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  • richardmitnick 1:38 pm on February 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Stanford Scope via Huffington Post: “People With ADHD Have Different Brains 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

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    Scope blog

    Huffington Post

    Huffington Post

    02/24/2017
    Carolyn Gregoire

    The largest-ever brain imaging study on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has led scientists to say the condition should be considered a neurological disorder, not just a behavioral one.

    The brain structures of children with ADHD differ in small but significant ways from those of normally developing children, according to the findings, which were published online in the journal Lancet Psychiatry on Feb. 15.

    Up to 11 percent of U.S. children and around 5 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with ADHD, which causes symptoms like difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, irritability and forgetfulness.

    The study’s authors hope that the research will help to combat widespread misunderstanding of ADHD, which is often seen as some sort of motivational deficit or character failing rather than a real disorder. The findings show that the disorder is as real as other neuropsychiatric disorders like depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    “I hope it gives a bit more understanding of the disorder,” Dr. Martine Hoogman, a geneticist at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “This research shows that there are neurobiological substrates [brain changes] involved ― just as in other psychiatric disorders ― and there is no reason to treat ADHD any differently.”

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    iLexx via Getty Images

    For the study, a team of Dutch neuroscientists analyzed MRI scans of the brains of more than 3,200 people between the ages of four and 63 years old (with a median age of 14 years old), measuring total brain volume as well as the volume of seven brain regions thought to be linked to ADHD. Roughly half of the participants had a diagnosis of ADHD.

    The brain scans revealed that five brain regions were smaller in people with ADHD. These include the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure involved in processing emotions like fear and pleasure; the hippocampus, which plays a role in learning, memory and emotion; and three brain areas within the striatum ― the caudate nucleus, the putamen and the nucleus accumbens. The structures within the striatum are involved in the brain’s reward system and in its processing of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control motivation and pleasure.

    These differences were more dramatic in children than in adults, leading the study’s authors to conclude that ADHD involves delayed brain development. It appears that as the brains of people with ADHD develop and mature, these brain regions “catch up” to the brain regions of people without ADHD.

    At the time of the study, 455 of the participants with ADHD were taking psychostimulant medication like Adderall, and more than 600 others had taken psychostimulants in the past but were not currently on medication. Brain volume differences did not correlate with stimulant use, suggesting that such discrepancies were not a result of medication.

    The findings represent a big step forward from previous brain-imaging studies of ADHD, which tended to be smaller and generally yielded inconclusive results. The new research points the way toward new diagnostic and treatment options for the disorder, but much more research is needed first.

    “We only studied a small part of the brain,” Hoogman said. “There is still a long way to go.”

    See the full article here .

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    Scope is an award-winning blog founded in 2009 and produced by the Stanford University School of Medicine. If you’re curious about the latest advances in medicine and health and enjoy compelling, fresh and easily digestible news and features, then we’ve got just the thing. We’ve written quite a bit (7,000 posts and counting!), and we’re quite proud of it — so please enjoy.

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 9:44 am on February 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Huffington Post, , Mediterranean diet   

    From Huff Post: “The Mediterranean Diet Could Help Kids With ADHD” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    02/01/2017
    Carolyn Gregoire

    1
    Baona via Getty Images

    The Mediterranean diet is often celebrated for its health effects on the brain, especially later in life. Doctors recommend it for preventing Alzheimer’s and protecting the brain from aging. Now, research suggests the diet could also be beneficial for the brains of much younger people.

    A study published Jan. 30 in the journal Pediatrics found that children with “low adherence” to the traditional Mediterranean diet were seven times more likely to have ADHD than children with a strong adherence to the diet. In general, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ate more sugar and processed foods than their peers, and ate less fruit, vegetables and fish.

    “Kids’ impulsivity can manifest in their eating habits,” Dr. Eric Hollander, a psychiatrist with the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said in a statement.

    High in fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as the healthy fats found in foods like olive oil, walnuts and avocados, the Mediterranean diet has consistently been rated among the healthiest in the world. This year, a panel of health experts ranked it the second best diet for health and weight loss.

    The Mediterranean diet is particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish, walnuts and certain other nuts and plants. Omega-3 acids play a critical role in brain function, improving learning and memory and warding off mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

    Children with ADHD may have low levels of essential fatty acids and important nutrients like iron and zinc. One study [U MD]showed that boys with lower levels of omega-3 acids had more learning and behavioral problems. However, research investigating the effects of omega-3 supplements on ADHD symptoms has yielded mixed results.

    For the study, a University of Barcelona research team recruited 120 children between the ages of 6 and 16 to test their idea that overall diet (and not just specific nutrients) might be linked to ADHD risk. The children ― half of whom had been recently diagnosed with ADHD ― were given a score based on how closely their typical meals aligned with the Mediterranean diet.

    The researchers’ hypothesis proved to be correct. The children who followed a more Mediterranean diet were less likely to have ADHD (controlling for other factors like age, weight and parental education levels). The children with medium to low adherence to the Mediterranean diet, however, were three to seven times more likely to have ADHD.

    A Healthier Diet Can Only Help

    The study was only correlational, and it doesn’t prove that a Mediterranean diet can ward off inattention and impulsivity. But the researchers emphasize that removing excess sugar and junk food from a child’s diet is wise in any case.

    “Our main recommendation is that clinicians focus on diet not with the expectation of dietary changes improving behavior but with the concern that children with ADHD are more likely to be eating unhealthy diets,” the study’s authors concluded. “This component should therefore be part of the evaluation to improve their health.”

    And there’s still plenty of evidence to suggest that a healthy, whole-foods diet is good for the brain, and therefore probably good for children’s brains.

    We know that an unhealthy, sugar-laden diet can have a negative effect on cognitive function, so reducing the amount of sugar and junk food in a child’s diet should only improve their thinking and learning. What’s also clear is that a high-sugar diet powerfully alters the composition of the gut microbiome, leading to impaired learning and memory.

    A low-sugar, whole-foods diet, on the other hand, supports a healthy gut bacterial community, which in turn can lead to improvements in mood and brain function.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:03 am on September 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Australia Is The Centre Of The Universe... For Sciences, , Huffington Post   

    From huffingtonpost australia: “Australia Is The Centre Of The Universe… For Sciences” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    15/09/2016
    Cayla Dengate

    Black hole physics, nano technology, algae stuff — it’s all happening down under.

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    Australia is future proofing the nation with cutting-edge research. Saul Gravy

    Forget sunburnt country cliches and riding on the sheep’s back, Australia is suddenly the world’s centre of futuristic research.

    Take the last year for example: there’s a new $31 million centre underway to investigate the physics of black holes and warped space-time led by Swinburne University of Technology.

    Then there’s the $9 million Deep Green Algae Biotech Hub announced where researchers are looking at coaxing algae into making drugs.

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    Sydney Nanoscience Hub is one of many cutting-edge institutions that opened in the last year. AOL

    Or the opening of the $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub at the University of Sydney where you’re likely to find researchers fighting cancer with nanoscale diamonds.

    No wonder NASA has hired an Australian to search for alien life in the Solar System.

    Is this the “ideas boom” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been banging on about?

    The Down Under phenomena is thanks in a large part to funding from the Australian Research Council, which has provided partial funding to all but one of the aforementioned projects as well as funding for the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems at the University of Queensland and the announcements of a $92 million centre of excellence for research into climate extremes at the University of NSW and a $35 million Centre for Exciton Science at Melbourne University.

    Acting chief executive Leanne Harvey said the funding related to the Australian Government’s science and research priorities.

    “The ARC Centres of Excellence scheme aims to enhance and develop Australia’s research excellence through highly innovative and collaborative research, as well as build Australia’s human capacity in a range of research areas, including the humanities and social sciences,” Harvey said during the launch of $283.5 million to nine ARC Centres of Excellence.

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    New research has shown that the gap between #quantum phenomena and classical intuition is even bigger than previously thought. Read more at the equs.org website. Image credit: Christina Giarmatzi

    Looking at the field of quantum engineering and physics, the ARC splashed out $65 million in the latest round of funding.

    Sydney Nanoscience Hub professor David Reilly is also chief investigator of The Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems and told The Huffington Post Australia it was creating an industry that extended beyond universities.

    “I think the government is looking leverage money to create something that is lasting,” Reilly said.

    “The term ‘ecosystem’ gets overused but I think what they are really hoping for is to create a critical mass of research and activity in an area Australians are already doing quite well in.

    “In quantum, you could argue we’re leading world in many ways.”

    He said it was also about future proofing the nation long past the four-year government term.

    “If you think about the really big challenges for Australia in the coming decades — health or defence or security — governments need to ask what the world will look like in 2045.

    “This is when the U.S. is perhaps is very different in how it operates on a global stage, where information security is paramount and governments are asking how to maintain sovereignty with the superpowers of China and India. How can we rely on security, technology and continue to have the way of life that Australians expect.

    “If lead time in creating that technology is decades long, we need bold, ambitious projects now to deliver things way down the track.

    “They’re not splashing money hoping to see returns next year, this may be a decade down the line.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:38 am on January 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From Huff Post: “We’re Pouring A Record Amount Of Money Into Clean Energy, But There’s A Long Way To Go” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    01/14/2016
    Ben Walsh

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    The largest solar thermal installation in the world, in California’s Mojave Desert. Even with falling oil prices, the world invested a record amount in clean energy last year. Ethan Miller via Getty Images

    The world invested $329 billion in renewable energy in 2015, an increase of 4 percent compared to 2014 and surpassing the $318 billion spent in 2011 to set a new record, according to a new report by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance.

    The durability of spending on renewable energy is made more significant, the authors of the report note, by the fact that oil, coal and natural gas prices continued to decrease, after declining in 2014 and continuing to fall throughout last year.

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    “These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power,” the chair of Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance’s advisory board, Michael Liebreich, said in a release.

    The 2015 number also does not capture spending that may be driven by the Paris climate agreement, which was reached at the end of the year. In connection with the Paris talks, a group of governments led by the U.S. and France, and private investors led by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros, promised to invest in new energy technologies.

    But despite the good news, clean energy spending still needs to increase dramatically if the world is going to meet the goal of limiting climate change to 2 degrees celsius, a cornerstone of the Paris agreement. That would require an annual investment of $7 trillion, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

    In that context, the 2015 investment record, while laudable, still leaves a gaping clean energy investment gap.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:04 pm on January 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Huffington Post, , We live in interesting times.   

    From Huff Post Seth Shostak: “Could This Be Humanity’s Last Century?” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    01/14/2016

    SETI Seth Shostak
    Dr Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute

    SETI ATA
    SETI’s Allen Telescope Array

    Temp 1

    OK, quick: Name a few important things that happened in the 11th century.

    If you’re not tenured in medieval studies, that may be tough, although several modestly notable events took place in those hundred years — for example, the Battle of Hastings and the launch of the Crusades. When we look back a millennium, even the highest parapets of history become hard to discern. Nonetheless, those long-ago happenings dramatically altered the future.

    But what about the 21st century? What will your kids and grandkids do that will still be important a thousand years from now?

    Let me suggest that they may trump every previous generation. They may go beyond simply changing society, and possibly usher in the last act for Homo sapiens.

    That may strike you as a less-than-sunny prospect, but only because you’re missing the big picture. I’m not talking about the various self-destructive threats of the moment — the ones that fill the papers and spark pontification on the nightly news. Yes, both terrorism and climate change are serious matters, but the former is manageable and frankly, so is the latter. Alleviating environmental catastrophe requires modifications of behavior. Hard, sure, but we’re not talking about violating physics.

    No, the three big things that I believe will take place in the 21st century are more profound, and not necessarily bad.

    To begin with, we’re finally going to understand biology at a molecular level. DNA’s double helix was discovered a mere six decades ago, and now — for hardly more than a kilobuck — you can sequence the genome of your yorkie or yourself.

    The relentless interplay of science and technology ensures that genomic knowledge will spawn a growing number of applications. Curing disease is one of these, and it’s obviously desirable. But our efforts won’t be limited to merely fixing ourselves; we’ll also opt for improvement. You may hesitate to endorse designer babies, but hot-rodding our children is as much on the horizon as the morning sun.

    Number two on my list of major 21st century developments is expanding into nearby space. We need more resources — both acreage and raw materials — unless we’re happy to condemn our descendants to a limited lifestyle and unlimited war. You may worry about running out of oil, but that’s not the resource that should really make you antsy. We’re going to eat through the easily recoverable reserves of stuff like copper, zinc, and the platinum group metals in a matter of decades.

    We can find more of these elements in asteroids, and already several companies are planning to do so. But nearby space could also provide unlimited real estate for siting the condos of the future. Everyone expects our progeny to establish colonies on the moon or Mars, but the better deal is to build huge, orbiting habitats in which you can live without a spacesuit. Think of scaling up the International Space Station a few thousand times. We can put unlimited numbers of people in such engineered environments, and sometime in this century we’ll start doing that. The days of being confined to the bassinette of our birth are coming to an end.

    The third thing you can expect before the year 2100 is the development of generalized artificial intelligence (GAI). In other words, machines that don’t just play games like chess or Jeopardy, but can do the thinking required for any white-collar job, including all the ones at the top. And such machines won’t necessarily be large. A synapse in your brain is a few thousand nanometers in size. A transistor on a chip is hundreds of times smaller. The hardware necessary for human-level smarts — even today — could fit in an iPad.

    These are developments that — over the long term — will dwarf such quotidian concerns as politics, war, or economics.

    But they will also change us.

    Putting large numbers of people in off-Earth colonies will inevitably lead to a kind of speciation. After all, their physical environment is somewhat different than Earth, and history suggests that their social environment will also be special. A thousand years from now, the inhabitants of a martian colony may not be so similar to those still living on Earth.

    Re-engineering our children will transform our species even faster. We can eventually produce offspring that are as different from us as dogs are from gray wolves. The haphazard, bottom-up alterations to our species occasioned by Darwinian evolution will yield to the directed improvements of future engineers.

    But the development of GAI will surely be the most dramatic driver of change, because it is less a matter of improving our descendants than replacing them with our engineered successors. Perhaps we can promulgate our culture and ourselves by putting chips in our brains or simply uploading our brains to the machines. But you can be sure that the result will not be Homo sapiens as we’ve known him for 50 thousand years.

    These are changes that don’t just shape our future. They knead it into something inconceivably different. And sure, you may quibble about whether everything I’ve described is going to take place this century, but do you really think it won’t happen in the coming thousand years?

    The people of the 11th century might be disconcerted by today’s technology, but they would have no trouble recognizing us. However, it’s unlikely we would recognize humans a millennium hence.

    We live in times that are more than merely interesting.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 6:37 am on March 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Huff Post: “Light: Going Beyond the Bulb” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    03/13/2015
    Kimberly K. Arcand
    Visualization Lead, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory
    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

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    In this piece of art, light bulbs were placed in a medical X-ray machine. The artist then added color to the individual light bulbs to create the desired effect. Credit: Dr. Paula Fontaine/http://www.RadiantArtStudios.com

    Light is one of those things that we almost inevitably take for granted. In fact, many of us might not realize the extent that we overlook its contributions to our lives, because it’s hard to see – literally — just how much it does.

    The light that humans can detect with their eyes is but a mere fraction of the total light out there. Light takes many forms, including radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays.

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    The electromagnetic spectrum includes wavelengths and energies from radio to gamma rays. Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

    We rely on light — both natural and sources made by humans — to brighten our world. In the form of radio waves and microwaves, light is also used for communication and navigation through cellphones and GPS. Medical tools that use light, including the highest-energy light of X-rays and gamma rays, help us monitor our bodies and attack certain diseases such as cancer.

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    We use light for many purposes including some basic ones such as illuminating our way. This image combines eight different photos, each with exposures of 30 seconds, which show car headlights along a highway. In the future, reflected lasers may power more of our headlights, providing a more powerful and energy-efficient (yet still safe) beam that lights our way through the night.

    Scientists use instruments on the ground and in space that detect different types of light like infrared to monitor our climate and forecast our weather. Astronomers capture light in all types from the cosmos to understand distant galaxies, to look for signs of life beyond Earth, and to learn more about our own planet.

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    Images taken from satellites in space in different types of light help us better predict weather and understand the science that drives it. Credit: NASA/JSC/Mike Trenchard

    In addition to its pivotal role in various industrial processes, light may very well represent our future for powering the planet. After all, the sunlight contains enormous amounts of energy that, if we could efficiently capture it, it could provide sustainable power for billions of people.

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    Solar panels allow us to harness some of the vast energy that is provided to us every day from the Sun. Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

    For these and many other reasons, the United Nations has declared 2015 to be the “International Year of Light.” We’ve put together a collection of spectacular images in an online exhibit called “Light: Beyond the Bulb” to help celebrate light and all of the amazing things it can do. Here is a sampling of facts about the wonders of light:

    Light comes in different forms. The light that we see with our eyes is just a fraction of all light. Light encompasses wavelengths ranging from radio waves to gamma rays in what is called the “electromagnetic spectrum.”

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    This object, officially titled Messier 16, is nicknamed the “Pillars of Creation.” This spectacular image from the Hubble Space Telescope captures this region of space where baby stars are forming in ultraviolet and visible light. Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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    By combining light from several NASA different telescopes that detect X-ray, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, this image reveals information about the galaxy this galaxy could never be gleaned from just one band of light. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

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    Matter being pulled toward a giant black hole usually doesn’t glow in the light we can see with our eyes – rather it is revealed through light as radio waves and X-rays. This image captures the Hercules A galaxy that has an enormous jet blasting away from its black hole.
    Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO, Optical: NASA/STScI, Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

    NRAO VLA
    NRAO/VLA

    Nothing in the Universe can travel faster than light. In a vacuum, light travels at over 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second. This means light could circle the Earth 7.5 times in one second.

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    While moving at 17,000 miles per hour at an altitude of 240 miles above the Earth’s surface on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Don Petit was able to capture the lights from our planet in a unique way. His time-lapse photographs–taken from this unusual vantage point–feature star trails, terrestrial lights, and auroras. Credit: NASA/JSC

    As light travels, its path can be bent when it goes from one medium to another (such as air to water). It can also be blocked (when a shadow occurs, for example), reflected (as with a mirror), or absorbed (like when a stone is heated by infrared light from the Sun.)

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    This rainbow is caused by light being refracted (bent) when entering a droplet of water, then reflected inside on the back of the droplet and refracted again when leaving it. This causes the combined colors of sunlight to spread out into the familiar red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet of a rainbow. Credit: Lisa & Jeffrey Smith

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    Shadows are a familiar experience for most of us. Any time an object blocks the light from another source, it can form a shadow. In this photograph, we see shadows on the spectacular walls of Antelope Canyon in Arizona as sunlight streams through an opening above. Credit: J L Spaulding, creative commons license

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    Reflection consists of two rays: an incoming or ‘incident’ ray and an outgoing or ‘reflected’ ray. All reflected light obeys the rule that says the incident ray strikes a surface at the same angle that the reflected ray bounces away from it. In the case of a smooth surface like a mirror or the calm top of a lake, a clear identical image is produced. Credit: Prabhu B Doss

    Humans have learned how to harness light and employ it in technologies ranging from medical devices to cell phones to giant telescopes.

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    The image shown here is from a laser-scanning microscope of a mouse retina, where the cells have been stained with fluorescent dye to show different features. By studying the microscopic structure of both diseased and normal retina and optic nerves through this light-based technique, scientists hope to better understand the biology of these tissues and the prospects of developing therapeutic interventions. Credit: National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS

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    Because of their capacity to carry massive amounts of data in the form of light, optical fibers serve as the backbone of the Internet. Almost every video and photo you download and nearly every email and text you send travels over optical fiber, sometimes across the world. The ability to transport confined light inside bent fibers means that they can also be used in endoscopes for imaging the interiors of both people and machines. Credit: Optoelectronics Research Centre, Southampton, UK

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    Lasers are based on controlling the way that energized atoms release photons, or packets of light. Lasers emit light coherently allowing it to be focused to a tight spot up close or over long distances. This image shows one innovative use of lasers. By beaming a laser into the sky, astronomers can measure and then compensate for the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for clearer images of distant cosmic objects. Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:04 am on February 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Huff Post: “Here’s What Will Happen To New York City If The World’s Ice Sheets Melt” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    02/23/2015
    Christopher Mathias

    1

    A disconcerting report released last week revealed that New York City could see a 6-foot rise in sea levels by the end of this century. It would make nearly half a million New Yorkers vulnerable to flooding, and waterfront properties would be virtually uninhabitable.

    But what if climate change continues unabated for even longer? What will New York City look like if, say, both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets melt completely, raising sea levels an estimated 260 feet?

    Urban planner and cartographer Jeffrey Linn used computerized mapping to make a GIF demonstrating just that. Watch the city’s five boroughs disappear, with only the lofty heights of New Jersey’s Pallisades left as an island:

    2

    Linn, who posted the GIF on his blog Spatialities, told The Huffington Post he wanted to show people what the city would look like after “the terminal point for ice caps melting,” which some scientists estimate could happen in 1,000 to 10,000 years.

    “What would the world around me look like, where I live, if in thousands of years, this is supposed to happen?” Linn said he wondered.

    Linn also made this mesmerizing map of New York City after only 100 feet of sea level rise. The city’s neighborhoods and parks are cleverly rechristened with more nautical nomenclatures: Central Park is Central Shark, Bushwick is Flushwick, the West Village is Wet Village, and so on:

    3

    He’s made similarly alarming maps for his hometown of Seattle, as well as London and Montreal, among other cities.

    The polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, as manmade greenhouse gas emissions continue to trap the sun’s heat. Here, for example, is a 2012 video showing a lower Manhattan-sized piece of ice breaking off from the Greenland ice sheet:

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 11:34 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Huff Post: “If You Could Tour The Solar System At The Speed Of Light, It Might Look Like This” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    Just how vast is our solar system?

    An eye-opening new animation (above) really puts things in perspective. It shows that even if you travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), the trek from the sun to the Earth and other planets takes a really long time.

    The 45-minute video, created by Los Angeles-based artist Alphonse Swinehart and posted on Vimeo on Jan. 26 [available for download in 720p at YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AAU_btBN7s%5D, starts at the sun and zooms out into the solar system. You reach the Earth and our moon at around 8:20, and the journey ends after reaching Jupiter and its moons (at around 43:20). The distance traveled and time elapsed is visible in the frame’s upper left corner.

    “I’ve taken liberties with certain things like the alignment of planets and asteroids, but overall I’ve kept the size and distances of all the objects as accurate as possible,” Swinehart says in the video’s description. “I also decided to end the animation just past Jupiter as I wanted to keep the running length below an hour.”

    If the video continued on to Saturn, it would have lasted another 34 minutes.

    1

    “I think this is [a] super cool way to understand the enormity of space,” Vimeo user Joe Sullivan commented on the video. “You might want to note… if you were actually a photon traveling at the speed of light you would not experience any time or distance. The time you are expressing is the time as measured by a stationary observer.”

    Now we feel small.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:31 am on January 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Huff Post: “The Future of Physics” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    01/26/2015

    Dr. Sten Odenwald, Astronomer, National Institute of Aerospace

    In another few months the Large Hadron Collider. will be powered up to explore its maximum energy range. Many physicists fervently hope we will see definite signs of “new physics,” especially a phenomenon called “supersymmetry.” In the simplest view, the Standard Model souped-up with supersymmetry will offer a massive new partner particle for every known particle (electron, quark, neutrino, etc). One of these, called the neutralino, may even explain dark matter itself!

    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    Supersymmetry standard model
    Standard Model of Supersymmetry

    But Wait, There’s More!

    Supersymmetry is the foundational cornerstone on which string theory rests. That’s why physicists call this “stringy” theory of matter “superstring theory.” If the LHC does not turn up any signs of supersymmetry during the next two or three years, not only will simple modifications to the current Standard Model be ruled out, but the most elegant forms of supersymmetry theory will fall too.

    As an astronomer I am not too worried. The verified Standard Model is now fully capable of accounting for everything we see in the universe since a trillion-trillion-trillionth of a second after the Big Bang to the present time, once you include gravity, and don’t worry too much about dark matter and dark energy.

    2
    The Standard Model of elementary particles, with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    But we need some explanation for dark energy and dark matter to complete our understanding of the cosmos, and for that we still need our physicist friends to show the way. Currently their only answers involve supersymmetry theory. If this idea falls, astronomers will be completely stumped to explain what governs our universe on the largest scales.

    Beyond supersymmetry, we also have the huge investment of talent that has pursued superstring theory since the early 1980s. Without supersymmetry, the “super” part of string theory also falls, and you end up with a non-super string theory that is clunky, inelegant and pretty dismal in accounting for the finer details of our physical world, often termed “quantum gravity.” A big part of this is the idea that our universe inhabits more than four dimensions — perhaps as many as 11!

    On April 26, 2006, I had the following exchanges with Stanford theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind, who is widely regarded as one of the fathers of string theory, along with other provocative and foundational ideas such as the “holographic universe.” His comments are still relevant seven years later.

    3

    Odenwald: Why is it so important for physicists to consider the universe having more than four dimensions, as the mathematics of superstring theory seems to require?

    Susskind: Almost all working high-energy theoretical physicists are convinced some sort of extra dimensions are needed to explain the complexity of elementary particles. That particles move in extra dimensions is another way of talking about the fact that they have more complex properties than just position and velocity. It is hard to find a serious paper about particle phenomenology that doesn’t in some way use the tools of superstring theory. Furthermore, we all agree that the origin of elementary particles is most likely at the planck scale and cannot be understood without a good theory of quantum gravity.

    Odenwald: So if superstring theory were found to be an incorrect model for our particular universe, is that like turning the clock back to circa 1978 in physics?

    Susskind: I agree that going back to the ’70s would be turning the clock back in the sense that we would be ignoring the vast amount of mathematical knowledge that has been gained over the subsequent years, mostly from string theory. That is just not going to happen. The changes in our theoretical understanding of quantum field theory, gravity, black holes, are completely irreversible. [String theory mathematics] has even worked its way into nuclear physics and heavy ion collisions as well as into condensed matter physics.

    Odenwald: Kind of a hard place for modern theoreticians to revisit, but for astronomy and cosmology the 1970s seem not such a bad place. Without superstring theory, we would still have cosmological inflation. Without superstring theory, what happened at the instant of the Big Bang would remain unknown, logically indescribable, and still a great puzzle… as it always has.

    Susskind: [Not quite.] Recent cosmology has been completely dominated by studying the cosmic microwave background [CMB] and inflationary theory.

    Cosmic Background Radiation Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    ESA Planck
    ESA/Planck

    Gravitational Wave Background
    Gravitational waves from BICEP2 in support of Inflation theory not yet accepted

    BICEP 2
    BICEP2

    The CMB fluctuation spectrum is widely understood as a quantum effect. Inflation is a gravitational effect. Is there any question that quantum gravity (quantum plus gravity) will be the framework for understanding the early universe? No, there is not. Also I might add that the old inflation that you are referring to was a disaster. It didn’t work. Many inflationary cosmologists like Linde, Vilenkin, and Guth are looking to string theory for possible answers to the puzzles of inflation.

    Odenwald: Is it fair to say that superstring theory is “too big to fail”? I am reminded of the alledged quotation by Einstein as he was awaiting news about a major test of relativity in 1919. A reporter is said to have asked, “Well, what would it mean if your theory is wrong?” to which Einstein allegedly replied, “Then I would feel sorry for the good Lord; the theory is correct!” Is the physics community in the same predicament because superstring theory is a “beautiful” theory that seems to explain so much, and its mathematics is so impeccable that it is used in other theoretical settings in physics?

    Susskind: Exactly right. However, it is fair to say that while theorists were developing powerful tools, they mostly had wrong expectations for what the theory was indicating. Most theorists hoped that string theory would lead to an absolutely unique set of particles, coupling constants, with exactly vanishing cosmological constant. What we have learned from the theory itself is that it is a theory of tremendous diversity. Unexpectedly, string theory is most comfortable with a huge multiverse of tremendous variety instead of the small “knowable” and unique universe we once imagined.

    Odenwald: So what would our theoretical explanations for our universe look like without added dimensions, quantum gravity or string theory?

    Susskind: Without these things the world as we know it couldn’t exist. Giving up quantum gravity means giving up either the ideas of quantum [mechanics] or of gravity [and general relativity]. In a cosmological context quantum gravity is responsible for the primordial density fluctuations [we directly observe in the CMB] that ultimately condensed to form stars, galaxies, planets, etc. Without string theory we should not have the diversity of possibilites that allow pocket universes [Alan Guth’s term] with the ultra-fine tuning needed to insure conditions for our kind of life.

    Odenwald: If string theory loses its experimental support at the LHC, wouldn’t it be far worse than merely going back to cosmology circa 1975 or even 1965? We would have to question the very mathematical tools we have been using for the last 50 years!

    Susskind: I agree with your analysis, except that I would add: Expect the unexpected. Unforseen surprises are the rule in science, not the exception. Remember: Stuff happens.

    Odenwald: If superstring theory falls, are there any competing theories out there that could hold out some hope?

    Susskind: Not as far as I know.

    • * * * *

    So there you have it. The Large Hadron Collider absolutely has to find some clue about supersymmetry, or superstring theory is compromised, we will have no good idea about dark matter, and we will definitely be in a bad place until the super-LHC is built in the 2030s.

    Patience, however, is a still a necessary virtue. Physicists were in this same quandary before the Higgs boson was finally discovered after 50 years of increasingly panicked searching.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 6:37 am on January 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Huffington Post,   

    From Huff Post: “Scientists Find Spooky Link Between Solar Activity & Life Span” 

    Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post

    01/09/2015
    Jacqueline Howard

    The sun sustains life on Earth, and maybe that’s not all it does. Provocative new research by scientists in Norway suggests there may be a link between solar activity at the time of your birth and how long you’re likely to live.

    Specifically, the scientists found that the life spans of people born during a so-called “solar maximum” period–when the sun displays the greatest number of sunspots and solar flares in any given solar cycle–are about five years shorter than those of people born in a solar minimum period, when the sun is less active.

    For their research, scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim looked at the age of death of individuals born in Norway between 1676 and 1878 and compared the data to solar activity data. In addition to showing that individuals born during a solar max tended to die younger, the comparison showed that fertility was reduced in certain women born in years with high solar activity.

    “We were surprised of the effect on lifetime number of offspring, although only detectable in the low-[economic] status women group,” study co-author Dr. Frode Fossøy, a researcher at the university, told The Huffington Post in an email.

    What explains the weird connection between solar activity and human fertility and longevity?

    It seems that ultraviolet light from the sun–especially at times of high activity–can suppress certain molecular and cellular mechanisms in the body, Gine Roll Skjærvø, a senior engineer at the university and the lead author of a paper describing the research, told The Telegraph.

    s
    Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

    The new research stands in contrast to a 2009 study showing that solar activity does not affect human life spans. But that study relied on population-based data rather than on data from specific individuals.

    “Moreover, their populations were located further south than our study populations,” Fossøy said in the email. “These differences could explain the discrepancy between the two studies.”

    Dr. Mark Lucock, a nutritional geneticist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, who was not involved in either study, called the new research “a fascinating piece of work that provides further supporting evidence that early-life environmental factors help shape [human traits] in ways that have long-term consequences,” Live Science reported.

    The new research was published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on January 7, 2015.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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