The ugly truth about summer allergies

As if a runny nose and red eyes weren’t enough to ruin your warm weather look, summer allergies can gift you with even more than you’ve bargained for this year. In fact, some unusual symptoms can leave you looking like you lost a round in a boxing ring.”Summer allergies can cause severe symptoms for some sufferers, and can be just as bad as the spring and fall seasons,” said allergist Michael Foggs, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Symptoms aren’t always limited to the hallmark sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. Black eyes, lines across the nose and other cosmetic symptoms can occur.”Even if you’ve never before had allergies, they can suddenly strike at any age and time of year. You might want to consider visiting your board-certified allergist if these undesirable signs accompany your sniffle and sneeze.Allergic Shiner: Dark circles under the eyes which are due to swelling and discoloration from congestion of small blood vessels beneath the skin in the delicate eye area. Allergic (adenoidal) Face: Nasal allergies may promote swelling of the adenoids (lymph tissue that lines the back of the throat and extends behind the nose). This results in a tired and droopy appearance. Nasal Crease: This is a line which can appear across the bridge of the nose usually the result of rubbing the nose upward to relieve nasal congestion and itching. Mouth Breathing: Cases of allergic rhinitis in which severe nasal congestion occurs can result in chronic mouth breathing, associated with the development of a high, arched palate, an elevated upper lip, and an overbite. Teens with allergic rhinitis might need braces to correct dental issues. …

Read more

Dreams, déjà vu and delusions caused by faulty ‘reality testing’

New research from the University of Adelaide has delved into the reasons why some people are unable to break free of their delusions, despite overwhelming evidence explaining the delusion isn’t real.In a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, University of Adelaide philosopher Professor Philip Gerrans says dreams and delusions have a common link — they are associated with faulty “reality testing” in the brain’s higher order cognitive systems.”Normally this ‘reality testing’ in the brain monitors a ‘story telling’ system which generates a narrative of people’s experience,” Professor Gerrans says.”A simple example of normal reality testing is the person who gets a headache, immediately thinks they might have a brain tumor, then dismisses that thought and moves on. Their story episode ‘I might have brain cancer’ gets tested and quickly rejected.”In someone who has problems with reality testing, that story might persist and may even be elaborated and translated into action. Such people can experience immense mental health difficulties, even to the point of becoming a threat to themselves or to others,” he says.In his paper, Professor Gerrans discusses delusions triggered by feelings of familiarity and unfamiliarity, such as the “Capgras delusion” — the delusion of “doubles.” One example is of a man who, after serious head injury following a motor vehicle accident, returned home from the hospital after a year only to state repeatedly that his family had been replaced by impostors.”His family looked familiar but didn’t feel familiar, and the story in his head made sense of that feeling. It didn’t matter how much people tried to point out that his family was the same, in his mind they had been completely replaced by impostors,” Professor Gerrans says.He says in the “Fregoli delusion,” people think they’re being followed by a familiar person in disguise as a way of coping with a feeling of familiarity evoked by seeing a stranger.”People also experience feelings of familiarity and unfamiliarity in dj vu — a sense that a new place is strangely familiar, and the reverse, jamais vu — a sense of extreme unfamiliarity evoked by a familiar place. However, such feelings do not lead to delusion in people whose reality testing is intact.”Professor Gerrans says better understanding this reality testing system could help to improve outcomes for people living with such difficulties.”Trying to treat someone experiencing these delusions by telling them the truth is not necessarily going to help, so new strategies need to be developed to assist them. Ultimately, that’s the aim of this work — to help explain the nature of reality testing in order to help people find a way of working through or around their delusions so that the delusions no longer adversely affect their lives.”Professor Gerrans’s new book, The Measure of Madness. Philosophy and Cognitive Neuropsychiatry (MIT Press), will be published this year.What’s the difference between a dream, a delusion and an hallucination? Professor Gerrans explains:Dream: The images, sensations and thoughts we experience during sleep. In dreams we simply have experiences, we don’t have beliefs about experience because “reality testing” systems are not active.Delusion: An irrational belief at odds with reality maintained in the face of obvious contrary evidence and logical argument.Hallucination: The apparent perception of an object not actually present.Dj vu: The feeling that you have previously experienced a situation which is in fact unfamiliar. Caused by an erroneous “sense of familiarity.”Jamais vu: The feeling that a familiar situation has not been experienced before. …

Read more

In Super Bowl commercials, storytelling counts

They say sex sells, but when it comes to Super Bowl commercials, a Johns Hopkins researcher begs to differ. It’s all about the storytelling, found Keith A. Quesenberry, a lecturer in the university’s Center for Leadership Education.Quesenberry, who teaches marketing, advertising and social media classes, conducted a two-year content analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials. He found that people rated commercials with dramatic plotlines — the same story arcs favored by classicists like William Shakespeare — significantly higher than ads without clear exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.”People think it’s all about sex or humor or animals but what we’ve found is that the underbelly of a great commercial is whether it tells a story or not,” Quesenberry said.Quesenberry’s study, conduced with business professor Michael K. Coolsen of Shippensburg University, “What Makes A Super Bowl Ad Super for Word-of-Mouth Buzz? Five-Act Dramatic Form Impacts Super Bowl Ad Ratings,” will be published this spring in the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice.This year, a Super Bowl spot will cost $4 million for 30 seconds. Even with an expected viewership is 11 million viewers, Quesenberry said advertisers are looking for more — they want to have the ad that goes viral online. This year, he predicts, that ad will be Budweiser’s tear-jerker about a puppy’s friendship with a horse.The more compete a story marketers tell in their commercials, he says, the higher it performs in the ratings polls, the more people like it, want to view it, and share it.”Budweiser loves to tell stories — whole movies, really, crunched into 30 seconds,” Quesenberry said. “And people love them.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

LungLeavin’ Day Heather Von St. James 2 February 2014

My name is Cameron Von St. James and I am reaching out to you to share something very special to me. I found your blog while searching for those who have overcome obstacles in life. I noticed that openly acknowledge it and I was wondering if you’d be willing to help me with a cause that means a lot to me!Eight years ago, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She had just given birth to our daughter Lily, and was only given 15 months to live. After a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, LungLeavin’ Day was born. This will be the 8th year that we celebrate!The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears! Each …

Read more

Shhh! Feeling good so far on chemo!

Yesterday a windy journey to the hospital in Melbourne (about an hr away if a good run) we left here about 7.20am and got there just before 8.30am for our appointment at Day Chemo. The last few days we have had violent winds here and yesterday was no exception. We have lost a huge tree between us and neighbours, lucky it has not taken out the fence – it is just hanging over it. A few branches near the house however no real damage. Today is a stillness day and birds singing, sun starting to come out – will be nice in the garden later on this afternoon. I have spoken too soon lol! The wind is picking up!Day chemo changed my PICC line – flush and bloods were …

Read more

Holiday cards: Tiny Prints giveaway

Holiday cards: Tiny Prints giveaway Emily Dickey posted this in GiveawaysI loooove summer and every winter I’m begging for summer to come. But right now I’m so over it–what is with this super warm weather mid-October?! I’m ready for hoodies and fires and colored leaves and… Christmas! Soooo ready. And you know you’ve already seen those holiday decorations up in stores (eek!) so it’s definitely not too early to start planning.We’re having family photos taken in early November and I’m  hoping for a shot or two we can use for our holiday cards! I order cards from Tiny Prints all the time –to send friends and family on special occasions–so naturally it’s the first place I head to check out holiday cards. They have…

Read more

Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep

Sep. 4, 2013 — By studying hibernation, a Duke University team is providing a window into why humans sleep. Observations of a little-known primate called the fat-tailed dwarf lemur in captivity and the wild has revealed that it goes for days without the deepest part of sleep during its winter hibernation season. The findings support the idea that sleep plays a role in regulating body temperature and metabolism.Despite decades of research, why we sleep is still a mystery. Theories range from conserving energy, to processing information and memories, to removing toxins that build up when we’re awake.”If we spend nearly a third of our lives doing it, it must have some specific purpose,” said lead author Andrew Krystal, a sleep researcher at Duke.One theory is that sleep helps regulate body temperature and metabolism. In a study appearing Sept. 4 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers have found support for the idea in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius), a squirrel-sized primate native to the African island of Madagascar.The closest genetic relatives to humans that are known to hibernate, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs spend up to seven months each year in a physiological state known as torpor, where the regulation of body temperature stops and metabolism slows down.In torpor, these lemurs can drop their heart rate from 120 beats per minute to a mere 6, and breathing slows to a crawl. Instead of maintaining a steady body temperature like most mammals, their bodies heat up and cool down with the temperature of the outside air, fluctuating by as much as 25 degrees in a single day.For most mammals, a change in body temperature by more than a few degrees for any period of time would be life-threatening. But for the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, hibernation is a way to conserve energy during Madagascar’s long winter dry season, a time of year when food and water are in short supply.If thermoregulation is one function of sleep, the researchers asked, can dwarf lemurs in torpor get away with less sleep?To find out, they attached electrodes to the animals’ scalps and returned them to their nests for monitoring. They studied dwarf lemurs hibernating in the wild on the west coast of Madagascar, and also non-torpid animals sleeping in captivity at the Duke Lemur Center. …

Read more

Winter depression not as common as many think

Aug. 27, 2013 — New research suggests that getting depressed when it’s cold and dreary outside may not be as common as is often believed.In a study recently published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers found that neither time of year nor weather conditions influenced depressive symptoms. However, lead author David Kerr of Oregon State University said this study does not negate the existence of clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, but instead shows that people may be overestimating the impact that seasons have on depression in the general population.”It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” Kerr said. “But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think.”Kerr, who is an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU, said the majority of studies of seasonal depression ask people to look back on their feelings over time.”People are really good at remembering certain events and information,” he said. “But, unfortunately, we probably can’t accurately recall the timing of day-to-day emotions and symptoms across decades of our lives. These research methods are a problem.”So Kerr and his colleagues tried a different approach. They analyzed data from a sample of 556 community participants in Iowa and 206 people in western Oregon. Participants completed self-report measures of depressive symptoms multiple times over a period of years. These data were then compared with local weather conditions, including sunlight intensity, during the time participants filled out the reports.In one study, some 92 percent of Americans reported seasonal changes in mood and behavior, and 27% reported such changes were a problem. Yet the study suggests that people may be overestimating the impact of wintery skies.”We found a very small effect during the winter months, but it was much more modest than would be expected if seasonal depression were as common as many people think it is,” said Columbia University researcher Jeff Shaman, a study co-author and a former OSU faculty member. …

Read more

How shale fracking led to an Ohio town’s first 100 earthquakes

Aug. 19, 2013 — Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake. However, from January 2011, 109 tremors were recorded and new research in Geophysical Research-Solid Earth reveals how this may be the result of shale fracking.Share This:In December 2010, Northstar 1, a well built to pump wastewater produced by fracking in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, came online. In the year that followed seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes; the strongest being a magnitude 3.9 earthquake on December 31, 2011.The study authors analyzed the Youngstown earthquakes, finding that their onset, cessation, and even temporary dips in activity were all tied to the activity at the Northstar 1 well. The first earthquake recorded in the city occurred 13 days after pumping began, and the tremors ceased shortly after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shut down the well in December 2011.Dips in earthquake activity correlated with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, as well as other periods when the injection at the well was temporarily stopped.”In recent years, waste fluid generated during the shale gas production — hydraulic fracturing, had been increasing steadily in United States. Earthquakes were triggered by these waste fluid injection at a deep well in Youngstown, Ohio during Jan. 2011 — Feb. 2012. We found that the onset of earthquakes and cessation were tied to the activity at the Northstar 1 deep injection well. The earthquakes were centered in subsurface faults near the injection well. …

Read more

Perseid meteors to light up summer skies

Aug. 9, 2013 — The evening of 12 August and morning of 13 August see the annual maximum of the Perseids meteor shower. This year prospects for watching this natural firework display are particularly good.Meteors (popularly known as ‘shooting stars’) are the result of small particles entering Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground. For the Perseids the material comes from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near Earth in 1992. This shower of meteors appears to originate from a ‘radiant’ in the constellation of Perseus, hence the name.The shower is active each year from around 17 July to 24 August, although for most of that period only a few meteors an hour will be visible. From the UK the best time to see the Perseids shower is likely to be from late evening on 12 August to the morning of 13 August, when as many as 60 meteors an hour may be seen. This year prospects for the shower are relatively good, as the Moon is a waxing crescent and from most of the UK will have set by 2230 BST, meaning that its light will not interfere significantly with the view.Unlike many celestial events, meteor showers are straightforward to watch and for most people, the best equipment to use is simply your own eyes. Advice from longstanding meteor observers is to wrap up well and set up a reclining chair to allow you to look up at the sky in comfort. If possible it also helps to be in a dark site away from artificial light and have an unobstructed view of the sky.Although the number of visible meteors is hard to predict accurately, you can expect to see one at least every few minutes. …

Read more

Living longer, living healthier: People are remaining healthier later in life

July 29, 2013 — A new study, conducted by David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, shows that, even as life expectancy has increased over the past two decades, people have become increasingly healthier later in life.”With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be,” Cutler said. “Effectively, the period of time in which we’re in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life. So where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that’s now far less common. People are living to older ages and we are adding healthy years, not debilitated ones.”The study results are based on data collected between 1991 and 2009 from nearly 90,000 individuals who responded to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS). Cutler reported these findings in work with Mary Beth Landrum of Harvard Medical School and Kaushik Ghosh of the National Bureau of Economic Research.To understand whether people are becoming healthier, Cutler first had to answer a question that, at least initially, seemed impossible to solve: How far are people from death?”There are two basic scenarios that people have proposed about the end of life,” he said. “The first argues that what medical science is doing is turning us into light bulbs — that is, we work well until suddenly we die. This is also called the rectangularization of the life curve, and what it says is that we’re going to have a fairly high quality of life until the very end.”The other idea says life is a series of strokes, and medical care has simply gotten better at saving us,” he continued. “So we can live longer because we’ve prevented death, but those years are not in very good health, and they are very expensive — we’re going to be in wheelchairs, in and out of hospitals and in nursing homes.”While researchers have tried to tackle the question of which model is more accurate, different studies have produced competing results. One reason for the confusion, Cutler suggested, is that such efforts are simply looking at the wrong end of someone’s life.”Most of our surveys measure health at different ages, and then use a model to estimate how long people have to live,” he said. “But the right way to do this is to measure health backwards from death, not forwards. …

Read more

H7N9 influenza strain resistant to antivirals, but tests fail to identify resistance

July 16, 2013 — Some strains of the avian H7N9 influenza that emerged in China this year have developed resistance to the only antiviral drugs available to treat the infection, but testing for antiviral resistance can give misleading results, helping hasten the spread of resistant strains.The authors of a study published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, characterized viruses taken from the first person known to be stricken with H7N9 influenza and found that 35% of those viruses are resistant to oseltamivir (commercially known as Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), front line drugs used for treating H7N9 infections. However, lab testing of the viruses, which detects the activity of a viral enzyme, fails to detect that these strains are resistant, so monitoring for the development of resistance using this technique would prove futile.”If H7N9 does acquire human-to-human transmissibility, what do we have to treat it with until we have a vaccine? Oseltamivir. We would be in big trouble,” says corresponding author Robert Webster of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Resistant strains of H7N9 can flourish in patients treated with oseltamivir or zanamivir, he says, inadvertently leading to the spread of resistant infections.In the mBio study, the authors tested antiviral susceptibility of an H7N9 strain isolated from the first confirmed human case of avian H7N9 influenza using a method that tests the activity of the neuraminidase enzyme. The reassuring results were, unfortunately, misleading: the enzyme-based test indicated that the flu strain was susceptible to NA inhibiting antiviral drugs, but it is not.A closer look at the viral isolate revealed it is actually made up of two distinct types of H7N9 viruses. Roughly 35% of the viruses carry the R292K mutation, making them resistant to NA inhibitors, and 65% are sensitive to these same drugs. The enzyme-based testing gave misleading results, says Webster, because the functioning wild-type enzymes masked the presence of the non-functioning mutant enzymes.Using NA inhibitors to treat a patient infected with a resistant strain of H7N9 only encourages the virus to proliferate and can lead to enhanced spread of the resistant strain. The authors write that these results prove that it is crucial to use a gene-based surveillance technique that can detect these resistant influenza strains in a mixed infection.H7N9 first emerged in China in early 2013, in some cases infecting individuals who had been in contact with poultry or with places where poultry are housed. …

Read more

High carbon dioxide spurs wetlands to absorb more carbon

July 15, 2013 — Under elevated carbon dioxide levels, wetland plants can absorb up to 32 percent more carbon than they do at current levels, according to a 19-year study published in Global Change Biology from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md. With atmospheric CO2 passing the 400 parts-per-million milestone this year, the findings offer hope that wetlands could help soften the blow of climate change.Plant physiologist Bert Drake created the Smithsonian’s Global Change Ecological Research Wetland in 1987 at Edgewater. Back then, most scientists thought plants would gradually stop responding to rising CO2. Whether or not terrestrial ecosystems could assimilate additional carbon—and act as powerful carbon sinks—was not known. This study tracked not only how much CO2 wetlands absorb, but also the impact of rising temperature and sea level, changing rainfall and plant type.To simulate a high-CO2 world, Drake’s team surrounded marsh plots with open-top Mylar chambers. For this study they left half of the chambers exposed to today’s atmosphere. In the other half they added CO2 and raised the level to 700 ppm, roughly doubling the CO2 concentration as it was in 1987. Other plots of land were left without chambers. They compared the levels of CO2 going in and CO2 going out to determine the carbon exchange between the wetland and the atmosphere.Two types of plants populate most of the world, and the experiment tested both. C3 plants—which include more than 95 percent of the plant species on earth, including trees—form molecules of three carbon atoms during photosynthesis, and they tend to photosynthesize more as atmospheric CO2 rises. …

Read more

Vaginal delivery ups risk of pelvic organ prolapse

July 2, 2013 — Women who give birth vaginally are at increased risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse during the year after delivery, according to a study of Chinese women by researchers at Yale School of Medicine and Wenzhou Third People’s Hospital.Published online today in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the results show that factors unique to labor and delivery made the pelvic floor relax and not recover its former support during the year after birth. These factors were not present in women who delivered via Cesarean section (C-section).”The choice between vaginal birth and c-section is a complex one, and our results are not meant to promote one over the other,” said Dr. Marsha K. Guess, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. “Our data will be useful to women and their obstetric providers as they weigh childbirth options.”Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition among women who have given birth vaginally. Hormonal changes, increased pressure, and the baby’s passage through the birth canal can damage connective tissue, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. The vagina and the surrounding organs relax, lose their support, and fall from their normal positions, leading to a host of complications such as urinary incontinence and bowel control. It is thought that some women are genetically predisposed to having an abnormal repair process after delivery, which may also contribute to pelvic organ prolapse.In this prospective observational study, Guess, corresponding author Yi Chen, and colleagues, compared changes in pelvic organ prolapse during late pregnancy with changes at three different points in time within one year after delivery. Between April and May 2009, they evaluated 110 women at the obstetrics clinic in Wenzhou Third People’s Hospital in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China. These women were in their 36th-38th week of pregnancy and were planning to undergo an elective c-section or vaginal delivery.They found that many women develop moderate prolapse in late pregnancy; however, women who underwent vaginal delivery or c-section after laboring were less likely to recover from pelvic organ prolapse at six weeks, six months, and one year postpartum, compared to those who delivered after an elective c-section with no labor.”Our study is among the few that provide information about short- and long-term effects of labor and route of delivery on pelvic floor support to determine if and when recovery of pelvic floor support structures occurs over long durations of time,” said Guess. …

Read more

Shut down of cell survival process found to influence fate of lung cancer tumors

July 1, 2013 — New research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Princeton University and other collaborators suggests that inactivation of an essential gene responsible for the cell survival process known as autophagy can suppress the growth of non-small-cell lung cancer tumors and render them more benign. The findings suggest a possible role for autophagy blockers in the treatment of this type of lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of only 30 to 50 percent for early-stage disease.Previous research from the laboratories of the senior authors Eileen P. White, PhD, associate director for basic science at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Joshua D. Rabinowitz, MD,PhD, professor of chemistry at Princeton University and Cancer Institute of New Jersey member, revealed that autophagy dependence is prevalent in cancers with Ras mutations. These mutations are activated in aggressive cancers with poor outcomes, such as lung. In this current study, published in the latest online and print versions of Genes & Development, Drs. White and Rabinowitz and other investigators used mouse models to examine non-small-cell lung cancer tumors driven by activating mutations in the K-Ras cancer gene.In order to survive times of stress and grow, cancer cells eat themselves. In blocking this self-preservation mechanism of autophagy, cancer cells are stripped of the self-sustaining energy provided through the powerhouse of the cell — the mitochondria. Investigators found in this current study that in the absence of autophagy, or when it is defective, dysfunctional mitochondria accumulate and what once was a malignant tumor becomes a rare, predominantly benign tumor known as an oncocytoma.The authors also found that the processes necessary for autophagy are influenced by the p53 tumor suppressor gene. When researchers disabled the autophagy gene, the tumor suppressing mechanism of p53 was prematurely activated, thus halting cancer growth and spread. …

Read more

A look inside children’s minds

June 27, 2013 — When young children gaze intently at something or furrow their brows in concentration, you know their minds are busily at work. But you’re never entirely sure what they’re thinking.Now you can get an inside look. Psychologists led by the University of Iowa for the first time have peered inside the brain with optical neuroimaging to quantify how much 3- and 4-year-old children are grasping when they survey what’s around them and to learn what areas of the brain are in play. The study looks at “visual working memory,” a core cognitive function in which we stitch together what we see at any given point in time to help focus attention. In a series of object-matching tests, the researchers found that 3-year-olds can hold a maximum of 1.3 objects in visual working memory, while 4-year-olds reach capacity at 1.8 objects. By comparison, adults max out at 3 to 4 objects, according to prior studies.”This is literally the first look into a 3 and 4-year-old’s brain in action in this particular working memory task,” says John Spencer, psychology professor at the UI and corresponding author of the paper, which appears in the journal NeuroImage.The research is important, because visual working memory performance has been linked to a variety of childhood disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, developmental coordination disorder as well as affecting children born prematurely. The goal is to use the new brain imaging technique to detect these disorders before they manifest themselves in children’s behavior later on.”At a young age, children may behave the same,” notes Spencer, who’s also affiliated with the Delta Center and whose department is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, “but if you can distinguish these problems in the brain, then it’s possible to intervene early and get children on a more standard trajectory.”Plenty of research has gone into better understanding visual working memory in children and adults. Those prior studies divined neural networks in action using function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). That worked great for adults, but not so much with children,­ especially young ones, whose jerky movements threw the machine’s readings off kilter. So, Spencer and his team turned to functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which has been around since the 1960s but has never been used to look at working memory in children as young as three years of age.”It’s not a scary environment,” says Spencer of the fNIRS. …

Read more

World population could be nearly 11 billion by 2100

June 13, 2013 — A new statistical analysis shows the world population could reach nearly 11 billion by the end of the century, according to a United Nations report issued June 13. That’s about 800 million, or about 8 percent, more than the previous projection of 10.1 billion, issued in 2011.The projected rise is mostly due to fertility in Africa, where the U.N. had expected birth rates to decline more quickly than they have.”The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up,” said Adrian Raftery, a University of Washington professor of statistics and of sociology.The current African population is about 1.1 billion and it is now expected to reach 4.2 billion, nearly a fourfold increase, by 2100.The new U.N. estimates use statistical methods developed by Raftery and his colleagues at the UW Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences. The group’s improved fertility forecasting methods, combined with updated data collected by the U.N., were used to project the long-term consequences of the fertility change in Africa since the last population estimate two years ago.New to this year’s projection are finer-tuned statistics that anticipate the life expectancies of women and men across this century.In other areas of the world, fewer major population changes are expected. Europe may see a small decline because of fertility continuing below replacement level, and other nations around the globe may see modest increases due to longer life expectancies, Raftery said.There’s no end in sight for the increase of world population, he added, yet the topic has gone off the world’s agenda in favor of other pressing global issues, including poverty and climate — both of which have ties to world population.”These new findings show that we need to renew policies, such as increasing access to family planning and expanding education for girls, to address rapid population growth in Africa,” Raftery said.The UN gives high and low variants of its projections, assuming that women have an average of half a child more or less than the best projection. That leaves a large uncertainty, from 7 billion to nearly 17 billion, in the range for potential world population by the end of this century.By contrast, the UW research group has developed probabilities of future population levels to be coupled with best forecasts. “Our probability intervals are much tighter, ranging from 9 billion to 13 billion in 2100,” Raftery said.Global population reached 7 billion in 2011. It passed 6 billion in 1999.

Read more

Saturn’s metal-poor ‘cousin’ discovered with little telescope

June 4, 2013 — A scientific team led by University of Louisville doctoral student Karen Collins has discovered a hot Saturn-like planet in another solar system 700 light-years away.Collins announced the discovery of exoplanet KELT-6b Tuesday, June 4, during the American Astronomical Society’s national meeting in Indianapolis.Astronomers caught sight of the planet when it passed in front of, or “transited,” its host star — and they’ve since discovered that the planet resembles one of the most famous and well-studied transiting planets, HD 209458b.The discovery was made using inexpensive ground-based telescopes, including one specially designed to detect exoplanets and jointly operated by astronomers at Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University.As seen from Earth, KELT-6b resides in the constellation Coma Berenices, near Leo, and has an orbit that transits its star every 7.8 days. That means a “year” on the planet lasts just over a week, and its trip across the face of its star, as seen from Earth, lasts only five hours.Five hours may seem like a short time, but most planets found by ground-based telescopes have even shorter orbits. So catching a complete observation of KELT-6b took more patience and substantially more luck than usual — a total of seven hours of continuous telescope time with clear skies during darkness. Collins had clear skies on both of her only two opportunities to catch the planet earlier this year at UofL’s Moore Observatory.KELT-6b is now the longest-duration full planetary transit continuously observed from the ground, she said.Collins, an electrical engineer whose longtime fascination with astronomy led her to this second career, called the work an adventure. “To participate in planet discovery here in Kentucky, it’s just incredible to me to be able to do that,” she said. Her work is supported by a NASA Kentucky Space Grant Consortium graduate fellowship.KELT stands for the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope project. The KELT North telescope in Arizona and its twin, KELT South in South Africa, are no more powerful than high-end digital cameras, but they’ve proven that small telescopes can make big planet discoveries. But while KELT North briefly glimpsed the new planet last year, the team needed help with follow-up observations to capture the entire transit, explained Scott Gaudi, associate professor of astronomy at Ohio State and member of the KELT team.The KELT telescopes record images of huge swaths of night sky. Scientists search for slight, periodic dimming of any stars in the images, which could indicate a planet transiting its star. Once the slight variation in light is detected, scientists use other telescopes to determine exactly which star is affected and precisely how much it dims. …

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close