Science News This Week:
1) Pregnancy in mammals evolved with help from roving DNA:
'Jumping genes' changed uterus to stop laying eggs. Roving pieces of DNA helped early mammals ditch egg-laying in favor of giving birth to live young. These “jumping genes,” or transposable elements, flipped the switch on thousands of genes, turning off ones that build hard eggshells and turning on ones that allow a fetus to develop in the uterus. Researchers report the finding in the Feb. 3 Cell Reports.
“Transposable elements … rewired when and where genes are expressed by giving them new regulatory information,” says study coauthor Vincent Lynch, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago.
In early mammals, traveling DNA moved to new spots in the genome and carried machinery that allowed certain genes to be activated in the presence of a hormone called progesterone, which controls many aspects of pregnancy. These moves flipped on or off genes in the uterus.
Lynch and his team used RNA sequencing to identify which genes were expressed in the uteruses of pregnant mammals such as dogs and pigs and in egg-laying animals, including chickens and frogs. The researchers then determined when and how in mammals’ evolutionary history these genes probably were switched on or off.
Many of the genes that turned on allow the mother’s body to recognize that she is pregnant and suppress her immune system so her body doesn’t sense the foreign DNA in the fetus and reject it. Animals that become pregnant have the advantage of carrying their developing young with them, instead of laying eggs in one spot, leaving them vulnerable to predators or unpredictable weather.
2) New origin of universe model pours water on Big Bang theory:
A new model in which the cosmos is filled with a “quantum fluid” suggests that there was no Big Bang – and could explain the origin of two mysterious components of the universe.
The prevailing model of cosmology, based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, puts the universe at around 13.8 billion years old and suggests it originated from a “singularity” – an infinitely small and dense point – at the Big Bang. To understand what happened inside that tiny singularity, physicists must marry general relativity with quantum mechanics – the laws that govern small objects. Applying both of these disciplines has challenged physicists for decades. “The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity, because the laws of physics appear to break down there,” says Ahmed Farag Ali, a physicist at Zewail City of Science and Technology, Egypt. In an effort to bring together the laws of quantum mechanics and general relativity, and to solve the singularity puzzle, Ali and Saurya Das, a physicist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta Canada, employed an equation that predicts the development of singularities in general relativity. That equation had been developed by Das’s former professor, Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri, when Das was an undergraduate student at Presidency University, in Kolkata, India, so Das was particularly familiar and fascinated by it.
When Ali and Das made small quantum corrections to the Raychaudhuri equation, they realised it described a fluid, made up of small particles, that pervades space. Physicists have long believed that a quantum version of gravity would include a hypothetical particle, called the graviton, which generates the force of gravity. In their new model — which will appear in Physics Letters B in February1 — Ali and Das propose that such gravitons could form this fluid. To understand the origin of the universe, they used this corrected equation to trace the behaviour of the fluid back through time. Surprisingly, they found that it did not converge into a singularity. Instead, the universe appears to have existed forever. Although it was smaller in the past, it never quite crunched down to nothing, says Das.
“Our theory serves to complement Einstein’s general relativity, which is very successful at describing physics over large distances,” says Ali. “But physicists know that to describe short distances, quantum mechanics must be accommodated, and the quantum Raychaudhui equation is a big step towards that.”The model could also help solve two other cosmic mysteries. In the late 1990s, astronomers discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating due the presence of a mysterious dark energy, the origin of which is not known. The model has the potential to explain it since the fluid creates a minor but constant outward force that expands space. “This is a happy offshoot of our work,” says Das.Astronomers also now know that most matter in the universe is in an invisible mysterious form called dark matter, only perceptible through its gravitational effect on visible matter such as stars. When Das and a colleague set the mass of the graviton in the model to a small level, they could make the density of their fluid match the universe’s observed density of dark matter, while also providing the right value for dark energy’s push2. “This is the first time that anyone has shown that these two major problems in cosmology can be solved simultaneously by the quantum Raychaudhuri equation,” says Ali. “We feel a deep sense of satisfaction that this model may resolve some of the most important cosmological issues in one stroke,” adds Das.
3) Newly identified brain circuit could be target for treating obesity:
Nerve cells that control overeating are distinct from those active in normal feeding, study shows. Manipulating specific sets of brain cells can quash a mouse’s overindulgence of sugar.
The cells are part of a previously unknown brain circuit that controls compulsive sugar consumption in mice, researchers report in the Jan. 29 Cell. This circuit appears to be distinct from the one that controls normal eating, suggesting that it could be a target for treating obesity caused by overeating in humans.
“One of the biggest challenges with treating obesity that comes with compulsive overeating disorder is that most treatments are just a Band-Aid, treating the symptoms instead of the core problems,” says MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye. “The real underlying problems are the cravings that lead to compulsive eating and the behavior of compulsive overeating itself.”
4) Gravitational waves from early universe remain elusive:
A Joint analysis of data from the Planck space mission and the ground-based experiment BICEP2 has found no conclusive evidence of gravitational waves from the birth of our universe, despite earlier reports of a possible detection. The collaboration between the teams has resulted in the most precise knowledge yet of what signals from the ancient gravitational waves should look like, aiding future searches.
Planck is a European Space Agency mission with significant NASA contributions. BICEP2 and its sister project, the Keck Array, are based at the South Pole and FUNDED by the National Science Foundation, also with NASA contributions."By analyzing both sets of data together, we could get a more definitive picture of what's going on than we could with either dataset alone," said Charles Lawrence, the U.S. project scientist for Planck at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "The joint analysis shows that much of the signal detected by BICEP2/Keck is coming from dust in the Milky Way, but we cannot rule out a gravitational wave signal at a low level. This is a good example of how progress is made in science, one step at a time."
Planck and BICEP/Keck were both designed to measure relic radiation emitted from our universe shortly after its birth 13.8 billion years ago. An extraordinary source of information about the universe's history lies in this "fossil" radiation, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Planck mapped the CMB over the entire sky from space, while BICEP2/Keck focused on one patch of crisp sky over the South Pole.In March of 2014, astronomers presented intriguing data from the BICEP2/Keck experiments, finding what appeared to be a possible signal from our universe when it was just born. If the signal were indeed from the early cosmos, then it would have confirmed the presence of ancient gravitational waves. It is hypothesized that these waves were generated by an explosive and very rapid period of growth in our universe, called inflation, which took place when the universe was only a tiny of a fraction of one second old.
Specifically, the BICEP/Keck experiments found evidence for a "curly" pattern of polarized light called B-modes. These patterns would have been imprinted on the CMB light as the gravitational waves slightly squeezed and stretched the fabric of space. Polarization describes a particular property of light. Usually, the electric and magnetic fields carried by light vibrate at all orientations equally, but when they vibrate preferentially in a certain direction, the light is polarized.
"The swirly polarization pattern, reported by BICEP2, was also clearly seen with new data from the Keck Array," said Jamie Bock of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and JPL, a member of both the BICEP2/Keck and Planck teams."Searching for this unique record of the very early universe is as difficult as it is exciting, since this subtle signal is hidden in the polarization of the CMB, which itself only represents only a feeble few percent of the total light," said Jan Tauber, the European Space Agency's project scientist for Planck.One of the trickiest aspects of identifying the primordial B-modes is separating them from those that can be generated much closer to us by interstellar dust in our Milky Way galaxy.The Milky Way is pervaded by a mixture of gas and dust shining at similar frequencies to those of the CMB, and this closer, or foreground, emission affects the observation of the oldest cosmic light. Very careful data analysis is needed to separate the foreground emission from that of the CMB.
"When we first detected this signal in our data, we relied on models for galactic dust emission that were available at the time," said John Kovac, a co-principal investigator of the BICEP2/Keck collaboration at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. "These seemed to indicate that the region of the sky chosen for our observations was relatively devoid of dust."
The BICEP2/Keck experiments collected data at a single microwave frequency, making it difficult to separate the emissions coming from the dust in the Milky Way and the CMB. On the other hand, Planck observed the sky in nine microwave and sub-millimeter frequency channels, seven of which were also equipped with polarization-sensitive detectors. Some of these frequencies were chosen to make measurements of dust in the Milky Way. By careful analysis, these multi-frequency data can be used to separate the various contributions of emissions.The Planck and BICEP2/Keck teams joined forces, combining the space satellite's ability to deal with foregrounds using observations at several frequencies, with the greater sensitivity of the ground-based experiments over limited areas of the sky."The noise in the instruments limits how deeply we can search for a signal from inflation," said Bock. "BICEP2/Keck measured the sky at one wavelength. To answer how much of the signal comes from the galaxy, we used Planck's measurements in multiple wavelengths. We get a big boost by combining BICEP2/Keck and Planck measurements together, the best data currently available."
The final results showed that most of the original BICEP2/Keck B-mode signal, but not necessarily all of it, could be explained by dust in our Milky Way. As for signs of the universe's inflationary period, the question remains open.The joint Planck/BICEP/Keck study sets an upper limit on the amount of gravitational waves from inflation, which might have been generated at the time but at a level too low to be confirmed by the present analysis."The new upper limit on the signal due to gravitational waves agrees well with the upper limit that we obtained earlier with Planck using the temperature fluctuations of the CMB. The gravitational wave signal could still be there, and the search is definitely on," said Brendan Crill, a member of both the BICEP2 and Planck teams from JPL.
5) Using stem cells to grow new hair:
In a new study from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), researchers have used human pluripotent stem cells to generate new hair. The study represents the first step toward the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss. In the United States alone, more than 40 million men and 21 million women are affected by hair loss. The research was published online in PLOS One yesterday. "We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another," said Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham. "Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn't limited by the availability of existing hair follicles."
The research team developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells. They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture.
"In adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties," said Terskikh. "We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice."
"Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects," said Terskikh. "We are currently seeking partnerships to implement this final step."
6) Meteorite may represent 'bulk background' of Mars' battered crust:
A 7034, a meteorite found a few years ago in the Moroccan desert, is like no other rock ever found on Earth. It's been shown to be a 4.4 billion-year-old chunk of the Martian crust, and according to a new analysis, rocks just like it may cover vast swaths of Mars.
In a new paper, scientists report that spectroscopic measurements of the meteorite are a spot-on match with orbital measurements of the Martian dark plains, areas where the planet's coating of red dust is thin and the rocks beneath are exposed. The findings suggest that the meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, is representative of the "bulk background" of rocks on the Martian surface, says Kevin Cannon, a Brown University graduate student and lead author of the new paper.
The research, co-authored by Jack Mustard from Brown and Carl Agee from the University of New Mexico, is in press in the journal Icarus.When scientists started analyzing Black Beauty in 2011, they knew they had something special. Its chemical makeup confirmed that it was a castaway from Mars, but it was unlike any Martian meteorite ever found. Before Black Beauty, all the Martian rocks found on Earth were classified as SNC meteorites (shergottites, nakhlites, or chassignites). They're mainly igneous rocks made of cooled volcanic material. But Black Beauty is a breccia, a mashup of different rock types welded together in a basaltic matrix. It contains sedimentary components that match the chemical makeup of rocks analyzed by the Mars rovers. Scientists concluded that it is a piece of Martian crust -- the first such sample to make it to Earth.
Cannon and Mustard thought Black Beauty might help to clear up a longstanding enigma: the spectral signal from SNC meteorites never quite match with remotely sensed specra from the Martian surface. "Most samples from Mars are somewhat similar to spacecraft measurements," Mustard said, "but annoyingly different."So after acquiring a chip of Black Beauty from Agee, Cannon and Mustard used a variety of spectroscopic techniques to analyze it. The work included use of a hyperspectral imaging system developed by Headwall photonics, a Massachusetts-based company. The device enabled detailed spectral imaging of the entire sample."Other techniques give us measurements of a dime-sized spot," Cannon said. "What we wanted to do was get an average for the entire sample. That overall measurement was what ended up matching the orbital data."The researchers say the spectral match helps put a face on the dark plains, suggesting that the regions are dominated by brecciated rocks similar to Black Beauty. Because the dark plains are dust-poor regions, they're thought to be representative of what hides beneath the red dust on much of the rest of the planet.
"This is showing that if you went to Mars and picked up a chunk of crust, you'd expect it to be heavily beat up, battered, broken apart and put back together," Cannon said.
That the surface of Mars would be rich in Black Beauty-like breccias makes a lot of sense, given what we know about Mars, the researchers say.
"Mars is punctured by over 400,000 impact craters greater than 1 km in diameter ...," they write. "Because brecciation is a natural consequence of impacts, it is expected that material similar to NWA 7034 has accumulated on Mars over time."In other words, Mustard says, the bulk of rocks on the surface of Mars probably look a lot like Black Beauty: "dark, messy and beautiful."
Recent Week Science News
7) Shots of brain cells restore learning, memory in rats:
Technique may someday ease radiation-related side effects for cancer patients, study suggests. tem cells can help heal long-term brain damage suffered by rats blasted with radiation, researchers report in the Feb. 5 Cell Stem Cell. The treatment allows the brain to rebuild the insulation on its nerve cells so they can start carrying messages again.
The researchers directed human stem cells to become a type of brain cell that is destroyed by radiation, a common cancer treatment, then grafted the cells into the brains of irradiated rats. Within a few months, the rats’ performance on learning and memory tests improved.“This technique, translated to humans, could be a major step forward for the treatment of radiation-induced brain … injury,” says Jonathan Glass, a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta.Steve Goldman, a neurologist at the University of Rochester in New York, agrees that the treatment could repair a lot of the damage caused by radiation. “Radiation therapy … is very effective, but the problem is patients end up with severe disability,” he says. “Fuzzy thinking, a loss in higher intellectual functions, decreases in memory — all those are part and parcel of radiation therapy to the brain.” For children, the damage can be profound. “Those kids have really significant detriments in their adult IQs,” Goldman says.Radiation obliterates cells that mature into oligodendrocytes, a type of cell that coats the message-carrying part of nerve cells with insulation. Without that cover, known as the myelin sheath, nerve cells can’t transmit information, leading to memory and other brain problems.Scientists developed a technique that may one day repair some of the side effects of radiation to the brain.
1. Rats underwent radiation, which destroyed the forerunners of cells that make the insulation on information-carrying neurons.
2. Scientists grafted forerunner cells grown from human stem cells into the rats’ brains. The cells matured, found the stripped neurons and started making more insulation.
3. The rats improved on tasks that tested their learning, memory and motor coordination, such as staying balanced on a rotating pole.
“All the highways in the brain are covered with this myelin,” says Viviane Tabar, a coauthor of the new study and neurosurgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “You want to replenish the cells that are knocked out by radiation and … fix the deficit, the myelin problem.”
To bolster the brain’s supply of oligodendrocytes, Tabar and her team grew forerunners to the myelin-making cells from human stem cells. The researchers injected these precursor cells into different areas in the brains of 18 rats that had been given a regimen of multiple radiation doses similar to what cancer patients receive.The researchers then tested the rats to see if their learning, memory and balance problems would improve. After 10 weeks, the treated rats performed better than the irradiated rats that had not received the infusion of new cells.Rats given the new cells in their forebrains were better at recognizing when an object had been moved or noticing that researchers presented them with an unfamiliar object. Rats injected in their cerebellum, which is responsible for motor control, were able to trot on a rotating pole for a longer time without falling off. Rats needed injections in both parts of the brain to get all the learning and motor benefits.The researchers also took images of the rats’ brains to track the progress of the injected cells. Most of the new cells survived and restored myelin to the denuded nerve cells.The rats did not experience any side effects from the treatment. The new cells did not spawn any tumors or morph into other types of cells. Tabar says she plans to repeat the experiment with a larger group of rats and include treatments (such as chemotherapy) that people receive while undergoing radiation.
8) Sea slug has taken genes from algae it eats, allowing it to photosynthesize like a plant:
How a brilliant-green sea slug manages to live for months at a time "feeding" on sunlight, like a plant, is clarified in a recent study published in The Biological Bulletin. The authors present the first direct evidence that the emerald green sea slug's chromosomes have some genes that come from the algae it eats.
These genes help sustain photosynthetic processes inside the slug that provide it with all the food it needs.Importantly, this is one of the only known examples of functional gene transfer from one multicellular species to another, which is the goal of gene therapy to correct genetically based diseases in humans."Is a sea slug a good [biological model] for a human therapy? Probably not. But figuring out the mechanism of this naturally occurring gene transfer could be extremely instructive for future medical applications," says study co-author Sidney K. Pierce, an emeritus professor at University of South Florida and at University of Maryland, College Park.The team used an advanced imaging technique to confirm that a gene from the alga V. litorea is present on the E. chlorotica slug's chromosome. This gene makes an enzyme that is critical to the function of photosynthetic "machines" called chloroplasts, which are typically found in plants and algae.
It has been known since the 1970s that E. chloritica "steals" chloroplasts from V. litorea (called "kleptoplasty") and embeds them into its own digestive cells. Once inside the slug cells, the chloroplasts continue to photosynthesize for up to nine months--much longer than they would perform in the algae. The photosynthesis process produces carbohydrates and lipids, which nourish the slug.How the slug manages to maintain these photosynthesizing organelles for so long has been the topic of intensive study and a good deal of controversy. "This paper confirms that one of several algal genes needed to repair damage to chloroplasts, and keep them functioning, is present on the slug chromosome," Pierce says. "The gene is incorporated into the slug chromosome and transmitted to the next generation of slugs." While the next generation must take up chloroplasts anew from algae, the genes to maintain the chloroplasts are already present in the slug genome, Pierce says.
"There is no way on earth that genes from an alga should work inside an animal cell," Pierce says. "And yet here, they do. They allow the animal to rely on sunshine for its nutrition. So if something happens to their food source, they have a way of not starving to death until they find more algae to eat. "
This biological adaptation is also a mechanism of rapid evolution, Pierce says. "When a successful transfer of genes between species occurs, evolution can basically happen from one generation to the next," he notes, rather than over an evolutionary timescale of thousands of years.
9) 15-million-year-old mollusk protein found:
A team of Carnegie scientists have found "beautifully preserved" 15 million-year-old thin protein sheets in fossil shells from southern Maryland. Their findings are published in the inaugural issue of Geochemical Perspectives Letters. The team--John Nance, John Armstrong, George Cody, Marilyn Fogel, and Robert Hazen--collected samples from Calvert Cliffs, along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay, a popular fossil collecting area. They found fossilized shells of a snail-like mollusk called Ecphora that lived in the mid-Miocene era--between 8 and 18 million years ago.
Ecphora is known for an unusual reddish-brown shell color, making it one of the most distinctive North American mollusks of its era. This coloration is preserved in fossilized remains, unlike the fossilized shells of many other fossilized mollusks from the Calvert Cliffs region, which have turned chalky white over the millions of years since they housed living creatures.Shells are made from crystalline compounds of calcium carbonate interleaved with an organic matrix of proteins and sugars proteins and sugars. These proteins are called shell-binding proteins by scientists, because they help hold the components of the shell together.They also contain pigments, such as those responsible for the reddish-brown appearance of the Ecphora shell. These pigments can bind to proteins to form a pigment-protein complex.
The fact that the coloration of fossilized Ecphora shells is so well preserved suggested to the research team that shell proteins bound to these pigments in a complex might also be preserved. They were amazed to find that the shells, once dissolved in dilute acid, released intact thin sheets of shell proteins more than a centimeter across. Chemical analysis including spectroscopy and electron microscopy of these sheets revealed that they are indeed shell proteins that were preserved for up to 15 million years."These are some of the oldest and best-preserved examples of a protein ever observed in a fossil shell," Hazen said.
Remarkably, the proteins share characteristics with modern mollusk shell proteins. They both produce thin, flexible sheets of residue that's the same color as the original shell after being dissolved in acid. Of the 11 amino acids found in the resulting residue, aspartate and glutamate are prominent, which is typical of modern shell proteins. Further study of these proteins could be used for genetic analysis to trace the evolution of mollusks through the ages, as well as potentially to learn about the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay during the era in which Ecphora thrived.
Movies News This Week:
From the streets of Chicago to the far-flung galaxies whirling through space, “Jupiter Ascending” tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who was born under a night sky, with signs predicting she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.
In a time long past, an evil is about to be unleashed that will reignite the war between the forces of the supernatural and humankind once more. Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a knight who had imprisoned the malevolently powerful witch, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), centuries ago. But now she has escaped and is seeking vengeance. Summoning her followers of every incarnation, Mother Malkin is preparing to unleash her terrible wrath on an unsuspecting world. Only one thing stands in her way: Master Gregory. In a deadly reunion, Gregory comes face to face with the evil he always feared would someday return. He has only until the next full moon to do what usually takes years: train his new apprentice, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) to fight a dark magic unlike any other. Man's only hope lies in the seventh son of a seventh son.
SpongeBob goes on a quest to discover a stolen recipe that takes him to our dimension, our world, where he tangles with a pirate.
In this final installment, the Ninjas and their friends find themselves pitted against the most evil and memorable monsters of them all - Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Werewolf, and MORE! Loaded with martial arts action, bloody horror, gun play, magic, comedy, pop-culture references, and a tightly woven twist-filled plot.
Previous Week Realease
Karl Urban (Star Trek Into Darkness) and James Marsden (2 Guns) star in the tense psychological thriller THE LOFT, the story of five married guys who conspire to secretly share a penthouse loft in the city--a place where they can carry out hidden affairs and indulge in their deepest fantasies. But the fantasy becomes a nightmare when they discover the dead body of an unknown woman in the loft, and they realize one of the group must be involved. Paranoia seizes them as everyone begins to suspect one another. Friendships are tested, loyalties are questioned and marriages crumble as the group is consumed by fear, suspicion and murder in this relentless thriller.
6) Project Almanac:
As a group of friends discover plans for a time machine, they build it and use it to fix their problems and personal gain. But as the future falls apart with disasters, and each of them disappear little by little, they must travel back to the past to make sure they never invent the machine or face the destruction of humanity.
During the era of British India, lives a happy go lucky, school drop-out Shivkar Bapuji Talpade aka Shivi (Ayushmann Khurrana), who falls in love with a local stage dancer Sitara (Pallavi Sharda). This makes Shivi's father throw him out of the house and he bumps into a crazy scientist Pandit Subbaraya Shastri (Mithun Chakraborty). Shastri is constantly been chased by British soldiers for his weird experiments but lesser they know that Shastri is secretly building a flying machine. Seeing Shivi's great knowledge of Vedas, Shastri shares his secret book based on ancient Indian aeronautics, which he was using to build an air-plane. Shastri offers Shivi to be his assistant but Shivi refuses. Shivi later proposes to Sitara to marry her, but Sitara resists on the grounds that society will not accept their marriage and goes away to Hyderabad.Heartbroken, Shivi goes back to Shastri and accepts his offer to assist him. Together they work for several months to design a perfect machine which can fly but kept failing. On running out of funds they request a local king to sponsor their experiments. Finally, they manage to build a small air-plane and had a successful unmanned test flight in presence of many eye witnesses, but the air-craft crashes within few seconds. Shivi later learned that Sitara is back in Bombay and now lives in a poor condition under heavy debts. Shivi and Sitara reunite, but in order to get her out of debt, Shivi sells Shastri's secret book to a British officer. Feeling betrayed, Shastri could not survive this trauma and dies. Shastri's death makes Shivi feel so guilty, that he decides to fulfil Shastri's incomplete dream along with Sitara and his nephew Narayan.
In his quest to build a perfect flying machine, Shivi goes to Banaras to meet a guru, to whom Shastri used to refer. The guru gave Shivi a code "4121", which later helped Shivi to figure out that mercury will be the best fuel for engine. Before Shivi could complete his machine, British officers arrest him on his brother's complaint. After been rescued by a freedom fighter, Shivi finally takes the air-craft to sea beach. In the end, before soldiers could arrest him again, Shivi flies away along Sitara and becomes worlds' first humans to ride in a flying machine.
The story follows members of a fictional secret operation called Baby, a temporary task force headed by Feroz (Denzongpa) whose mission is to protect India from terrorists and whose mandate is coming to a close.
While attempting to rescue a fellow Indian security agent in Turkey, Ajay Rajput (Akshay Kumar) discovers a terrorist plot against a Delhi mall which he and Jai (Daggubati) are able to prevent. In the process they learn that this was only the first in a series of massive attacks that have been planned. Terrorist mastermind Maulana (Naz) , who is causing trouble near the Pakistan-India border, arranges for Bilal (Kay Kay Menon) to escape from prison. A team from Baby is dispatched, but all of the squad members on the mission except Ajay are killed in an explosion. To collect further information from a terrorist logistics planner in Nepal, Ajay and officer Priya (Pannu) travel to Nepal pretending to be husband and wife. Their plan to capture the terrorist Wasim Khan (Sushant Singh) goes wrong and Priya is trapped alone with Khan when he discovers she is spying on him. Ajay arrives to find that Priya has rendered Khan unconscious.
Feroz sends Ajay, Jai and Shukla to their deep asset Ashfaq in Saudi Arabia where Bilal is making his plans. After they kill Bilal and are about to return, they find that Maulana is also at the site. Jai knocks him out and they decide to bring Maulana back to India, sedated, under the pretext that he is a relative they need to get to India for a liver transplant. After the discovery of Bilal's death, the Arab police chief Hani Mohammad (Hasan Noman) first attempts to close the airport to prevent the murderer's escape and the police almost apprehend the Baby agents. However, a short time later when he calls and finds out there are in fact 3 people on the plane headed to India under a medical visa, he smiles and lets them escape.After Baby's success at bringing Maulana in to the Indian security, Baby is given permanent status
Political News in Two Weeks:
1) Delhi high on ink, records 67 per cent voter turnout:
Delhi registered a record voter turnout in the assembly polls which closed at 6 pm, according to preliminary data received from Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi, 67 per cent voter turnout was recorded.
However, the final figure may go up as at some polling booths people are still in the queue. Voting began at 8 am on Saturday for the 70-member assembly.
Chief Election Commissioner H S Bramha said the election process so far has been peaceful. People in long queues are being seen at various polling booths as they await their turn to cast votes. Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, BJP's chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi, Union Ministers Harsh Vardhan and Maneka Gandhi, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, Congress' Ajay Maken and BJP's Varun Gandhi were among the early voters. The Delhi polls are seen as a direct contest between AAP and BJP and being billed as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a description rejected by his party leaders.
This is the second assembly polls in Delhi within little over one year. The assembly polls in December 2013 had thrown a hung verdict with BJP winning 31 seats and AAP making a stunning debut by wresting 28 seats while Congress got only 8 in the 70-member assembly.The elections are significant as a defeat for BJP may bolster the opposition while a victory for the party will increase its confidence ahead of assembly polls in Bihar later this year.
2) Saradha scam: Matang Sinh sent to police custody for 5 days:
Former Union minster Matang Sinh, who was arrested by Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with Saradha chit fund scam on January 31, was on Saturday remanded to police custody for five days.
ACJM (in-charge) of Alipore court Manikuntala Roy granted CBI the remand of Sinh till February 11. CBI had sought custody for seven days.The judge also granted the defence counsel’s prayer that a lawyer be provided with him (Sinh) during interrogation during his custodial stay.The counsel, appearing for the accused, while pleading for the bail application, said the accused was a grade II liver transplant patient and hence needed special medical attention and that his immunity level was very low and sending him to police custody might endanger his life.The counsel maintained that Sinh was cooperating with the investigating agency and that he was arrested on the day when he went to the CBI office on January 31.Sinh told the court that he was a liver transplant patient and had undergone the operation seven years ago in London and had developed several complications since then.The accused also mentioned in the court that the investigation officer in this case visited his home and hospital in Delhi and was sympathetic to his medical condition.He said he was also a blood pressure and hypertension patient and took 22 kinds of life-saving medicines.
The defence counsel also prayed that a lawyer be provided to him if his bail was rejected by the court.
The prosecution counsel said that Sinh was part of a larger conspiracy and the accused was the beneficiary of the Saradha Group of companies.The prosecution counsel also said he had entered into various illegal agreements with Sudipto Sen (Saradha group chairman) and actively contributed to diversion of funds in Saradha Group and so his custodial interrogation was required.
3) Rebel Manjhi sidelined, JD-U elects Nitish Kumar as its leader:
Sidelining defiant Jitan Ram Manjhi who has refused to step down, Janata Dal-United Legislature Party on Saturday elected Nitish Kumar as its leader who will stake claim to form government in Bihar.Kumar, who had resigned as chief minister in the wake of party’s disastrous performance in Lok Sabha polls in May last year, was elected at a meeting attended by 97 of 111 JD-U MLAs and 37 of the total 41 members of Legislative Council.The meeting, called by party president Sharad Yadav, took place shortly after Manjhi’s unsuccessful bid to have a Cabinet recommendation for dissolution of the assembly.
Earlier, a last-ditch attempt was made for a patch up between Manjhi and the group led by Kumar but it failed.Kumar’s election at the meeting, dubbed by the chief minister as “unauthorized”, paves the way for him to take over the mantle again by replacing Manjhi whom he had handpicked to after he had resigned.At the Cabinet meeting convened by Manjhi just before the Legislature Party meeting, a proposal was mooted for dissolving the assembly. It was supported by seven ministers besides Manjhi, while 21 pro-Nitish Kumar ministers opposed it, state finance minister Bijendra Yadav told reporters.Kumar said Yadav will establish contact with Governor Kesrinath Tripathi to stake claim to form the government.He said that majority was with him “and if needed, we will parade our majority numbers”, apparently referring to support of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Communist Party of india which takes his number well ahead of the majority mark in the 243-member assembly.Yadav said a total of 130 JD-U legislators, comprising MLAs and MLCs, are in support of Nitish Kumar.
Notice had been sent to 111 MLAs and 41 MLCs for attending the meeting convened by Yadav. As expected, Manjhi, some ministers and legislators supporting him stayed away from it.Addressing JD-U legislators, he said he had been forced to accept the challenge in view of “dirty” politics played by the Bharatiya Janata Party against his party.
Kumar said he would take the fight against the BJP to its logical conclusion in the assembly polls due later this year.
“Now I have accepted the challenge and I will lead from the front and take the fight against the BJP which is playing ‘dirty tricks’ against his party to a logical conclusion in assembly poll later this year,” he said.
Kumar has assumed leadership eight months after he quit CM on May 19 owning moral responsibility for JD-U's poor show in the Lok Sabha election.Apprehending that the BJP might play against him, Kumar said, “It will be seen whether people in power today hold value of democracy or try to throttle democratic values.”In the JD-U Legislature Party meeting, Masaurhi MLA Arun Manjhi, considered a supporter of Manjhi, proposed Kumar’s name, which was approved by the MLAs.
On Manjhi Cabinet’s proposal for dissolving assembly, Kumar said it did not enjoy the backing of a majority. “The tradition is that even if one member registers protest on any item in the Cabinet it is withdrawn. Here 21 ministers are rejecting a proposal to recommend dissolution of the Vidhan Sabha,” Kumar said.Earlier, a letter bearing signature of 21 ministers who had rejected the proposal to dissolve the assembly, was sent to President Pranab Mukherjee and the Governor to convince them that if Manjhi went ahead and recommended dissolution of the House it was not backed by a majority.Meanwhile, a press release issued by Principal Secretary Cabinet Coordination department B Pradhan said the Cabinet had authorised Chief Minister Manjhi to take “an appropriate decision at an appropriate time” on the proposal to dissolve the assembly.
4) Modi govt takes UPA line, won't disclose Netaji Bose files:
Taking the line adopted by the previous Congress-led UPA government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Office has refused to disclose records related to Subhash Chandra Bose's death as it rejected the argument that there was a larger public interest involved in making them public.The Right to Information Act allows for a public authority to disclose records which are otherwise exempt from disclosure if public interest outweighs the harm protected.Activist Subhash Agrawal had sought from the Prime Minister's Office the records related to the freedom fighter and leader of the Indian National Army to clarify the mystery surrounding his alleged death in a plane crash 70 years back.
Agrawal had also asked for information of the steps taken by the top office to make such records public and the action taken on requests seeking such documents.But toeing the line of the UPA government, the PMO had cited an exemption clause in the RTI Act which allows withholding of information that could prejudicially affect relations with a foreign country. The PMO, however, did not even give the names of the countries with which the relations may get affected once the said information is made public.
When the first appeal was filed before a higher officer in the top office, the Appellate Authority, Krishan Kumar, had rejected the argument that public interest would be served through the disclosure of the documents related to Bose's death.Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while campaigning for polls, had claimed that there was a larger public interest involved in the disclosure of the documents, but the PMO under Modi does not seem to be in agreement."It is observed that the disclosure of the records was withheld under Section 8(1)(a) of RTI Act on the grounds that it would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries."The determination as to whether a particular body of records has such ramifications has been left to the judgement of the competent authority authorised to determine the same," Kumar had said.
5) Sunanda's son quizzed, cops may call Tharoor again:
Sunanda Pushkar's son Shiv Menon was on Thursday questioned by the Special Investigation Team in connection with her mysterious death even as the police are likely to question former Union minister Shashi Tharoor and his domestic help again to reconstruct the chain of events in the case.Menon reached the SIT office in South Delhi's Vasant Kunj at around 1.20 pm this afternoon and the questioning continued till late in the evening. Police sources said that Menon was asked how the relationship was between Tharoor and Sunanda.Sources also said that police will question almost all the people whom they think are important for a solution to the case.
"After quizzing Menon, we are considering questioning Tharoor and (his domestic help) Narayan Singh again to reconstruct the theory," said a senior police official.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner BS Bassi said, “Tharoor, Narayan and some workers who were around are also included in the case because some new things have come to light now... That's why there would be a need for questioning again. Whenever it is required, we will be calling them for questioning.”
Bassi said that police may hold talks with others as well whom they feel is necessary to approach. "We will also be holding talks with the additional people whom we feel are necessary (to the solution of the case). Those whom we feel we have to confront on the basis of evidence, we will confront them too... We need to talk to people who were present there when Sunanda Pushkar died," Bassi said.Asked if police will call Subramanian Swamy for questioning, the police commissioner said, "I wouldn't want to close any option... if the SIT feels, they will surely call him (Swamy). Until the SIT takes a decision on this, it won't be right for me to speculate on anything."
Bassi also said that there are some exhibits about which police want to get an opinion from abroad. He added that there are also some analyses that the police want done and they would soon send certain exhibits abroad towards that end. The police team probing the case has questioned at least 15 people in this connection.Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and his staff members and close friends were among those quizzed by Delhi Police.Former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and senior journalist Nalini Singh, too, have been questioned by police.52-year-old Sunanda was found dead in her suite at a five- star hotel in south Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on micro-blogging website twitter over the latter's alleged affair with Tharoor. Police had last month filed a murder case in their pursuit of the matter
6) Agni 5 project director shunted, alleges victimisation:
In yet another controversy to hit the Defence Research and Development Organisation, R K Gupta, the project director of nuclear-capable Agni 5 missile programme, has been moved out following which he has complained to the defence ministry alleging victimisation.
While DRDO sources termed the transfer as "routine", the officer has alleged that he was singled out by two senior officials within the organisation, including former chief Avinash Chander, who demitted his office on January 31.
The incident came just days after the successful canister launch of the inter-continental missile on January 31.
Gupta has complained to the mnistry that he received the letter, dated January 9, only on February 2 when he reached his office after the successful launch.
"With all humility and respect, I wish to bring to your notice that on February 2, I was relinquished from the post of project director Agni-V. I am shocked that... such bad treatment is meted out to such a senior scientist with an excellent track record throughout service tenure," he said in his letter to Defence Secretary R K Mathur, who is also holding the additional charge of DRDO.
Incidentally Gupta's name had come up in connection with the sudden termination of Chander's contract by the government, 15 months ahead of his tenure.
It was then rumoured that one of the reasons for Chander's removal was three complaints filed by individuals including by Gupta who has denied any such move.
DRDO sources insisted that such transfers are routine when a project enters into a different phase."The Agni 5 is no longer in development phase. It is in production and induction phase and hence transfers are routine since the services of an officer can be used somewhere else. A new person to take care of production is also brought in," a source said.
7) Trinamool MP Srinjoy Bose quits, says politics not his cup of tea:
In a jolt to Trinamool Congress, facing the heat of the Saradha scam, its Rajya Sabha member Srinjoy Bose resigned from the party and also as MP on Thursday saying he has realised that politics was not his "cup of tea".
Bose's resignation came barely a day after he was released from jail on conditional bail after spending 75 days in the Central Bureau of Investigation and judicial custody after his arrest by the central investigating agency in connection with the scam in November.
"I would like to inform that with immediate effect, I have resigned from my membership of the Rajya Sabha. I have also decided to resign from the primary membership of the party -- the Trinamool Congress," he said in a release.
His resignation prompted TMC national spokesperson and chief whip of TMC parliamentary party in Rajya Sabha Derek O'Brien to allege that Bose had been put "under tremendous pressure".
"We have been saying for some time now that he (Bose) has been put under tremendous pressure by the party in power at the Centre. He was released on bail yesterday (Wednesday). He resigned today (Thursday). We are happy that he got 'freedom'," he said in a statement put up on TMC's website.
Party secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said there was pressure on Bose to resign from the party and Parliament. "Maybe pressure of the BJP, maybe pressure of a news channel," was Chatterjee's cryptic reply when quizzed by newsmen in Burdwan at a programme.
Bose, editor-in-chief of a Bengal daily and former editor of Trinamool Congress mouthpiece Jago Bangla, said it was during his days in custody that he understood "politics is not my cup of tea".
Pressure from his family had also shaped his decision. "There has also been a lot of pressure from my family, especially from my mother and my wife which finally made me take the decision," the release said.
Bose thanked TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for making him an MP. "I would also like to express my deepest gratitude and thanks to all persons who have stood by my family during this extreme difficult time," he said.
Sports News This Week:
1) Paes-Hingis win Australian Open mixed doubles title:
Martina Hingis and Leander Paes pose with the winner's trophy after their victory over Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor in the mixed doubles final of the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne.
2) Serena Williams wins 2015 Australian Open title:
Serena Williams holds the trophy after defeating Maria Sharapova in the women's singles final at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia on January 31, 2015
3) Novak Djokovic wins 2015 Australian Open title:
Serbia's Novak Djokovic holds the trophy after defeating Britain's Andy Murray in their Australian Open final in Melbourne.
4) Captain Dhoni sees open World Cup, pressure on hosts:
The cricket World Cup could be won by any one of the "balanced" six or seven teams in the fray, according to India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.South Africa and Australia are seen as the favourites for the Feb. 14-March 29 tournament, while co-hosts New Zealand also loom as most people's third pick given a strong run of form at home against fellow contenders Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"I feel this World Cup, most of the teams, they are quite balanced, and most of the teams are looking good," Dhoni said in a pre-World Cup media conference on Saturday."When I say most, it's in excess of six or seven teams that I'm talking about. So I feel it will be a very special World Cup for all the teams.
"It's a matter of which team is more consistent during the World Cup, what kind of momentum they take with them into the knockout stages and all of that will be crucial."
Dhoni was unconcerned about his own side's lack of positive results heading into the World Cup after they lost their test series to Australia then all three of their one-day matches in a triangular tournament that also included England.The wicketkeeper, however, said they had been written off previously only to come right when they needed to."When we went and played the Champions Trophy (in 2013) we were in a similar situation like this and the guys stepped up, that's what I feel is important," he added."What we have seen is how you rise to an occasion like this and how you take the confidence forward to something that's more important."The last World Cup had created enormous pressure on the host nation and Dhoni said that would have some impact on Australia and New Zealand, though the expectations would probably not be the same as his side experienced in 2011.
"It is slightly tough. It's not something that a lot of home teams have won," said Dhoni. "The expectation of the people, it's very high."I think the same will apply to the Australians and the New Zealand side, but at the same time, their culture is slightly different, so what's a kind of expectation level that we'll have to wait and watch."Dhoni's wife gave birth to their first child on Friday and while he was delighted by the arrival of his daughter he was totally focussed on the World Cup."Mum and daughter both are good," he said."But (the) World Cup is a very important campaign, and everything can wait as of now."
Book of These Week:
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind : by Yuval Noah Harari
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future. - See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/yuval-noah-harari/sapiens-a-brief-history-of-humankind-9781846558245.aspx#sthash.B8JpQOTU.dpuf
Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.
Harari originally specialized in medieval history and military history, completing his doctorate at the University of Oxford (Jesus College) in 2002 and publishing numerous books and articles, including Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100-1550; The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450-2000; “The Concept of ‘Decisive Battles’ in World History”; and “Armchairs, Coffee and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War, 1100-2000”.
He now specializes in World History and macro-historical processes. His research focuses on macro-historical questions such as: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?
His most recent book is entitled Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (originally published in Hebrew under the title A Brief History of Mankind, and later translated into close to 30 languages). The book surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of Homo sapiens in the Stone Age up to the political and technological revolutions of the 21st century. The Hebrew edition has become a bestseller in Israel. It has generated much interest both in the academic community and among the general public and has turned Harari into an instant celebrity.YouTube Video clips of Harari’s Hebrew lectures on the history of the world have been viewed by tens of thousands of Israelis; He is also giving an free online course in English entitled A Brief History of Humankind. More than 100,000 people throughout the world have already taken this course.
Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality, in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History’s Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history. In 2012 he was elected to the Young Israeli Academy of Sciences.He lives with his husband in moshav Mesilat Zion near Jerusalem
Mythology By Philip Wilkinson & Neil Philip
"Eyewitness Companions offer an essential reference library, perfect for novices or anyone who just wants to know more about their favourite pastime." Heyday
Undertake a quest of discovery - and learn about some of the greatest myths and characters the world has ever known - without leaving your armchair.
Get the story behind famous tales, from Greek mythology to the lesser known myths from the Americas, Oceania and Africa. Enjoy timeless epics vividly retold and beautifully illustrated, from creation myths to tales of heroism. Plus, come face-to-face with gods and monsters in the who's who of characters from mythmaking cultures.
A fresh and exciting look at the great stories, epics, and legends of the past.
Philip Wilkinson is the author of non-fiction books for children and adults. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He worked as an editor prior to becoming an author
Neil Philip:Neil Philip is a writer, folklorist and poet. He is married to the artist Emma Bradford, and lives in the Cotswolds, England. Neil loves words, poetry, and the art of storytelling in all its forms. Among his many books are A Fine Anger, Victorian Village Life, The Cinderella Story, The Penguin Book of English Folktales, Mythology (with Philip Wilkinson), The Great Mystery, War and the Pity of War, The New Oxford Book of Childrens Verse, The Tale of Sir Gawain, Horse Hooves & Chicken Feet, and The Adventures of Odysseus.