Tag Archives: technology

Glyphosate, Pesticides, Industrial Poisoning and Resulting Neurological Effects? — and Questions Un-Answered?

Introducing pesticides into agriculture saved countless lives by feeding many of the poorest of the poor. Bountiful harvests have been the hallmark of the late 20th century and part way into the 21st as well. However, there appears an unwanted, if not horrific, effect of pesticides upon human physiology and health.

The pesticides such as glyphosphate (RoundUp [TM] ) and organo-phosphate pesticides (insecticides) are strongly implicated in the physiological and neurological problems in new borns. The evidence strongly suggests that children born of farm workers and children exposed in urban settings (in close proximity to household pesticides) to lice and roach treatments suffer disproportionately in contrast to their more affluent peers.

While the ag-business may not subscribe to such data or conclusions, there may have been  reasons  for the skepticism. In the 1970s, glyphosphate was invented, and much data was generated on the toxicity of the chemical. What was known in that time period was the rapid degradation of the herbicide. It would rapidly degrade in sunlight and seemed to pose little if any harm (references at the end of the post). Thus, it seemed as if the ag- business had invented a miracle —a truly non-toxic herbicide.

That news was greeted by most as cause for celebration, since Agent Orange was a debacle of the Vietnam War (in the early-to-mid 1970s). Many an American Veteran returned from  Vietnam with mysterious symptoms that seemingly defied medical description. All too often, I heard from my uncles, who served during WWII and Korea–it made no sense that they had been exposed to quite a few industrial chemicals during their tours but showed no ill effects. Moreover, their newborn children seemingly escaped harm. — or did they?

A Case of Voodoo Science? –Oral History or Coincidence?

Although the data seems quite spurious and anecdotal, what needs to be investigated— the links between past exposures to generational ancestors and the present day alterations  to the human genome. WWII saw numerous countries turn their economies into war machines–industrial centers like SF-Oakland Bay Area and Detroit, Michigan turned much of their industrial waste back into the Pacific Ocean or the Great Lakes. Much of the industrial area roadways became breeding grounds for chemical sterility. Higher levels of Pb (lead), Cr (chromium), As (arsenic) and other elements are found on the freeways of inner urban areas. It does not take a rocket scientist to surmise — we poisoned our inner cities– but no one understood why aspects of crime, economics, and poor school performance became the hall-marks for their areas. While other factors make it plain that the areas were neglected due to indifference and lack of small business attractiveness–there were other (so-called) reasons.

What may need  to be answered is: how did past toxic chemical exposure (two to three generations prior) affect the whole human genome as we now know it? Is the question relevant or is it ‘fear-mongering’? 0r Is it Voodoo Science?

The Science Speaks!

What can be said for certain– “….  (glyphosate) use has increased approximately 100-fold since the first decade of its use in the 1970s.  … Initial risk assessments of glyphosate assumed a limited hazard to vertebrates because its stated herbicidal mechanism of action targeted a plant enzyme not present in vertebrates. … ”  –taken from:

National Institutes of Health  — Review article:  Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement

Link between hazardous chemicals and neurological problems — Opens up to YouTube lecture from the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute

Industrial Chemicals and Autism Link — Epidemiological studies

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00148/full    — Exposure studies

environmental study    Metabolism and Degradation of Glyphosate in Soil and Water (1976)


Pesticide Exposure and Effects on Estrogen Receptors — Biochemical study

Toxic Pesticides of the Late 20th Century — Opens up to Decodedscience.com article



Early agriculture

By Deutsch: Maler der Grabkammer des Sennudem English: Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons




Uneasy Reality of the Zika Virus

The Zika virus promises a new reality for the USA and ‘the rest of the world.’ The virus will be infecting more individuals in the coming months, and ‘the true tragedy’ becomes apparent for those not infected by the virus.

Many of us will do our best eliminate standing water and ‘dangerous hot spots.’

Otherwise, ‘some encouraging words’ come from the researchers–


Purported MECHANISTIC DETAILS of Zika’s Infection in humans and in animal models:

The word mechanism implies that researchers, doctors and most of the ‘informed community’ understands how the virus infects ‘new borns and adults.’ It is also called a ‘mode of action’ — in some circles.

The impaired neurogenesis (in the fetus) is the focus of research and the impaired growth of  ‘neural stem cells.’ The virus causes what is termed as apoptosis–a death of cellular material. The precise ‘chemical mechanism’ is unknown… if it were known, the scientific community would know the best approach for deterrence. The public is justifiably upset, skeptical, confused and frightened. However, research is a slow and a precise affair in which progress –is marked by ‘repeatable and accurate experimentation.’

The entry point for the virus can happen at multi-sites –and can happen before, during and after ‘egg fertilization.’ The placenta– a safe haven– is, in this case, susceptible. The plea to the public is–be safe and minimize potential exposure.

Treatment Options (Future)… Detection? Vaccines? and Potential Therapies?

Presently, some in the medical community believe it will find a vaccine within two years while others speculate one year and even three years. The discovery of a vaccine hinges upon poorly understood aspects of the viral replication cycle and diagnosis of infection — an intimate knowledge its bio-chemical and mechanistic details is needed.

Diagnosis of viral infection has returned false negatives in some instances–a terrifying outcome. The reasons for diagnostic problems arise when one understands that Zika–is an arboreal virus– it is similar to Dengue Fever and West Nile with its mode of infection. Mosquitos, the culprits for much death, can carry other viruses. That is a challenge we face…

Presently, the medical community believes its best chance to contain the spread of the illness is through vaccination.

A vaccine for Zika is pursued in at least three ways: targeting DNA replication of Zika, modifying live viruses of Zika and modifying inactive Zika virus. There are a number of different strains of the Virus. Namely, the original 1947 virus (less problematic to people) transformed– aspects of its biochemistry changed from the Zika River Valley in Africa to its infectious form of 2007-08 Micronesia and the present infection of the  Americas.

How a virus transforms  would go far in understanding how to treat the infection. That type of mechanistic detail would expedite the path to vaccination and therapy.

Therapies, presently, are in planning stages. One route of investigation subverting viral replication —

The immuno-suppressor, Rapamycin is one potential candidate for therapeutic success. It subverts the immune system and may interfere with a viral replication.

ChemSpider 2D Image | Sirolimus | C51H79NO13

The anti-biotic macrolide, Rapamycin is a therapeutic candidate for Zika infection. The therapy is in the beginning stages of research. It may be awhile. Credit for Image Chemspider

As with many candidates such as Rapamycin, it is a ‘hot compound– toxic to many vital organs.’ However, in the war against pathogens, humanity can not afford to rest…



Adapting the Stess Response: Viral Subversion of the mTOR Signaling Pathway

The Global Zika virus to pregnancy: epidemiology, clinical perspectives, mechanisms, and impact





‘Space age innovation’

Space Shuttle Atlantis's three Block II RS-25D main engines at liftoff during the launch of STS-110. This image was extracted from engineering motion picture footage taken by a tracking camera. Source URL:  http://mix.msfc.nasa.gov/abstracts.php?p=2388

Space Shuttle Atlantis’s three Block II RS-25D main engines at liftoff during the launch of STS-110. This image was extracted from engineering motion picture footage taken by a tracking camera.
Source URL:




The retired-Space Shuttle program (like its predecessor Apollo) ushered much innovation to the public. And, if one were to ‘google’ the terms, nasa spinoff database –one may get lucky enough to see a lot of which many take for granted. The database is chock full with the ‘fruits of our labor;’ we truly hit the proverbial jackpot by going into space. For instance, I draw attention to the utilization of ‘photochemistry;’ to those of us who are not familiar with the terminology I give a quick definition:

Photochemistry is utilizing light (e.g. the Sun) to generate a desired (or needed) outcome. Sounds simple enough. . . .

When we do trek beyond our solar system, it may be necessary to grow foodstuffs. Sunlight has guided our days and helped to fill our nights with dreams. So, in the quest to grow foodstuffs, we are learning to utilize artificial light sources aboard the shuttle and the ISS. The ‘spinoff’ of utilizing light stands to benefit us in many novel ways—

From the NASA technologies website:

Red light-emitting diodes are growing plants in space and healing humans on Earth. The LED technology used in NASA space shuttle plant growth experiments has contributed to the development of medical devices such as award-winning WARP 10, a hand-held, high-intensity, LED unit developed by Quantum Devices Inc. The WARP 10 is intended for the temporary relief of minor muscle and joint pain, arthritis, stiffness, and muscle spasms, and also promotes muscle relaxation and increases local blood circulation. The WARP 10 is being used by the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Navy as a noninvasive “soldier self-care” device that aids front-line forces with first aid for minor injuries and pain, thereby improving endurance in combat. The next-generation WARP 75 has been used to relieve pain in bone marrow transplant patients, and will be used to combat the symptoms of bone atrophy, multiple sclerosis, diabetic complications, Parkinson’s disease, and in a variety of ocular applications. (Spinoff 2005, 2008)

A major innovation (IMO), however, is the ‘direct’ utilization of light in cancer chemotherapy. A few years back, scientists recognized that certain drugs are active only when shined upon by light—so in other words, if one were to give a cancer patient a drug—it would act against the cancer cells when ‘shined upon.’ Thus, the targeting of cancer cells (in certain cases) became more efficient. (see the cited Nature article at the end of the post)

Most of us utilize space age technology and conjure our own versions of the technology, as well. For instance when one looks at instances of invention, one notices a cluttered path (at times). It is at those times we gain a sense of personal innovation and possibly inspiration. What could be more inspiring than to gain a mastery over the natural world? Science and engineering journals display articles of genius, innovation and refined curiosity.

Often it is not that one has a good idea—we may stumble while implementing the idea. So, given a fertile environment, I contend that we become innovators and tinkerers within our realm. I further contend we can become innovators in wider circle of influence (beyond ourselves) if we desire to do so. The path, then, cannot be so liberally littered by our personal insights as much as getting to the gist of all concerned. Moreover, we need a clarity of purpose.

Ideas become reality in instances where one stands upon the shoulders of giants.


Specific cancer citation– : Cancer cell-selective in vivo near infrared photoimmunotherapy targeting specific membrane molecules Nature Medicine 17, 1685–1691 (2011) doi:10.1038/nm.2554 (the lead author(s) for the work–Hisataka Kobayashi)

READINGS LIST (in no particular order)

Costa, Liliana, Maria Amparo F Faustino, Maria Graça P M S Neves, Angela Cunha, and Adelaide Almeida. “Photodynamic Inactivation of Mammalian Viruses and Bacteriophages.” Viruses 4, no. 7 (July 2012): 1034–74. doi:10.3390/v4071034.

Goodrich, R P, N R Yerram, B H Tay-Goodrich, P Forster, M S Platz, C Kasturi, S C Park, N J Aebischer, S Rai, and L Kulaga. “Selective Inactivation of Viruses in the Presence of Human Platelets: UV Sensitization with Psoralen Derivatives.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 91, no. 12 (June 07, 1994): 5552–6. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=44034&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract.

Kiesslich, Tobias, Anita Gollmer, Tim Maisch, Mark Berneburg, and Kristjan Plaetzer. “A Comprehensive Tutorial on in Vitro Characterization of New Photosensitizers for Photodynamic Antitumor Therapy and Photodynamic Inactivation of Microorganisms.” BioMed Research International 2013 (January 2013): 840417. doi:10.1155/2013/840417.

O’Brien, J M, D K Gaffney, T P Wang, and F Sieber. “Merocyanine 540-Sensitized Photoinactivation of Enveloped Viruses in Blood Products: Site and Mechanism of Phototoxicity.” Blood 80, no. 1 (July 01, 1992): 277–85. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1319237.

Novo, E, and J Esparza. “Tetracycline-Mediated Photodynamic Inactivation of Animal Viruses.” The Journal of General Virology 45, no. 2 (November 1979): 323–9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/120411.

Simonet, Julien, and Christophe Gantzer. “Inactivation of Poliovirus 1 and F-Specific RNA Phages and Degradation of Their Genomes by UV Irradiation at 254 Nanometers.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 72, no. 12 (December 2006): 7671–7. doi:10.1128/AEM.01106-06.

Vigant, Frederic, Jihye Lee, Axel Hollmann, Lukas B Tanner, Zeynep Akyol Ataman, Tatyana Yun, Guanghou Shui, et al. “A Mechanistic Paradigm for Broad-Spectrum Antivirals That Target Virus-Cell Fusion.” PLoS Pathogens 9, no. 4 (April 2013): e1003297. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003297.

Apply Spf INFINITY to Appropriate Areas

A previous post on the subject of human space travel was cautionary, and I did not leave much hope (?) to those who truly desire to visit Mars, the asteroid Ceres, or even walk in the footsteps of the intrepid Apollo astronauts. The following post is my attempt to survey the efforts of protection so that we too may gain that unique perspective.

Space travel will, one day, be routine for many on our planet; and the current period of economic hardship in which scientists and those in public outreach endure will be perceived as if it were adolescence. I believe one can see the evidence in the trends which appear cyclical. Although I have no real hard data to work with—most sociologists and economists will cite the cyclical nature of political fortunes. (In a nutshell—those with money make the rules and everyone acts in their own self-interest.)

How does one shield oneself from space radiation?

There are two forms of space radiation: solar and galactic cosmic rays. Given we know how cosmic and solar radiation interact with earth-bound substances, we are several steps ahead of by knowing to protect ourselves. Basically, our “engineers” must have a fundamental understanding of materials science (e.g. plastic, metal, glass, fiber, and people, too).  The concepts of how radiation (nuclear physics) interacts with atoms, bonds and molecules (or the things of our everyday lives) is tantamount to knowing how to survive in space.

We (on Earth) put sunscreen to protect our skin (?) but there is more to the picture. Just like we know that it may take multiple sunburns to eventually contract fatal cancer; in space, the concept of amount of exposure is multiplied many times over. Exposure to intense X-ray radiation (for a mere 20 minutes) may lead to acute radiation sickness. There is no (?) sunscreen lotion to protect us from harsh solar X-rays or galactic radiation, for that matter.

What we have is a rich historical past to draw our lessons of shielding. Our past missions (manned and un-manned) have given us precedent to use the following materials:

  • Aluminum—
  • Plastic such as polyethylene—
  • Non-reactive internal equipment—
  • Nano-fibers—
  • Hydrogen fuel

The last citation may seem odd but it (hydrogen fuel) has been a source of shielding. In fact “hydrogenous” materials (e.g. water) have been the basis for  shielding. Specialized (nano-fiber) blanket and coats have been used, as well.

In the final analysis, our first spacefaring citizens will take away a memorable excursion and will be considered intrepid pioneers, in some sense of the word.

Reference for post:

Durante, M. Physical basis of radiation protection in space travel, Reviews of Modern Physics, 2011, 83, 1245-1281

Generalities of Science Ethics, Life in the Goldilocks Zone, and the Allan Hills Meteorite


The years 1996-2000 were interesting to the astronomy community for many reasons. Many will remember the pronouncement of Martian fossilized life and the huge groundswell of commentary that the Allan Hills meteorite garnered. And, it was during those years that NASA announced the past presence of water on the Martian surface. Thus it would seem, the two (life and water) would go hand-in-hand. And, I was one of the converts who wanted to believe in the veracity of past life on the red planet. Since that time I have often wondered to myself—why did the ALH84001 finding not hold-up as well as it might? During the time period I recall reading many research reports on the on ALH84001. And as many can attest, all too often a lack of good, scientific judgment may be based upon a pre-conceived belief system that has no scientific foundation. Supporting the galling belief system is the self-perpetuating rationalization: a lifestyle which subconsciously massages egos. Perhaps, it is a sign of professional growth when one can understand that certain patterns of lifestyle can undermine good, scientific judgment. So, I ask, which way to turn?


Simple Corollaries for Life’s Presence and Evolution . . . Why?

  • Life requires a solvent—but it may not always be water
  • Life requires energy
  • Solvation and Energy generally act in a synergistic manner

Our, Earth-like, lives are heavily tilted towards water and the simpler elements on the periodic table. One primary reason is the energetics, and the meaning of the supposition might be summarized in the following manner—our habitable zone is synergistically shaped between ourselves and the environment in which we live. Try to imagine (for the moment) if our (?) Sun was an F class star and not G class. A primary difference is the temperature of the new Sun—one could surmise that the chemistry would be different, as well. And, quite possibly, silicon-based life may arise—using the carbon analogy of periodicity within the table of elements. (Although the presumption sounds deceptively simple, the chemistry is far from simplistic. See the following link for a podcast for a consideration on weird chemistry–Limits of Organic Life.)

It might, well, be speculated that water could serve the role that oxygen serves in our current milieu—and even metal back-bonding would replace the ubiquitous hydrogen-bond. Although the above-mentioned scenario seems fantastic—one may take into account that there may not be one good, realistic definition for non-carbon life. Thus, as current paradigms of carbon-based biochemistry seem to limit our vision of life—the need to expand efforts in basic research in inorganic models utilizing realistic energy cycles could open new venues for biochemical research.

Some references of note:

Lilia Montoya, Lourdes B. Celis, Elías Razo-Flores, Ángel G. Alpuche-Solís. 2012. Distribution of CO2 fixation and acetatemineralization pathways in microorganisms from extremophilic anaerobic biotopes. Extremophiles 16:6, 805-817.

Charles H. Lineweaver, Aditya Chopra. 2012. The Habitability of Our Earth and Other Earths: Astrophysical, Geochemical,Geophysical, and Biological Limits on Planet Habitability. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 40:1, 597-623.

C. S. Cockell. 2011. Life in the lithosphere, kinetics and the prospects for life elsewhere. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369:1936, 516-537.

Jorge Rodríguez, Juan M. Lema, Robbert Kleerebezem. 2008. Energy-based models for environmental biotechnology. Trends in Biotechnology 26:7, 366-374.

Niles Lehman. 2008. A Recombination-Based Model for the Origin and Early Evolution of Genetic Information. Chemistry & Biodiversity 5:9, 1707.

Murchison Meteorite



John Jaksich

As the world was celebrating the Apollo moon landing in 1969, humanity was greeted by a visitor—and a very welcome one, at that. On the morning of September 28, 1969, Australians witnessed a meteorite fall in Murchison, Australia—this piece of space rock has become one of more celebrated visitors from space (second only to the ALH84001, the Alan Hills Meteorite).

By Art Bromage  via Wikipedia

By Art Bromage via Wikipedia

 Murchison Meteorite

The Murchison meteorite is celebrated for many reasons, mainly of course; the detailed analysis of its constituents has yielded a treasure trove of data and some speculation, also. Firstly, speculation is, at times, part of the human condition—so I will put it aside.

Technically, the Murchison meteorite is known as a carbonaceous chondrite and it said to be about as old as the Solar System, itself. But, one major, distinguishing feature of this rock is the amount of organic compounds that have been identified within its matrix. According to two publications (listed below), it contains up to several thousand different organic compounds (many of the compounds may have some biological significance). Although it should be emphasized that no DNA, RNA—or fossilized remains of any type of organism were found within the Murchison meteorite.

The organic compounds, just the same, are very significant because many of these molecules yield important clues as to the nature of the protostellar disk—the type of chemistry which was prevalent before life took a foothold in our Solar System.

There have been skeptics—many of whom voiced legitimate concerns: contamination of the “rock” with terrestrial organics, ablation of meteor—resulting in significant alteration of the meteor, and “bad” handling processes by scientists and technicians. All the publications (three are listed below) which I have studied seemingly address the issues.

What does all of this mean? Molecular constituents that bear a resemblance to life’s constituents were “here” –in the protostellar disk, prior to us, prior to the dinosaurs, prior to the formation of our planet. That is a significant finding from a scientific point of view—almost (but not nearly close enough) as if we had found microbes on Mars, Europa, Enceladus, or Titan. Perhaps, it anything, this can serve as a rallying point for those of us who believe in science and its pursuits.

Publication reference list:

Schmitt-Koplin and others, 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Pizzarello and Shock, 2010, Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology.

(Cold Spring Harbor Perspect. 2010;2:a002105)

Callahan and others, 2011, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Please note that you may have to pay for access—these references are copyrighted.

Black Holes



John Jaksich


Results of computer simulation of stars and gas orbiting a black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

credit: ESO/MPE/Marc Schartmann

image source: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1151a

For many of us, the subject of black holes and their properties is a mysterious conglomeration of fanciful fact and magic. In loosely paraphrasing the author, Arthur C. Clarke—I mean the science of black holes is like magic for most of us —the subject is as indistinguishable as the practice of religion from the magic of Harry Houdini. In short, we may never stumble upon one during our entire life.

Einstein never completely accepted the notion of black holes in General Relativity—however the first solution to his “relativistic field equations” suggested their existence. This solution was published in 1916; the author (Karl Schwarzschild) suggested the existence of a singularity—or in modern parlance, a point mass. Schwarzschild’s solution, in relativistic dynamics, is known by the term: static singularity. Furthermore, Schwarzschild’s static singularity is the simplest, theoretical black hole; in fact, it may even be the simplest way to understand some of the more complex notions of the Universe. The term black hole has its origins in classical mechanics, when it was suggested separately by Pierre-Simon Laplace and John Michell (both in the 18th century) that there may exist bodies, like stars, whose gravity did not allow light to escape from the surface. However, black holes are small compact objects with masses that may be many hundreds of times that of the Sun—but of course the object is dark. Because of their extreme mass, black holes are said to distort the “space surrounding them,” they act as powerful sources of gravitational attraction. Black holes, also, radiate X-Rays when objects fall into them—and it is said that object’s “information is lost forever.” However, Dr. Stephen Hawking, through his pioneering work in 1970s, discovered that black holes can radiate “heat.” This radiation is known as “Hawking-Unruh radiation.”

The discovery of the first black hole seems to be all but physically confirmed; it was discovered by Riccardo Giaconni and his group in the early 1970s, when he utilized data from an X-Ray satellite, Uhuru. Approximately a decade prior to Giaconni’s discovery, NASA satellites had detected strong X-Ray sources emanating different points in the sky. Giaconni proposed the launch of an “orbiting observatory” for the express purpose of searching for X-Ray sources. Uhuru was launched in 1970; and by 1978, there were more than 300 X-Ray sources. Many of these sources are black hole candidates or, as in the case of Cyg X-1; the first confirmed black hole candidate. Giaconni was awarded a Nobel in 2002 for his initial use of an X-Ray observatory to break open the field of X-Ray astronomy.