Sci/Tech briefs

NASA to launch rocket on Tuesday

NASA will soon be launching a prototype of its newly designed next-generation rocket, called Ares I. The launch of this prototype will occur at 8 a.m. EDT on Oct. 27 at the Kennedy Space Center.
The first stage of the capsule will be launched on Tuesday, and this prototype also has a fake second stage capsule and crew capsule attached on top of the first stage.
Ares I was designed to replace NASA’s old fleet of space shuttles that carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit (an orbit close to Earth).

This flight marks NASA’s first test launch for a crew-carrying rocket since 1981. However, whether Ares I will eventually replace the old fleet depends upon a pending decision by the Obama administration based on the review of a study on U.S. human space plans.

The study claims that NASA should focus on creating a heavy-lift rocket that could take humans to areas farther in the solar system, like the moon or Mars.


Electric shock helps deliver AIDS vaccine

Researchers claim that giving brief electric shocks while administering certain experimental AIDS vaccines can cause the vaccines to be more effective. The device being used for this technique resembles a handgun and is able to give three brief electric shocks while injecting the vaccine. The electric shocks cause the cell membranes to open up briefly, allowing better absorption of the vaccine.

Scientists claim that the technique, called electroporation, will be especially useful while using vaccines made up of the pathogen’s own genetic material. Once this genetic material is injected into the cell, it can elicit an immune response in the body, thus preparing the body for future attacks by the same pathogen. In the study, a vaccine made up of four genes from an AIDS virus found in China was administered to groups of subjects, some with and some without the electric shocks. None of the subjects given the vaccine without the shock had an immune response, while all those given high doses of the shock along with the vaccine had an immune response.

Source: Reuters

Scientists find neurons that code time

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered neurons that keep track of time in primates. The team trained two macaque monkeys to perform some tasks involving eye movement. During the course of the task, the scientists discovered that a certain set of neurons fired at specific intervals after the task was started.

The researchers concluded that these neurons were coding the time during the task. These findings were published in last week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This research could be especially beneficial for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Such patients appear to have impaired time-keeping functions, as time passes more slowly for them and they have difficulty performing activities that require rhythmic coordination, like dancing.

Source: ScienceDaily