Getting a handle on how much Cosmic Dust hits the Earth #earth #cosmicdust #CODITA

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Does Earth have a dust build-up problem?

Estimates vary of how much cosmic dust and meteorites enter Earth’s atmosphere each day, but range anywhere from 5 to 300 metric tons, with estimates made from satellite data and extrapolations of meteorite falls. Thing is, no one really knows for sure and so far there hasn’t been any real coordinated efforts to find out. But a new project proposal called Cosmic Dust in the Terrestrial Atmosphere (CODITA) would provide more accurate estimates of how much material hits Earth, as well as how it might affect the atmosphere.

“We have a conundrum – estimates of how much dust comes in vary by a factor of a hundred,” said John Plane from University of Leeds in the UK. “The aim of CODITA is to resolve this huge discrepancy.”
Even though we consider space to be empty, if all the material between the Sun and Jupiter were compressed together it would form a moon 25 km across.

So how much of this stuff – leftovers from the formation of the planets, debris from comets and asteroid collisions, etc. — encounters Earth? Satellite observations suggest that 100-300 metric tons of cosmic dust enter the atmosphere each day. This figure comes from the rate of accumulation in polar ice cores and deep-sea sediments of rare elements linked to cosmic dust, such as iridium and osmium.

But other measurements – which includes meteor radar observations, laser observations and measurements by high altitude aircraft — indicate that the input could be as low as 5 metric ton per day.

Knowing the difference could have a big influence on our understanding of things like climate change and, noctilucent clouds, as well as ozone and ocean chemistry.

“If the dust input is around 200 tons per day, then the particles are being transported down through the middle atmosphere considerably faster than generally believed,” said Plane. “If the 5-tonne figure is correct, we will need to revise substantially our understanding of how dust evolves in the Solar System and is transported from the middle atmosphere to the surface.”
When dust particles approach the Earth they enter the atmosphere at very high speeds, anything from 38,000 to 248,000 km/hour, depending on whether they are orbiting in the same direction or the opposite to the Earth’s motion around the Sun. The particles undergo very rapid heating through collisions with air molecules, reaching temperatures well in excess of 1,600 degrees Celsius. Particles with diameters greater than about 2 millimeters produce visible “shooting stars,” but most of the mass of dust particles entering the atmosphere is estimated to be much smaller than this, so can be detected only using specialized meteor radars.

The metals injected into the atmosphere from evaporating dust particles are involved in a diverse range of phenomena linked to climate change.

“Cosmic dust is associated with the formation of ‘noctilucent’ clouds – the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere. The dust particles provide a surface for the cloud’s ice crystals to form. These clouds develop during summer in the polar regions and they appear to be an indicator of climate change,’ said Plane. “The metals from the dust also affect ozone chemistry in the stratosphere. The amount of dust present will be important for any geo-engineering initiatives to increase sulphate aerosol to offset global warming. Cosmic dust also fertilises the ocean with iron, which has potential climate feedbacks because marine phytoplankton emit climate-related gases.”
The CODITA team will also use laboratory facilities to tackle some of the least well-understood aspects of the problem

“In the lab, we’ll be looking at the nature of cosmic dust evaporation, as well as the formation of meteoric smoke particles, which play a role in ice nucleation and the freezing of polar stratospheric clouds,” said Plane. “The results will be incorporated into a chemistry-climate model of the whole atmosphere. This will make it possible, for the first time, to model the effects of cosmic dust consistently from the outer Solar System to the Earth’s surface.”
CODITA has received a EUR 2.5 million grant from the European Research Council to investigate the dust input over the next 5 years. The international team, led by Plane, is made up of over 20 scientists in the UK, the US and Germany. Plane presented information about the project at the National Astronomy meeting in the UK this week.

*Also see http://youtu.be/DKFXcaR5UaM

*Also see http://youtu.be/5bDAAxCIPJM

*Also see http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=470

*Also see http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/2864/earths-cosmic-dust

*Also see http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/meetings/nam2012/pressreleases/nam24.html

Learn more here http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2013/08/08/While-shooting-stars-get-noticed-cosmic-dust-hitting-us-all-the-time/UPI-45801376006760/

Hearing quality restored with bionic ear technology used for gene therapy: Re-growing auditory nerves

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The research also heralds a possible new way of treating a range of neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, and psychiatric conditions such as depression through this novel way of delivering gene therapy.

The research is published Thursday 24 of April in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“People with cochlear implants do well with understanding speech, but their perception of pitch can be poor, so they often miss out on the joy of music,” says UNSW Professor Gary Housley, who is the senior author of the research paper.

“Ultimately, we hope that after further research, people who depend on cochlear implant devices will be able to enjoy a broader dynamic and tonal range of sound, which is particularly important for our sense of the auditory world around us and for music appreciation,” says Professor Housley, who is also the Director of the Translational Neuroscience Facility at UNSW Medicine.

The research, which has the support of Cochlear Limited through an Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant, has been five years in development. The work centres on regenerating surviving nerves after age-related or environmental hearing loss, using existing cochlear technology. The cochlear implants are “surprisingly efficient” at localised gene therapy in the animal model, when a few electric pulses are administered during the implant procedure.

“This research breakthrough is important because while we have had very good outcomes with our cochlear implants so far, if we can get the nerves to grow close to the electrodes and improve the connections between them, then we’ll be able to have even better outcomes in the future,” says Jim Patrick, Chief Scientist and Senior Vice-President, Cochlear Limited.

It has long been established that the auditory nerve endings regenerate if neurotrophins — a naturally occurring family of proteins crucial for the development, function and survival of neurons — are delivered to the auditory portion of the inner ear, the cochlea.

But until now, research has stalled because safe, localised delivery of the neurotrophins can’t be achieved using drug delivery, nor by viral-based gene therapy. Professor Housley and his team at UNSW developed a way of using electrical pulses delivered from the cochlear implant to deliver the DNA to the cells close to the array of implanted electrodes. These cells then produce neurotrophins.

“No-one had tried to use the cochlear implant itself for gene therapy,” says Professor Housley. “With our technique, the cochlear implant can be very effective for this.” While the neurotrophin production dropped away after a couple of months, Professor Housley says ultimately the changes in the hearing nerve may be maintained by the ongoing neural activity generated by the cochlear implant.

“We think it’s possible that in the future this gene delivery would only add a few minutes to the implant procedure,” says the paper’s first author, Jeremy Pinyon, whose PhD is based on this work. “The surgeon who installs the device would inject the DNA solution into the cochlea and then fire electrical impulses to trigger the DNA transfer once the implant is inserted.”

Integration of this technology into other ‘bionic’ devices such as electrode arrays used in deep brain stimulation (for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and depression, for example) could also afford opportunities for safe, directed gene therapy of complex neurological disorders.

“Our work has implications far beyond hearing disorders,” says co-author Associate Professor Matthias Klugmann, from the UNSW Translational Neuroscience Facility research team. “Gene therapy has been suggested as a treatment concept even for devastating neurological conditions and our technology provides a novel platform for safe and efficient gene transfer into tissues as delicate as the brain.”

Learn more here http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-04-quality-bionic-ear-technology-gene.html

IRS Employees Act Up, Don’t Pay Taxes But Still Get Bonuses—IRS Gone Wild?

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A new report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is unlikely to improve the picture. This latest watchdog report covers the payment of performance bonuses to IRS employees as well as various other incentives and award payments. That may sound like a yawn except for a key fact that is likely to shock most people in the business world.

When the IRS awards performance bonuses, the report states, the IRS doesn’t distinguish between an employee who is unimpeachable and one who has been cited for misconduct. Come again, you ask? You heard right.

Cash bonuses, time off awards and other perks are awarded by the IRS. But the report says that IRS employees with misconduct and other faults still get the bonuses and other perks. This is hardly an isolated problem. The report reveals that the IRS brass handing out the awards simply did not consider employee misconduct.

How is that possible? Well, even something as fundamental as tax compliance issues–like employees of the tax agency failing to pay their own taxes–was not sufficient to nix an award. And the numbers are astounding.

Between October 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012, more than 2,800 IRS employees with recent bad conduct in their record received more than $2.8 million in cash awards, more than 27,000 hours in time-off awards, and 175 quality step increases in their IRS employment. Among these awards, more than 1,100 IRS employees with substantiated Federal tax compliance problems received more than $1 million in cash awards, more than 10,000 hours in time-off awards, and 69 quality step increases within a year after the IRS substantiated their tax compliance problem.

These weren’t isolated instances and they weren’t old and cold. The report also notes that a 1998 federal statute actually requires the removal of IRS employees who have committed certain acts of misconduct. One act is if the IRS employee willfully fails to pay federal taxes. Despite this clear statute, notes the report, the IRS doesn’t discriminate!

Is there a happy ending to this Alice in Wonderland Story? Sort of. The report says that in light of these findings, the IRS has agreed to change its policy in the future. Well, that’s progress, but did someone not see this?

In any case, soon, there will be a policy that will require the management of the IRS to consider conduct issues resulting in disciplinary action before the agency awards all types of performance awards. Who would have thought it?

Considering that the U.S. tax system is built primarily on voluntary compliance, having confidence that we have a fair and impartial tax system is pivotal. That’s one reason the IRS targeting scandal has so deeply undermined the trust people have in the tax agency. As we peel back layers from the IRS, it can seem harder and harder to apply normal standards.

Noam Chomsky helps explain the ‘Fox Effect’ in upcoming film ‘Brainwashing of my Dad’

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Writer and documentarian Jen Senko has released a trailer for the film “The Brainwashing of my Dad,” in which she explores her father’s political conversion from lifelong Democrat into angry, ultra-conservative talk radio listener.

Talking Points Memo reported that Senko raised funds for the project via Kickstarter.

The donor page explained, “As filmmaker, Jen Senko, tries to understand the transformation of her father from a mild mannered life-long Democrat to an angry, Right-Wing fanatic, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media by the GOP, The Powell Memo and the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine, all of which would ultimately misinform millions, divide families and even the country itself.”

Author Noam Chomsky, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters and others appear in the film, explaining how conservative media has become a billion dollar business in the U.S. and what steps could be taken to break its stranglehold on the national discourse. The film is set to premiere in August of 2014.

See the Kickstarter campaign here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jensenko/the-brainwashing-of-my-dad-documentary