Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Buzz Aldrin in Dance With The Stars! Still got the Right Stuff!

You've Still got it Buzz! Stepping off on the right foot!

On the set of DWTS showing her his very impressive 'Buzz Aldrin' iPhone app!

The Large Hadron Collider Experiment Really Matters

After a series of setbacks, scientists have done it. They've mashed protons together at 99 percent of the speed of light and at a record-high energy level of 3.5 trillion electron volts.

The experiment took place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland but scientists around the world watched excitedly via live feed. What does this mean for the field?

  • This Is a Big Deal! exclaims Geoff Brumfiel at Nature: "I can't think of another case where the future of an entire field hinges on the success of a single experiment...It could verify current theories of particle physics, most notably the Higgs mechanism, which endows all matter with mass. It could also discover new physics beyond the current 'standard model', and explain some current mysteries in physics like 'dark matter', a mysterious form of matter that makes up around 85% of all matter in the universe."

  • Why Scientists Are Excited Melissa Franklin, Professor of Physics at Harvard, explains what this means for the scientific community in an interview late last year:
    Sean Gallup/Getty Images After a series of setbacks, scientists have done it. They've mashed protons together at 99 percent of the speed of light and at a record-high energy level of 3.5 trillion electron volts.

  • Don't Expect Instant Results, cautions LHC Spokesman Guido Tonelli to the BBC: "Major discoveries will happen only when we are able to collect billions of events and identify among them the very rare events that could present a new state of matter or new particles. This is not going to happen tomorrow. It will require months and years of patient work."

  • This Is What Science Is All About, rejoices Stacey Higginbotham at Gigaom: "The LHC built by CERN represents why I spend my days writing about technology — not because I’m excited to play with the latest gadgets, but because I value the spirit of curiosity and discovery that leads scientists to spend $16 billion to build something that may (not will, but may) give us an inkling about how the universe works."

  • Happy First Physics Day, declare the editors of Big Think: "Now there is a new March holiday, First Physics Day, which is being celebrated today because the particles in the Large Hadron Collider are finally being smashed together at super high energies that mirror conditions after the Big Bang. The physics community is aflutter over the potential of bagging the elusive Higgs boson, and the rest of us are grateful that, improbable as it seemed, the collider did not create a fatal black hole."

NASA Astronaut Soichi - ALMA, Atacama Large Millimeter Array, Chile

ALMA, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, Chile, as seen from the ISS. Operations Support Facilities.

Russian Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft rolls out at Baikonur

Photo Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A Russian security officer stands guard as the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March, 31, 2010.

The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft with Expedition 23 Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Russia, Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko of Russia, and NASA Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson is scheduled for Friday, April 2, 2010 at 10:04 a.m. Kazakhstan time.

NASA Cassini image of Mimas: A Subtle Colour Difference in Herschel's Crater

A Subtle Difference
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Subtle colour differences on Saturn's moon Mimas are apparent in this false-colour view of Herschel Crater captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its closest-ever flyby of that moon.

The image shows terrain-dependent color variations, particularly the contrast between the bluish materials in and around Herschel Crater and the greenish cast on older, more heavily cratered terrain elsewhere.

The origin of the color differences is not yet understood, but may be caused by differences in the surface composition between the two terrains. False color images from Cassini's previous closest encounter, in 2005, also showed such variations.

The natural color of Mimas visible to the human eye may be a uniform gray or yellow color, but this mosaic has been contrast-enhanced and shows differences at other wavelengths of light.

During this flyby on Feb. 13, 2010, Cassini came within about 5,900 miles of Mimas and these images were obtained with Cassini's narrow-angle camera on that day at a distance of approximately 10,000 miles from Mimas.

The images were re-projected into an orthographic map projection. A black and white image, taken in visible light with the wide-angle camera, is used to fill in parts of the mosaic.

Boeing climbing into bed with India (ISRO)

Boeing has evinced interest in collaborating with Indian Space Research Organisation in the area of communication satellites, and the two entities are exploring joint opportunities, a senior ISRO official said.

But the future possible cooperation with Boeing is unlikely in the field of joint-building of communication satellites as the Indian Space agency already has a tieup in this segment with EADS Astrium, Managing Director of Antrix Corporation, ISRO's commercial arm, K. R. Sridhara Murthi indicated.

"They (Boeing) said they are interested in having collaboration with us in the field of communication satellites. But we (ISRO) already have an alliance with Europeans (EADS Astrium)," he said.

"May be some new areas of business we (ISRO and Boeing) have to explore. We need to do a lot of homework before we could arrive at collaborative level. Still, it's very preliminary type of exchange," Mr. Murthi said.

ISRO, meanwhile, is expanding its alliance with Astrium, with which it has an agreement to jointly offer communication satellites with a launch mass of two tons to three tons for the international market.

"We are trying to cooperate in other areas (in addition to communication satellites) such as earth observations. So, we have built along with them (Astrium) some multi-sensor ground systems for the USA and we are also trying to cooperate in other areas and explore what other type of cooperation we can do in the field of earth observations," he said.

ESA: Europe’s vision: a leader in exploration

Lunar Lander idea from OHB Technology company

Several European industrial teams have already assessed the various mission options and designs.

The next step is ‘Phase-B1’, which will mature the mission and spacecraft design and examine in detail the demands of landing and working at specific southern sites.

This 18-month phase will begin this summer, taking the Lunar Lander from a design concept to hardware reality. The goal is for launch by the end of this decade.

Involving European researchers and industry is crucial for defining the detailed mission objectives and identifying instruments to address them. For instance, a request for information in 2009 produced more than 200 responses.

Lunar Lander idea from EADS Astrium company

As part of the process of involving European researchers and industry in the project, an information day will be held at ESA’s space research and technology centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands on 14 April.

The day is aimed at those who responded to the 2009 request and will include an update on the mission outline, mission objectives and the model payload to be used for Phase-B1.

Further information on the information day can be obtained by contacting

ESA - Human Spaceflight and Exploration - Fly us to the Moon…south pole to be precise

ESA - Human Spaceflight and Exploration - Fly us to the Moon…south pole to be precise

The south polar region of the Moon, with dark craters and high ridges, is a world away from the relatively smooth terrain visited by Apollo astronauts four decades ago. This rugged moonscape is the target for Europe’s next leap into space.

The possible deposits of water ice, heavily cratered terrain and long periods of sunlight make the lunar south pole and areas around it extremely interesting for explorers and scientists. It is therefore a prime target for future human missions to the Moon.

Europe is now looking at a lander mission to pave the way for astronauts. This precursor would be the first European Moonlander and the first to visit the south polar region.

ESA is now asking industry to submit proposals for this Lunar Lander mission.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mars Reconaissance Orbiter: Radar Map Of Buried Martian Ice

A radar on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has detected widespread deposits of glacial ice in the mid-latitudes of Mars.

Extensive radar mapping of the middle-latitude region of northern Mars shows that thick masses of buried ice are quite common beneath protective coverings of rubble.

The ability of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to continue charting the locations of these hidden glaciers and ice-filled valleys - first confirmed by radar two years ago - adds clues about how these deposits may have been left as remnants when regional ice sheets retreated.

The subsurface ice deposits extend for hundreds of kilometers, or miles, in the rugged region called Deuteronilus Mensae, about halfway from the equator to the Martian north pole.

Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues prepared a map of the region's confirmed ice for presentation at this week's 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference near Houston.

The Shallow Radar instrument on the orbiter has obtained more than 250 observations of the study area, which is about the size of California.

"We have mapped the whole area with a high density of coverage," Plaut said. "These are not isolated features. In this area, the radar is detecting thick subsurface ice in many locations." The common locations are around the bases of mesas and scarps, and confined within valleys or craters.

NASA Mars: Lava Made River-Like Channels

Credit: Jacob Bleacher.
Details from the Ascraeus channel (red), meandering across the surface of Mars.

The insets in the black boxes show close-ups of some of the structures that lava can form: (left) branched channels, (middle) a snaking channel and (right) rootless vents; the rootless vents are also marked by yellow spots on the main image.

Flowing lava can carve or build paths very much like the riverbeds and canyons etched by water, and this probably explains at least one of the meandering channels on the surface of Mars.

These results were presented on March 4, 2010 at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by Jacob Bleacher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Whether channels on Mars were formed by water or by lava has been debated for years, and the outcome is thought to influence the likelihood of finding life there.

"To understand if life, as we know it, ever existed on Mars, we need to understand where water is or was," says Bleacher. Geologists think that the water currently on the surface of Mars is either held in the soil or takes the form of ice at the planet's north and south poles. But some researchers contend that water flowed or pooled on the surface sometime in the past; water in this form is thought to increase the chance of some form of past or present life.

One of the lines of support for the idea that water once flowed on Mars comes from images that reveal details resembling the erosion of soil by water: terracing of channel walls, formation of small islands in a channel, hanging channels that dead-end and braided channels that branch off and then reconnect to the main branch. "These are thought to be clear evidence of fluvial [water-based] erosion on Mars," Bleacher says.

Lava is generally not thought to be able to create such finely crafted features. Instead, "the common image is of the big, open channels in Hawaii," he explains.

Bleacher and his colleagues carried out a careful study of a single channel on the southwest flank of Mars' Ascraeus Mons volcano, one of the three clustered volcanoes collectively called the Tharsis Montes.

To piece together images covering more than 270 kilometers (~168 miles) of this channel, the team relied on high-resolution pictures from three cameras-the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), the Context Imager (CTX) and the High/Super Resolution Stereo Color (HRSC) imager-as well as earlier data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). These data gave a much more detailed view of the surface than previously available.

NASA Launches Interactive Simulation Of Satellite Communications

Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) is responsible for providing communications services for all of NASA's missions.

The interactive demonstration shows how SCaN's ground and space based facilities interact with NASA assets in space.

NASA has unveiled an interactive computer simulation that allows virtual explorers of all ages to dock the space shuttle at the International Space Station, experience a virtual trip to Mars or a lunar impact, and explore images of star formations taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

In an effort to excite young people about space and NASA's missions, the agency has launched the online Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) simulation, designed to entertain and educate. The interactive simulation offers a virtual 3-D experience to visualize how data travels along various space communications paths.

"The elaborate space communications networks that connect scientists and engineers with NASA's spacecraft is essential to all of NASA's missions and can be a challenging concept to comprehend," said Barbara Adde, a policy and strategic communications manager for the Office of Space Communications and Navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"This simulation helps explain this complex infrastructure in an engaging way by using an interactive 3-D game."

The interactive Space Communication and Navigation simulation allows visitors to select spacecraft and experience a "flythrough," or a tutorial with images and descriptions of NASA's three space communication networks. For example, the Near Earth Network flythrough shows how data originates at an antenna at McMurdo Station, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

The data is then sent to NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, as it passes overhead.

To read the full article, click here.

China's Yinghuo-1 Mars mission via Russian Soyuz launcher

Yinghuo-1, China's third major space exploration plan after the manned space project and moon mission, was originally scheduled to be launched by a Russian carrier rocket, accompanied by the Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt.

The Russian spacecraft is making a sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars.

The launch of China's first Mars probe "Yinghuo-1" has been postponed until 2011 due to Russia's "technical reasons", a Chinese space exploration official said here Wednesday.

Ye Peijian, chief designer of Chang'e-1, the country's first moon probe, told Xinhua about the delay on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body.

"Actually, China is now completely capable of exploring Mars independently," said Ye, also a member of the CPPCC National Committee. "With the improvement of our technologies, there is no problem for China to launch its Mars probe with its own observation and control system."

Ye said the most suitable time to launch the Mars probe would be in the years 2011, 2013 and 2016 when the distances between Mars and the Earth are the shortest.

The Chinese Mars probe is 75 centimeters long, 75 cm wide and 60 cm high. It weighs 115 kilograms and was designed for a two-year life to discover why water disappeared from Mars and explain other environmental changes on the planet.

17% of UK Adults have lowered Literacy Rate

One in six adults has lower literacy than the level expected of an 11-year-old, new research shows today.

It finds that only half of children enjoy reading, and that a quarter do not recognise any link between reading and success.

The report, Literacy: State of the Nation is the first coherent, national picture of reading and writing abilities, according to the National Literacy Trust.

It conducted a study of more than 17,000 pupils from 112 schools. Most read e-mails, blogs and websites more frequently than books, the survey suggests. However children who engage in technology are more likely to enjoy writing than their classmates.

While literacy levels have risen among 11-year-olds in the past decade, they have plateaued in writing. Yet three-quarters of parents said their child often read for pleasure.

The report also analysed reading and writing in the workplace, and found widespread concerns.

Almost seven in ten retail firms and half of manufacturing companies reported problems with literacy among staff.

Nearly two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women with very low literacy skills had never received a promotion, it found.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said the findings were “extremely worrying”.

“We believe this should be of great concern to all political parties as reading for pleasure helps to develop strong literacy skills and ultimately, supports academic and future success,” he said.

“The Treasury estimated the cider tax will bring in £30 million. For just a tenth of this money the Government could establish which adults are most in need of literacy support and run a year-long campaign to support children and adults who are struggling with literacy.

“It is estimated that poor literacy costs the economy £2.5bn a year.”

CERN LHC: First Proton Particle Collision recorded

A CERN LHC animation of one of the first 7 TeV collisions recorded by ATLAS. A high resolution version.

An historical event for European science and physics!

After the initial collision the scientists at CERN LHC stabalised the beams to ensure further collisions would occur and managed to sustain the stability for more than 3 hours. Whereby, the experiments team have recorded a half million events from the stable and colliding beams. WOW!

A spectacular day indeed, and the culmination of at least 17 years of work and effort from scientists and physicists across the world.

If you want to see into the CERN LHC Atlas control room in Switzerland, here is the live link.

CERN Press Release: First Proton Particle Collision seen

CERN Press Release

Geneva, 30 March 2010. Beams collided at 7 TeV in the LHC at 13:06 CEST, marking the start of the LHC research programme.

Particle physicists around the world are looking forward to a potentially rich harvest of new physics as the LHC begins its first long run at an energy three and a half times higher than previously achieved at a particle accelerator.

“It’s a great day to be a particle physicist,” said CERN1 Director General Rolf Heuer. “A lot of people have waited a long time for this moment, but their patience and dedication is starting to pay dividends.”

Connection to CERN Atlas Control Room and LHC images

“With these record-shattering collision energies, the LHC experiments are propelled into a vast region to explore, and the hunt begins for dark matter, new forces, new dimensions and the Higgs boson,” said ATLAS collaboration spokesperson, Fabiola Gianotti. “The fact that the experiments have published papers already on the basis of last year’s data bodes very well for this first physics run.”

“We’ve all been impressed with the way the LHC has performed so far,” said Guido Tonelli, spokesperson of the CMS experiment, “and it’s particularly gratifying to see how well our particle detectors are working while our physics teams worldwide are already analysing data. We’ll address soon some of the major puzzles of modern physics like the origin of mass, the grand unification of forces and the presence of abundant dark matter in the universe. I expect very exciting times in front of us.”

"This is the moment we have been waiting and preparing for", said ALICE spokesperson Jürgen Schukraft. "We're very much looking forward to the results from proton collisions, and later this year from lead-ion collisions, to give us new insights into the nature of the strong interaction and the evolution of matter in the early Universe."

“LHCb is ready for physics,” said the experiment’s spokesperson Andrei Golutvin, “we have a great research programme ahead of us exploring the nature of matter-antimatter asymmetry more profoundly than has ever been done before.”

CERN will run the LHC for 18-24 months with the objective of delivering enough data to the experiments to make significant advances across a wide range of physics channels. As soon as they have "re-discovered" the known Standard Model particles, a necessary precursor to looking for new physics, the LHC experiments will start the systematic search for the Higgs boson. With the amount of data expected, called one inverse femtobarn by physicists, the combined analysis of ATLAS and CMS will be able to explore a wide mass range, and there’s even a chance of discovery if the Higgs has a mass near 160 GeV. If it’s much lighter or very heavy, it will be harder to find in this first LHC run.

YouTube - Nestle, Kitkat, Orang-Utans

YouTube - Nestle, Kitkat, Orang-Utans

Square Kilometer Array: The international radio telescope for the 21st century

Square Kilometer Array: The international radio telescope for the 21st century

On 30 and 31 March a strategic international workshop on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will seek to identify the major economical and societal benefits of large-scale scientific research infrastructure investments.

The SKA is a USD 1 billion+ international project to create a radio telescope incorporating a receiving surface of a million square metres, fifty times larger than the biggest receiving surface now in existence. This huge surface will be composed of many small antennas, divided into a dense inner core array which becomes more diffuse with increasing radius.

The SKA was conceived as a new international project to meet the future needs of radio astronomers. It will be use to address some of the more fundamental questions in contemporary physics and astronomy, including the nature of the first stars in the Universe, the cosmic history of the Universe, the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, theories of gravity and black holes and the origin of cosmic magnetism.

Beside the major scientific value of this project, experts expect large benefits in terms of direct economic and indirect societal impacts, such as boosting technological learning, capacity-building, socio-economic benefit as well as stimulation of market gains.

Organised by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) with the support of INAF (Italian National Institute of Astrophysics), this strategic workshop is aimed at improving the understanding of boundary conditions and exchanging best practices that will positively influence SKA policy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

NASA Cassini Images: Saturn's moon Mimas with Pacman profile

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has made the most amazing discovery in the history of science: an image of Pac-Man on the Death Star.

This is the temperature map of Mimas, Saturn's icy moon. As you can see, it's basically a giant Pac-Man about to eat a power pellet. According to Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Linda Spilker, this is really weird:

Other moons usually grab the spotlight, but it turns out Mimas is more bizarre than we thought it was. It has certainly given us some new puzzles.

NASA scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have some ideas. According to Dr. Mike Flasar, composite infrared spectrometer principal investigator at Goddard, the culprit may be the giant Herschel crater:

Even though we can't explain the observed pattern of surface temperatures on Mimas, the giant Herschel crater is a leading suspect. The energy of impact that created it several billion years ago has been estimated to be one-seventh of Mimas's own gravitational energy.

Anything much larger would likely have torn the moon apart. We really would like to see if there is also an anomalous temperature pattern on the other side of Herschel, which has not been observed so closely.

Cornell University's Paul Helfenstein—who's an associate in the Cassini imagine team—speculates that the pattern may be related to "silicate minerals or carbon-rich particles, possibly because of meteor dust falling onto the moon or impurities already embedded in surface ice.

As the sun's warming rays and the vacuum of space evaporate the brighter ice, the darker material is concentrated and left behind. Gravity pulls the dark material down the crater walls, exposing fresh ice underneath."

NASA Earth Observatory: Llullaillaco Volcano, Argentina-Chile Border

The summit of South America’s Llullaillaco Volcano has an elevation of 6,739 meters (22,110 feet) above sea level, making it the highest historically active volcano in the world.

The current stratovolcano—a cone-shaped volcano built from successive layers of thick lava flows and eruption products like ash and rock fragments—is built on top of an older stratovolcano. The last explosive eruption of the volcano, based on historical records, occurred in 1877.

This detailed astronaut photograph of Llullaillaco illustrates an interesting volcanic feature known as a coulée (image top right). Coulées are formed from highly viscous, thick lavas that flow onto a steep surface.

As they flow slowly downwards, the top of the flow cools and forms a series of parallel ridges oriented at 90 degrees to the direction of flow (somewhat similar in appearance to the pleats of an accordion). The sides of the flow can also cool faster than the center, leading to the formation of wall-like structures known as flow levees (image center).

Llullaillaco is also a well-known archaeological site; the mummified remains of three Inca children, ritually sacrificed 500 years ago, were discovered on the summit in 1999.

ESA Meteosat, ADN-Aeolus from DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics

The spectacular mountain range of the east coast of Greenland, viewed from the Falcon aircraft.

The region was chosen due to the strong surface wind speeds from the Greenland ice sheet towards the northern Atlantic Ocean – called katabatic winds.

These winds cause strong movements of the ocean surface and high waves, whose reflectivity was measured with the laser pulses.

Scientists from the German Aerospace Center's (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of Atmospheric Physics (Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre; IPA) travelled to Iceland for the last of a series of DLR-led technology demonstration campaigns for ESA's meteorological satellite mission, ADM-Aeolus. Its closeness to Greenland and the Atlantic storm track region made the island a perfect base for the test flights with DLR's Falcon research aircraft.

The DLR team spent two weeks in Iceland, performing a total of six flights over Iceland, over the ocean between Iceland and Greenland and over the Greenland glacier plateau. The aim of this DLR-led campaign with A2D was to investigate details of the instrument operations strategy and to refine the ADM-Aeolus data processors that will provide the mission's wind products.

Two different wind lidar instruments – the ALADIN Airborne Demonstrator (A2D), a prototype version of the instrument that will fly on ADM-Aeolus, and a reference wind lidar operating at an infrared wavelength of two microns – were operated onboard DLR's Falcon 20E aircraft, and both performed well throughout the campaign.

ESA Cryosat-2 Launch: Invitation for Press Witnesses

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

CryoSat's 'roof' is formed from solar panels rigidly fixed to the satellite body, designed to provide adequate power under all orbital conditions for this non-Sun synchronous satellite.

Lift-off is scheduled for 15:57 CEST (13:57 UTC) on Thursday 8 April 2010. The launch operator is Kosmotras. Representatives of the press are invited to watch the event live from ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

This new launch date has been confirmed by International Space Company Kosmotras following the implementation and validation of a change in the DNEPR launcher’s flight software.

Monitoring variations in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and changes in the vast ice sheets that overlie Greenland and Antarctica, ESA’s ice mission CryoSat deploys the most sophisticated satellite ever to study the Earth's ice fields.

CryoSat-2 will be placed into orbit 700 km above the Earth by a Russian Dnepr rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Press representatives are invited to watch the launch live from ESA’s ESOC establishment in Darmstadt. A European Press Centre will be open from 12:30 to 17:30 and ESA is hosting a launch event from 14:00 to 16:30.

Live televised transmission of the launch will provide pictures from Baikonur and from Mission Control at ESOC for broadcasters. Further details of the TV transmission can be found at ESA senior management and programme specialists will be on hand to give explanations and interviews.

Media representatives wishing to follow events from Darmstadt or watch the launch live from another ESA establishment should fill in the accreditation form (link) and fax it back to one of the numbers provided.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Paired drugs kill precancerous colon polyps, spare normal tissue

Paired drugs kill precancerous colon polyps, spare normal tissue

A two-drug combination destroys precancerous colon polyps with no effect on normal tissue, opening a new potential avenue for chemoprevention of colon cancer, a team of scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reports in the advance online edition of the journal Nature.

The regimen, tested so far in mouse models and on human colon cancer tissue in the lab, appears to address a problem with chemopreventive drugs - they must be taken continuously long term to be effective, exposing patients to possible side effects, said senior author Xiangwei Wu, Ph.D., associate professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Head and Neck Surgery.

"This combination can be given short term and periodically to provide a long-term effect, which would be a new approach to chemoprevention," Wu said.

The team found that a combination of Vitamin A acetate (RAc) and TRAIL, short for tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, kills precancerous polyps and inhibits tumour growth in mice that have deficiencies in a tumour-suppressor gene.

That gene, adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) and its downstream signaling molecules, are mutated or deficient in 80 percent of all human colon cancers, Wu said.

Ineffective separately, powerful together
Early experiments with APC-deficient mice showed that the two drugs combined or separately did not harm normal colon epithelial cells. Separately, they showed no effect on premalignant polyps called adenomas.

RAc and TRAIL together killed adenoma cells, causing programmed cell suicide know as apoptosis. RAc, researchers found, sensitizes polyp cells to TRAIL.

The scientists painstakingly tracked the molecular cascade caused by APC deficiencies, and found that insufficient APC sensitizes cells to TRAIL and RAc by suppressing a protein that blocks TRAIL.

Video of Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland Volcano Erupting

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bobi, The proboscis Monkey / Le Nasique - Kalaweit

Bobi, Le nasique
Geüpload door kalaweitprogram

Bobi arrived at the Kalaweit Rescue centre with 2 severly damaged legs. Unable to walk, he could only drag himself along the ground to hunt for scraps of food.

Now he is fully recovered and spends his time in the tree tops where he belongs. Soon he can be released back into the wild.

Another great success story for a dedicated team of animal rescuers, working under extreme pressures of poverty and threats to their safety. Can you offer them some help?

India Space - ISRO: Geosynchronous Satellite vehicle-D3 launch planned

ISRO would launch Geosynchronous Satellite launch vehicle-D3 (GSLV-D3), the country's first satellite launch vehicle having an indigenously built cryogenic engine, to put in orbit communication satellite GSAT4 next month, a top scientist said.

GSLV-D3 launch would be followed by launching of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C15 and Cartosat2B (a high resolution remote sensing satellite), PSLV C16 and ResourceSat2 subsequently between May and August, PS Veeraraghavan, Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvanathapuram, said here.

He was speaking at a one-day national symposium - application of nuclear space technologies for the benefit of farmers - organised jointly by Hyderabad-based Consortium of Indian Farmers associations and Puducherry-based Perunthalaivar Kamarajar Krishi Vigyan Kendra.

Veeraraghavan said launching of a series of remote sensing satellites, like Resourcesat-1 and 2 (to provide valuable Earth imaging services) and Cartosat 2A and B (to enable availability of more minute details for farm sector) would lay foundation for the country's development.

UK Boy has world's rarest Genetic Disorder

Every little boy is unique to their parents but six year old Mackenzie Fox-Byrne is also special to the scientific world. He is thought to have the world's rarest genetic disorder because he is the only person on earth known to suffer from it.

Mackenzie, whose condition has given him learning difficulties and left him unable to speak, is the result of a gene mutation doctors have never seen before.

his development appeared to be behind that of her other children, Kamara, 14, and Katie, 12.

At three months old, he was still not lifting his head from his cot, he found it difficult to hold down food and had trouble sleeping.

Doctors initially feared he might have the muscle-wasting disease Muscular Dystrophy, but instead tests results showed a much more bewildering picture.

Mrs Fox-Byrne, 40, of Market Drayton, Shropshire, said: "They knew it was unique and told me excitedly that they had found something rare that no one else has.

"Unfortunately, that was all they could tell me. They couldn't tell me how he is going to progress or whether he might fall ill in the future.

"No one else on earth has ever had this condition."

Mackenzie's test results showed he had a triplication of a small region on the long arm of his X-chromosome.

At the moment the little boy cannot speak, has low muscle tone, is still in nappies and has no sense of danger.

He also has learning difficulties which mean he has the mental age of a two-year-old and goes to a special school in Shrewsbury.

Mrs Fox-Byrne, who lives with her partner Andy, 47, said: "It's quite terrifying to be told he is the only person in the world to have this condition.

"Although we worry about what might happen to him in the future, I just try to put it out of my mind. You could go crazy thinking about it."

Karen Temple, professor of medical genetics at Wessex Clinical Genetics Service confirmed Mackenzie was a totally unique case.

She said: "We have to learn what we can from the little boy as he grows up.

"The problem with Mackenzie isn't that he has got genes missing – as is the case sometimes – it's that he has got extra parts.

"This little boy has had this chromosome problem since he was conceived, we can learn from how he is now and that helps us to predict his future."

NASA Earth Observatory image: Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano burst into life for the first time in 190 years on March 20, 2010.

A 500-meter- (2,000-foot) long fissure opened in the Fimmvörduháls pass to the west of the ice-covered summit of Eyjafjallajökull.

Lava fountains erupted fluid magma, which quickly built several hills of bubble-filled lava rocks (scoria) along the vent. A lava flow spread northeast, spilling into Hrunagil Gully.

This natural-colour satellite image shows lava fountains, lava flows, a volcanic plume, and steam from vapourised snow. The image was acquired on March 24, 2010, by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.

The lava fountains are orange-red, barely visible at the 10-meter (33-foot) resolution of the satellite.

The scoria cones surrounding the fissure are black, as is the lava flow extending to the northeast. White volcanic gases escape from the vent and erupting lava, while a steam plume rises where the hot lava meets snow. (The bright green colour along the edge of the lava flow is an artifact of the sensor.)

Click on the image above to see the full size version.

The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull was presaged by a series of earthquakes starting in early March. Over time, the earthquakes rose towards the surface, and land near the volcano rose at least 40 millimeters (2 inches)—both indications that magma was moving underneath the volcano. The eruption may continue for several more months.

Previous eruptions in the area have caused flooding due to the melting of glacial ice (a Jökulhlaup), but the current eruption is in an area covered by winter snow, not permanent ice.

Although some past eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull were followed by larger, explosive eruptions at nearby Katla Volcano, there is currently no sign of activity at Katla.

Ethiopian Volcano Erte Alle

Friday, March 26, 2010

NASA Goddard Blog: Operation Ice Bridge

Operation IceBridge Off to a Successful Start in Greenland

Credit: Michael Studinger
The IceBridge crew fly down Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland with NASA's DC-8 aircraft.

Tumours hide out from the immune system by mimicking lymph nodes

Tumours hide out from the immune system by mimicking lymph nodes

A new mechanism explaining how tumours escape the body's natural immune surveillance has recently been discovered at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland. The study shows how tumours can create a tolerant microenviroment and avoid attack by the immune system by mimicking key features of lymph nodes.

The discovery, published in Science and in Science Express, underscores the role of the lymphatic system in cancer and may open up new possibilities for cancer treatment.

"The tumour tricks the body into thinking it is healthy tissue," says lead author Melody Swartz, head of the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering (LLCB) and EPFL professor. Swartz and her team set out to understand how immune tolerance is induced by tumours, allowing them to progress and spread.

The researchers from EPFL concentrated their efforts on a certain protein that is normally present in healthy lymph nodes to attract T cells and program them to perform vital immune functions. They found that some tumours can secrete this protein to transform the outer layer of the tumour into lymphoid-like tissue.

This outer layer then attracts and effectively re-programs the T cells to recognise the tumour as friend not foe, resulting in a tumour that goes undetected by the immune system.

Since most tumours progress only if they have escaped the immune system, this new understanding of one mechanism by which the tumour can bypasses or hides from immune defenses is an important step towards future cancer therapies.

Humpback Whales in Heat Run

ESA Eumetsat: Meteosat not next generation weather system, yet

The ruling council of Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological satellite organisation failed to approve a $4.4 billion next-generation weather-satellite system when two of its 26 members withheld their votes, Eumetsat officials said.

With unanimity required to move the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program forward, the project will essentially stand still until these two nations, which Eumetsat declined to identify, give their written endorsement for the approval process to restart.

For reasons related to the work assigned to their respective industries, Germany and Spain raised questions about the MTG project, European government and industry officials said. One industry official said Portugal also has objections, but it was unclear whether Portugal or Spain had withheld its vote.

Eumetsat Director of Administration Angiolo Rolli said in an interview that the two nations that withheld their votes had nonetheless expressed support for MTG and said they would deliver a formal opinion on it by June 30.

MTG is a six-satellite system designed to provide some 20 years of meteorological data starting in 2016 or 2017. It is budgeted at about 3.3 billion euros ($4.4 billion), with Eumetsat paying 75 percent of the cost and the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA) funding the remaining share.

Read the full article in Space News, here

NASA Shuttle launch Payload Readiness

ITU Implores Iran To Stop Jamming EutelSat

The global regulator of satellite orbital slot and broadcast frequencies asked Iran to track down the source of intentional jamming of Eutelsat satellite signals that carry news broadcasts into Iran.

In a delicately worded statement apparently designed not to antagonize Iranian authorities, the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said it accepted the findings of the French National Frequencies Agency concluding that the interference to Eutelsat signals, particularly those from the BBC reporting on Iranian politics, is coming from Iranian territory.

The French agency, on behalf of Paris-based Eutelsat, has written to Iran on multiple occasions in the past year asking that the interference cease. The ITU Radio Regulations Board also contacted Iran, whose administration responded that it did not know the source of the signal jamming, which has interfered with broadcasts from Eutelsat satellites located at four different orbital slots.

The BBC has moved its BBC Persian news broadcasts from one satellite to another in an attempt to find an orbital slot that permits broadcasts into Iran but makes it difficult for Iran-based jammers to interfere with the signal.

The ITU’s Radio Regulations Board concluded that “the interfering signals appear to be of a nature” that is forbidden under ITU rules and is originating in Iran “based on the measurements provided by the administration of France, and having confidence in the measurement techniques.”

The ITU, a United Nations affiliate, has little power to enforce its rulings. It depends on member nations to respect the regulations as a matter of good faith in the general interest of maximizing the use of the radio spectrum and satellite orbital positions.

The ITU said it “urged the administration of Iran to continue its effort in locating the source of interference and to eliminate it as a matter of the highest priority.” It said it has asked the French administration and its own Radiocommunication Bureau “to assist the administration of Iran in identifying the source of the interference.”

Eutelsat has been telling French authorities for months about the interference, and the 27-nation European Union has urged Iran to stop it.

The UK CubeSail: Tackling Space Debris

The first spacecraft designed to do away with itself was unveiled on Friday. It will try out an idea that could stop space getting clogged up with junk orbiting the Earth.

The debris of abandoned spacecraft and satellites is building up in low Earth orbit. This zero-g scrapheap has grown by 40 per cent in the past four years alone, with the US air force now tracking 19,000 orbiting objects larger than 10 centimetres across. And as chunks of debris strike each other, they fragment further – presenting still more threat of collision to working spacecraft.

The diminutive CubeSail craft, measuring 30 by 10 by 10 centimetres and weighing just 3 kilograms, has been designed at the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. It has a solar sail that it can use for propulsion – harnessing the pressure of sunlight, just as a boat's sail harnesses the pressure of the wind – but it can also use the sail as an "orbital brake" to help it de-orbit to a fiery death in the atmosphere.

ESA ENVISAT MERIS Image: New Zealand and Cook Strait

Credits: ESA

This Envisat image captures New Zealand's North and South Islands, separated by the Cook Strait.

Named after James Cook, who in 1770 was the first European to sail through it, the Cook Strait connects the Tasman Sea to the west with the South Pacific Ocean to the east.

This image was acquired on 8 March 2010 by Envisat's Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS).

Background Info
At its narrowest, it is just 23 km wide – so on a clear day it is possible to see across the strait. However, the Cook Strait is also renowned for being one of the roughest and most unpredictable stretches of water in the world.

As a result of New Zealand's latitude, the country lies in the path of the westerly wind belt known as the Roaring Forties. Since the strait is the only gap between the mountainous two islands, it acts as a huge wind tunnel, whipping up treacherous seas.

In addition, the tidal flow through Cook Strait is unusual. The tide is out of phase, which means when it is high tide on one side it is low on the other, resulting in strong currents in the middle.

New Zealand comprises many islands, though the North and South Islands are the largest landmasses. The image shows that the northerly part of the South Island is, in fact, further north that the south of the North Island. The South Island is the larger of these two landmasses and along its length gives rise to the Southern Alps, where the highest peak, Mount Cook, reaches 3754 metres. The North Island is less mountainous but more volcanic.

To read more on ESA Envisat: MODIS and New Zealand, Click here on the link

Mandelson supports £200m British science funding plans

Mandelson supports £200m British science funding plans IT PRO

Mandelson has come out in support of calls to fund national centres in the UK for scientific innovation.

The suggestion was initially made in a report by Austrian entrepreneur and Cambridge graduate Hermann Hauser, who claimed the British Government should create four or five specialised centres focused on driving scientific innovation in the UK.

Although the plans would cost £200 million over 10 years, Madelson has given his support to the report, telling the Telegraph: "Mr Hauser is right that these centres need long-term, predictable funding and I am committed to making that happen."

NASA Mars: Rover Opportunity Image of Chocolate Hills rock

Picture: AFP / NASA / JPL

The Chocolate Hills rock on Mars. NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took the image showing a strange coating that one researcher has called a "blueberry sandwich."

The coating appears blue because of the false-colour effect used to highlight details

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Opportunity's microscopic imager took this detail view of the coating on "Chocolate Hills," on which a layer of peppercorn-size spheres nicknamed "blueberries" are packed densely.

ESA Astronaut: Frank de Winne First European Commander of ISS

It's the hot topic of the moment and so it's natural that any conversation is going to start with the new UK Space Agency (UKSA).

Belgian Frank De Winne, the first European to command the International Space Station, is inspecting the new agency's logo...and the name: "So, how do you say it? 'Yuke-sar'?"

I don't think anyone is quite sure. Everyone is still just enjoying the moment.

Frank has an interesting British connection. He spent a year at MoD Boscombe Down, in Wiltshire, in the early '90s. It was at the former RAF station there that he passed the exams needed to become a test pilot.

His fellow pupil on the course was Thomas Reiter, who would eventually become the first European astronaut to be sent on a long-duration tour to the ISS.

Indeed, it was while at Boscombe Down that Reiter found out that he'd been accepted into the European Space Agency's Astronaut Corps.

Frank, on the other hand, was told he'd have to wait. He went into a reserve pool and was finally called up in 1998.

He returned to Earth in December and so is still involved in what they call "post-flight activities". He's continuing with some medical and science experiments connected with his OasISS mission, and - of course - he's giving plenty of talks.

NASA Mars: Up close and personal March 25 2010

On Thursday night, March 25, many people may look up at the sky and ask the question, "What's that bright star next to the moon?"

The answer for Thursday night is Mars, but that answer changes night by night as the moon travels along the ecliptic, the path the sun, moon and planets follow across the sky. If you ask the question again on Monday night, March 29, the answer will be the ringed planet Saturn.

Such conjunctions of the moon and planets are regular reminders of how rapidly the moon moves across the sky.

Mars was in opposition to the Sun on Jan. 29, when it appeared 14 arcseconds in diameter, 1/120 of the diameter of the moon. Two months later, it is much farther away, and has shrunk to only 10 arcseconds in diameter.

This will be your last chance to get a good look at Mars until it approaches the Earth again in 2012

A handout image from the US Geological Survey in 2008 shows a mosaic of the Schiaparelli hemisphere of the planet Mars projected into point perspective, a view similar to that which one would see from a spacecraft.

A journey from Earth to Mars could eventually take just 39 days, according to a rocket scientist who has the ear of the US space agency.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Consuming Tequila (plants) helps Build Stronger Bones

The plant that gave the world tequila contains a substance that seems ideal for use in a new genre of processed foods -- so-called "functional foods" -- with health benefits over and above serving as a source of nutrients, scientists reported at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco on March 23. Foods spiked with "fructans" from the agave plant may help protect against osteoporosis by boosting the body's absorption of calcium and could have other health benefits, they said.

"Fructans are considered functional food ingredients because they affect body processes in ways that result in better health and reduction in the risk of many diseases," said Mercedes López, Ph.D., who delivered the report. She is with the National Polytechnic Institute, Guanajuato, Mexico. "Experimental studies suggest that fructans may be beneficial in diabetes, obesity, stimulating the immune system of the body, decreasing levels of disease-causing bacteria in the intestine, relieving constipation, and reducing the risk of colon cancer."

Fructans are non-digestible carbohydrates. They consist of molecules of fructose -- the sugar found in honey, grapes, and ripe fruits -- linked together into chains. Rich natural sources include artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and onions, and chicory. Fructans do not occur in tequila, however, because they change into alcohol when agave is used to make tequila, López said.

So-called "inulin-type" fructans from chicory find wide use in the United States and other countries in ice cream, breakfast cereals, baked goods, sauces, beverages, and other foods. Small fructans have a sweet taste, while those formed from longer chains of fructose have a neutral taste and give foods a smooth, pleasant texture. Scientific studies have suggested that fructans stimulate the growth of healthful bacteria in the large intestine in a way that increases the body's absorption of minerals, including the calcium and magnesium important for bone growth.

In the new study, López and colleagues set out to determine what effects agave fructans actually have on bone growth. They tested the effects of agave fructans on laboratory mice, used as stand-ins for humans in such research. Mice fed agave fructans absorbed more calcium from food, excreted less calcium in their feces, and showed a 50 percent increase in levels of a protein associated with the build-up of new bone tissue.

"These results suggest that the supplementation of the standard diet with agave fructans prevented bone loss and improved bone formation, indicating the important role of agave fructans on the maintenance of healthy bone," López said. "They can be used in many products for children and infants to help prevent various diseases, and can even be used in ice cream as a sugar substitute."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Early child-parent attachment affects boys' behavior

Early child-parent attachment affects behavior, especially for boys |

According to attachment theory, children with secure attachments have repeated experiences with caregivers who are responsive to their needs and thus expect their caregivers to be available and comforting when called upon.

In contrast, children with insecure attachments have experiences in which requests are discouraged, rejected, or responded to inconsistently, which is thought to make them vulnerable to developing behavioural problems.

The researchers sought to clarify the extent to which bonds between children and their mothers early in life affect children's later behavioural problems, such as aggression or hostility; behaviour problems were measured up to age 12.

The studies included in their review used a range of methods for assessing children's behaviour problems, including parent and teacher questionnaires and direct observations.

"The results suggest that the effects of attachment are reliable and relatively persistent over time," notes Pasco Fearon, associate professor of psychology at the University of Reading, who was the study's lead author.

"More specifically, children who seem unable to maintain a coherent strategy for coping with separation (separation anxiety) are at greatest risk for later behaviour problems and aggression."

Child Development: Talk to your babies

Talk to your babies |

Northwestern University researchers have found that even before infants begin to speak, words play an important role in their cognition. For 3-month-old infants, words influence performance in a cognitive task in a way that goes beyond the influence of other kinds of sounds, including musical tones.

The research by Alissa Ferry, Susan Hespos and Sandra Waxman in the psychology department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will appear in the March/April edition of the journal Child Development. In the study, infants who heard words provided evidence of categorization, while infants who heard tone sequences did not.

Three-month-old infants were shown a series of pictures of fish that were paired with words or beeps. Infants in the word group were told, for example, "Look at the toma!" ?-- a made-up word for fish, as they viewed each picture. Other infants heard a series of beeps carefully matched to the labeling phrases for tone and duration. Then infants were shown a picture of a new fish and a dinosaur side-by-side as the researchers measured how long they looked at each picture. If the infants formed the category, they would look longer at one picture than the other.

Tulane University study says diabetes at epidemic proportions in China

New Tulane University study says diabetes at epidemic proportions in China |

A large population-based study of diabetes in China conducted by investigators from Tulane University and their colleagues in China has concluded that the disease has reached epidemic proportions in the adult population of China.

The study estimates that 92.4 million adults age 20 or older (9.7 percent of the population) have diabetes and 148.2 million adults (15.5 percent) have prediabetes, a key risk factor for the development of overt diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study builds on several recent large studies in China that have documented a rapid increase in diabetes in the population. The current study administered an oral glucose tolerance test to 46,239 adults aged 20 or older from 14 provinces and municipalities throughout China in order to identify cases of previously undiagnosed diabetes.

Subjects of the study who had been previously diagnosed with diabetes were identified through questioning by the study's data collectors.

Following recent rapid economic development in China, cardiovascular disease has become the leading cause of death in the county. Diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the prevalence of diabetes in China, as this study indicates, is high and increasing.

Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular complications and premature death, and results in a massive economic burden for society.

The researchers noted a higher prevalence of diabetes among urban residents in China than among rural ones, a result consistent with observations that have been made in developing countries throughout the world.

"Urbanisation is associated with changes in lifestyle that lead to physical inactivity, an unhealthful diet and obesity, all of which have been implicated as contributing factors in the development of diabetes," says Dr. Jiang He, Joseph S. Copes, M.D. Chair and Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public health and Tropical Medicine and the senior author of the study.

With its very large population, China may bear a higher diabetes-related burden than any other country, assert the researchers. Especially alarming is the finding that the majority of cases of diabetes (60.7 percent) are undiagnosed and untreated.

The researchers conclude that diabetes and its consequences have become a major public health crisis in China, and recommend that the country quickly develop and institute national strategies for preventing, detecting and treating diabetes in the general population.

NASA Mars Explorer Rover Opportunity - Image of Concepcion crater

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took this image in preparation for the first autonomous selection of an observation target by a spacecraft on Mars.

Opportunity used its navigation camera to take this image after a drive during the 2,172nd Martian day, or sol, of its mission on Mars (March 4, 2010).

Using newly developed and uploaded software named Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS, the rover analysed the image to identify the feature that best matched criteria given for selecting a target.

The top target that Opportunity selected with AEGIS is shown by the yellow marker. AEGIS was directed to look for rocks that were larger and darker in colour. The rover then used the software to take more detailed observations of the selected target using its panoramic camera.

The more-than-50 rocks in this image are near a young crater called 'Concepcion' and might have been thrown outward by the impact that excavated the crater.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

ESA's Alphabus - Another European Success story

With the Alphabus product line, European Industry extends its telecommunication satellite range significantly beyond the capabilities of the existing platforms, such as Eurostar 3000 and Spacebus 4000, both with respect to maximum payload power and mass.

This development has been initiated, by ESA and CNES, as a coordinated European response to the increased market demand for larger telecommunication payloads for new broadband, broadcasting and mobile communications services.

NASA MODIS: Image Aluetian Islands Cloud Formation

Unusual cloud formations are seen over the Aleutian Islands in this image captured by the MODIS on NASA's Aqua satellite.

Turbulence, caused by the wind passing over the highest points of the islands, produces pronounced eddies that swirl the clouds into a pattern called a vortex "street". The clouds have aligned in parallel rows or streets

Picture: AP / NASA

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Labrador Retriever-Sized Herbivore Shakes up Theories of Dino Evolution

Labrador Retriever-Sized Herbivore Shakes up Theories of Dino Evolution

In this week’s Nature, researchers say they’ve analysed a near-complete skeleton of one of the closest relatives to early dinosaurs, a silesaur called Asilisaurus.

The fossil is more than 240 million years old, which is ten million years older than the earliest known fossils of true dinosaurs.

The finding of this dino relative therefore suggests that dinosaurs emerged earlier than we previously believed, and it throws another surprise into the debate over their origins.

From the remains of 14 different individuals, the scientists managed to piece together what a whole skeleton looked like.

However, the finished product didn’t look quite like they expected. After studying the bones for 3 years, the team concludes that Asilisaurus was about the size of a Labrador retriever.

The animal walked on four legs, and the shape of its teeth suggests that it ate plants and maybe a little meat.

That conflicted with the expectation of the study's co-author Randy Irmis, who said the team would’ve thought small carnivores, and not mostly plant eaters walking on four legs, were the closest relatives to the dinosaurs.

Indeed, that question remains open. According to the Nature editor’s summary, Asilisaurus is an early member of the Ornithodira line, the “avian” group that broke off from the crocodile group during the time before dinosaur emergence.

What does that mean for the dinosaur ancestry? The balance of opinion has alternated between more reptilian ancestors, which walked on all fours, and two-legged animals that had bird-shaped bodies but couldn’t fly.

Recently, the idea of two-legged dino ancestors had been winning out, but the new find draws the trend back toward quadrupeds.

Paul Barrett of London’s Natural History Museum says: “The creatures share a lot of features with dinosaurs,” he said. “They show us an intermediate step between more primitive reptiles and the more specialised dinosaurs”.

While dinos hung around for 165 million years or so, the Silesaurs like Asilisaurus lived only 45 million years before extinction.

However, since Ssilesaurs and true dinosaurs diverged from a common ancestor, the two groups should have existed during the same time frame.

Thus, the earliest emerging dinos might stretch back even to the time frame of this Asilisaurus, more than 240 million years ago.