Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Dead Disk Galaxy" Found

Hubble Captures Massive Dead Disk Galaxy that Challenges Theories of Galaxy Evolution

NASA -- By combining the power of a "natural lens" in space with the capability of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers made a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang.

Finding such a galaxy early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve, say researchers.

When Hubble photographed the galaxy, astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk.

This is the first direct observational evidence that at least some of the earliest so-called "dead" galaxies — where star formation stopped — somehow evolve from a Milky Way-shaped disk into the giant elliptical galaxies we see today.

This is a surprise because elliptical galaxies contain older stars, while spiral galaxies typically contain younger blue stars. At least some of these early "dead" disk galaxies must have gone through major makeovers. They not only changed their structure, but also the motions of their stars to make a shape of an elliptical galaxy.

"This new insight may force us to rethink the whole cosmological context of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies," said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. "Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early "dead" galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven't been able to resolve them."

Previous studies of distant dead galaxies have assumed that their structure is similar to the local elliptical galaxies they will evolve into. Confirming this assumption in principle requires more powerful space telescopes than are currently available. However, through the phenomenon known as "gravitational lensing," a massive, foreground cluster of galaxies acts as a natural "zoom lens" in space by magnifying and stretching images of far more distant background galaxies. By joining this natural lens with the resolving power of Hubble, scientists were able to see into the center of the dead galaxy.

The remote galaxy is three times as massive as the Milky Way but only half the size. Rotational velocity measurements made with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) showed that the disk galaxy is spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way.

Using archival data from the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), Toft and his team were able to determine the stellar mass, star-formation rate, and the ages of the stars.

Why this galaxy stopped forming stars is still unknown. It may be the result of an active galactic nucleus, where energy is gushing from a supermassive black hole. This energy inhibits star formation by heating the gas or expelling it from the galaxy. Or it may be the result of the cold gas streaming onto the galaxy being rapidly compressed and heated up, preventing it from cooling down into star-forming clouds in the galaxy's center.

But how do these young, massive, compact disks evolve into the elliptical galaxies we see in the present-day universe? "Probably through mergers," Toft said. "If these galaxies grow through merging with minor companions, and these minor companions come in large numbers and from all sorts of different angles onto the galaxy, this would eventually randomize the orbits of stars in the galaxies. You could also imagine major mergers. This would definitely also destroy the ordered motion of the stars."

The findings are published in the June 22 issue of the journal Nature. Toft and his team hope to use NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to look for a larger sample of such galaxies.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

The Very Large Telescope is a telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

HIV Vaccine Is Studied

San Diego Team Tests Best Delivery
Mode for Potential HIV Vaccine
Optimized immunizations reliably elicit protective antibodies in preclinical study, marking an important milestone on the way to an effective HIV vaccine.

LA JOLLA, CA -- June 20, 2017 —For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching closer. Their latest study, published in the current issue of Immunity, demonstrates that optimizing the mode and timing of vaccine delivery is crucial to inducing a protective immune response in a preclinical model.

More than any other factors, administering the vaccine candidate subcutaneously and increasing the time intervals between immunizations improved the efficacy of the experimental vaccine and reliably induced neutralizing antibodies. Neutralizing antibodies are a key component of an effective immune response. They latch onto and inactive invading viruses before they can gain a foothold in the body and have been notoriously difficult to generate for HIV.

“This study is an important staging point on the long journey toward an HIV vaccine,” says TSRI Professor Dennis R. Burton, Ph.D, who is also scientific director of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Neutralizing Antibody Center and of the National Institutes of Health’s Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology and Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID) at TSRI. “The vaccine candidates we worked with here are probably the most promising prototypes out there, and one will go into people in 2018,” says Burton.

“There had been a lot of big question marks and this study was designed to get as many answers as possible before we go into human clinical trials,” adds senior co-author Shane Crotty, Ph.D., a professor in LJI’s Division of Vaccine Discovery. “We are confident that our results will be predictive going forward.”

HIV has faded from the headlines, mainly because the development of antiretroviral drugs has turned AIDS into a chronic, manageable disease. Yet, only about half of the roughly 36.7 million people currently infected with HIV worldwide are able to get the medicines they need to control the virus.

At the same time, the rate of new infections has remained stubbornly high, emphasizing the need for a preventive vaccine.

The latest findings are the culmination of years of collaborative and painstaking research by a dozen research teams centered around the development, improvement, and study of artificial protein trimers that faithfully mimic a protein spike found on the viral surface. At the core of this effort is the CHAVI-ID immunogen working group, comprised of TSRI’s own William R. Schief, Ph.D., Andrew B. Ward, Ph.D., Ian A. Wilson, D.Phil. and Richard T. Wyatt, Ph.D., in addition to Crotty and Burton. This group of laboratories in collaboration with Darrell J. Irvine, Ph.D., professor at MIT, and Rogier W. Sanders, Ph.D., professor at the University of Amsterdam, provided the cutting-edge immunogens tested in the study.

The recombinant trimers, or SOSIPs as they are called, were unreliable in earlier, smaller studies conducted in non-human primates. Non-human primates, and especially rhesus macaques, are considered the most appropriate pre-clinical model for HIV vaccine studies, because their immune system most closely resembles that of humans.

“The animals’ immune responses, although the right kind, weren’t very robust and a few didn’t respond at all,” explains Colin Havenar-Daughton, Ph.D., a scientific associate in the Crotty lab. “That caused significant concern that the immunogen wouldn’t consistently trigger an effective immune response in all individuals in a human clinical trial.”

In an effort to reliably induce a neutralizing antibody response, the collaborators tested multiple variations of the trimers and immunization protocols side-by-side to determine the best strategy going forward. Crotty and Burton and their colleagues teamed up with Professor Dan Barouch, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who coordinated the immunizations.

The design of the study was largely guided by what the collaborators had learned in a previous study via fine needling sampling of the lymph nodes, where the scientists observed follicular helper T cells help direct the maturation steps of antibody-producing B cells. Administering the vaccine subcutaneously versus the more conventional intramuscular route, and spacing the injection at 8 weeks instead of the more common 4-6 weeks, reliably induced a strong functional immune response in all animals.

Using an osmotic pump to slowly release the vaccine over a period of two weeks resulted in the highest neutralizing antibody titers ever measured following SOSIP immunizations in non-human primates. While osmotic pumps are not a practical way to deliver vaccines, they illustrate an important point.

“Depending on how we gave the vaccine, there was a bigger difference due to immunization route than we would have predicted,” says Matthias Pauthner, a graduate student in Burton’s lab and the study’s co-lead author. “We can help translate what we know now into the clinic.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Catherine Austin FItts Speaks

Catherine Austin Fitts is the president of Solari, Inc., the publisher of The Solari Report and managing member of Solari Investment Advisory Services, LLC.

Catherine Fitts is a reoccurring guest on the overnight radio program Coast to Coast AM.  [She is also seen in several YouTube videos and online interviews].

Background

Fitts served as managing director and member of the board of directors of the Wall Street investment bank Dillon, Read & Co. Inc., as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in the first Bush Administration, and was the president of Hamilton Securities Group, Inc., an investment bank and financial software developer.

Fitts has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from the Wharton School and studied Mandarin at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Austin_Fitts

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The Popsicle Index is a quality of life measurement coined by Catherine Austin Fitts as the percentage of people - in a community who believe that a child in their community can safely leave their home, walk to the nearest possible location to buy a popsicle, and walk back home.


Quotes from Fitts

“We have a group of people who have the power to act with impunity.  They are above the law.  They are centralizing and consolidating economic and political power.  We have a political problem.  We don’t have an economic problem.”  Fitts’ analysis shows, “We’ve been on a debt model, and now we’ve got to get the planet on an equity model. . . .You are going to do everything you can do to get people into equities.  Slamming precious metals down helps do that.”  But Fitts says that won’t stop the gold bull because China and the rest of the world are buying the yellow metal.  Fitts contends, “What that means is there is going to be a much more broad-based bull market in gold. . . I think it’s going to more of a sound money system, and gold is going to be a part of that.”  Not everybody wants to be brought into the so-called new world order.  Fitts predicts, “Remember, to come out with a one world currency, you need everybody.  There can be no leakage.  There can be no exceptions. The Russians are determined to be the stinker at the party is what I think.” 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dangerous Bird Flu Mutations

Mutations that Allow Bird Flu Strain
to Spread Among Humans Identified
Monitoring for these mutations could enable
timely response to prevent pandemic

An international team of scientists has identified several genetic mutations that, should they arise, could potentially allow the avian influenza strain H7N9 to spread between humans. The findings are published in PLOS Pathogens.

PLOS – June 15, 2017 -- H7N9 is a strain of flu virus that normally infects birds but has spread to at least 779 humans in a number of outbreaks related to poultry markets. The virus is not currently capable of spreading sustainably from human to human, but scientists are concerned that it could potentially mutate into a form that can.

To investigate this possibility, James Paulson of The Scripps Research Institute, California, and colleagues analyzed mutations that could occur in H7N9's genome. They focused on a gene that codes for the H7 hemagglutanin, a protein found on the surface of flu viruses. This protein allows flu viruses to latch onto host cells.

Flu strains that circulate in avian viruses have different subtypes of hemagglutanin, called H1-H16. So far only three subtypes have been found in human flu viruses (H1, H2 and H3). Like other avian flu viruses, H7N9 has is specific for receptors on bird cells, but not receptors on human cells. However, a transition to human specificity could enable H7N9 to circulate among humans, just like other human flu strains that have caused pandemics in the past.

The research team used molecular modeling and knowledge of hemagglutanin's structure to identify mutations that would change the protein's amino acid sequence and cause a switch to human specificity. Then, they produced the hemagglutanin with different combinations of these mutations in an experimental cell line (testing the mutations in H7N9 viruses themselves could be dangerous).

The scientists harvested the mutant hemagglutanin proteins from the cells and tested how strongly they bound to human-type and bird-type receptors. Several forms with mutations in three amino acids bound far more strongly to human receptors; they had switched specificity from bird to human. These triple-mutant H7 hemagglutinins also successfully latched onto cells in samples of human trachea tissue.

Safety regulations prohibit introducing these mutations to actual H7N9 viruses, limiting scientists' ability to test their effects in animals. Nonetheless, the research team suggests that keeping an eye out for the development of these mutations in humans infected with H7N9 could help trigger a timely response to prevent potential spread.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Basics of Agitprop

Agitprop (portmanteau of "agitation" and "propaganda") is political propaganda, especially the communist propaganda used in Soviet Russia, that is spread to the general public through popular media such as literature, plays, pamphlets, films, and other art forms with an explicitly political message. In the Western world, agitprop often has a negative connotation.

The term originated in Soviet Russia as a shortened name for the Department for Agitation and Propaganda (отдел агитации и пропаганды, otdel agitatsii i propagandy), which was part of the central and regional committees of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The department was later renamed Ideological Department. Typically Russian agitprop explained the policies of the Communist Party and persuaded the general public to share its values and goals. In other contexts, propaganda could mean dissemination of any kind of beneficial knowledge, e.g., of new methods in agriculture. After the October Revolution of 1917, an agitprop train toured the country, with artists and actors performing simple plays and broadcasting propaganda. It had a printing press on board the train to allow posters to be reproduced and thrown out of the windows if it passed through villages.

It gave rise to agitprop theatre, a highly politicized left-wing theatre that originated in 1920s Europe and spread to the United States; the plays of Bertolt Brecht are a notable example. Russian agitprop theater was noted for its cardboard characters of perfect virtue and complete evil, and its coarse ridicule. Gradually the term agitprop came to describe any kind of highly politicized art.

Forms of Agitprop

During the Russian Civil War, agitprop took various forms:

  • Censorship of the press: Bolshevik strategy from the beginning was to introduce censorship over the primary medium of information in the former Russian Empire in 1917, the newspaper. The provisional government, born out of the March Revolution against the tsarist regime, abolished the age-old practice of censoring the press. This created free newspapers that survived on their own revenue. The Bolsheviks' power over the provisional government lay in the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, because they could shut down industry and government by calling in workers and soldiers to strike and demonstrate. This ability to orchestrate strikes was especially helpful in the newspaper printing factories because a strike would mean a large loss in revenue, and the inability to continue to operate. The capability of strikes allowed the Bolsheviks to shut down any newspaper they wanted, creating a highly effective censorship mechanism that put a stop to the voice of the opposition. Lenin took control of the socialist newspaper Pravda, making it an outlet to spread Bolshevik agitprop, articles, and other media. With the Bolshevik capability to censor and shut down newspapers of opposing or rival factions, Pravda was able to become the dominant source of written information for the population in regions controlled by the Red Army .



  • Oral-agitation networks: The Bolshevik leadership understood that to build a lasting regime, they would need to win the support of the mass population of Russian peasants. To do this, Lenin organized a Communist party that attracted demobilized soldiers and others to become indoctrinated in Bolshevik ideology, dressed up in uniforms and sent to travel the countryside as agitators to the peasants. The oral-agitation networks established a presence in the isolated rural areas of Russia, expanding Communist power.
  • Agitational trains and ships: To expand the reach of the oral-agitation networks, the Bolsheviks pioneered using modern transportation to reach deeper into Russia. The trains and ships carried agitators armed with leaflets, posters and other various forms of agitprop. The agitational trains expanded the reach of agitators into Eastern Europe, and allowed for the establishment of agitprop stations, consisting of libraries of propaganda material. The trains were also equipped with radios, and their own printing press, so they could report to Moscow the political climate of the given region, and receive instruction on how to custom print propaganda on the spot to better take advantage of the situation.
  • Literacy campaign: Lenin understood that in order to increase the effectiveness of his propaganda, the cultural level of the Russian people would have to be raised by bringing down the illiteracy rate. The peasant society of Russia in 1917 was largely illiterate making it difficult to reach them through printed agitprop. Lenin created the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment to spearhead the war on illiteracy. Instructors were trained in 1919, and sent to the countryside to create more instructors and expand the operation into a network of illiteracy centers. New textbooks were created, containing Bolshevik ideology to indoctrinate the newly literate members of Soviet society, and the literacy training in the army was expanded.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Helmut Kohl Dies

Helmut Josef Michael Kohl (3 April 1930 – 16 June 2017) was a German politician who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 (of West Germany 1982–1990 and of the reunited Germany 1990–1998) and as the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 1973 to 1998. From 1969 to 1976, Kohl was Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate.

                                                                Helmut Kohl in 1989

Kohl's 16-year tenure was the longest of any German Chancellor since Otto von Bismarck. Kohl oversaw the end of the Cold War and is widely regarded as the mastermind of German reunification. Together with French President François Mitterrand, Kohl is considered to be the architect of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union (EU) and the euro currency. His life in the immediate years after his chancellorship was overshadowed by a donations scandal.

Reunification of Germany

Kohl was described as "the greatest European leader of the second half of the 20th century" by U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Kohl received the Charlemagne Prize in 1988 with François Mitterrand; in 1998 Kohl became the second person to be named Honorary Citizen of Europe by the European heads of state or government.

Following the breach of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the East German Communist regime in 1989, Kohl's handling of the East German issue would become the turning point of his chancellorship. Kohl, like most West Germans, was initially caught unaware when the Socialist Unity Party was toppled in late 1989. Well aware of his constitutional mandate to seek German unity, he immediately moved to make it a reality. Taking advantage of the historic political changes occurring in East Germany, Kohl presented a ten-point plan for "Overcoming of the division of Germany and Europe" without consulting his coalition partner, the FDP, or the Western Allies. In February 1990, he visited the Soviet Union seeking a guarantee from Mikhail Gorbachev that the USSR would allow German reunification to proceed. One month later, the Party of Democratic Socialism — the renamed SED — was roundly defeated by a grand coalition headed by the East German counterpart of Kohl's CDU, which ran on a platform of speedy reunification.

On 18 May 1990, Kohl signed an economic and social union treaty with East Germany. This treaty stipulated that when reunification took place, it would be under the quicker provisions of Article 23 of the Basic Law. That article stated that any new states could adhere to the Basic Law by a simple majority vote. The alternative would have been the more protracted route of drafting a completely new constitution for the newly reunified country, as provided by Article 146 of the Basic Law. An Article 146 reunification would have opened up contentious issues in West Germany, and would have been impractical in any case since by then East Germany was in a state of utter collapse. In contrast, an Article 23 reunification could be completed in as little as six months.

Over the objections of Bundesbank president Karl Otto Pöhl, he allowed a 1:1 exchange rate for wages, interest and rent between the West and East Marks. In the end, this policy would seriously hurt companies in the new federal states. Together with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Kohl was able to resolve talks with the former Allies of World War II to allow German reunification. He received assurances from Gorbachev that a reunified Germany would be able to choose which international alliance it wanted to join, although Kohl made no secret that he wanted the reunified Germany to inherit West Germany's seats at NATO and the EC.

A reunification treaty was signed on 31 August 1990, and was overwhelmingly approved by both parliaments on 20 September 1990. On 3 October 1990, East Germany officially ceased to exist, and its territory joined the Federal Republic as the five states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. These states had been the original five states of East Germany before being abolished in 1952, and had been reconstituted in August. East and West Berlin were reunited as the capital of the enlarged Federal Republic. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kohl confirmed that historically German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were definitively part of Poland, thereby relinquishing any claim Germany had to them. In 1993, Kohl confirmed, via treaty with the Czech Republic, that Germany would no longer bring forward territorial claims as to the pre-1945 ethnic German Sudetenland. This treaty was a disappointment for the German Heimatvertriebene ("displaced persons”).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Coming: Better Solar Cells

‘Magic’ Alloy Could Spur Next
Generation of Solar Cells

ANN ARBOR—June 15, 2017 -- In what could be a major step forward for a new generation of solar cells called "concentrator photovoltaics," University of Michigan researchers have developed a new semiconductor alloy that can capture the near-infrared light located on the leading edge of the visible light spectrum.

Easier to manufacture and at least 25 percent less costly than previous formulations, it's believed to be the world's most cost-effective material that can capture near-infrared light—and is compatible with the gallium arsenide semiconductors often used in concentrator photovoltaics.

Concentrator photovoltaics gather and focus sunlight onto small, high-efficiency solar cells made of gallium arsenide or germanium semiconductors. They're on track to achieve efficiency rates of over 50 percent, while conventional flat-panel silicon solar cells top out in the mid-20s.

"Flat-panel silicon is basically maxed out in terms of efficiency," said Rachel Goldman, U-M professor of materials science and engineering, and physics, whose lab developed the alloy. "The cost of silicon isn't going down and efficiency isn't going up. Concentrator photovoltaics could power the next generation."

Varieties of concentrator photovoltaics exist today. They are made of three different semiconductor alloys layered together. Sprayed onto a semiconductor wafer in a process called molecular-beam epitaxy—a bit like spray painting with individual elements—each layer is only a few microns thick. The layers capture different parts of the solar spectrum; light that gets through one layer is captured by the next.

But near-infrared light slips through these cells unharnessed. For years, researchers have been working toward an elusive "fourth layer" alloy that could be sandwiched into cells to capture this light. It's a tall order; the alloy must be cost-effective, stable, durable and sensitive to infrared light, with an atomic structure that matches the other three layers in the solar cell.

Getting all those variables right isn't easy, and until now, researchers have been stuck with prohibitively expensive formulas that use five elements or more.

To find a simpler mix, Goldman's team devised a novel approach for keeping tabs on the many variables in the process. They combined on-the-ground measurement methods including X-ray diffraction done at U-M and ion beam analysis done at Los Alamos National Laboratory with custom-built computer modeling.

Using this method, they discovered that a slightly different type of arsenic molecule would pair more effectively with the bismuth. They were able to tweak the amount of nitrogen and bismuth in the mix, enabling them to eliminate an additional manufacturing step that previous formulas required. And they found precisely the right temperature that would enable the elements to mix smoothly and stick to the substrate securely.

"'Magic' is not a word we use often as materials scientists," Goldman said. "But that's what it felt like when we finally got it right."

The advance comes on the heels of another innovation from Goldman's lab that simplifies the "doping" process used to tweak the electrical properties of the chemical layers in gallium arsenide semiconductors. During doping, manufacturers apply a mix of chemicals called "designer impurities" to change how semiconductors conduct electricity and give them positive and negative polarity similar to the electrodes of a battery. The doping agents usually used for gallium arsenide semiconductors are silicon on the negative side and beryllium on the positive side.

The beryllium is a problem—it's toxic and it costs about 10 times more than silicon dopants. Beryllium is also sensitive to heat, which limits flexibility during the manufacturing process. But the U-M team discovered that by reducing the amount of arsenic below levels that were previously considered acceptable, they can "flip" the polarity of silicon dopants, enabling them to use the cheaper, safer element for both the
positive and negative sides.


"Being able to change the polarity of the carrier is kind of like atomic 'ambidexterity,'" said Richard Field, a former U-M doctoral student who worked on the project. "Just like people with naturally born ambidexterity, it's fairly uncommon to find atomic impurities with this ability."

Together, the improved doping process and the new alloy could make the semiconductors used in concentrator photovoltaics as much as 30 percent cheaper to produce, a big step toward making the high-efficiency cells practical for large-scale electricity generation.

"Essentially, this enables us to make these semiconductors with fewer atomic spray cans, and each can is significantly less expensive," Goldman said. "In the manufacturing world, that kind of simplification is very significant. These new alloys and dopants are also more stable, which gives makers more flexibility as the semiconductors move through the manufacturing process."

The new alloy is detailed in a paper titled "Bi-enhanced N incorporation in GaAsNBi alloys," published June 15 in Applied Physics Letters. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research.

The doping advances are detailed in a paper titled "Influence of surface reconstruction on dopant incorporation and transport properties of GaAs(Bi) alloys." It was published in the Dec. 26, 2016, issue of Applied Physics Letters. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.