World's largest asteroid impact zone believed uncovered by ANU researchers in central Australia

Rock features showing shock metamorphic deformation in the mineral quartz from the Warburton Basin impact.
Australian scientists have uncovered what is believed to be the largest asteroid impact zone ever found on Earth, in central Australia.

A team lead by Dr Andrew Glikson from the Australian National University (ANU) said two ancient craters found in central Australia were believed to have been caused by one meteorite that broke in two.

"They appear to be two large structures, with each of them approximately 200 kilometres," Dr Glikson said.

"So together, jointly they would form a 400 kilometre structure which is the biggest we know of anywhere in the world.

"The consequences are that it could have caused a large mass extinction event at the time, but we still don't know the age of this asteroid impact and we are still working on it."

The material at both impact sites appears to be identical which has led researchers to believe they are from the same meteorite.

Over millions of years the obvious craters have disappeared, but geothermal research drilling revealed the secret history hidden under an area including South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

"The next step will be more research, hopefully deep crust seismic traverses," Dr Glikson said.

"Under the Cooper Basin and Warburton Basin we don't have that information and our seismic information covers up to five kilometres and some other data such as seismic tomography and magnetic data.

"The mantle underneath has been up-domed which is a very promising indication of a major event."

There are many unanswered questions about the underground site and whether the twin asteroid impact could have affected life on earth at the time.

"When we know more about the age of the impact, then we will know whether it correlates with one of the large mass extinctions [at the end of specific eras].

"At this stage we do not have all the answers, but there has been a lot of interest and people are certainly interested in any impact on the dinosaurs."

The research has been published in the geology journal Tectonophysics.

Mercedes Benz Prague Fashion Weekend

The largest fashion event in the Czech Republic

MBPFW presents renowned foreign brands in the commercial section. 

MBPFW works with distinctive aesthetics inspired by fashion shows in Paris or Milan. The aim of its choreography is to connect different arts disciplines.

MBPFW is the only fashion event in the Czech Republic that has an international overlap (it is a part of the international network of fashion weeks organized under the patronage of Mercedes-Benz similar to New York, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow, Istanbul or México City).

MBPFW’s emphasis is on an attractive audience from the worlds of fashion, design, art and business.

Every year, MBPFW welcomes important guests from the Czech Republic as well as from abroad.

MBPFW cooperates with Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague and is organized under the auspices thereof.

MBPFW does not mean just fashion shows. A number of side events take place during the entire week ending with the fashion weekend – we want Prague to be(come) alive with design and fashion!

FEBIOFEST | International Film Festival Prague

International Film Festival Prague – FEBIOFEST was founded in 1993 by FEBIO, an independent film and TV company. Starting as an enthusiastically organized, basically no-budget event for a couple of friends and film buffs, FEBIOFEST has grown during the past years into one of the largest film festivals in the Czech Republic, which nevertheless still maintains its original profile as an audience-friendly festival.

Situated in the modern 12-screen multiplex, Cinestar Andel, FEBIOFEST guarantees excellent screening conditions for all formats, not to mention supreme comfort for festival-goers.

When evening rolls around, FEBIOFEST also transforms itself into the widely attended and increasingly popular FEBIOFEST MUSIC FESTIVAL, showcasing world music, jazz, blues, avant-garde and alternative rock concerts in the multiplex cinema garages.

To filmmakers and celebrities, FEBIOFEST offers a pleasant stay in Prague – the city of Kafka, beer and film buffs, at hotels conveniently located next to the festival cinema and close to the Czech capital’s magical Old Town.

In recent years, FEBIOFEST has hosted renowned directors and actors such as Nanni Moretti, Claude Lelouch, Peter Weir, Olivier Assayas Roman Polanski, Volker Schloendorff, Isztvan Szabo, Tsai Ming-Liang, Tom Tykwer, Hal Hartley, Andrey Konchalovski, Armin Mueller Stahl, Nikita Michalkov, Carlos Saura and Claudia Cardinale.

Basically the festival is oriented towards full length films, bringing to Czech audiences the best films of the last year, as well as distribution premieres, retrospectives and tributes. It also discovers new territories and unknown filmmakers, and features special sections dedicated to gay and lesbian cinema, children’s films (FEBIOFEST JUNIOR), and even experimental films.

Thanks to its broad overview of the latest and best cinematography from around the world, high quality screenings and famous guests, every year the festival’s exceptional program draws large, curious and appreciative audiences of all ages and receives much critical acclaim in the press, not to mention the keen interest of local distributors.

After the festival has completed its run in Prague, selected films (mostly distribution pre-premieres) travel to 8 other Czech cities to give movie lovers beyond the capital an opportunity to see high quality films. The spirit of FEBIOFEST even makes its way to neighboring Slovakia, where the Slovak FEBIOFEST is organized independently.


Amount of money that art sells for is shocking, says painter Gerhard Richter

‘The records keep being broken and every time my initial reaction is one of horror,’ says world-famous German artist, after sale of one of his works for £30m.

Gerhard Richter, the world-famous German painter, has expressed his incredulity at the astronomical sums paid for his works, calling the art market “hopelessly excessive” and saying that prices are rarely a reflection on quality.

Richter, 83, told the German daily Die Zeit he had watched the outcome of a recent auction at Sotheby’s in London with horror after an anonymous buyer paid £30.4m (€41m, $46.5m) for his 1986 oil-on-canvas, Abstraktes Bild.

We artists get next to nothing from such an auction. Except for a small morsel, all the profit goes to the sellerGerhard Richter

“The records keep being broken and every time my initial reaction is one of horror even if it’s actually welcome news. But there is something really shocking about the amount,” Richter said.

He said he believed people who paid so much money for his paintings were foolish and foresaw that prices for his art would crash “when the art market corrects itself”, as he was convinced it would.

Seen as the leader of the New European Painting movement which emerged in the second half of the 20th century, Richter made a name for himself with “photo-paintings” that replicate photographs and are then “blurred” with a squeegee or a brush.

The price paid for Abstraktes Bild amounted to a staggering 5,000-fold increase on the price he had originally sold it for, he said.

He told the weekly newspaper that he understood as much about the art market as he did “about Chinese or physics”, and said contrary to a common perception he hardly benefited at all from such sales.

“We artists get next to nothing from such an auction. Except for a small morsel, all the profit goes to the seller,” he said.
Gerhard Richter in front of one of his paintings at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in June 2012.Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

Richter said he was given the impression by gallery owners that he was inclined to undervalue his own work. Recently, having set the price of one of his photographs at €2,000, he said he was told by a gallery owner: “You can’t sell that for €2,000, it needs to be more like €10,000 or €20,000.”

He was relieved, he said, that he did not have much to do with the buying and selling process. “Luckily I can … shut my studio door on most of the discussion about the market and prices. I’m good at suppressing it,” he added.

He said that while it had been years since he had seen Abstraktes Bild – created by his trademark technique of building up paint and then pulling it away with a piece of wood – he remembered it being a “quite good” piece of art, in contrast to his painting Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) which last year fetched €29m at auction.

“I found that odd,” he said. “I don’t think the picture is that great … when I heard what it had gone for at auction, I thought ‘that’s completely over the top’.”

Richter, who was born in Dresden, said he was nonplussed as to how and why auctions had become so important. “It is really quite alarming, particularly when you take a look at the catalogues. They always send them to me and they get worse and worse. You cannot imagine what rubbish is offered, at prices that are rising all the time,” he said. He said that both “serious galleries” and young artists were suffering as a result.

“Many of the young artists go straight to auctions in order to earn the big bucks. So in contrast to the past artists cannot develop slowly. And the business is getting more anonymous. In the end it just comes down to the price.”

Richter fondly recalled the memory of selling Abstraktes Bild almost 30 years ago to a Cologne collector “for I think around 15,000 marks” (around €7,670). “I was very proud that it became part of his collection.”

Cogs in the machine: how the art market became obsessed with money

No one who had bought his works in recent years, he said, had ever contacted him to show an interest in him or his work, implying that they were only interested in the work’s investment value. He confirmed that often his works were among those bought as safe, tax-free capital investments and stored in art bunkers in east Asia or Switzerland.

Richter said he had resigned himself to the fact that “hardly any one talks about art any more. Even in the arts pages of the broadsheets”.

He said he was virtually powerless to alter the prices of his works. Attempting to torpedo the high prices by offering new works at lower prices only backfired, he said. “I made 100 small original paintings and sold them very cheaply. They sold immediately and promptly ended up being sold at auction … you cannot escape the market.”

Richter said that an original work of art had barely any meaning for him and he had many reproductions hanging in his studio.

He praised an initiative offered at Tate Modern in London where he had an exhibition in 2011, in which his works were run off on a printer. “I found it terrific … they had an online printer that printed off loads of my pictures so that everyone could take one home with them.”

He admitted he never buys art himself. “I don’t spend money on art,” he said. “I like looking at paintings, but I go to a museum to do so. I don’t have to own art myself.”

Chef Jamie Oliver Proves McDonald’s Burgers “Unfit for Human Consumption”

Chef Jamie Oliver has won his long-fought battle against one of the largest fast food chains in the world – McDonalds. After Oliver showed how McDonald’s hamburgers are made, the franchise finally announced that it will change its recipe, and yet there was barely a peep about this in the mainstream, corporate media.

Oliver repeatedly explained to the public, over several years – in documentaries, television shows and interviews – that the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption. According to the chef and hamburger enthusiast, Jamie Oliver, who has undertaken a war against the fast food industry, “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”

Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver famously coined this the “the pink slime process.”

“Why would any sensible human being put meat filled with ammonia in the mouths of their children?” Oliver asked.

In one of his colorful demonstrations, Oliver demonstrates to children how nuggets are made. After selecting the best parts of the chicken, the remains (fat, skin and internal organs) are processed for these fried foods.

After years of trying to break America, Jamie Oliver has finally made his mark by persuading one of the biggest U.S fast food chains in the world to change their burger recipe. 

McDonald's have altered the ingredients after the Naked Chef forced them to remove a processed food type that he labelled 'pink slime'.

The food activist was shocked when he learned that ammonium hydroxide was being used by McDonald's to convert fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for its burgers in the USA.

The filler product made headlines after he denounced it on his show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. 

'Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process we can give it to humans' said the TV chef. 

Jamie showed American audiences the raw 'pink slime' produced in the ammonium hydroxide process used by producers named Beef Products Inc (BPI).

'Pink slime' has never been used in McDonald's beef patties in the UK and Ireland which source their meat from farmers within the two countries.

Now after months of campaigning on his hit US television show McDonald's have admitted defeat and the fast food giant has abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.

US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Geral Zirnstein agreed with Jamie that ammonium hydroxide agent should be banned.

'Pink slime' has never been used in McDonald's beef patties in the UK and Ireland which source their meat from farmers within the two countries.

Now after months of campaigning on his hit US television show McDonald's have admitted defeat and the fast food giant has abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.


In 1999 Jamie Oliver began his TV chef career in the British TV series 'The Naked Chef.' He was awarded an MBE for his services to hospitality. But his healthy eating crusade, hasn't always gone smoothly in the U.S.

Crying on TV: In 2010 while filming 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' he broke down when he met serious resistance after the residents of America's country's fattest city, Huntington, West Virginia, were uninterested in his advice. After a confrontation with school dinner ladies, the TV chef sobbed: 'They don't understand me. They don't know why I'm here.'

Letterman setback: That year he suffered another setback with a doom-filled lecture from chatshow host David Letterman. The host told Oliver he believed diet pills were the only successful way to lose weight in the U.S. and that he expected humans to 'evolve to the point where 1,000 years from now we all weigh 500-600lbs and it will be OK.'

UPP WINER - Underwater Photographer Of The Year

THE YEAR (2015):
'50 Tons Of Me'
Nuno Sá / United Photo Press
Three esteemed judges, Alex Mustard, Martin Edge and Peter Rowlands had the pleasure of going through 2500 entries from 40 countries to select the award winners. 

“It was highly enjoyable, but something we took very seriously. Every judge saw every picture multiple times, I think we probably know some of the images better than the photographers who took them,” said Alex Mustard, chair of the judging panel and the driving force behind UPY. 

“The quantity and particularly the quality of the images entered left us all astounded. 

It was a privilege to be part of something so special. Heart-warming to see the competitions so enthusiastically embraced by the community, heartbreaking at times when we just couldn’t squeeze some truly amazing images into the winners circle.”

International Macro
WINNER: '50 Tons Of Me' - Nuno Sá

The Natural reserve of Ria Formosa is home to the world’s largest population of the two species of seahorses found in the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas. However the local university together with Project Seahorse has registered a 85% decline in seahorse populations between 2001 and 2009.

I spent 10 days diving in this natural reserve for National Geographic Portugal, following a pioneering project between the University of Algarve with Project Seahorse that has been breeding seahorses in captivity. The goal is reducing the demand of wild seahorses and also re-populate areas where seahorses populations have been reduced or extinct by fishing. Over 50 tons of seahorses are captures every year for ornamental purposes and use in traditional oriental medicine.

To light this photo, I had the unusual accessories of two scientists, who were holding my strobes, 1 strobe behind and 1 over the seahorse

Judge’s Comment, Martin Edge: In the opinion of the judges, the best in show! The composition is simple but so effective. What attracts me to this particular image is the understated quality of light and shade made possible by the subtle use of flash. It's though it is lit from within. It's a fine example of what I refer to as delicate post processing.


Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

Leonard Nimoy Was Not (Only) Spock


Mr. Nimoy had a longtime interest in photography that he channeled later in life into several books and exhibitions at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and elsewhere. His specialty was portraiture, often involving the kind of subjects that don’t frequently adorn gallery walls. (The headline of a 2007 New York Times article about his work: Girth and Nudity, a Pictorial Mission.)

A 2010 show at Mass MoCA featured photos of people acting out their “secret selves,” something Mr. Nimoy suggested he knew something about in an interview with The Times.

“So many people have said that the project has made them wonder about whether they have a secret self, and inevitably some of them ask about my secret self,” Mr. Nimoy said. “Are you kidding? I’ve had 60 years of acting out my other selves. Been there, done that.”

As part of the Yiddish Book Center Wexler Oral History Project, Leonard Nimoy explains the origin of the Vulcan hand signal used by Spock, his character in the “Star Trek” series. Video by Yiddish Book Center on Publish DateFebruary 27, 2015. Photo by Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project.

Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” — an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some special effects that appear primitive by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following — the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) — coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.

The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, various new series and an uneven parade of movies starring much of the original television cast, including — besides Mr. Nimoy — William Shatner (as Captain Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (the helmsman, Sulu), James Doohan (the chief engineer, Scott), Nichelle Nichols (the chief communications officer, Uhura) and Walter Koenig (the navigator, Chekov).

When the director J. J. Abrams revived the “Star Trek” film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast including Zachary Quinto as Spock, he included a cameo part for Mr. Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. Mr. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

His zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.

He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. And he made records, singing pop songs as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances — to the delight of his fans and the bewilderment of critics.

But all that was subsidiary to Mr. Spock, the most complex member of the Enterprise crew, who was both one of the gang and a creature apart, engaged at times in a lonely struggle with his warring racial halves.

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth, compassion and playfulness, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declares after the spores’ effect has worn off and his emotions are again in check. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.

Credit Jerry Mosey/Associated Press

He continued to be cast in little-known movies, although he did presciently play an alien invader in a cult serial called “Zombies of the Stratosphere,” and in 1961 he had a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” His first starring movie role came in 1952 with “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.

Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. He also directed and starred as Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” before receiving his final discharge in November 1955.

He then returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He achieved wide visibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s on television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Then came “Star Trek.”

Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978. Antioch University later awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Nimoy directed the movies “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Mr. Nimoy was also the executive producer and a writer of the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

He then directed the hugely successful comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a far cry from his science-fiction work, and appeared in made-for-television movies. He received an Emmy nomination for the 1982 movie “A Woman Called Golda,” in which he portrayed the husband of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who was played by Ingrid Bergman. It was the fourth Emmy nomination of his career — the other three were for his “Star Trek” work — although he never won.

Mr. Nimoy’s marriage to the actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; and an older brother, Melvin.

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1977 to 1982, Mr. Nimoy hosted the syndicated series “In Search Of ...,” which explored mysteries like the Loch Ness monster and U.F.O.s. He also narrated “Ancient Mysteries” on the History Channel and appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Mr. Nimoy was an active supporter of the arts as well. The Thalia, a venerable movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, now a multi-use hall that is part of Symphony Space, was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002.

He also found his voice as a writer. Besides his autobiographies, he published “A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life” in 2002. Typical of Mr. Nimoy’s simple free verse are these lines: “In my heart/Is the seed of the tree/Which will be me.”

In later years, he rediscovered his Jewish heritage, and in 1991 he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a television movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sued a neo-Nazi organization of Holocaust deniers.

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Mr. Nimoy published “Shekhina,” a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Mr. Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teachings of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered. “Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”
Correction: February 27, 2015

An earlier version of this obituary, using information from Antioch College, misstated the name of an institution that awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate. It was Antioch University, not Antioch College.

Cell breakthrough to bring two-dad babies

Azim Surani who is leading the cell project, was also involved in the research that led to the birth of Louise Brown (Welcome Trust)
Scientistshave shown for the first time that it is possible to make human egg and sperm cells using skin from two adults of the same sex.

The breakthrough raises the prospect of the first fully “manufactured” baby made in a laboratory dish from the skin cells of two adults of the same gender.

The researchers admitted that the development raised serious ethical issues, but said it would help people who had become infertile through disease and had also prompted interest from gay people.

The breakthrough, funded by the Wellcome Trust, was achieved at Cambridge University in a project with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

The scientists used stem cell lines from embryos as well as from the skin of five different adults. Researchers have previously created live baby mice using engineered eggs and sperm, but until now have struggled to create a human version of these “primordial germ” or stem cells.

The stem cells can be turned into any tissue in the body. As well as producing sperm and eggs, they will ultimately provide a “repair kit” for any organ.

Louise Brown

Ten different donor sources have been used so far and new germ-cell lines have been created from all of them. The team has compared the engineered germ cells with natural human stem cells taken from aborted human foetuses to check that the artificially created versions of the cells had identical characteristics.

Details of the technique, published in the journal Cell, show that a gene called SOX17, previously considered to be unimportant in mice, has turned out to be critical in the process of “reprogramming” human cells.

“We have succeeded in the first and most important step of this process, which is to show we can make these very early human stem cells in a dish,” said Azim Surani, professor of physiology and reproduction at Cambridge, who heads the project.

“We have also discovered that one of the things that happens in these germ cells is that epigenetic mutations, the cell mistakes that occur with age, are wiped out,” said Surani, who was involved in research that led to the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby, in 1978.

“That means the cell is regenerated and reset, so while the rest of the cells in the body have aged and contain genetic mistakes, these ones don’t. We can’t say no mutations are passed on, but mostly it doesn’t happen.”

Scientists have proved stem cells from the skin of two adults of the same sex can be used to make human egg and sperm cells. IVF could then be used to create an embryo

Jacob Hanna, the specialist leading the project’s Israeli arm, said it may be possible to use the technique to create a baby in just two years. “It has already caused interest from gay groups because of the possibility of making egg and sperm cells from parents of the same sex,” he said.

“I am not in favour of creating engineered humans and the social and ethical implications . . . need to be thought through, but I am very confident it will work and will be very relevant to anyone who has lost their fertility through disease.”

The use of manufactured sperm and egg cells would require a change in the law.

The Nobel prize winner Professor Sir Martin Evans, who was the first to produce embryonic stem cells from mice, said the research gave “a new explanation of one [element] of human biology . . . but until it is applied for a practical purpose it is only a small incremental step”.

Robin Lovell-Badge, head of stem-cell biology and developmental genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research, said Surani’s team was the first to produce a reliable way of making human stem cells.

“It will be useful for the development of sperm and eggs, not just as germ cells but as mature cells. It will be important for understanding the causes of infertility and for the treatment of it,” he said.

“It is probably a long way off, but it would be a way for people who have had treatment for conditions such as childhood leukaemia, which has left them infertile, to have children of their own.”

Allan Pacey, an infertility expert and professor of andrology at Sheffield University, said he was “excited” by the idea of using skin cells to make sperm for the thousands of men who have survived childhood cancer and been left infertile. Others anticipate demand from elderly would-be parents and say the development will bring ever closer the prospect of people “designing”’ their offspring.

This issue has been at the centre of objections to mitochondrial transfer, the “three-parent baby” technology expected to be approved by the House of Lords this week.

David King, director of the Human Genetics Alert watchdog, said he was “concerned that scientists might view [germ-cell line creation] as a convenient route to creating genetically engineered babies”.

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

President Obama issued a presidential veto against Congress’ bill to force construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In vetoing KXL, President Obama is showing that he’s listened to the people, not the polluters. This is an incredible moment for all who participated — this is your moment. I hope you celebrate this news with me today.

But the fight is not over. Today dozens of movement leaders, economists, musicians, filmmakers (including a few recent Oscar winners), and many more released a Unity Letter ahead of the President's final decision.

Just a few years ago, KXL was considered a done deal in Washington — but together we fought back. You made phone calls, sent emails and letters, and spoke up to friends and neighbors. Fossil fuel companies are throwing millions into maintaining their destructive status quo. But they didn’t account for your perseverance, creativity, and courage. You’ve rallied, you’ve marched, and now — in the final moments, you can take this through to the finish line.

The science is clear: the Keystone XL Pipeline would have a devastating effect on our climate and set the stage for increased fossil fuel dependence for years to come. And we know all too well that pipeline oil spills, like the recent 63,000-gallon spill near the Yellowstone River, has devastating effects to neighboring communities, drinking water, and our health.

The president's outright rejection of the KXL permits would be the final nail in the coffin for Keystone. And with partisan bickering over KXL behind us, we’d finally be able to focus on the real opportunity ahead: building America’s new, clean energy economy.
Mr. Obama added that “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.”

Environmental groups hailed the president’s veto. Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, praised Mr. Obama for keeping his word on vetoing the legislation and urged the president to reject the pipeline.

“The president has all the evidence he needs to reject Keystone XL now, and we are confident that he will,” Mr. Brune said.

Republicans denounced the veto, saying Mr. Obama gave in to the his environmental supporters. Republicans also said it would cost Americans much-needed jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio called the veto a “national embarrassment.”

In a statement, he said, “We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built – not even close.”

Since 2011, the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would deliver up to 800,000 barrels daily of heavy petroleum from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast, has emerged as a broader symbol of the partisan political clash over energy, climate change and the economy.

Most energy policy experts say the project will have a minimal impact on jobs and climate. But Republicans insist that the pipeline will increase employment by linking the United States to an energy supply from a friendly neighbor. Environmentalists say it will contribute to ecological destruction and damaging climate change.

Mr. Obama has hinted that he thinks both sides have inflated their arguments, but he has not said what he will decide.

In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Obama urged lawmakers to move past the pipeline debate, urging passage of a comprehensive infrastructure plan. “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,” he said.

Republican leaders have said they plan to use the veto, which was expected, to denounce Mr. Obama as a partisan obstructionist.

“This is bipartisan legislation being vetoed by a partisan president,” said John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. “I think the president has made his decision to side with special interests. This is going to further marginalize the president in the last two years.”

Environmentalists interpreted the veto as a sign that Mr. Obama would soon decide to reject the project, as he sought to enhance his environmental legacy.

“All along we’ve hoped that the president meant what he said way back in 2008 about stopping climate change; the veto is a start, but we will find out for sure when he issues his final decision on this gimcrack project,” wrote Bill McKibben, the founder of the group, which has led the campaign to urge Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline.

In recent months, the environmental activists — who have spent years marching, protesting and getting arrested outside the White House in their quest to persuade Mr. Obama to reject the project — say they are increasingly optimistic that their efforts will be successful.

“Hopefully the ongoing legislative charade has strengthened his commitment to do the right thing,” Mr. McKibben added.

The debate began in 2008, when the TransCanada Corporation applied for a permit to construct the 1,179-mile pipeline. The State Department is required to determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, but the last word on whether the project will go forward ultimately rests with the president.

After you have driven home in your car, (or taken public transport) turned on your lights, maybe lighted your gas fireplace, and enjoyed the...
Kayemtee 2 minutes ago

The world seems awash in cheap oil at the moment. How is it in the interest of the United States to allow the construction of this pipeline...

Mr. Obama has delayed making that decision until all the legal and environmental reviews of the process are complete. He has said a critical factor in his decision making will be the question of whether the project contributes to climate change.

Last year, an 11-volume environmental impact review by the State Department concluded that oil extracted from the Canadian oil sands produced about 17 percent more carbon pollution than conventionally extracted oil.

But the review said the pipeline was unlikely to contribute to a significant increase of planet-warming greenhouse gases because the fuel was likely to be extracted from the oil sands and sold with or without construction of the pipeline.

This month, environmentalists pointed to a different review by the Environmental Protection Agency that they said proved the pipeline could add to greenhouse gases.

The question of whether to build the pipeline comes as Mr. Obama hopes to make climate change policy a cornerstone of his legacy. This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to issue sweeping regulations to cut greenhouse gas pollution from power plants, a move experts say would have vastly more impact on the nation’s carbon footprint than construction of the Keystone pipeline.

In December, world leaders hope to sign a global United Nations accord in Paris, committing every nation in the world to enacting plans to reduce their rates of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. In the coming months, countries are expected to begin putting forward those policies for cutting carbon emissions.

While the Keystone pipeline is not expected to be part of the United States climate change plan, a public presidential decision on the project could be interpreted as a message about the president’s symbolic commitment to the issue of climate change.

Until that decision comes, however, both sides of the Keystone fight are stepping up their tactics. Environmental groups are planning more marches and White House petitions, while Republicans in Congress are looking for ways to bring the Keystone measure back to Mr. Obama’s desk.

Senator John Hoeven, Republican of North Dakota, who sponsored the Keystone bill, said he would consider adding language requiring construction of the pipeline to other legislation, such as spending bills to fund federal agencies, which could make a veto far more politically risky for Mr. Obama.

A final decision by the president could come soon. Last month, a court in Nebraska reached a verdict in a case about the pipeline’s route through the state, clearing the way for construction. And this month, final reviews of the pipeline by eight federal agencies were completed.

However, Mr. Obama is under no legal obligation to make a final decision, and there is no official timetable for a decision. He could approve or deny the project at any time — or leave the decision to the next president.
Because we are powerful together,

Annie Leonard
Executive Director


No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning

The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a "Big Bang" did the universe officially begin.

Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity.

"The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there," Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology, both in Egypt, told

Ali and coauthor Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have shown in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their new model in which the universe has no beginning and no end.

Old ideas revisited

The physicists emphasize that their quantum correction terms are not applied ad hoc in an attempt to specifically eliminate the Big Bang singularity. Their work is based on ideas by the theoretical physicist David Bohm, who is also known for his contributions to the philosophy of physics. Starting in the 1950s, Bohm explored replacing classical geodesics (the shortest path between two points on a curved surface) with quantum trajectories.

In their paper, Ali and Das applied these Bohmian trajectories to an equation developed in the 1950s by physicist Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri at Presidency University in Kolkata, India. Raychaudhuri was also Das's teacher when he was an undergraduate student of that institution in the '90s.

Using the quantum-corrected Raychaudhuri equation, Ali and Das derived quantum-corrected Friedmann equations, which describe the expansion and evolution of universe (including the Big Bang) within the context of general relativity. Although it's not a true theory of quantum gravity, the model does contain elements from both quantum theory and general relativity. Ali and Das also expect their results to hold even if and when a full theory of quantum gravity is formulated.

No singularities nor dark stuff

In addition to not predicting a Big Bang singularity, the new model does not predict a "big crunch" singularity, either. In general relativity, one possible fate of the universe is that it starts to shrink until it collapses in on itself in a big crunch and becomes an infinitely dense point once again.

Ali and Das explain in their paper that their model avoids singularities because of a key difference between classical geodesics and Bohmian trajectories. Classical geodesics eventually cross each other, and the points at which they converge are singularities. In contrast, Bohmian trajectories never cross each other, so singularities do not appear in the equations.

In cosmological terms, the scientists explain that the quantum corrections can be thought of as a cosmological constant term (without the need for dark energy) and a radiation term. These terms keep the universe at a finite size, and therefore give it an infinite age. The terms also make predictions that agree closely with current observations of the cosmological constant and density of the universe.

New gravity particle

In physical terms, the model describes the universe as being filled with a quantum fluid. The scientists propose that this fluid might be composed of gravitons—hypothetical massless particles that mediate the force of gravity. If they exist, gravitons are thought to play a key role in a theory of quantum gravity.

In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs.

Motivated by the model's potential to resolve the Big Bang singularity and account for dark matter and dark energy, the physicists plan to analyze their model more rigorously in the future. Their future work includes redoing their study while taking into account small inhomogeneous and anisotropic perturbations, but they do not expect small perturbations to significantly affect the results.

"It is satisfying to note that such straightforward corrections can potentially resolve so many issues at once," Das said.

More information: 
Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das. "Cosmology from quantum potential." Physics Letters B. Volume 741, 4 February 2015, Pages 276–279. DOI: 10.1016/j.physletb.2014.12.057. Also at: arXiv:1404.3093[gr-qc].
Saurya Das and Rajat K. Bhaduri, "Dark matter and dark energy from Bose-Einstein condensate", preprint: arXiv:1411.0753[gr-qc].

Granada Chefs from Spain, become ambassadors of culture and gastronomy

The Sociedad Cooperativa Andaluza, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios 'Iznaoliva' and Chefs 4.0 Grenadines presented Wednesday at the International Tourism Fair (FITUR) project to promote tourism Cheftour Granada Tourism Ambassador, an initiative that invites you to visit the most attractive places of the province of Granada very best chefs, who thus become ambassadors of culture and cuisine, inspiring potential tourists from around the world.

The presentation was attended by the regional government delegate in Granada, Sandra Garcia, mayor of Granada, José Torres Hurtado, Macarena Díaz, representing Iznaoliva and President of Cooks Grenadines 4.0, Jesus Bracero, which has been accompanied by a representation of the 16 chef that make this association, in addition to associates.

Iznaoliva president, Francisco Ramos, expressed his gratitude to all those who make this "positive Granada" driver of an innovative tourism image of the province thanks to ambassadors exception, chefs Chefs Association Grenadines 4.0 project .

"It's a real treat to have this group of food professionals, committed one hundred percent with the tourist and gastronomic development, involved in all the positive initiatives for the province, caring and above all, an innovative tourism ambassadors plan, and essential plank of this project, "said Macarena Díaz, representing the Ntra. Mrs. cooperative. de los Remedios Iznalloz.

The regional government delegate, stressed the originality of this project promoted by an agricultural cooperative that goes one step further in its internationalization "support an innovative project and committed to our province." For its part, the mayor of Granada, José Torres, accompanied by the Councillor for Tourism, Rocio Diaz, stressed excellence in the work of Granada pro chefs in the gastronomy of the province.

Cheftour Granada Tourism Ambassador brings together 16 chefs, 14 restaurants and 19 monuments scattered in 13 municipalities representing 10 counties. Several institutions and organizations have been involved in the tourism project that promotes Granada from the feeling of our best chefs. These are professionals who exercise ambassadors 16 privileged enclaves, describing its tourist attractions and reasons why tourists from around the world would love to visit. In each of them, a chapter of this promotional video that will be broadcast on Canal Youtube and social networking is recorded.

This project, promoted by the cooperative olive oil Iznaoliva collaboration with Chefs Grenadines 4.0, aims to capture the attention of Asian, European and American market through a visual and gastronomic experience in order to promote tourism in the province of Granada and publicize our delicacies.

Present in China exhibition Che Photographer

Exposure Photographer Che, a collection of snapshots taken by Ernesto Che Guevara during his whole life, was presented today to the press in the capital, on the eve of its official unveiling at the Three Shadows gallery.

Camilo Guevara March, son of the Heroic Guerrilla and project director of the Che Guevara Studies Center, said that it is a kind of autobiography, because through those images can be interested to know what this man of legend.

Guevara March said complacency because China is the first country in Asia where comes this exposure, given the admiration and respect he felt the Che for this nation and its people. The show has toured more than 10 countries in Latin America and Europe.

The exhibition, which will be officially opened tomorrow with a ceremony in which participate the Moncada Cuban musical group, is headquartered Gallery of Photographic Arts Center Three Shadows (Three Shadows), located in Chaoyang District.

Jilian Schultz, director of International Programs at the center, said the emotion he felt when he discovered the artist Che, which considers it an honor and a pleasure. He noted that this presentation is the efforts of several countries like China, Cuba and the United States.

In his introductory remarks to the packed news conference, said Guevara March artistic and aesthetic value of the photographic work and even remembered his father worked as a professional photographer for the 1955 Pan American Games held in Mexico City.

He added that the snapshots show the various stages of the life of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, in snapshots of ancient civilizations like the Maya, people, people, projects of the Cuban revolution, places he visited as a representative of Cuba, including several Southeast Asian schools, among others.

He explained that despite his busy schedule and the short time available, the Heroic Guerrilla known worldwide as a space dedicated always taking pictures of subjects that interested him.

In today’s meeting, in addition to the local and foreign press, attended artists, diplomats, friends and admirers of Cuba charismatic man known in every corner of the world.