NIAID wants to see if a parasite alleviates Ulcerative Colitis

Here’s something you don’t hear everyday… a parasite might be good for you!

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) just posted a clinical trial notice for assessing “Trichuris Suis Ova Treatment in Left-sided Ulcerative Colitis”

Here’s the little TSO medical assistant right here…

Now before you go AAAAAAAA NOT IN MY BODY YOU DON’T, the NIAID has the idea that introducing a tiny parasitic worm into a patient that suffers from Ulcerative Colitis will “distract the immune system so that it fights the worm rather than targeting the colon.”

The good news is that this parasite is a lightweight in the “invading alien” category and can be completely nuked with some basic meds.

The VERY good news is that Trichuris Suis Ova has already been found to have a “significant and long lasting improvements in active Crohn’s disease”, and this test is the first big step in making this treatment go mainstream.

Ulcerative Colitis, to use non-medical terms, sucks rocks. It’s a nasty “form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)… that includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores. The main symptom of active disease is usually constant diarrhea mixed with blood, of gradual onset.”

The clinical trial can be found on (part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health) and the trial will be active in…

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington

NASA’s official response to that “we’re all gonna dieeee” study

NASA had a quick but pointed response today to the “Sustainability Study” that’s making the rounds on the internet.

Apparently some university poozers slid a report under the door of NASA’s main office that says the world is gonna end and we’re all gonna die if we use plastic bags, keep the lights on when we’re not in the room, and all kinds of evil-bastard stuff like that.

NASA came down on Professor Chicken Little and his band of merry mother cluckers by saying “we didn’t touch that report, didn’t ask for that report, and we don’t even know who the University of Maryland’s mascot is. So nyaaa.”

Ok, maybe not literally, but I still don’t think it’s wise to tick off scientists who make giant explodey cylinders for a living.

Full press release follows…


NASA Statement on Sustainability Study

The following is a statement from NASA regarding erroneous media reports crediting the agency with an academic paper on population and societal impacts.

“A soon-to-be published research paper ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ by University of Maryland researchers Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay, and University of Minnesota’s Jorge Rivas was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity.

“As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions.”


Allard Beutel
Headquarters, Washington

Ed Campion
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

NASA has a free photo-rich ebook : “Dressing for Altitude”

It has been a busy few days for me, but I’m finally back. Hoo-ah!

While I was out, NASA announced they were giving away a free digital book that “details the development and use of the protective clothing worn by test pilots, astronauts and others as they soar high above Earth.”

It’s pretty hefty book at 526 pages, but it’s very well put together, and is filled with great photos like this one…


Dressing for Altitude 01

Dressing for Altitude 01


Is it me, or does that look a little like Big Daddy from the Bioshock games?

“Dressing for Altitude” has plenty of photos of pressure suits in various stages of development, and also gets into the science and technology of the suit designs themselves.

The book is available for free on NASA’s site in PDF, EPUB or MOBI format, but you can also order a “real” copy of the book from NASA’s information center if you like.

Here’s the official press release about “Dressing for Altitude”…
RELEASE: 12-308


WASHINGTON — NASA has published a colorful, picture-filled book that details the development and use of the protective clothing worn by test pilots, astronauts and others as they soar high above Earth.

“Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits — Wiley Post to Space Shuttle” provides a 526-page survey of the partial- and full-pressure suits designed to keep humans alive at the edge of space since their first use during the years before World War II. Pressure suits are not the spacesuits worn by spacewalking astronauts.

The book explores the challenges the clothiers-turned-engineers faced in designing a garment that could be relatively lightweight, flexible, inflatable, and still keep an ejecting pilot safe at high altitude and in the water.

“This work is designed to provide the history of the technology and explore the lessons learned through the years of research in creating, testing, and utilizing today’s high-altitude suits,” said Tony Springer of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

Dennis R. Jenkins, a writer, engineer and manager with 30 years of experience working on NASA programs, including the space shuttle, wrote the book and assembled its photographs and illustrations.

Jenkins said he became interested in the topic especially after studying the work and dedication of Goodrich and David Clark Company, the two major companies responsible for most of the pressure suit’s development through the years.

“I knew little about pressure suits going into the book, so the entire process was a learning exercise to me,” Jenkins said.

To order printed copies of the coffee-table-style book from NASA’s Information Center, visit:

To download an e-book version of the book in PDF format at no charge, visit:

For more information about aeronautics research at NASA, visit:

Do you know anyone under 18 who wants to name an asteroid for NASA?

NASA has opened a website where they will be accepting ideas for renaming asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36.

Anything goes, so long as the name is no longer than 16 characters, and every entry must also “include a short explanation and rationale for the name”.

I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of “Jacques Strap”, “Mike Rotch” and “Hugh Jass” submissions from the junior high crowd.

OK, seriously, it’s a very cool contest for science geeks, and if you know someone under 18 that’s into astronomy, send them to the website at the end of the press release for their shot at fame.

Here’s the official press release…

RELEASE: 12-302


WASHINGTON — Students worldwide have an opportunity to name an asteroid from which an upcoming NASA mission will return the first samples to Earth.

Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission is called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). Samples returned from the primitive surface of the near-Earth asteroid currently called (101955) 1999 RQ36 could hold clues to the origin of the solar system and organic molecules that may have seeded life on
Earth. NASA also is planning a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025. A closer scientific study of asteroids will provide context and help inform this mission.

“Because the samples returned by the mission will be available for study for future generations, it is possible the person who names the asteroid will grow up to study the regolith [sic] we return to Earth,” said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012.

The contest is a partnership with The Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington; and the University of Arizona in Tucson.

A panel will review proposed asteroid names. First prize will be awarded to the student who recommends a name that is approved by the International Astronomical Union Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature.

“Our mission will be focused on this asteroid for more than a decade,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the mission at the University of Arizona. “We look forward to having a name that is easier to say than (101955) 1999 RQ36.”

The asteroid was discovered in 1999 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. LINEAR is part of NASA’s Near Earth Observation Program in Washington, which detects and catalogs near-Earth asteroids and comets. The asteroid has an average diameter of approximately one-third of a mile (500 meters).

“We are excited to have discovered the minor planet that will be visited by the OSIRIS-REx mission and to be able to engage students around the world to suggest a name for 1999 RQ36,” said Grant Stokes, head of the Aerospace Division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and principal investigator for the LINEAR program.

The asteroid received its designation of (101955) 1999 RQ36 from the Minor Planet Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. The center assigns an initial alphanumeric designation to any newly discovered asteroid once certain criteria are met to determine its orbit.

“Asteroids are just cool and 1999 RQ36 deserves a cool name!” said Bill Nye, chief executive officer for The Planetary Society.
“Engaging kids around the world in a naming contest will get them tuned in to asteroids and asteroid science.”

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

To review contest rules and guidelines, visit:

To see a video explanation about the contest, visit:

For information about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

There’s a NASA probe flying around in the asteroid belt?

Apparently I was asleep for a few years, because I totally missed that NASA sent a probe (with ion propulsion!) to mosey around the asteroid belt.

NASA’s probe DAWN has been in orbit around the asteroid Vesta since July 2011, and now it is about to pop off on a two and a half year journey to a dwarf planet Ceres (AKA : A really reeeeeally big asteroid).

We’re just flinging shiny toys all over the solar system. I like it!

Here’s the official NASA press release…

RELEASE: 12-303


WASHINGTON — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first probe to orbit and study two distant destinations to help scientists answer questions about the formation of our solar system. The spacecraft is scheduled to leave the giant asteroid Vesta on Sept. 5 EDT (Sept. 4 PDT) to start its 2 1/2-year journey to the dwarf planet (AKA : A Really Really Big Asteroid) Ceres.

Dawn began its 3-billion-mile odyssey to explore the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt in 2007. Dawn arrived at Vesta in July 2011 and will reach Ceres in early 2015. These two members of the asteroid belt have been witness to much of our solar system’s history.

The valuable evidence Dawn gathered from examining the first of these cosmic fossils up close improved our understanding of asteroids and provided context for a future human mission to visit an asteroid.

The spacecraft will spiral away from Vesta as gently as it arrived, using a special, hyper-efficient system called ion propulsion. The ion propulsion system uses electricity to ionize xenon to generate thrust. The 12-inch-wide ion thrusters provide less power than conventional engines but can maintain thrust for months at a time.

“Thrust is engaged and we now are climbing away from Vesta atop a blue-green pillar of xenon ions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “We are feeling somewhat wistful about concluding a fantastically productive and exciting exploration of Vesta, but now we have our sights set on dwarf planet Ceres.”

Dawn provided close-up views of Vesta and unprecedented detail about the giant asteroid. Findings revealed that the asteroid had completely melted in the past, forming a layered body with an iron core. The spacecraft also revealed the collisions Vesta suffered in its southern hemisphere. The asteroid survived two colossal impacts in the last 2 billion years. Without Dawn, scientists would not have known about the dramatic troughs sculpted around Vesta, which are ripples from the two south polar impacts.

“We went to Vesta to fill in the blanks of our knowledge about the early history of our solar system,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator, based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “Dawn has filled in those pages and more, revealing to us how special Vesta is as a survivor from the earliest days of the solar system. We now can say with certainty that Vesta resembles a small planet more closely than a typical asteroid.”

JPL manages the mission to Vesta and Ceres for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

UCLA is responsible for the overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are part of the mission’s team.

For information about the Dawn mission, visit: