raise Mjolnir, how does it prevent itself from being moved?”

“Here the answer lies with Newton’s First Law of Motion, which states that an object at rest will remain at rest, if no net force acts upon it.”

“After all, they couldn’t put it in a comic book or Hollywood movie if it weren’t true!”
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Surviving Ebola

What helps some people be able to resist and/or survive Ebola? Knowing some of the background of this type of immunity would be useful. More information found here.
Ebola virus particles on a cell’s surface.....
Ebola_Virus_Particles_(4)
“People who survive Ebola can lead normal lives post-recovery, though occasionally they can suffer inflammatory conditions of the joints afterwards, according to CBS. Recovery times can vary, and so can the amount of time it takes for the virus to clear out of the system. The World Health Organization found that the virus can reside in semen for up to seven weeks after recovery. Survivors are generally assumed to be immune to the particular strain they are infected by, and are able to help tend to others infected with the same strain. What isn't clear is whether or not a person is immune to other strains of Ebola, or if their immunity will last.

As with most viral infections, patients who recover from Ebola end up with Ebola-fighting antibodies in their blood, making their blood a valuable (if controversial) treatment option for others who catch the infection. Kent Brantly, one of the most recognizable Ebola survivors, has donated more than a gallon of his blood to other patients. The plasma of his blood, which contains the antibodies, is separated out from the red blood cells, creating what’s known as a convalescent serum, which can then be given to a patient as a transfusion. The hope is that the antibodies in the serum will boost the patient’s immune response, attacking the virus, and allowing the body to recover.”

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More Hot Zone

Richard Preston is the author of the book I mentioned a few days ago, “The Hot Zone”. He has an article today in The New Yorker called, “The Ebola Wars”. He has such an interesting way of writing about diseases to bring it all down to the feeling it is right in front of you waiting to be touched (or not touched in this case). I wish we could have him communicate the real life scenario than the basic hacks from the government who make you feel like they just lie to you or want to talk down to a person. For his take on the current Ebola situation in west Africa, go here.

The most dangerous outbreak of an emerging infectious disease since the appearance of H.I.V., in the early nineteen-eighties, seems to have begun on December 6, 2013, in the village of Meliandou, in Guinea, in West Africa, with the death of a two-year-old boy who was suffering from diarrhea and a fever. We now know that he was infected with Ebola virus. The virus is a parasite that lives, normally, in some as yet unidentified creature in the ecosystems of equatorial Africa. This creature is the natural host of Ebola; it could be a type of fruit bat, or some small animal that lives on the body of a bat—possibly a bloodsucking insect, a tick, or a mite.

Before now, Ebola had caused a number of small, vicious outbreaks in central and eastern Africa. Doctors and other health workers were able to control the outbreaks quickly, and a belief developed in the medical and scientific communities that Ebola was not much of a threat. The virus is spread only through direct contact with blood and bodily fluids, and it didn’t seem to be mutating in any significant way.”
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Elements Table of Famous Inventors

Someone did a fund table of using a graphic to coordinate different famous inventors or scientists. It is a form of the Elements Table of people and their names. Enjoy!
541x600xScientist-Logos-copy.jpg.pagespeed.ic.cGfn-lAjIp
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Science Getting It Wrong

There have been a number of recent articles, this one in particular, about whether “peer review” is working as currently established and that a number of studies don’t hold up to the light of day. Many study results have been questioned and the results de-bunked. A recent scientific publishing company had to withdraw about 45 or more papers from their publications due to poor science. After having been through a grant review of research proposals, we need to do better than what this paper describes and be much more critical of the scientific methods used by some researchers. The study design or methods don’t hold water and should not be funded.
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Earthquake Felt

We learned this morning that there was a 6.9 earthquake about 50 miles off the coast near Eureka, CA. The earthquake happened last night about 10:18 p.m. Now I am usually a heavy sleeper about that time. Bob on the other hand was awake and he said that he noticed the curio cabinet holding my Toby Jugs was rattling and shifting for about 30-45 seconds last evening. He wondered what was going on to cause that disturbance and Oscar the cat was also upset at the unusual noise. So it appears that it was felt all the way up here in Lebanon OR which is quite a distance. One can read about the earthquake here.
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De-Extinction

Culture leads current life experiences? Books and movies may predict what we may eventually do? Do we think that Jurassic Park was just a movie? Just because we can do something, does that mean we should? I ask these questions because there is a long article discussing how the new technology in genetics means we very possibly can bring extinct species back from extinction. Work has started on bringing back the Woolly Mammoth. The article in question addresses a more current extinction and interest, return of the Passenger Pigeon, the most populous bird in our history that went extinct within the matter of decades. Unbelievable, yet read about it here.Passenger Pigeon
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The Black Death and European Genes

Did the Plague, or the Black Death as it also is known, alter the genetic makeup of the people of Europe? Scientists with a recent study do believe so. As they said in the movie, Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, “Bring out your dead!”

“The Black Death of the 14th century may be written into the DNA of survivors' descendants, new research finds.

The study reveals that Roma people (sometimes known as gypsies, although this is considered a derogatory term) and white Europeans share alterations to their genetic code that occurred after the Roma settled in Europe from northwest India 1,000 years ago. The plague of the 1300s, which killed at least 75 million people, is a likely candidate for forcing this evolutionary change.”
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Early Human Footprints

Scientists have found the earliest evidence of human footprints outside of Africa. The prints were found on the Norfolk Coast in the eastern part of England. The footprints are considered more than 800,000 years old and were found on the shores of Happisburgh. They believe that their may have been a land bridge in that area to the western shore of France.
A more detailed description can be found here.
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Richard III and DNA Testing

I have written a few times about the finding of Richard III’s skeleton under a carpark in mid-England at Leicester. The last reference was just a few days ago when I mentioned the determination that Charlemagne’s bones were most likely truly his. The researchers at the University of Leicester have decided that they will try to have Richard III’s DNA sequenced. They believe it will help them determine his history and health. a description of the plan can be read here.
Hunt for King Richard 3
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Neanderthals and Humans

I read an interesting science article discussing where Neanderthals and Humans were close in sharing genetic material and more detail on where the divergence most likely happened. They believe that the level of shared genes is at about 2%, more found in non-African people and essentially very little relationship with African people to Neanderthals. Some of the alleles that control addiction to smoking, Type II Diabetes, and some other diseases appear to have some coverage between the groups. They believe any interbreeding between Humans and Neanderthals occurred near the end of our divergence. One can find more details in the article found here.
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Vaccine Slippage

There are increasing reports of outbreaks in the companion animal field of canine distemper, canine parvo, and feline panleukopenia due to lack of vaccine coverage in locations of higher animal density. The same issue is occurring in the human arena due to people’s “fears” of vaccines. There are now outbreaks of whooping cough and measles that can be deadly to the very young and even susceptible adults. Disease we long thought were very diminished or gone from the scene. A discussion of the issue can be found here.
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Challenge Science Results?

Being involved with the Winn Feline Foundation and reviewing research grant proposals, I found an interesting article through The Economist. Their premise is that researchers are too complacent in challenging their results or of others. Many studies’ results cannot be reproduced………..they are “one offs”. They also challenge the peer review concept and that results should be challenged by open discussion after publication. Here is the article, others can decide how they view this issue.
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A Cat's View of the World

One artist is trying to offer a rendition of how a cat’s vision works as it views different parts of its surroundings. They operate and view items differently than human. They have more rods than cones in the center of their retina so they can see better in very dim light though they do not have the clarity and color vision that people do.

Because of the various photoreceptors parked in cats’ retinas, they kick our asses at seeing in dim light. Instead of the color-resolving, detail-loving cone cells that populate the center of human retinas, cats (and dogs) have many more rod cells, which excel in dim light and are responsible for night-vision capability. The rod cells also refresh more quickly, which lets cats pick up very rapid movements — like, for example, the quickly shifting path a marauding laser dot might trace.

With this description, I think they would be great security sensors in a Zombie Apocalypse. They could sense zombie movement at night much quicker that we could. Right? Read about how their vision differs here.
Human View
Catsview
Cat View
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What Is A Yeti?

A British scientist feels he may have an answer for the mystery of the Yeti. He believe that the creature seen and described in those sightings is an ancient polar bear that still lives in the Himalayas.

Research by Professor Bryan Sykes, a geneticist from the University of Oxford, has not only uncovered a genetic match between samples thought to come from the elusive creature and another that lived more than 40,000 years ago, but also suggests the beast is still roaming the mountains.
Professor Sykes conducted DNA tests on hairs from two unidentified animals, one found in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh, in northern India, and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles east.
The results were then compared with other animals’ genomes stored on a database of all published DNA sequences. Professor Sykes found a 100 per cent match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone
found in Svalbard, Norway.

Additional information can be found here in the article from the Telegraph.
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Dementia

When my beloved grandmother died in 2005, it was a sadly blessed relief. For at least 7 years, she was declining into dementia and her actions took a toll on the family especially my mother. She would not let Mom out of her sight for over a second and became impossible to deal with when it happened. The fun and joy of the type of person she had been was gone. I also believe that the huge closeness my mother and she had over the years--traveling together--was deeply strained. There appears to be a possible treatment on the horizon out of Great Britain. Details are covered in this article here.
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Designer Genes?

Are we on the verge of a change in the way we can program genetic code to develop more antimicrobials? Will this lead to better designer genes, nothing, or will we some day “Unleash Hell” through the unknown consequences? A description of the new concepts in developing designer genes is found in this article.

Reprogramming bacteria to produce proteins for drugs, biofuels, and more, has long been part of the job for bioscientists, but for years they have struggled to get those bugs to follow orders.
Those days may be over.
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Outwitting Plagues

Malaria has been a scourge world-wide to the human race. A recent article talk about looking at a totally different method to control the spread of the malarial Plasmodium parasite. Scientists plan to vaccinate the mosquitoes. Read about how they do it here.
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New Thoughts on Our DNA

A recent article talks about some newer thoughts on DNA and the fact that some people may have more than one set of DNA in their body. Chimerism. It offers a puzzle and thought that if this is true for people, could this also be true in other animal species? Is this why we may not find a mutation in some cases when researchers look and don’t locate what they expect? Fascinating and very curious.
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Typhoid Mary Today

Scientists appear to have found how Typhoid Mary was able to spread typhoid as a carrier. Another medical mystery seems to have found an answer.

When Typhoid Mary died in 1938, in medical exile on a tiny New York island, she took untold numbers of Salmonella typhi to her grave. No one knew how the bacteria managed to thrive and not kill her.

A team of microbiologists from Stanford University and UC San Francisco has found a tantalizing clue: a bacterium strain similar to the one responsible for "healthy" carriers such as Typhoid Mary shows an ability to hack the metabolism of the cells sent out to defend from infection and heal trauma.

Read the story here.
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