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Comment: Jellyfish born in space aren’t happy on Earth

By Rebecca Helm, Brown University

Why send jellyfish to space? Well, because it’s awesome which is true of anything involving space.

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But mostly because of little crystals that they keep in their bodies, and what these crystals can tell us about long-term human space travel.

When a jellyfish grows, it forms calcium sulfate crystals at the margin of its body (termed a bell). These crystals are surrounded by a little cell pocket, coated in specialised hairs, which are equally spaced around the bell. When jellyfish turn, the crystals roll down with gravity to the bottom of the pocket, moving the cell hairs, which in turn send signals to nerve cells. In this way, jellyfish are able to sense their way up and down. All they need for this to happen is gravity.

Humans have gravity sensing structures too, and therein lies the crux: in space with no gravity, will these structures grow normally? If humans ever want to colonise places in deep space, then we may need to have kids in zero gravity. Will these kids develop normal gravity sensing, even after growing up without it?

For jellyfish, at least, things aren’t so good. After developing in space, these astronaut jellyfish have a hard life back on Earth. While development of the sensory pockets appears normal, many more jellies had trouble getting around once on the planet, including pulsing and movement abnormalities, compared to their Earth-bound counterparts.

 

Weightlessness, it’s my thing.

 

Human gravity sensing isn’t exactly like that of jellyfish, but it’s close. The human inner ear contains both fluids and small crystals, which tell us not only the angle of our head, but also our forward momentum. Even with these differences, there is enough similarity between the two systems to be cause for concern. In other words, if jellyfish babies have trouble gravity sensing on Earth after being in space, human babies may be in trouble too.

Human births in space could mean a lifetime of Earthly confusion. Long term space travel will be fraught with developmental challenges to the babies growing onboard. If the jellyfish say growing up in space isn’t so great, we better be listening.


First published on DeepSeaNews.

Rebecca Helm does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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2019年8月17日 上海性息

US default ‘almost inconceivable’: Hockey

Financial markets are becoming more confident that US politicians will secure a deal to avoid a US government debt default that could threaten the world economy.

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US Senate leaders in Washington were reportedly close on Monday to an agreement to raise their country’s $US16.7 trillion ($A17.64 trillion) borrowing limit before the October 17 deadline.

There have been repeated disappointments during a political standoff that has left the US government in partial shutdown for two weeks, but Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey remains fairly confident that a deal will be done.

Mr Hockey, who is still in the US following last week’s Group of 20 finance ministers’ meeting, told CNBC television that a default was “almost inconceivable”.

“The world needs America and America needs the world,” he said.

“I think it is that second part that has been lost to some in Congress.”

He said the Australian government has contingency plans in place should the US suffer a “heart attack”.

“Certainly we have back pocket plans to deal with whatever arises over the next few weeks as a result of negotiations,” he said.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) October 1 board meeting minutes released on Tuesday showed it had concerns over the uncertain US budget environment.

The central bank left open the option of further cutting the cash rate, which already sits at an all-time low of 2.5 per cent.

It said there had been two developments over the past month: the appreciation of the exchange rate and the pick up in measures of both consumer and business confidence.

“It was difficult to know how significant the effects of either of these developments would be, partly because it was uncertain whether they would be sustained,” the minutes said.

It noted the Australian dollar had appreciated significantly against the US dollar when the US Federal Reserve refrained from an expected tightening in monetary policy, but said the currency was still about 10 per cent lower than a peak in April.

The currency struck a four-month high of 95.35 US cents on Tuesday, more than a cent higher than at the time of the board meeting.

The minutes said recent data confirmed that overall Australia growth had been below trend.

Even so, the board believes the effect of low interest rates was evident across a range of indicators and had further to run, noting increased house prices and signs of a coming pick up in dwelling investment.

RBC Capital Markets head of strategy Su-Lin Ong pushed back the timing of an expected rate cut from December to the June quarter 2014.

“The cash rate is likely to remain at an historical low throughout 2014 – and possibly longer – regardless of whether the RBA delivers one final cut or not,” she said in a note to clients.

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SBW left out of Kiwis for warm-up game

Star second-rower Sonny Bill Williams hasn’t been named in the Kiwis team for their World Cup warm-up match against the Cook Islands in Doncaster.

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Coach Stephen Kearney has named an 18-man squad for the international on Sunday, which doesn’t carry Test status, choosing to leave out his six players who were involved in the recent NRL grand final.

That includes Manly Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran and five players from the champion Sydney Roosters side – wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and forwards Williams, Sam Moa, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

It means Williams will probably make his international rugby league return when they play the opening match of their World Cup title defence against Samoa in Warrington on October 27.

The 28-year-old dual international hasn’t played for the Kiwis since 2008 and was a controversial late inclusion in the touring party in place of Melbourne Storm second-rower Tohu Harris after making himself available following the official squad announcement.

The team to face the Cook Islands will be captained by Simon Mannering, one of seven Warriors players in the squad, including halves Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai.

Mannering and Leuluai are the most experienced members of the squad with 30 Tests each.

Kiwis:

Josh Hoffman, Jason Nightingale, Krisnan Inu, Dean Whare, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich, Issac Luke, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Simon Mannering (capt), Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Greg Eastwood, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn, Kevin Locke, Bryson Goodwin

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Fresh injury blows for Wallabies

Australia’s hopes of breaking a 12-year winless drought in New Zealand have been dealt another major blow, with wingers Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia ruled out of Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks.

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The Wallabies have already lost centre and goalkicker Christian Lealiifano and in-form flanker Scott Fardy for the dead rubber clash in Dunedin and the latest injury setbacks on the wing add to an already extensive unavailable list out wide.

Although the Dunedin clash is a dead rubber affair, pride is on the line for the Wallabies as they look to put a disappointing Rugby Championship behind them and take momentum into next month’s spring tour.

Tomane and Queensland flyer Feauai-Sautia both have hamstring injuries, but are expected to be available for the Wallabies’ opening match against England on November 2.

The loss of Tomane is the most significant for coach Ewen McKenzie, given the rugby league convert starred in Australia’s last-start demolition of Argentina, scoring a try and setting up another.

Waratahs winger Peter Betham has been added to the Wallabies’ 24-man squad for the Dunedin match, but Nick Cummins, himself returning from a broken hand, shapes as the frontrunner to replace Tomane.

The injury dramas have added to selection headaches for McKenzie since he took over as Wallabies coach, with Digby Ioane (French rugby), James O’Connor (discipline) and Henry Speight (eligibility) all unavailable.

Last week McKenzie was forced to move Adam Ashley-Cooper from his outside centre position to fill a void on the flanks and if Cummins isn’t selected to start, the rookie Test coach will have to consider shifting Israel Folau to the wing and putting Bernard Foley at fullback.

Matt Toomua is set to replace Lealiifano at No.12 and Ben McCalman tipped to come in for Fardy.

The All Blacks are without backline stars Dan Carter and Conrad Smith, but will still have the Australians well-and-truly beaten for experience out wide.

Prop James Slipper is renowned for his work rate and speed across the ground, but he admits his career will be defined by his consistency at scrum time.

Australia struggled to match South Africa and New Zealand at the set piece throughout the Rugby Championship, but the forwards have a chance to prove they’ve made progress against the All Blacks.

Slipper, 24, has been earmarked as the future of the Wallabies front row.

He’s a favourite of coach McKenzie, because his pace, power and workhorse qualities give the Wallabies the equivalent of a fourth backrower at the breakdown.

“As we all know, scrummaging is the No.1 priority job for a front rower,” Slipper said.

“I do feel like our scrum is an improvement throughout the year and for me personally, I feel like I’m getting through a lot of work around the field. But obviously scrums and the set piece is my first job.

“I still feel like I’m at the start of my career. This year has been great to have an opportunity to start a few games. I’m pretty happy with my form.”

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Toyota to cuts jobs and slash costs

Toyota will axe up to 100 jobs and must slash the cost of building cars in Australia to ensure the future of its local manufacturing operations.

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The company will call for voluntary redundancies at its Altona plant in Melbourne, where it currently employs about 2500 people, with the jobs to be go by the end of November.

In December it will cut production from 470 to 430 vehicles a day in response to a major fall in demand from the Middle East.

Toyota has recently built about 100,000 cars a year in Australia with 70 per cent of those destined for export markets.

The job losses are another blow to Australia’s struggling auto sector and put further pressure on the federal government to maintain or even increase financial support.

More worrying is Toyota’s need to cut the cost of building each car in Australia by $3800 by 2018 in order for its local manufacturing to remain viable.

Executive vice president Dave Buttner says Toyota has a long-term vision to continue as a local producer but must make savings.

“We’ve just got to keep working hard to reduce our overall cost base,” Mr Buttner said.

“That’s the key to our ongoing sustainability as a manufacturer.”

Toyota has not asked the federal government for more financial assistance and will work with the commonwealth on key issues affecting the automotive sector.

Cost cuts made so far will allow Toyota Australia to proceed with the next facelifts on its current cars, both for the domestic and export markets.

Its next hurdle is to secure the next generation of locally-manufactured product.

“Because of the long-term nature and lead times in our industry, those decisions will be happening some time throughout 2014,” Mr Buttner said.

Toyota’s latest job cuts follow a move by the company to axe 350 jobs in April last year, Holden’s decision to cut 400 jobs earlier this year amid ongoing fears for the future of its local operations, and Ford’s plan to close its manufacturing operations by 2016.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the job losses were “terrible news” for an industry that was doing it tough but was vital to Australia and deserved ongoing assistance.

Labor industry spokesman Kim Carr said the cuts should remind the government of the cost pressures facing the car industry.

“If we want to see major employers like our car makers stay in business, providing jobs for Australians, we need to back them,” he said.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the federal government remained committed to working with the car industry on the challenges it faced and said the government’s plans for a productivity commission review of the sector were proceeding.

“This is a difficult time for affected workers at Toyota,” he said.

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