Category: News Posts

Ocean Levels Are Getting Higher. Why Is This Happening?

sea level

Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellite measurements tell us that over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).

However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.

Over the past century, the burning of fossil fuels and other human and natural activities has released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth’s surface temperature to rise, and the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat.




The rise in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by this ongoing global climate change:

Thermal Expansion: When water heats up, it expands. About half of the past century’s rise in sea level is attributable to warmer oceans simply occupying more space.

Melting Glaciers and Polar Ice Caps: Large ice formations, like glaciers and the polar ice caps, naturally melt back a bit each summer. In the winter, snows, primarily from evaporated seawater, are generally sufficient to balance out the melting.

Recently, though, persistently higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater-than-average summer melting as well as diminished snowfall due to later winters and earlier springs.

Ice Loss from Greenland and West Antarctica: As with the glaciers and ice caps, increased heat is causing the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt at an accelerated pace.

Scientists also believe meltwater from above and seawater from below is seeping beneath Greenland’s and West Antarctica’s ice sheets, effectively lubricating ice streams and causing them to move more quickly into the sea.

sea level

When sea levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats. As seawater reaches farther inland, it can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

In addition, hundreds of millions of people live in areas that will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Higher sea levels would force them to abandon their homes and relocate. Low-lying islands could be submerged completely.

Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and is likely to accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the degree to which they will rise is an inexact science.

sea level

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we can expect the oceans to rise between 11 and 38 inches (28 to 98 centimeters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast.

More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, place sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Robotics Are Helping Paralyzed People Walk Again

ROBOT

Artificial intelligence software combined with a robotic harness could help spinal injury and stroke patients walk again. Clinical trials are underway.

Rehabilitation programs for spinal cord injuries or strokes usually have patients walk on treadmills at a steady pace while harnesses support their weight to varying degrees.




In the new study, researchers sought to develop a system that better mimicked the conditions that people might experience during everyday life, where they would have to move in more than one direction and vary their gaits.

The idea is to provide the most appropriate environment for patients to be active during training,” says study co-author Grégoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL. “The goal of this rehabilitation is to have patients repeat natural activities for an extended amount of time.

The scientists developed a robotic harness that uses cables to control the amount of upward and forward force that patients feel while also permitting them to walk forwards, backwards, and side to side.

stroke

This robotic harness was controlled by software that personalized the multidirectional forces that each patient experienced depending on their specific problems.

In order to customize patient experiences, this system relied on an artificial neural network, where components known as artificial neurons are supplied data and work together to solve a problem.

The neural net can then alter the pattern of links among those neurons to change the way they interact, and the network tries solving the problem again.

Over time, the neural net learns which patterns are best at computing solutions, an AI strategy that imitates the human brain.

As part of a clinical trial of this “neurorobotic platform,” the researchers experimented with 26 volunteers recovering from spinal cord injuries or strokes, whose disability ranged from being able to walk without assistance to being able to neither stand nor walk independently.

After the volunteers walked roughly 20 meters using the neurorobotic platform to familiarize themselves with the apparatus, three patients with spinal cord injuries who previously could not stand independently could, immediately after such practice, walk with or without assistance.

stroke

Four of 10 patients with spinal cord injuries who previously could only move with crutches or a walker could, immediately after such practice, do so without assistance. Similar or even superior findings were seen with stroke patients, the researchers say.

Furthermore, after a one-hour training session with the neurorobotic platform, four out of five patients with chronic spinal cord injuries who previously could only walk with the assistance of a device experienced significant improvements, such as increase in speed, the researchers say.

In contrast, the same amount of time on just a treadmill actually impaired the ability to walk without robotic assistance in one patient.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Scientists Aim To Treat Autoimmune Diseases With Worm-Based Therapy

worm

For more than 20 years, scientists have been studying the theory of the hygiene hypothesis – the idea that organisms we might consider dangerous today were actually protecting our immune systems before modern medicine existed.

In the 19th century, autoimmune diseases – like Crohn’s, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes – were virtually non-existent.

Since people didn’t frequently bathe or wash their hands as often, the filth actually activated an immune response. Subsequently, those who live in third-world countries also have a lower rate of developing these sorts of diseases.




Scientists at Coronado Biosciences are using immunotherapy biologic agents to treat autoimmune diseases, including helminthic therapy, the use of parasitic worms to modulate the immune system.

They’ve seen the success the therapy has had on patients suffering from Crohn’s disease, so they’ve started three trials in which they hope to prevent and treat type 1 diabetes using Trichuris suis ova (TSO), or the eggs of a pig whipworm.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Why Are Your Muscles Sore After a Workout?

You’ve crushed a tough workout only to be rewarded with stiff, aching muscles the morning after. Turns out that uncomfortable feeling, otherwise known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is actually a pretty normal side effect of the muscle rebuilding process.




Despite the prevalence of DOMS, the exact mechanisms that cause it are not totally understood. Currently, most think it’s a result of microscopic tears in the muscle and surrounding connective tissue as a result of eccentric exercise.

The eccentric phase of a movement occurs when a muscle is lengthening. Classic examples would be lowering a dumbbell back to its starting position during bicep curls or running downhill. One thing DOMS doesn’t involve? The build-up of lactic acid, which is actually a common myth.

workout

And DOMS isn’t just about soreness. Symptoms can include weakness, stiffness, and sensitivity to touch. The discomfort usually starts to appear within 12 to 24 hours after exercise, peaks after 24 to 72 hours, and should disappear within three to five days.

But here’s the good news. Because the body builds tolerance and adapts pretty rapidly, DOMS should become less frequent as you continue exercising at the same intensity.

Plus, just one soreness-inducing session reduces the chance of the same workout making you sore again for weeks or even months.

Please like, share anf tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Microsoft Paint To Be Killed Off After 32 Years

MS paint

Long-standing basic graphics editing program, used throughout childhoods since the 1980s, has been marked for death.

Microsoft’s next Windows 10 update, called the Autumn (or Fall in the US) Creators Update, will bring a variety of new features.But one long-standing stalwart of the Windows experience has been put on the chopping block: Microsoft Paint.




First released with the very first version of Windows 1.0 in 1985, Paint in its various guises would be one of the first graphics editors used by many and became a core part of Windows.

Starting life as a 1-bit monochrome licensed version of ZSoft’s PC Paintbrush, it wasn’t until Windows 98 that Paint could save in JPEG.

With the Windows 10 Creators Update, released in April, Microsoft introduced the new Paint 3D, which is installed alongside traditional Paint and features 3D image making tools as well as some basic 2D image editing. But it is not an update to original Paint and doesn’t behave like it.

Now Microsoft has announced that, alongside Outlook Express, Reader app and Reading list, Microsoft Paint has been signalled for death having been added to the “features that are removed or deprecated in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update” list.

Falling under the deprecated column for apps that are “not in active development and might be removed in future releases”, Microsoft Paint’s ticket has been called and now it’s only a matter of time before it is removed like your favourite piece of old furniture from your childhood home.

Paint was never one of the most capable apps, and was limited to the bitmap (BMP) and PCX formats until 1998, but if you wanted to scribble something out using your mouse or make a quick cut and paste job, Paint was always there, even on work computers.

When Microsoft Paint will officially be removed from Windows has yet to be confirmed, while a precise date for the release of the Windows 10 Autumn Creators Update is equally up in the air.

Whether, like Clippy, Windows users will celebrate or decry Paint’s removal, it will be a moment in the history of Windows as one of its longest-standing apps is put out to pasture.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

How to Watch The 2017 Solar Eclipse Safely

solar eclipse

The total solar eclipse being called the “Great American Eclipse” will pass through 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina on August 21. Though eclipses are not rare per se, it’s uncommon for a total solar eclipse to sweep across the third most populous country in the world.

The mainland United States has not experienced such a celestial event since 1979. The rarity of these events means many of us may not be aware of the potential dangers. Fortunately, NASA and other experts are here to help.




Watching an eclipse can be a mesmerizing, unforgettable event, but it can also cause permanent eye damage without the proper safety precautions.

With the countdown just past the one-month point, NASA has published a set of safety tips for those who are planning to watch, so that viewers have the right safeguards in place before they become transfixed by the incredible sight.

NASA isn’t trying to be the eclipse safety glasses police,’” Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

solar eclipse

But “it’s important that individuals take the responsibility to check they have the proper solar eclipse viewing glasses.

The only safe way to look directly at the sun is with special solar filters. Those can come in the form of glasses or handheld solar viewers.

NASA’s guidelines advise viewers to use only glasses or viewers with certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard. They should also have a manufacturer’s name and address printed on them.

People also should ensure that their glasses or viewers are not older than three years and don’t have scratched or wrinkled lenses.

solar eclipse

NASA warns against using any homemade filters and ordinary sunglasses, even if the lenses seem very dark.

Watching an eclipse without the appropriate protection can cause solar retinopathy, which the American Academy of Ophthalmologists describes as an injury to retinal tissues commonly associated with sun gazing or eclipse viewing that can result in impaired vision.

Recovery is unpredictable and uncertain. Sometimes, the damage can be permanent.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

DNA-Based Sunscreen Gets More Effective With More Use

sunscreen

One of the hassles involved with using sunscreen is the fact that you shouldn’t just apply it once depending on who you ask, it should be reapplied at least once every few hours.

That isn’t the case, however, with an experimental new coating made from DNA. It actually gets more effective the longer it’s left on the skin.




Led by assistant professor of biomedical engineering Guy German, a team at New York’s Binghamton University developed thin and optically transparent crystalline DNA films, then irradiated them with ultraviolet light.

It was found that the more UV exposure the films received, the more their optical density increased, and the better they got at absorbing the rays.

Ultraviolet light can actually damage DNA, and that’s not good for the skin,” states German.

sunscreen

We thought, let’s flip it. What happens instead if we actually used DNA as a sacrificial layer? So instead of damaging DNA within the skin, we damage a layer on top of the skin.

Additionally, it turns out that the films slow water evaporation through the surface of the skin, thus keeping skin hydrated for longer periods of time. With that in mind, the technology could have at least one other application.

If it’s optically transparent and prevents tissue damage from the sun and it’s good at keeping the skin hydrated, we think this might be potentially exploitable as a wound covering for extreme environments,” says German.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Building Block for ‘Vinyl Life’ Found on Saturn’s Moon Titan

saturn

When winter comes to Titan’s poles, it brings seasonal downpours of toxic molecules that could, under the right conditions, assemble themselves into structures like the biological membranes that encase living cells on Earth.

Called vinyl cyanide, those molecules are created high in Titan’s atmosphere, and now, scientists know there’s a truckload of them tucked into the moon’s orange haze that probably rain down on its icy surface.

More than 10 billion tons of it could be floating in Ligeia Mare, the second-largest lake in the north, according to the paper published today in Science Advances.




What the compound does once it gets into Titan’s lakes, and whether it actually self-assembles, is still a mystery. But based on the molecule’s hypothesized ability to form membranes, the discovery raises the question of whether one of life’s key requirements might be easily achievable in Titan’s alien oceans.

Titan has unique and weird chemistry, and all the evidence we have so far suggests there’s a possibility for it to be doing a lot of things we think are necessary for life to exist,” says Johns Hopkins University’s Sarah Hörst.

Everything we have ever learned from planetary science tells us that other worlds are way more creative than we are.

The largest of Saturn’s moons has intrigued astrobiologists for decades: Titan is more or less Earthlike except for its completely different chemistry.

saturn

It’s the only other world in the solar system where liquids stream and surge across the surface, it clings to a puffy nitrogen atmosphere, and it’s literally covered in complex organic compounds.

But temperatures on Titan plunge so low (-290°F) that water is hard as rock, so liquid ethane and methane flow into its seas instead.

The dunes near its equator aren’t made of sand but of frozen plastics, and it rains compounds normally synthesized in chemical processing plants on Earth.

In other words, if life evolved on Titan, its molecular machinery would be fine-tuned for efficiency in hydrocarbons rather than water.

saturn

There is nowhere else in the entire solar system that has those liquid hydrocarbon lakes,” says study coauthor Conor Nixon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “You need a whole new biology to support that.”

The idea that vinyl cyanide might form something similar to Earthly cells comes from a research group at Cornell University.

That team looked at about a dozen of Titan’s atmospheric molecules and used computer models to determine which of them had the ability to self-assemble into membrane-like structures called azotosomes.

Helmed by then-graduate student James Stevenson, the team found that vinyl cyanide had the best chance of forming something that could be astrobiologically relevant in Titan’s extremely cold, liquid methane seas.

saturn

Like Earthy membranes, the simulated configuration was both strong and flexible, possibly forming a hollow sphere capable of sequestering other ingredients necessary for life, and its tendencies to aggregate or separate in methane were just right.

So far, no one has done the actual lab experiment needed to prove vinyl cyanide can form membranes. It’s difficult working with cryogenic methane and poisonous cyanide and after all, there’s only so much you can do to replicate what’s happening on Titan when you live on Earth.

We still are at the very beginning of the experimental work that’s really necessary to understand Titan’s lakes,” Hörst says. “But we’re never going to fundamentally know what the system is doing until we’re able to go back.”

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

According To Experts, North Korea Missile Test Shows It Could Reach New York

North Korea

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has issued a fresh challenge to Donald Trump by conducting a second ballistic missile test-launch which experts said placed US cities in range of potential attack.

The missile launch was meant as a stern warning for the US, North Korea’s state news agency said. The ICBM, which aimed for maximum distance, flew for 47 minutes and 12 seconds while travelling 998km (620 miles) and reaching a maximum altitude of 3,724.9 meters (12,220ft), the North said.




The test was ordered by the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who was cited as saying that the launch reaffirmed the reliability of the country’s ICBM system and an ability to fire at random regions and locations at random times with the entire US mainland now within range.

Kim said the launch sent a serious warning to the US, which has been “meaninglessly blowing its trumpet” with threats of war and stronger sanctions, the news agency said.

The launch on Friday from Chagang province came less than a month after Pyongyang claimed to have tested its first ICBM.

We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement.

missile

The missile was launched from Mupyong-ni and traveled about 1,000km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment,” he said.

Melissa Hanham, an expert in North Korea’s missile program from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the test showed that “Alaska was in range” and a 45-minute test flight suggested it could reach New York City.

In a telephone conversation after the test, the heads of the US and South Korean militaries discussed “military response options”, the Pentagon said.

Japan led the international condemnation of North Korea’s latest launch, which appeared to have been timed to mark commemorations of the end of Korean war in 1953.

Kim Jong-Un

This clearly shows the threat to our nation’s safety is severe and real,” said Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, vowing to do “our utmost to protect the safety of the Japanese people”.

South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, chaired an national security council meeting in the early hours of Saturday. The defence minister, Song Young-moo, later said Seoul would prepare independent measures to curb the North’s nuclear threat.

Along with joint efforts to deter proliferation we will prepare independent measures to curb it as soon as possible,” Song told a press conference in Seoul.

boat

Earlier this month, Moscow blocked a UN security council statement condemning North Korea’s last missile launch because it said that rocket was also medium-range, despite assertions by the US and Pyongyang.

Analysts remain skeptical as to whether North Korea has the ability to miniaturise a nuclear weapon that could be fired on such a missile. Even so, the launch is the latest reminder of Trump’s failure to advance in his bid to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

‘Don’t Finish The Course Of Antibiotics’ – Experts Turn Medical Advice On Its Head

ANTIBIOTIC

Doctors must stop telling patients to finish an entire course of antibiotics because it is driving antimicrobial resistance, a group of eminent specialists has warned.

Patients should be encouraged to continue taking medication only until they feel better, to avoid the overuse of drugs, experts from bodies including Public Health England and the University of Oxford are now advising.

Current guidance from the NHS and the World Health Organization says it is essential to ‘finish a course’ of antibiotics to avoid triggering more virulent forms of disease.




But in a new article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), 10 leading experts said the public health message is not backed by evidence and should be dropped. They claim it actually puts the public at greater risk from antimicrobial resistance.

“Historically, antibiotic courses were driven by fear of undertreatment, with less concern about overuse,” said lead author Martin Llewelyn professor of infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

“The idea that stopping antibiotic treatment early encourages antibiotic resistance is not supported by evidence, while taking antibiotics for longer than necessary increases the risk of resistance. We encourage policy makers, educators, and doctors to stop advocating ‘complete the course’ when communicating with the public.”

Fears that stopping antibiotics early could trigger more dangerous forms of disease date back to Alexander Fleming who found that bacteria quickly become ‘acclimatised’ to penicillin and patients who take insufficient doses may transmit a more dangerous strain to family members.

Sir Alexander Fleming

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1945, Fleming warned: “If you use penicillin, use enough.

But in the BMJ article the experts argue that when a patient takes any antibiotics it allows dangerous strains of bacteria to grow on the skin and gut which could cause problems later. The longer the course, the more the resistance builds.

In the UK, at least 12,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant bugs each year, experts estimate – more than die of breast cancer.

The specialists also warn that current guidance ignores the fact that patients often respond differently to the same antibiotic, with some needing longer courses than others.

ANTIBIOTIC

Commenting on the research Alison Holmes, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London said it was ‘astonishing’ that doctors still do not know the optimum duration for taking drugs even though a long course raises the risk of bacterial resistance.

The ‘complete the course’ message directly conflicts with the societal messages regarding the changes needed in behaviour and attitudes to minimise unnecessary exposure to antibiotics,” she said.

However the Royal College of GPs said it was ‘concerned’ about allowing patients to judge for themselves when to stop taking medication, and argue it could cause confusion.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Recommended courses of antibiotics are not random – they are tailored to individual conditions, and in many cases courses are quite short, for example for urinary tract infections, three days is often enough to cure the infection.”

ANTIBIOTIC

Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, also said that the message to the public should remain unchanged until there was further research.

“NICE is currently developing guidance for managing common infections, which will look at all available evidence on appropriate prescribing of antibiotics,” she said.

“The Department of Health will continue to review the evidence on prescribing and drug resistant infections, as we aim to continue the great progress we have made at home and abroad on this issue.”

Yet many independent experts argued that changes to prescribing rules were long overdue.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science