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Scientists Track ‘Ghost Particle’ to Source for First Time

The blazar that is considered the source of the neutrino was named TXS 0506+056 and is believed to be the first known source of a high-energy neutrino

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This artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel, Germany, released on July 12, 2018. In a study published in the journal Science, researchers have determined that a supermassive black hole like this one is the source of high-energy neutrinos detected on Earth. (VOA)

Scientists have announced a new finding about the source of a high-energy neutrino, a subatomic particle detected at an observatory at the Earth’s South Pole.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, details the work of more than 1,000 scientists who pooled their research on the tiny particles, which are able to pass through matter in a straight line — like a ghost.

The neutrino’s ability to travel without deviation from its course means its source can be accurately tracked, unlike other types of subatomic particles that can be dragged off course by a magnetic field like the Earth’s.

“[Neutrinos are] very clean, they have simple interactions, and that means every single neutrino interaction tells you something,” said Heidi Schellman, a particle physicist at Oregon State University.

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The scientists used a large observatory known as IceCube, in use since 2010, to hunt for neutrinos and try to track the source. A group of neutrinos coming from the same location over the past couple of years was determined to have emanated from a blazar, or black hole that aims a jet of radiation at Earth. The black hole is estimated to have been in a distant galaxy that destructed four billion years ago.

The blazar that is considered the source of the neutrino was named TXS 0506+056 and is believed to be the first known source of a high-energy neutrino.

The discovery could be a breakthrough for multimessenger astronomy, where scientists look at the entire electromagnetic spectrum and pool their findings, using known relationships between types of electromagnetic particles to put together a larger picture.

“It is an entirely new means for us to learn about the cosmos,” Roopesh Ojha of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center told The Washington Post. (VOA)

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Experts Warn Human Genome Editing is Too Risky

Chinese scientist triggered an international storm when he announced he had created the first gene-edited babies. He said he had edited the DNA of the twin girls to protect them from HIV

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FILE - An embryo receives a small dose of Cas9 protein and PCSK9 sgRNA in a sperm injection microscope in a laboratory in Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province, Oct. 9, 2018. VOA

A group of experts meeting for the first time to examine the pros and cons of human genome editing say it would be “irresponsible” to engage in this procedure at this time. Late last year, a Chinese scientist triggered an international storm when he announced he had created the first gene-edited babies. He said he had edited the DNA of the twin girls to protect them from HIV.

Having met at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva earlier this week, the 18-person panel warned the procedure is too risky and should not be attempted before a system of strong rules governing this technique are established. Co-chair of the advisory committee, Margaret Hamburg, said the group has agreed on a set of core principles. She said the panel recommends the WHO create a registry for human genome editing research.

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Having met at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva earlier this week, the 18-person panel warned the procedure is too risky. Wikimedia

Under this system, she said scientific work in these technologies would be registered in a transparent way. “We think it is very important to establish this registry to get a better sense of the research that is going on around the world, greater transparency about it, and in fact greater accountability in terms of assuring that research meets standards in terms of science and ethics,” Hamburg said.

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The experts agree this would preclude the kind of secrecy that surrounded the work of the Chinese scientist. She said the panel would like this transparency to extend to the publication of manuscripts that emerge from important research. Hamburg said publishers will be asked to ensure the research has been registered with the WHO before it is publicized.

Hamburg said developing the guidelines on human genome editing is a process that will take about 18 months to complete, noting that it is a difficult, but urgent task that must be carried out in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner. (VOA)