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Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun and has the highest surface temperature of any planet in our solar system, with an orbital period of about 225 Earth days. Because of its similar gravity and size, it is sometimes known as Earth’s “sister planet.” However, besides these two aspects, the two planets have almost nothing in common. With the densest atmosphere on any terrestrial planet in the solar system, the surface pressure on Venus is about 92 times that of Earth; the same pressure one kilometer beneath Earth’s oceans.

Even though Venus is comparatively much further away from the Sun than Mercury, it is the hotter planet with a surface temperature of around 462 °C; this is because of its dense atmosphere of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. One remarkable aspect of the atmosphere of Venus is the precipitation of liquid sulfuric acid. The surface geology of the planet has been observed by NASA for over twenty years now, and it is seen that there is extensive and violent volcanism at the surface.

(image sources: NASA;,


Scientists Identify Critical New Protein Complex Involved in Learning and Memory

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified a protein complex that plays a critical but previously unknown role in learning and memory formation.

The study, which showed a novel role for a protein known as RGS7, was published April 22, 2014 in the journal eLife, a publisher supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust.

“This is a critical building block that regulates a fundamental process—memory,” said Kirill Martemyanov, a TSRI associate professor who led the study. “Now that we know about this important new player, it offers a unique therapeutic window if we can find a way to enhance its function.”

The team looked at RGS7 in the hippocampus, a small part of the brain that helps turn short-term memory in long-term memory.

The scientists found the RGS7 protein works in concert with another protein, R7BP, to regulate a key signaling cascade that is increasingly seen as a critical to cognitive development. The cascade involves the neurotransmitter GABA, which binds to the GABAb receptor and opens inhibitory channels known as GIRKs in the cell membrane. This process ultimately makes it more difficult for a nerve cell to fire.

This process turned out to be critical to normal functioning, as the research showed mice lacking RGS7 exhibited deficits in learning and memory.

Martemyanov believes the findings could ultimately have broad therapeutic application. “GIRK channels are implicated in a range of neuropsychiatric conditions, including drug addiction and Down’s syndrome, that result from a disproportionate increase in neuronal inhibition as a result of greater mobilization of these channels,” he said. Now that we know the identity of the critical modulator of GIRK channels we can try to find a way to increase its power with the hopes of reducing the inhibitory overdrive, and that might potentially alleviate some of the  disruptions seen in Down’s syndrome. It is possible that similar strategies might apply for dealing with addiction, where adaptations in the GABAb-GIRK pathway play a significant role.”

Targeting the RGS7 protein could allow for better therapeutic outcomes with fewer side effects because it allows for fine tuning of the signaling, according to Olga Ostrovskaya, the first author of the study and a member of Martemyanov’s lab, who sees many ways to follow up on the findings.

“We’re looking into how RGS7 is involved in neural circuitry and functions tied to the striatum, another part of the brain responsible for procedural memory, mood disorders, motivation and addiction,” Ostrovskaya said. “We may uncover the RGS7 regulation of other signaling complexes that may be very different from those in hippocampus.”


Judas Priest: Sad Wings of Destiny

Second album, Gull Records, 1976

Judas Priest were one of the godfathers of the NWOBHM, and their second album defined their sound. “The Ripper”, “Genocide”, “Tyrant”, and the set-piece “Victim of Changes” continue to be standards of the band’s live performances (while songs from their debut LP Rocka Rolla were retired by 1978).

This album, along with the earlier Rocka Rolla, were reissued many times by numerous labels over the decades; and tracks from both records were compiled many times beginning with 1978’s The Best of Judas Priest (consisting only of tracks from their two Gull Records releases) and the 1981 Hero Hero (a double-album which essentially repackages both Gull Records LPs). Other collections of their Gull Records output include 2000’s CD collection Genocide.

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