DAILY DOSE: Water and carbon found in returned asteroid samples; Largest DDoS attack ever recorded just happened.


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has brought back pieces of the asteroid Bennu to Earth, including rocks and dust containing water and carbon, essential components for life. Revealed on 11 October, these samples from Bennu offer a significant insight into the early Solar System. The samples have clay minerals with trapped water, bright and dark dust grains, and sulfur-rich minerals, potentially crucial for planetary evolution. Eileen Stansbery, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, highlights their importance as a window into the Solar System’s early days. So far, only 1.5 grams of the expected 250-plus grams has been catalogued. Researchers value these samples, kept cold by the spacecraft’s heat shield during the return journey, preserving their original chemistry. Preliminary analysis indicates up to 4.7% carbon content in the sample, and organics that glow under UV light. Moreover, Bennu’s samples might have ancient water, possibly brought by asteroids to primeval Earth. The samples also feature sulfur compounds and iron-rich minerals. Comparatively, this is the largest sample return since the Apollo era, dwarfing Japan’s Hayabusa missions. (Nature)


Google, Amazon, and Cloudflare have reported experiencing the largest-known denial of service (DDoS) attack, warning of a new method with potential for vast disruption. Google’s blog post revealed that the scale of the recent attack on its cloud services surpassed the previous record-breaking attack by over seven times. Cloudflare described the assault as “three times larger than any previous attack,” while Amazon’s web services recognized it as a unique DDoS event. Initiated in late August, the attack is ongoing according to Google. Denial of service attacks flood servers with false requests, preventing genuine web traffic. The recent attacks could produce hundreds of millions of requests per second. A weakness in the HTTP/2 network protocol was identified as the enabling factor, prompting recommendations for server updates. The attackers’ identities remain unknown. Notably, in 2016, a DDoS attack disrupted numerous major websites. The U.S. government’s cybersecurity agency, CISA, has yet to comment. (Reuters)

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In a significant advancement for xenotransplantation, a kidney from a genetically modified pig successfully kept a monkey alive for over two years. This breakthrough moves medical professionals closer to alleviating the shortage of human organs using animal ones. Researchers from the biotech firm eGenesis applied extensive genome edits to prevent organ rejection and counteract dormant viruses in the donor pig organs. Their efforts have been hailed as evidence that genetically altered pig organs are safe and can support life. In recent times, pig hearts and kidneys have been successfully transplanted into humans and functioned in legally deceased individuals. Given the chronic shortage of organ donors, with over 100,000 people in the U.S. awaiting transplants and 17 dying daily, this research is paramount. While this study primarily focused on pig organs, because of their size and anatomical similarities to humans, many genetic modifications were necessary to prevent rejection and ensure functionality. The success of these extensive modifications and their scalability remains a topic of discussion among experts. (Nature)


UK hospital and school caterers are not sufficiently preventing the overuse of antibiotics in animals, warn campaign groups, emphasizing that this increases the risk of antibiotic resistance and reduces the effectiveness of vital human medicines. Health and animal welfare activists examined policies from 10 major UK caterers and found a notable absence or weakness in antibiotic usage controls. However, the government and the catering sector argue that voluntary measures are working, citing a 55% reduction in antibiotic use in food-producing animals since 2014. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) revealed that many of the analyzed caterers either lacked or had weak antibiotic usage policies, falling short compared to commercial food sector standards. Antibiotic resistance, which results in ‘superbugs’ or untreatable bacterial strains, is increasing globally, with over 1.25 million people dying annually due to new superbugs. The UK reports over 7,500 deaths from drug-resistant infections. (BBC)

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The Bluetongue virus (BTV), a pathogen impacting livestock, is rapidly spreading in the Netherlands for the first time in 14 years. The current outbreak involves a potent strain, BTV-3, for which no vaccine is available in Europe. Within two weeks, it was confirmed in 18 sheep flocks and 55 cattle herds, and has now surpassed 1100 cases. This outbreak’s spread seems quicker than the 2006-08 outbreak, which cost the Netherlands €175 million primarily due to trade restrictions. Bluetongue, transmitted by biting insects called midges, can prove fatal for sheep and reduce milk production in dairy cattle. Symptoms include fever, blisters, and a blueish tongue and lips. UK officials, free from bluetongue since 2010, fear the disease might spread from the Netherlands via infected midges. The Dutch agriculture ministry recommends housing livestock indoors. Climate change is suggested as a reason for the northward movement of the virus, and research for a vaccine is underway. (Science)


Our brain processes vast amounts of sensory input by integrating information from multiple senses, leading to associations like the taste of oranges with the color orange. A study in “Frontiers in Psychology” discovered that odors can unconsciously influence our perception of colors. Dr. Ryan Ward from Liverpool John Moores University and his team tested 24 adults for odor-color associations in a sensory-deprived room. Participants were exposed to one of six scents, including caramel, cherry, coffee, lemon, and peppermint. Previously, these scents were associated with specific colors. Participants were then asked to adjust a colored square on a screen to neutral grey. Results indicated that the presence of certain odors skewed participants’ color perception. For instance, with the coffee smell, they perceived a red-brown hue as grey. However, peppermint did not follow the typical odor-color association pattern. These findings demonstrate how interconnected sensory perceptions are and prompt questions about the broader implications of these crossmodal associations. (Frontiers In)


Scientists have delved deeper into the enigma of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” using X-rays to uncover the painting’s chemical structure. The research, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, revealed that Leonardo used a unique oil-paint recipe for the painting’s base layer. The team identified a rare compound, plumbonacrite, suggesting that Leonardo likely incorporated lead oxide powder to enhance and expedite the drying of his paint. This discovery affirms previous speculations from art historians about Leonardo’s technique. The particle analyzed was microscopic, procured from the painting’s top right-hand edge. Advanced X-ray techniques in a synchrotron determined the particle’s composition. Plumbonacrite’s presence indicates the recipe’s longevity as it was also found in Rembrandt’s works from the 17th century. Leonardo possibly used an orange-colored lead oxide powder mixed with linseed or walnut oil to produce a honey-like consistency. Despite this discovery, many mysteries about Leonardo’s masterpiece remain. (Associated Press)


Kia aims to boost its global electric vehicle (EV) sales to 1 million units by 2026 and 1.6 million by 2030. At its EV Day event in South Korea, Kia showcased concept cars EV3 and EV4, hinting at its upcoming production EVs. Additionally, a smaller EV2 model targeting Europe and emerging markets is being developed, aiming for a price point around $30,000. Both EV3 and EV4 use the E-GMP electric vehicle architecture, similar to the Kia EV6 and EV9. However, they’ll use a more cost-effective 400 V system, possibly reducing the maximum charging rate. The EV3 boasts features like a slide-out climate control panel and a flip-up rear seat, while the EV4 presents a unique design blending sedan, coupe, and wagon features. Although Kia hasn’t confirmed their US availability, these cars will likely hit the roads soon to support the company’s ambitious EV sales targets. (Ars Technica)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld & Joseph Aebersold.

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