Author Archives: John Antone Jaksich - The Silent Astronomer

About John Antone Jaksich - The Silent Astronomer

John Jaksich is a lover of the cosmos. He holds a BA in chemistry from Calif. State University Hayward. He has worked in organic chemical synthesis and analytical chemistry. John traces his love for astronomy from watching Apollo launches on an old fashioned black & white television in the 1960s. He runs blog called, The Silent Astronomer and has contributed pieces to the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society newsletter. His work was published at DecodedScience.org.

Uneasy Reality of the Zika Virus


The Zika virus promises a new reality for the USA and ‘the rest of the world.’ The virus will be infecting more individuals in the coming months, and ‘the true tragedy’ becomes apparent for those not infected by the virus.

Many of us will do our best eliminate standing water and ‘dangerous hot spots.’

Otherwise, ‘some encouraging words’ come from the researchers–

 

Purported MECHANISTIC DETAILS of Zika’s Infection in humans and in animal models:

The word mechanism implies that researchers, doctors and most of the ‘informed community’ understands how the virus infects ‘new borns and adults.’ It is also called a ‘mode of action’ — in some circles.

The impaired neurogenesis (in the fetus) is the focus of research and the impaired growth of  ‘neural stem cells.’ The virus causes what is termed as apoptosis–a death of cellular material. The precise ‘chemical mechanism’ is unknown… if it were known, the scientific community would know the best approach for deterrence. The public is justifiably upset, skeptical, confused and frightened. However, research is a slow and a precise affair in which progress –is marked by ‘repeatable and accurate experimentation.’

The entry point for the virus can happen at multi-sites –and can happen before, during and after ‘egg fertilization.’ The placenta– a safe haven– is, in this case, susceptible. The plea to the public is–be safe and minimize potential exposure.

Treatment Options (Future)… Detection? Vaccines? and Potential Therapies?

Presently, some in the medical community believe it will find a vaccine within two years while others speculate one year and even three years. The discovery of a vaccine hinges upon poorly understood aspects of the viral replication cycle and diagnosis of infection — an intimate knowledge its bio-chemical and mechanistic details is needed.

Diagnosis of viral infection has returned false negatives in some instances–a terrifying outcome. The reasons for diagnostic problems arise when one understands that Zika–is an arboreal virus– it is similar to Dengue Fever and West Nile with its mode of infection. Mosquitos, the culprits for much death, can carry other viruses. That is a challenge we face…

Presently, the medical community believes its best chance to contain the spread of the illness is through vaccination.

A vaccine for Zika is pursued in at least three ways: targeting DNA replication of Zika, modifying live viruses of Zika and modifying inactive Zika virus. There are a number of different strains of the Virus. Namely, the original 1947 virus (less problematic to people) transformed– aspects of its biochemistry changed from the Zika River Valley in Africa to its infectious form of 2007-08 Micronesia and the present infection of the  Americas.

How a virus transforms  would go far in understanding how to treat the infection. That type of mechanistic detail would expedite the path to vaccination and therapy.

Therapies, presently, are in planning stages. One route of investigation subverting viral replication —

The immuno-suppressor, Rapamycin is one potential candidate for therapeutic success. It subverts the immune system and may interfere with a viral replication.

ChemSpider 2D Image | Sirolimus | C51H79NO13

The anti-biotic macrolide, Rapamycin is a therapeutic candidate for Zika infection. The therapy is in the beginning stages of research. It may be awhile. Credit for Image Chemspider

As with many candidates such as Rapamycin, it is a ‘hot compound– toxic to many vital organs.’ However, in the war against pathogens, humanity can not afford to rest…

Sources:

 

Adapting the Stess Response: Viral Subversion of the mTOR Signaling Pathway

The Global Zika virus to pregnancy: epidemiology, clinical perspectives, mechanisms, and impact

 

 

 

 

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OPINION: Zika Virus–Harbinger of a Complex World


The arrival of the Zika virus promises to be the tip of a proverbial iceberg of problems. That is how many environmentalists view it and the other deadly viruses that have plagued our planet of late. While most notable, public scientists have railed against inactivity that many corporations have pursued– there is no defacto scientist or environmentalist that quickly springs to mind as a spokesperson for the ‘little man’?

The activism of the 1960s and 70s is a faded memory for most. However, the standard-bearers seem to be the groups of individuals– like the Sierra Club or the NRDC…. The groups are great for galvanizing and polarizing opinions into  two camps of individuals.

The obvious problem is — the continued polarization of the US populace. It has resulted in a divided country that, at times, sounds quite disgusting. If it were not a presidential election year–we would have not known the extent  of bigotry  that plagues the US. Zika will cross our borders … No wall can keep mosquitos away…

 

 

 

 

The figures are adapted from the publication: Moritz U.G. Kraemer and others. The global distribution of the arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. Albopictus elifesciences.org Published: 30 June 2015

 

Our public policies should be to address the coming problems that will accompany warming of the planet—not building walls to keep away the so-called undesirables. At this juncture we can decide to pull together and keep safe our fellow humans. It is often stated– “it is how you treat the least among you– that will dictate your truest and darkest outcome.”  Whether it is  labeled Christianity or Karma— it matters little. It is the coming problems we face that should galvanize our world and not divide us up much like the Tower of Babel.

 

 

Here is my hope and almost a prayer… That we can come together and stop the divisive rhetoric. Hate speech may be covered under the First Amendment— but the the US populace will tread a dark path if it continues to find scapegoats to blame… We know better— our hearts seek love as well. In the end, we must ask ourselves– is hatred justified?

 

 

 

 

Auld Lang Syne: May We Look Back at our Present Endeavors in Space with Pride


Artist Concept Voyager 1

“The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.” Image and caption credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When the first humans venture beyond the Solar System, our present-day experiences with the Voyager and Pioneer craft will be remembered as watershed moments. Our space craft presently experience a space environment that would harm human tissue and would dampen the spirits of the hardiest souls. The specific case is how Coronal Mass Ejections of the  Sun are experienced by the these craft. In spite of the fact that the Voyager craft are entering Interstellar Space–the craft are experiencing the effects of the CMEs.

So raise a champagne glass, a beer mug, or your cup-of-joe to these space craft–for Auld Lang Syne.

–Or experience the video from JPL.

JPL | Videos | Play video: Voyager Experiences Three ‘Tsunami Waves’ in Interstellar Space.

THOUGHTS on STEM EDUCATION


When one enters the technical field (also known as STEM), there are certain guiding principles that are significant for one’s success. The biggest factor is having appropriate and good role models or mentors. Truth being, it is very hard to lift oneself with one’s bootstraps. The worst is the ‘dumbing down’ that mainstream media portrays as real science or who scientists really are.

For a lot of us, our teachers throughout the formal education process are and were good role models. It isn’t too hard to find a good role model—the main trick is to overlook what you or I might perceive as flaws. In my years of observing human behavior, everyone has ‘clay feet.’ No matter how perfect on the outside, we all battle demons or will fall prey to fads or fallacies from time to time.

To borrow an ‘oft-turned phrase,’ we should keep our eyes on the prize. All too often, that prize resembles an ideal that is ‘borrowed’ from dreams, goals, aspirations and noblest part of ourselves. Once one loses sight of the prize, you or I will find the flaws and discouragements inherent to any undertaking.

The reasons for my seeking and attaining my BA—are fairly mundane in hindsight: I wanted to make a difference. However, as young man or any young person, it is too easy to lose sight. Life is full of distractions and our current media-driven society makes it very difficult to keep a long chain of thought on anything but tomorrow—let alone how one can make a difference in life.

Perhaps, it is best put—what would you want your best friends to say about you after all is said and done—

 

John

SilentAstronomerII

Panspermia is a topic that falls into and out of favor often. It is not that there is no substance to the paradigm, revolutionary and normal science will find other ‘grails’ worthy for investigation. However, the present research problems surrounding panspermia deal in areas of survivability–can life survive long periods of radiation and an extreme cold–or can life survive the multi-megaton impact upon reaching Earth?

Perhaps one measure of how life’s molecularity can survive cometary impacts is the near-extinction event of early Earth history. Dinosaurs became extinct when a large NEO impacted the Yucatan peninsula. Generations afterward, the first mammals took over the Earth–life didn’t quite resemble the previous generations. Genetic analysis seemingly points towards an abrupt but distinct lineage. Thus–it may be posited that life’s molecular nature, once established, is not readily displaced from its ‘beachhead.’

With this prefatory comment in place, I now discuss the issue of comets…

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Talk: “Finding Alien Life: On Earth, on Mars, and throughout the Cosmos” (05/22/14)


I thought it appropriate to re-post this blog—inviting the public to a thought provoking lecture.

UW Integrated Sciences Blog

Steven Benner UW Astrobiology & The NASA Astrobiology Institute present:

Finding Alien Life: On Earth, on Mars, and throughout the Cosmos

with Dr. Steven Benner— Director, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
& The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology, Gainesville, FL

When: Thursday, May 22nd, 7:00pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
Where: 120 Kane Hall, University of Washington

How do we define “life”? This fundamental question has remained largely philosophical, because it has been asked for so long, by so many, and with so few concrete conclusions. In this talk, Dr. Benner will take a different tack. He will show how laboratory studies to create a second example of life help us develop a firmer scientific understanding of what life is. The challenge of “synthetic biology” is on! Dr. Benner will discuss how we are hitchhiking on rockets, rovers, and telescopes to find life elsewhere in the Solar System, and…

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Debt of Gratitude—


I owe a large debt of gratitude to the BALDSCIENTIST, professor Oné R. Pagán. He kindly acknowledged me in his new book, The First Brain  The Neuroscience of Planarians. It is published by Oxford University Press, 2014.

All too often, it is hard to understand the meaning of gratitude.

Thank you very much, Oné.