Thirdhand Smoke Damages Human Cells

Thirdhand Smoke Damages Human Cells - Thirdhand smoke, the residue from cigarette smoke that lingers on surfaces and in dust long after the cigarette is out and the smoke has cleared, may damage human cells, a new study finds.

The researchers used two standard laboratory tests to assess the toxicity of thirdhand smoke. They showed that a compound found in smoke residue, called tobacco-specific nitrosamine, significantly damages DNA in human cells.

"This is the very first study to show that thirdhand smoke is mutagenic and causes DNA damage, which is considered as one of the first steps toward cancer," said study researcher Lara Gundel, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Though the harmful effects of cigarette smoking are well-known, the question of whether exposure to thirdhand smoke is also a health concern has often been overlooked, the researchers said.

Thirdhand smoke is the smell that remains on the clothes and hair of someone who has just smoked, or the odor left in hotel rooms where smokers stayed. The chemicals are derivatives of nicotine, and remain in indoor environments, absorbed in the fabric of curtains and carpeting, and on the surface of other objects.

However, the extent to which the chemicals could be hazardous to people is still unknown.

"The purpose of the study was to find how toxic and hazardous some compounds in thirdhand smoke are, and by what mechanisms they can cause harm," Gundel said.

In the study, the researchers put paper strips in smoking chambers. Some of the samples were left for only 20 minutes, after which the researchers measured the residue; the researchers called this "acute exposure." Other strips were left for nearly 200 days in a smoking chamber that was ventilated, to create a "chronic exposure" condition.

The researchers then extracted the chemicals from the paper strips, and exposed cells to the chemicals.

The results showed that the chronic samples had a higher concentration of thirdhand smoke residue than the acute samples. The chronic samples also caused higher levels of DNA damage.

"The cumulative effect of thirdhand smoke is quite significant," Gundel said. "The findings suggest the materials could be getting more toxic with time."

One important characteristic of thirdhand smoke is that its residue can interact with compounds in the air, such as ozone, and produce new toxins, the researchers said.

It is difficult to say when it is safe to enter a place where a smoker has formerly lived, as the emission seems to continue for a long time.

Cleaning a home or a car that has been smoked in doesn't seem to solve the problem. The researchers said they encountered people who complained about buying a used car that didn't smell at first but after a few days started to smell as if somebody had smoked in it.

"Even when you paint the walls, it covers the smell for a short time, but then the compounds work their way through the painting," Gundel said.

"We can take up markers from former smoking months, and sometimes even years after the smoker has left," the researchers said.

Future studies should investigate the effects of nitrosamines and other compounds found in thirdhand smoke on people by looking at blood samples, the researchers said.

The study was published June 13 in the journal Mutagenesis, and was funded by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, which is managed by the University of California and funded by state cigarette taxes. )

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Crick DNA Nobel Medal Auctioned for $2 Million

Crick DNA Nobel Medal Auctioned for $2 MillionA Nobel Prize medal honoring the discovery of DNA's twisted ladder shape was sold at auction today (April 11) in New York for more than $2 million.

Francis Crick was one of three men awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for deciphering the DNA molecule's double-helix structure in 1953. Sixty years after the discovery, the CEO of a Chinese biomedical firm paid $2,270,500 for Crick's medal and accompanying diploma at Heritage Auctions.

At a separate sale yesterday, a letter penned by Crick set the world record for any letter ever sold at auction. An anonymous bidder paid just over $6 million for the note Crick wrote to his 12-year-old son that explained the DNA discovery and was signed "lots of love, Daddy." The previous record was set in 2008 when someone paid $3.4 million for an anti-slavery letter written by Abraham Lincoln.

This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. ET to include the buyer's name and comments from Crick's son and granddaughter.

"It's a win for science worldwide," Kindra Crick, granddaughter of the famous researcher, told LiveScience today after the auction.

A chunk of the proceeds from this week's sales are set to benefit research institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom. Crick's family and Heritage Auctions plan to donate a portion of today's earnings to The Francis Crick Institute, a medical research institute, scheduled to open in London in 2015. And some of the proceeds from yesterday's letter auction are set go to the Salk Institute in California, where Crick, who died in 2004, studied consciousness later in his career.

There was little precedent for today's sale. Heritage Auctions had valued the Nobel medal and diploma at $500,000 — a fourth of what it raked in. Nobel medals appear to have changed hands publicly in only a couple of instances and none had been publicly auctioned off before. Crick's medal might be considered particularly valuable as it honored one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

As early as the late 1800s, scientists knew that the DNA molecule existed, but not what it looked like or its true function. The discovery of DNA's double helix structure was key to understanding how the molecule worked as a code for genes.

The medal and diploma were bought by Jack Wang, the CEO of Biomobie, a biomedical company based in Shanghai. Wang flew to New York for the auction and said in a statement that he hopes the objects will inspire discoveries that "recover damaged human organs and retard the aging process, achieving the goal of self recovering from disease and poor health conditions."

Kindra Crick said she was confident the buyer would carry on her grandfather's "vision of going after profound discovery" and said he was interested in displaying the medal publicly.

At yesterday's sale at Christie's auction house in New York, an anonymous buyer purchased Francis Crick's seven-page handwritten note to his son with a $5.3 million bid over the phone. Buyer's premium included, the final price tag for the "Secret of Life" letter came in at $6,059,750. Christie's had valued the letter at $1-2 million, comparing its value to a letter Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning about the potential of nuclear weapons. Christie's sold that letter in 2002 for just over $2 million.

"I had expectations, but they weren't that high," the scientist's son Michael Crick, now 72, told LiveScience. He remembers reading it 60 years ago.

"I was in the sick room at boarding school and I really didn't have anything to do when this letter arrived," Crick said. "So I read it very thoroughly."

Dated March 19, 1953, the letter contains diagrams that outline the scientists' model for how "des-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully)" replicates and encodes instructions for the development and function of living things.

"In other words we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life," the scientist wrote to his son.

"It is a very beautiful letter," Michael Crick said. "He wrote it just at my level."

As legend has it, when James Watson and Crick made their discovery on Feb. 28, 1953, Crick announced inside a local Cambridge pub called the Eagle, "We have discovered the secret of life." Their findings wouldn't be published in the journal Nature until two months later, and the note to Michael is likely one of the first written explanations of the discovery.

Other Francis Crick-related mementos went under the hammer today. His award check with his endorsement on the back sold for $77,675; the scientist's lab coat went for $8,962; his gardening journals sold for $10,755; and a set of his nautical logs and books snagged $1,792. A bidder also paid $4,182 for Crick's personal copy of Charles Darwin's "The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle."

And yesterday, one of Crick's notebooks was sold at Christie's for $21,250, and drawing of Crick made by his wife, Odile Crick, an artist who drew the double helix for her husband and Watson, was auctioned off for $17,500. ( )

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Mysterious Sundial May Be Secret to Viking Navigation

Mysterious Sundial May Be Secret to Viking Navigation - A mysterious Viking sundial found in Greenland may have helped the ancient mariners sail at the same north-south latitude across the Atlantic, new research suggests.

The study, detailed Tuesday (April 9) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A Mathematical and Physical Sciences, suggests that the raiding Norsemen might have been even more impressive sailors than previously thought.

"It is widely accepted that Norse people were excellent mariners. Now it seems they used much more sophisticated navigational instruments than we thought before," said study co-author Balázs Bernáth, a researcher at Eötvös University in Hungary. 

An artist's impression of a Viking ship.

The wooden artifact found in Uunartoq, Greenland may have been a 10th century sundial used for determining latitude on the Vikings' trans-Atlantic journeys

Mysterious artifact

Exactly how Vikings navigated the open seas has been the subject of speculation and folklore. Researchers think the Vikings used sophisticated sun compasses to find true north and relied on a "magic" crystal to navigate on cloudy days. (Scientists recently unearthed evidence of one of these Viking sunstones.) 

In 1948, an archaeologist discovered a mysterious wooden artifact under the ruins of a Benedictine monastery in a fjord in Uunartoq, Greenland, which was settled by Norse farmers during the 10th century. The artifact, shaped into a half-circle, had a center hole and a zigzag engraved along its perimeter. Several lines had also been scratched onto the plate's interior.

Some skeptics argued it was a household decoration, but most researchers thought it was an elusive Viking sun compass. Past researchers even took a similarly constructed compass aboard replica Viking ships and tested its navigational mettle.

But navigational lines scored on the compass were incomplete, so this ancient sundial wasn't great at finding North. It was off by about one degree, which could lead to days of sailing in the wrong direction, said Amit Lerner, an ocean optics researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who was not involved in the study.

Ancient mariners

That led the team behind the new study to wonder whether the compass had a more sophisticated primary function: determining latitude, or the north-south position on the globe.

"Vikings performed latitude sailing, which means crossing open seas along a chosen latitude. For example, they regularly sailed more than 1,600 miles [2,500 kilometers] along the 61st latitude from Norway to Greenland and back. To do that one needs a fine compass or needs to regularly check his or her current latitude," Bernath said.

But wind and ocean currents would have quickly diverted the Vikings' small ships, forcing the mariners to frequently check their latitude to stay on course. While Arabian sailors used the stars to check latitude, Vikings sailed near the Arctic Circle, where the sun never sets in summer. So they must have navigated by the sun, not the stars, researchers reasoned.

The team found that at noon every day, when the sun is highest in the sky, a dial in the center of the compass would have cast a shadow between two lines on the plate. The ancient seafarers could have measured the length of that noon shadow using scaling lines on the dial, and then determined the latitude.

But while the calculations of latitude and longitude may be accurate, there's no way to test their hypothesis, Lerner told LiveScience.

"Nobody can know for sure if it's true or not," Lerner said. ( )

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Secret Population of Orangutans Found

Secret Population of Orangutans Found

Secret Population of Orangutans Found - A population of 200 of the world's rarest orangutans was found tucked away in the forests of the island of Borneo, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

All subspecies of Bornean orangutans are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. But scientists estimate just 3,000 to 4,500 individuals are left in the subspecies known as Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, making them the most severely threatened.

Two-thousand of those live in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, researchers say. The previously unknown population was found by conservationists near the Batang park, in an area covering about 54 square miles (140 square kilometers).

Local communities apparently had been aware of the apes, but no major research projects had been undertaken in the area until February, when conservations with WCS and other groups surveyed the region. They found a total of 995 orangutan nests, including fresh nests that indicated the rare population was recently using the area.

Previously, researchers studying fresh nests left by wild orangutans in Indonesia found they are incredibly complex, made in the crooks of large branches. The orangutans bend and interweave living branches about an inch (3 centimeters) wide to form the nest.

"They are just bent. They can actually stay living and later on you can go back to them and see they are like an archeological artifact of all these strangely bent items," said Roland Ennos of the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, when the study was published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "It's very similar to weaving a basket, they have to break the branches, weave them together and form a nice, strong, rigid structure."

The Sarawak state government is now mulling new protections (including new national parks) for the area where the hidden orangutans were documented. ( )

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Must be from the Jaw-rassic period!

Must be from the Jaw-rassic period! The open mouth fossil of 195-million-year-old dolphin-like creature found on Dorset beach - The 18-inch fossil of an ichthyosaur was found near Lyme Regis - The creature's mouth is still open in the unique find

The remains of a 195-million-year-old reptile have been discovered on Britain's Jurassic Coast.

Geologist Richard Edmonds stumbled across the 18-inch fossil of an ichthyosaur - a dolphin-like sea creature - near Lyme Regis in Dorset.

Mr Edmonds spotted a small part of the perfectly-preserved jaw of the extinct reptile sticking out of the mud - and said he almost ignored it.

The remains of a 195-million-year-old reptile discovered on Britain's Jurassic Coast. Geologist Richard Edmonds stumbled across the 1.5ft fossil of an ichthyosaur - a dolphin-like sea creature - near Lyme Regis, Dorset.
The remains of a 195-million-year-old reptile discovered on Britain's Jurassic Coast. Geologist Richard Edmonds stumbled across the fossil of an ichthyosaur - a dolphin-like sea creature - near Lyme Regis, Dorset

  • Ichthyosaurs swam in the sea at the same time dinosaurs roamed the land, which was around 220 to 65 million years ago.
  • The beasts would have looked similar to dolphins but were reptilian.
  • The earliest ichthyosaurs had long, flexible bodies and probably swam by undulating, like living eels
But on closer inspection the 50-year-old fossil hunter realised it was a full ichthyosaur jaw.

It is said to be a finer example than the ichthyosaur fossils held by the Natural History Museum because the beast's mouth is open.

It was found along a 100-mile stretch of Dorset coast which was made a World Heritage Site in 2001 because of its wealth of fossils.

Mr Edmonds, earth science manager at the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, said:

'I spotted a piece of bone in the shale but it was so insignificant I almost didn't bother with it.
'Then I had a closer look and within a few seconds the whole jaw almost fell out of the rock.

'Looking for these things are like searching for a needle in a haystack so it was a really exciting moment when I realised what I'd found.

'It took me about 45 minutes to extract all the pieces and then another 60 hours to prepare the fossil.

'It is a very exciting process piecing all the bits back together.

An artist's impression of the ichthyosaur, which looked similar to dolphins but were reptilian
An artist's impression of the ichthyosaur, which looked similar to dolphins but were reptilian

A complete fossil of ichthyosaur
A complete fossil of Ichthyosaurs, which swam in the sea at the same time dinosaurs roamed the land

'It's quite unusual to see a fossil like this one with a gaping mouth,' said Mr Edmonds.

'You won't see anything like this one at the Natural History Museum.'

Mr Edmonds, who has been collecting fossils since 1973, said the secret to his success was sheer tenacity.

He added: 'I've spent all my holiday this year on the ledges looking for ichthyosaurs.

'I must have spent 40 days walking up and down the beach.

'It's been like playing the lottery - they're just so hard to find.'

The ichthyosaur fossil will go on display at Lyme Regis Museum. ( )

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Sputnik II and Laika, the first dog in space, re-enters Earth's atmosphere

Sputnik II and Laika, the first dog in space, re-enters Earth's atmosphere - Laika was a stray and had been hand-picked for the mission which aimed to discover what would happen to a living creature in space

The spacecraft Sputnik II re-entered the Earth's atmosphere after 162 days in space bearing a special passenger - Laika, a female part-Samoyed terrier.

The 4-metre cone-shaped satellite was the second to enter Earth's orbit on 3 November 1957. It also had the distinction of carrying the first living animal into space.

Laika was a stray and had been hand-picked for the mission, which aimed to discover what would happen to a living creature in space. Soviet officials only revealed shortly after blast-off the canine was doomed to die in space.

Accommodation for the one-way trip provided food and water, a waste bag and room to lie down or stand. Laika was also fitted with a harness and electrodes to monitor her vital signs.

Laika's heartbeat was closely monitored after the launch and data showed the dog had suffered from stress in the early hours of the mission.

Laika the dog in Sputnik II (CSU Archv/Everett / Rex Features) 

For years it was believed the dog had died painlessly a week after blast off but in 2002 it was revealed the poor animal had perished just a few hours after launch from overheating and stress. The space craft was incinerated on re-entry into the Earth's upper atmosphere.

This ominous Pathé news report of Sputnik II shows the historical launch and its unusual passenger.

Footage shows both Russian and American stations monitoring the orbiting vessel.

The Western narrator observes this mission "means Russia probably has an operational intercontinental ballistic missile" - a prospect that would have angered and worried USSR's enemies the United States and the United Kingdom.

Sputnik II came at the beginning of the Space Race - a competition between the USSR and the United States for supremacy in space exploration - but the Soviet Union won early ground with its small spacecraft and living passenger. ( Yahoo! News )

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'Da Vinci's Demons' Review: Renaissance Man, Meet Batman

'Da Vinci's Demons' Review: Renaissance Man, Meet Batman - David S. Goyer traffics in superheroes, and he's found one in 15th century Florence. 

The co-writer of the "Dark Knight" trilogy and the upcoming "Man of Steel," has imagined for us a Leonardo Da Vinci nearly as relatable as a billionaire who dresses up like a bat or a flying super-powered alien. 

That's good, because for "Da Vinci's Demons," debuting tonight, we need a steady guide through a Renaissance-era Florence that feels somewhere between gritty Gotham and sleek Krypton. The CGI prettiness of the scenes can mix oddly with the grittiness of the story - but then a bird or a plane or some device merging the two takes flight, and all is forgiven. 

With his beard, leather jacket, and textured haircut, Da Vinci (Tom Riley) doesn't look much different from the other L.A. actor-types who populate so many cable dramas. So at least there's something familiar as the swooping cameras take us through lovely if overly computer-generated settings, from dizzying towers to rolling hills and gorgeous courtyards. 

The great strength of Goyer's Batman films is how realistic they feel - not just alive, but jittery and adrenalized, as if every glass is about to crash and every bone about to pop. Dangerously alive.
Reuters/Reuters - Creator and executive producer David S. Goyer takes part in a panel discussion of Starz's "Da Vinci's Demons" during the 2013 Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

"Da Vinci" doesn't have that feeling, yet, though the show does go for earthiness with a fair amount of nudity, even of the rarely seen full-frontal middle-aged variety. It helps us feel that we're among flesh-and-blood human beings, even amid the nagging sense that we're going into the false dreamscape of visual effects. 

The conflict is at the heart of the big challenge for "Da Vinci's Demons": How to bring a sense of urgency to a far-off world. HBO's "Game of Thrones" gushes life through the fictional land of Westeros, and its realness makes its fantasy sequences all the more jaw-dropping. That's a balance "Demons" doesn't yet strike. Florence could use a little more of Gotham's grime. 

Fortunately, it feels like it will get there, thanks in part to plenty of nasty characters eager to shed clothes and blood. They include double agents, middle-aged men who don't treat their boyish companions very nicely, the church, and the Medicis. 

All the intrigue can be hard to follow at first. But fortunately, we see it through the keen eyes of our hero, who has enough touchstones with Batman for us to understand his essential struggle even if we know next to nothing about the Renaissance. 

As Goyer has noted before, both Da Vinci and Bruce Wayne are haunted by parental loss at a young age and both had horrific, life-changing experiences in a cave. As we see in the series premiere, the similarities don't stop there. 

Both are also fascinated by artificial flight, inhabit corrupted cities full of grotesque villains, and are closely linked to a mysterious secret society. 

Wayne may be a Renaissance man, but Da Vinci was the original. 

He's a painter, swordsman, inventor and lover who really wants a contract to make military weapons, because, he figures, war is where the innovation is. 

Like any great hero, he also has weaknesses - which may turn out to be strengths. First, he's a bastard, forced to make his own way rather than relying on family wealth. (Between "Da Vinci" and "Game of Thrones," bastards are having quite a nice run lately on premium cable.) His determination makes him smarter and tougher than the nobles. 

He's also overly fond of opium. But the visions he experiences on it - besides providing some of the show's many lovely visuals - also provide him answers about his mysterious past. 

That mystery has plenty of potential to drive "Da Vinci's Demons" forward. He quickly learns from a smoking buddy named "The Turk" that something called "The Book of Leaves" contains secrets that can help advance his already far-ahead-of-their time contraptions, which include, in the first episode, a hang glider prototype and flying mechanical birds. 

If you have trouble following the drama or keeping track of the characters, don't worry. The visuals will keep you occupied as the show rolls out and explains its conspiracies. 

The show's first flying sequence - in which Da Vinci helps his young assistant take to the sky - is kind of underwhelming. That's too bad, because later ones are simply beautiful. 

In one scene, Da Vinci watches birds fly from a cage and sketches their movements. We see the birds freeze, as they do in his mind, and his sketches appear in place of the birds. It's a brilliant way to show us how Da Vinci's mind works. Later, in another sweeping sequence, we see how Da Vinci translates life into art and then into a merger of the two. 

Here's hoping "Da Vinci's Demons" can do the same. ( )

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