Saturday, November 28, 2015

J147: The Anti-aging Drug

A team of researchers at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies has been looking for effective candidates for combating Alzheimer's disease for awhile now.  Recently, they began trials for a drug known as J147 to determine if any effect at all would be observed on mice with Alzheimer's.  This drug is not normally used for Alzheimer's treatment, and was used in a more unique angle of combating Alzheimer's.  Professor David Schubert, who heads the Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk Institute and is the senior author of the study, said, "While most drugs developed in the past 20 years target the amyloid plaque deposits in the brain (which are a hallmark of the disease), none have proven effective in the clinic".  Essentially, the team was looking for different ways to try and affect Alzheimer's disease; they were trying to see if targeting old age would reduce Alzheimer's.

So the overall objective was to see if mice treated with J147 would exhibit characteristics of younger mice to combat Alzheimer's.  And it basically worked.

The older mice treated with J147 performed better on memory and other tests for cognition and also displayed more robust motor movements, healthier blood vessels in the brain, and other improved physiological features.  In addition, any aspects of Alzheimer's that were in the older mice diminished within their brains.  Secondly, it was evident that gene expression and metabolism in the older mice were very similar to younger mice.  This also included markers for increased energy metabolism, which reduced brain inflammation and reduced levels of oxidized fatty acids in the brain.

Although the study did show amazing results in mice, the only way to demonstrate the clinical relevance of the work is to move J147 into human clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease.  "If proven safe and effective for Alzheimer's, the apparent anti-aging effect of J147 would be a welcome benefit," added Schubert.  The team does plan on conducting human trials by next year, and hopefully we may just have an answer to Alzheimer's and even old age.

Here's the link to the article with a paper referenced as well:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The EmDrive Thruster: How to Break Physics

So physics may be a little broken or not working as expected.

That's what a team of NASA's best at Eagleworks Laboratories are trying to determine with the new EmDrive developed by Roger Shawyer.  This drive is held in great secrecy at NASA, with little details emerging from what the thruster does in its entirety.  Yet some information has been revealed by engineer Paul March on the NASA spaceflight forum on how it works and why it breaks physics.  To say it breaks physics, exactly how does a person or something do that?  How is this controversial thruster bend physics at all?

It generates thrust from nothing.  No input of energy is required.

To explain, as March describes it, "the Eagleworks lab successfully built and installed a 2nd generation magnetic damper which helps reduce stray magnetic fields in a vacuum chamber. The addition reduced magnetic fields by an order of magnitude inside the chamber, and also decreased Lorentz force interactions."  For those of us that aren't rocket scientists, the drive basically bends microwaves into a closed conical shaped container which somehow generates thrust into the wide end of the container.  Even NASA is still puzzled as to why this generates thrust.

The initial test showed some amount of thrust, but was considered questionable due to a contamination by thermal expansion.  Essentially, they couldn't prove at first that thrust came from nothing due to heat.  However, this amount of heat is being analyzed by the research team to develop an integrated test which aims to alleviate thermally induced errors altogether.  Even though the EmDrive is still within early testing, the theory does work, and thrust is generated from seemingly nothing.

Granted, the model that was built is somewhat small, about the size of a chair.  But the possibilities are endless.  The following paragraphs are an outline of what NASA and the engineers at Eagleworks Laboratories plan to do next about the drive.

Moving forward, NASA’s short term objective is to conduct a diverse array of tests on a quantum vacuum plasma thruster (a similar propellantless engine flatter in shape than the EmDrive), in hopes of gaining independent verification and validation of the thruster. Initial IV&V testing will be supported by the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, making use of a stainless steel vacuum chamber which has the capacity to detect force at a single-digit micronewton level, called a low-thrust torsion pendulum.

After that, a similar round of low-thrust torsion pendulum tests will then be conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before comparing the findings. It’s also reported that the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has contacted the lab about conducting Cavendish Balance-type testing of the IV&V shipset. Ideally, this test would allow Johns Hopkins to measure the amount of gravitational force exerted in propellantless engines.

 Granted, we are still a long ways away from self propelled space craft, or the ability to use this drive on future vehicles in space, but this is a major breakthrough in spacecraft technology.  With further refinement, microwave thrusters could drastically cut the cost of satellites and space stations, and potentially even make it possible to travel to distant planets, like Mars, in weeks rather than months or years.

Check out the details of this story at the following links: