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NASA images show Jupiter apparently hit by object

Jupiter Hit

NASA images show Jupiter apparently hit by object

Astronomers say Jupiter has apparently been struck by an object, possibly a comet. Images taken by NASA early Monday show a scar in the atmosphere near the south pole of the gas giant.

The images, taken by the space agency’s infrared telescope in Hawaii, come on the 15th anniversary of another comet strike.

In 1994, Jupiter was bombarded by pieces of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena captured the new images after receiving a tip from an amateur astronomer the night before.

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Cats purrfect the art of getting what they want: study

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Cats purrfect the art of getting what they want: study

LONDON  –  Cats coax their owners into giving them what they want with a special purr that blends their normal soft, low sound with a high-pitched element that is hard to ignore, researchers said on Tuesday.

The high-frequency element is similar to a cry or a meow, and cats incorporate this into their normal, contended purr to exploit the nurturing instincts of humans for their own needs — usually to get fed, according to scientists.

Lead author Dr Karen McComb of Sussex University said she initiated the study after being repeatedly woken up in the mornings by her own cat, Pepo.

“I wondered why this purring sounded so annoying and was so difficult to ignore. Talking with other cat owners, I found that some of them — including co-author Anna Taylor — also had cats who showed similar behaviour,” she said.

McComb and her team tested human responses to different purring types, including “solicitation” purrs — which included the high-frequency element and were made by hungry cats — against “non-solicitation” or normal purrs.

“When humans were played purrs recorded while cats were actively seeking food at equal volume to purrs recorded in non-solicitation contexts, even those with no experience of cats judged the ?solicitation? purrs to be more urgent and less pleasant,” she said.

When the team re-synthesised the purrs to remove the embedded cry, the urgency ratings decreased significantly.

McComb concluded that the cats were using the special purr to make their views known without risking irritating humans with an overt meow.

However, this solution appears only to work in cats living one-on-one with their owners — cats in large households usually have to meow to be heard.

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Scientists find new strain of HIV

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Scientists find new strain of HIV

Gorillas have been found, for the first time, to be a source of HIV. Previous research had shown the HIV-1 strain, the main source of human infections, with 33m cases worldwide, originated from a virus in chimpanzees.

But researchers have now discovered an HIV infection in a Cameroonian woman which is clearly linked to a gorilla strain, Nature Medicine reports. A researcher told the BBC that though it is a new type of HIV, current drugs may still help combat its effects.

HIV originated from a similar virus in chimpanzees called Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). Although HIV/Aids was first recognised by scientists in the 1980s, it is thought it first entered the human population early in the twentieth century in the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus probably originally jumped into humans after people came into contact with infected bush meat. SIV viruses have been reported in other primates, including gorillas.

Unusual case

French doctors treating the 62-year-old Cameroonian woman who was living in Paris said they initially spotted some discrepancies in routine viral load tests.

Further analysis of the HIV strain she was infected with showed it was more closely related to SIV from gorillas than HIV from humans. She is the only person known to be infected with the new strain but the researchers expect to find other cases.

Before moving to Paris, she had lived in a semi-urban area of Cameroon and had no contact with gorillas or bush meat, suggesting she caught the virus from someone else who was carrying the gorilla strain. Analysis of the virus in the laboratory has confirmed that it can replicate in human cells.

Co-author Dr David Robertson, from the University of Manchester, said it was the first definitive transfer of HIV seen from a source other than a chimpanzee, and highlighted the need to monitor for the emergence of new strains.

“This demonstrates that HIV evolution is an ongoing process.

“The virus can jump from species to species, from primate to primate, and that includes us; pathogens have been with us for millions of years and routinely switch host species.”

The fact the patient had been diagnosed in France showed how human mobility can rapidly transfer a virus from one area of the world to another, he said.

New problems ‘unlikely’

Speaking to the BBC’s Wold Today programme, Dr Robertson said there was no reason to believe that existing drugs would not work on the new virus.

“If some day we do manage to develop a vaccine, there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t work,” he said.

“There’s no reason to believe this virus will present any new problems, as it were, that we don’t already face.”

Professor Paul Sharp, from the University of Edinburgh, said the virus probably initially transferred from chimpanzees to gorillas. He said the latest finding was interesting but perhaps not surprising.

“The medical implication is that, because this virus is not very closely related to the other three HIV-1 groups, it is not detected by conventional tests.

“So the virus could be cryptically spreading in the population.”

However, he said that he would guess it would not spread widely and become a major problem.

“Although the patient with this virus was not ill, there is no reason to believe that it will not lead to Aids,” he added.


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