Cancer: More good news


One thing I can say is that I really enjoy the nifty pictures that go with science news. But that’s beside the point. James Gallagher of the BBC brings the news:

I think that is supposed to be a cancer cellScientists have discovered how cancerous cells can “elbow” their way out of tumours, offering clues for new drugs to prevent cancers spreading.

They say they have identified a protein called JAK which helps cancerous cells generate the force needed to move.

Writing in Cancer Cell, they say the cells contract like muscle to force their way out and around the body.

Cancer Research UK said the study provided fresh understanding of ways to stop cancer spreading.

When cancers spread, a process known as metastasis, they become more difficult to treat, as secondary tumours tend to be more aggressive.

It is thought that 90% of cancer-related deaths occur after metastasis.

Go Team Human. Here’s to beating that JAK off.

I admit, this is surprising


All things considered, the numbers are surprising to me. Then again, I’m not hip, anymore.

The top-earning tours of 2010, from Pollstar via BBC:

  1. Bon Jovi, $201.1m
  2. AC/DC, $177m
  3. U2, $160.9m
  4. Lady Gaga, $133.6m
  5. Metallica, $110.1m
  6. Michael Buble, $104.2m
  7. Walking With Dinosaurs, $104.1m
  8. Paul McCartney, $93m
  9. The Eagles, $92.3m
  10. Roger Waters, $89.5m

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Notes for Em


Time lapse of lightfoil in motion.I’m going to have to become some sort of physicist. Damn. I hate math.

No, actually, I don’t; I’m just a pathetic mathematician. Or, more accurately, not a mathematician at all. But that’s beside the point. Except, damn. I’m going to have to become some sort of physicist.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Some of the questions my brother and I asked thirty years ago probably astounded my father the way my daughter can absolutely befuddle me. “What,” she asked, not too long ago, “is a solar sail?”

Seven, by the way. Now eight.

Of course I told her about this far-flung idea of using a laser to push a spacecraft, and how the vessel could reach speeds near light. You know, stuff from fifteen years ago.

But I had no idea.

A BBC article brings me up to speed with lightfoil, which is a cool word despite the fact that no superhero will ever use it as a name:

Just as air causes lift on the wings of an aeroplane, light can do the same trick, researchers have said.

The effect, first shown in simulations, was proven by showing it in action on tiny glass rods.

Like the aerofoil concept of wings, the approach, published in Nature Photonics, works by making use of the radiation pressure of light.

The results are of interest for steering “solar sails”, a spacecraft propulsion based on the same force.

Each photon – or packet of light – carries its own momentum, and this “lightfoil” works by gathering the momentum of light as it passes through a material.

This radiation pressure has been considered as a fuel-free source of propulsion for long-distance space missions; a “solar sail” gathering up the momentum of the Sun’s rays can get a spacecraft up to a significant fraction of the speed of light.

But until now, no one thought to use the pressure in an analogue of an aerofoil, said Grover Swarzlander of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

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In Memoriam: Recalling a hazy chapter of my past


Sad.

Simon MacCorkindale has died:

Actor Simon MacCorkindale, who starred in BBC One’s Casualty, has died aged 58 after suffering from cancer.

His publicist, Max Clifford, said he died in the arms of his wife, actress Susan George, on Thursday night in a London Clinic.

The actor revealed last year he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2006, but was told it was terminal after it spread to his lungs a year later.

He spent six years on the BBC medical drama as Dr Harry Harper.

He was also known for starring in 1980s series Manimal and Falcon Crest and appearing in the 1978 Agatha Christie film Death on the Nile.

Ms George said: “No-one could have fought this disease any harder than he did since being diagnosed four years ago.

“He fought it with such strength, courage and belief. Last night, he lost this battle, and he died peacefully in my arms.

“To me, he was simply the best of everything, and I loved him with all my heart. He will live on in me forever.”

That’s quite the résumé, and yet I recall MacCorkindale from the overlooked television series Counterstrike. Yeah, that’s right. That one. Yeah … that one.

Never mind.

Raise the glass. Thanks, Simon.

World’s Dumbest Crimefighters?


And here I was complaining about reality television … what, just yesterday? It might be time for a new reality show: World’s Dumbest Crimefighters.

The BBC brings us the latest in brilliant anti-terrorism tactics:

Irish police have released a man held over an explosives find, after Slovakian authorities admitted planting them in his luggage.

The explosive was one of eight pieces of contraband placed with unsuspecting passengers at Bratislava Airport last weekend, broadcaster RTE reported.

The 49-year-old unwittingly brought the material into Dublin when he returned from his Christmas holidays.

He was arrested on Tuesday morning but has since been released without charge.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said he was very concerned that Irish police had not been alerted for three days.

Airport security detected seven of the illicit items, but the eighth – 90g of research development explosive – managed to escape detection.

What, aside from, “I would hope TSA isn’t this stupid”, can we possibly say?

The Beeb also notes that—

The Irish Army said passengers had not been put in danger because the explosives were stable and not connected to any essential bomb parts.

—but, come on, isn’t that just a statistical finding? Are they telling us there is no way these explosives could have detonated? Imagine the news report:

    Terrorists struck in Dublin, Ireland today, on a flight that coincidentally crashed of its own accord. According to statements from the three surviving passengers, the flight went fine until the landing, when one of the gear broke on touchdown. Passengers celebrated surviving the rough landing until the bomb, hidden in the luggage compartment, exploded, igniting the plane’s remaining fuel. Four members of the rescue squad were also killed in the explosion and fire, while six more were taken to area hospitals with burns ranging from moderate to severe.

    The Slovakian government sent its profound condolences, and thanked the Irish for “courageous” attempts to help Slovakian citizens aboard the plane ….

I mean, really. No danger?

How reckless, this war on terror?

Shutter speed


Okay, I know this sounds stupid, but what is the muzzle velocity, as such, of a mortar round? No, really.

Because this is a great photo:

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

I mean, that might be as clearly as you will ever see one of those things in flight.

Okay, okay, so it’s another from the BBC’s Year in pictures.

But, y’know … it’s just a really cool photo, even for a pacifist like me.